Please could you tell us a little about your business?
ZEBRA ceramics opened in late 2009. It is a contemporary ceramic café offering a bright and design focused studio for painting a whole range of items from a T-rex to a T-pot for Gran. It is also a café serving organic teas and coffee with a great selection of homemade cakes and snacks. We specialise in taking baby prints in clay, silver and ceramic and have worked hard to make sure that these are the best available. The whole ethos of ZEBRA is to be very child-friendly, have great customer service and to have a resultant product that is very contemporary and of extremely high quality.
What did you both do before opening Zebra Ceramics?
Andrea trained as an architect and worked in large companies based in Oxford and London. She specialised in hospital design before having her boys now aged 7 and 5. Rachel trained as a radiographer and having worked up the management route in the NHS, set up her own strategic management consultancy company in 2006. She has 3 children aged 18, 14 and 7 and has worked either full or part-time with all of the children.
I love your branding! It’s very different from other businesses aimed mainly at families, though. Could you tell us the story behind it?
Having discussed the business we wanted to open together, it became clear that there was no way we were going to follow the norm and set up a ‘crafty’ business for those who fancied themselves with a paintbrush! We could see the potential of a high quality, contemporary ceramic café and so wanted the branding to reflect this. We looked for a striking image that would appeal to children, women and also men. It was important to us that the dads and grandads felt comfortable in our space. We loved the image of the Zebra and it fits in so well with the fact that everything we do is unique, just like the striped pattern of a Zebra. There are no two sets of baby prints the same or indeed any painted item as it is all done individually and uniquely by the customer.
Which marketing methods have been most successful for you?
Word of mouth and our products themselves have been the best marketing so far. We are now seriously looking at growing our social media networks and will be blogging on subject areas that will appeal to our customers. We need to network more and grow in our understanding of the huge potential that is created by twitter and Facebook. Traditional adverts have had very poor responses.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge has been prioritising the workload involved in running a high street shop. With the business established locally it is now time to grow across London and beyond but it is sometimes tough detaching ourselves for the everyday needs of the shops and focusing on the PR and marketing. Getting the right staff is also crucial as great customer service is expected from them at all times – no excuses!
What’s your advice for mums who are thinking of starting a business?
The initial idea needs to be well thought out with a target audience in mind. The branding will need to underpin this at every stage so clarity is vitally important. Have a good story to tell as to why you chose the name, the branding etc as this becomes your map for development and growth.@ZEBRAceramics) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/zebraceramics).