Hatching crafty new plans in a virtual world

In our latest newsletter, we wanted to feature some of our customers and they share how they have had to adapt their business to deal with the pandemic restrictions. We hope you like both interviews…

The team at Crafty Hen is based at the Old Schoolhouse in Barton Hill. When their popular creative workshops were cancelled at the start of lockdown, they had to quickly look for different opportunities.

We chatted to the Hen-In-Chief, Julie Roberts, to find out how they adjusted to the restrictions and explored new options.  

BSW: Hi Julie. We last caught up with The Crafty Hen back in 2019, when you were really busy offering creative parties and craft workshops around the country. What’s happened since last March?

CH: It was a disaster to start with. And we really didn’t know how long the lockdown would last, which made it very difficult to plan.

All our events were postponed, which people did understand – we didn’t really have a choice. It was a case of seeing what would happen next.

Julie Roberts, The Crafty Hen
Julie Roberts, The Crafty Hen

BSW: Were you able to move the parties and workshops online?

CH: We did, yes. There was initially a bit of resistance – our events are such sociable occasions, often with groups of friends getting together, and people weren’t sure about replicating that in a virtual setting. And March and April are key hen party months for us, so we took a hit at a time when we’re usually really busy.

On the other hand, we found there was a much higher uptake on the corporate side. We’d been intentionally growing that part of the business before lockdown, so we continued developing these events offering teambuilding workshops online, which have become really popular.

We also put our energy into developing festive online workshops, which had a massive uptake and meant we were busier than a normal Christmas period. We made so many crackers and wreaths – there was glitter everywhere! Sadly, it didn’t make up for the losses during the rest of the year.

BSW: Did you have any alternative revenue options?

CH: Over the last few years, we’ve been building a selection of craft kits in the background, thinking we could potentially offer more of these in the future.

They’ve now become an integral part of what we’re doing. And having the kits already prepared helped us to transition more easily to the online environment. So much about craft is having the right materials and we knew what worked in a box – which was a great starting point.

Our crafty kits have been really popular. They’re made locally, and you can even collect from us to save on postage.

BSW: It sounds like your day-to-day work must have changed quite a lot?

CH: It’s a very different way of working. Previously we sent a pack of materials to the leaders for them to use in their events. Now, it’s bespoke for each person. We started this in June and by October, it had exploded. My role has really changed and involves lots of packing boxes. But it’s fine, I enjoy listening to podcasts at the same time!

BSW: You mentioned your regional leaders and I know in normal times you run crafty experiences all over the country. How has your team been affected?

CH: Well unfortunately there hasn’t been any work for them. Before Christmas we had just 4 workshop leaders working for us. There’s not enough work for the team in the office either, so previously there were 7 of us, now we’re down to 3 – all working part time.

BSW: It’s been such a tough time for the events industry. Have there been any positives?

CH: We’ve found corporates are much more amenable to hosting online events, so it’s been great to expand more into that area. We’re also finding we’re hosting virtual parties all over the world now, we’re not just restricted to the UK and have had bookings from India, Australia and all across Europe.

BSW: How are you feeling about the next few months?

CH: We’re now missing a second hen party season which is concerning, but we’re really pleased at how well our crafty kits and corporate teambuilding events have been received.

BSW: How do you think business will change in the future?

CH: I think we’ll keep the virtual side of things. It’s particularly convenient for companies whose teams are spread geographically, or simply working from home. It’s a great way for them to get together – you can find out more about our teambuilding workshops here. In reality, we’re probably looking at this time next year for the in-person workshops and parties to start up again.

BSW: Your crafty kits look fantastic – are there any you’d particularly recommend?

CH: We’ve got some brilliant spring kits that are proving really popular at the moment, particularly with Easter coming up. We’ve got windowsill garden kits and egg cup painting kits which are perfect as gifts or if you’re looking to entertain children during the holidays (or lockdown)!

You can browse the full selection here: https://www.thecraftyhen.co.uk/kits