Racheal Straughan is the driving force behind Mayfli, an online marketplace, website and app where people can go and sell and buy amazing products created by and supplied by UK small businesses. Racheal is absolutely passionate about creating this marketplace so that it is ethical, so that it creates the most profit possible for those who sell on it. And so that the products that are sold on the marketplace are the very best you’re going to find in the UK. She wants people to be able to have an alternative to these other marketplaces that we all use, and sometimes don’t want to spend money on. So, we can go to Mayfli and know that we’re going to be spending our money wisely, we’re going to be selling it in a safe place. So, she’s really passionate about that, she’s really passionate about supporting businesses right from the start of their journey and helping them to make a difference and help them to do wonderful things for their businesses. She is all about empowering UK businesses, rekindling community bonds and breathing life back into our high streets. 

So, you’ve already had another business, and something went terribly wrong, so this seems like logical place to start. Do you want to tell us about that. 
Okay, so yeah, we’ve done printing embroidery for years. I can’t remember how many years but can’t believe how long we’ve been going. So, I had a print embroidery business in the UK. And as most businesses start, we had full-time jobs, and we started the business alongside that, and as that grew, we moved out of the full-time jobs and moved into the business full-time. We always had a dream of living in America, so we actually took our business over to the US as well. 95% of orders came through online marketplaces such as Etsy and eBay.  We had our own websites, but we were so busy on the marketplaces, we just didn’t push the websites or push social media. We didn’t do any of that because we were just so busy with everything. And then one day Mark was in the US, and he messaged me and said, oh, one of the shops has been suspended on Etsy and I was like, okay, I don’t know why, but let’s have a look into it. And it was a trademark infringement. I hate talking about trademark infringement because people think you’re doing Disney or something like that. But over in the US there’s a huge thing going on at the moment where companies are trademarking everyday words, such as beach bride, boy mom sweater weather, you know all these varied words and sayings are getting trademarks. One of our shops did a lot of slogans and it was really hard to keep on top of what trend and slogan was going to get trademark next. And, we’ve been selling this one for ages, and I think it was called a Witches Coven or something because obviously, we wanted to do the bridal theme around Harry Potter, but you can’t do Harry Potter, so I thought, let’s do witches coven, witches bride, you know, like it’s a witchy theme, but you’re staying safe. But somebody had actually trademarked it and we didn’t realise because we’d been selling it for ages. And Etsy said let’s reach out to them, which I did. She apologised, as obviously we had been going for a while and then she withdrew the trademark. Etsy acknowledged it but then said that they weren’t going to reopen the shop. And because I owned two other shops, they were going to close that down. And then because I own the company in the UK with three shops, they were going to close that down too. So, we literally had both companies closed down overnight and lost all the income. 
Oh, that’s just horrendous isn’t it. So, all of that has been the launchpad for what you do now. 
Yes. So, I’m banned from this platform for life. And Mark wasn’t, so we could have restarted the business, not a problem, learnt the lessons, pushed the website, and all the rest of it. But then I just said, do I really want to grow a business on a platform that could literally do that to us overnight. And there’s lots of stories going on at the moment about the reserves, or that people are losing their shops and having no say, and the commission fees. You know, these marketplaces, especially the massive ones that have so much control over small businesses, and it’s hard to sell and not to be on them. So, this is what I complained about and I’ll do something about it. So this is where Mayfli came from. But a lot of the research that we did, we realised a lot of businesses didn’t have their own websites. And so, a big part of our development was that Mayfli is not only a marketplace, people can also have the private web shop with us as well. Because a lot of the smaller businesses that are just starting off, don’t have the money or the knowledge of building websites. So, we wanted to give that little bit extra, and I’m passionate about the high street shops as well, they’re really suffering because of online. So, we’ve got a shop local feature. We really want to support the whole of the independent businesses within the UK. So, to us, it’s like an all-in-one platform supporting online businesses and the shops on the high street. 

Yeah, absolutely. So, let’s backtrack slightly, because you’ve spoken a little bit there about what Mayfli does brilliantly, but we didn’t actually get into what it actually is. So, I think it would be really great if you told people that because it is amazing. I think you’re on this mission to make things so much better for small businesses, so people need to know about that. So, tell us exactly what it is that Mayfli does. 
Okay, so Mayfli is a marketplace, like Not on the High Street and Etsy. But we have values that we want to stay with. So, we want to support independent businesses. A lot of people don’t actually want to buy from Amazon and Etsy, but they don’t have any choice because there isn’t an alternative. So, we want to grow Mayfli as an ethical alternative. But when I say ethical, I mean, business ethical, on how small businesses are really treated. The money that is taken within Mayfli stays within the UK economy. And the businesses actually get more from each purchase made on Mayfli, rather than selling through other platforms. 
Which is brilliant, isn’t it? And I did this brand strategy for Mayfli a little while ago now and did a competitor analysis. And it was really clear when I did that just how amazing Mayfli is for small businesses. Because I used to have an Etsy shop, but I don’t have one now. But other than that, that’s a very small period of time that I didn’t really know an awful lot about what actually happens behind the scenes and how businesses are treated, and the challenges that are faced. There’s been quite a lot in the news lately about Etsy. 
And it is such a shame because back in the heyday, it was a great platform. And it really helped people to sell throughout the world. And it was really good. But I think like any big company, they need the support of the businesses when they start brewing. But then as soon as the scales tip, it’s like, oh, you need us more than we need you. And that’s when you see a difference in the behaviour of how they treat the businesses. And you can see that you know, from very small business from when they first started to now. The scales have definitely changed, and businesses need them more than they need us now. And it’s just unfair. It’s just unfair. So, when you think of all the giant marketplaces owned by USA companies. there’s a lot of money being lost within the UK economy. And I feel as if small businesses work harder for less now, because they’ve got to give so much of their profit to just actually sell on these platforms. It’s impossible for them to have a business without being on there. So, we definitely want to grow it where people can actually grow their business and make money from it. 
Yeah, everybody wants it, don’t they? It’s an amazing thing to go from having that problem and realising that other people had it and deciding to do something about it. Why did you decide that you were the person for that? Was it just because Mark said that throwaway comment and it stuck. 
I feel as if a lot of people thought it just wasn’t possible to do. And I know there’s other platforms out there, but I really want it to be a platform that can expand. So, my vision is that it is powerful enough to expand outside of the UK. A lot of small businesses can’t sell in Europe anymore because of Brexit and everything, and they really struggle doing it on their own. So, my vision is for us to get to a point where we can actually start selling, allowing the seller to start selling outside of the UK, and be that mechanism where they can actually start selling into Europe, but not have the headache of having to register in every single country. We take that away but making it as affordable as possible. Because Mayfli is that platform that can expand to become another Etsy. But we want to become big enough to really support the businesses but where our values remain the same as we want to connect conscious buyers with independent businesses. 
Yeah, that’s just fantastic, what you’re doing, I think it’s amazing. And it’s lovely as well seeing Mayfliers in the group all being so enthusiastic about it as well, you’ve really brought people on the journey and given them hope and encouragement that it’s going to work out and be better than where it was. 
I hope so, I’m not going anywhere. So, it’s just getting the support from the right people as well, you know, in understanding that there are challenges out there, but you’ve just got to keep on going. It’s having the support of the small business community as well, because I need to grow it, but I can’t do it on my own. And, again, you know, Etsy, and all of them started off very small, and it was the businesses that support them. So, we need the support, you know, say we’re here, let’s do this, let’s make a change. And if we all come together and make it possible. 
Yeah, and I love that. You just said that about support, because I was literally just going to ask you about support, but different sorts of support, you’ve got the support of the businesses you’ve signed up to Mayfli, which is brilliant. But obviously, there’s been quite a journey to create Mayfli and make it work, from being a seller. So, you’ll need a lot of support on that journey, won’t you? I know you’ve done all kinds of courses and things to improve your knowledge and make everything better. So how’s that been? 
It’s been really good. I think any anybody needs support when you’re doing anything. We did the Ignite program at the beginning the year, which was amazing. Having support off you, Rachael and Mark, you know, from before, when the idea was just there having made that support around you, and then reaching out to other people, when it all hit off about Etsy in the summer. Liz Barkley, the Small Business Commissioner was very passionate about helping the small businesses and just reaching out to her, having the support of her and there’s just so many people around, that are willing to help, especially when they can see what kind of changes you really want to make, and the genuineness of it. Having that support around you is definitely crucial. 
Yes, it definitely is. And yeah, just having all those people. I feel like you’ve got a huge support network. I see your posts and all these people pop up talking about how wonderful it is, I’m seeing you at different places. So, what I feel from the outside is, it looks like it’s going really, really brilliantly.  
It is, but it’s making sure that the support that you get, when people are supporting me, I want to ensure that I can try and support them back. I’m not the type of person who only wants to take off people. It’s okay, thank you so much. How can I help you? And I think that’s how the world should be really. And this is where Mayfli is coming from, you know, it’s about that circular mission of everybody helping each other isn’t it? I think that’s where we can all learn from really. 
Yes, that’s a very Racheal thing. I feel like you do that really well don’t you? You’re working on collaborations, Concurrency and all of the things that you do that is about supporting others, so you don’t just do the marketplace. You’re working on the ground stuff as well to help people where they’re at. 
Yeah, the events and the markets and obviously I have to do the networking with Michelle from Concurrency. And it’s just nice to be around people I think, especially because we did online for years and years, I was never really part of the small business community. So, I never did the networking. I never did all of this. I think it can be lonely when you sell online and you’re just on your own. And I don’t think you actually realise that there is a business community out there. So, you know, reaching out to people saying, this is happening, this you can get for free, because although we do training within Mayfli, there’s so many other resources that businesses can get that they don’t know about. So, to me, it’s about sharing the knowledge, these are doing this? And did you know this is happening? So, it’s just about sharing? Yeah. 
Yeah, all about making things better for the small businesses that you work with. I think you’ve had lots of brave moments, haven’t you so far in this journey, and even going back to before Mayfli when you did things like move to America and start shops in a different country, that’s pretty brave. But that’s going to hold you in good stead when you get to that point that you were talking about earlier about selling abroad? Because you know more about that, which is great. But then, actually starting Mayfli and starting these communities and meeting people and all of that stuff. It’s just fantastic. What do you think has been the hardest part of your journey so far? 
Ability to be visible, I think for me, because, honestly, before COVID, right, when COVID hit, obviously, I started doing some workshops and learning, because I love learning about business. I absolutely love business; I’m always learning about this and learning about that. So, there’s the workshops I went on. I keep on thinking how far back it is now, it was 3 years, I think. And when I was on the workshops, it was on camera and when we did the print embroidery, I never did social media, we never did networking. I’m very much an in-person, person. I love to meet people in person. And so, I think the biggest challenge is having me photograph taken, put me photograph out there for people that I don’t know to see. And doing videos, doing stuff like that. And I think the biggest challenge and the proudest moment so far was when we did the Ignite workshops, there was a big pitch at the end of it. So, there investors there and people there from local councils. And I had to do a three-minute pitch with a deck. I had to remember three minutes’ worth of words, which I really struggle with anyway, I’m getting old, my memory is not great. So that was a huge challenge. I literally paced the beach for weeks and weeks. Mark was sick of us, going over me pitch constantly. So that was the biggest challenge probably, you know, getting in front of over 100 people doing the pitch with the deck. But yeah, it’s just constantly challenging yourself and pushing yourself out your comfort zone. 
Yeah, it’s really interesting, because I ask this question quite often, and visibility’s is nearly always the thing that people come back with. And I’d be sitting here thinking, oh, that must have been really hard. And doing this thing was really hard. It’s fascinating. It’s all to do with putting yourself out there is such a difficult thing, which I do relate to as well very much. 
And I think when it comes to talking about other people’s businesses, so all the businesses on Mayfli. I can talk about it and tell everybody how great they are. But I think when it comes to your own business and your own brand, it is that bit more personal, isn’t it?  
It definitely feels much harder, yeah. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because you’re talking about other people. It’s sort of a bit further removed from yourself. But yeah, I would find that too, but it takes practice, doesn’t it? 
It does, it does. It’s constantly practicing, constantly pushing yourself past barriers. You’re working with people that can help you with that confidence and go past the barriers, you’re getting that support, and you’re not alone. Again, having great support. I think what was nice about the Ignite program was there were 10 or 12 people who were pitching, men and women. To be around other people seeing that they were nervous, that they were struggling remembering their words, it brings it home that you’re not the only one that’s struggling, and a lot of people are always pushing and I get so many people saying you come across so confident and in truth I’m absolutely petrified on the inside, you know, but if it’s something that you really want to do, I think you’ll keep on pushing beyond them barriers. 
Yeah, I think so.  When you have a mission that is so much bigger than yourself, to really lean on and make it worthwhile. 
Right, exactly. I mean, we’ve got businesses on Mayfli that believe in Mayfli, believe in what we’re doing. So, to me, I don’t feel as if I have a choice, I think if Mayfii was my business, then I probably wouldn’t be pushing it as much and pushing the boundaries as much. But because I don’t feel as if Mayfli is my business, it’s a platform for all the businesses that are on with us, supporting us and believing in our mission and wanting to make a change. I don’t feel as if I’ve got a choice. So now if I’m asked to do anything, I never say no, if it’s to talk about Mayfli or to talk about the businesses on Mayfli, I don’t feel as if I have a choice to say no. Whereas if it was something personal to me, I probably would say no. 
That’s brilliant and says so much about how much you care about the Mayfliers. And I love that. So, if you were to share some tips on how to have a really great business or to do brave things, what sort of things would you suggest? 
Be yourself and be authentic. I think, your people buy from you. Just being yourself and being authentic, sticking to your values. Don’t feel as if you’ve got to change your values to fit in elsewhere. Especially with the platform that we’re trying to grow. It is hard to try and grow ethically, trying to grow without taking on investment. You’re trying to stick with your values, and pushing yourself out your comfort zone constantly, and I think you’ll see that growth when you push yourself out of the comfort zone. In speaking your truth. People want to hear from you, not what you think they want to hear.  Great people that are really making changes, they’re the ones that are speaking what they really feel, they’re not trying to say things to try and win you over. They are saying this is how it has to be. So, I think being authentic and sticking with your values and pushing yourself out your comfort zone. 
I mean, they’re all really, really important things. And I think yeah, obviously I agree with values, because that’s something I talk about all the time. And knowing your values is really important. And I love what you said about being really hard sometimes to do that, not because you don’t believe in them, but because you believe in them and you don’t want to veer away from them. That’s really important. And that’s one of the things that really makes Mayfli stand out, isn’t it, which is why values are so important.  
Yes. And even through this journey we have struggles because I’m bit of a person that likes to please everybody and I don’t like conflict. I don’t like all of that. So as a person that doesn’t like conflict. it’s hard not to stand your ground on your values when you don’t want to go into heated discussions. But I think to make changes, you’ve really got to stick with your values. And if somebody isn’t aligned with your value, then do you need them in your life? Do you need their support? Because you’ve got to stay true to who you are. 
Absolutely, absolutely. Brilliant. So that’s really good. I thought the thing about your comfort zone and we already spoke about that a bit. I feel so nervous doing that night speaking thing. I remember you preparing for it, and being quite nervous and it went brilliantly. But yeah, that would freak me out. 
I struggle with words any way. So, trying to remember words, I’ll add words in or miss words out. So, to remember three minutes, have a pitch deck, you know, and be in a room of over 100 people, it was petrifying, but you just do it. You don’t have a choice. If you want to make the changes and you want to really do something. I don’t think you have choices when things like that happen. You constantly got to push forward. But no, it was definitely a challenge and guess I would be petrified again if I was asked to do something similar, but once you’ve done it once, the more you do it, the easier it gets. So, I’ve been asked a lot to go and talk events about the journey with Mayfli and what we’re doing. I’ve been asked to deliver workshops and every time you turn up and do it, it gets easier. So, it’s just breaking down that first wall and then walls just get smaller and smaller as you constantly come up to them.  
Brilliant. And now you’ve done it once, and even if you don’t want to do it again, you know you can. 
Yeah, exactly. I did do that. And oh, God, I didn’t die. It wasn’t horrendous. You know? I guess it wasn’t 100% perfect. Maybe I stumbled on a few words, but then it’s more authentic. I think if you get up there word for word and stood there rigid, whereas I think when you come across as a person, people are more invested in you, because they can see your genuineness. 
Yeah, brilliant. So, before we wrap this up, obviously, on Mayfli, you have got some absolutely fantastic people selling amazing, beautiful things. So, do you want to tell us a little bit about the people who have come onto Mayfli and the kind of stuff that you have on there that people can come and buy. 
So we have lots of different types of sellers and businesses. We’ve got loads of jewellery sellers from people making silver jewellery to people making sea glass jewellery, and polymer clay jewellery. And we’ve got high end furniture. So, you’ve got an interior designer that brings in furniture that’s trending and really high quality furniture. And we’ve got photographers that photograph items and make them into beautiful household items, such as the sycamore gap on mugs. We’ve got all kinds of artists, from those inspired by the sea to artists that do lovely animals. There are also people that do personalisation, like ice cubes and I’m trying to think as there’s just so much variation. And obviously we’ve got new businesses coming on constantly. So, the choices are always going to be growing. We’ve got shop local maps, so if you want to find anybody local to you, you can find them. We’ve got Vicki who does handmade chocolate, and she was on Hairy Bikers at the beginning of the year. We’ve got essential oils, soaps, everything. There’s just so much choice. I’m trying to remember all of the businesses. And there’s workshops as well. So, we’ve got the sea glass company that offers sea glass safaris, and Diya Wellness offers essential oils on Friday, I’m going to one of her workshops for the first time, we’re going to be making our own blends of essential oils. There’s just so much. 
So, there is so much on there. And if you listen to this before Christmas, this is clearly the place to go if you want to shop ethically and support small businesses. But you’ve got a website, you also have an app as well, don’t you? 
Yes. The app is on Google Play and the App Store. So yes, the app is there. And it’s so much easier. If you’ve got the app already on your phone, you can just click into the app, and just go shopping. With the sellers or businesses, if there’s something similar that you want, just reach out to them, you can message them through Mayfli. There’s a message system where you can get in touch with them, so it’s much easier to get in touch with the businesses directly. And if there’s something that you want bespoke, I’m sure they would help you if they can and if not, find a local business that can give you something that you need. 
Yeah, fantastic So we’ve got the app and if people want to go and visit Mayfli’s website, do you want to tell them what the URL is?  This will be in the show notes as well.  
Yes, it’s www.mayfl.co. 
And obviously, if anyone has a small business and they want to sell their beautiful things on Mayfli, they can just get in touch with you on there as well. 
Yeah, I recommend the website and put in an application form in.  We are application based. But yeah, put an application in and we can go from there, the more support that we get from the businesses the larger we can grow and the larger impact we can make. There are so many people that you hear now that really don’t want to buy from Amazon, and they feel as if they don’t have a choice anymore. So, we definitely want to be that platform that can really help, you know, help those people that really want to support local. 
Definitely, I absolutely love that.  I want to ask you another question, I wished I had asked this earlier before we got to the wrapping up part. It’s about the app, I’ve never created an app. Hoe does that work? 
Ask Mark! Don’t ask me. We have got a team of developers. I basically told Mark how I wanted it to be.  As a seller, I got frustrated because a lot of the stuff that we sold had a lots of option choices, so with our own website we could set it up, but when it’s done on platforms like Etsy, you’re very limited to the options. So, I got very frustrated as a seller, so Mark got this huge list that I wanted Mayfli to have, so he did that, and we have a great team of developers. I don’t know how long we’ve got, but when you look at Dragon’s Den, they go on about ‘you don’t own the tech’ and can people who don’t have a tech background grow a tech business. And sometimes, I think it takes that non-tech and tech person to come together and make something different. So, when it comes to the tech, that’s Mark’s side and the amazing team that we’ve got behind us as well. I just tell them what I want. 
But isn’t that great as well, that you don’t have to do all of this by yourself. You’ve got Mark, you’ve got this team and all these amazing people around to support you. Because I think with running a business, it’s really important not to do this all on your own. Even if you are like me.  I could be on my own, but I still have people around to help me. But you have vast selection of people and that must really help. 
I think for the tech side of it especially, as it’s got the possibility to grow outside of the UK.  It can grow globally, so the potential that it’s got is quite a powerful tool, so having that support around the tech side and knowing that we’ve got that 24/7 security. Knowing that side is ok because that’s a side I’m quite limited on. I know how I wanted it designed.  I know what facilities we need, like the booking system.  We knew the booking system for the workshops we wanted to bring in, but we didn’t want to bring it in from the very beginning because the costs around it, but we had a few sellers that wanted it, but just having the support and knowing that we’ve got a team that can ensure everything runs smoothly is helpful and then I can just concentrate on the side that I love doing which is supporting the businesses and shouting out about the businesses and telling everybody what great products we have and that’s the side that I enjoy, whereas the other side, I just tell them what I want. 
Someone else can do that!  Yeah, and it’s so clear that is the part you love, because you do absolutely love shouting about all the businesses on Mayfli and letting everyone know just how good the products you’ve got on there are 
I think this is why I love doing the in-person events. Although I do find it stressful because I want everybody to do well on the day in terms of sales, so I find that really stressful,  I kind of go into hiding by the afternoon because you want to ensure that everybody has had an amazing day of sales, but that’s what I love about the events because when you’re buying online it’s so impersonal and you don’t get to know the businesses. And when the businesses come on to Mayfli, I have conversations with them before they come on and we get to know then within the group, so I know what their products are like, I know the people.  To be able to get people to come in and actually connect with the businesses is just so nice, rather than it just being all online. It was nice this year because for the Christmas one we had people that came last year and were looking forward to coming back this year to meet them businesses again.  We’re having conversations, ‘oh I was here last year and I got this’, and looking at their new products and it’s just so nice to have that in-person side of it as well. 
I don’t think it’s hard to get on to Mayfli, but I think to get on Mayfli you have to get to know them a bit first, which is a really lovely part of it, that you get to know their business and you’re able to give them advice that can help them perform even better. 

We do get applications where we haven’t been able to take people on, maybe it’s for product photography or different things, but I always ensure that when you know they might not be the right fit for us at the moment but giving them tips to go away and improve and then come back and reapply. We’ve also been getting business applications from outside of the UK, people in Australia, which is unfortunate because we can’t take them on at the moment, but there are so many other countries who are striving to have a marketplace like Mayfli, but we’re just not there at the moment to have that side of it, so at the minute it’s just the UK. But, when we’re getting applications from outside of the UK, we know we’re definitely doing something right. 
Thank you for listening to the Brand Bravery podcast. Check out the show notes for all the links and information you need, including links to my social media and my website, so you can let me know what you thought of this episode. Please share with anyone else you think would enjoy this. Subscribe if you haven’t already and I’ll see you in the next episode. 

Find Racheal: mayfli.co

Amy Purdie, The Brand Explorer takes you on an Adventure to discover what your brand is all about, helping you with your brand strategy, brand visuals and content ideas. You can join Amy’s Brand Success Club or join her in your very own Private Brand Adventure.

Amy has been enjoying designing logos, brand identities, illustration, print work and websites – since 2007 fuelled mainly by tea and chocolate.

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