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Why I started The White Thistle
I thought it might be useful to share my story about how I started The White Thistle and how I got into this wonderful world of Influencer Marketing and explain why I am so passionate about it.
3 years ago, I hated Instagram, I thought it was self indulgent and I barely posted any images on my account probably twice a year on my birthday and Ian’s.
I didn’t understand the need for people to put themselves out there for self-validation…
I know the irony of where I am today!
But I thought I would make it super transparent that I did not enter this online space to be an ‘influencer’
A little history
I want to take you back to 2014 the year we got married because it will explain my motivations behind everything I have done and why I have done it.
We got married in the summer and that Christmas I found out I was pregnant. It was a surprise as we were not actively trying but I was over the moon, to say the least!
The minute I saw the test result a vision of how our lives would unfold basically flashed before my eyes.
I went back to work after the Christmas break – 3 days after I found out and went to the toilet as you do and saw blood in my underwear.
Having only found out days before I literally couldn’t process what was happening.
I headed back to my desk and my wonderful manager who turned into a very close friend instantly noticed something was wrong. I didn’t even know how to explain to her what was going on. The moment my dreams had come true and the next I felt like it was slipping away, I couldn’t get my words out but she was incredible she told me not to worry about work and literally got in a taxi with me, called Ian and took me to the nearest hospital and waited till ian could get there.
Unfortunately, I was so early they couldn’t see anything, and basically what transpired was 5 weeks of trips back and forth to the hospital to finally be told it was a missed miscarriage.
6 months later we ended up in the same position despite having an early scan at 9 weeks and seeing a heartbeat at our 12 week scan we were told the awful news.
The White Thistle
I started my Instagram account in 2018 at the time it was primarily an online home decor shop, I was on mat leave at the time with my now 3 year old Henry and I wanted to find a way to basically not have to go back to work in London.
Despite previously loving my job and career, I previously worked in HR and honestly loved but we really struggled to have Henry. I had multiple miscarriages which meant I was really detached from my pregnancy and so the whole time I was convinced I would go back to work in the job I loved.
It wasn’t until he was here and I was on Maternity leave being paid to snuggle my new baby that it hit me that I didn’t want to have to justify calling in sick if he was unwell or drop him off at nursery and spend an hour commuting to work.
So I decided to use my mat leave to start a business.
Ian and I had recently moved house into a bit of a renovation project house and I became obsessed with following interiors accounts on Instagram, I always loved redecorating and rearranging my room and things like that so redesigning and renovating an entire house had really sparked a passion and one day when Henry was 3 months old Ian and I went to Bristol to celebrate our 10 year dating anniversary (yes we are soppy) we were walking around a shop old and we didn’t have time to properly look as Henry started crying so we dashed out the shop as quickly as possible but I honestly could have purchased every single item they stocked in there, so I grabbed a business card and walked out and on the drive home I looked up the website and saw they did wholesale and in that moment I was like oh my gosh… What if I could create an Instagram account, purchase products wholesale, take photos, and sell them through Instagram because that’s how I loved finding new products for my home.
I was super naive to business and in all honesty, I think that helped in a way as I just got stuck in rather than trying to get everything perfect straight away.
I started posting on Instagram way before I even had my first product to sell and I think that is partly why my account was successful as I was building a community of people who enjoyed my taste in interiors.
I absolutely loved selling my products. I started really small with just a couple of products that I purchase wholesale but my biggest seller was reclaimed bath boards and shelves that I made from old scaffolding.
They sold well as I was always sharing them on my feed styled in my home in a lifestyle setting so people were able to imagine them in their own homes.
If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that my account has evolved from the shop into an influencer and content creator account.
I realised that the long-term sustainability of making all my own products, sanding all the boards down, varnishing them, packaging them up, and sending them out wasn’t sustainable with a baby/toddler so I started to pair back the shop.
First Paid Collaboration as The White Thistle
And it was around that time that I was approached by my first brand. In all honesty, I was completely shocked as I had never considered that brands would pay someone with such a small audience ( at the time I had 5000 followers, obviously I know better now and that’s why this podcast exists) but also I was a shop myself which I explained to the brand.
They said they didn’t mind as I had an audience of their ideal client and I didn’t sell bedding so I wasn’t I direct competitor
It was this company that offered me my first paid brand collaboration.
They messaged and asked how much my rates were and honestly, I felt super sick.
I didn’t even know what I was getting myself in for but this idea twigged in my brain that was it possible I could make money through Instagram not selling products but by creating the content that I was already creating for my shop (as in taking pictures of my house and posting it on Instagram as inspiration for other people)
I kept thinking it seemed to require a lot less ‘effort’ than packaging up physical products and it was something I had never considered. A few more collabs down the line and eventually I discovered how much I loved working with brands and so decided to focus more on brand Collaborations as a business model.
At the same time, I had been going to networking events for my shop and in all honesty, people weren’t really that interested in my home decor shop as much as I loved the idea they were more interested in how I managed to grow my account to 5,000 followers in six months.
As I started offering free advice to others and businesses and found that actually I really enjoyed teaching what I had learned and that side of Instagram so as my account grew and I started to work with more brands I realised that there was a whole other side of Instagram that could use coaching and help because that they didn’t really realise that they were businesses and those people are you my lovely influencers.