Being on a very long mat leave due to our move to the US, I have been indulging a lot into browsing Instagram when I have a spare minute. Being and feeling so far from my home country at a time of my life when it can feel so helpful and supportive to be surrounded with friends going through the same experience and with the same cultural references, I’ve been drawn towards following other mums, mostly French. I think I first starting following some of them through shared interests (knitting and sewing – I am a total beginner while some ladies out there are super talented and inspiring!) and from then, I followed some more. I was quite surprised to find out that a lot of these ladies who seem to be on friendly terms have actually never met each other but have formed a virtual friendship through their blogs and “IG”. It’s actually quite fascinating and now I’ve found myself feeling like I know some of these women and take as much pleasure to look at their posts than reading the ones from my real life friends.
What I’ve also found out is that a lot of these mums have created their own little companies, mainly around dressmaking, decoration, DIY etc, and use Instragram to sell their products.
This is both surprising and interesting.
Surprising as for years we’ve heard that it was very difficult to create your own company in France, that the weight and complexity of the French admin was enough to put off, if it was not kill, any ambition to create your own activity. So I was not expecting to see so many French people having their own little businesses. I really feel the lack of entrepreneurship spirit was a traditional French trait as when I moved to the UK I was surprised to find out a lot of people (or what felt a lot compared to “no one” from where I was from) had made the choice to leave their jobs to create their own small companies! The reasons driving this choice were often related to commute, spending more time with the family or moving somewhere nicer (read ‘less crazy busy’) but with less job opportunities than London. While it felt that in France the norm and preferred situation was to be an employee and not bear the financial risks and responsibilities of running your own gig.
Well, fast forward to 2017 and I’m so impressed (and secretly jealous!) to see all these French ladies, often with two to three kids to look after, who happen to be mumpreneurs – something I was less surprised to see happening amongst my British friends.
There are so many pretty things that seem to fall off their hands, whether it is sewing for kids, small decoration objects, jewellery or even books, I’m in awe of the amount of talent – and courage, as it takes some dedication to build a small business.
I have been wondering what could have driven so many of them to start their own little activity – although I am conscious that most of them may not earn a living out of it – and there are two trends that have caught my attention.
The re-found value of hand made
In this world where all seems to be driven by technology and becoming more virtual, but also as some may say a bit more dehumanized and unsettling, it looks like reminders of the good old days, of a time when things were simpler and maybe more gentle (was it really more gentle etc is a whole other story…) , seem to be increasingly popular. Haven’t we seen, for the past couple of years or so, the great come back of traditional names for babies, both in France and in the UK (it may be the case elsewhere but these are the two countries I know best and where I’ve observed this first hand), names that used to feel completely old fashioned not so long ago. The new found appetite for old school, manual hobbies such as sewing, knitting, embroidery, or DIY seems to be another element reminiscent of our grand parents era, at a time when some believe our children may be able to code before they’ll learn to write. These hobbies never died but used to be the prerogative of old ladies while now plethora of websites, magazines and blogs encourage making our own clothes and accessories.
Today, when I’m amazed at some people’s creations, I cannot help thinking my great grand mothers would think they’re “nice but nothing to write home about” as everybody in their times could (and needed to!) use their hands to make things out of them. While now we see people’s abilities at making things as something special – and get more excited, feeling more sophisticated, shrewd and savvy buying a home made product – or best make it ourselves!-, that is by definition more limited in numbers and so is more unique. It is something you won’t find everywhere, versus something made in China… or from Ikea – so it helps, in some way, to define the person your are and what you stand for.
The power of Instagram
It is the second time I write these words in a blog post, but indeed, Instagram has a special power and really is a platform like no others. What is best than pictures to show what you can make? Bloggers have known that for years and a good post (a DIY/ tuto, or to show what you’ve been up to lately) always has some pictures embedded. How to get a bit of fame, how to reach out people and potential customers when you have no marketing budget, and for some not even a website where to showcase and sell your products? Instagram seems to be the perfect place to do that, and makes posts easier to find through the use of hashtags. No need to get a special training to learn how to unleash the power of hashtags, with a bit of common sense and curiosity, you can quickly identify the ones that can drive people with shared interest to your posts and I’ve observed that all these little businesses do it very well. I actually found a lot of them myself that way! There are other ways to get some extra visibility and attract more potential followers – there are small initiatives such as competitions, creative weeks (share your favourite small businesses accounts with your own followers and these businesses will share yours to their followers) which all have a very small cost or are totally free. The beauty of some of these is they rely on a form of solidarity and it’s actually heart warming to see this virtuous circle and all this lovely support amongst these accounts. Support also shown by customers who proudly post pictures of their purchases with gushing reviews. Of course by doing this they are also promoting themselves as these savvy ladies who are in the know and have these good addresses that not everybody has but importantly they help these small businesses by giving them extra visibility and offer them the power of positive reviews.
I see Instragram as the friendliest platform I use but also the most exciting one, where finding new, interesting accounts, products, brands, etc is usually one click on a hashtag away. And definitely a great place to be for anyone creating a small business. May they all meet a lot of success!
As per my previous post, my next step should be to find similar creative accounts here in the US – I feel quite frustrated sometimes to see all these lovely things but it would cost as much to buy them than to get them posted all the way to Michigan! I will make sure to share my American findings at some point.
Credit: all photos have been taken on Instagram – some are photos of posts from accounts that I follow and like (@tiensetsije, @souslefiguier, @librecommeclaire) and I hope they won’t mind featuring as examples here; and some from posts coming up when searching through specific hashtags on 13th January 2017.