Naming a Business – Should I Use My Own Name?

I had one of my little, but longtime, questions answered during the Q&A session during Eli Altman’s talk at the Nearly Impossible conference: is there a downside to using my own name as my business name? We are asked this a lot (particularly by jewelers!). When naming a business, Eli feels that using your own personal name is usually not the best idea, for these reasons:

1) It is hard to remember peoples’ names. Lightbulb! Yes, it is. Do you have any trouble keeping names and faces together, or remembering the names of people you were briefly introduced to? Well, so do your customers.

2) It’s not future-proof. What if you want to sell your company in the future? I don’t think most handcrafted, creative businesses go into it thinking this way, but a lot can change over years of running a business. Do you want the new owners out there using your name without your daily input?

3) It’s not evocative. He didn’t mention this at the time, but I got it from his book. When you hear a person’s name, it’s usually meaningless, unless they’re famous or their name is particularly unusual. Does “Alice Malone” or “Jennifer Pierce” make you feel any particular way? Will your name feel differently to strangers than it does to you?

Overall, while he said it could be a good choice for people who are established in their industry and whose name has value (like when someone famous launches a product line), for new businesses created by non-famous folks, you’re better off coming up with a memorable biz name.

Naming a business: Don’t Call it That

Eli Altman’s book, Don’t Call It That, is a quick read, with big type. I wish I’d timed myself as I read through it – I think it took me about eighteen minutes! The book itself is beautifully printed and designed and a pleasure to have in hand, but I can’t help but think it would make a better ebook or even a long website article.

I was hoping for more nitty gritty, but it’s pretty true to the title – it mostly focuses on what not to do, and I was hoping for more what to do. There is also a lot of time spent convincing you to be bold and adventurous, something I don’t need a lot of convincing of. The last few business books I read felt like common sense to me, so I think I just know too much for my own good nowadays. If you feel bewildered and confused by how to come up with a name for your business, this book can definitely stop you from heading down a boring or stupid path.

I appreciated that one of his bits of advice was, “Get lost in Wikipedia looking at extinct sea creatures,” as my business is named after a (thriving!) sea slug.

naming a business

Check out Eli’s book, Don’t Call It That here.

Want some one-on-one help with your business name?

If you would like help naming your business, please check in with us! Natalia, our copywriter, is astoundingly good at this. She will come up with a big list of names that you may like, based on the story of your business and your preferences, and they will all have an available domain name. Once you’ve decided on your new name, we can also help you trademark it.

Read more biz name stories here.

Living Up to Your Brand Identity Design

When you’re wearing a fancy dress, do you find yourself walking taller and more confidently? When your nails are painted, do you use your fingers more elegantly (gentlemen, when you have your bow tie on, do you walk with a dapper stride)? When you have new shoes on, do you notice that people compliment you on them? That’s because you’re wearing them with pride, and people can tell that something special is going on.

Conversely, when you make that Target run in the baggy sweatshirt or dash out to the mailbox in your slippers, do you look away from people, make it quick, and hold back on your personality?

Well, guess what? The same thing applies to the way your brand is dressed up – your logo and brand identity design. You don’t want to hand out ugly business cards or send people to an amateur website. You want to speak with pride about your business and be ready to introduce it to the other well-dressed attendees at your fancy dance.

We recently completed a logo and brand identity for Heather Hupfer, who runs a fabric shop called the Fabric Hive. She was blown away by the look that Mariah built for her, and her new style is going to affect how she thinks about her brand, the choices she makes, and how she introduces her business to others.

Fabric Hive Logo & Brand Identity Design Project

Heather has been selling her handmade goods on Etsy for a couple of years, and is now branching out into running a fabric shop. She told us,

I would like the new logo to be recognizable, creative, and have a real presence on the page.

I tend to migrate towards modern/contemporary traditional design, vintage colors, and lodge.

I’d like the logo to be down to earth with a handmade feel (but not crafty/cutesy). I would like it to have a modern feel/coloration. I think I prefer clean designs with an organic natural element, mixed with a contemporary flair.

Our Solutions

Mariah went through quite a few ideas to land on one that was just right, contemporary, handmade, and organic with clean lines. Mariah shared,

I played a lot with texture in each design. My favorite thing about any given fabric, aside from the actual design, is the feel of it in hand. You mentioned wanting a handmade feeling but that you also wanted something clean and not craftsy or cutesy. I tackled this request by working with texture of a more hand made nature, while keeping nice clean lines. You will see a great texture reminiscent of screenprinting (adding a handmade quality) in each concept.

When looking at her final logo, Heather was bowled over, and told us:

This is really exciting! Everything is so professional and amazing… I hope my little shop can live up to it!!

I’m a little overwhelmed by it all:) It seems too lovely for me (in the best way)… I’ll have to get used to it (happily)!!

Thank you, thank you!

Fabric Hive logo and brand identity design

Fabric Hive logo and brand identity design

Fabric Hive logo and brand identity design

Take a look at the rest of our brand work for the Fabric Hive in our portfolio.

Jena helped Heather start her business off on the right foot, with a thorough marketing consultation, preparing her to make the most of her new logo and new business.

What Our Client Had to Say

Everyone I worked with at Aeolidia is so warm and gracious. Samantha was always available to answer questions and offer solutions on the contract and legal questions I had; I very much appreciate her!

Mariah is a pleasure to work with… her patience and talent were beyond what I would have hoped! She came up with such beautiful designs right away- professional, smart, attentive to every detail… they were wonderful. So when I suddenly veered off course, while finalizing the initial designs, I was a little surprised and a lot thankful that Mariah went right along with me to create the most perfect brand that was the very epitome of everything I had asked for; thank you Mariah!

About midway through I decided I needed some copy help to create a tagline. Natalia was generous in offering suggestions and was very receptive to back and forth dialogue. The final copy is a great compilation of her many ideas.

The Aeolidia team is a gifted and inviting group of individuals; I feel very thankful to have been able to work with them to achieve a brand that I will be able to grow my company with.

Visit The Fabric Hive on Etsy here.

Is Your Brand Ready to Look Right?

Is your brand identity design causing you to hold your head up high, or are you searching for a robe to throw around yourself before you answer the door? You know we want to get in there and make your business look its best! Please do send me an email today to talk about how we can make that happen.

Blogging Schedule: 3 Steps to Stick to Yours (or Complete Any Task!)

People ask me how I find the time to stick to a schedule on my blog, and then they kind of sigh and moan about how impossible it is for them to do.

Here is how I stick to a blogging schedule:

Blogging is a high priority to me

I’ve set a reasonable schedule

I don’t talk myself out of it

That’s all!

It might feel like you need to talk yourself into blogging (or whatever other task you can’t keep on top of, but feel you should do), but I find that it’s as simple as taking myself seriously, making an actionable plan, and preventing myself from whining internally about it.

1) Prioritize your task

I have been “wanting” to have a regular exercise routine for years, have never done anything about it, and felt like a flabby slug all the time. It was really easy to come up with excuses not to exercise on any given day because I am so freaking busy with work and my work time is limited by my childrens’ schedule. Carving out a few spare hours every week was easy to dismiss as nutty.

I’d think about exercising and instantly my inner toddler would kick in and say, “but I’m so tired. I don’t want to do it. I’ll do it tomorrow.” Then, one day I took my little boy out of the bath, wrapped him in a towel, carried him upstairs, and as I set him down, my back muscles all clenched into a tight knot that caused me to slowly slide to the floor and lay there like an overturned beetle gasping in pain. While this was probably more related to my bad lifting stance than my overall fitness, it felt like the sign I needed to realize that my body was becoming useless. So I had my motivation, and from there, I just needed to shut my brain up.

The best life advice I’ve heard all year is to quit saying, “I don’t have time for that,” but instead, “That is not a high priority for me.” This is the actual truth of the matter, as everyone has the same amount of time, and we choose how to fill it. This simple rephrasing has the enormous benefit of helping you feel like a person who is in control of her schedule (you are, duh!), and helping you notice how you are filling that precious 24 hours we all have in a day. It’s also a great way to say no to things that take up your time unnecessarily.

I realized that the things I never get to aren’t a high priority for me, and I need to either change my thinking to make them a high priority, delegate them to someone else, or drop them entirely.

I can clearly see the blog working for Aeolidia. Days that I promote a new post are the days we get the most traffic, and people often email me saying that my latest blog post caused them to finally get in touch with me about a project. Therefore, keeping up with my blogging schedule is a high priority for me, and it’s not an option to just skip it.

So, think about blogging, or whatever task it is you want to do, but “can’t find the time for.” If you can’t find the time for it, it is low on your priority list. Is it low priority because it’s low importance, or is it important, but you haven’t realized it? Is it something you want to do, or something people tell you that you should do? Maybe the task is something you don’t need to do at all, or that someone else could do for you.

If it is important, find a way to make it a true high priority for you. Write out a list of what would improve if you began doing the task with regularity. See how you feel about it. Remember that you can only have so many high priorities in your life. Something will have to be dropped to add a new routine. Is it worth it? Can you drop something that you don’t need to be doing, or doesn’t make you feel good (a product line that takes too long to make, a TV show, a social media account)?

2) Make an actionable plan

Your next step is to make a plan that will actually work. If you make a plan that is too hard, you won’t be able to stick to it. If you make a plan that’s not frequent enough, you won’t see results. Remember that chipping away at something a bit at a time – but frequently – is going to get you where you want to go.

I’m able to continue exercising with my motivated feeling using the “5K Runner” app and now every two to three days, I start lacing up my shoes instead of talking to myself about why I don’t want to. I’ve stuck to the program longer than I’ve done any exercise plan in the past, and I feel my endurance increasing each time I go out. I can see on the app how much farther and longer I can go each time, and I can see my small bits of work building into a big result. Running gives me a fresh burst of energy for working, so instead of trading work time for exercise time, I think I’ve traded, “clicking fruitlessly around the internet” for exercise and a focused mind that can get more done in the time left to me than it would have if I’d stayed in my pajamas.

Aside from feeling healthy and strong, the bonus is I feel good about myself – giving in to your lazy side over and over is not a great feeling.

For my blog, I recently made a change in my schedule, going to bed a bit earlier, and waking up before my kids to write out blog posts from the comfort of my bed, while my left brain is still in charge and I can be creative. That quiet bit of time turns out to be very productive, and then even if the rest of my day gets derailed, I’ve done one important thing. It was a hard change to make, because I was raised by my lazy family to really value my “sleep in” time! Trying it just once made me place value on doing it, because I wrote more in that 45 minutes than I’d done all month.

Having tools to help you track progress and make a plan can be a great help in continuing as well, whether it’s an exercise app or the WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin (I’d hate to be planning my blogging schedule without it!).

There is no point in doing certain tasks if you don’t do them regularly. If your blog has three posts and the most recent one is from 7 months ago, remove the blog from  your site, or decide on what frequency makes the most sense for your business right now, and make it a hard deadline in your mind. I post on the Aeolidia blog every Tuesday at 7:00 a.m. and haven’t missed a post. Before January, I was posting twice a week, but made the mindful decision that once a week would be plenty. I am now increasing our post frequency back to twice a week, and getting help from my team.

3) Make it non-negotiable

Once it is a priority, and you’re committed to doing it, don’t even let that moany voice start going! I don’t listen to my kids when they want ice cream for dinner or to skip brushing their teeth, and I try to treat my internal troublemaker the same way. The moment I hear the resistance come up in my head, I grab the tool I need to do the work and just start doing it. Pick your pen up and start outlining ideas. Head to your calendar and sketch out a preliminary blogging schedule for the next few months. Fire up the computer and work on a new design. Pack up your swimsuit and head to the pool.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember as your own boss and your own employee that you need to be the employee, and do the work that was assigned to you and get it done on schedule. The “boss” part where we make plans and dream up ideas is fun, but without the “employee” to carry the plans out, we will fail.

I realize this takes a huge amount of self control sometimes. I’m glad to say that self control gets better and better with practice, and that it will be easier if you know why you’re doing something and if you’re totally committed to it.

How does this work for you?

What changes have you made in your business lately? What do you feel like you should be doing, but never get to? Do you have a blogging schedule? I’d be curious to hear how you tackle this in the comments.

Also: this is the kind of stuff I like to talk about in our newsletter. If you’re interested in thinking about this sort of thing more with me, please subscribe!

Mockingbird Store Logo and Interview

This is an interview with one of our clients, Kathryn Peck, who runs Mockingbird, a kids’ shop. Learn about starting up a brick and mortar shop and how having a professional store logo will help with everything else.

Interview with Kathryn of Mockingbird

A little background:

Mockingbird Baby & Maternity is located at 219 Main Street, in the heart of Charlestown, Mass., steps from Boston’s historic Freedom Trail. The shop, which opened in June 2014, is vintage-inspired, offering unique high-quality products for expectant moms, dads, and children—essential baby gear for urban parents, maternity clothes with a sense of style, sweet baby clothes, artisan-made nursery décor, eco-friendly toys and more. The shop also serves as a resource for the neighborhood’s families and first-time parents by offering free talks, informal meet-ups for moms, and story times for toddlers.

What did you learn about starting a brick and mortar shop?

Everyone told me the best way to learn the business of running a retail shop is to dive right in, and that’s essentially what I did. Sure, I read a few books like “The Everything Guide to Starting and Running a Retail Store” and even the “Retail Business Kit for Dummies,” which were helpful—up to a point. There’s no end to the amount of research and organization you can do to prepare for something like this, but eventually you have to trust your gut, open the doors, and see what happens.

I’ve only been open a few months, but some things I’ve already learned:

  1. Having a professionally designed logo and brand is worth every penny. I was unsure about the investment at first, but it defines your identity and expresses the character of your store. It also makes design projects, like signage and mailers, easier down the road.
  2. Leave some wiggle room in your business plan’s budget for some unexpected costs. There are many small fees that add up fast. The cost of a program that syncs your POS system with your accounting software, for instance; maintenance issues (like a flooded basement, which happened during my second week in business); and even paper towels and Windex add up fast.
  3. Be wary of clutter. Now I understand how some retailers can get trapped in the mindset that the more product you have out, the more you sell. But that’s not always true, and you run the risk of overwhelming your customer, particularly in the baby market where there is such a vast range of products available. I try very hard to keep my store well stocked with products I have used and recommend, but simple and clean looking, so as not to detract from the overall customer experience.
  4. Oh yea, one more—watch out for those seasonal shipments. It’s typically a whole lot of product that ships, and needs payment, at one time!

Mockingbird store grand opening

Mockingbird brand identity by Aeolidia

Mockingbird store family

Mockingbird store products

Mockingbird store products

How many people currently work with you?

At the moment I have three part-time employees. We’re all juggling kids, school, and what’s left of a social life, so employment part time works well.

How does a standard day of running Mockingbird go?

When I can, I like to be in the store to meet my customers and answer questions. But it’s important to make time to focus on behind-the-scenes operations as well (i.e. inventory management, restocking, marketing, finances). We are typically open from 10 am – 6 pm and aside from working the cash register, I’ll also find myself demonstrating various stroller functions, showing the different ways to hold a baby in a Moby wrap, and even reading stories to children in the store. When one of my employees is the store with me, typically on weekends, which are busiest, I use that time to catch up on some of the behind-the-scenes tasks.

Then there are days that are less structured… a nursery school drop off followed by a few hours in the store with my youngest, followed by a nursery school pickup, lunch, and naps, followed by a few more hours in the store with both kids while we close up for the day. Then it’s dinner, baths, bedtime, followed by a few uninterrupted hours of time spent returning emails, social media updates, ordering updates, going over the day’s numbers, etc.

I am lucky to have some amazing women helping me in my store and flexible enough to work around each other’s schedules.

Every day is totally crazy in an amazing and gratifying way.

How are your customers responding to your branding? Is your target customer showing up in your shop?

Yes, absolutely.

Everyone has welcomed Mockingbird to the neighborhood with enthusiasm and support.

My customers love the branding. They love the logo, they love the storefront signage, and I’ve gotten many compliments on the name. The name, Mockingbird, lends itself well to a lot of cool graphic elements: feathers, nests and eggs, trees, leaves. The Aeolidia team that helped with my branding came up with a handful of really beautiful graphics that I’ve used on mailers, business cards, gift cards and stickers. In fact, a customer recently said that what she likes most about shopping at small boutiques is the beautiful wrapping, all of which starts with branding.

The Mockingbird store logo & brand

Kathryn wanted a soft and feminine, rustic and vintage logo for Mockingbird. A mark that would fit comfortably in her industrial meets shabby chic space. To elevate her brand, Christine steered away from the overly cutesy and toward the sophisticated. Her branding details empower Kathryn to complete simple graphic design projects on her own, with a solid base of options that help spark creativity while preventing mistakes and keeping everything she does cohesive.

Mockingbird brand identity by Aeolidia

I am so pleased with my experience working with the Aeolidia team. From the very beginning when I rattled off a handful of miscellaneous ideas without much direction to the very end when they presented me with a well-designed, beautiful logo and branding package, the process was seamless. They understood my vision and created the perfect logo that will be the face of my company. They also helped me determine next steps in terms of web design and e-commerce expansion. It was an exciting collaboration to be a part of, they were a pleasure to work with and I look forward to working with them again on the next phase of my project.
–Kathryn Peck

See this project in our portfolio.

Can we help you build your brand?

It’s only our favorite thing! Come tell us more about your business.

Improving Sales by Understanding Your Conversion Rate

Graphic by & © Design*Sponge

Graphic by & © Design*Sponge

This article is for you if you have an ecommerce website and you feel that you should be getting more sales from it. Are your shoppers dropping out before checkout or bouncing off the home page without exploring further? Do you have a lot of abandoned carts? Are you wondering if you need a better website, or if you just need more visitors?

One of our newsletter subscribers, Stacia, asked us:

I’d love to learn more about the best ways to convert sales. I have a lot of people visit but fewer buyers than I would like.

This is a big question with no single answer, but you’ll be glad to hear that it’s not as mysterious as you might think. I’ve been digging into this knotty question lately, and of course we’ve gained a lot of experience over a decade of working with designers and makers on their websites at Aeolidia.

Here is how to decide if you have a problem, and what to do about it, if so.

Read the rest of this article on Design*Sponge »

Printable Ecommerce Setup Checklist

Shoshanna and I taught a class at School House Craft this past weekend, based on my article for Design*Sponge, Setting Up Your Online Shop.

When you’re ready to start selling online, you may feel overwhelmed with options. Just figuring out how to get started can be daunting. There are many things to consider, and in this article, I’ll provide an overview of the basics you’ll need to plan for – consider this a checklist of sorts, to make sure you’ll be starting out without missing a step!

For the class, we made an actual ecommerce setup checklist that our students filled out as we discussed each piece.The class was lively, and we loved how supportive and helpful our more informed students were. The hour and a half flew by, and attendees were able to take the checklists home to make sure that they weren’t missing any vital steps in setting up shop. Today, we are sharing it with you, as a companion piece to the original article.

Aeolidia’s ecommerce setup checklist

ecommerce setup checklist

Download the PDF guide and checklist

This download includes the full article, so you’ll understand the checklist, and the checklist itself.

Companion resource list

You can get our resource list here, for recommendations of software to use and more articles that share tips for getting started: Aeolidia’s Best Ecommerce Resource List.

More like this on my newsletter

Go ahead and subscribe to my newsletter while you’re here! I share lots of good information like this for free, straight to your email.

Best Ecommerce Platform: Shopify (and a Giveaway!)

Best ecommerce platform - Shopify

We just might help you set up a new Shopify site for free! This is something that people regularly ask us to do, but it’s just not a service we offer. However, you’re in luck! We are going to do this very thing for a handful of motivated new shop owners. Read on for the giveaway.

A brief personal history of ecommerce

When we first started making ecommerce websites for crafters ten years ago, the software landscape out there was, well, different. The first ecommerce shop I developed used software made by one dude, and the shop owner herself guided me through how to use it. The second ecommerce shop I did, we used osCommerce (which evolved into the separate, and only slightly better, Zen Cart, which we struggled with for ages).

Though we used Zen Cart for many years, it was an exercise in insane frustration for us and for our clients. We had tried a handful of different software programs, and at the time it was the best for what we were doing. Still, we had to fight the software at every turn, and though there were many appealing add-ons, we would add a new one, and it would somehow blow up the old one our client had been using for months, or it would surprisingly make part of the shopping cart break or make other functionality disappear.

When we got stuck, our only recourse was to wail about it in the forums and hope some kindly developer would give us assistance that wasn’t rude or incorrect!

ecommerce frustration!

When it came time to upgrade (and you had to upgrade regularly, so your site wouldn’t get hacked or stop working), we had to compare each and every new file with the old file, move over all customizations and improvements we had made to the upgraded file, upload it all, and test the site again each time as if it was brand new. Arduous for us, and expensive for our clients.

Meanwhile, WordPress was only getting better and better, and their upgrading system was becoming easier and smarter. We often found ourselves wishing ecommerce worked better on WordPress, or that someone would make something similar for online shops.

Enter Shopify! My darlings! What a freaking relief to be able to recommend something to our clients that we actually believe is the best ecommerce platform for small business, not just, “the best of the pile of muck that exists at this time,” but something that works well, is easy to use, and continues to improve.

Why you will love Shopify, the best ecommerce platform

It’s hosted software. Shopify is your web host, and you won’t need to purchase a separate hosting account. You won’t be responsible for upgrading the shop software (or hiring someone to upgrade it for you, or, worse, not upgrading it and ending up with a hacked site). Shopify will automatically roll out upgrades, bug fixes, and security improvements. We don’t get complaints from our clients about sites being down or getting hacked anymore.

They value customer support. With other shop software, you may find that there’s just one guy behind it, or maybe a bunch of developers working independently, with just a support forum, rather than customer service. Shopify has a great team. You will be assigned your own account representative that can help you out with your questions, and they can be reached by phone, and are available around the clock.

They’re invested in helping small businesses. Obviously they make money if you make money, but the lovely symbiosis here is that you get all their awesome marketing tips and help, as well as the great documentation (including videos) and customer support. Seriously, check out their blog – it’s packed with great advice, and I’m constantly sharing their articles.

Shopify is very extensible, as they have a large app store where you can add new features when your store grows. For instance, if you decide you want to integrate a POS or accounting software, you may find just what you need in their app store.

The admin is user-friendly. Our clients have an easy time adding their products and managing orders with the simple and clear back end management tool (which is also available as an iPhone app).

Shopify works seamlessly for brick and mortar shops. Using the Shopify POS system, you can keep your inventory straight between your storefront and your ecommerce shop. You can even go on the road to a craft fair and sell products using your iPad.

Shopify is a content management system. Shopify isn’t just your shop, it’s your whole website, including informational pages, and even a simple blog.

Shopify is pretty global. You can use Shopify from most anywhere, and they work with over 70 payment gateways, and allow multiple languages and currencies.

You can choose a theme. You can choose a theme from their theme store and be up and running with a professional design right away, without any knowledge of how to build a website.

You can hire an expert. If you do need some more in-depth customization, they have an Experts directory that connects you with a reputable company to do some work for you.

They allow full customization. Though you won’t need to do this yourself as a shop owner, Shopify allows us to dig into the HTML, CSS, and Liquid code to develop any design we dream of. We can make a Shopify site look any way we want.

You are going to love it! Go learn more or sign up for a free trial of Shopify now, and see what you think!

Today’s giveaway

Shopify setup and consult

Are you ready for your own shop that’s in your control, is easy to update, and that presents a professional look to your customers? We love Shopify for its ease of use, reliability, flexibility, and scalability. This service is great for:

  • People without a shop
  • People with an Etsy, Storenvy, or Big Cartel shop that has too many limitations
  • People using old, clunky, or difficult shop software who are tired of it. Magento, anyone? WooCommerce, anyone?

Yes, you can set up a Shopify site yourself. You will want our service instead, because we will use our experience gained setting up hundreds of ecommerce sites to:

  • Make your domain name/URL point to your Shopify site correctly
  • Install your chosen design theme and adjust it with your logo, fonts, and colors
  • Show you where to go to set up your email hosting
  • Offer tips for setting up your payment gateway and shipping settings
  • Set up necessary add-ons: Google Analytics and MailChimp connectivity
  • Point you to the tutorials you need to add your content to the site
  • Give you a testing list, so you can feel confident that your site is ready to go
  • Best of all: you’ll have half an hour of our help, advice, and consultation about your shop

Enter the free Shopify setup and consulting giveaway

To qualify:

  • you must run a creative business*
  • you must want a Shopify site
  • you must be prepared to pay Shopify monthly for your site
  • you must have us set up a new development shop for you**

* “Creative” means that you either design or make your products, or that you sell products designed or made by other creative businesses. If you’re one of the businesses we talk about sharing the Aeolidia manifesto with, you’re in!

** We aren’t adjusting existing shops – we will be setting up something brand new for you. It’s okay if you’re already using Shopify for another business and want us to create a new shop in addition to it.

Please fill out our form below to enter the contest (if you don’t see the form, click over to our site from your email or reader and look again). We are going to do as many of these as we reasonably can, so your odds of winning are good! If you don’t win or don’t fit the qualifications, we will send you some useful resource links for finding further help.

All of your information will be kept private and will only be used by the Aeolidia team to set up a Shopify site for you and give some advice.

    Shopify's pricing starts at $14/mo, though most of our clients choose the $29 or $79 plan.

Thank you! I look forward to helping everyone get set up on Shopify for free!

Other active giveaways

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
This giveaway is over.

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
Make your computer or phone pretty »

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
This giveaway is over.

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
Ask us your burning questions »

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
That’s this post!

The Next Step to Grow My Business (and a Giveaway!)

Your best Next Step to grow your business

How can I grow my business?

The excitement is contagious when I get an email from a business owner who has been waiting to contact us and is now ready to leap in with both feet. Some people come to us very well informed and knowledgeable, with a rock solid plan that we can jump right to work on, but for many business owners, the “next step,” while exciting, is understandably a bit mysterious.

  • Do I need a new logo, or would it confuse my customers to change it?
  • What content do I need on an ecommerce website?
  • How should I style my product photos?
  • What ecommerce platform should I use?
  • Do I need a blog?
  • What is best to feature on the home page?
  • Once the site is live, how do I get people to visit it?
  • How can I grow my business without overwhelming myself?

When we hear from someone new who is ready for a change, we first discuss their business, their challenges, and their goals, and then we dig into their current website, consider the best steps to take, and present them with a project proposal, often with a Plan A and a Plan B.

These are fun to put together, and after working with hundreds of creative businesses, we have a solid idea of what is a best “next step” for small businesses in all different phases. We would like to help you with that next step! Read on below for your chance to win a free, no strings attached next step business consult.

Success stories from our blog

Spring Creek Ranch

It is very fun to read about thriving little businesses that are making it and doing it on their own terms (please remember that it took them all a lot of very hard work to get there)! Here are some of my favorites from our archives, and you can read all of our success stories here:

Today’s giveaway

Do you feel like it’s time for a change for your business? Perhaps you’re wondering where your budget will be best spent? Maybe you have no budget, but just want to know what work you should do next. We will ask you a few questions about your business and goals, and once we understand where you’ve been and where you are, we’ll give you a map for where you should be going.

Next Step Business Consult

This forward trajectory plan comes with no strings attached and no obligation to purchase anything from us or anyone else. After you get your “next step” plan from us, feel free to give us a friendly, “thanks, bye!” and keep on keepin’ on as you have been. :)

Having experienced professionals look at what you have now and share thoughts on where you could go with it can be an inspiring catalyst for change and growth.

We are going to do as many of these as possible, and if we aren’t able to include you, we will send you some resources that will be of use.

Enter the “Next Step” Business Consulting giveaway

To qualify, you need to be a creative business. “Creative” means that you either design or make your products, or that you sell products designed or made by other creative businesses. If you’re one of the businesses we talk about sharing the Aeolidia manifesto with, you’re in!

Please fill out our form below to enter the contest. We are going to do as many of these as we reasonably can, so your odds of winning are good! If you don’t win or don’t fit the qualifications, we will send you some useful resource links for finding further help.

All of your information will be kept private and will only be used by the Aeolidia team to make a plan for you and share some advice.

  • Tell us all about your business. What is unique about it? What do you sell/provide? What is your business' personality or style? Where can customers buy your products?
  • How long have you been running your business? What is not working for you about your current methods or existing website (if any), and what do you feel is holding you back? Please let us know where you can see a need for improvement in your business.
  • What do you see as your potential next steps? What would you like to accomplish, and by when? What is your financial goal, your publicity goal, and/or your internal business goal?
  • How do you currently promote and market your business? Do you have any questions about how to get the word out about what you do, either via social media or by getting press?
  • About how many people visit your website in a month? How many sales do you get a month (from your website vs. other places)?

Thank you! I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Other active giveaways

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
This giveaway is over.

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
Make your computer or phone pretty »

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
This giveaway is over.

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
That’s this post!

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
Learn more about Shopify and let us do the setup for free »

Improving Website Conversion (and a Giveaway!)

Simple ways to improve your website

So you put your own website together – congratulations! That’s a lot of hard work. How is it looking? How is it working? Does it all make sense, or does it only make sense to you? How many visitors turn into customers? Do you feel like you’re losing people along the way to checkout?

It can be difficult to get outside of your own head (where everything makes perfect sense about your business and website) and into the head of a customer, to see where you’re losing them.

Improving website design, improving website content, and improving website functionality

Here are some things you can scan your website for right now and correct, to help a few more people make it all the way through checkout:

Offer free shipping

This is the easiest change to make, and should be quite effective. I personally have abandoned many a cart when seeing the shipping rates, because I’ve juuuuust decided it’s worth paying the price I see on the page, and when shipping is added to that, it’s no longer worth it. Your shopper will assign a value to an item while shopping (suggested by you!) and then changing that value at the cart can be a deal-breaker.

You don’t necessarily have to take a loss on shipping, if you can roll an extra fee into your product price to offset the change. Note that this strategy won’t work if you sell something that people are price-checking on multiple sites, but should be fairly simple for handcrafters or artisans to do.

User testing

You can do this the old school way  – grab a friend or neighbor or your grandma and sit her down at a computer with your website. Assign her a task, such as “find and purchase some earrings” and have your tester talk out loud about her thought process as she shops. You can uncover some interesting things doing this. Maybe something that makes perfect sense to you can be confusing to people new to your site.

Is the “add to cart” button nice and big? Can customers find their cart after they add something to it? Are choices during checkout clear?

Pay attention during the cart and checkout steps, as here is where you can see what may be making customers abandon their cart. Go through the full shopping and checkout process on your site yourself. This way, you’ll be able to catch anything that is confusing, surprising, or (gasp!) broken. Don’t rely on your cart software blindly.

You can also do this on a larger scale with sites like UserTesting.

If your audience is pretty engaged with you, you may want to add a survey to your site, or send a survey to your newsletter subscribers (perhaps with a reward for answering). Be sure each question on your survey is written so that the answers will reveal to you what action step you could take to improve your user experience. Avoid filler questions which will waste peoples’ time (and yours!).

Make adjustments to your categories and product info

Make your shop categories boringly obvious. No “cute” category names, please! Do you have a jewelry category? Call it “jewelry,” not “baubles.” Have a section for children? Call it “children” or “kids,” not “minis.” Adding personality to your site is good, but having the personality hide simple information is bad.

Make your product descriptions interesting and informative. People want to know what size things are, what they’re made of, and what colors you offer, sure, but you also need to be sure you’re telling the customer a story that will help her picture owning your product, and make her feel like she needs to have it. If you’re stuck on this, you’ll be amazed by what our copywriter can do with your information – turning dry descriptions into sweet little blurbs that will sell.

Work on  your photos. You need clear, detailed, and beautiful pictures. Don’t skimp on this! Make sure photos make your customer picture the item in her life, make the size of the item understandable, and are the true colors. Unless you’re able to take well-lit, in-focus, and interesting pictures of your own products, hire some help. Dark, small, blurry pictures will be the death of your online business. That’s why we have offer product photography to our clients – and would be happy to do this for you as a standalone project.

Make it easy for customers to shop, find info, and ask questions

Make the shopping cart/checkout link easy to find: People are expecting this in the top right corner, possibly with an icon of a cart. Don’t hide it, move it, name it something else, or give it a confusing icon.

Make your shipping and returns policies easy to find: Particularly for small businesses, your customer may feel anxious ordering from you. Will you really ship the product? On time? What if they don’t like it when they get it? Make sure that your policies are easy to find (usually a link in the footer) and easy to read (cut out the jargon and be straightforward about how things work). Answer questions before they’re asked, with sizing charts, secure checkout padlocks and a space to answer common questions.

Make sure your checkout process isn’t difficult. Is there anything you can do to make checkout easy and understandable? Do you ship internationally? Do you offer a reasonable assortment of payment methods? Is it simple to change quantities or remove things from the cart? Your keyword here should be, “foolproof.”

Social proof: add some customer reviews or testimonials to your site. This is a fantastic way to build trust, and customers have come to expect reviews on ecommerce websites. You can also find ways to show how many fans you have or how devoted they are on your site.

Make sure all your news or dated content is up to date: I have left shops before, because I see the blog stopped updating five months ago, and I wonder if the shop is still in business. Make sure any blog posts, news, social media feeds that are integrated into your site, lists of events and sales, etc. are current, so people don’t see virtual cobwebs and leave.

Add functionality to your site

One of the things that we like about Shopify is that you can add functionality to your site through their app store. Shopping cart abandonment apps may be a good way to get someone who dropped off of your site with products in their cart to come back and finish checkout. Adding cross-sells, up-sells, promotions, or bribes may be a way to get more value out of a single customer.

Make sure everything is up to speed

Don’t let slow web hosting drive your customers away. Is your site loading quickly? If not, time for a new web host (or to have a developer check your site to be sure the problem isn’t in the code or the content).

Today’s giveaway

This giveaway is now over.

Today we have a valuable prize (we charge about $500 for this).

Free website consultation

We will be giving one lucky duck winner free website consulting, with a written evaluation. We review websites as one of our services for clients.

Just because you’re familiar with your website and you know where everything is, that doesn’t mean it’s intuitive or user-friendly for someone new to your business and/or website. It can be hard to step out of your “insider” role to view the site as a potential customer or lead would, but that’s exactly what you’ve got to do (or hire a pro to do) if you want your site to work for you the way it should.
–Zoe Rooney, Aeolidia developer

With this service, we will give you our best recommendation for specific changes you can make to your site to improve usability, traffic flow, and sales. These are thorough, detailed, actionable, and we will begin by getting to know your business and your goals, so we can focus on what you’re trying to achieve as we look through your site.

You can read an example review here: Website Review: Telling a Story and Simplifying

To enter our giveaway, you must have a website that you set up yourself (using a pre-made template is legit, but please don’t enter if you paid a designer to create your site), and be willing to let us share our review of your site on our blog. Please fill out the form below, and we will choose one winner to be notified next week.

Enter the free website consultation giveaway

This giveaway is over, but if you’d like to pay us to review your website, please contact me.

Thank you!

Other active giveaways

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
This giveaway is over.

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
Make your computer or phone pretty »

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
That’s this post!

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
Ask us your burning questions »

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
Learn more about Shopify and let us do the setup for free »

You Are So Ready For This (and design freebies!)

“Manifesto” is perhaps too strong a word, but we thought that it would be fun to make our mission clear. We also wanted a manifesto that would ring true to each of our clients, as our beliefs are aligned with yours. Natalia, Aeolidia’s copywriter, helped put together the wording for these things that we believe, Mariah created a beautiful print design (that each of our new clients gets in gold foil, suitable for framing!), and Sarah created some sweet little treats for Pinterest.

Aeolidia manifesto

 

Aeolidia manifesto

Some of my favorite businesses break all the “rules” of how to run a business, and most of what I do at Aeolidia is trial and error, idea and testing. I have many times found myself feeling uncomfortable when doing things the way I “should” do them, and then bursting ahead with vigor when I ditch the “should” and do it the Aeolidia way instead.

On the flip side, it’s silly to always blaze one’s own trail when there is a perfectly reasonable established path to follow, so of course many of the things that we do are industry-standard or tried and true business methods. One thing that you will hear over and over is that you can’t be all things to all people and that you need to specialize and find your own particular niche to be able to succeed. I agree with this, and luckily, we fell into a niche that we feel a strong affinity for right away, and have been serving my favorite types of businesses for a decade.

The creative small business

Yep! Those are our kindred spirits. I tried at the start to work on other types of projects, but oh my gosh, would I get bored out of my mind. No offense, real estate agents and electricians, but I have a hard time concentrating on your projects. Happily, I had some crafting friends who introduced me to the then rather subversive, but now quite everyday world of handcrafted goods. Did you know that Aeolidia began designing websites for crafters before Etsy launched? Boggles my mind!

 

Our clients are handcrafters, designers, artists, oddballs, perfectionists, entrepreneurs, hard workers, bright burning flames! We wouldn't have it any other way.

Our clients are handcrafters, designers, artists, oddballs, perfectionists, entrepreneurs, hard workers, bright burning flames! We wouldn’t have it any other way.

How we help

For our clients, we design brands, logos, packaging, marketing materials, websites. We create content, write copy, take photos. We strategize, consult, dream big.

For people who are not yet our clients (someday, surely? I’d love to hear from you!), we teach, we advise, we recommend, and we just generally cheer on anyone working hard to make a dream into a business.

The Aeolidia blog

Over the years, our humble blog has become just jampacked with useful articles, tutorials, and business-y thoughts, and it was getting harder and harder to find things the more I jammed in there. With the redesign, we worked hard to make everything clear and readable, as well as sort out categories that would be helpful, so you can find all these goodies.

Here are our most popular blog posts:

Here are my personal most favorite blog posts:

Bits of our manifesto:

Perhaps you have heard of Pinterest? Go pin these lovelies all over Pinterest for me, please! Sarah on our team had free rein to create anything she thought you’d like to see, and I’m thrilled with the results. I hear inspirational quotes are all the rage. :)

Products don't speak to people, the stories behind them do | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses

Success: (insert your own definition here) | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses

A good idea becomes a great idea when you let it out | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses

Small businesses + big ideas = limitless possibilities | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses

Opportunity happens when you do less waiting and more creating | Aeolidia's manifesto for creative businesses

Today’s freebie

We’re throwing a party! The Aeolidia website is all dolled up in fancy duds (read more about our transformation here), and we couldn’t be happier about how things are looking and working around here. We want to thank all of our clients, colleagues, collaborators, friends, and secret admirers with a week of giveaways here on our blog.

Here are some free wallpapers for you! Consider it an appetizer.

aeolidia free wallpaper download

iPhone 640 x 960

iPhone 5 640 x 1136

iPad 1024 x 1024

Desktop 1280 x 800
Desktop 1440 x 900
Desktop 1680 x 1050
Desktop 1920 x 1080
Desktop 1920 x 1200

Printable

Are you interested in seeing any of the single quotes from the manifesto as downloadable wallpapers, too? Let me know which one(s) you like best!

A Week of Giveaways!

To celebrate our new look, and ten years of creating beautiful things for inspiring businesses, we are having a week of giveaways here on the blog. Stick around until tomorrow (and the next day, and the next day)  for a chance to win something excellent from Aeolidia. Subscribe to my newsletter so you won’t miss one of these.

We will be giving away our services for free – we will be reviewing websites, making “next step” plans for businesses, and setting up new Shopify sites, all for free, and as many as we can possibly fit in. I hope we can help you with your creative business.

P.S. I would be over the moon if you’d share our giveaway with your followers (particularly if you suspect your followers have small businesses of their own), by blogging, tweeting, or otherwise chatting about what we’re up to. We will be sharing some “pin-able” content and downloads – I’d love to have your help spreading these all over Pinterest and Instagram!

Other active giveaways

Monday: A celebration of the new site, and an adorable merman swag giveaway.
This giveaway is over.

Tuesday: A celebration of our clients, and free wallpapers and a manifesto you can print out and put on your desk.
That’s this post!

Wednesday: huge list of tips for improving sales on your website, and a free website evaluation.
This giveaway is over.

Thursday: We help as many businesses as we can plan their next best step.
Ask us your burning questions »

Friday: We help as many business as we can set up a Shopify website.
Learn more about Shopify and let us do the setup for free »