Plantpots and Bomb Plots

Stainless steel planter ribbed

Here’s something I’ve managed to resurrect from the Tinpot Alley stainless steel planters archive. (By that I mean that I’ve found an old lead to download pictures off my camera!)

There would’ve been more but some over zealous security chap prevented me from doing so in case I was casing the joint to bomb it. I’m sure after five days of worthless exhibiting I may have felt suitably miffed, but when you’ve had a big sign saying Tinpot Alley and most of your business cards handed out, I doubt if I’d have gotten away with it.

You may recall the collective Butler Sheetmetal Ltd breakdown that took place trying to get organised for that damn Canary Wharf exhibition. Well this picture proves that it was more than worth being plonked in the middle of an underground mall whilst most people stole pebbles, booted the balls and vented their fury at us for the poor state of the ‘garden show’ in general.

Although, we did manage to flog one of the bay trees. It would’ve been two, but the guy would’ve struggled carrying them both on the tube.

John’s become very philosophical about the whole affair and his twitch is hardly noticeable as he mutters ‘You live and learn’, or ‘Just put it down to experience.’

Anyway, the above ribbed stainless steel planter was by far and away the crowd favourite from a planter and plant perspective – until the price was mentioned, of course. (For the record, it’s a John design   )

No wonder we try and stick to bespoke.

NeedIT – You Got IT!

I’ve well and truly learnt my lesson about spouting my mouth off, counting chickens and all that palava after the many disasters that have befallen mostly me to be fair.

Things like:

The Canary Wharf Garden Show. (Rubbish, sold bugger all and half-wrecked the hire van.)

Free photo shoot in Gardeners’ World. (They took the photos but never told us that the planters weren’t going to be in, but we still told all and sundry to buy a copy. (All and sundry then laughed at us.))

Planters on the telly.(Rushed around like loons for a paltry link from the Channel 4 website.)

Those three things are the ones that stick in the mind, but there’s one or two other things that also crashed and burned.

And the one thing they had in common?

I bleated mercilessly about every single one. I’ve become so convinced that any prior mention on this blog renders a project useless that I’ve decided to stop doing it so I don’t put a hex on anything. (I must be more superstitious than I let on.)

So, it’s with a certain amount of relief that I can report we’ve finally been approved for a NeedIT grant to invest in computer stuff and e-commerce.

This means that we’ll have a far better computer setup and we’ll finally be able to trade properly online and show our full product range as opposed to leaving it to your imagination.

We’ve spent enough time now with a computer that’s more tempremental than your average menopausal fishwife; it also has to be said that we’ve been awfully slack with things like brochures and other offline marketing efforts aswell – or at least that’s the conclusion me and John came to in the pub after six pints of Kronenburg. (You really don’t want to know of any conclusions drawn after that.)

It also just so happens that Robo-bender Matt and Deadly Derek have finally sorted out the press tool to make up square planters without the need to get them lasered. I think we might just have the production side screwed down. (More on that another day.)

It obviously would’ve been bloody marvellous if we’d sorted out the grant and the tooling before the spring/summer as opposed to afterwards, but the point is it’s sorted.

I’d also recommend using your local Business Link, who were extremely helpful and efficient in doing our micro business review and sending us down the right path.

Learning, Pruning and Growing

In the beginning there was stainless steel, and the stainless steel was good.

Tinpot Alley started as a very different beast to the one you see now. Its first manifestation came as a reaction to just one hexagonal planter Matt designed out of stainless steel that all of us kidded ourselves would be the killer product which lead us from rags to riches.

Being a bit green behind the gills we wanted to market the thing accordingly and quickly fell into the trap of giving the impression we were some huge stainless steel planter conglomerate.

Big mistake!

Planters Direct probably ticked all the wrong boxes in the wrong order. Essentially we were trying to impose a very small range of products until we’d heard enough. People were constantly asking us for different and varying sizes to what we were offering. Not only were we not too intent on listening, but we tried our best to stick to our guns.

It soon became apparent that there was quite a disconnect between what we wanted to offer and what we were asked if we could offer. In a way this is quite a blessing in disguise as it only required us to realign and cater to those requests.

It didn’t take long once we’d got our collective noggins round this to drop the whole Planters Direct cobblers. Let’s face it: we were never going to be the Amazon of the stainless steel planter world. If anything, we were confusing the issue by trying to offer exclusivity to the masses but at something of a premium.

Whilst this planter thing could operate as a fully-fledged business in its own right, the whole fabrication, production and design aspects fit fairly seamlessly into what Butler Sheetmetal Ltd already do. It’s very much an incorporated sideline if such a thing can exist.

Tinpot Alley was born out of a need to reflect a more customer oriented affair offering bespoke metalwork solutions for the home, garden and office. Does it not make more sense to fabricate 29 stainless steel planters to specific requirements than one or two so-called ‘products’ we’re trying to push? It keeps everybody happy.

I suppose we’ve been fortunate that we could make these mistakes without really impacting the customer. We’ve also been fortunate that it isn’t our core business. But, saying that, it’s playing a more vital and prominent role now than it ever has done.

We’ve decided to end up at the quality end of the market as it’s something we’ve always done and the quality end of the market also began to target us.

And who are we to argue?


We’re currently on the lookout for a fabrication jobshop in or around Cleveland, Ohio to fabricate some of our planters so we can actually accommodate the enquiries we receive from America.

If you’re interested you can read a bit more about it over at The Tinbasher.

However, that isn’t to say we’ll jump into bed with the first bunch who salute. It’s just that now I’m finally over in Cleveland for good, it just seems to make sense.

Remember folks – it’s quality not quantity!

Notice To American Folks Wanting To Get In Touch

You can ignore everything in this post as all is well. Call on 440-453-6125.

Could anybody getting in touch from America please get in contact via email initially. I’m currently changing cable packages and won’t be reconnected until next Wednesday (fingers crossed).

Now you may think that shouldn’t be any of your concern, but considering I solely use Skype as my phone service then it is when there’s only a dial-up connection to go through. You really don’t want to experience dial-up Skype.

So, if you could just email me at paul[at]tinpotalley[dot]com for the time being life would be sweet.

Sorry for any inconvenience but it’s only a temporary measure. I should hopefully have a new cell phone the beginning of next week.

Note: This is only for people wanting to get in touch from America.


UPDATE: We’re back up and running. You can ring to your heart’s content on 440-453-6125.

An Improvement?

So how do you like the new site?

And if you’ve never been here before……how do you like the new site?

I’m still playing around with a few things but this is basically it. If you come across anything that isn’t working for you or seems a little weird, please leave me a comment so I can try and fix it.  There are one or two slight differences in the way it displays in firefox and internet explorer, and personally, I prefer the way it displays in ie.

Do have fun with the gallery at the bottom of the page as well as even more fun with the portfolio, which allows you to zoom and drag pictures of a larger size around your browser to compare and contrast things if you wan