Building a bug hotel was on our Bucket list this summer and I’m ashamed to say it was one thing that didn’t get done. It’s something we would really like to have in our garden as we recognise the importance of a diverse habitat and the youngest just adores creepy crawlies! So I am so pleased to have Homes for bugs in this weeks creative corner.
Hi there, I’m Steve Nestor – quickly becoming known as the ‘bug man’. I’m married to Tracy and we live in Wolverhampton. By day I work full time in social housing, but my evenings and weekends are filled with a different type of housing altogether. Creating and selling wonderful Homes for Bugs.
Tell us a bit about Homes for Bugs
In a nutshell, I individually design and hand make insect houses out of reclaimed and ‘rescued’ wood. Beneficial insects such as solitary bees, ladybirds and lacewings need somewhere safe and warm to rest, nest and shelter. Our Homes for Bugs offer stylish, one of a kind houses that not only look fab in any garden, but also give these all important creatures a much needed home.
What made you start your own business?
It happened by accident really. I love wildlife and did the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch earlier this year. When I submitted my results, they suggested a few garden projects including building a bug hotel. I used pieces of scrap wood that were in the garden and filled it with pine cones, bamboo, small rotting logs and leaf litter. I really enjoyed being outside, creating something out of scrap wood so I decided to make a smaller version. Then I posted a picture on Facebook and one of my friends liked it so much they wanted to buy it. So, I made a couple more, which also sold quickly…and the rest, as they say, is history.
Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
I haven’t had any formal training – I’m not sure there’s a course for bug house builders! Many moons ago I was a kitchen maker where I learned all the skills needed to build the frames for the bug houses. Since Homes for Bugs was formed I’ve had to do a lot of research on the types of habitat that insects such as ladybirds and solitary bees look for to nest and hibernate in…and I’m learning more all the time.
I’ve had a few different jobs in my life including sales, communications and marketing – all of which are helping me to build my brand, social media and online presence.
Explain your creative process.
I individually make every bug house and, because I only used reclaimed and rescued wood, no two designs are ever the same. I don’t plan any of my designs – I get bored easily so there’s no way I want to get into a rut of sticking to plans! Usually cuttting the sides to length first and go from there. I love rooting through my scraps of wood and seeing what takes my fancy. It’s fascinating watching the design come to life before my eyes – believe it or not, most of the time I haven’t got a clue how it’s going to end up until the last piece is in place.
Describe your typical day.
The weekends are spent either building bug houses at home or selling them at craft fairs and markets. On Saturday mornings I set up my mitre saw and drills on the work bench that sits under the awning in our back garden, pour myself a coffee and choose my first piece of wood.
No matter what the weather, I’m at my happiest when I’m out there working with wood… especially when Tracy, my wife, joins me. She’s the painter, gift tag maker and the brains behind our Tudor and Balamory style ranges.
When we’re not building, we’re selling and when we’re not building or selling. We’re usually foraging for natural materials to fill our bug houses. We also love the social side to the business and have met some lovely people whilst selling at local craft fairs and markets. We’ve sold at Vintage and Handmade fairs, a Harvest Festival, traditional craft fairs and also have a regular spot at Bridgnorth Handmade Sunday market… no matter where we go, people seem to love our product.
What is your biggest seller?
It’s hard to say as we never make the same bug house twice! I suppose our Balamory style (colourful) and Tudor range are the most popular with many being bought as gifts. Having said that, our rustic insect houses, made from things like old decking and fence panels, are really popular with the gardeners.
The good thing about our product is that we’ve got a really varied audience. Gardeners buy them because they know the benefits that bees and ladybirds bring to their gardens and allotments. Children love them because they learn about mini-beasts at school and are naturally inquisitive. Other people simply like the look of them and buy them as unique gifts. Regardless of the reasons they buy them, everybody loves the fact that they’re all made from wood that was destined for the tip or bonfire.
What have been the high and low points of running your own business?
I love everything to do with Homes for Bugs. It’s fabulous taking an old, sometimes rotting, piece of wood and creating something that people really like, and bugs really need. It’s brilliant doing the craft fairs and markets and we’ve met some really interesting people.
A few weeks ago we sold a selection of our designs to a newly opened local gift shop. We’ve recently been approached to build houses for a solitary bee village that’s being created in a nature reserve.
We’ve also delivered a bug house workshop at a community event where children filled individual ‘rooms’ that were all placed together to create one big bug hotel. The building and selling of bug houses is brilliant. It’s fantastic being able to inspire others to think about recycling to give nature a helping hand.
The only downside is that we do don’t do it full time. It’s really early days for us though as we’ve only been making them for a few months, so you never know…watch this space.
What would be your top tips for running your own creative business?
My main advice would be to do what you love. Find something that makes you happy and allows to connect with other people. I’d also say that taking the time to build, and regularly update, a website. Plus creating and maintaining a good social media presence is crucial to building your brand.
Before you start selling, decide what your brand is all about and design your marketing materials to match. In our case we wanted to make it clear that all of our products are made from reclaimed wood. That everything is individually designed and handmade. We also wanted our brand to be fun… the world is far too serious. So we try and lighten the mood and bring a bit of sunshine wherever we go.
What are your aspirations?
We’d love to get to the point where we’re working on Homes for Bugs full time. We’ve got lots of exciting ideas that could make this a possibility. So we’ll be working really hard over the coming months to see if we can make this happen.
Where can we find you?
We’ve got a website www.homesforbugs.co.uk that includes our blog and customer photo gallery for you to have a look at. We’re also on Facebook Twitter and Instagram and would love you to come and say hello… see you soon hopefully.