Starling Portrait Series – Pedddle: Creative impact

More often than not, business is about looking at how things have been done before and having the courage and imagination to reinvent the rules. That’s what Anne Boden did when she created Starling Bank, a digital bank for personal and business current accounts. Starling was born out of her determination to give customers control over their money, and provide a real alternative to the banks of the past. Starling strives to be fast, friendly and supportive – just like a murmuration of starling birds.

In this series, we’ll be shining a light on other Great British entrepreneurs who, just like Anne, are pioneers of change.

Our next entrepreneur is Starling business customer Nicki Capewell, founder of Pedddle

Whether it’s the local bricks and mortar , a weekly pop-up or an annual festival, markets are often the bedrock of local communities and provide the starting blocks for thousands of businesses up and down the UK. 

Pip & Nut, Pizza Pilgrims and Whisky Frames are just a handful of the many GBEA-winning businesses that started out at local markets. 

Nicki Capewell is someone who turned her love of local markets into a business when she started Pedddle.

Never miss a market

“I find markets really inspiring,” Nicki says. “I love to stumble across quirky little markets with fascinating finds and tasty treats.”

She adds: “I wanted to create a really easy way to reconnect  with the stallholders, to shop from them after I’d seen them at markets.”

Nicki identified a need through her own experience, “I would always remember the market I visited but not always the name of the stall. On holiday around the UK, I would look out for markets near where I’m staying, but they were so hard to find.”

And the concept was born. 

Pedddle became an online platform that promotes markets and their stallholders, helping people to find new markets and independent businesses in their area and across the country. 

Creating impact

Some people believe they were born to be an entrepreneur, or at least have had that aspiration since a young age. Others, however, admittedly fall into entrepreneurship. For Nicki, however, she says she didn’t even realise she had become an entrepreneur.

“I was just doing something I loved,” she says. “I always enjoyed working with people to plan, manage and organise a project to create an end product.

“I was a teacher for 17 years. I was passionate about teaching but my need to be challenged combined with increased workload from the new business prompted me to leave.”

Nicki bought and sold a few houses in the early 2000s and is still the landlord for two properties today. It was a move that allowed her to take a step back, spend more time with family and discover her true passion. 

“On the weekends I usually follow my passion for all things creative, visiting markets to shop from local designers, makers, artists and bakers.”

She started working on the business, then called MyArtisanMarkets, midway through 2016 before rebranding to Pedddle two years later. It was December 2018 before she would quit her job to go full-time.

There is a sentimental ulterior motive in launching Pedddle, however. Nicki says: “I hope I can inspire my daughters to be creative and discover new work opportunities in the future. 

“I want to be secure in the knowledge that I have created something that will impact my family, communities and small businesses across the country.”

More than a directory

Set against the backdrop of surging online sales and the giant that is Amazon looming over the entire retail sector, markets may seem a very traditional and old fashioned way of shopping.

But that is exactly why markets have re-emerged over the past five years or so, Nicki believes. 

“People are soaking up the market lifestyle and are looking for alternative outlets to buy and sell their work. The social ambience, inclusivity and diversity at markets are making them an attractive lifestyle choice for many and a benefit for local communities and the wider economy.”

Pedddle operates a subscription-based business model that allows stallholders and markets to advertise their businesses for a small monthly fee. Nicki takes pride in Pedddle’s low churn rate. It’s a hit with customers and shoppers alike. 

It isn’t the first website or online platform to provide lists of markets and businesses, though. But, as Nicki explains, it is so much more than a directory. 

“We don’t have any direct competitors. We work more closely with business owners to provide support, first to hear and share market news, as well as stallholder recommendations, check-in facilities at markets and one-click applications for some events. 

“We’re not competing with online shopping platforms because we are actively directing customers to those online marketplaces between physical markets – we want our stallholders to be successful, wherever they are.”

Pandemic problems

We all know the impact the pandemic has had on so many different aspects of the economy. And Pedddle, operating in markets, has been hit particularly hard. However, it is its online offering that has allowed it to survive and gain a foothold that will set it up for future growth..

We asked Nicki about the impact of lockdown and where the business is going in the future.

How have you and the business fared since the start of the pandemic?

“The pandemic impacted my business quite significantly as all markets and in-person events shut. Since March last year it has been a rollercoaster but I think I enjoyed the process of navigating a way forward. Markets would try to open and then be forced to close again due to lockdown or local restrictions. 

“As a means to support our stallholders, we ran themed online events that enabled small business owners to keep actively selling and sharing their products. During 2020, we enabled over 1000+ small creative businesses to keep trading and offered a positive community for them to grow and feel supported.”

What has been the biggest factor in your success?

“Our biggest factor for success was our ability to adapt and evolve. Moving to solely run online events certainly made a positive impact in our business and led to new beginnings. I hope that the opportunities we offered also had a significant benefit on the creative businesses we worked with too. I know they certainly welcomed the opportunity to collaborate. 

“Had we not pivoted like this I do wonder if Pedddle would have survived. In fact, as a result of Covid, it led to us creating a sister website, Tresstle.com which we launched in April 2021. Tresstle is an online event platform for creative businesses to collaborate and sell. It enables organisers or groups of stallholders to create fantastic branded online events that have access to live video streaming for demos and selling products. We are extremely proud of this platform as it will give so much scope in the future for people to develop successful hybrid businesses selling both in-person and online effectively.”

What are your immediate and long-term plans for the business?

“Having just launched a sister site Tresstle, we are focusing on sharing this to raise its profile and also to realign Pedddle after such a major derailing with Covid. It is important we are clear about Pedddle as a directory to find independent, creative markets and their stallholders. I am looking forward to enhancing the reach of both sites and increasing awareness of shopping local. 

“Long term plans would be to introduce Tresstle to other locations beyond the UK. I am very much looking forward to the challenge and what lies ahead for our company.”

Bright future

We’ve all read and heard the anecdotal evidence of people rediscovering a love of local, independent retailers and placing greater importance on the community. Coupled with the apparent desire to resume spending once the pandemic is over, markets and their stallholders are likely to have a very bright future ahead of them. 

Given its success prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, Nicki’s understanding and passion for her industry and her ability to adapt and develop, there is every reason to believe that Pedddle has a very bright future ahead as well. 

Find out more about Starling Bank here.