Join us in today’s episode as we sit down with Lauren Siemonsma, the creative force behind Ochre Ceramics. Lauren shares her journey of crafting ceramics and jewellery, delving into the challenges she faced, the evolution of her business model, and the essential role of sustainability and ethical practices. Discover how she stays inspired, connects with her audience, and maintains a perfect balance between routine tasks and joyful creativity. Tune in for insights on adapting, engaging, and finding your unique path in the world of e-commerce.
In today’s episode you’ll learn:
- How staying inspired can rejuvenate your business and creativity.
- The power of adapting your business model to align with your passion and values.
- Understanding the art of connecting authentically with your audience and building a loyal community.
- Practical ways to infuse sustainability and ethical practices into your business strategy.
- Insights into maintaining consistent and engaging marketing strategies that resonate with your audience.
- The secret to balancing routine tasks with joyful creativity in your daily work.
[00:00:00] Lauren Siemonsma: When you’re just a little bit tired of something and you feel it needs a bit of a freshen up, it comes through in all elements. Y ou’re are not talking about it on social media. It becomes the forgotten child a little bit and the moment that it. Gets a bit of a freshener, it’s amazing how exciting it suddenly becomes and you think, oh, I’m so sorry. Sorry, I forgot about you.
[00:00:21] Dahna Borg: Hi, and welcome to the Bright Minds of eCommerce podcast. I’m Dahna founder of Bright Red Marketing and after helping so many businesses in the e-commerce space over the years, I wanted to bring you the best advice from Australia and experts in e-commerce and e-commerce store owners. If you want to relatable stories and actionable advice and the latest Facebook advertising strategies, you’re in the right place.
[00:00:41] One help with your Facebook and Instagram ads. Remember you can always book in a free strategy session at brightredmarketing.com.au forward slash free dash strategy dash session will run through your ads. See what’s working and what’s not. And no sales pitch. I promise. So let’s get into today’s episode we’re here with Lauren from Ochre. Welcome, Lauren.
[00:01:02] Lauren Siemonsma: Hello.
[00:01:03] Dahna Borg: Did I say that right? We went through this whole thing.
[00:01:06] Lauren Siemonsma: It’s Ochre.
[00:01:07] Dahna Borg: Ochre. There we go.
[00:01:08] Lauren Siemonsma: Thank you so much for inviting me on.
[00:01:10] Dahna Borg: It’s so good to have you. So tell us a little bit about your business and how you got started.
[00:01:14] Lauren Siemonsma: I make. jewelry and homeware. It really started more as jewelry and the medium that I was just absolutely in love with was ceramics. So I made ceramic jewelry. And it’s funny, I think it was born at a time when resin and like poly maclay or FMO was really big and everyone was wearing these like, Necklaces that had all these little colorful, big beads all over them.
[00:01:40] And I really was like, oh yeah, but that material is plastic and toxic and I was completely in love with clay and the natural element to it. And I started making jewelry out of clay, essentially the same kind of fun, big earrings, but they were in clay and at the time they were probably really heavy.
[00:01:59] And I don’t even quite know how it happened, but I. got invited to do a little market with a business that I was working at with the time, and she had a clothing label and she was like, oh, you can bring some of your little clay earrings and pop them on the side. And she ended up pulling out of the market very last minute and I suddenly had to fill an entire stall with my staff and. I can still remember exactly how much I made. Like I made $600 and I nearly fell over. ‘ cause I was like, oh my God, people that I don’t know want my stuff. Now there’s a lot of homewares.
[00:02:32] The jewelry is still there, there’s still ceramic jewelry, but it’s much more dainty and beautiful. But I also have some, just silver or just gold and pearls. And I also even host workshops. So I host pottery workshops, and more recently I’m also hosting jewelry workshops. So there’s a lot of different parts to it, and I think there needs to be when you five years into a business and you’ve been through pandemics and floods, and now maybe a recession.
[00:03:02] Dahna Borg: So tell us about some of those challenges. We were talking before we started recording about sort of you feeling a little bit like your production line and some of the changes that you’ve made around that. And I know that you’ve spoken on Instagram and things on feeling cornered into that creative process.
[00:03:16] Can you tell us a little bit about some of those challenges and how you’ve been working through them?
[00:03:20] Lauren Siemonsma: Yeah, I think it’s really interesting when your brand is something that you make and there’s so much of you that pours into it because really you are across everything from the imagery, the way it is marketed, but also the hands to the production. And that definitely brings a level of exhaustion.
[00:03:41] And I would even say sometimes I really struggle with watching other brands and thinking, God, I’d love to sit at the laptop all day and spend all this time learning about how to make the website look better or whatever. But at the end of the day, I need to make 50 mugs today. So with Ochre, I’ve gone through different times, I’ve had Staff helping me make, and that was really nice for some of it.
[00:04:06] And then I’m at a stage now where it’s just me. And the reason to that is that I felt a little like I was just making the same things again and again. And I had, a beautiful assistant helping me do it, but I got a little bit like, Every day. I didn’t feel creative. That was probably the thing, like I was feeling a little bit like, yes, I know I can make this pair of earrings or this mug, but I’ve been doing the same thing for years now and I really preach slow fashion and I don’t just release collections to put them on sale a quarter later.
[00:04:39] But I made a bit of a decision that I didn’t wanna be so much of a production line and I wanted to release capsules that changed, that were limited in terms of I just made 50 of this thing and once that was sold out, that’s great, and then I can move on to something else. And it definitely has worked, in terms of I’m feeling so much more inspired I’m learning a lot about what my customers want.
[00:05:05] Sometimes I’ll think something is amazing and it’s not what they need.
[00:05:08] Dahna Borg: I think that happens in every business that, I suppose when you’ve made it with your own hands, it’s a little, it might hurt a little bit more.
[00:05:15] Lauren Siemonsma: A hundred percent. And it is really interesting I’ve just stood For three days at the Melbourne Funders and Keepers market, and these things are an amazing experience because you really meet your customers and even the people that you’d love to be your customers that don’t decide to be, so you really are hearing feedback on your product or seeing why someone chooses someone doesn’t.
[00:05:38] I’ve been around for a little while and I had one lady stand there and say to me, oh, it’s such a shame, you’re not doing as much ceramic jewelry anymore. I think that’s really disappointing and it’s hard to hear those things. I’ve made a conscious decision to. Only make things that I love and make and wanna wear myself or use myself. And I’ve been doing that for five years and I don’t want to do that one anymore. And then you have someone literally giving you feedback, being like, that’s a shame. But You just gotta back yourself.
[00:06:10] And like you said, it’s pretty common that you think something might work and it doesn’t, and you think something might not work and it blows up.
[00:06:17] Dahna Borg: I think that’s every business. I think every business has those products that they’re like, I love this. This is the greatest thing I’ve ever made, and cricket. No one wants it and you make a thing, you’re like, this is awful. No one’s gonna want it. And it’s your bestseller for years and you just can’t get rid of it.
[00:06:30] I think that applies in every business, but I think especially when you’re handmaking, things you have to be invested, as you said when you were just production lining mugs you lose the love of it, I suppose, if you’re just making the same thing and you’re no longer invested in it.
[00:06:44] So I suppose your pieces would be better now, even just for the fact that you care more about them.
[00:06:48] Lauren Siemonsma: Hundred percent and when you’re just a little bit tired of something and you feel it needs a bit of a freshen up, it comes through. In all elements, Y ou’re are not talking about it on social media.
[00:07:00] It becomes the forgotten child a little bit and the moment that it. Gets a bit of a freshener, maybe I change the glaze, fix the handle, do a new photo shoot on it. It’s amazing how exciting it suddenly becomes and it’s all over the grid again, and it’s getting emails and whatever, and you think, oh, I’m so sorry. Sorry, I forgot about you. I think I’ve just gotta go with that because. I really do believe that running a small business has ups and downs and sometimes it’s really hard, but you have to love it because otherwise what are you doing there?
[00:07:32] And that’s what gets you through the harder bit. I want to be able to walk into the studio and think, great, I have to make these things. And yes, not every day is woo But for the most part, I wake up and I make my coffee in the studio and I am really grateful that I’m there.
[00:07:50] Dahna Borg: I love that. I think that’s something we forget too most people. At least the people I’ve spoken to. And I think a lot of our listeners started their businesses because they loved something like they wanted to do something or they loved what that business gave them in terms of flexibility or they enjoyed a product or they wanted to help other people find something.
[00:08:07] And I feel like along the line that gets I think it’s really important , you’re five years in, some people happens two years in, I’m 13 years in I think it happens every couple of years, but you’ve gotta find the part that you love and I love that’s where the direction of your business is going is just finding the things that you love.
[00:08:23] Lauren Siemonsma: Yeah, I think you also are allowed to let that change like the parts that you love in the beginning versus the part, like you said, it could be that you go in because you think, oh . This product or service is missing in the world. I remember actually when I started running the workshops, so about five years ago I started running these workshops and I think the first one was clay, wine and cheese.
[00:08:47] And it’s actually really funny. I started my business in Melbourne and Within a couple of months, my partner got an opportunity in Adelaide and so we went and moved to Adelaide for six months. And it was really amazing because Oka had just got a logo kind of thing.
[00:09:04] And I said to my partner , we’re doing this for you and for an amazing opportunity for you. For the next six months while we’re here. Could I give these six months to Ochre And he’s amazing and so supportive. So that’s what we did. And it was actually like a really, I talk to a lot of people about how you get started and it’s a very fortunate position to be able to say we can fall on this just one wage.
[00:09:29] My partner. Truly supports me and I’m going to give this my all for six months full time. And I totally understand that. That’s not everybody’s story, but if it could be, I found it incredibly scary, but amazing. Like I figured out what my cafe wage was at, when I was a barista, and it might have been like, $700 a week and I was like, right, Oker needs to make $700 a week.
[00:09:56] And that looked like markets, that looked like carrying my products around to little stores to try and get wholesale accounts. But I think one amazing thing about it was I was in Adelaide and I wasn’t from there. So I had that thing you get, when you go on a holiday where you just Get a bit of confidence and just oh, well I don’t really know anyone.
[00:10:15] So, But this is a long way around saying that. One of the things that I did was I remember in all honesty, I lied. There was this thing called workshops Melbourne, and they launched in Adelaide and. They needed a ceramics teacher and I just said I could do it. Like I’ll teach the ceramics class.
[00:10:35] Yes. I’ve taught ceramics before. I’d never had, and I remember I wrote this email after having two glasses of wine. ’cause I was like, just do it. Just do it. You could do it. Why can’t you do it? And and I did, and then I launched clay, wine and cheese. And at the time That wasn’t happening in Adelaide.
[00:10:52] Like those kind of crafty workshops were things you did at like the Living and Learning Center. And it was a whole lot of women that were retired that had like matching aprons with their,
[00:11:03] Dahna Borg: That’s so
[00:11:04] Lauren Siemonsma: what they were doing. So I think Just back to the question, the things that you love and the reasons that you do things.
[00:11:11] In the beginning, like for me then I was like, oh, it’s so new. I’m adding something that hasn’t been in this place. But then, very quickly everyone started doing workshops and the benchmark has to change, and then it became that was. For somebody that spends a lot of time in their studio alone.
[00:11:29] The thing that I love about workshops is that’s when I’m in front of my tribe and it’s, that’s amazing.
[00:11:35] Dahna Borg: I love that so much.
[00:11:36] You’ve got a real lovely mission around sustainability and ethically made products and things. What does that mean to you, and why is that so important? I know why it’s so important, but why it’s so important.
[00:11:48] Lauren Siemonsma: I think it’s really important in my life before it was even important in my business. I think I’ve grown up with parents that Even just as little kids like you composted and we had chickens so I’ve definitely been brought up to care a lot about the world and a lot about the environment.
[00:12:04] And like I said, it was important in my life before it was even important in my business. I almost feel like I haven’t thought about it too much because it just is Part of me. But one of the best things I did was just to partner up with one tree planted and they plant a tree with every order.
[00:12:23] And you can even decide where in the world you wanna plant the trees. And that felt like oh, okay, one order, one treat like that makes sense to me. So I will say it’s very achievable, but that felt like a really nice, easy thing to do at the beginning.
[00:12:38] And then of course your packaging and all the things that go with that. I must admit, pottery is not too bad in terms of it’s not, Clothes and things like that, but we use solar panels for the kiln and all those kind of things, and you just have to do your best. And I feel like it’s one thing that every year I might think of a new thing that I’m like, okay, this is upsetting me.
[00:13:00] I really wish we could fix this bit as well. And you just bite that off
[00:13:05] Dahna Borg: I think that’s a great way of looking at it. ’cause I think a lot of people get really stuck in their. Just like I, I don’t even know where to start. Like I can’t make my entire business ethical overnight if that’s not where they started from. Not everyone sort of starts in that place, but a lot of people are trying to move that way because obvious reasons.
[00:13:20] And it’s nice to think, okay, well what’s bothering me the most? I’m just gonna fix this one thing. Maybe it’s your packaging. Maybe it’s that you start planting trees. Maybe it’s, something else. But I think that’s a really nice way of thinking about it is you don’t have to make the entire business a hundred percent sustainable overnight, but what’s one thing that you can start with
[00:13:38] Lauren Siemonsma: A hundred percent and it becomes like you get a lot of joy from that. I almost think if you did it all in one go, you would feel stressed. It does maybe cost a little bit more to do it initially, and you just don’t get that kind of endorphin hit of oh my God, we just planted like 2000 trees.
[00:13:55] So if it just is slowly, little things, it’s much more manageable.
[00:13:59] Dahna Borg: I love that. We’ve talked a lot about like grand, big business things. In terms of the tactics and things that you use around marketing, do you have any like favorite marketing strategies? What works best for you?
[00:14:10] Lauren Siemonsma: I really believe that my business is very much me and I have spent a lot of time thinking about, who am I talking to? Who is the audience? And in some ways it is also my audience is me. I also think I have I. Three different avatars, I suppose, of who I am talking to.
[00:14:30] And I really do keep them in mind and that really works for me, thinking of who I’m talking to. And sometimes it could be that I’m quite specifically talking to one of them out of the three. But I always am really aware that it needs to feel nice to all of them. Even if it’s specifically more to one.
[00:14:50] And even with mine location comes into it. Like not everybody lives in Byron Bay where I’m hosting these workshops or in Melbourne when I’m coming to Melbourne hosting these workshops. So it has to feel inclusive even if it’s sometimes quite specific. But I suppose I try to be really authentic and I also try and make sure that my marketing goals are manageable to me.
[00:15:13] As we’ve talked a lot about all the things that I’m doing, I know that showing up consistently is always really important. So if that looks like three times a week and an email once a week, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll try and just really stay. I never have hiatus, I tend to try and just be consistent.
[00:15:32] Dahna Borg: Before we wrap up, is there anything that you think we’ve missed that would be worth sharing before we get into the last couple of questions?
[00:15:37] Lauren Siemonsma: No,
[00:15:38] Dahna Borg: We’ve covered a lot, so fine. Do you have any strategies or habits that you follow each day to help you stay on track?
[00:15:44] Lauren Siemonsma: I’ve got one that I’ve implemented more recently and I reckon it’s a good one. There’s always things, there’s always gonna be things in your business that you just like doing more and I try and especially when you’re in a bit of a creative business, I really try to write my list of what I’m gonna do every day, but I.
[00:16:03] Very quickly, you might get a little bit distracted ’cause you’re like, oh, suddenly thought of this new idea that I’m gonna make. I try and be like, that’s for Friday. That’s for Friday, so I’ll get to Friday. I always keep that day a lot more relaxed and by doing that, I feel like it gets me through my Monday to Thursday and keeps me on track.
[00:16:22] And on Friday I often am really looking forward to it. And it could be making something in the studio. It could be. A real idea that I have and I wanna go to this cafe and get them to make a coffee.
[00:16:34] Who knows? It’s really varied. But I do think if you can set aside some time to do the fun bits of your business. ’cause otherwise, why are you doing your business if it’s only the hard bits?
[00:16:46] Dahna Borg: I love that.
[00:16:47] Lauren Siemonsma: And look, I’ll call it all Friday. It never is. It’s normally a couple of hours in the morning or in the afternoon, but I look forward to it so much.
[00:16:56] Dahna Borg: That’s really wonderful. I love that. Do you have a favorite podcast?
[00:17:00] Lauren Siemonsma: Yeah, ’cause I obviously sit in the studio and I’m making a lot, I listen to a lot of podcasts. I have been listening to yours, which I really have been enjoying. I love the episode with Rosie From Know the Rose. But I do listen to my daily business. Podcast, which is also about marketing and I’m really into, and it’s not a business podcast, but I just think it’s amazing for just a human podcast.
[00:17:25] I’m really into the imperfects at the moment and it’s a lot about just understanding that everybody in the world is going through a lot of things and creating language around that. I just think that we all need to be a little bit more empathetic and especially when you show up on these platforms and you have a voice and it’s something I care about a lot.
[00:17:46] So I find that I take a lot from it listening to these three men actually talk about some pretty amazing topics around mental health
[00:17:55] Dahna Borg: I love that. And if people want to visit you, they wanna do one of your workshops, they wanna buy one of your pieces, what’s the best way for them to do that?
[00:18:01] Lauren Siemonsma: Yeah, I’d love if they came and did a workshop. Like I said, I’m in Byron Bay, so if anyone’s around or coming on a holiday My Instagram is @ochrethelabel and my website is ochreceramics.com. And you can send me a DM on that and I get back to everybody.
[00:18:20] Dahna Borg: Wonderful. thank you so much for joining us. It’s been a pleasure having you on the show.
[00:18:23] Lauren Siemonsma: Thanks for having me.
[00:18:24] Dahna Borg: Thanks for listening to the bright minds of e-commerce podcast. As always you’ll find the show firstname.lastname@example.org forward slash episode 47. Thanks for listening.