Ellie is the founder of Cobbled Streets, a Norfolk based online marketplace for small businesses, creators and artists. Here she explains how it offers up and coming creators a platform to showcase their work – and encourages individuals to support locally
I’ve always lived in Norfolk and admired the community emphasis of supporting locally and small! It always encourages you to reflect on where / what you were buying and how could you divert this money from going to the big businesses and aim for the small. Alongside Cobbled Streets, I work full time so it can be hectic at times playing catch up!
I’m one of the very few that enjoyed the lockdowns, apart from the winter months with the darker days as it was hard to motivate myself for a daily walk. I always have a habit of saying yes to too many things, so it was nice to have a break, reflect on myself and find things I wanted to work on or take the time to learn something new. It was easy to go on autopilot mode and let the days blur into one another, pre-pandemic.
During this time, I took the plunge to start a small business, and this is where Cobbled Streets was formed. So, by the end of the pandemic, I ironically came out busier than I started but I’m grateful!
Shopping online grew rapidly for its convenience, availability and as a form of escapism during the pandemic, and I believe this has continued to grow – look at the use of mobile devices daily. We now live in a world where it seems strange if you’re not a mobile device, so it felt natural to have an online store.
Cobbled Streets came about when my partner and I moved into our first place together, and I’ve always been keen on supporting small businesses, artists, etc. where I can. I understand as an artist how hard it can be to get noticed in a sea of creativity. We really wanted some local artwork for our walls but, at the time, we struggled to filter big platforms like Instagram and Etsy to just the Norwich area – or just any city to be fair. We felt like this struggle would be off-putting to people, especially if they knew what product they were looking for but not how it looked, or what artist they liked but couldn’t remember the name. We wanted to create a website that could help fill these gaps in the market and help support the local economy. So that was the idea, and the name – Cobbled Streets – came from Norwich lanes – in particular Elm Hill. We are both from Norwich, so it felt right to include some of Norwich’s history and quirks in some way.
In terms of evolving, my vision stayed the same but the amount of creativity in Norfolk is what I took for granted. It’s wonderful what products and services are available in the local area but could simply be unknown to people due to social media algorithms! It’s like they are hidden in the undergrowth, and you have to dig deeper to find them (and with people’s attention span potentially shortening, they are at risk of never being found).
Cobbled Streets is for everyone and anyone based in the local area. It’s just creators and artists who have been more attracted to Cobbled Streets at this current time, but we would love to have small businesses too!
This last year has just been spent mainly growing the website, reaching out to suppliers, promoting Cobbled Streets as a name, and a lot of reading on website design. I came into this blind so learning about Search Engine Optimization and boosting of social media engagement has been fun (although my friends and family are probably bored of hearing about it by now).
Currently all suppliers are Norfolk based but we are looking to expand further soon. We provide a platform for small businesses to help boost them all collectively with marketing, advertising and promotions. I truly hope that Cobbled Streets can help bridge the gap for new potential customers that the supplier wouldn’t necessarily have gained beforehand.
For the rest of the year, I would like to start branching out to more suppliers and surrounding areas. And hopefully plan a craft fair or something along those lines as suppliers would love to showcase their work physically. It’s still under review as there is the risk of craft fairs being a saturated avenue and I would like to think about how Cobbled Streets could create this event differently.
Featured image: Poppy Chapman – personalised couple portrait