North Shields firm aims for bigger piece of American market

Hayley Smith, of Craft Yourself Silly.
Hayley Smith, of Craft Yourself Silly.

A North Shields firm is crafting its way to expand into the American markets.

Craft supplies manufacturer Craft Yourself Silly has launched a new selection of patchwork products in the US in a bid to increase its share of the $44bn North American hobby market.

The business, founded in 2013, found early success through its use of a traditional North East craft method known as ’proggy rag rugging’, where scraps of material are pushed through holes in a woven fabric.

Today, it manufactures DIY kits that allow crafters to use the traditional ’proggy‘ technique to make soft toy animals, fabric accessories and decorations.

Founder and Managing Director Hayley Smith said: “In the UK, the craft and hobby market is worth around £4bn every year, while in the US, the value of the market is ten times that size.

“We’ve managed to tap into that demand with great success. But the process hasn’t been without its hurdles. After securing our contract with JOANN, we found ourselves needing to fill shipping containers instead of pallet crates and had to very quickly get to grips with US customs processes, labelling requirements, and safety standards.”

“We also needed to learn about variations in laws and regulations, which can differ from state to state.

“DIT (Department for International Trade) was on-hand to help us at every step of the way, offering expertise and guidance to make everything as smooth as possible, in addition to introductions to new suppliers.

“My advice to anyone thinking about exporting for the first time is to get in touch with DIT at the earliest opportunity – the team knows what opportunities exist in different markets, and what support is available to help you get there. After that, give it your best shot. If we can do it, you can too.”

David Coppock, Regional Director for the North East at the Department for International Trade, said: “Craft Yourself Silly has managed to turn a traditional North East art form into an international bestseller through ambition and drive.

“We know that two of the main barriers preventing companies across the region from exporting are the perceived difficulties with legal and tax requirements and finding suitable buyers or trading partners. We can assist firms with both of these, and far more besides.”