Owning and running a small business can be challenging and sometimes isolating so the opportunity to work with like-minded businesses can be both rewarding and provide affirmation that it is worth all of the effort. Glasgow is a hotbed of creativity with more and more independent enterprises popping up all the time especially in the food and drink industry. I opened Dandelion Cafe in Newlands Park in August 2015 and since then there has been a huge surge in the number of fantastic places to eat and drink in my area of the southside of Glasgow. On one hand, this is great news as our local customer base are clearly foodies who love to eat out but it is also brings new challenges especially how my cafe can stand out in an increasingly crowded market place.
If anyone asks me to name our defining characteristics as a business I immediately think of our mantras “made with love” and “baked with love” but behind both of these lies the core value of the business which is delivering the highest quality possible, every time. This permeates all facets of the business from the quality of our local, ethical suppliers, with the organic and free-range produce we use to our approach to presentation and customer service. This philosophy has served us well with our customers appreciating the attention to detail, value for money, which can be difficult to achieve profitably as quality costs, and more than anything showing them the love of what we do. However, as more independent businesses open up in our neighbourhood they are also often adopting a quality based model. This is a positive development as it breeds an appreciation of quality independents and helps to nurture a food community. However, it also brings into focus, the need to differentiate and not just compete on the quality of our core offering.
I’ve always loved arts and crafts and the concept for the cafe was based on a love of handmade and vintage creations. The building itself is a 1920’s sports pavilion which was designed in the arts and crafts tradition so craft and design is part of the cafe’s DNA. Differentiating through collaboration with arts and crafts small businesses in my local area seemed like a natural next step for the business, and if truth be told a fabulous excuse to have lots of gorgeous handcrafted things in the cafe!
My first rule of collaborating in business is to work with people I can learn from and clearly love what they do. Scoping around my local area, I could look no further than a fabulous one-woman business, Suzi and her fantastic art, craft and gift shop, Sunshine No 1 in Mount Florida. I love the shop and Suzi is the epitome of an enthusiastic, creative entrepreneur who is following her dream. We have trodden a similar path to our businesses having both come from professional careers of over 20 years in other sectors, Suzi in the civil service and me in higher education. We both made a giant leap of faith to set up our businesses in unproven locations and stuck to our visions of selling high quality handmade items, delivering service with a smile. I have a longer standing relationship with my other chief collaborator, Rose from Deanamh Designs, Rose has been supplying the cafe with gorgeous homeware gifts since we opened, especially her stunning cushions made with incredible fabrics like Harris Tweed and up-cycled vintage pieces. Again, Rose comes from a different sector having had a long career in social work before developing her craft business. Like Suzi, she is one of life’s natural enthusiasts, has incredible skills and is so supportive and encouraging to others.
Together we decided to launch a series of craft events based at the cafe. The plan was to alternate between craft markets and craft classes. So far we have had two craft markets and are about to have the first of our craft classes later this month. We are working with a hugely talented group of local, independent makers, showcasing some of the finest products available. The collaboration provides mutual benefits as all of the businesses achieve greater brand recognition via each other’s customer base, reach new customers from appearing at a different venue and of course make sales. More than anything, the real benefit for me has been getting to know a whole new group of talented, creative entrepreneurs who are so supportive of each other and provide me with motivation to continue to push forward with this new aspect of the business and to truly appreciate the benefits of collaboration.
So I guess the moral of the tale for me is to embrace opportunities to collaborate with kindred spirits, keep the level of quality high and don’t be afraid to try something new.
Our next events are a Festive Pottery Workshop on 23rd November and then we will be hosting our Festive Food & Gift Market on Thursday 7th December. Details of all events can be found on our facebook page