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How to Launch a Jesmonite Homeware and Gift Business with Custom Molds

Thinking about taking your creativity to the next level? Here's the Mayku Guide to getting started with your craft business ideas using the wonderful, versatile material; Jesmonite.

Jesmonite is a casting material that has been around since the 1980s. Inventor, Peter Hawkins originally worked in concrete manufacturing, when Hawkins realised that the addition of acrylic to a powdered casting material could up the longevity and versatility, Jesmonite AC100 was born. Over 35 years later, Jesmonite are still innovating in surface finishes, colours and extensive complimentary product ranges including; pigments and fillers, sealers, gel coats, quadaxial glass fabric and more.

Although originally intended for use in architecture and building, the use of Jesmonite has expanded to designing and manufacturing jewellery, home accessories, gifts, sculptures and even set-design for movies and television.

 

 Video: A quick demo of how to use the Mayku FormBox to make Terrazzo Jesmonite coaster designs

Jesmonite homewares and gift designers love the Mayku FormBox for it's simple custom mold making workflow. You can test any idea in minutes with no mess and with set-up costs as low as £1 per mold. Launch a desktop factory in less space than a microwave and get manufacturing molds and prototypes in hours instead of days.

Want to learn more about using Jesmonite and the FormBox to launch a homewares and gift business? Read on, we're here to help you get making, fast!

How to Launch a Craft Business with Jesmonite

So, you've decided that you'd like to work with Jesmonite. What's next in building this creative passion into a full-blown indie business? We're going to walk you though a few steps to help you get your business brain brewing up the bigger picture.

 

Photo: Evka Home's Jesmonite Homewares, all molds made on the Mayku FormBox. Photography by Nathan Joyce.

Did you know that you could be making £1000s per month by making beautiful Jesmonite creations in Mayku FormBox molds? Here's a few quick calculations we did for you:

 

  • If you sold 150 homewares items for an average of £18 each you would make £2700 (not including postage) once stock sold through. Initial profit of £1443, ongoing profit of £2042 once the FormBox has paid for itself

  • If you sold 150 homewares DIY kits with FormBox made custom molds inside for an average of £40 each you would make £6000 (not including postage) once stock sold through. Initial profit of £4743, ongoing profit of £5342 once you're all set up

Here's a little cost comparison we did for you on the basis of selling 50 units of Jesmonite homewares per month at £20 each. With your first month's profits you will already have made back the set-up cost of the FormBox. Winning!

That sounds good to us, how about you? If you're still keen - read on for more information on launching a Jesmonite homewares business.

 

Research and practise working with Jesmonite

Before you storm ahead and start planning your incredible Jesmonite collection, it's important to get to grips with the basics of the materials. Although working with Jesmonite has similiarties with plaster, concrete and resin - it's good to understand the space, accessories and finishes you need to master before you start designing.

If you want to test out a FormBox made mold with your first Jesmonite creation, you can pick up a DIY Kit or join a workshop with one of our customers.

 

Photo: DIY Jesmonite Coaster Kit featuring Mayku FormBox made molds created by Singapore's Chokmah who also run Jesmonite workshops.

Many craft businesses such as Salt Studios in London are now offering DIY Jesmonite kits containing FormBox made molds. If you're in Singapore, check out Chokmah or Lovely Strokes for local inspiration and workshops. Alternatively, there are a number of Jesmonite Starter Kits available to get you acquainted with the material before you move forwards.

How will you sell your handmade homewares?

There are so many different options when it comes to choosing how to sell your homewares. Perhaps you have a large enough network that you can take the face to face selling approach? Most definitely you will want to choose at least one online ecommerce option.

If you choose to focus on creating and maintaning your own ecommerce website, be aware that this takes technical skill, budget and ongoing work to grow and update. So, you might like to choose a shopping platform such as Etsy, Folksy, Not on the High Street or eBay to get you started. These 3rd party selling platforms charge fees for listing and selling, but offer extensive back-up in terms of new customers being able to stumble upon your work much more easily than solely on your own platforms.

Are there any local shops or makers markets that you could sell at? Wholesale orders are a great way to boost your income and increase the awareness of your brand. Maker's markets are an excellent way to connect with fellow creatives whilst meeting die-hard arts and craft buyers at the same time.

Do some market and competitor research

Although not a critical step for all, there is a lot of logic in spending at least a day or two researching the existing market and reviewing how your design ideas will compliment what already exists. No one wants more of the same, so how will you make your work stand out?

The easy set-up route is to purchase off-the-shelf molds from another creator, however this means that you are likely to be making objects in shapes that are already oversaturated. Perhaps you have an excellent eye for colour or surface design that will make you stand out from all the other oval trays, if not, you might want to consider custom molds.

Custom mold design can be complicated, long and expensive. With the Mayku FormBox you can make almost any shape into a mold for less than £1 and in a matter of minutes. The machine is so simple to use that it's suitable for use in education with children as young as 8!

Sketch-up design ideas

Many great ideas start with a doodle, get pencil to paper straight away and start visualising what your shapes will look like. You don't have to be a visual maestro to be able to express your concept at this stage.

Whilst you sketch-up your ideas, consider which process you want to use to manufacture the master shapes. When mold making with the Mayku FormBox there are a number of choices for setting up a shape to form:

 

  • Using digital fabrication methods such as 3D printing, laser cutting or CNC milling
  • Carving wood, dense foam or even a potato by hand or with workshop tools
  • Modelling types of clay including polymer clay and air drying clay
  • Finding and adapting a real life object such a piece of fruit or charity shop oddity

We recommend that you read Agustin Arroyo's introduction to vacuum forming and mold making before you go further. This short guide clarifies what type of shapes work best on the Mayku FormBox and which design fundamentals you should consider as you're crafting custom molds for your homewares designs.

Photo: Jesmonite homewares designer Evka Home, used Adobe Illustrator to design her master objects. She paid a local artist £100 to laser cut 10 different shapes in wood.

Designing for digital fabrication

For traditional arts and crafters happy to work with workshop tools, found objects and modelling clay - skip ahead! For those not afraid to geek-out and master new technology, digital fabrication gives complete freedom to the design process.

To prepare designs for 3D printing, laser cutting or CNC milling the artwork should be created in a digital design programme. There are numerous programmes available out there, so it's a matter of testing them and deciding which interface works best for you.

Here's a few tools that Team Mayku would recommend checking out if digital fabrication is calling your name, these are especially useful for those interested in 3D printing:

 

  • Tinker CAD
  • Google Sketch Up
  • Fusion 360
  • Vectory

A quick browse on YouTube and Google will pull up all sorts of other options, so shop around before you settle into your digital design workflow.

Mock-up the first prototypes

As much as it is tempting to skip straight to the selling point; testing and prototyping is a key step in any professional design workflow. Sure, your brilliant idea might seem flawless at first sight but given a bit of experimentation and brutal testing, you'll save time in the long run because you can fix at issues at this stage, instead of upsetting a future customer who discovers the issue for you.

When designing homewares, practicality and safety come into play as much as having a sense of style. Have you tested your design in the real world? Does it do what it's supposed to and can it stand up to the real life of every day use?

This is also a great stage to workshop your manufacturing processes, sure it's easy to make one of something, but what if you need to make 10 in a day? Luckily making a fresh custom mold with the FormBox takes minutes and is instantly ready to work with. No waiting for drying and curing, just immediate increasing your making capacity for just £1 per mold.

Complete your prototyping phase, fix any design issues, innovate in surface and colour combinations and your product is almost ready to launch!

Photograph and video the product and process

Now that the final prototypes are perfected it's time to prep for launch. Visual imagery is absolutely key in telling your story online and within any future media coverage and printed materials. Professional quality content can take your craft business from humble handmade to sleek artisan brand in an instant.

How to start a Jesmonite Homewares Business

Photo: Jesmonite homewares and jewellery by Singapore's Lovely Strokes, custom molds made on the Mayku FormBox.

There are a few different categories of visual content that you will want to create to help you stand out for the competition online: 

 

  • Single product shots: These are the catalogue photos. Each product captured from a few different angles in a clear and crisp image. If the design has any unique features, highlight them here. Product shots are essential to bringing a ecommerce listing to life or selling to wholesalers.
  • Group shots: These images are invaluable for so many uses: website banners, leaflets or business cards and populating marketing channels such as social media. They also represent your entire design vision in one shot, so feel free to get creative with your set dressing.
  • Lifestyle imagery: These are visuals that tell a story and show your designs in situ and in action. They act as a selling tool displaying how a potential customer might style or use them in their own home.
  • Behind the scenes: Customers love staying loyal to brands and creators that they care about. Offering a sneak behind the scenes in your visuals helps to build trust with your customers, whilst also building a story of your skill and creative journey.

You don't need the latest video and photography equipment to do a great job at your visuals. If you have the budget you might choose to hire a freelance photographer or content creator to help you out, but if you're new to handmade business you can certainly get started with a camera phone and basic lighting.

Source suitable packaging and accessories

How your stunning new designs arrive is just as important as the design itself! Selecting suitable packaging is not only important to ensure that your product arrives at the end destination in one piece and clean, it's also a great way to continue building a positive experience for your customers.

There are endless options for packaging suppliers online from custom cardboard boxes to compostable mailers. Do you need bubble wrap or packing peanuts? It's another stage of testing and experimenting before you find the ideal packaging line-up for your brand. Perhaps you need to send a few sample parcels to family and friends to troubleshoot any issues before you go public?

In addition to the outer packaging, many brands choose to include additional marketing materials on top of the essential invoice or reciept. Here's a few ideas for extra treats you could include in your packaging to level-up the customer experience:

 

  • Thank you cards, business cards or postcards with a brand message or discount code for their next purchase
  • Newsletters or zines - mini magazines that match your brand values and further develop your story
  • Free samples or candy treats - could you supply a mini version of a product as a sample? Or throw in a couple of lollypops to cheer up the parcel?
  • Stickers, temporary tattoos, reusable packaging - low cost added gifts with a sense of fun are always fun to recieve

Find the perfect parcel balance and you'll have your customers delighted before they've even gotten to the unwrapping part! Send Insta-friendly parcels and you'll increase your chances of excellent user generated content too, word of mouth marketing can be so powerful so don't underestimate the power of the perfect unboxing.

Prepare the selling and marketing platforms

This is the long part, but so important. Before you power ahead uploading all your wonderful designs, ensure you've done a costing for your business. Take into account how much all your materials cost, add to that the time it takes you to make the objects and you'll be able to calculate your ideal retail price and wholesale prices.

Jesmonite Homewares design by Salt Studios

Photo: Jesmonite Terrazzo plant pot by London based, Salt Studios who also sell DIY Kits and run workshops.

It's often tempting to just price to be competitive in the market, but a handmade business won't last long if those retail prices don't cover all your costs. So take some time to do the maths and confidently list ahead knowing you have a future-proof plan ahead.

In addition to clear pricing; writing excellent product descriptions will also help you sell and be seen. Learning some SEO basics won't go amiss at this stage, whether you're hosting your own site or listing on Etsy - keywords are critical to being found by possible customers.

This is also the time to decide which marketing channels you will use. Do you want a mailing list? Which social media platforms will you find your ideal customer on? If you're a one person band or a small team, it's important to stay practical. As much as it might be appealing to do everything immediately, perhaps you can get started with just Instagram and a free Mailchimp account?

Getting selling and be patient

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was any business that ever survived longer than a few months. If you're passionate about your handmade business lasting, patience, detirmination and innovation are going to be key.

Starting any business afresh requires a lot of learning and adapting along the way. You can't just launch and hope for the best, a craft business needs to stay active. Test different marketing channels, research where to find your ideal customer, connect with fellow artisans for collaboration and knowledge sharing.

If you have any questions, perhaps you can pop by the Mayku Community on Facebook? Our friendly, global community of makers are ready to share their wisdom.

 

        Why choose the Mayku FormBox for custom mold making?

        Off-the-shelf molds are too obvious, you've seen 1000s of oval trays and you can't think of anything new to bring to the table there. The initial thought is to test out custom silicone mold making but the information out there is overwhelming and the process seems messy, expensive and long. Even if you do an experiment in silicone, you'll have to wait up to 24 hours before you know if it's even worked.

        With the Mayku FormBox, forming a custom mold takes minutes and it's instantly ready to cast into. A single mold costs only £1, so if you have to do a few experiements before it's right you're already making a huge saving in time and materials. Mayku Sheets are made of recycled plastic, are recyclable and can make reusable molds for a variety of casting materials.

         

        Video: Creator Alexandre Chappel demos the Mayku FormBox using 3D printed original parts to make beautiful Jesmonite homewares.

        The Mayku FormBox is easy to use, smaller than a microwave and simple to store and move. It's an ideal tool for working from home or in space precious studio spaces. Set-up is straight-forward and you can be ready to make in less than 15 minutes with zero mess.

         Want to learn more about the Mayku FormBox? You can request to speak to a specialist here or visit @TeamMayku on social media for further making inspiration.

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