Thursday, July 22, 2010
The first craft show is always a little wracking. I remember staying up all night making more inventory and only getting three hours sleep. I woke up early the next day, packed up my truck and drove to the gas station to fill up. At the time I had a partner and she needed to charge her phone, so she plugged it into the outlet in the dash. Little did we know that the wiring in my truck was malfunctioning and it ended up starting a fire. So here we are, next to a gas pump, with all of my newly made crafts stored in the truck and there's smoke billowing from the hood. Long story short, the fire department was called, I freaked out and cried, borrowed my husbands truck, composed myself and repacked my stuff. The truck was later towed and fixed.
Most first craft show adventures aren't quite as dramatic but it was one of the best learning experiences I ever had. After all the trouble from the beginning of that day and all the work I did to prepare for that first show, I only did "ok." I didn't sell nearly the amount of product that I thought I would and I found that my sales skills were lacking. But after a few more shows I learned about what crafts were popular, what my customers liked and how to talk to them. The more I applied what I learned, the better my sales got.
Crafters shouldn't be discouraged from selling their products just because they don't sell right away. It takes time and practice. Don't be afraid to take that step and introduce your product to the public. You should be proud of your creations. Ignore scrutiny, but not constructive criticism because you should never stop trying to improve your product.
Selling what you make is incredibly challenging but just as rewarding. Build a positive support system for yourself among other successful crafters and learn from their experiences. Research your competitors and know that as much work that you put into selling your craft is what you will win back in return.
Good luck and never stop trying!
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
1. Just as with crafts shows, it is equally important to find out how long the store has been open. Shops that have just opened may have weak sales at first because it takes time for customers to find out that it is there, but monthly rental fees are usually inexpensive in order to entice new crafters to sign contracts.
2. Get to know the owner. Do they have any experience owning their own business? How familiar are they with the craft market in their area? How hard do they work to satisfy their customers? Businesses are a reflection of their owner so crafters need to be sure that the owner and any employees are the people they want representing and selling their creations.
3. Shop around. Compare rates, display areas, location, and the types of crafts that are sold. If the store sells items that are not handmade, be cautious about selling there. Mass produced items don’t always hold the same quality and craftsmanship that a handmade item does. Most crafters do not want their creations associated with a mass produced product. Depending on the item, it can de-value something that is handmade.
4. Avoid shops that let anybody sell anything. These types of stores can end up having a flea market type of environment, which can be a disadvantage to most crafters when it comes to pricing.
Whatever venue that a crafter chooses to sell at, the most important thing to consider is the comfort level. Crafters should be comfortable, no matter where they sell.
For more info on where to find craft shows in the Waukegan area, visit www.festivalnet.com
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Crafting has a tendency to increase in popularity when the economy takes a downturn. People have limited funds and look for inexpensive activities to occupy their minds. While crafting usually starts off as an extracurricular activity to burn away excess creativity, it can often become a means of income through the sale of their wares; hence the inspiration for craft shows, stores, fairs and the like. Crafting can be an excellent source of income but selling it in the right venue is even more important. Crafters are easily discouraged when their products don’t sell but many times it’s because they have chosen the wrong venue. Here’s Part 1, on how to pick the right venue for selling crafts:
Selling at a craft show
1. The number one question to ask when selling at a craft fair is how long the show has been running. It’s important because the longer the show has been running, the more likely people are aware of it and will attend. Longer running shows have built a sizable and loyal clientele. That doesn’t mean that first year shows won’t be successful but there will most likely be more customers at a long running show.
2. The next important question to ask is if vendors will be allowed to the show or if only crafts are allowed. Depending on what a crafter is selling will determine whether this matters or not. Vendors are usually at-home businesses like Mary Kay, Avon and Homemade Gourmet, all reputable companies but they are not crafters. If there is a candle catalog vendor selling their product next to a crafter that makes their own candle, it can make a difference.
3. Find out if the show is juried. A juried show will ensure that there are no duplicates, and therefore very little competition among the crafters. Shows that are not juried end up having too many of one type of craft, usually jewelry, and do not give customers a variety of products to browse through. When customers don’t have a variety of products to browse, they get bored and leave early.
4. Ask about advertising. How is the show being advertised? Where is it being advertised? Are there street signs? Be sure that the show promoters have made some effort to publicize the craft show because it will make a difference in the outcome of the overall sales. More advertising means more customers.
Stay tuned for Part 2, for tips on picking the right store to sell crafts.
Monday, June 21, 2010
5. Crochet Blankets: Baby blankets especially. It makes the perfect gift for a new baby and it can come in a full rainbow of colors, but they are not cheap. It takes time and plenty of material to whip up a crochet blanket.
4. Candles: Soy has slowly begun to replace the paraffin waxes used in candle making. It’s easier to use, burns cleaner and is better all around for the environment. The fragrances come in an assortment of selections like Grandma’s Apple Pie, Lemon Meringue, and Downy April Fresh.
3. Greeting Cards: People need cards to say the things that they cannot say themselves, therefore, card makers exist. A handmade card is much more special than receiving one off the shelf at Walgreens.
2. Flower arrangements: It’s not just a matter to sticking some fake flowers in a vase. It takes a creative eye to turn an arrangement into something that a customer can take home and use as a centerpiece.
1. Jewelry: Jewelry isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and people, women especially, have too many outfits to accessorize!
Visit any local craft show and these items are sure to be found. In the Lake County area, Parkside Summer Arts and Crafts Festival is being held June 26th and Long Gove’s Strawberry Festival is being held on June 25th-27th. Both shows are within 30 minutes of the Waukegan area.
Have your own top 5 list? Leave a comment and share it with the rest of us!
Friday, May 28, 2010
So whether your walls are white, pink, blue, orange or any other color there are a ton of easy projects that you can put together to add that "something different" to your living room, without having to be a crafter and without it costing you an arm and a leg.
So here's my quick list of easy projects for the livingroom. If you have any more ideas, please feel free to share with us!
1. Get your pictures out of the closet or off your camera! My walls are completely uneven and I just had to cover them up with something so I bought some really inexpensive picture frames and decided that I was going to cover my entire wall with family and vacation photos. I'm not done yet but so far, so good...
2. Put up some embroidered towels. If you don't like any of the patterns you find, all you have to do is ask the right crafter and I'm sure they will find what you're looking for (*hint hint*). Towels make the perfect accent to any space and don't just have to be used to wipe off your hands. I used mine to put on our side table and under our fish tank because the tank kept scratching the wood.
3. Don't just update the look, make it smell better, too! I have two cats and two dogs in my house so I'm always afraid to have an open flame around. So while I love candles, I don't have too many in the house. But what I do have, thanks to Jody from Deja Vu K-9 Korner letting me borrow it, is a candle warmer. In my opinion, one of the best inventions ever. It makes the candle last sooooooo much longer. So instead of buring a candle I can use these wickless candles from my crafter Darlene, from FPO Candle Crafts. Her wicked candles and tarts are awesome too.
4. Flowers can change the look of any room and they don't even have to be real. I prefer fake myself, no watering and it lasts forever, or as another one of my crafters says "fauxever".
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I actually thought about not posting this particular blog entry. I thought maybe that I should try to use this opportunity to showcase a few new crafts for Mother's Day, but as much as I want to do that, I couldn't stop thinking about my own mom and that it's really because of her that I started crafting in the first place. It all started off with project books and making ornaments for Christmas. She was into making dolls, wreaths and everything crochet. I always admired her for her crafting talent. Her crafting gene successfully passed to me and now I happily share my creations with others. So as a tribute to my own mother for this Mother's Day, I thought I would share with all of you why my mother is the greatest mother in the whole wide world!
Now Mother's Day is just a couple days away and I haven't thought about what to get my own Mother. I keep making and selling things for other people to give to their mothers yet I haven't really stopped to think what I was going to do for my own. She already has everything, and of course, I have to work on Mother's Day. So what do I do?
Admittedly, I'm not a great daughter. My mother and I fought when I was a kid...a lot. We never got along. Maybe it was just one of those mother-daughter things where we were just never meant to have peace among each other. I know that this fighting happens between parents and their kids quite often, but it hurts just the same. I'm not a parent, but from what I've witnessed from other parents out there, the job isn't easy. My mother and I would fight over things like my grades (I was an A student, by the way), my room, chores, painting my nails and wearing makeup. We would even fight over things like me wanting to quit ballet lessons when I was twelve and how much I wasn't practicing with my piano.
But when I got older, the fights became more about my friends, and what I was doing and where I was going, boys, driving, and all the other things that a parent would fight about with their teenager. The fights were that much worse as I got older and learned how to turn the tables on her. Instead of her always picking on me I realized that she had plenty of faults of her own that I could throw right back at her. What can I say, my mother was a great fighter and I learned from the best.
But my mother doesn't back down. She's was always ready for a good fight. I fought with her right up until the time I moved out of the house and got married. I always thought that she was just this horrible person who wanted nothing more than to make my life miserable.
Oh how wrong I was. I can feel the tears welling in my eyes as I think about all the horrible things I have done and said to my mother: the time when I realized I was too old to hold my mothers hand, ignoring her when she came to visit me at school, making faces behind her back, talking bad about her to my friends, calling her names, slamming the door in her face, hurting her feelings and just being a bratty daughter in general. Never once did I ever take the time to think about how I was making my mother feel when I would fight with her.
It has taken me until now, now that I am married and thinking about having children of my own, what my mother had to endure raising a little brat like me. She was only hard on my grades because she wanted me to do well and be smart, she wanted me to practice ballet and piano so I could have the opportunity to learn new things, and she wanted to know where I was because she cared about me and didn't want me hurt.
To this day, my relationship with my mother is far from perfect. We still have a little fight left in us, but I've learned to let most of it go. I figure it's easier loving her for who she is, rather than wasting time picking on all of her faults. She's still my greatest supporter. She sends customers over to my store every chance she gets and we've made it a point to have our nails done together once a month. I even suffer a Saturday night once in a while to play bingo with her. It may not sound like much but I try to take every opportunity I can to spend time with my mother. I appreciate my mother so much more now than I ever have and I love her very much.
So I may not know what I'm getting my mom this year, but I know that I would not trade her for anything. She's the best mom ever... that's right ever... and maybe for Mother's Day, that's exactly what I'll tell her. I can't see her arguing with me on that one :)
And as a reminder...while I'm going on about appreciating mom's and all, don't forget to remember grandmas, sisters, aunt's, godmothers, friends, in-laws and all the mother's out there. All mom's deserve a little extra love once in a while.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Jewelry is incredibly popular in the crafting world. It seems like almost anybody can do it and jewelry crafters have to work very hard to make sure that what they are making and selling is different from all the competition.
So when I was contacted by Laura I wasn't so sure that I needed another jewelry person in out store, but one look at her website and I was sold, because Laura actually designs and makes the pendents herself!
I wanted to learn more about Laura and her work so of course I just had to interview her:
When and why did you start crafting?
I’ve loved art and creating things ever since I was old enough to use crayons! Unfortunately I kind of gave it up when it was time to attend college and I definitely wish I hadn’t. My parents have always backed me in my decisions, but seeing my friends going off to well known schools and with all the pressure from my teachers to do the same, I eventually gave up pursuing any artistic dreams. I attended community college, got an associates degree, went through a couple jobs while deciding what college to move on to, but something was missing. Passion. Last summer I really started to draw again and figured out a way to make jewelry from my designs and from there got a website up. It took me awhile to see what truly made me happy but now I wouldn’t give it up for anything. One thing I’ve learned is never let others make you think your dreams aren’t worth trying for.
Cheeky Jezebel is a very catchy name, is there a story behind it?
The summer I started to take up my art again I would call people “cheeky” when they would say something sassy, so it was stuck in my head around the time I had to think up a name. Actually I believe it started because I saw the old Michael Myers SNL skit where he plays the little boy Simon and calls people “cheeky monkeys”! As far as the name Jezebel I always thought it was a pretty name and it seemed to fit well with “cheeky”. I get asked about the name a lot. I used to try to come up with a more profound answer but really in the end I just liked it and now it’s kind of become part of me :)
What is your favorite design and why?
Right now it’s probably my baby hippo because he has a face only a mother would love! He has two little teeth sticking out and the big black eyes like a lot of my animal designs do, but to me he looks even more innocent than the rest. When I started working on him in photoshop I honestly thought he would be my least liked of all the animals but as it turns out he’s my favorite!
What makes your jewelry different?
I think mainly that I use my own drawings. Each piece I create is an idea from my mind put onto paper and then it grows from there. I try to make things fun, colorful, and often cutesy, to look at.
What new projects are you currently working on?
I’m doing the finishing touches on my “Sammie Cat” necklace. I made one so far and now have to go back and make a few changes. It’s in memory of my cat Sammie who passed away earlier this year. I’d like to eventually make a design of her holding a heart and give the proceeds to an animal charity in her honor. Along with that I’m also attempting to make a bird design with a vintage/kitschy feel, plus just finished the sketches for some dinosaur necklaces and for my “Kissing Koi Fish” necklace. I have a tendency to work on many designs at once.
What would be your advice to someone who wanted to start making jewelry?
Jump in. Experiment with different kinds of jewelry until you figure out what you enjoy most and what feels right to you. Incorporate your own style and creativity into your work. Don’t be afraid to stand out or go against “the norm”. Above all have fun with it because I think it really does affect the final outcome of each design. If you love what you’ve created I think it’s easier for other people to love as well.
What is the biggest challenge you face in the craft market today?
The ups and downs. It’s a broad statement but true. It seems like with arts and crafts one week could be the best week ever (financially, more recognition, etc.) but then the next could feel so slow. I’m still learning to push through the days when I feel like nothing is going right because I know they’ll be another day when something great will happen. You really have to have confidence in yourself, and that isn’t always easy because even though in some ways you’re trying to make others happy, in many ways it’s also about making yourself happy.
What has been your experience working with Handmade Specialties?
I love it. There is such a wide variety of things to see there and so much talent. The owner, Raeanne, is very nice and encouraging. She really tries to get to know the artists and their art so she can tell customers what they’re looking at and some background behind the pieces. It’s the first store that my jewelry is in and so it’s very dear to my heart.
See more of Laura's designs at www.cheekyjezebel.com or stop in and visit her display.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I wouldn't exactly say that I work from home, but if you've seen my storefront you know that there is an apartment above it. That's where I live. So I don't work from home, but it's pretty close.
I've been inspired to write this little entry for the simple fact that there is a misconception that just because you work from home, that work is easy. I'll admit, there is an advantage to living above my storefront. For lunch, I can just run upstairs and make myself a quick sandwich, I don't have to worry about not being able to let out dogs on time, and if I need to switch the laundry around I can.
But the hardest part about working so close to home is that you're never away from work. I may be able to pop upstairs for a moment or two but the majority of my time is spent working downstairs in the store.
Working so close to home has prompted many people to ask me what I do all day or how I do it. First of all, let me say that owning your own business is not a job, it's a lifestyle. Everything I do revolves around my business, just ask my husband. Our outings together usually include getting clay from Hobby Lobby or getting cups and spoons at Sam's Club.
So what is it that I do all day? Easy...work! If you stop in and see me sitting at the desk at my computer, I'm not playing, I swear. Believe it or not, I do use my computer for more than just facebook and games... :) My day usually starts off with cleaning and general maintenance, then I tackle the paperwork. When that gets finished, I try to complete a few new crafts in between answering phone calls and helping the customers that come in to shop. I also take the time to update the website, look for new crafters and advertise my store.
How do I do it? Some days I'm not sure but I think it has something to do with the fact that I refuse to stop trying and I refuse to let anyone stop me. I've always wanted to own my own business and I'm not letting go of it for anything. It's not easy owning your own business but it's the challenges that come with it that I love. It's really exciting for me to get an idea and put it into action and watch the results, whether it's making and selling necklaces or when I get a great response when I hold an event. It's hardest to think about how I do it when things don't go right, like when something I made turns out to not be a great seller. But that's what business is all about, you can't have success without failure and everyday I go to work ready to face that challenge.
My biggest inspiration comes from my crafters. I work really hard to support my crafters and help them sell their creations. I truly enjoy watching a crafter succeed, knowing how difficult and disheartening this whole crafting business can be.
So if you were wondering just how and why I do what I do, hopefully that's explains some of it. I'm sure I could go on and on about the how's and why's but I think I'll save that for another posting. Instead, I'll leave you with a few tips for those who own a home business or are thinking of owning one:
This may sound like something you should already know but I feel as though I have to say it anyway: Take your business seriously. If you don't, neither will anyone else.
Be sure that you have your own private workspace. Kids, spouses, and to-do lists can be very distracting.
Dress like you're going to work. If you have any visitors, they will take you more seriously if you're dressed for work and not just lounging around in your pajamas.
Don't let friends and family become distractions. Because you work from home, it is most likely a more relaxed environment compared to a corporate office. Friends and family may want to stop by without notice or call and chat with you. Post your work hours so that they know when you are available.
Most importantly, don't be afraid to make time for yourself. Working from home can make you feel like you're always at work. Go to the gym, take a walk, visit with some friends or take on a hobby. You can get burned out by work so find something you enjoy to maintain a healthy balance between your work and home life.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
I have had the pleasure of working with Kristen, of Kristen's Kreations for over a year now. I met her at a local craft show and saw she had made greeting cards and bath baskets, which was needed in our store. Soon after our meeting, she graciously agreed to sell her crafts with me and has had her items on display ever since.
Kristen is a local crafter from Antioch and makes beautiful handmade cards and bath sets that include bath salts and soaps. She has cards for every occasion and holiday in a variety of styles and even has some very handy boxed sets of thank you's, birthday, and assorted cards.
One of the reasons why Kristen's cards are so special is that she spends the time to color them. All of that coloring in the lines you learn as a kid has definitly paid off for her because her cards are beautiful!
So in order to give everyone a better idea of the how's and why's of what Kristen makes, she let me interview her:
Can you describe the types of crafts you make?
I make greeting cards for all occasions using a variety of materials, including stamps, stickers and buttons, markers, watercolor pencils and chalks just to name a few.
When and why did you start crafting?
I started crafting as a child with my grandmother, and it’s something that I continue today because I find it an enjoyable way to pass the time and because I like to make things that make other people happy.
What made you choose card making as your crafting medium?
I chose card making because I was tired of buying the same old boring cards at the store all the time, and wanted to give something different. I am constantly coming up with new ideas, and have a lot of fun making them come to life.
What new projects are currently working on?
I am starting to learn scrapbooking, and am working on a scrapbook for my 6mo old son.
What would be your advice to someone who wanted to start making cards?
Take a class or two at a local scrapbooking store. They definitely helped me in learning some different techniques and are a great source of information. Then, buy some paper and a few stamps and go for it!
What is the biggest challenge you face in the craft market today?
The biggest challenges are to design a product that is different from what is sold in stores and by other crafters, and to price it so that people will want to buy it.
What has been your experience working with Handmade Specialties?
I’ve had great experiences working with Handmade Specialties. Raeanne is a wonderful person and has become a good friend in the year that I’ve known her. I recommend the store to anyone who is looking for unique, handmade gifts.
For more of Kristen's Kreations visit her display in our store or online at http://kristens.kreations.tripod.com/index.html.
Kristen also teaches classes on card making so if you are interested, give us a call!
Friday, March 12, 2010
I know I'm not alone. Most people would rather buy their gifts and decor from the least expensive place available. I know I have fallen victim to that thinking, but there really is something special about buying something, and getting something, that was handmade. Thankfully, the handmade market is in an upswing. Our recently fallen economy has insipred many to partake in the land of crafting and sell their wares as a way of making some extra income. Because of that, there are many new, and not to mention trendy, crafts that are now available.
So where do we buy these great crafts and what do we look for? Many churches and schools hold craft shows for a fundraising activity. You can find many types of crafters at this type of show, including non-craft items, along with many home based catalog businesses. Larger shows, usually over 100 booths, will be juried. Normally, these shows only allow handmade crafts.
So what the difference? You can find many types of crafts at any show, large or small, but larger shows will generally offer more variety because of the jurying process. Smaller shows are less crowded and can give you the chance to talk to the crafter where larger shows can be so busy that you often don't get that chance.
Craft malls and boutiques are another great place to search for crafts. For instance, I only let handmade items in my store. If someone is selling candles with me, I make sure that it is handmade, not just deocrated. Most craft malls will be the same. We are few and far between but it is worth the trip just to see what ideas people have been able to come up with. The plus side of a craft mall or boutique? You can visit when you want to, not just when there's a show. You can shop on your own schedule.
Now what to look for...well, that really depends on what you want, but I do have a few tips on how to get the most for your money. First of all, crafters know that people are closely monitoring their spending habits and are generally spending less, so crafters have priced their wares accordingly. They have made sure that their items are reasonable, and you will find that many are competitively priced with the big chain stores. Many crafters will also offer price breaks when you purchase a certain quantity of an item, so look for pricing information in their booths.
It is every crafter's dream to tbe able to make a living by selling the items they make. They truly appreciate every customer they have so support your local crafter as much as you can. You might be surprised at all the great things you'll find.
Friday, January 15, 2010
As for lessons learned over the past few months since my last post, I definitly have a few. First of all, if you at all value your blogs SAVE THEM!!! I recently upgraded my website services to a merchant account. I got tired of looking at the advertising on my pages. When I did, the blog that was connected to my old account was lost! So I may try to rewrite some of the info I had posted before.
So on to another lesson...prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. I can't say it enough, prioritize! As a business owner I am not only the creator and manager, I am also the janitor, the book keeper, the sales clerk, the ice cream scooper, the dishwasher, the webmaster, the writer, and so on and so on. Not only do I have to deal with the business aspect of my life but my personal one as well where I perform the amazing duties of the dog walker, the floor cleaner, cook, book keeper (yup, here too), and oh yeah, wife! I also have to be all knowing so when questions like, "Hey honey, where's my shirt?" and "I can't find the string cheese," come about I have the answer. Now it sounds like I'm complaining but I'm not. I'm proud to say that I have an amazing husband who is very helpful around the house and we try to organize our daily life by prioritizing. It doesn't always work but hey, we can't all be perfect!
So what am I prioritizing this week? To be honest, I'm not sure. There's too much to do. Some lesson learned, huh? But I know what I will do. I'm going to make a list of all the things I need to do and then I'm going to do them. I'll let you know how it goes.