Tag Archive: business planning


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One of my goals this year was to complete a business plan. For a creative type, this daunting task is about as exciting as watching grass grow, which made it quite easy to ignore in favor of more appealing endeavors, like creating new jewelry or designing new marketing material. But it is already September and I need to get serious about my planning. Fortunately, I discovered an amazing book called The Right Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee which has actually tricked me into forging through my plan with a series of creative exercises that appear frivolous but have proven to be extremely helpful. Who knew business planning could be so much fun!

Vision Board

One of the first exercises in this book involves brainstorming about your dream business and creating a collage to reflect this vision. I have been very pleased with what I have done with Serendipity Blu so far, so my next step is to focus on expansion. The center of my board is a photo I took of artwork I own by New Zealand photographer Susannah Tucker. It is a beautiful scene of a hot air balloon floating in a dreamy blue sky with the words “she believed in serendipity.” From this center, I have “arms” stretching out into the different areas I want to grow: wholesale accounts, craft show presence, etsy sales, product lines, and social media presence. This vision board not only gives me my “big picture,” but will also help simplify my goal setting.

Business Portrait

While I kept my vision board organized, I chose to make my business portrait an explosion of free spirited fun! My jewelry is very casual and boho, so I wanted to capture that essence in this collage.

Value Cards

One of my favorite exercises in this book was creating my value cards. Not only was this so much fun, but it also enabled me to set up parameters for running my business. I value freedom and flexibility over stability, so it is not necessary to have my business housed in a specific location. Rather, I would benefit more from having a business I could run from anywhere.

The Plan

Now I am ready to begin writing my actual plan. Rather than using a word processing template, the book recommends a more creative format for the actual plan. I liked the idea of using index cards on a ring to write my plan. Businesses evolve, and it is important for me to have a document where I can easily update and make necessary changes.

Customer Portraits

So far, I have completed the Business Landscape and Getting the Word Out sections of my plan. I painlessly assessed my barriers, opportunities, and competition. I also developed a new marketing plan by creating my customer portraits. Currently, I market almost exclusively to beach-minded folks. As I expand my business, I want to target potential new customers like yogis, city dwelling bohemians and country cowgirls in addition to my beloved surfer girls.

The Book

I am about half way through the book. I plan to write a follow up post once I am finished (I am giving myself until the end of the year to assess my finances and set my goals.) While I choose to live a good part of my life through serendipity, I do believe it is important to have changeable plan in place for running a business. I highly recommend this book to any of my fellow creative souls who want to realize their business dreams.

Right Brain Business Plan Paperback

Right Brain Business Plan for Kindle

Right Brain Business Plan Website

Thanks for stopping by!

Shanti,
Erin

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As summer winds down, I am proud to say that I realized one of my major business goals for this year – to participate in two summer craft shows. It was a large endeavor in which I invested money (purchasing tent, tables, displays, etc.) and time (building my show inventory from practically nothing), but the experience and positive feedback were more than worth it. Now my plans for the fall include getting my Etsy shop inventory back up, revamping two of my bracelet lines, launching a new bracelet line, following up with my wholesale account, and lining up two craft shows for the holidays…Wow! That is a huge agenda for a part-time business!

I admit, Ms. Easygoing is actually feeling a little overwhelmed here! So I decided to take this weekend off…spent yesterday shopping with my sister and today hanging out with Mia and Chase, the Weimaraners. I also spent some time reflecting on my business. This year, I have experienced a nice amount of growth – in addition to the craft shows, my Etsy sales revenue has increased by more than 50% over this time last year! So how do I juggle the extra time my growing business requires? Inspiration does often come in the oddest places…

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Try not to be so busy making a living that you forget to make a life…

I recently read an article about Pearl Jam in Forbes Magazine (yes…that’s right…Forbes). The basis of the articles was how PJ chose to scale down their success at the height of their popularity in the early 90’s and forge a lifestyle business that has lasted for over 23 years:

“Pearl Jam’s answer to their hot streak of hit albums was to scale back their success and become a lifestyle business. Rather than focusing on growth, expansion, and increasing return on investment, the goal of lifestyle businesses is to enable their owners to earn a living and sustain their lifestyle. Lifestyle businesses allow their owners to fulfill their ambitions without sacrificing things that are important to them.”

I think that a lifestyle business appeals to most creative types…time always needs to be available to find inspiration and nothing is as detrimental to the creative process as burnout. The main reason I started Serendipity Blu was to feed my creative spirit. I have a great job, but it is in the left-brained dominated financial industry. When I come home from a stressful day at my office, nothing is as soothing as creating things of beauty. (Except maybe Weimaraners!) The added bonus of my creative venture is beefing up my travel budget, my greatest passion.

With that in mind, I have made some important decisions for the fall. I have chosen to not do craft shows until the holidays, even though fall is the busiest show season. I was worried that, after my busy summer, I would feel burnout if I prepped for any shows in the next month or two. Instead, I am taking some vacation time to travel to Salem, Massachusetts in October to experience Haunted Happenings. I also have a couple of big concerts lined up (PJ in Philly in October and Chris Cornell in Atlantic City in November). I also have to remember that I have three months to accomplish everything on my list and it is best to just focus on one task at a time. So for the next two weeks, I am going to work only on getting my shop inventory back up and enjoying these last few precious weeks of summer…

If you are interested in reading the entire PJ article from Forbes, I have included this link:

Pearl Jam Return To The Spotlight As A Mature Lifestyle Business

Thanks for stopping by!

Shanti,
Erin

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Now that the two doggies are getting acclimated, I feel like my life is finally getting back to normal and I am able to spend time on all of the other things I enjoy. (Although what could be more enjoyable than a new puppy!) Last night, I attended an awesome Black Crowes show in Philly and today I am working on my hand-crafted jewelry business. I am starting off by wrapping up this business planning series of my blog and then I will be weaving away to get my inventory up for summer craft shows. I wanted to share a picture of the two best buds – Mia, who will be five next month, and our new edition, Chase, who just turned seven months:

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MARKETING WITHIN ETSY

The previous posts in this series have chronicled my my business planning journey through the following areas: narrowing the scope of my craft, branding my image, adding finishing touches, setting goals, and setting up an online shop. Now, I am going to focus on what I have done to spread the word about my business and resources I use to expand my business.

Why Choose Etsy?

I originally chose to set up shop with Etsy almost two years ago because the fees were very reasonable, online support is very good, and the Etsy community is very active. At that time, very few of my friends had heard of the online marketplace, but now Etsy has become more mainstream – most shoppers use it as the go to source for anything handmade. While I do like that Etsy is becoming more well known, I am concerned that it is becoming too big to maintain an indie edge. Even so, I still think it is one of the best starting points for an online presence for your crafting business.

It’s All Karma

One of the first things I learned about being a member of the Etsy community is to share the love. One of the best ways to improve your standings in search results is to have items that have many views and fav’s. I make it a practice to add items to my favorites for any shop owner who has favorited my work. It is a simple, yet powerful practice.

Treasuries are curated collections created by Etsy members. I usually have time to create 1-2 treasuries per month. When I do, I typically follow a PIF (pay it forward) rule: if I am featured in someone’s treasury, I will promote it, add the other items to my favorites, and feature the curator in my next collection.

Both of these practices are very common in the Etsy community, and I have found that by staying active, I have gotten my shop much more exposure.

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This is a gorgeous treasury in which I was recently featured.

Build a Local Network

The Etsy community is made up of teams for members to join to network with other like-minded members. Some of the teams I belong to are the Hippie Peaceniks, Bohemian Lovers, and Beachy Things. For anyone following my blog, these surely seem like obvious choices for me. But the one team that I consider to be the most important is the South Jersey Etsians. I am a leader on this team (which just recently reached 100 members!) and maintain a very active status. As its name suggests, this team is very localized: most members live in the south western counties of the state (the ones closest to the city of Philadelphia). The main advantage of such a localized team is that we are able to host regular marketing mixers to meet in person to network. While I acknowledge the importance of staying connected in the cyber world, I must admit that I am old school and sometimes you just can’t beat face to face contact. If you are unable to find a localized team on Etsy, don’t be afraid to start one and invite members in – it will really help you cultivate a wonderful community of fellow local artisans and friends. And if you live in South Jersey and have a shop on Etsy, come join our team!

South Jersey Etsians

MARKETING OUTSIDE OF ETSY

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Social Media is such an important part of today’s world, that it would almost be foolhardy to not take advantage of the marketing possibilities it holds. There are so many choices – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, blogging – that it can feel so overwhelming! I fear that if I dedicated time to each social media outlet, I would not have any time left over to make my jewelry! I decided the social media outlets I would use to market my business would be the same ones that I use for everyday communication. I actually do not spend much time on Facebook or Twitter, so I do not market regularly through them. I do enjoy reading blogs and I am quite addicted to Pinterest, so I have chosen to market through those outlets. I am proud to say that I have gotten many views and a few sales from both as well! My best advice to my readers is to be consistent with whichever social media you choose. If you choose to market through Facebook because you update your timeline everyday, then you should also be updating your shop page just as frequently.

I love to take photos, so I am intrigued by the Instagram concept, and I am considering adding it as a marketing tool. What social media do you use to market your Etsy shop? Where have you found the most success? I would love to hear about it in my comments section.

If you would like to check out my Pinterest boards, you can do so here:

http://pinterest.com/serendipityblu/

BLOG RESOURCES

I have found the following blogs to be extremely beneficial in my business planning and I encourage all of my readers to follow them:

Oh My! Handmade

Handmadeology

Thanks for stopping by, and once again joining me on my business planning journey!

Shanti,
Erin

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One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies, Almost Famous, is “To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts…” And this quote pretty much sums up how I have felt for the past 22 years about my favorite band, Pearl Jam. There was quite a bit of buzz over the Internet this past weekend about PJ. First, Mike Einziger, lead guitarist of Incubus, tweeted to his followers a picture of him accompanying Eddie Vedder and Einziger’s girlfriend in a recording studio with the caption,”In the studio with my girl and Eddie Vedder, recording strings for Pearl Jam’s new album.” This tweet was first picked up by famed LA radio station, KROQ. The accompanying story was that Eddie and Mike were recording strings for Pearl Jam’s new album. This story was then picked up by several other rock music sites all over the Internet. The next day, the music magazine, SPIN, posted a clarification from Pearl Jam’s representative that Mike’s girlfriend, Ann Marie Simpson, an accomplished violinist, was actually the one who was contributing to the new album. Mike Einziger also tweeted the same clarification. Boy, am I glad we cleared that up, but I think we need to focus on the important fact at the center of this whole misunderstanding:

PEARL JAM IS FINALLY BACK IN THE STUDIO WORKING ON THEIR LATEST ALBUM!

So today’s life lesson for me is to focus on what is truly important and let everything else take care of itself. In my last post, I proudly shared the newest edition of my family, Chase the Weimaraner puppy. Having a puppy is a huge adjustment and I am making sure I spend the appropriate amount of time with him to get him acclimated to his new home. As a result, I have had to readjust the schedule for my business, Serendipity Blu. I originally planned to have at least 75 items in my shop for the summer season and to schedule at least two craft shows for the summer. I committed to two shows in Cape May, NJ in July and August, but I have no additional inventory other than what is listed in my Etsy shop. I had to decide what is more important: making new inventory for my shop or start to prepare for the shows. Since my shop is hovering around 50 well assorted items, I decided to focus on creating my craft show inventory, and I am proud to say, this week I crafted 10 new Betty Bracelets! I am also proud to say that Chase has yet to chew up the leather cord.

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I should probably also post on the importance of not spreading any unsubstantiated rumors, since that is how my story began. But I must be honest…I love the Philadelphia Phillies almost as much as I love Pearl Jam. So when people assume that Chase is named after Chase Utley, even though he is not, I usually do not correct them. (Yes, Chase is posing with a Phillie Phanatic toy!)

Thanks for stopping by!
Erin

my new favorite diversion

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Sometimes life gets in the way of your goals. I find it is always best to let life just happen and go from there, especially when life means a new puppy!

I would like to introduce all of my readers to Chase. He is a six month old Weimaraner my family adopted last week. He has only one eye (due to an infection when he was only a few days old) and some health issues, but he is still quite spirited and doesn’t let it keep him down. I think we can all learn something from that. He is also such a sweet little guy!

I must admit that I have been slacking on my business planning and goals this past week because I have been spending time bonding with Chase and getting him used to his new surroundings. But look at that face…can you blame me? And, by the way, he also finds leather to be very delicious – so I need to find a puppy-proof spot to weave my Betty Bracelets and Beach Bum Chokers!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more posts on both the business and the creative sides of crafting. Thanks for stopping by!

Peace, love, and puppies!
Erin

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The fifth installment of my business planning series focuses on setting up an online shop with Etsy. This post is geared toward the new shop owner, but it is also a good review for tweaking existing shops. As a leader on one of my Etsy teams, I am in charge of our shop critiques and I will be using that model to outline the process.

BASIC SHOP SET UP

Shop Banner

Think of your shop banner as your online welcome sign. What should be your customer’s first impression of your shop? Ever since I first set up my shop, I wanted to portray a free spirited beach image. My current banner is actually my fifth, replacing others as my shop evolved and my brand became more evident. My first banner was just one of my photos of the Caribbean Sea with my shop name. It was pretty, but rather bland. After a couple of sales, I decided to treat myself to a professionally designed banner. I chose one that was perfect for my shop: a very reasonably priced mermaid image. It was quite beautiful, but it was not an exclusive design. I actually received an email from a fellow Etsian asking where I got it so she could use the same design for her shop! I immediately went on the hunt for a new, exclusive design. There are so many talented graphic designers who sell shop banners on Etsy, but be certain to choose one who designates their designs as OOAK (one of a kind). You put your heart and soul into making your unique crafts; you want something just as unique to advertise and showcase it.

My third shop banner was a lovely vintage beach girl image. By vintage, I mean turn of the century, not 60’s surfer girl. I loved the image, but it was not exactly right for my shop. I chose it in a hurry, because of the mermaid debacle. My fourth image was a rustic daisy design on a soft teal blue background. I was very pleased with it: it was simple and free spirited, just the image I wanted to convey (and daisies are my favorite flowers!) There were two things that this banner did NOT do: it did not convey in any way that I create jewelry, nor did it convey a beach theme. My shop name, Serendipity Blu, is abstract. The word jewelry is not anywhere in my name. What I realized is that my banner should be less abstract. For my most recent banner, pictured above, I decided to try my hand at designing my own. I featured some of my bracelet images along with my shop name and a beach image. I gave the photos an aged, distressed look to complement my rustic jewelry. Now when a potential customer see my banner, she immediately thinks beach jewelry.

If you would like to design your own shop banner, remember it should measure 760 pixels by 100 pixels. It can be in .jpg, .gif, or .png formats. You will upload your completed banner in the Info and Appearance section of your shop.

Shop Title

Your shop title is different from your shop name. The terminology can be confusing. Think of it as more of a subtitle. I have seen many shop titles the same as the shop name, which makes for a redundant listing in a search engine. If I also used Serendipity Blu as my shop title, I would show up in a Google search as Serendipity Blu by Serendipity Blu. Instead, I used my mission statement as my title. (For more information on developing a mission statement, please review part 4 of this series.) My shop title reads boho beach chic for a free spirited life.

Shop Announcement

The first paragraph of your shop announcement should elaborate on your shop title. This is used in Google searches, so you want to make sure you are using simple sentences and important keywords. Additional paragraphs can feature current promotions, item turnaround time, and any additional shop information you would like a potential customer to easily view.

How Is My Shop Viewed In a Google Search?

boho beach chic for a free spirited life by serendipity blu
Aloha and welcome to my cyber beach shack! This is the place to find laid-back leather jewelry, with many pieces featuring eco-friendly recycled glass.

This is where we need to find a balance: you want to be certain that potential customers clearly know what you selling and are also intrigued by your creativity in presenting it.

Shop Policies

While this is not nearly as much fun as designing a shop banner, it is an integral part of your shop’s success. You want your policies to be clear and concise, yet answer any questions your customers may have.

Welcome: a brief greeting. Mine simply reads, “I believe life should be about enjoying the simple pleasures: a sunny sky, a perfect beach day, or a fresh picked flower! I strive to convey that same easy going sense of free spirit in my designs. Please enjoy browsing and feel free to convo me if you have any questions.”

Payment Policy: here is where you list all of your payment options: Paypal, Visa/MC/Am Ex/Discover through Direct Checkout; Etsy Gift Cards.

Shipping Policy: Are your items ready to ship? If not, what is your turnaround time. How do you ship? USPS, Fex Ex, UPS? Do you supply tracking information? Do you ship internationally? All of these questions should be answered this section. Please note, if you do ship internationally, be sure to state whether you or the buyer is responsible for duties, customs, and taxes levied by the buyer’s country.

Refunds and Exchanges: take the time to set up a simple and reasonable refund policy. If you are stuck, view other shops and see how their refund policies are worded. Mine reads,

“Customer satisfaction is a top priority. If your order is lost or damaged, or if you are dissatisfied for any reason, please convo me and I will work with you to resolve any issues.

REFUND POLICY:
~Full refunds are only available up to 14 days after receipt of item.
~Exchanges are available up to 30 days after receipt of item.
~Custom orders are not available for refunds or exchanges.

Additional Information: Do you accept custom orders? Wholesale orders? What other questions do you think your customer may have?

This link will take you directly to my shop policies for more ideas:

http://www.etsy.com/shop/serendipityblu/policy?ref=shopinfo_policies_leftnav

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Avatar

Your Avatar is simply your profile picture. I have seen some avatars utilizing a product photo (like mine), the shop owner’s photo, or a graphic matching the banner. All three work beautifully; it really is just a matter of personal preference.

Personal Profile

This section is about you. Tell your potential shoppers a little something about yourself. Are you a proud parent or grandparent? An intrepid traveler? (like me!) What would you like to share. Also let your customers know what inspires you. Your Shop Announcement and About Page tell your shop’s story. This is where you tell your story.

About Page

This is a relatively new feature for Etsy, and one that every shop owner should utilize. This is where you can really tell your shop’s story (in worlds and pictures). This section is also where you can link you pr blog to your shop. My about page features pictures of my favorite jewelry model (my sister’s Weimaraner, Mia); an eco-friendly shop that features my bracelets; my craft show display; and the recycled glass beads I use. Yours can include anything you want. Did you start making jewelry for your wedding? A photo of your wedding party would be an amazing touch. Get creative!

LISTING AN ITEM

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Photos

Most Etsians will tell you this is the most challenging part of the entire listing. I am planning an extensive follow up post strictly on photographing your work, but in this post, I will outline some basics.

The collage above shows the basic layout of my photos for my Betty Bracelets. The first shot features the bracelet propped up on natural seashells placed on a piece of cream colored scrap booking paper. I always use natural light for this shot to capture the truest hue of the beads and sharp details of the leather and toggle. This is the photo I used as my “cover photo” for my Etsy listings. The second image is taken in direct sunlight on dark distressed wood. I love these shots because they really show how amazing the recycled glass beads look shining in the sun – remember, I am marketing to beach bums like myself! I often use these images in this blog. The third photo shows the open bracelet, often with a small seashell in the center. It is also taken in natural light and shows yet another angle of the bracelet. I sometimes use a fourth photo if the item name was inspired by my travels. This particular bracelet, Hua Bay, was named after a surfing spot I visited on the Big Island of Hawaii, so I featured this photo from that 2007 trip of a beautiful street mural to complement the turtle toggle on the bracelet. You can view the listing here to see see the full size pictures:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/123882128/recycled-glass-bracelet-seafoam-green?ref=pr_shop

It is imperative to make sure your photos are crisp and clear. My best advice is to purchase the best camera you can afford (don’t be afraid to buy a used camera if it is high quality), always use the highest resolution setting, and take many photos at various angles. My camera is a few years old, but it still takes amazing pictures, so I have no plans of replacing it anytime soon. It is a Fuji FinePix with 16MP and 10x optical zoom.

Titles

My titles basically went from Alive and Black to Elderly Woman Behind the Counter at a Small Town. (Couldn’t resist the Pearl Jam reference!) I name all of my pieces, and when I first started selling on Etsy, I only used those one to two words. That is a big no-no if you ever want your items to be found in an Etsy or Google search. For optimal Etsy search results, you want to make sure your defining word (what the item is) is in the first 2-3 words. When I re-worked my titles so that “woven leather bracelet,” “macrame leather bracelet,” or “recycled glass bracelet” are the first 3 words, I really moved my position up in the search results! (I now start appearing on the first or second page of those search results!) Please note that I also vary my defining words, since potential customers may search different keywords. Another thing to remember when titling your items is that search engines like Google only pick up the first 55 characters, so you want to make sure everything you want displayed in an external search is within the 55 characters. Back to the PJ reference, one of the first items I listed in my shop was simply titled Wakiki Beach, and it received little or no views. Now it is titled Macrame Leather Bracelet “Waikiki Beach” Seafoam Green Dragonfly Recycled Glass Boho Surfer Style “Betty Bracelet”, and it gets many hits and hearts!

Description

You should write your item description as if there were no photos. Be very specific and answer any questions your potential customers may have. Google search results give the most weight to the first paragraph. be sure to optimize this by including colors, materials, and keywords first. Always remember to include sizing information. If your descriptions are lengthy (like mine!), separate them into paragraphs for easier reading.

Tags and Materials

Etsy allows you to use 13 tags to describe your item. Be sure to use all 13 or you are missing out on potential search results. The best advice I have ever received on using relevant tags is to view the tags used by a shop with similar items that has a high sales volume. Another option is to show your item to some friends and ask them to describe the item using one or two word phrases. They may come up with great tags you never thought of using.

While Etsy does allow relevant phrases to be used as one tag, they do frown upon “tag stuffing.” For example, I can use recycled glass beads as one tag, but not surfer beach ocean.

Etsy also allows up to 13 materials tags. I was not fully utilizing these until recently. I now use not just leather as material tag, but also distressed leather and brown leather to help increase my search results.

Shop Sections

Etsy allows up to 10 shop sections to categorize your listings. You should try to make your sections descriptive and creative. Instead of simply using Bracelets, Chokers, and Pendants, I use use Betty Bracelets, Beach Bum Chokers, and Mermaid Tears Pendants to enhance my beach theme.

Inventory

Etsy recommends having at least 40 items in your shop. One reason is to give potential shoppers several choices. My shop has Betty Bracelets in several sizes with a whole plethora of color and toggle variety to appeal to several tastes. Also, the more items you have, the more opportunities there are to be picked up in Etsy and Google searches.

Whew…there is a lot involved in setting up an online shop with Etsy! I hope this post helps you realize your goal of selling your crafts. There is just one more post in this Getting Down to Business series. Next week, I will focus on marketing your items within and outside of Etsy. I will also be taking a six week photography course beginning next week at my community college. Once I am finished, I plan to write an extensive post on photographing your work. Please keep an eye out for both of these posts by following my blog.

Thanks for stopping by and happy selling!

Shanti,
Erin

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I am up to Part 4 of my Getting Down to Business Series. I think the best way to begin is with a brief recap of the previous 3 posts:

Narrowing Your Focus

1. Why do you craft?
2. What inspires you?
3. Who is your customer?
4. What is your niche?

Building a Brand

1. Who am I? (What 10 words describe you?)
2. How can you use these words to create an image for your craft?
3. BE RECOGNIZABLE (Establish a common theme for every aspect of your craft.)

Wrapping It All Up

1. Do your printed marketing materials convey your overall image?
2. Does your packaging presentation complement your overall image?

If you have not done so already, use these questions to create a brand building worksheet for yourself. Please feel free to review these previous posts for how I answered those questions and how this exercise helped me establish my retro beach image.

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CREATING A MISSION STATEMENT

A mission statement is simply a statement of the purpose of your business. A good mission statement will provide a path for the development of your business. So, if I were to create my mission statement, it may be something like this:

“I sell leather bracelets, sometimes necklaces, too.”

Ugh! Blah! Yawn! I think I need to look more carefully at this…a good mission statement should contain these components:

1. Key Market – who is your target customer?
2. Contribution – what do you provide?
2. Distinction – what makes it unique?

Ok, so how about this:

“I create boho beach chic jewelry to accessorize a free spirited lifestyle.”

Ahhh…much better, but does it stack up:

1. Key Market: beach lovers
2. Contribution: casual jewelry
3. Distinction: hand-crafted free-spirited designs

Remember, we are in the business of creating, so your mission statement should be creative as well. It is ok to imply, rather than spell out, your mission.

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GOAL SETTING

What should this business accomplish? Is your crafting business simply a hobby? Is it also a part-time source of income? Would you like to make it a more viable source of income? Three major factors to consider are 1. how much time you have to invest; 2. how much money you have to invest; 3. how will you position your business.

Serendipity Blu started out as a hobby, but I am currently developing it into a part-time source of income.

How much time do you realistically have?

Do you work 40 hours a week?
How demanding is your job?
Do you need to travel for your job?
What are your family responsibilities outside of work?

Are you a stay-at-home mom?
How many children do you have?
How old are your children?

All of these questions pose important scenarios when determining how much time you have to devote to your crafting. I work a full-time relatively demanding job. I am not married and I do not have any children, but I do regularly socialize with friends, travel, and attend concerts. I am fortunate that I do have quite a bit of free time, but I do not want to spend ALL of it on my business. There is this wonderful quote by Monty Python actor John Cleese, “If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.” Many of my inspirations for designs or marketing concepts do arise from my unwind time. Since I consider my crafting business a part-time endeavor, I currently spend approximately 15-18 hours per week on it. I am willing to increase this time to 20-24 hours per week to prepare for a specific event.

How should you divide your time? There are several components to a crafting business: developing and researching your designs/materials; executing your designs into finished items, and marketing/networking of your business. I typically spend 3-5 hours per week on marketing and networking. This time includes internal marketing on Etsy, external marketing through this blog and on Pinterest, and developing new printed materials. Approximately one week a month, the balance of my time is spent on development. I take this time to read through my macrame books to find different design ideas, to create prototypes of the designs, to find just the right materials to accent the designs, and to research names for the designs. The other three weeks of the month are spent executing the designs into jewelry that I will be selling.

What is your financial budget for building your business?

I am fortunate that I have enough sales on my Etsy shop that it basically sustains itself. But since I am in the process of growing, rather than maintaining, my business, I am now in the precarious position of financing this growth. One thing I will NOT do, nor do I ever encourage readers to do, is to put more supplies on a credit card than you can pay off each month. That is just simply a recipe for financial disaster. Instead, I use a percentage of my DISPOSABLE monthly income. I define disposable income as income that is left over after all bills are paid, savings is set aside (for both retirement and long term goals), the car is filed with gas, and groceries are purchased. I also pay for concert tickets and save for vacations with this disposable income, so I am currently using about $100 per month on additional business supplies. I encourage everyone to also develop a budget worksheet to see how much you can realistically set aside each month for your business.

How will you position your business?

Is your craft business strictly online? Do you have both strong online sales and a craft show presence? Do you mainly sell at craft shows, but want an online venue for repeat sales? There is no right or wrong way to position your business, but It is important to determine this when you are setting your business goals.

I currently have just an online presence, but I plan to expand and sell at some craft shows this year. A good part of my financial budget is earmarked for buying enough materials to make a good surplus of jewelry to sell at these shows and and for purchasing display items.

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SMART GOALS

A SMART goal is a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. To dissect further:

Specific: what precisely do you want to accomplish?
Measurable: what is the concrete criteria for measuring progress?
Attainable: is this goal realistic?
Relevant: why is this goal important?
Time-Bound: when does this goal need to be accomplished?

One of my business goals for this year is to increase my item listings on my Etsy shop to 100 by the end of the year. I plan to do this in steps: 50 items by spring; 75 by summer; 100 by the holidays.

Is this a SMART goal? Let’s check it against our criteria:

Specific: this goal precisely outlines the numbers I want to increase.
Measurable: this is a goal I can easily measure on Etsy
Attainable: I am increasing my inventory by 25 items every three months, or about 8 items per month. With the amount of time I have outlined for my business, this is a very realistic task to complete.
Relevant: this goal is pertinent to increasing my revenue – the more items my shop has, the more exposure it receives, and the potential for sales increases.
Time-Bound: this goal has distinct time limits for completion.

My other goal for this year is to participate in craft shows. This goal is rather vague; let’s see if we can turn it into a SMART goal:

Specific: I need to include specific number of shows to participate in this year.
Measurable: while vague, this is an easily measurable goal.
Attainable: I have to make certain I have the time and resources to prepare for the shows.
Relevant: while vague, this goal does focus on an important aspect of the crafting business; there is potential for increased revenue.
Time-Bound: I need to specify which times during the year I want to participate in each craft show.

This year, I plan to participate in 2 craft shows during the summer and 2 craft shows for the holiday season.

Thanks for stopping by and joining me on my continuing business planning journey. I hope that I have given you some concrete ideas for building YOUR business. Stay tuned for the last two posts in this series: Setting Up Shop and Marketing with Social Media.

Shanti,
~Erin

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In yesterday’s post, I defined my style as beach-rustic, targeted my customers as grown up surfer girls, and found my niche with leather macrame bracelets. Today, I am going to focus on pulling all of this together by building a brand for Serendipity Blu.

What is branding? A brand is simply your image. It is who you are and how this translates to your business.

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WHO AM I?

This is a great exercise to determine how to define your image. Use 10 words or phrases to define YOU. This is my list:

BOHEMIAN, BEACH BUM, ARTISAN, WANDERER, JEWELRY JUNKIE, MUSIC LOVER, PEARL JAM FANATIC, GYPSY, FREE SPIRIT, JOURNEYWOMAN

Since I am a jewelry junkie, I have a great collection of PJ adornments to wear to shows, so we can eliminate that off the list…and I am basically left with a collection of descriptions to apply to my image. I have decided a whimsical way to pull my image together is to use retro beach and vintage surfer themes and images.

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BE RECOGNIZABLE

SHOP BANNER & AVATAR – My shop banner and avatar on my Etsy shop and my gravatar on WordPress all feature images of my jewelry that have been enhanced to look like vintage photos. I run my business mostly from my iPad and I have acquired quite a collection of free photo FX apps. For my banner (shown at the top of this post), I first selected three pictures of my Betty Bracelets and gave each of them an aged appearance. Next, I used a photo collage app and one of my own photos of the Caribbean Sea as the background. I added the aged Betty photos and my shop name in a casual text. Finally, I used the same editing app I previously used on the jewelry photos to crop and size the banner according to Etsy specs. I then decided to add some distressing to make it look even more rustic. Te entire process took only about an hour and the result was very much worth it! For my avatar and gravatar, I also used one of my jewelry photos, but this time the editing was much more simple. I only used the editing app to crop the picture to a square, age it, and size it to the proper specs.

PHOTOS – I think it is very important to develop your own photo style to distinguish your work. I have two image styles I always use. The first one features my Betty Bracelet propped up on natural seashells placed on a piece of cream colored scar booking paper. I always use natural light for this shot to capture the truest hue of the beads and sharp details of the leather and toggle. This is the photo I used as my “cover photo” for my Etsy listings. The second image is taken in direct sunlight on dark distressed wood. I love these shots because they really show how amazing the recycled glass beads look shining in the sun – remember, I am marketing to beach bums like myself! I often use these images in my blog. At first, I thought taking all of my photos the same way would be redundant, but then I realized it would make them recognizable. It is also imperative to make sure your photos are crisp and clear. My best advice is to purchase the best camera you can afford (don’t be afraid to buy a used camera if it is high quality), always use the highest resolution setting, and take many photos at various angles. My camera is a few years old, but it still takes amazing pictures, so I have no plans of replacing it anytime soon. It is a Fuji FinePix with 16MP and 10x optical zoom.

WHAT’S IN A NAME? – Serendipity is one of my favorite words…I love both the way it just rolls off the tongue and the fact that it loosely means, “just seeing where life takes you.” My favorite color is aqua blue, so I chose Blu to complete my shop name for that reason and also because it conjures up images of the ocean. I thought about adding “jewelry” to my title, but I was afraid it would limit my craft. I am a macrame artisan and I may also like to add bags or scarves to my shop. My shop tag line is BOHO BEACH CHIC FOR A FREE SPIRITED LIFE. I think that pretty much sums it up. My shop sections on Esty also evoke images of the beach: Betty Bracelets, Mermaid Tears (for my wire wrapped seaglass collection), etc. I also name each of my items; I feel it helps customers to remember special summer or vacation moments. For example, all of my Betty Bracelets are named for surfing beaches.

PRICE POINT – Does my price point match my target customer? My bracelets currently range from about $25 to $35. My designs are geared toward my customers’ more casual attire and I feel this a fair price for a quality artisan piece.

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MARKETING MATERIALS

I have chosen these three printed items to complement my business image. For my business cards, I used the same image from my avatar and gravatar (remember my mantra, BE RECOGNIZABLE) and chose a square card format – these are 2 inches square. I like to feature just an image on the front; I wanted the card to mimic a vintage photo to keep with my theme. The print on the back is black on a white background. I chose a fun font for my shop name, since it is larger, and a plain, easy to read font for my contact info. I ordered these from UPrinting and I was very pleased with both the quality and the price. Here is a link to their website:

http://www.uprinting.com/

I found a fantastic deal through Etsy for these great MOO Mini Cards! I use them for discount coupon cards when clients make a purchase. I love how they feature the Etsy logo. With this special offer, you can get 100 mini cards free and only pay shipping. My total cost was $5! Here is a link to this great deal:

http://us.moo.com/partner/etsy-minicard-trial?utm_source=etsy&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=minitrial

I just love these tiny kraft tags (1 1/2 inches by 1/2 inch) from Dolphin Bead Designs! They perfectly complement the rustic look of my jewelry. I like to tie them with hemp cord. The quality and price are great. Dolphin Bead Designs has a wide range of tags and earring cards and a variety of finishes. Definitely check them out here:

http://www.dolphinbead.com/

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PACKAGING & CRAFT SHOW DISPLAYS

I like to tie my look together with rustic packaging. I use natural muslin bags and recycled kraft jewelry boxes. I wrap everything up with hemp cord and ship it in a recycled kraft padded mailer.

For my craft show displays, I choose natural wood displays, cream (rather than stark white) linens, and seashell accents.

That is a whole lot of info! I think this is my longest post yet! I hope I have inspired you to really get creative and develop a unique look for you and your business. I would love for you to share any thoughts, ideas, or tips through my comments section. I have one last pearl of wisdom to share:

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This wonderful little book, The Handmade Marketplace, has been a great reference for me in getting serious about the business end of my craft. It is available on Amazon for about $10 in both print and Kindle editions:

http://www.amazon.com/Handmade-Marketplace-Locally-Globally–Line/dp/1603424776/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1359250287&sr=1-1&keywords=the+handmade+marketplace

Thanks for stopping by!

Shanti,
Erin

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I have had my Etsy shop, Serendipity Blu, since July, 2011. It started as more of a hobby, my creative outlet. I have had moderate success with very little effort, or as I like to say, lolly gagging through the whole Etsy process. This year, I decided to focus and exert some effort into marketing and planning. In addition to my virtual shop (my little cyber beach shack as I like to call it!), I also plan to exhibit at some local craft shows this summer. Jewelry is definitely a saturated craft category, and it is challenging to find innovative ways to make your work stand out. I decided to share my business planning journey with my fellow jewelry artisans. Please feel free to comment on this post if you have any ideas or inspirations that you would also like to share.

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WHY DO YOU CRAFT?

This should always be your starting point. Did you start as a hobby? Was it a skill you learned from an older family member? Was it to fill a void? Or is it simply to feed your creative spirit?

I began weaving friendship bracelets when I was a teenager many, many moons ago. I would buy embroidery floss in every color. I would make them for all of my friends. I would often wear several at a time on both wrists. Shortly after I discovered the art of macrame, I turned my attention to beading. Do it yourself bead stores became all the rage, and I visited them frequently. As I got older, I drifted away from jewelry making until my dad passed away a few years ago and I revisited this old hobby as almost a stress therapy. I also started to make jewelry as gifts for friends and family, and after much encouragement, Serendipity Blu was born.

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WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

Where do your designs come from? Why do you choose certain colors? Why do you gravitate toward certain materials?

I love the beach! I am soothed by the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tide. I am invigorated by the scent of the salt air. I choose to create jewelry to capture that laid back lifestyle that I adore. I use softer colors; many of my pieces are in ocean hues of blue, turquoise, teal, aqua, and green. I feature eco-friendly recycled beads in my work for their soft seaglass-like finish. I also work with distressed leather for the way that, when leather wears, it almost becomes a part of you.

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WHO IS YOUR CUSTOMER?

For many of us, we are our first customers. Crafting often results from filling a need for something particular. My boho beachy creations are a direct by-product of being unable to find non-massed produced original jewelry when shopping on the boardwalk.

Do you value your work? Are you willing to spend what you price your jewelry? Could you see yourself wearing what you create? If not, it may be difficult for you to see others purchasing your work and could have a negative impact on your marketing.

Describe your typical customer: My typical customer would probably fall between the ages of 25 and 55. She is starting to or has developed her own style rather than follow all of the trends. She may shop at Lucky Brand and would prefer a Fossil bag over Coach. She lives in flip flops. Her weekend style is casual and she, of course, loves the beach! She is looking for unique boho pieces at a moderate price ($25 to $50) that remind her of her favorite vacation spots and inspire simple pleasures.

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FINDING YOUR NICHE

When I first started to sell on Etsy, I worked in several different mediums (macrame, decoupage, wire work) and utilized many varied materials (recycled glass, Czech glass, Swarovski crystals). While I enjoyed having such an eclectic assortment of beachy creations, it did pose some problems. As I stated earlier, jewelry is such a saturated craft. I have found more success carving my own little niche with a few unique designs, rather than have several styles. It is about creating memorable pieces to appeal to your focused target customers instead of producing many generic pieces to appeal to the masses. I have learned that not everyone likes my vision, but those that do not only love it, but are also very loyal customers!

I decided to go with my first instinct. The initial pieces I listed on my Etsy shop were leather macrame bracelets accented with recycled glass beads. I called them Betty Bracelets because they were created with grown up surfer girls in mind. After experimenting with different pieces, I settled on the Betties and now they make up the bulk of my shop. They are a simple design, but the combo of materials I use have made them a unique find on Etsy’s vast marketplace.

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PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

Now that I have defined my style (beach-rustic), targeted my customers (grown up surfer girls), and found my niche (leather macrame bracelets), I am ready to take the next step in marketing my art. Stay tuned for part 2 of my GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS series which will focus on building a brand for jewelry artisans.

Thanks for stopping by!

Shanti,
Erin

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