As part of our ongoing customer spotlight series, this week we met with Lucy Clark, founder of Goods of May.
Lucy, originally from Sunderland, studied knitwear at Central St Martins in London and started her own brand whilst on furlough last year.
Using her skills, she handmakes sustainable knitwear and accessories that she sells through her website and wholesales out to a range of stores.
We caught up with her to ask a few questions and see how she was getting on starting and building a business during the pandemic.
Lucy, founder of Goods of May
Hi Lucy, tell us a bit about yourself and your business.
I’m Lucy, I’m 25, and I run Goods of May. I design sustainable knitted homeware and accessories, which are all produced on a made to order basis.
I started Goods of May back in the first lockdown of 2020 — May specifically, which is where the brand got its name. I started the brand while on furlough from my retail job, as a means to keep myself busy and creative. I had wanted to start my own brand for years, and I think being on furlough was the push I needed to actually sit down and work out the specifics of what I wanted to do.
Can you tell us a bit about the products you make and where you get your inspiration?
In the beginning, my main focus was the accessories side of things, but I have since started concentrating more on homeware, specifically my checkerboard cushions. These were getting way more interest and were more fun to make!
Generally speaking though, sustainability and product is the main focus over visual inspiration, but I’m often inspired by vintage home magazines, and often vintage cooking books, which is sort of where the idea for the checkerboard came from.
Goods of May checkerboard cushions. Photography: www.mattbrann.com
What's the biggest challenge you found when trying to start your own business?
I think one of the main challenges I found when starting Goods of May was deciding on a model of how to sell my products — meaning whether to spend time creating a bulk of stock to sell or to take preorders and go from there.
With my first collection, I was making products to order but wasn’t limiting the number of orders I was taking at one time. I ended up overwhelmed with products to make and my lead time was building up, leaving customers disappointed that it was taking so long to receive their orders. Overall this is a good thing as it meant I was generating business but it definitely taught me that I needed to be more realistic with my time and how much work I could take on, especially with the changing circumstances meant my retail job had to take a lot of my time.
How has your business changed/been affected over the last year since you started it?
Over the last year Goods has actually grown pretty steadily, I think in part from starting to focus more solely on homeware, as the market for home accessories has increased with all of us staying at home.
In the last few months, I have also launched a new website, and grown the wholesale side of things – a far cry from basically only selling to friends a year ago!
You recently joined our new community. What would you like to get out of a community of small business owners?
I would love the opportunity to meet like-minded business owners and designers that I wouldn’t get the chance to connect with otherwise — or even people that run businesses totally unlike mine and could give me insight into aspects of running a small business I haven’t really explored.
I think having a community of people that understand the nitty-gritty of running a small business would be invaluable. Allowing us to have a sounding board for issues that other friends and family may not fully understand — or even to establish working relationships that could lead to collaborations and future projects.
Goods of May
Are there any other small businesses that inspired you to start your own or you think are absolutely smashing it at the moment?
One of the silver linings to come out of this year for me is the number of people flexing old creative muscles and taking the jump to actually put their ideas into practice and with it has come a lot of new small businesses and brands popping up on social media. There is a long list that has influenced me to do the same, making me realise that taking the leap to start my own project didn’t have to be such a daunting experience, and one that could evolve and adapt with me and my ideas.
One that comes to mind is Cawley Studio. They have been around a little longer (about 3 years, I think) but it has grown from strength to strength over the last year, adapting to the changes we’ve all had to make because of the pandemic. The owner, Hannah, has started making a lot of her stock at home. She has totally embraced the new challenges that have come with factory closures and spending more time at home and has started using new techniques that are suited to this. The new techniques require more time and are hand done. These have actually informed her designs and products, and in my opinion, only made them better.
Another would be A South London Makers Market. The girls behind the market (Daisy and Olivia) originally started their business intending to put on physical markets, but since the pandemic have turned their efforts to virtual markets instead, and opened the applications up to people throughout the UK. Seeing that they were still going ahead with their markets, and were still creating a community through their stallholders was a big inspiration in terms of starting Goods of May. I knew applying for markets such as this one could be a really useful way of getting my name out there and showing people my products – knowing that they could grow my customer base, and connect me with other makers.