Can you start by telling us do you have a shop or are you website based?  The Bead Base is a small family run business; me and my daughter Holly. We have a bricks and mortar shop in Basingstoke, and a small website where we sell our patterns. We keep the site constantly updated as we create new projects. We also keep our customers up to date with a monthly newsletter.

What made you open a bead shop? It’s all Holly’s fault! She claimed she was bored one summer when she was younger, so I bought her a book on jewellery making. 200+ pairs of earrings later and we decided we needed somewhere to store all the beads. It grew from there.

We started in a little cupboard of a shop with barely enough room to turn around. Now we are currently in our third premises, having outgrown the previous two!

How do you choose the products you stock?  Customer input is very important to us. We would never have stocked Delicas if not for one customer years ago who said, “Oh, but you must! They’re amazing!” and they were right! They've become one of our biggest sellers, and we currently stock around 250+ colours with the range growing all the time. After Holly said she would never work with small beads, she has taken to them like a duck to water and creates some great designs. Her lanterns, critters, pots and the hot air balloon are all excellent examples of this.

Shaped Czech beads and two-holed beads are becoming increasingly popular, with new ones coming out every month it seems. We have to pick and choose on those as some are a lot more popular than others. SuperDuos, GemDuos, and Nib-Bits I would say are the most sought after at the moment.

We always say if we haven’t got something, we do our very best to order it in.

What kind of products do you sell? We try to stock a wide range for the jewellery making hobbyist, and there is a lot of crossover with other crafts. This includes beads of as many types as we can fit in, including glass, acrylic, semi-precious, crystal, seed beads, etc.

We also have a range of tools, threads and findings as well as books to help you get started, with some that focus on particular techniques such as bead weaving, macramé, and embroidery among others.

Popular amongst our customers is our Bead Soup. A giant tub full of loose beads that people are welcome to rummage around in and fill a bag.

Lucky dip in the Bead Soup

Do you have anything that makes your business unique? The fact that it tuly is a community hub. We support local disability groups and have their service users over to enjoy classes every week. Teaching someone with Downs Syndrome or Autism peyote stitch is very rewarding. And it’s not just stitching. We have made snowflakes, angels, keyrings, bracelets, wind chimes and more.

Learning Disability Group Work

Holly has become very adept at pattern writing for our designs, which we use for teaching or to sell in the shop. She is also very good at creating peyote patterns, and will often do custom designs for a variety of projects. Occasionally customers will say could you do a tiger, a pug or someone’s name with lots of sparkles and Holly can translate that to a coaster pattern, a keyring or something else.

Holly's Peyote Design Patterns

Do you run workshops/classes at your shop? If so, is it all in-house or do you have guest tutors? Aswell as our Learning Disability groups, we do run workshops every week on a Friday and Saturday plus a Thursday evening class. It's taught mostly in-house by Helen, who has become a permanent fixture on Fridays and Saturdays. We do have guest tutors for example glass fusing with The Glass Maidens and Heather from Frosty Feather Fae has been to teach polymer clay.

Do you interact much on social media? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter? Facebook is our main social media platform. It's where we update followers with class announcements, news, photographs of our customers' makes, new stock and more. We're dipping our toes into Instagram, but that's Holly’s domain as she’s much more tech- savvy than I am.

What have been your biggest hurdles in setting up/running your business?  Being a very small business it can be very hard when life gets in the way. After we'd only been open a few years, I was diagnosed with cancer and had to have treatment which made me miss days and sometimes weeks in the shop. Luckily Holly had finished university by then and could run the shop full time. The support we received from our customers was outstanding. We had offers to come in and keep Holly company, string up beads and even count crimp beads into bags. Whatever we needed to ease the workload. More recently, my husband was diagnosed, and so it has been a few more years of hospital trips. Jackie, our volunteer, has been a godsend and is capable of running the shop in our absence.

Stocktaking is always a mission every year, but we have pretty much perfected it over time. We're very lucky, and have some amazing volunteers to help us.  They happily accept tea, coffee and pizza in repayment!

Also, accounts! Employing an accountant was one of the best things we ever did.

What have been your proudest moments/ successes? One of our proudest moments was probably Holly having some of her steampunk jewellery featured in an indie film a few years ago. She got to go to the premiere at the Barbican in London and rub shoulders with the rich and famous. She says the film was shockingly awful, but at least the jewellery looked great!

We also try and do as much as we can for charity. Occasionally we have beads donated to us, and we offer them out to people for donations to a chosen charity or else we give them to our LD groups for them to continue making at their venues. We started to run a goods drive every Christmas for a local charity who deal with families in poor circumstances. We've become a drop-off point for anyone who wants to donate tinned foods, dried foods, warm clothes, toys, etc.

Being such a community hub, as mentioned before, we are quite often the ear for people who just need to get out of the house for a bit. We’ll put the kettle on, dish out the biscuits and put the world to rights. The customers always leave feeling better than when they came in, and we can’t ask for more than that.
Seeing the progress that the Learning Disability groups have made since they started coming. Many people don’t realise what they are capable of, and they continue to make us proud every single week.

Have you any upcoming news to tell us about? Holly has currently found a new passion for resin crafting and has been making some great pendants and cabochons. She is waiting to build up a stock and will eventually start showcasing them in the shop for sale.