Why I stopped working with Jesmonite

Why I stopped working with Jesmonite

I spent over 2 years growing my business on social media, showing the process of hand-making my Jesmonite home decor products. In the past few months I put a lot of time thinking about my future and realised how unhappy I was working with Jesmonite. I made the decision to finally stop but that came with a lot of disappointed customers and unhappy followers.

To the outside eye it may have seemed like things were going amazing for Madebypaulinauk. I was receiving large wholesale orders, my follower numbers on social media were high, and I was always bringing out something exciting and new. Whenever I shared an imagine of my orders, it looked something like this:

 

Well let's shed some light on what was actually happening in the background. 

Days with orders like the photo above were rare and far in between. The only reason I had so many orders that day is because I offered mystery boxes and the biggest discount. The products in them? Things I spent over a year making that never sold in my store. I was moving house and needed to sell them, but it was never going to happen at full price. So I hyped up how little products I had left and made up bundles of products with a massive 50% discount, the profits from that were just about enough to cover how much I spent on the materials and shipping of these items - my leftover profits were probably less than £50. 

My sales had been incredibly low for an extended period of time, after the initial hype in 2020 it never got back to the numbers I sold then. I was always frantically looking for new ways to make some much needed money. This resulted in starting my Youtube channel and taking on more wholesale orders. 

If you watch my Youtube channel you may have seen my vlogs about the large wholesale orders. How I sold 200 pots to a small business to make candle holders? They paid me £10 per pot. That is £2000, minus my expenses. The Jesmonite itself cost approx. £400 for that order, plus the fact that I had to order extra moulds and mixing materials to get it done in time. I had to basically stop my normal store in order to work on this. Approx. 240 hours went into the production of the pots, and if my profits were about £1500 then I made £6.25 per hour. 

The same thing goes for all my other wholesale orders, but maybe the worst one of all of them were the 67 neutral rectangle trays. It sounds like so much but I was only paid £1000 for that order, -£300 for materials it leaves me with £700 for my time. It was about 80-90 hours of working in total. Giving me a £7.70 ph. wage. That is below the national minimum wage of £8.21. This order took so much time in sanding, that at the end I could barely even hold a pen to write. 

While working on small batches of products for my shop was manageable. making things in bulk for the wholesale orders is really what broke me. While not really high skilled, working with Jesmonite is hard work. I was suffering with constant back, neck and arm pain, rashes started to develop on my arms from constant use of silicone gloves and water, and my mental health started going down the drain due to working long hours in pain. 

So you may think, why didn't you just raise your prices? You should have considered this before selling wholesale? It is never as simple as this. If I raised my wholesale prices I would have also had to raise my retail prices. My pen pots were already retail priced at £20, not many people would have paid more for them. This goes for my customers and the customers of my wholesale customers. An increased number of sellers started making the same products as me, usually selling at much lower prices because they are hobby makers or have no overhead, meaning I was always competing. I also tried to sell wholesale with a lower discount of 40% instead of 50%. But many wholesale customers simply refused. If I was making enough retail sales to not need the wholesale custom I would have simply not wholesale, but that wasn't the case. 

How did I survive so long working with such low profits? A few reasons, one being in a privileged situation of having a supportive partner that covered some of the bills I couldn't afford to contribute towards. Plus the bonus of growing a large social media following meant I received a handful of sponsorships. Which actually in 2022 added up to almost 40% of my total profits. Youtube ads also added £80-150 to my monthly income, but this number is always fluctuating so not very reliable.

I have a degree in Surface Pattern design, a degree which I am still paying for. When I left my corporate job to run my business it was always my goal to eventually add to my product range and introduce products with printed fabrics I designed. It all got swept under the rug because I simply never got the time to spend developing them. 

During the second half of 2022 I worked on several wholesale orders which ultimately lead to a breaking point. I hit my lowest before I decided it was enough. It was the scariest decision to make, to simply stop. 

A lot of people asked why I didn't just stop making terrazzo items, and instead make marbled or plain things that don't require as much sanding. Yes those items are easier to make, but honestly they never sold for me. I tried many times to introduce things that were non-terrazzo and each time those items just ended up sitting on my shelves for months. 

I'm not going to say you can't craft with Jesmonite, but if you intend on growing your business beyond just a hobby it won't be easy. There are only a handful of successful creators I know of, that appear to make a decent living making jesmonite products. For those of you who want to try regardless I decided to put together a guide of everything I learned during my time working with Jesmonite.

The guide will be a digital download which you can purchase soon, it will go into detail on casting, sanding, sealing and more. The profits from this guide will be used to re-invest into my business and help it recover after a tough year. 

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