I can't lie – I've been loving the autonomy that comes with having my own business. I enjoy that I have to be a Jack of all trades, that I have the freedom to create designs I love and the absolute thrill of when someone buys one of my needlepoint kits.
However, it can feel a little bit isolated at times, so the idea of connecting with the local craft community really appealed to me. For quite a while, I'd been searching the internet for any local groups that I could join, but I was drawing a blank.
It got me thinking that there must be other local people who have their own creative business and would love to be part of a community of designers, makers and artists. That drove me to post a message on nextdoor.co.uk (a brilliant resource for every neighbourhood), asking if there were any such groups that I could join, or whether people would like one to be created.
I received an overwhelmingly positive response from other locals, who were really keen to get involved. It seems that there aren't any existing groups, but there was a definite appetite for something to be set up. So, we agreed on a date to meet.
Last week, that day came and, unfortunately, the weather was pretty bad. It had been snowing for a couple of days and, as usual, everything in London was grinding to a halt. So, my expectations of anyone actually turning up were pretty low. We'd planned to meet in a lovely independent cafe in Chiswick – Outsider Tart (www.outsidertart.com) – which has a very stylish interior and, even better, fabulous cakes. I took my new 'dream plan do' journal with me (www.dream-plan-do.com), just in case I was sitting there alone, so at least I'd have something to do.
But, lo and behold, people braved the weather and turned up! Granted, there were only five of us – not a huge mob, but brilliant that those four other people had made the effort and were really enthusiastic about meeting other like-minded creatives.
The time just flew by! We sat there for three hours and talked non-stop. We discussed selling on Etsy; we spoke about social media (such a huge topic); also the importance of great photography for our products; and selling at craft fairs. We each talked about ourselves and whether we already had a business, or were planning to set one up.
I found that one of the group, Jill, lives literally in the next street to me and has been selling on Etsy for a couple of years (her shop is www.etsy.com/uk/shop/WovenInWords), which I would never have known otherwise.
At the end of our meet-up, we agreed to make it a monthly occurrence and I promised to set up a Facebook Group, to help grow our community.
I'm hugely excited that we have the potential to build a network of creatives who can benefit from each other's knowledge, offer a bit of moral support to one another and – most importantly – to maintain social contact. Whilst it's often lovely to have solitude in order to focus and create, it's also really important to feel part of something bigger.