Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Years Resolution- Business will be FUN!

So yesterday many things hit me about my shop(s). I opened Bubba & Rye in February, right after I left my job, and then Lilac Ave in July, in hopes of padding my family's finances, and hopefully building it enough so I could be self employed versus going back to work. Well by September I was pretty well aware that it was just not going to happen as fast as I needed to, and we really needed me to be working.

Since September that vision, and that ambition hadn't changed much. I was very driven to make a lot of product for holiday craft shows, and have as much inventory as possible, to see what the possibilities of the Christmas sales were. The craft shows did not got fantastic (but were fun), and sales were my best EVER in November and December.

So now the holidays are over. For the past couple of months I had been strategizing to diversify Lilac Ave and close Bubba and Rye (so I could have time to diversify Lilac Ave). I opened another store on 1000Markets. I had a plan to set in motion to grow.

Then yesterday a couple of things in my mind changed:

1. I actually still love making cards, I just can't make them at the pace I was making them, when I wasn't working. This is the main reason I was going to close Bubba & Rye. But then I asked myself, "Who says there needs to be "X" number of items in my store, or that I have to have "X" number of sales? ?Apparently my own ambition and pride. Wouldn't it be better to let those go, than this shop, that I love dearly, and still enjoy making cards for?

I do think the shop will be a little changed when it re-opens. I have some different ideas, and different thoughts on the product being put in there.

2. This should be fun! I've already established that my income issues were changed by going back to work. This isn't to say I am going to price myself as a hobbyist, etc....I still have a busines sense to me....but I have enough stress at work, and these business are for me, and I love them. I don't want to make them so stressful that I hate them. So from here on out, if it isn't fun, if it isn't enjoyable, I am not going to do it. Now this doesn't include listing items, which I find awful and monotonous, LOL! It does include when I am not feeling right about a business choice.

So this is my new business strategy.... "HAVE FUN"! That sounds more fun that "diversify" doesn't it?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

1000 Markets Grand Opening!

So another handmade online market is http://www.1000markets.com/ . This is a fabulous site! Very pretty, very innovative, and a great place to find unusual handmade items.

I have opened a second outlet for Lilac Ave there ( http://www.lilacave.etsy.com/ and www.1000markets.com/users/lilacave ). This site offers rotation to the front page while Etsy depends on treasuries to pick their front page's. This gives me as fair a chance as anyone to get seen. They also offer free listing with a higher transaction fee (5.5% plus 50c) after the sale. I think this could save me money, versus the constant renewal fees (20c) to get my items seen, plus the 20c listing fee, and 3.5% transaction fee on Etsy. So I figured it was worth a shot. Believe it or not I do believe that Etsy is more established than 1000Markets, so that is the big challenge.

The way I see it, it costs nothing to try it, and it's more exposure. I did decide to keep seperate stock between the 2 shops, and I think it will take a lot of effort to promote them equally. But think of it this way. Target sells their items through Target.com and Amazon.com, is this much different...it broadens my customers.

There is a special addition, I will add here! As a grand opening opprotunity! My 1st Sale on http://www.1000markets.com/users/lilacave will receive a FREE glass votive with 2 tealights! So come take a look, and maybe you find something to fall in love with!

Also I will keep you posted on the challenges and successes of creating this new shop. So far it's been open 6 days. I had my first sale on Etsy after 11 days, so I will remain hopeful!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Who knew!?!?!?

So who would've thought my 2 shops would be coming up on milestones, right up next to one another??
Bubba and Rye, which has recently changed from a card shop to a destash and supply shop (until all the supplies are gone), is just 4 sales shy of 200 sales! I am running a prize promotion that the 200th sale will get a FREE Card and Candle (a value of $10). Either buy your way there, or watch patiently! http://www.bubbarye.etsy.com/

At the same time, my Soy candle Shop is just at the cusp of 100 sales!!! Not bad, seeing as it opened July 11th of this year, and just passed the 5 month anniversary. In this shop I will be awarding a $10 gift certificate for Lilac Ave to the 100th sale's buyer. http://www.lilacave.etsy.com
These are exciting milestones that should be celebrated. I met my 1st 100 sales in Bubba and Rye after 6 months (store opened February 19th, 2008). I remember being so excited...like it was a sign that I had made it!

If you are wondering. I opened Bubba and Rye when I stopped working to stay hope. While home, I also launched Lilac Ave. Life's circumstances changed, as they do, and I had to go back to work in September. I have been struggling to find the time to make cards, candles, manage both shops, 2 kids, a military husband, etc. Now that the season's craft fairs are over, I had to make some choices and let go. As many card makers know, it can be time consuming, and a workplace and time has to be set aside. So after long thought and heartbreak I decided I needed to close Bubba and Rye. So Bubba, is now in phase 2 of close down, which is to become a destash and supply shop, as I have more than I could ever use in personal card making. So what was that, long story, long?!?!

So keep looking, keep shopping, and try to win something FREE!!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hampton Roads Artisans Street Team presents Holiday Handmade Market

Back in July, Mary from JKCreative Designs http://www.jkcreativedesigns.etsy.com/ , decided to create a local team for those of us Etsy obsessed in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Hampton, Newport News). I have been part of this team from the beginning. What started out as us, talking about having a home show with our little team, turned into us needing to find a venue for approximately 20 vendors.

Another wonderful team member, Jodie, from Gappy Girl, http://www.gappygirl.etsy.com/ , found us a place, in her church and preschool at Messiah United Methodist Church in Chesapeake. We worked hard to get all the factors to work together. Kristen from Fly Leaf Studios http://www.flyleafbooksstudio.etsy.com/ , was in charge of marketing this event.
I have to say I was so surprised at how beautiful the venue was, and how great the set up was. We had a really good, diverse, set of crafters, Jewelry makers, candle makers, book makers, wood work, quilting, hand bag designers, knitters, jelly makers, artists, even doggy bone wreath makers!

This was the 1st event ever for us, in a venue that had never held a craft show, with a brand new team. Oh yeah, and with only a $50 marketing budget. With that, I can honestly say it was a pretty good show! Now remember I have had 2 craft show experiences. One at a church back in March, where I literally did not sell one thing (and this before the admittal of a recession). The next was the Indian River Craft show a few weeks ago, that although made $220 in sales, was not really worth the 2 days of time, and effort, and $100 booth fee.
This show earned me $48 in sales, and costs $30 to enter into. Considering all the factors above not too bad. I would expect a 50-100% lift at our next event, just due to the experience, lessons learned, return customers, and hopefully a more optimistic economy.
I found most of my sales (like Indian River) veered towards the tarts and tealights that are $1. These are not my best sellers on Etsy, likely because it is so inexepensive, that the shipping overwhelms the sale.
Regardless of any money made, I finished my Christmas shopping, buying a wonderful blanket from Gappy Girl, for my niece (previously purchased a purse and belt for my daughter for Christmas). I also got some Jelly, from the Jelly maker. In addition, got some wonderful items (picture frame and thank you notes) from my friend at The Second Pea, who has not yet opened her Etsy shop, but it is to come!
I also really truly had a good time talking and being with other crafters and teammates. It was really fun, and felt so comfortable to be in a smaller venue with team mates. We are already brainstorming the next show in Spring. I am already excited!
To keep up to date with our team, and to see the members, please visit us at http://www.hamptonroadsartisans.com/

Friday, December 5, 2008

Profit : )

Just the sound of the word profit and margin can make me giddy! Go figure, that I am in my full time career and inventory and financial planner for a large box retailer. I know all about how all the retail metrics work together...sales, markdowns, margin, cost of goods, labor, etc. These are skills I take for granted in knowing that help my Etsy shops to be profitable.
I will say running something like an Etsy shop, which I call my "micro-business", is very different from running a multi-million dollar business. Some of the metrics are different...for instance I have never considered myself over-inventory, or had an inventory plan. However, I look at margin very closely. Gross margin determines profitability. Here are some things to consider:

What are your costs:
-Cost of materials
-Cost of labor
-Cost of fees

What should your pricing be then. Most retail looks at a 50% mark up as bench mark. Mark up is (Retail Price- Cost)/Retail Price. So for instance, look at this example for pricing for profit:

A Greeting Card
- Card stock 10c
- Embellishments 50c
- Craft Paper 5c (Remember, you may only use a quarter of the sheet, so the cost is only 25% of the whole sheet purchased)
- Labor: If you pay yourself $6/hr, and it took you 10minutes to make the card, labor is $1
- Fees, 20c listing fee, transaction fees between Etsy and Paypal 45c
TOTAL COST: $2.30.........................so with 50% markup, your Retail should be $4.60

There are games to this however. Let's say, you know the market will no0t bear a $4.60 card (although technically the average card at Hallmark and American Greetings is between $3.99 and $5.99, and they are not handmade), you can mark it less, but your profitability is less. It is up to you what you want that percentage to be. However, keep in mind the lower your markup, the less room there is to have sales, any kind of blunders (damaged inventory, under charged shipping). I took shorter mark up on my cards, to keep with the average of card sellers on Etsy, which seemed to be between $3.50 and $4.50.

However, this game can change. What about when you get a 40% off coupon for Joann's or for Michael's? That gives you lower cost, and higher markup, which in the end gives you more PROFIT! Another thing that can help is buying in bulk. In my candle business this has helped a ton! I bought 50lbs of soy wax. It was literally 1/8th the price of what I was paying, buying it by pound. I also bought 100 tealight casings for double the price I would pay for a pack of 6 at a local craft store. As a business, this is a survival technique.

You also have to know your limits. For instance. I can love, love, love a container, and know it will sell, but it it costs me $6, and I know the candle could only sell for $10, it is a no go. After you take in the cost of the fragrance, the wax, the wick, the labor, and the fees, I'd maybe make $1
, and that really isn't worthwhile (please note in mark up we haven't talked about marketing, gas for the post office, and shipping materials). The point is, you need to have your boundaries, of what you can afford, and what you can't. Even if you love it, and a customer may too, if the price is too high, it may sit and not sell.

So here is how I get my bottom line. You've seen how I calculate pricing, and what the "mark up" is. Now take all the mark up of items sold, and out of that comes, some of your costs of running a business. This could include a monthly fee for your own website if you have one, marketing fees (I calculate Etsy renewals under this), shipping materials, gas to get to the shops and post office (although sometimes these can be eat up, if you were already going anyway). Now after you take all of that out, you have profit!

Keep in mind for me, I average out the cost of shipping materials and gas. I do set an Etsy renewal budget and grimace if I go over it. See below on tips like twitter, to help for FREE promote your shop.

Here's an example of my Monthly Spreadsheet:

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Promo Lessons Learned for a New Etsian

First of all what is an Etsian?
Etsian (et-c-ann): 1) an artisan (crafter) who has located the handmade site Etsy, and has grown obsessed with it. 2) an artisan (crafter) who has become intwined in a community of artisans (crafters) on www.etsy.com. 3) an artisan (crafter) who may at times get frustrated with getting their shop or business noticed on www.etsy.com .

Well, I started my shop Bubba and Rye on Etsy Feb 19th, 2008 (although my stat says earlier, this is when I became active). Bubba and Rye, now is just shy of 200 sales. On July 11th, I officially opened my second shop Lilac Ave, which has 84 sales. It was 100 times easier to get Lilac Ave up and running, knowing what I learned from opening the Bubba and Rye shop. Now I know some people interested in Etsy, and I was going to give my best tips, and figured, why not share what I know. I am not claiming to be an expert, or an Etsy hot seller, but I do ok, and there are things I have found that worked. Here are those tips:

1. Your photos are so hugely important!!!! I went to the critique section in the forums many times over and kept being told my photos were too dark. I tried EVERYTHING!!!! Finally these things ended up being the key for me:
- use the macro setting on your camera if your items are smaller (I use this on my candles and cards). It is the tulip shaped button on your camera.
- take your photos in natural light or in a light box. Do not mean in direct full sun, this will make a glare. My perfect place is on my kitchen table with the window facing north on a sunny day. Try different places around your house until you find your sweet spot. However a light box can do wonders, and I recommend that for jewelry photos. Instructions to make one are available through and online search.
- Picasa is a god send! Go to google and search for picasa. It is a free photo editing program by google and can make a fantastic difference. Maker sure to crop, and give "I'm feeling lucky" a whirl. You'll see a major difference.

2. Scream it from the rooftops! Send out a Grand Opening email to everyone you know! Most will be very supportive, and even if they don't buy from you, they can talk about you to other people. Even their sheer knowledge that Etsy exists, can be a help.
There is not a person, place, animal, rock, that I haven't talked to about Etsy. You'll find as the obsession grows this is a very easy task, and someone may tell you to shut it at some point.

3. Be part of the Etsy Community. Go to www.etsy.com , then go to community, and there are our forums, where so many questions can be answered and info by experienced sellers read. There is also a teams section. There may be a team for you. I am part of the Etsy Homefront Team, which is for military spouses. I am also part of Hampton Roads Artisans Street Team, which is a local group of Etsians in the southeastern Virginia area. Not only are these teams a great support, but also help you attack promotion as a team, rather than by yourself. Together you can create treasuries to get noticed, you can have group promos, or even have a local show like I am with my HRAST group.

4. Get your product seen. This is best done by listing or renewing daily. This helps get your items to the top of the search category and getting new eyes on your product daily. I call it the invitation to your shop.
Recently I've found www.twitter.com. This is a great place to post new or renewed listing to get your views better, and get more attention to your item, and your shop.
You also want to study your views and hearts. The most awesome tool is Majaba...Mah-who-ba? www.majaba.org It is a website to help you track views on items, to see how much your views increased after promoting. Really without this running an Etsy shop can be a blind mission. By the way, you can even advertise on majaba for a small marketing fee.

5. The more the merrier. In both shops business increased after I had more than 30 items in the shop. Why? Because your customers have choices. They feel like they are shopping and are sure about their purchase when they check out. I know this sounds unimportant, but it really does matter, it somehow gives the perception of established, professional business.

You'll see a lot on Etsy about using Flicker, MySpace, Facebook, Blogging. I have to say, if this is not something you do anyway or are savvy with, I am not sure that it increases views or sales. It has to be something you are into doing, and not just doing to gain sales. For instance I m not a myspace or facebook natural (or arguably a blogger). This seemed like a chore, and I wasn't really connected with that community...absence isn't going to bring them to you. All this info is for you to take in and digest, and spit back out the right formula for your shop. These are the things that have helped me, and will hopefully help in your Etsy business as well.