Etsy entrepreneur tells us how she’s grown her creative business

We talk to the dazzling Rebecca Denton of dAKOTA rAE dUST for our small business spotlight blog. Find out about all things Etsy and how to grow your own creative business:

Rebecca Denton

What do you do for a living?

I create handmade and embellished clothing and accessories. My work combines bold vinyl prints, that I design on illustrator with vintage and unusual fabrics.
I have developed my own unique embellishment technique, layering applique panels with hand cut, vinyl printed shapes, stitching either by machine or hand to create an unusual textured finish.

Where do you source your materials from?

I recycle unusual fabrics and vintage prints, by combining them with bold vinyl printed patterns to create wearable embellishments. Where possible I use second-hand fabrics. I love the idea of creating something new from what could be seen as waste – so source lots of my fabrics from the textile recycling centre or charity shops. There are plenty of gems to be found!

As well as making items from scratch I embellish ready-made sweatshirts and T-shirts, these are brought from an ethical supplier, made in a factory that uses only renewable energy.

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What’s the most interesting commission you’ve undertaken?

Anything wedding related is particularly exciting because it’s such an honour to be asked to create something to be worn on such a special day! This year I have embellished some bridal ‘dancing shoes’ and a necklace, made bridesmaid clutch purses and flower girl rosettes.

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It’s very satisfying when a customer comes to me with an idea and we can work through the solution together, leaving them with something completely unique and personal to them.

What is the project you’ve most enjoyed?

The shoes were probably my favourite to work on because it was something different and my embellishments looked really effective on the bride’s cream, satin flats. I probably wouldn’t have thought of trying this idea myself. It was the bride’s idea. Since making these I have been asked to embellish a jewelled flat peak cap!

If you weren’t doing this – what would you be doing instead?

Hmmm, I’d like make costumes and sets for theatre and festivals or start a boutique campsite so I could build dens and decorate all the cabins and bell tents! That would be GREAT fun.

Tell us one thing about having an Etsy shop we might not know…

Etsy is very supportive. They provide a huge amount of guidance and are constantly updating and improving the service they offer. I learned pretty much all I know about Etsy from reading their blog posts and guides, and by joining in with their ‘schools’!

Would you encourage others to go into the textiles and arts industry?

Yes, I would definitely encourage others to go into textiles or the arts if that was their passion. It’s notoriously hard to make a decent income in creative fields but plenty of people do and if you’re anything like me you’ll find a way to make it work until you get there because you’ll be doing what you love.


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‘THE ARTS’ is such a huge industry and my experience is pretty niche really but I think I would just advise someone starting out to experience as much as they can until they find what it is they want to do and pick up as many skills as they can along the way. Everything you do will build on your skill set. My small business definitely benefits from the varied creative jobs I have had along the way!

What one item/belonging could you not live without if you were to be stranded alone on a desert island?

I’m going to be very practical and say a hammock with an inbuilt mosquito net – because I’m not a big fan of creepy crawlies.

If you could have dinner with one person from history (dead or alive), who would it be and why?

My dinner date, I find this one hard. I’m sure as soon as I commit to this answer I’ll think of 10 others but I’m going to say, Bjork. She’s a pretty interesting character and has collaborated with some amazing artists during her career, which I’d love to hear more about. OR maybe Rik Mayall, in his Bottom days, with an Esther Rantzen cocktail!

 What do you like best about working for yourself?

The best thing about working for myself is being able to enjoy my own company, beavering away and being creative. Trusting my instincts and developing new ideas is very satisfying. The designing part really doesn’t feel like work at all!

Ask WHY before you create or post anything for a smarter approach to marketing

Why? Why are you creating content to promote your business or start-up?
Who are you talking to?
Who are your services or products helping?

Sounds basic but many people do not consider this before they put stuff online or send out news to bloggers, papers or the local press.

There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ blanket for developing an effective strategy for your business, but digging deep in what you want to achieve from your marketing efforts is the place to start – with everything you do.

Have a framework in place, a reason for why you need to post something – new product, great news about your business, a new partnership, an event etc.

Start with:

What is it?

A sales message? A trust-building exercise – like a blog or webinar, a product or offering in exchange for email addresses?

Type of content…

Is it an image, a vlog, a blog – this dictates where it will be posted. On your website, social media or in a newsletter?


What will you be saying? Who is responsible for writing this?


You need content published on or by a certain deadline to ensure your marketing is consistent.

Work how you want to – a week in advance, a month, six months – a year! However best suits your business but have a framework which helps you know what and why you’re working on something and it will help you to really sharpen your marketing and PR skills.


How to promote yourself when you hate marketing

Are you an artist, musician, writer or freelancer? You want and need more work or gigs but you just can’t stand social media and the la-de-da of promoting yourself? Or perhaps you just don’t see what the point is? It’s loads of hassle, you have to keep up with learning it all and it is just not worth the effort.

Many people do feel like this. But how is anyone going to know you exist if you don’t take any steps to show you exist in the first place…

Your first step might be as simple as starting a Facebook page, Instagram account or just pop up a simple blogging website. It is okay not to have everything perfect and lined up all at once.

The key is consistency and just being yourself.

Don’t think of it as ‘marketing’:

You are providing a service, so you shouldn’t feel bad or that you have to manipulate people because you are ‘marketing’ yourself – you need to promote yourself so people know you exist. People often confuse marketing with advertising, you don’t have to be a “snake oil” salesmen to sell your wares.

Cutting through the la-de-da of it all, ‘marketing’ is actually just building a reputation in your area of expertise. You could be the most talented artist, musician or designer on the planet but if you don’t tell anyone about what you do, or show what you’re capable of then no one can hire or commission you to do work and, well, then you have to get some dead-end job to pay those bills. Where is the joy in that?

Shape who you are:

Shaping your own reputation and thus building a ‘brand’ is so easy these days with social media. You don’t have to make it all about you, why not re-share blog posts on your channels which are of interest to you and those who like what you do. Let people get to know the real you – you can do this by sharing a combination of interesting articles,  fun posts or inspiring quotes to keep your audience engaged – people don’t like the hard sell, so if that doesn’t work for you anyway, why do it?

You don’t have to broadcast every aspect of your life; you can just share what you’re comfortable with. Perhaps just joining closed groups of like-minded people is enough for you. Private Facebook groups or newsletters can be a simple way of communicating what you’ve been up to lately.

Play to your strengths – often just showcasing what you can do is a powerful way of promoting how you can help or serve others without boasting. A portfolio or gallery on a website, Instagram or Facebook account is a great way of modestly doing this.

Do it when you’re in the mood:

The scheduling abilities of various platforms make the task of having social media accounts much less of a headache, so you don’t have to focus on promoting yourself or your business every single day. Why not do a week’s worth of posts or blog-writing when you are in the right headspace?

Don’t go it alone:

If you don’t feel comfortable with promoting yourself all the time, why not collaborate with others so they can promote you instead? Partnering with other people means you can get involved in exciting projects, help others and all those involved get to share what it is they’re doing – talking about the project instead of just about yourself or your business.

Slow and steady wins the race:

You don’t have to become a crazy, always on hyperdrive- marketer and talk about yourself non-stop. Building a reputation takes time, doing just one thing a day can make a big difference. Often making things become naturally part of your routine means doing the things you need to do to promote yourself become less scary and just part of your day-to-day operations as part of being self-employed or running a small business.

Marketing is simply communication – talking to people.
Conversation is part of any relationship, especially if you want people to know you’re out there.

Successful fitness entrepreneur shares her secrets for staying on track and in shape

zuWe talked to the amazing Zuzana Fischer of ZUZU FITNESS for our small business spotlight blog. A fitness entrepreneur based near Bath, in Somerset. Read on to find out more about running a small fitness business and how many ways you can do a Burpee!

In 20 words or less, please explain what it is you do for a living…

I help people to be more active and fit through creative workouts, be it in a group or personal training.

What inspired you to start your company?

I’ve been feeling passionate about the fitness industry for some time now, as getting into shape had completely changed my life so I wanted to be able to help others on their own journey.

What fitness move do you like the best?

That has got to be the Burpee! It has it all – cardio, strength, core. Plus there are so many variations and add-ons that you can never be bored with it! We have the donkey kick, the X-shape, the commando, the press up, the reverse or the kick-through Burpee; just to name a few.

If this wasn’t your day job what would you be doing instead?

Realistically, I’d probably still be part of the big old scary corporate world. I used to be an Operations Manager for an environmental consultancy.

What is your favourite word?

‘Awesome’ (my clients will confirm that this word is used in abundance in my sessions!)

Tell us one thing about working in the fitness industry we might not know…

I suppose that people might not realise how much work happens ‘behind the scenes’ of every workout or session. The amount of research, the creative thinking behind every new move or game, thinking about the flow of the workout, the music, the equipment needed… All of this is part of the preparation of every session you have ever attended; be it a personal training or a group class.

Would you encourage others to start their own business?

If you’re passionate about something and not afraid to work hard, it’s definitely a good start, but I’m not going to lie, it’s not for everybody and even I sometimes have days when I wish I could just ‘rely’ on somebody else. BUT the freedom and flexibility it gives you is wonderful! I have a 15-month old daughter and I get to spend a lot of time with her, which wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

What one item/belonging could you not live without if you were to be stranded alone on a desert island?

My daughter Adriana – she’s great fun so I’m sure we’d have a blast together (plus she doubles up as a weight for various workouts too!).

What do you like best about working for yourself?

There is no one else that tells you what to do and how to do it (…sometimes though, I wish there was ha ha :)).

What’s your biggest tip for others to keep fit and stay active?

I always encourage people to enter an event. It gives your training purpose and makes you accountable. We have come a long way from “just” running races – these days there are various sportives, aquathlons, triathlons, open water swims, Spartan races etc. You just need to find something that you enjoy and stick with it! And, of course, finding a good personal trainer to help you get there is a great way to achieve your goals.

Find out more about ZUZU FITNESS here: 

SMEs – don’t lose faith in Facebook!


It is a jungle out there! So many of us are online all saying something… As more companies are embracing social media, Facebook can’t forget why we’re on there in the first place – to stay in touch with friends and family, so businesses are being asked to interrupt this space by paying to be seen. Does it does feel a bit like you’re being punished if you’re a business and want to join in the fun?

The reality is very small businesses can’t afford the cost which FB has now put on appearing in the news feed. Indeed for most SMEs, for some, the effort and costs just don’t seem worth the money.

However, as a small business – don’t lose all faith. If you’re on Facebook and have a small but loyal fan base, then your ‘organic’ reach is worth its weight in gold. People actually want to engage with you and see what you’re up to – and it means your content is worth something too…It’s not thrust upon them.

So, as a small business or someone just starting out what can you do to be heard out there in internet land and reach the people you want and need to? First, accept you’re only going to reach a small percentage of them on Facebook. Create the best content you can, stuff that people should and will want to know about – not just white noise hoping to cut through all the other gibberish out there.

Provide pictures, images, and information of interest, which truly makes your audience enjoy what you put out there.

If you have some budget then a Facebook Ad here and there – now and then, can help – but don’t hold onto hopes it’ll get you more likes and followers or even sales, it does make waves in the stepping stones to reaching new people and starting a relationship with your brand.

First and foremost think about where the value of your efforts will be most fulfilled. Start by researching who your potential customers are and then asking them a question…for example “want to get more……”

Never forget how important your local audience is – marketing is not all about Facebook or even social media. Blogs, websites and the local press are all great ways of growing your business and getting your news out there to people who matter and care about what you do! If you’re going to spend on targeted advertising – you need compelling content that will make people sit up and click through to find out more about the wonderful things you do and can offer them!

Why are you a small business and not on LinkedIn?

Now an established go-to business community online, LinkedIn has become an essential place to be for many businesses. Not only can you use it as a method for recruitment – but you can also link up with other like-minded business people in your area – or across the globe. It’s also a great place to publish your blogs, and share your thoughts in conversation.

If you’re a small business and not on LinkedIn –you are missing out BIG time!

Building connections

When you’ve set up your profile on LinkedIn, be sure to get connecting with people. Importing your email contacts is a super easy way to get started. Once you have connected with people, LinkedIn will point you at people you may know and you can easily get broadening your contacts.

Be sure to connect with everyone you’ve done business with or have worked with – these people are familiar with your skill-set and could potentially provide a recommendation for you. It’s also nice to keep in touch with your clients and customers, Facebook can be too informal, and you may find many clients will accept a LinkedIn connection offer over other social media requests.

If you’re looking for freelancing opportunities, tenders, or even recruiting for your small business, don’t be afraid to connect with recruiters in your industry or follow senior people in a business you’re interested in working with.


Any blogs you like, why not share it with your network? You can also like or comment on other people’s content too join in the conversation.

Be sure to publish your own content too, to contribute to your community – it might also help you get noticed by that person you want to do business with.

If you share content across other platforms, why not include LinkedIn in your strategy? Simply interlink the content to post on various accounts to create a strong brand and relevance to your business.

Faux pas

LinkedIn although a ‘social network’, is where people go to seek business contacts and professional opinions. Common LinkedIn faux pas include sharing inappropriate content, unprofessional profile pictures, odd posts or ‘trolling’ messages on other people’s content, spamming your contacts with personal messages to advertise or neurotically looking up your office crush or competitor’s profile.

What your brand says about who you want to work with

Your brand is your reputation. That’s becoming more and more obvious to us all in an increasingly digital world.

But what does your brand say about who would want to work with you?

How you’re seen, should be a reflection of your core values. If your colours, logos and tone don’t reflect these – then you may end up working with clients whose values just don’t match yours – and that will only make for bad business in the long term!

So, when thinking about a re-brand or even if you haven’t got an identity yet and you’re just starting out, consider who you ideally want to work with and decide what they look for, and how they present themselves on and off line too.

Why not ask friends, or colleagues to use one word to describe you, to get a sense of how you are seen by others? You may well be surprised by the perception others have of you. It could be very different to your ideas of what your brand could look like –  and what messages you will end up projecting. Ultimately, what will your business be known for?

For example, if you’re a softer and more sensitive kind of person and want to work with those who think along the same lines as you do, place yourself within a particular market or attract those who do business as you do – don’t project a super sharp, macho brand, which would likely only attract others with that mentality.

Come up with something that truly represents you – and you will find those with similar values drawn to you. Think about it….Would you be proud to have certain companies and brands associated with your business?

You want to attract the right clients for you – otherwise there is no or little fun in taking that bold step in starting your own business, or going for that re-brand.

Why you should think before you post

So, you’re a small business and you need to be online to be visible to the world. You’ve chosen which platforms best suit your business and hopefully the audience you want to connect with.

Now you have to consider your credibility and your reach:

  • Make sure what you’re posting is thoughtful, relevant to your company and engaging.
  • Don’t set it up and then forget about it – social media is a long term investment. It is a slow process to build your audience and establish a clear voice for your brand – but it brings so much value if you do it right!
  • Even if you don’t have something to say every day – do still get into the habit of checking what’s going on… Has someone retweeted or liked your posts? Have you got new followers or fans? Are there any comments or questions you should be responding to?If someone has taken the time to get in touch, then you should be there to talk to them! Even if it’s bad news or a bad review; at least you can take steps to keep your reputation well rounded and pointing in the right direction, by listening and interacting.
  • Traditional print marketing or advertising can be hugely costly to a small business. Social media marketing in truth, is pretty low-cost and gives you a direct channel to talk to your customers or potential clients. However, social media platforms constantly change the way they play the game – sometimes you will need to cost in a budget to get your posts seen by your audience. Facebook for example, is now on the most part, a ‘paid for platform’. Sure, you can set up a page for free and mostly – all it costs you is time to be on there. But the game has changed. To be seen you have to be aware of the algorithms Facebook has in place. It determines what people see in their news feed. Just because you’ve posted something – will people see it? What can you do to make sure they do? A strategy and having some understanding of how platforms work will help.

Having a strategy of some kind in place will help you to shape your reputation and brand both on and offline too.  If you find it’s not working – don’t be afraid to mix things up and change, to keep up with the ever changing landscape of the ‘digital’ world. But do think before you post and have a basic idea of what you’re going to be doing and saying to the world each and every day.

Why it’s important to interact with followers and fans

In order to have an effective relationship with customers or fans on social media, businesses need to have a well-thought-plan: what to say; what the messages are; how it’s said – and when.

Social media, PR and general promotion of a business or service takes time and it’s natural to want a return on this investment. For the strategy to have a chance of being a success, aims and intentions must be set out first, along with a realistic budget and time allocation is a must to do it properly.

Without commitment, care and attention there’s little chance in fulfilling a viable media strategy.  As well as pumping out material – businesses also need to be there to respond when people take interest in what’s being put out there. It’s all too easy to end up having a one-way conversation, and eventually people will cease to connect if no one talks back.

One key aspect to fully engaging fans or followers is ensuring that the social media strategy is fully set out. When you post something, already have a plan in mind of how to respond to positive or negative feedback. It’s important to take note of how successful certain content or campaigns are and who is engaging with these key messages. Analyse social media data, such as the number or type of comments on Facebook, replies or retweets on Twitter and likes on Instagram. This will enable a greater understanding of who the audience actually is and feed in to an on-going strategy.

As well as planning, flexibility is needed to adapt to trends, events and other news going on in the world. Think about the audience; consider content that will enable people to get involved to feel part of a brand.

For example:

  • Hold regular competitions
  • Ask direct questions
  • Organise a Q&A session so fans can get to know a product or service better
  • Have giveaways
  • Produce useful podcasts or videos

Always remember the audience, and create content that’s easy to digest, and is interesting or fun. By seeing a page or account from the eyes of the online community, it’s possible to customise content which will maintain interest and keep connections fresh and relevant for both sides of the conversation.

Our work – Business Festival ‘Discuss & Do’

In 2012 Rebecca was approached to organise a six-month Business Festival ‘Discuss & Do’.

discuss-and-do-support-for-small-bizThe series of events supported small businesses and start-ups. Each month saw a topic related to small business. Up to 3 events would take place in the month, a main workshop, in which attendees would learn the basis of something – and subsequent spin off workshops.

We were fortunate to have some incredibly talented speakers, ranging from TED speaker, businesswoman and writer Margaret Heffernan, Bryony Thomas, author of Watertight Marketing and expert marketing consultant, along with Grant Lang, founder of Mozzo coffee and the Artic Farm, young entrepreneurs behind a frozen yogurt brand. As well as Claire Sully, Director of Tickbox Marketing and the founder of the Shepton Digital Arts Festival, Andrew Denham, founder of the Bicycle Academy and Gavin Eddy, Angel investor and the man behind workhub operator Forward Space.

discuss-and-do-2Local businesses got a huge amount out of each workshop. Discuss & Do has now transformed itself into a monthly discussion event, where businesses give peer-to-peer support in the community of Frome.