Mattie Richardson, Proprietor of Bunyip Beads and Buttons

BA History & Politics, graduated in 1999

Mattie Richardson is a self-employed entrepreneur in the craft industry. She is the Proprietor of Bunyip Beads & Buttons. To reveal expert advice from Mattie, click on the questions below.

[Q] What are the day-to-day tasks when working in your sector?

[A] Many and varied!

If I’m in the shop then it’s dealing with customers, packing web orders, making orders, dealing with press contacts on the phone, day to day dealing in the shop i.e. putting new stock out, banking, sometimes I even get to make some jewellery.

If I’m at home or in the office, then it’s more inputting stock data, answering emails, social media, blogging, researching new ideas, sales analysis, trend forecasting, researching new suppliers and making sure payments are made on time.

The beauty of being self-employed is that I can choose which job I do when, the downside is that I DO have to do them all!

[Q] Do I need specific experience to work in your sector?

[A] I work in the craft retail sector, so the experience I need is to know about my craft. Having said that, when I started I was no expert in jewellery making or running a business. If you’re willing to learn as you go, and sometimes coast it, you’ll be fine.

[Q] What skills and qualities do I need to work in your sector?

[A] You need to like people, in all their varied forms, if you don’t like working with the public, it’s no fun working in retail as the public can be a challenging/ charming lot!

The skills you need depend on the sector you choose to go into, but you can learn as you go too.

You need to be able to prioritise your jobs and manage people, as it’s likely you’ll have staff, and realise that you’re unlikely to get much time off, certainly to begin with!

[Q] Do I need a specific degree to work in your sector?

[A] No! Having said that, a Business or Accounting type degree might help.

[Q] What are the perks of being in your sector?

[A] I love what I do, I can manage my time around other commitments like family and children, I get to play with beads and buttons sometimes and I can develop the business/myself in any direction I see fit without having to persuade ‘the board’.

[Q] What are the downsides of working in your sector?

[A] The work never ends, you have to over-see so many different areas of the business that you’re not an expert on, if things go wrong it all ends up with you ie staff illness means you have to find a way to open the shop even if you’re dragging a 2 year old around with you, cash flow can keep you awake all night and did I say you never get to stop, that phone even has to stay on while you’re on holiday…

[Q] Where can I find out which are the best companies to work for?

[A] In the Independent Retail sector, I would say, offer yourself for work experience. All small retails are desperate for help, especially from lovely keen graduates. If you like the company, and they like you, they may well offer you something, or agree to mentor you as you go about your own business. I often say to Work Experience students, if you can make the money to pay you, then I’ll employ you…

[Q] Do I have to work in London to be in your sector?

[A] Certainly not.

[Q] Where can I look for jobs?

[A] Target the sector you interested in and go and talk to them (maybe email for an appointment first). Most people who work in retail are happy to chat.

[Q] DOs and DON'Ts of applying for jobs in your sector:

DO – Think of new ideas to help the business, may be find an area they’re not utilising, i.e. social media, and show them you can help.

DO – Show a genuine keenness for their business, remember you’re only self-employed if you love what you do, and if you share that with the owner, all the better.

DON’T – Think you’re better than a small business because you have a degree and/or work experience at a bigger company.

DON’T – Hide the fact you may want to go on to starting your own business, sometimes knowing a member of staff only wants to be with you for a year can help the owner make the decision to employ you, as a long term staff commitment can be a difficult decision to make.