Aeolidia blog

A resource for creative and design-based small businesses to improve their brand's presence online.

Recent Posts

Brand New: Posie, Little Hip Squeaks, and Umba

My friendly web design studio, Aeolidia, is well-known for creating custom Shopify websites for creative businesses – handmakers, designers, and crafters of all types. It is always thrilling when a client comes to us who really understands what her business is all about and what the personality of her business is, but she hasn’t been able to translate that to a logo and solid brand identity. Then we get to start from the start and make it all make sense – usually to the joy and amazement of our client. No better feeling than learning and understanding the point of view of a brand and making it come to life in just the right way.

What does “branding” mean, anyway?

You can think of your brand as the personality of your business. What does your business offer your customer that no other business can? Your brand should speak directly to your target customer, making you THE only choice for them. There are hundreds of options when someone decides to buy a cup of coffee – why are so many people at Starbucks? Branding.

To create a brand for your business, you don’t start with the logo. You start by brainstorming what’s unique about what you do, and putting together a description of your business’ personality which highlights why a customer will want to choose you over others. Once you know what your business is about, you’ll have an effective starting point for making sure your products, your logo, your marketing materials, and your advertising all make sense with your brand identity.

Excerpted from Branding Your Company on our blog

Brand identity examples

Jessika asked me to share some brand identity examples from our studio, and today I have Posie, a shop selling handmade stuffed animal kits, Little Hip Squeaks, makers of adorable graphic children’s wear, and Umba, who empower artist entrepreneurs.

Read article on Oh My! Handmade »

Exceed Expectations With Customer Gifts and Surprises

Making happy customers

Recently, my family went to a neighborhood pizza place, and rather than bring the usual cup of crayons and a coloring sheet to the table for our little boys, they plopped down a small toy box full of new goodies to explore: crayons, yes, but also a slinky, an interlocking bead puzzle, and some silly putty. We were impressed!

We are currently having a grand old time planning a fun, beautiful, and useful “welcome kit” for Aeolidia clients (more on that later!), as well as a thank you card and gift for when the project is over. It is a joy to be able to do something special for our clients, and it’s going to be such a wonderful way to set the perfect Aeolidia tone on each project we do.

Aeolidia gift idea

We know that the small businesses we work for consistently try to do that “something special” for their customers. Please read below to see how some of our favorite small businesses go the extra mile to put a smile on their customers’ faces. From hand-written notes to customer gifts, there are many ways to improve your customers’ experience with you.

Below are some great stories that people shared with me via our newsletter and on Facebook:

How to exceed your customers’ expectations

I love that you got such great service and activities for your kids. I have stickers with ‘smile’, ‘sparkle’ and ‘shine’ that I use to secure tissue paper wrapping. I have started to include a heart shaped lolly in with orders (I have a heart in my logo so it’s part of my branding). I’ve long included a handwritten thank you note and try to address the package with something like, ‘the Lovely Mrs xyz,’ all little things that make my clients smile.
-Viv Smith, PoppySparkles

 

Packaging is big with me, too. I try to include a pencil or two that I have had made up with quotes, everything from Harry Potter lines to a favorite song lyric, also a pencil with my website on it.
- Caroline Smalley, Push the Envelope

 

Ditto on the packaging … I also include another letterpress goodie for the purchaser to use to give to someone else (spreading more letterpress love!). I also send out a thank you card to each customer or workshop participant within a few days.
- Denise Newberry, CabinPress Studio

 

When we set a customer’s wedding stationery we often send them a couple of versions to choose from, which people appreciate so much. They know we are really paying attention to their stationery. For example, they may not realize that their super-long venue name (The Green Room Lounge in the Clinton Hill Explorer’s Club of North Hampshire, or something like that) might look better on two lines. Or that their favorite peach pink might clash with avocado green. It may take us a little longer, but we want our customers involved in the process!
-Kimi Weart, A Printable Press

 

Yes, I wrap my orders like little gifts, too. I use washi tape and colored tissue papers. I also include a handwritten note with each order, a business card, stickers and flyers.
- Missy Kulik, illustrator

 

I love reading how generous people are with their orders… packaging, special treats etc. Customer care is alive and well! I too love packaging orders like lovely gifts. I am frequently tagged on Instagram when customers post photos of their Easton Place lovelies and it really thrills me to no end. I also like including mini sets of stationery or petite cards with each order. Little surprises let the customer know how much their orders are appreciated.
- Patti Wunder, Easton Place Designs

 

At Frock Shop we wrap all purchases in our signature black and white polka dot paper (which everyone loves). We also have a candy dish at the counter with seasonal goodies and free old issues of magazines to take. We do fun monthly giveaways and I’ve also hand delivered orders in the neighborhood.
- Suzy Fairchild, Frock Shop

 

Well, Arianne, I am all about calligraphy, letterpress, and beautiful mail, so whenever I get an inquiry through my web site, if it seems like a good fit, I send them a tiny present in the mail (My form requests their address). It’s usually one of my letterpress cards for them to use, tucked inside a nice note. And of course, I make sure I do write their name / address in my cool calligraphy on the outside envelope. It’s not only an unexpected extra for them, but it’s sneaky – it’s also an example of my work that they can hold and use. Sometimes that extra step makes the difference
- Tara Bliven, Ephemera Press

What about you?

How do you exceed expectations with your business? A lot of these are packaging-related, and I’m interested to hear ideas for other areas of customer interaction. I’d love to hear more!

Talking Business With Posie Gets Cozy

For many of you, Alicia Paulson from Posie Gets Cozy will need no introduction. If Alicia is new to you, I think you will be delighted to find her warm little spot on the internet, where she shares thoughts on life, love, and all things crafty. Alicia has been blogging at Posie Gets Cozy since 2005, and I know some people who count her as their First Blog that they really followed along with. She has been creating and selling handmade items since 2000.

We redesigned Alicia’s Shopify website and her blog this spring, and wow! was it interesting reading through all 134 comments on her blog announcement about the change. I think Posie Gets Cozy may have the most loyal following of any of our clients to date.

I admire how Alicia has built her business to a point where she can do everything just exactly how she likes it. I think some business owners forget that some of the reasons they started their own business were to have a flexible schedule, to be able to spend time with family, and to not feel pushed around by the company they work for. It warms my heart when I see people being good bosses to themselves (and hard workers as well).

Below, I’m sharing some photos from Alicia’s blog and shop, and an interview about her business, aimed to be helpful and inspirational for businesses just starting out. All photos copyright Alicia Paulson.

Photo from Posie Gets Cozy

Photo from Posie Gets Cozy

Photo from Posie Gets Cozy

Photo from Posie Gets Cozy

How did you your business start? Did you do any kind of market research or business planning?

My business started in 2000 as a custom hand-embroidery service, which quickly evolved into a line of handmade products that I sold wholesale, which eventually evolved into a collection of sewing and embroidery patterns and books of patterns, and now includes kits and supplies so that people can more easily make the patterns that I’ve designed. I have never done any market research or business planning, and, for better or worse, and have let the business evolve depending entirely on my whims and interests.

How many people currently work with you, and what do they do?

I have one regular part-time employee; during kit-assembling-and-shipping time, I have had up to three. My regular assistant does all of the order processing and shipping, as well as preparing the packets of all of the fabrics, flosses, ribbons, beads, and other little parts and pieces we use in our kits. She also stuffs all of the paper patterns and templates for the kits and assembles the kits themselves, once all of the parts and pieces have been prepared. I outsource the fabric cutting and embroidery-floss-pulling (we use embroidery floss to sew the softies and ornaments together, and it’s also included in embroidery kits) to a small indie sewing factory down the street from my house, and their help has been invaluable – life changing, really –as our quantities have gotten bigger.

How long did it take before your business started making a profit?

The business has changed so many times that it’s hard to say – some things have been very profitable and some things haven’t been. For the past five years or so, I’ve only been doing the ones that are profitable ☺. But it took me quite a while to just follow my own instinct and experience about how to make a living doing what I love, exactly as I love to do it.

How are your products created? What have you learned about this along the way?

Right now, as I mentioned, I outsource the fabric cutting and floss pulling to a small factory that has a computerized laser cutter, and a lot more people who can make fast work of pulling thousands of packets of embroidery floss at a time. What used to take us weeks or months to do now takes them days. The cost of paying for this preparation isn’t cheap, but it’s worth it. I’ve learned that I need to outsource every possible “busywork” part of making these products so that I myself can concentrate on the creative and technical part – product development, pattern writing, photographing – the stuff only I can do here.

How do you handle shipping and customer service and organize the back-end of your business?

For shipping we use ShipStation, and they have been amazing. I started using them about three years ago and they completely changed my business. I used to only use PayPal as a payment option, and I shipped everything through PayPal. At the time of a new product launch, we’d get so many orders in one day that it would literally take days and days just to print out the packing slips, and weeks to actually ship because you had to click through several screens just to process each order. With ShipStation we process fifty orders at a time (more seem to jam my printer, but they can do more) and it has cut the work exponentially (by probably 90 percent, literally). I should’ve researched shipping options much sooner than I did. We also changed the company that hosts our digital downloads from Payloadz to SendOwl and saved thousands of dollars a year in fees. Insane.

My advice is to revisit your options regularly. Apps and other solutions are being created so rapidly these days – I honestly didn’t even know shipping apps existed, because they didn’t when I started – that it’s well worth the time it takes to research workable solutions to things that feel like they’re harder than they have to be.

How does a standard day of running Posie go?

I have a one-year-old daughter that I am home with, so the standard day of running Posie now is very different than it used to be. I have “on” days, where I’ve lined up either my husband or other resources to watch our daughter so that I get to work or blog for a few hours, and “off” days, where I am with her exclusively, and don’t even try to work. This is the only way being a working parent works for me – I don’t try to do anything when I’m with her because it’s impossible and leaves me feeling wrung out and overwhelmed. So, on the days when I do work I usually have to spend a lot of time trying to get through email – I do all the customer service, and there is quite a bit of it, from people needing another copy of a pattern because their computer crashed, to people needing help with something I’ve designed, to people just sending photos of the things they’ve made and wanting to say hi. If my assistant is coming in that day we always meet to go over shipping issues or any problems that have come up, and then we talk about where she is in the process of assembling any project. Sometimes I am sourcing the supplies we need for kits, and figuring out how much stuff we need or which items. I order all the supplies both for our kits and for our shop (we sell supplementary supplies like scissors and needles, as well) from many manufacturers and am constantly in communication about what’s coming, when it’s coming, why it’s not coming, etc. I have massive spreadsheet systems to keep track of all of the parts and pieces of the kits and the supplies involved. At night I work on the actual product development – the sewing, knitting, or embroidering of whatever I happen to be designing at the time. And sometimes I am thick in the middle of pattern development, and that pretty much is like cramming – writing and photographing step-outs and tracing templates and putting together the PDF file. I do all of that stuff myself, and those are the days we order in Thai food. (And we order it in on a lot of other days too, because Mama tired!!!)

Photo from Posie Gets Cozy

Photo from Posie Gets Cozy

Photo from Posie Gets Cozy

What mistakes or setbacks have you weathered?

Owning a store from 2003 until 2006 (I think?) was, for me, a big mistake. It was something I stumbled into pretty blindly, and it was a bad decision. I didn’t enjoy sitting in the shop all day and I hated being so far away from my studio. It was also a huge financial investment that set me back quite a bit. It was something I’d always thought would be fun but when it came down to it it was completely the wrong thing for me. I hated it and was actually really thrilled and relieved when the store closed.

How did you promote your business initially, and how has that changed?

Initially I was lucky enough to get editorial coverage in Country Living and a couple of other national magazines. And once it happened the first time the coverage seemed to keep finding me, and I would always say yes to being included in articles, or contributing to magazines, or writing patterns for other peoples’ books, etc. There came a point – I don’t remember when, but probably after I did my own books – when I just started saying no to everything – editorial coverage, contribution opportunities, anything that anyone wanted me to do – and concentrating on doing my own work exactly the way I wanted to do it, without anyone else’s input. I’m kind of a loner and not much of a joiner, so I’m happiest like this. And it was at this point that I really started earning a good living and feeling like I was doing the right thing. I don’t do anything to promote my work now, save displaying it (and the process of making it) forthrightly on my blog, and this is quite perfect for me.

How did you know it was time for a new website?

Oh, it had been time for a new web site for a LONG time. I just hadn’t really had the time or extra money to do anything about it, so I just kept jerry-rigging and patchworking the old web sites/logo/packaging concept together. It wasn’t at all what I wanted for years, but I knew that when I redid stuff, I would probably have to redo everything – and there was a lot to redo, so it felt like turning a cruise ship in a tight space or something, and I couldn’t even think about how to make it work. But once I was able to get caught up on some other things and get organized enough to find someone else to do it I wasn’t nervous at all, just excited. I knew it could be nothing but better than what I had. That said, I had a very strong vision I wanted to make sure was implemented, and I think it was.

What were the biggest differences the Aeolidia-designed website made to your business?

It’s been wonderful to have a neat, simple, pretty, clean identity now, where everything is related and everything feels right. Because the business had evolved through many different phases and even mediums, the old logo and site and blog and packaging definitely reflected that sort of chaotic history, and I didn’t want that. I feel like I’m at the place where both my aesthetic and passion are clearer than they’ve ever been, so it’s wonderful to have the design concept of the company’s identity reflect exactly where I feel I am in my work right now.

The other enormous difference was just not having to do everything myself, which gets really old and really exhausting. Being self-employed means you have to learn to do a ton of things you don’t want to know how to do, and in my case, learning HTML and doing my own graphic design files was just brutal, though I did it for many years. It was a huge relief to hand that stuff over to someone else and say, “This is how I need these things to work. Please help me.” And they do.

- – -

Thank you, Alicia! It was truly an honor and a delight working with you.

Please stay tuned for a future post where we show Alicia’s perfect new brand identity and website design. You can make sure not to miss it by joining my mailing list.

Visit Alicia’s shop here: Posie – and visit her blog here: Posie Gets Cozy. Happy shopping and reading!

Ecommerce Apps Recommended by Small Biz Owners

Ecommerce apps recommended by biz owners

I wrote an article about the software and apps that I use to run Aeolidia. We had a great chat in the comments on Oh My! Handmade and in the #omhg Twitter chat that week.

Of course, this was from a service provider focus, and I’ve been wanting to do a followup article that shares shop software and ecommerce apps that are lifesavers for handmakers, ecommerce shop owners, brick & mortar retailers, creative folks!

Below are a few favorites from some of our newsletters subscribers. I’d love if you could chime in in the comments with your favorite software.

An oddball brick and mortar vintage store’s favorite software:

Shipstation - Going back to the days when I had my first Etsy shop, shipping has always been a thorn in my side. I dreaded it. Shipstation makes it so easy. What used to take me hours takes literally minutes. Don’t flinch at the monthly fee – your time is money and it will pay for itself the first time you use it.

Shopify POS -If you have an online store with Shopify and want to expand to brick and mortar, Shopify’s iPad POS system app is amazing. You can keep all your financials straight and in one place for both revenue streams. I have the Shopify app on my iPhone as well and I get an alert for every sale we make online or in the store. It easily keeps inventory straight between online and in-store, which eliminates lots of potential headaches.

Dropcam -I chose Dropcam for my shop’s security system due to the easy setup, but their iPad and iPhone apps are lifesavers. Staff can easily keep eyes on all areas of the shop right from the front counter on the iPad register, and I can check in anytime from my iPhone. It also has an optional 7 or 30 day DVR - giving you time to capture important events and save them if you need to.

I also recommend the Dymo Labelwriter 450 Turbo for any business. Their software allows you to create and print unique barcodes, buy and print postage, print your shipping labels and it even prints our price tags in our font for keeping within our brand image.

Betsy Cassel – Scout Salvage

An online paper goods shop’s must-haves:

The Remember The Milk list/to-do app saves my bacon daily. I pay for the Pro version and it’s worth every cent (about $25 yr). It live syncs across my laptop, iPad and Android phone. One of those devices is almost always within arm’s reach so it’s easy to add items to my lists.

I love how things that I need to take care now and in the future can quickly be jotted down and then pop up on my daily to-do email exactly when they need to be done. Remember the Milk totally helps keep me organized and on task, plus it frees up my brain from trying to remember a million details.

Whitney Beard, Whisker Graphics

Running a digital stationery shop:

Virb – I’m comfortable on a lot of blogging and website platforms: WordPress, Blogger, Joomla, and I have ‘built’ a website for a friend using SquareSpace. In my opinion Virb leaves all of these in the dust in terms of simplicity and ease of use. It’s got a small but well designed selection of templates, drag and drop design functionality that really works, and you can hook up Big Cartel and Etsy shops to it seamlessly. I used it to host my Steal This Process eCourse and it was not just easy, but a JOY to use.

Outlook Task List/iPhone Reminders – You mentioned this already but without it I’d go nuts. Here’s how I use it: I create a task of all my major initiatives for the year and add detailed outlined notes within it. I also use tasks to capture general to dos, and then use categorization to organize everything, It’s synced with my iPhone and is my one and only ‘collection point’ for everything. I reference the list each week and month when I do my mid and low level planning, as well as add ‘to-dos’ on my phone when I’m on the go.

Viral Tag – A Pinterest scheduling tool with (at the moment) very basic functionality, however the ability to schedule pins has been kind of a game changer for me. Along with my regular (rather compulsive) pinning, scheduling pins has allowed me to double my Pinterest following in a little over a month. Use with caution!

Google Analytics – Nothing revolutionary here, but I really rely on it to determine where I should focus my social media efforts as well as track conversions to advertising spend. Couldn’t operate without it.

Eleanor Mayrhofer, E.M. Papers

Now spill the beans!

Is there a program or service that saves you time or money for your business? Please share in the comments below, or if you’re looking for something in particular, ask the experts what they use and we’ll get this software party started.

Resin Jewelry Process: Fernworks

Fernworks! I first saw Faryn’s jewelry in a local art museum shop in Seattle and was instantly drawn in to her dreamy world. Imagine my surprise and delight when she approached me to design her website. Many years have passed since then, and it was time for Faryn’s first professionally-designed logo and a new website design. This time, Lauren Hardage on our team did the design work, and Chris McFarlane created the new design theme for her existing shop.

Fernworks logo by Aeolidia

 

Fernworks’ redesigned website, by Aeolidia

Jewelry by Fernworks

Jewelry by Fernworks

Faryn’s work is so original and magical. I recently resurrected the Aeolidia Instagram account, and in doing so, spent some time on Faryn’s feed. I asked her to share the story behind some of her most interesting Instagram photos.

In the studio

Fernworks studio

I work on all my Fernworks creations in a tiny 8′x8′ hut in the backyard by our garden. I love that my work space is its own little separate building. It’s very peaceful back there and it’s a great space for focusing on creative work. I also work with resin, which is incredibly messy, so it’s nice that I can (mostly) contain the mess out there. My husband and I also made a little 4′x4′ “room” on our porch out of plastic sheeting and 2x4s where I cut, sand, and polish all of my jewelry and paintings. That space is literally coated in resin dust and definitely not as cute! :)

Tools and materials

fernworks tools

This is an assortment of a few tools I use in making jewelry: Pens, markers, various pliers, found objects and more. My jewelry making process involves many different tools and steps. Each piece of jewelry is either a real found object and/or hand painted scene which I create with little brushes, pens, and toothpicks. They are cast in thick layers of resin to create a 3D effect. They are then individually cut out and polished. Over the years, I’ve definitely explored different techniques, materials and tools to find the ones that work best for me. (and I’m still experimenting!) I guess all of my work is the result of over 10 years of self-taught experimentation.

Earring cards

fernworks packaging

I’m always playing around with different display ideas. I usually try and create an earthy, natural space with lots of moss, stones, greenery, etc. since so much of my work is nature-inspired. You can mostly find me at indie craft shows around the country like the Renegade Fairs, Urban Craft Uprising in Seattle, or Crafty Bastards in DC. I also show work in more traditional “fine art” shows and galleries as well.

Layering process

fernworks layering process

fernworks layering process

It might be surprising how many layers of resin I have to build up on some pieces. Some paintings have 20+ layers depending on the effect I’m going for. And how after I pour each layer, I have to “babysit” them for a couple of hours until the liquid resin starts to cure or harden. I have to constantly move drifting objects around in the resin, pop bubbles, remove bugs and dust that settle on the surface, etc. It can be a pain!!

Power tools!

fernworks power tools

I majored in sculpture in college, so I’ve been using various power tools and mold-making techniques for quite a awhile. I didn’t have a specific background in jewelry at all. I didn’t start making jewelry until years later in fact. I’ve had to teach myself most skills along the way. I still think of myself as more of a sculptor than a traditional jeweler sometimes.

Nature

natural jewelry

I grew up on a farm in western North Carolina. I spent many afternoons there collecting little odds and ends that I found on our land like bird nests, feathers, interesting clumps of dirt, moss, leaves, bones, fur, twigs, bugs, and other tiny things. I continue that tradition of collecting and gathering in my paintings and line of resin jewelry today.

My work combines painted scenes and organic found ephemera with resin. Each piece is individually hand painted with toothpicks, brushes, and pens, embedded in thick layers of resin, then cut and polished into delicate, dreamlike 3-D landscapes populated by birds, bears, foxes and other creatures.

Find more Fernworks

Find Fernworks on Instagram here, and visit the Fernworks website here.

 

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