craft

How can you get guys to buy your handmade creations for Valentine’s Day

IMG_1853  Some of my male friends, relatives and readers may deny this, but let’s face it, most men don’t shop early. My husband used to say things like “it’s more exciting right before (insert holiday) when everyone’s in the spirit” or, “I’m still trying to come up with the perfect gift”. Sorry to stereotype but truth is, many guys don’t know where to begin and need guidance (and a little nudge.)

As an artist or crafter with inventory,  you can take advantage of their procrastination and need for gentle “peer pressure” by holding a “Guys’ Night Out” just before Valentine’s Day and it’s still 2 weeks out so you are still in time to schedule some dates.

Whether you make wearable, household, or garden art, some men need guidance in getting gifts for their wives, girlfriends and mothers. They also spend way more money when they are in groups because they don’t want to look cheap in front of the other guys. (especially if these guys are hubbies or boyfriends of their wife’s friends. )

So, invite your friends’ partners, your partner’s friends, the guys from your day job-(and if you still have a day job, you really do need these hints) and “help” them choose a gift for the women in their  lives. They’ll particularly love if you know what styles, colors, etc their partner likes. If you  don’t have lots of male buddies, another great venue is any venue where men gather. An upscale barber shop or men’s spa is always a great place and remember they will be glad to have you.

Are you wondering how you will entice the men to come?  Partner with a caterer, winery or brewery to do a tasting.  Craft breweries and vintners love to do tastings and pourings at upscale events to promote their beer or wines. In fact, they’ll often be thrilled if you hold the event at their tasting room. Didn’t your mother always tell you that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach?

Well, it’s also a great way to get the wallet out of the pocket, cash into your hands, and your creations out into the world.

For more great ideas like this, check out   “21 Ways to Turn Your Craft into a Cash Cow”  at the right of this page >

 

Days before Christmas and you still have time to turn your craft into cash NOW

It may seem like days before Christmas is too late to plan a sale of your handcrafted gifts but this is actually perfect timing. Surveys report that most consumers have not even begun their holiday shopping and even those who say they’re finished are still likely to purchase more if they see something really special.

The days prior to the holidays, everyone is feeling rushed and wondering how they’ll find time after work to get to the stores to shop. It seems employers are not falling for the frequent “sick days” employees are taking to get their shopping done.

In order to have their employees come to work rather than play hookie at the mall, or spend on-the-clock time shopping online, companies are now very receptive to vendors coming in to sell to their staff during lunch breaks.

Most corporations don’t take a percentage of the sales or ask for a space rental fee. Apparently they recognize that it is to their advantage to have the option for their employees to get some of their shopping done during business hours.

It’s always nice to hold an event with no fees or percentages going out. If you’re used to there always being a trade-off, it may seem odd that there are people who simply would love the convenience of being able to shop at their workplace. Talk to Continue reading

When “done is better than perfect”

img_2189 if you’re like most of us, you probably don’t want to put your offers out into the world until they’re the very best you can do but sometimes just getting it done beats not putting it out until it’s perfect.

Recently, I’ve been consciously embracing the concept of “wabi-sabi” (perfectly imperfect) and I’ve asked myself if that is just my excuse for not doing my best. I’ve had a few clients who procrastinated so long because they didn’t want to put less than their best out into the world that by the time they were ready, their offers were irrelevant. Yesterday, I did something that confirmed for me that “done” really is “better than perfect”. I brought some handmade ribbon bracelets to a couple of markets recently before I got good photos of them. Friends have been wanting to purchase more and I haven’t had time to put up a dedicated site. I also didn’t want to create more bracelets simply to get good photographs to post so I took a leap. It was uncomfortable and still makes me cringe when I look at these terrible photos that I took with my phone in a poorly lit market.

I probably wouldn’t have had the nerve if it were my first exposure but I knew if I didn’t get them up and into the world, I wouldn’t have time to fill orders for the holidays so I posted the terrible photos on one of my existing blogs and orders are pouring in.

Are there things you’ve been meaning to get done this year but haven’t because you haven’t perfected them yet? Are your products, writing, art or other offers still on your desk, in your studio or still in your head because they aren’t “ready” for market? If so, I’m going to give you a challenge: Take one step today to put your offer out into the world knowing that you don’t have it exactly right but that you’ll get some great feedback, learn from the experience and hopefully make some money or make a difference.

Sometimes that challenge can be as simple as making a phone call, email or in-person visit to set up a home party trunk show, reading or introductory coaching session. What’s holding you back from getting your work in front of those who will become your fans? I’d love to hear how you acted on that challenge.

Are you doing this one thing that could sabotage your new craft business?

You know the increase in creative energy when you’re in the company of enthusiastic, like-minded artists or crafters? We keep hearing that the most successful entrepreneurs surround themselves with other successful entrepreneurs, right?

Well, that’s all true but there are times when you can actually sabotage your creative business if you’re hanging out with the wrong tribe. What do I mean by the “wrong” tribe? Aren’t all aspiring or growing entrepreneurs the right peeps to connect with? Not all. Here’s why:

Let’s say you’re starting a business making organic herbed olive oils. You tested them at a local farmers’ market and had a great response so you’ve decided to give an Etsy shop a try. You buy a few how-to-sell-on-Etsy books or videos and put up your shop and wait. Nothing’s happening. No one is buying.

You’re not even getting many page views. You’re feeling a little discouraged but you realize it takes awhile to grow a business so you try to connect with other makers to see what they are doing. The obvious place to go would be to get on the Etsy forums and connect with other sellers. Maybe you can get some positive suggestions so you post in a chat room and ask for help. You might be lucky and get some helpful tips but you’re more likely to find people saying things like “oh, you can’t make it selling that on Etsy. There are 700 other people selling infused olive oil on Etsy.” They aren’t asking you what you’re doing to stand out from the competition or giving you advice on how to get traffic to your page. Most likely, you’ll find other newish sellers who are on there complaining that they aren’t doing well either and you all start commiserating and discourage one another.

Recently, I asked a friend who is an uber successful Etsy seller if she ever goes on the forums to help newer makers or goes to meet-ups with local Etsy teams. Her answer: “Are you kidding? Successful Etsy sellers don’t have time to be hanging out on the forums. We’re busy filling orders. When I take a break from making, packaging and shipping, I’m updating listings and posting new photos on Pinterest to drive traffic to my site.”

So how, as a fledgling creative entrepreneur can you find people who not only answer your questions but understand what you’re going through and encourage and support you?

Here’s what I would do. I’d look for a few successful sellers whose products are complementary but not in competition with yours. Let’s say you make custom diaper bags. You might look for someone who is successfully selling baby shower invitations or hand knit baby sweaters. Contact them and be honest. Tell them you admire their work and were wondering if they would be willing to chat with you. You might even contact a few successful makers in your local area and invite the to meet for coffee. If they are so busy that they don’t have time to help you, hopefully they’ll at least give you the names of resources they used or a coach who helped them get started.

If you’ve already found people who boost you up, please share in the comments-we’d all love to hear your successes and cheer you on.

Are you an Art Snob or Craft Connoisseur?

I admit it. I was an Art Snob. I didn’t consider crafts an art form. Yes, glass blowing, metal smithing, maybe even pottery, but I turned my nose up at cropping, stamping and needlework. I saw them as “housewife” or ‘granny-crafts”, color-inside-the-lines for those who had no imagination. And collage, well, that was just something for people who couldn’t draw or paint.  That was, until I saw some of the amazingly creative things artists do with fiber, paper and glue. Now, I’m a convert.

My old attitude came from a misguided background in fine art. Actually,  I was a misfit in a competitive Design , Art and Architecture College at a large university.   It was immediately apparent they’d made a mistake accepting me into the art education program. I’m a creative idea generator but this was pre-computer and to say I’m not a perfectionist is an understatement. Several of our design courses were combined with architecture and industrial design students and, well, let’s just say,  I didn’t fit in.  Another part of the curriculum was classic training in the fine arts of drawing, painting and sculpture. It was unacceptable if not laughable to even consider creating anything functional. The only time I felt in my element was the one semester we got an abbreviated sampling of jewelry and textiles.

Decades later as I walked the aisles of the Buyer’s Market of American Craft, a wholesale-to-the-trade show Continue reading

Demo Your Craft to Establish Yourself as the Expert

The best way  to market your craft is to find every opportunity to get your work in front of an audience. This seems obvious, but so often artists hide out in their studio. Some of us shy away from the spotlight.  But, to succeed, it isn’t enough to have your work on a good website. You need to make an effort to do some in person appearances as well.

How do you go about getting your name and face out there as well as your work? (remember, part of the appeal of handmade is knowing the human behind the work. ) Demonstrating every chance you have will begin to establish you as the expert in your medium. Craft supply stores, galleries, workshops and trade shows are all opportunities to demonstrate your craft. Approach the manufacturers of the materials you use, either in person or by sending them a nice professional looking portfolio with examples of  different techniques for using their products. Offer to make appearances in stores that carry their products, showing both the staff and customers the benefits of using their  products,  and at craft trade shows demonstrating to retailers. Not only will this give you Continue reading

Are you supporting the stores that are going to put you or your friends out of business?

Last week, I attended a first birthday party.  I went to a local store that often carries all lot of fair trade items in search of a handmade gift . I found some puzzles perfect for a one year old boy but when I checked the labels, they were made in China. I went home to search online for handmade wooden puzzles. The ones I found were significantly more expensive. I know I could have found something larger and just as cute at Toys R Us or Target for a fraction of the price and the baby sure wouldn’t know the difference.  BUT I WOULD. I wanted to support indie craftspeople so I ordered the puzzles from a couple who make them in their shop in Oregon.

I know that the socks you hand-knit and the jewelry or lotions or candles you lovingly make take more time and are better quality than a seemingly similar item made on a machine in China so of course you have to charge more for your hand crafted products than the big box stores do.

I also know you’re a sensitive, empathetic person so let’s turn the tables and as you’re holiday shopping this month, think about this:

If you want consumers to support you, it’s your duty to make it a point to buy hand made because if you are are buying from Walmart or other discount shops, you’re supporting companies that will eventually put YOU and your artist buddies out of business. MOST PEOPLE JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. But you, as an artist yourself, you want others to support your work so PLEASE don’t rationalize about buying imports because they are cheaper.

Don’t assume that everything at a craft fair is made domestically, either. Only juried shows control where the items come from and you’d be surprised how many mass produced pieces show up at craft fairs.   If you have difficulty finding locally made gifts, seek out an artists’ co-p. These are generally owned and operated by a group of artist and you can frequently meet the artists and even watch them at work.

Remember, if you want the public to buy your work and support you, commit to buying handmade because you have the choice.

More on Crafting for a Cause: A great way to sell your craft and make a difference.

We all want to make money selling our handmade items and many of us  feel the need to make a difference in our community or the world. Since the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, I’ve been thinking a lot about my running days. I always ran in 10K events that raised funds for causes I believed in. I no longer run but I still want to contribute in some way in addition to simply writing a check.

Usually, the runners are accompanied by friends or family members who are there as supporters and spectators and often they will hang around after the race if there are other activities.

An idea that came to mind that I want to share with you all is combining a craft fair with a race. Whether it’s a run, walk or bike race, there is almost always a first aid tent. Often, the the tent rental requires paying by the day rather than the hour so after the race, the tent sits empty for the remainder of the day. What if you approached the organizers of the race and offered to gather artists and crafters to do a show after the event and donate a portion of sales to the cause? Ideally, you would charge each crafter a booth fee and then they would agree to give a percentage of their sales to the cause.

If a tent is not available, you can still organize a craft fair at the site and  the crafters will set up their own canopies. Either way, you will be making money from your crafts, helping other crafters and contributing to a cause you believe in.

Have you ever tried this? If so, please share with us in the comments below how it worked out for you. If not, give it a try.

 

 

Turning hobbies into Million Dollar Business? These entrepreneurs have.

If you still think your craft or hobby can’t bring in a full-time income, check out these entrepreneurs who made their “kitchen table” hobbies into million dollar businesses.

Megan Duckett who in her free time began sewing at her kitchen table, making bedding, drapes and costumes. When she began positioning herself as a specialist in designing props and entertainment décor to set herself apart from other seamstresses, she landed her first big project: designing 25 silk chandeliers for The Mirage in Las Vegas. Last year, Megan’s company, Sew What? brought in $6.2 million revenue.

Kim Lavine,  author of “Mommy Millionaire” started sewing microwavable pillows as gifts for her kids’ teachers. When her husband lost his job, she started selling her “Wuvit” pillows from her truck and then set up mall kiosks. In two years,  her pillows were selling in national chains, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Bed Bath & Beyond,  generating more than $1 million in sales. She then branched out into a pajama and decor line and now runs a media company.

Green thumb?  Childhood friends Michelle Inciarrano and Katy Maslow started getting together for craft nights, making greetings cards, bookmarks, etc. On a whim, they ended up making was a terrarium.  They loved it, began playing around with themes for other terrariums and in  2010 they started selling their creations. Initially working from their apartments, and then a 300-square-foot converted garage, they are now operating from a store/studio in Brooklyn, where they offer workshops and sell their products and bring in additional revenue from corporate events. In 2011 they began selling online and currently have 19 products They started Twigterrariums with a small personal investment, opening no lines of credit, and are debt-free. Profits quadrupled in the first year of business.

Craig Jenkins-Sutton is another entrepreneur who turned a love of gardening into a million dollar business. He started out working for a landscape company but knew he didn’t want to work for someone else so in 2003, he put a small ad in the Chicago Tribune, offering his garden design services. Within a week, he received 40 calls but only one turned into a customer. It was enough to get the business going. He wasn’t sure how to market his services because  “The tough part in landscaping is that it’s something a lot of people think they can do themselves,” He says you have to be able to demonstrate what value you bring. After some trial and error marketing, in 2010, he started putting door hanger ads at people’s homes and realized he was onto something.  As a result, his business, Topiarius, doubled in 2010, and revenue rose last year by 80 percent to $1.2 million.

This is just a sampling of the many entrepreneurs that turned their hobby into a thriving business and YOU CAN TOO!

What do you love to do that you’re great at but it’s just a hobby? Do you give it all away to family and friends? Would you love to be able to turn your passion and pastime into a high revenue generating business? I have a few December spots left for private guidance. Find out how you can work with me to turn your hobby into cash HERE. 

 

Should you grow your handmade business by exhibiting at trade shows?

Are you wondering if it’s time to begin exhibiting your work at trade shows in order to get your art into more shops and galleries?  I think it comes down to asking yourself a few simple questions.

Does each of your pieces require significant hands-on time and do they have to be your own two hands or  can you get help with some of the process? For example, you design and create all the components for your line of jewelry but you pay someone to do your soldering.

Do you handcraft the original and then make reproductions such as art prints or metal casting?

Are you ready to seriously gear up your production when you receive a lot of orders?

How quickly can you fill those orders?

Do you have access to someone to handle the administrative tasks such as billing, shipping, receivables, ordering supplies and tracking inventory?

The idea of picking up several new accounts and writing huge orders may sound appealing but you have to be ready to gear up your business rapidly. The costs involved in exhibiting at a major trade show are significant and you have to sell several times the amount of your expenses and be ready to rapidly transition from cottage craft business to serious enterprise.

Many craftspeople dream of getting picked up by Sundance Catalog or Nordstrom. It’s an exciting prospect but be careful what you wish for. In order to fulfill mega orders and satisfy your new big customers, you are going to have to purchase supplies in much larger quantities and hire staff or outsource some of the administrative tasks and assembly. Do you have the cash flow to purchase those supplies and hire the helpers you will need? Or will you be floating on credit cards and soliciting labor from friends and family in the early stages? Will you require a larger workspace?

I’m not trying to frighten or discourage you from branching out to wholesale trade shows. I’m just letting you know that along with the notoriety and big bucks comes some big stress and financial risk.  If you’re not sure you’re up for it yet, there’s nothing wrong with  the slow and steady growth model. You can thrive by building your business a few loyal accounts at a time. When you are ready to take the leap, go with Godspeed.