Caitlin Molloy has written this beautiful powerful blog about the creationof her business and her power to continue after her hurdles and pick herself back up again. Her tenacity is truly inspirational.
1: What made you start your own business?
I’ve always been a creative person, most of my free time since I was a kid has been spent creating things and learning new ways to create, but my eureka moment, my “I could do this for a living” epiphany happened about four years ago.
I was living in a one-room apartment which I paid for with almost allthe wages from my crappy zero-hour job. All my shoes had holes, my laptop was literally starting to melt (the charging port was faulty but I couldn’t afford to buy a new one that didn’t carry the constant risk of spontaneous combustion) and one day I realised that all I really owned of value was £9 at the bottom of my overdraft, a huge pile of craft supplies and years of hard earned skills. I had nothing to lose, no reason not to try, so that night I spent £2 on coffee and biscuits, my last £7 on web hosting, and threw myself into it headfirst. There have been plenty of ups and downs along the way, but as a wise man once said, adventures are not all pony rides in may sunshine, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
2: Who has been your biggest inspiration while building your business to where it is today?
This might sound odd, as my biggest role model is completely fictional, but Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind is probably my main inspiration!
I like to think I’m more tuned in to other people’s feelings, but her dedication, her survivor’s nature and her resourcefulness are absolutely an inspiration to me when things get tricky. When everything feels impossible and I feel so small, I remember that amazing moment where her world was literally burning down around her, and she puts on her big girl pants, takes that ancient pair of curtains, makes it into a beautiful dress and goes out into the world to get what she wants, regardless of the obstacles. I’m pretty sure she would be a TERRIBLE person in real life, but I find myself thinking “what would Scarlett do” quite often!
3: Describe your perfect day at work.
My perfect work day starts with a strong cup of coffee, caffeine is essential to the creative process and anyone who disagrees is doing it wrong, I’m certain.
As soon as my eyes start to focus, I like to answer my messages. Even simple things like a change to the delivery address or a request for a different colour can cause loads of problems and backtracking for me later if I miss the message, so I get my messages and emails sorted right away.
Next, while I’m still full of caffeine and feeling like I can take on the world, I try to do The Thing. There’s always at least one job I’m really not looking forward to, something that’s difficult or unpleasant or looks too huge to deal with, and I like to take a chunk out of The Thing while my day still has momentum.
Next up, routine admin! Yay! I generally make another coffee, pop some undemanding TV show or a podcast on, and just get on with it. It’s dull, but it’s necessary and I love being able to do it from home, in my comfy pants, with my favourite cup full of hot beverage and my choice of background noise.
Next up, my favourite part! This is where I sit down to make the orders that came in yesterday. I love this, this is the part where I make money doing what I love, where all the stresses fall away and the whole world shrinks down to the piece of jewellery in front of me. I leave the best for last as a sort of treat for getting through all the boring stuff. I like to take my time with this, really savour the feeling of creating something beautiful out of nothing and remind myself that this is why I put up with all the market insecurity, the admin and the endless herding of receipts that seem determined to wander.
Once all the orders are beautifully polished and packed, I’m done! It’s a nice natural point on which to end the working day, and after I take the completed orders to the post office I will usually have a walk by the canal or in the park to clear my head and a cheeky cigarette to put a full stop on the day. I never smoke while I’m “on duty”, and while it’s not a healthy habit I find it so helpful to have that line drawn between working and relaxing. When you run your own business, and I think particularly when you work from home, leaving your work behind can be so hard, and I’m sure all of us Diamonds struggle with it sometimes! A walk in nature and a naughty treat help me to separate work time and play time.
I’m sure you’ve noticed already, but it’s usually around this point that I realise I haven’t eaten anything yet. I often don’t eat anything until I grab a pasty on my way back from my evening walk, and that’s not entirely an accident. Motivating yourself and managing your time effectively while self employed can be a minefield, especially if you’re a “creative type” like myself (for creative, read disorganised, obvs) and I often find that getting myself to work effectively is a series of Jedi mind tricks. For me, I find that quick breaks tend to stretch out into hours wasted on Pinterest rampages and mostly ruin my momentum rather than refreshing me. To avoid that, I generally don’t have a break until I’m finished, and If I do eat I will do so at my desk. Then in the evenings, I have a big tea and loads of snacks to make up for lost time! It’s a little strange, but so am I – embrace your oddities and do whatever works best for you, no matter how weird it seems!
4: What has been your biggest hurdle to date and how did you overcome it?
My biggest setback came just over a year ago when I got blacklisted on Etsy. I was in a spectacularly terrible relationship at the time, and my partner would take my business funds to pay for his own personal hobbies. It got to the point where I couldn’t send out the orders I had made because I didn’t have any money left for postage, and Etsy eventually had to close my shop down because of non-delivery complaints. That was a huge blow for me, as I had come to rely on Etsy as my only source of income. I had recently reached my 11,000th sale, I had an army of loyal customers who loved my work and came back time and again, I had years of great reviews built up and suddenly it was all gone, forever, because of my own poor choices and (I thought) my lack of backbone.
It felt like my guts had been torn out when I saw the email, but giving up never even occurred to me for a second. I was completely focussed on my next steps, what could I do now, what were my options, how could I make this massive pile of ugly lemons into the best lemonade on the block. Even if I was never that successful again (and at the time I didn’t believe I ever would be) making body jewellery was my passion, it was under my skin (literally!) and I knew that even if I never made another sale again I would be making new designs and trying new things and aiming for that landed-a-sale rush until the day I died. Depressing as that sounds, the alternative – giving up and admitting failure – was utterly unthinkable.
I spent about a week looking for alternative sales avenues while crying buckets and dealing with my partner’s behaviour, which became increasingly unpleasant now the money had run out. I got a part-time job to pay the rent and cried on my way to that too, putting on my smile with the uniform. I lost a lot of weight, possibly because of all the crying! I was working during the day and creating my website at night. I slept very little and started getting migraines weekly for the first time since my teenage years. Things were very dark.
Eventually I reached a tipping point, left my partner and devoted all my emotional energy to my business. I needed to start afresh with a whole new business plan now that Etsy wasn’t an option. I started researching everything I could – photography techniques, social media strategies, web design, branding. I knew I wasn’t any good at those things, but I’ve always believed that with enough time and dedication you can get good at anything you choose, so I spent all my free time googling and learning, tweaking and adjusting my website on the old android tablet that was all I had left after the split, and only crying very occasionally, which was a wonderful new development. I started to average a sale a day, which was hugely reassuring. It was nothing compared to the sales I used to have on Etsy, but when people asked my customers where they got that amazing nose ring, they weren’t saying “I got it on Etsy”, they were saying “I got it from Cat’s Curiosity Shop!” I was building my own brand, making my own name, and it felt great. There was still so much to learn and I had almost nothing to my name, but I started out with even less and it looked like I might just pull it back again after all!
Shortly after that I met a lovely gentleman who was very patient with all my exciting new trust issues, and it was through him that I met Robyn and was welcomed into the most incredibly supportive group of friends. Their support and positivity has been so invaluable to my own personal recovery and the new growth of my business.
These days I’m averaging a minimum of two orders a day! I still struggle with a lot of things, for example, my toxic self wants to remind me that 2 is a tiny number, I used to get so much more before I FAILED, I’m not good enough, I’ll never succeed, they don’t REALLY like me, etc. Sometimes it still speaks with my ex’s voice. My sunny self is louder every day though, and it knows that that’s twice what I was getting six months ago and infinitely more than I thought I was capable of a year ago! My sunny self knows that my people are far too smart to be tricked into liking me, and far too upfront to fake it. My sunny self knows that with zero funds for marketing, no previous website expertise and no access to the main market for handmade jewellery this kind of progress is amazing, and so am I. And when my sunny self is quiet, I know I can turn to my friends. I’m not quite where I want to be yet, but I’m so excited to see what next year will bring for my business!
I have learned so much from those dark times and the ongoing struggle to get back on top. I surround myself with intelligent, positive, incredible humans that I feel privileged to know, and I trust their opinions and advice. I’ve learned to never give up, to keep learning and moving and working to be better. Most importantly of all, I’ve learned to never rely on just one stream of revenue! These days I sell on my own website, www.catscuriosityshop.co.uk and I also sell on depop, and have had my products featured on their front page.
5: What was your biggest “Wow” moment in business? Your biggest achievement?
I was most proud of reaching 10,000 sales on Etsy! That’s a huge milestone and an enormous achievement. In a little handmade marketplace selling artisan piercing jewellery, I never for a second thought that there would be that much interest in what I had to offer! I was watching my sales numbers for days, wanting to snap a photo of the moment to remember forever, like how you watch the mileometer on your car turn over to an even number. Then I woke up one morning, checked the numbers all excited, and it had turned over to 10,004 while I was asleep! I couldn’t be annoyed though, I was so proud of myself.
6: What do you find most useful about The Diamond Initiative?
The support and encouragement of other women who are on their own unique business journey has been so important to me. To have a place to go and talk shop and learn in the company of the most incredible business women I’ve ever met is something I look forward to every month! I always come away with pages and pages of notes, some great goals to aim for and a real sense of enthusiasm for the coming month. It’s a place to have a moan, celebrate your successes and hear about the struggles and triumphs everyone else has experienced.
Make sure you check out cat’s website ( but be prepared to have a basket full of glorious pieces by the end of it!)
Thank you so much cat for sharing such a personal and inspiring story. You will always shave a place within The Diamond Initiative!