Sukh Chatha-Johal

How I Turned My Bespoke Gifting Hobby Into A Full Time Business

How I Turned My Bespoke Gifting Hobby Into A Full Time Business

Welcome! Tell us who you are and a quick overview of your business.

Hi, I’m Sukh and I’m the founder and face behind CraftSquared. Fun fact: My full name wins most times for having the most characters: Sukhninder Kaur Chatha-Johal.

Craftsquared creates premium, bespoke, scrabble frames, taking sentimental gifting to another level. In this blog, you’ll learn is a snippet of my story. Being able to capture these snippets within a frame, which at a glance tells a story about a person or family is magically special to me.

Using the names and words given to us, a unique layout is created in scrabble format and displayed on a background of choice. The wooden embellishments used, are a very special element as they represent a story, hobbies and/or interests.

The range is now developing into other areas and the love we receive from our customers and the families that get gifted these gives me that extra spring in my step. These frames are sentimental, they are created to make you smile, to feel joy.

How did you come up with your concept?

We find ourselves needing and wanting to gift our loved ones on many different occasions; from birthdays, new babies, and new homes to wedding gifts and I found myself struggling on many occasions not knowing what to gift which was special enough, sentimental and meaningful.

Gifting is one of the special ways of showing love. With everyone facing different obstacles behind closed doors, celebrating little wins and milestone events is really important to me and that is where the concept came from. A personalised keepsake to display, which reminds the person how valued and special they are regularly.

So I started creating these scrabble frames as my go-to gifts for my loved ones. I was creating these during the lockdown, posting them out with a note at the back explaining the meaning of what the embellishments represented. People were feeling seen, they were truly touched by the detail. I would get asked to make them for others and I happily did at no cost because of the joy it created for everyone.

Fast forward 1 year, and my friend gets a frame made as a wedding gift to be part of their Nanki Shak (gifts the girl's maternal side brings during a wedding). The exposure from that day and demand for the frame concept made this become the small business it is today from the hobby it was.

How did you actually launch? How were those early days?

My husband came up with the brand name. Craft is what it is and the scrabble tiles are squared. We were originally spelling it as Craft² but it caused confusion to some so now I tend to write in full.

I am a firm believer in taking action but I kept thinking the ‘right time’ would be when my daughter started nursery. However with the push from my best friends, I started to lay the foundations and it was the best thing I could have done as now with my daughter being at nursery full time, I have the base to really bounce off.

There were lots of initial questions as to how much I needed to invest, what did I need, how do I do this, can I have a business doing this?

At that time I was in my world, never listened to podcasts, and didn’t have a clue about most things as had been a full-time mum for 7 years.

Though I graduated with a 1st in Marketing back in 2007, the world of marketing today is VERY different from what I learnt many years ago.

I had been out of the corporate world for a while now, but my biggest strength has always been having faith in myself.

Nothing needed to be perfect and polished. I just needed an avenue for people to contact me and see some examples as the interest was there.‍

I am the brand and had a vision of my face being the brand logo. I sent a set of instructions to an artist, a background colour gold to symbolise sprinkling magic and a picture of me (what creates the joy). Pictures of my work table and other elements to be included and when my logo came back, I instantly loved it.

I created my business cards on Canva, watching YouTube videos to learn how to navigate around the site and create things. I thought websites were still created using coding but when a friend helped me get set up on IONOS, I used the templates on there to create my website.

I do not have a ‘professional’ website even to date as it's a reminder of what I created myself, the hours I put in every night after putting the kids to sleep. For now, it still works fine for the purpose it was created for.

My aim for the first year was purely to create brand awareness. I was not focused on sales and profit though that is very important for every business. It was for people to know that I am Sukh. This is what I do and if at any point they wanted to get something special made, I would love to create it.

I had no major strategies in place, just soft launched end of Nov 2021.‍

A few days later came across a platform called Asian Women Mean Business. They had launched a directory for South Asian female business owners so I signed up.

A week or so later directory members were allowed to join the founder Rupinder on Instagram lives to come and show the face behind the business and talk about what we do.

I had never done a ‘live’ before, requested to join but never anticipated the overwhelming response and love I was going to receive.

For me, 50% is my product, and the other 50% is me. People buy people. And that one Insta live meant I was pretty booked for the whole of December.

I also attended a couple of local school Christmas fayres during the first month of my launch. This was amazing at teaching me how I needed to set my stall up and the things I needed so that when I did participate in much bigger events, I had an idea of what to do.

The moral of my launch story — there was no major plan. When we love what we do people see it. They will naturally gravitate towards you. We can never be polished enough from day 1, we learn every day as we go along.

So if anyone has an idea or a passion that interests others, just get the ball rolling and let people know who you are and what you do.

What strategies have you used to attract customers or followers?

The power of word of mouth is just as strong today as it has always been before. This has been huge for me. I strive to provide the best customer service and give a lot of time to each customer. They value this. I get a lot of repeat custom orders and orders from people who have received the frames as gifts.

The only social media platform I have used throughout my first year has been Instagram. Understanding and utilising one platform effectively at a time is key as social media is so powerful. My advice is before spreading yourself too thin, really get comfortable with one platform before branching onto another. Custom via Instagram alone has kept me busy that I can’t sell on other platforms at the moment.‍

One thing that matters to be hugely is having authentic followers. For every 10 followers I get, I find myself removing 7 of those. Random profiles, guys that are not my ideal clients, and businesses following me so I follow them back. I show the face and share aspects of my life so having the right engagement and following matters to me. It’s not about the numbers in my line of work, it’s having the right people who provide a safe space for me to show up, engage and grow. Don’t be afraid to be selective, your insight metrics will prove this.

Face-to-face networking events. Old school but the most effective way to build a stronger relationship faster. When we meet someone in person we feel their energy, we sense their vibe. When we like someone and what they have to offer, we make decisions instantly. This has been a big driver for me, from being someone no one knew about to now having some amazing relationships, networks and exposure.

The next platform I am learning to use is TikTok and have created an account on LinkedIn. I have deliberately paced myself so I can perfect myself behind the scenes. Nothing worse than getting yourself out there fast, not being able to deliver = not building your customer relationships and feeling burnt out. I am now in talks with a social media manager who will work on some material alongside me as I am ready for that next growth step.

What has been your biggest hurdle? How have you dealt with it?

My biggest hurdle was shifting my mindset from this all being a hobby to now being a business. When I launched, I did not implement my time into my costings. I had a figure in my mind that people would be willing to spend on a gift and wanted my product to be accessible to all. What I found was a huge demand, total burnout and no accountability of my time = no profit.

When customers were telling me that the frames were high-end, finished with amazing quality and they knew how much time I had spent on them, they were paying me more than my price list. I don’t know why I was feeling guilty and not pricing correctly. The moment I overcame this money mindset block, and recognised that money is simply an exchange of the materials, time and energy going into creating something a customer required, everything changed.

Yes, I enjoy what I do but at the same time, it is also my full-time job which helps me pay for living costs. I now value my time as much as I value every order. My advice on this: Not everyone can be your customer and the ones that resonate with us and like our product, will never question price. No one ever questioned my price — it was all me in my mind. I have different products within different price brackets which work for me and for customers who would like a Craftsquared frame.

What were you doing before this?

I had always been very ambitious but found motherhood changed my entire mindset, priority and outlook on life.

I surprised myself and many around me when I extended my maternity leave to have a little longer with my son, as I was grateful for the life experiences we were having together.

That led to wanting to complete our family which was not plain sailing; we faced obstacles and losses and I savoured the time I was having with my son, who I thought would be my only child.

This is how an extended maternity leave became much longer than I had anticipated it to be and fast forward, to my daughter making her entry in Jan 2019; our firecracker rainbow baby.

I had planned to go back to work in 2020 but then the pandemic hit and (I am fully aware I am one of the rare ones), loved the opportunity to be able to homeschool, make learning fun and set the foundations and attitude towards learning.

Whilst schools figured out how to implement homeschooling effectively, I developed a real desire to have better insight into the education system and do something that would help lots of children. This led to me becoming a governor at my children’s primary school in 2021, a large school with nearly 700 students.

What are your competitive advantages?

My biggest competitive advantage is me.

Feels strange saying that but I have to be OK with saying it. I have always loved meeting new people and enjoy social events.

I was the one when guests would come over my mum would have me sit with them to entertain, whilst she and my sisters would be in the kitchen.

Something I took for pure granted as it was just part of my personality became my biggest strength and this comes across via the customer service I provide. My genuine love for meeting people, interacting and having fun also became what helped me form some amazing new relationships, friendships and collaboration opportunities.

The major strength is the actual products themselves.

We are bombarded by different social media content, gift ideas and lots of people hard selling.

I don’t sell. I create bespoke items every time a customer requests them. I don’t have a generic mass quantity of products to sell.

I understand each family and person, take a detailed brief and create something unique for them. The sentiments behind each frame are what make it unique and special.

Where are you today and what are you most excited about in the future?

Craftsquared turned 1 a few months ago and what an incredible year it has been. So grateful for the amazing love, support and response I have received and new doors have been opening up recently.

We kick-started 2023 with the launch of CraftSquared events. I now host birthday parties for a range of different ages, children to adults and have enquiries to host hen parties, bridal showers and keeping children entertained at weddings. I will later in the year host craft events and look to enter the corporate world by offering my services on their well-being days with craft mindfulness activities.

We have some collab opportunities being discussed too.

I believe we are stronger together and what better joy than supporting one another and all growing? There has been a major shift in the way people think now. We are not here to be better than anyone else, everything in life stays here, what always stays with us forever is the memories we leave behind and how we made others feel.

That is always at the forefront of everything I do.

What are your three top tips for others looking to follow in your footsteps?

  1. Show your face and let people know who you are. Most importantly — be you. The real you. We all love to see the person behind the brand and find something that resonates with us or that we like. Do this via your chosen social media platform and in-person networking events which are a must.
  2. It is never the right time. There will always be something which is not ‘perfect’, that we need to do before we can launch. Do not let that stop you. We don’t need to have it all figured out from word go. Get the ball rolling but have clear action goals of what needs to be done weekly and get yourself an accountability partner.
  3. Have faith and confidence in yourself. It is crucial to have the right mindset. Don’t do things half-heartedly, fully apply yourself, and put the time, effort and dedication in. People can see when we work hard, when show up consistently, meet their expectations, deliver on time as promised, and have faith in our ability and our goods/services. When starting as an unfamiliar brand without much to show for it and not many reviews, let your work ethos and persona speak volumes. This is how we start to build.

What platforms/tools do you use behind the scenes?

  • Currently listening to atomic habits on audible.
  • Canva for creating marketing material.
  • IONOS as a serving platform for my website.

What resources have helped you the most?

The energy, language and mindset of those around us is crucial! Surround yourself with the right people that are similar to you/ inspire you. I am part of different communities but being part of the A.W.M.B inspire club (personal and professional development club) has given me lots of nuggets of knowledge and access to an amazing community of people.  

Do you have any open job positions or partnership opportunities?

If anyone would like to collaborate please reach out. I have the gifting side of the business and the events too.

Would love to grow together.

If anyone works for a corporate company that has well-being days, would really appreciate it if you could put me in touch with your HR team so I can see if they would be interested in having a crafting segment one day.

On a personal note, there is a major topic close to my heart that I will speak more about and create awareness on. Hearing loss in young people. If anyone reading is able to help me get the message across to a larger audience, and break certain stereotypes, taboos and loneliness many feel as a result, I will be deeply grateful.

I’m described as a happy person with great energy and vibe and that is a lovely way to be known but it is a conscious choice of how I wish to live. Live in the moment and enjoy!

Just like everyone else, I too have certain obstacles that challenge me.

I have been struggling with hearing loss for nearly 20 years now and 7 years ago was told I needed to start wearing hearing aids. I found it very hard to accept this. It is very common to see people around us wearing glasses but do we often see young people wearing hearing aids?

As a result, it was something I was very ashamed of and refused to wear‍.

I was getting by with my day-to-day reasonably OK until the pandemic hit and I could not hear people through the masks and glass screens. At some networking events, I could not hear people talking about themselves if they were far away and on a couple of occasions people felt I had ignored them and that made me sad as I would never want anyone to feel that I had ignored them.

When questions about how authentically we are living and elements of cultural conditioning were being discussed within our inspiring club, it brought to the forefront what I had been suppressing. I wrote a post on my Instagram page, wanting to own this ‘imperfection’ and share this aspect of my life. I was overwhelmed by how many other people like myself have been struggling silently too. Have felt like they are the only ones so did not feel comfortable speaking about it.

Several people reached out via DM’s and were approaching me at events telling me what significant impact this was having in their households because either they were going through the same or their partner was. When we see ourselves being represented, we don’t feel as ashamed about something and are more willing to talk.

What was this taboo in my head? A lot stems from our childhood when we see our elders not sharing their imperfections, keeping things private behind closed doors and making sure ‘society’ sees us as nothing less than perfect.

For anyone else with any kind of hearing loss, whether it is mild, moderate or high — it’s OK. I understand truly why you feel scared but I can not explain how liberating it has been owning it and knowing by doing so I have helped so many feel less alone and take action too.

I will be speaking more about this, sharing my journey in the hope it allows more people to really live authentically without feeling scared of being judged or being labelled.

If you are still reading this — THANK YOU! It was super long and I appreciate the time you gave me to read my story.

Love Always


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