Aeolidia’s 2015 Gift Guide for Designers, Part II

This is part two of our 2015 gift guide! I work with some folks who have really good taste – like, bordering on impeccable. I know you’re all out there selling up a storm for the holidays and can’t quite concentrate on any hardcore business advice right now. So let’s look at some beautiful, adorable, and quite useful things that we’re thinking of gifting or getting for Christmas.

Psst! If you’re seeing this in Feedly or another viewer, and the photos are missing, click over to visit our site and see all the loveliness!

Arianne’s Picks

Arianne is captain and founder of Aeolidia, and loves a cheery bit of nature.

Laser Cut Wooden Flowers, £12 – £142Nora Socks, $12

Potted Jungle Embroidered Art, prices varyFjallraven Totepack No. 3 $80

Log Head Rest, $22 • Ceramic Bud Vase, $16


Margot’s Picks

Margot, a brand and web designer, is interested in what is genuine and true, and is passionate about type (and ampersands in particular).

Wood Chips for Grilling, $25Handcrafted Marshmallows, $8

Notorious RBG book, $20Rad American Women book, $15


Shalon’s Picks

Anglophile Journal, $38Climbing Rose Pen, $16

Cobalt Dot Mug, $65Pop-Top Leather Gloves, $88

Medium Flat Pouch, Saddle, $44Bose SoundTrue On-Ear Headphones, $90


Natalia’s Picks

Natalia is our ace copywriter, and when she’s not writing copy, she writes fiction. She’s including her novel, below, and hopes you’ll get in touch with her if you’d like a signed, personalized bookplate for your recipient!

David Bowie Tote Bag, £10The Kinti Hat, $75

Book Shaped Dishware, $9-$27ColoringNotebook, $20

Rose Gold Bracelet & Hair Tie Holder, $45Chasing the Sun novel, $24


Mariah’s Picks

Mariah is a brand identity savant, and mentally redesigns packaging when out shopping.

365 Postcards for Ants book, $53Follow Your Heart bag, $30

Waxed Canvas Messenger Bag, $235Outer Face, $32.40

Plus Ring, $60Polaroid Zip Instant Photo Printer, $130


Christine’s Picks

Christine is a brand and web designer, and design infuses her everyday.

Chaos Pullover, $42Asymmetrical Letter Necklace, $240

Kaweco Sport Skyline Fountain Pen, $37.50Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, $25

Dot Mug, $30Mini Sac, $289


Happy Shopping!

If you’d like to see what else we’re loving right now, visit our Pinterest page.

Aeolidia’s 2015 Gift Guide for Designers, Part I

The Aeolidia team is back with a 2015 gift guide! I work with some folks who have really good taste – like, bordering on impeccable. I know you’re all out there selling up a storm for the holidays and can’t quite concentrate on any hardcore business advice right now. So let’s look at some beautiful, adorable, and quite useful things that we’re thinking of gifting or getting for Christmas.

Sarah’s Picks

Sarah loves science, farming, painting, and great design. She is a brand and web designer at Aeolidia.

Ukelele Wall Hanger, $652016 Time Planner Large: Cute, $70

Lady Leg Knife, $40Bumblebee Door Knocker, $130

Amber Fossil Necklace, $32Ballpoint Pen & Stylus, $22


Sam’s Picks

Sam takes care of our clients and keeps the Aeolidia projects shipshape. Sam loves historical fiction and slinging ink as a block printer.

Turned Penguin, Mahogany, $45Peach Variety Bobby Pins, $7.50

Key Chain, Green, $18Lifeguard #14, Black & White, $35

Shape Stack Throw No. 3, $160Milk & Honey Shortie, $30


Shoshanna’s Picks

Shoshanna’s a web developer on our team, a tea drinker, and a friend to all animals.

Constellation Cozies, $25Double Drop Earrings, $48

Drip Mug, $36Llama Newborn Leggings & Hat Set, $48

Step Aside, Pops, $19.95Willow Loop Scarf, $29


Melanie’s Picks

Melanie is our newest brand and web designer (I can’t wait to show you what she’s been up to!). She’s got a dreamboat husband and three little girls that have taught her to find the beauty in a messy, joyful life.

Chambray Pencil Dress, $63Tubby Todd Gift Set, $65

Avoca Rutherford Checked Throw, $148The Good Samaritime Watch, $75

Gemma Ballerina Doll, $64Voluspa Maison Blanc Mini Candle, $8


Jena’s Picks

Jena helps our clients create marketing strategies that work for them. She’s also a singer, a digger, a dreamer, and a chimichanga eater.

Jasmine Dream Body Oil, $30Gem Salt Bowls, $15

Cat Lady Mug, $18Patta Green Scarf, $55

Leather & Brass Planter DIY, $15Cactus Tea Towel, $26


Happy Shopping!

Stay tuned for our second installment on Thursday. If you’d like to see what else we’re loving right now, visit our Pinterest page.

6 Product Packaging Design Tips From Store Owners

This year we developed the logo, brand identity, business stationery, marketing materials, and all the product packaging for HipCity Sak, a hands-free bag/belt for young girls. The bag snaps to a belt, so the child can carry her treasures, without needing a parent to take care of her stuff. When the bag isn’t needed, girls can snap fun accessories to the belt in place of the bag.

The designer on this project was Mariah, and it was a thrill to watch all the careful thought, research, and planning that went into this design work.

product design and packaging for girls' accessories

product design and packaging for girls' accessories

Photography by Splendid Musings for HipCity Sak.

product packaging design for toys

Photography by Jennifer Lacey for Aeolidia.

Mariah, our designer, was very careful to design packaging that would allow Sherry’s product to shine, while also standing out on the shelves. Mariah had this to say about her design decisions:

As a designer, I’ve been watching the average person become more and more design savvy. With the internet and things like Pinterest, everyone is beginning to learn more about good design and what good style looks like. We are, as a people, becoming more refined and in a way, we’re all becoming designers. It’s very exciting and has allowed for some super unique and new ideas about style and art to come into being. Kids today have more style and design intuition than most adults ever had in the past. I love working with clients who get this.

I see a lot of products and brand identities in early stages and a lot of people want to ‘fit in’ with the competition and have their brand, products and collateral look like what’s out there already. Unfortunately, when people do that, by the time their product hits the market, it’s already dated and doesn’t stand out the way it should.

When you’re coming into the market with a brand new, innovative idea like yours, I really like to encourage you to be brave & innovative with your packaging as well. Be a leader, not a follower. Don’t let the innovation stop with your product, carry it through your entire brand!

Now, that being said, I also know that there is value in those ‘go-to’ styles, there’s a reason that they’ve become the standard.. so, what I’m saying, is that we take what works from them, and update them in a new and exciting way.

All of this is what I’ve tried to do with your packaging. I’ve attempted to show the consumer that HipCity believes in their style and design savviness. That you trust that they understand and can appreciate good design.

Your product packaging can make or break your chance to be sold in stores - and once your product is in stores, it can help sell your product. Retailers spill the beans of what is effective in this post on our blog. Click over to get your products ready for the big time!

Top product packaging tips from retail stores

Sherry Beuchner, owner of HipCity Sak, cleverly got in touch with some retailers before developing her packaging to get advice on what they’d seen working before, and the tips she got back were golden. We’d like to share those with you today, as well as the work we put into the packaging, and the final results

When planning your product packaging, browse the type of stores you’d like your product sold in, and see how similar products are packaged. There are likely to be a lot of methods and options, and you can see what does and doesn’t work well. These tips from shop owners are priceless:

1. Boxes are great for gifts

Custom boxes can be a more costly option than cardboard backers, tags, or other options. If you think your product would make a popular gift, though, consider a box! Most retailers told Sherry that boxes are great for busy folks who are looking for a birthday present for a little girl. If it looks like a great present in box packaging, the gift giver can throw it in a gift bag or quickly wrap it for a great looking, easy gift.

Products fully enclosed in a box are great for merchants, too, because they don’t have to worry about the product or packaging getting damaged from too much handling by customers.

Boutique store product packaging

Boutique store product packaging, showing clear window for product, and information on black. The black, white, and gold packaging will stand out in a sea of pink and purple.

2. If you box your product, have a way to seal it

You would be surprised how often customers will open your box to see the product and then leave it unwrapped, with a mess on the shelf. Sherry’s retailers advised her to come up with some type of sticker, shrinkwrap, or other seal to keep her packages tidy.

3. Provide a demo product if you want people to be able to touch or try it

If your product is securely boxed, but it’s something that you think people would like to be able to have in their hands before purchasing, you may be able to give the store a demo product for them to display by your boxed product. Sherry wanted people to feel how soft the bags were, as well as to see for themselves how easy it was to clip on and off and use the velcro.

4. Keep the logo low key

Multiple retailers told Sherry that they don’t buy products for their shop when the logo is splashed all over the product. Parents often don’t want their children advertising a company by wearing the product. Sherry was advised to keep her logo small and not to have it be a big visible part of her product itself. We decided to tuck it under the flap on the bags.

product packaging design for handbags

The logo is embroidered on the product under the velcro flap. This way, parents and kids will know Sherry’s brand, but don’t feel like they’re providing free advertising. The embroidered rocket tag is a nice way to bring in Sherry’s brand without it being too much for her customers. Photography by Jennifer Lacey for Aeolidia.

5. Powerful visuals work best

When shoppers are scanning the store aisle (possibly with a toddler or two pulling at their clothing!), they don’t have as much time to read and learn as you’d hope they would. So you want your packaging to give them the big idea about the benefits of your product, mostly in visual form.

For Sherry, Mariah drew silhouettes of girls wearing the bags, to illustrate how it worked.

big box store packaging

Black, white, and gold stand out as a special product. The silhouettes clearly explain what you’re buying and how it works at a glance.

product packaging design for kids' accessories

Positive feedback from a retailer about the silhouettes caused Sherry to bring them to the front of the packaging in the final design. Photography by Jennifer Lacey for Aeolidia.


These packaging stickers show off the benefits of the product in an eye catching way.

6. Packaging is MORE important than your product

One shop owner told Sherry that the packaging is so important that often it doesn’t matter what’s inside! Sherry told us this was a quite a blow to her, the product designer, but she’s found it to be true. Your packaging tells your story, lists features and explains benefits, establishes your style, and attracts customers to it. Without that, your product doesn’t have much hope on store shelves.

For another example of this, see our Azalia Spa Goods project. What does Aimee sell? A nondescript cream, which is essentially a chameleon. Her lotions and soaps have no personality or appeal until they’re packaged. Packaging design is a huge opportunity to speak to your perfect customers through your design.

accessories packaging

Accessories packaging design mock

product packaging design for toys

Final accessories packaging. Photography by Jennifer Lacey for Aeolidia.

HipCity Sak launched in stores in late June and are in eight toy and gift stores. Two stores have already reordered for the holidays. If you’d like to see the bag and packaging in action, view this local news segment that Sherry provided us.

Is your brand ready for the full experience?

Avoid the “don’ts” of getting your product onto store shelves, and team up with us to create product packaging that will have retailers saying yes, yes, yes to you! All of Sherry’s retailers were eagerly anticipating her product and were bowled over when it arrived. We would love to help make you stand out. Don’t let your idea flounder because it’s not presented well – contact us right away to give your product the chance it deserves.

9 Tips to Turn a Profit at Every Holiday Market or Craft Fair

Stephanie Lendrum is the owner and artist behind Phylogeny Art, a line of detailed painted notecards inspired by nature. She’s joining us today to give you her top craft fair selling tips for seeing success at holiday markets and other events and fairs.

Stephanie’s holiday market presence has continued to grow steadily for the 4 years that she’s been doing shows. She learned a thing or two (or 12) from that first year and she’s continued to develop a presence that brings new and returning customers in on a regular basis. In fact, she’s proud to be able to say that she’s turned a profit in every show she’s done, with a turnaround of at least 3x over the entry fee, and upwards of 6x at a show a few weeks ago where other vendors were barely able to cover their table fee and struggled to sell merchandise above $5 price points.

Learn how she does it here, and then get the details at the bottom of the post so you can ask her all of your holiday market and craft fair selling questions live on Facebook on Friday!

craft fair tips for success

Holiday Market Selling Tips, by Stephanie Lendrum

The holiday market season is here. Along with it comes excitement, chaos, and exhaustion – and hopefully profits too. Bottom line – I think the key to success is to learn from your experiences and build your presence from one year to the next.  I was invited here to share with you some tips that I’ve learned from doing holiday markets over the past 4 years.

What you’ll learn from this post: I wouldn’t exactly call this my “recipe for success.” It’s more like a lesson in evolution. I hope that what I’m sharing here will help bring success to your booth this holiday season and in years to come.

What I’m not going to cover: There are loads of articles about how to design your display, and what to bring with you. Don’t get me wrong – those are important pieces of information! But I think that the techniques I’ll share here will be enlightening and fresh.

So let’s get started.

9 tips for making money at craft fairs and holiday markets on the Aeolidia blog.


1.     Treat your visitors like birds in your garden. Invite them in. Welcome them warmly with a nice hello and a genuine smile. But then… leave them alone to wander and discover. Let them pick things up, and interact with your items.  If it looks like a visitor is having a hard time deciding, strike up a casual conversation about your items. But keep in mind: there’s a delicate balance between being pushy/salesman-y and being helpful. Your approach can be the difference between turning a visitor into a loyal customer, or one who will fly off to another less pushy vendor.

Bonus tip: Incorporate some disarray in your display on purpose. I scatter some card packs around on my table. Yes, it looks disheveled. But if your display is too perfect, your visitors will actually be less likely to interact with your items!  Why? Fear that they’ll disrupt your perfect display.

2.     Bring something to do. But stick to busy-work tasks. Nothing that you can’t pull yourself away from – and ideally something that you’re selling. I make gift tag packs. They just involve hole-punching, tying ribbon, and putting tags together in bags for sale. In the past I’ve made the mistake of painting. Sure, it was a good use of time and attracted visitors who wanted to watch me at work.  But most of them didn’t want to interrupt me while I was working, so they didn’t buy anything. The tags let me look productive without looking like I’m doing something critically important. (I’ve also made the mistake of bringing a book… huge mistake. You come across looking bored or uninterested in your booth rather than looking intelligent.)

3.     Bring your thinking caps too.  After I say my warm hello and go back to making tags…  I listen. What are my visitors saying? It’s usually something quiet, and under their breath. Do they “love” what they’re holding? Do they pipe up and ask if I have something in particular (my most recent: “Do you have anything with owls?”). Those are important things to consider for the next year – take a mental note of each comment and suggestion. Those ideas are what should drive your work for the next year. And the busy-work also gives an opportunity to brainstorm and build on those suggestions.

4.     Variety is key. Take the garden theme. If a garden is full of roses, it will attract visitors that love roses. And that’s about it. Now, consider your market booth. If you only sell one thing – even if that thing comes in a variety of styles – you’ll only bring in visitors who are looking for that one thing. And you probably won’t be bringing in many gift buyers either. They’re generally browsing for the “right thing,” so they tend to shop at booths with a variety of ideas. My approach to this – I try to add something completely different to my line every year. They haven’t always panned out to best-sellers, but the variety helps bring new visitors in to take a closer look. And I continue to attract my loyal customers who are eager to see the new ideas I’ve come up with.

5.     Give your visitors direction with signs + tags. I’ve found this to be a key to success. I have a sign and a tag for everything! I think of them as answers to FAQs for my booth. (The chalkboard trend is fantastic for this – I buy mini chalkboards at the craft store for $1 a piece. And I reuse/update them each year.) My most useful signs are ones with suggestions of how to use an item. I consider them an opportunity to give visitors an idea of how that item will be useful to them!  I also use signs for prices, and also mark each item with a price tag too. Redundant? Yeah, definitely. But that way a visitor can find out if that item fits their budget without having to awkwardly ask about it. (…And be professional about your tags – don’t use those cheap orange price tags that you see at garage sales. That orange sticker just doesn’t do justice to your hard work in making that item.)

holiday market tips for success

6.     Be your brand.  If you’ve already worked on branding your small biz or your website, then this isn’t news to you. But it’s beyond important to brand your market booth. Why? It makes you look more professional – and it helps you to stand out as your own space in the marketplace. But your branding goes far beyond your business cards. Think about your display. Do the containers you’re using match the aesthetic of your brand? What about your tablecloths? Do you have a banner? And consider that you’re on display as much as your handmade items.  Have you thought out how you’re dressed and if you match your brand image?

7.     Your customers carry your brand with them too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of reusing plastic bags from the grocery store. But reusing them as shopping bags for your holiday markets? That’s not the time to do it. Your packaging should also embody your brand – I suggest investing in some (recycled) paper handled bags, or recycled paper lunch bag. Get yourself a custom stamp with your brand logo, and stamp each bag. Cheap, easy, DIY branding. And the secret, unspoken bonus? Your customers will be carrying that bag around the rest of the market. When they bump into their friends and show off what they just bought, they’ll will know exactly where they got it, rather than “at that booth somewhere over that way.”

8.     Get a card reader.  I’ve heard a lot of people ask if they need one. Yes. In this day and age, you should have one. And if you have a smart phone or a tablet with internet access, you have no excuse not to have one. True, many customers will bring cash with them. But if they run out of cash at the show before they get to your booth, do you really want to say “No, I can’t take your card, I only take cash?” No, definitely not. So how do you get one? If there’s still time before your show, you can request many of them online and they will be shipped to you for free. Or just go to your local office supply store and buy one (they’re usually around $15, and well worth it). How do you use them? They’re super easy! If you’ve ever swiped your own card at a grocery store, you can swipe a customer’s card. And each reader has an app to download with instructions on the app and online. Just be sure to practice with the app a bit before the show so you know how to operate it, and you’re good to go.

9.     Evolve.  After every show, I take notes about the show. What did I learn, what did I overhear, and what were my customers asking for? In my last show, customers asked me about owls and finches. So for my show next week, I’m making some owl and finch ornaments. They aren’t custom orders. Just something those customers were interested in – interested enough to speak up.

I think that #9 is really the main key to success. Whatever you learn at one show can be applied to the next. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the desire to stick to your guns, especially as a creative. But to make the items you want to make, you need to be prepared to offer your customers what they want to buy. Evolving, and rolling with the punches from one show to the next allows your booth to improve. And you never know where those changes will take you! You may find a new way to display your items that makes people more likely to grab them and then buy them. Or that one trinket you made might end up being incredibly popular… so much so that you may spin off a whole other line for your business. But that’s only possible if your mind is open to evolving and spinning along with it.

So that’s it. My suggestions for market success. Like I said at the beginning, it’s not a “recipe for success.” I can’t tell you exactly what to do to guarantee that you’ll make a profit. But I can tell you that from my experiences – and from learning to evolve – each market has been more successful than the last.  It’s one big learning process.  I hope that my techniques give you a different perspective as you prepare yourself for this holiday market season!

… Oh, and don’t forget to pack your business cards. (No how-to-succeed-in-craft-shows article would be complete without that tip.)

craft fair tips for success

Thanks, Stephanie! See Stephanie’s beautiful work here, on her site: Phylogeny Art

Want to learn more about making the most of your craft fair presence?

We will be having a live  30 minute Q&A chat in our Facebook group. Stephanie would be glad to have you ask her anything about her experiences with holiday markets and craft fairs. Wondering about inventory, variety, following up with customers, booth setup, promotion, or anything else? Let’s all have a chat about it! Put it on your calendar:

Friday, November 20 at 10 am Pacific / 1 pm Eastern.

You need to be a member of our private Facebook group to chat or follow along. But no worries! Join below and I’ll approve you right away. If you join now, you’ll get my reminder when it’s time.

Join our Facebook group here.

How To Seduce Customers with a Gorgeously Appealing Brand

luxury spa brand

Azalia Spa Goods is a line of aromatherapy body oils made from pure botanical ingredients. Founder Aimee Aleta Flor asked us to develop her visual identity, messaging and branding after the logo and messaging she’d been using began to feel fragmented and inconsistent. A luxury spa brand needs to connect with customers on a very personal level—there’s a visual appeal that’s essential, that the customer has to see themselves reflected in, as well as a level of trust that needs to be established quickly. Each element of the brand, from its logo to its product descriptions, tagline, photography and package design, has to work cohesively to do such heavy lifting (all while making it appear effortless).

Although we decided to start over from scratch, Aimee had already done an amazing amount of work to understand her target audience and value proposition. She knew the customer she was trying to appeal to inside and out, from her core values and interests, right down to her favorite book and the car she drives! She was also very clear about what her brand needed to embody: free spiritedness, eco-consciousness, kindness to self and others, and handcrafted elegance.

We began by developing her tagline. While a few of the concepts I submitted focused on her products and their benefits, I kept thinking of how peace of mind, and living consciously and full of awareness is so important to Azalia’s ideal customer, so I chose to focus on a tagline that expressed those values. Common values and philosophies often make for a stronger connection with your customers; it creates a sense of understanding that leads to loyalty. Of these, “Simply Pure By Nature” grabbed Aimee immediately in the first round of tagline concepts.

This allowed us to move onto the next step: logo creation! Again, Aimee’s input was well thought-out and helped launch the project in the right direction. The objectives she shared with Aeolidia designer Sarah were focused and specific: “I want people to feel a spa experience when using our product and be inspired by nature and lovely details with the look of our product. Retailers we hope to partner up with are Anthropologie, Whole Foods, green spas (Noktivo Spa) and specialty boutiques (Pink Olive).”

In addition to the creative brief, Sarah found plenty of inspiration from Aimee’s Pinterest board: “Something I noticed with everything you pinned is that you really love simple, clean brands that give all their detail over to beautiful patterns and textiles. I LOVE that!”

Upon submitting initial logo concepts, Sarah offered this piece of advice: “Think about how we will be using your brand. Big and small, business cards, banners, adverts, cards, packaging, stickers, wrapping paper, boxes, stamps… it’s an endless list!” Especially this early in the process, choosing a creative direction requires the client to use their imagination to see the potential in each concept. Again, Aimee was focused and decisive; she honed in on a concept she loved and had Sarah keep going with it. It paired a beautiful stylized font that had a handwritten feel with a simple floral detail.

In the next round, as she refined the concept, Sarah used variations on the floral and leaf patterns that ranged from intricate to minimal. She created four options with notes on each approach, such as “in this last option, I stripped the idea right back to create a minimal version. It’s not too much and brings the visual focus back to the primary typeface, which I really like.”

Luxury spa logo and packaging photography by Jen Lacey

Luxury spa logo and packaging photography by Jen Lacey

Luxury apothecary brand and packaging photography by Jen Lacey

Luxury apothecary brand and packaging photography by Jen Lacey

Luxury bath and body logo and packaging photography by Jen Lacey

Luxury bath and body logo and packaging photography by Jen Lacey

Aimee completely agreed, taking Sarah’s input a step further by imagining each concept in all the different ways it’d be used: “Although I really loved logo 01, I think it’s stunning by itself, but when I imagined it as a whole picture on packaging, if ever there’s a pattern, I think it would appear a bit busy.”

This is something all designers take into account, as Sarah planned on introducing patterns and textures to all the other brand elements that would come next. Sarah and Aimee continued working on color palettes and graphic elements while I worked on copy for her website and product descriptions, which would be featured both online and on the packaging designs. Throughout each step, Aimee’s focus and confidence in her audience and project objectives helped everyone on the Aeolidia team create a brand that came together beautifully, efficiently, and (most importantly) effectively.

Take a look at the final big picture of Azalia Spa Goods’ brand.

Luxury spa packaging design and marketing materials by Sarah Connor.

Luxury spa packaging design and marketing materials by Sarah Connor.

Luxury bath and body brand design by Aeolidia

Luxury bath and body packaging design by Aeolidia

Luxury bath and body packaging design by Aeolidia

If you’re dreaming about a brand that’s a complete experience and expression of your product and values, contact us! We can’t wait to bring out its beauty.

What Makers Should Do About the Handmade at Amazon News

It’s been hard to ignore Amazon’s rapid infiltration of the handmade product scene. Today I’m giving you a news roundup, and sharing how you can prep for changes in the world of selling the products you design online.

Get caught up on where I’m at by reading Protect Your Shop From the Amazon vs Etsy Battle.

A Handmade at Amazon news roundup, and how to prep for changes at Etsy and elsewhere in the world of selling the products you design online.

What does Etsy think of Handmade at Amazon?

Here’s some reporting from Etsy’s side of things. From Visiting Etsy, Amazon’s Next Prey:

Artists can sell in both places, and Handmade at Amazon, which launched with just a few thousand sellers, is surely hoping to encroach on Etsy’s stable of more than a million. But Amazon has the clear advantage when it comes to active customers: Etsy has about twenty-two million; Amazon has more than ten times that number. The day the press release was issued, a dozen news sites referred to Handmade by Amazon as an “Etsy killer.”

“That kind of language doesn’t really fly here,” an Etsy employee told me last week. “It’s just so violent.”

Martha Stewart’s American Made partners with Handmade at Amazon

Martha Stewart’s American Made Market, previously on eBay, is rumored to be moving over to Handmade at Amazon. This is hush hush for now, but keep an eye out for that announcement probably next week. eBay is not a perfect fit for handmade products, so this seems like a positive move, but I’m curious why Etsy wasn’t the original choice. I’m guessing Etsy wouldn’t be able to accommodate this type of marketplace within a marketplace, and I’d be interested to know more. Martha’s backing will add some credibility to Handmade at Amazon, for sure.

I also see that Handmade at Amazon has been sponsoring craft fairs and connecting with sellers and the handmade community in other ways.

Etsy tries something new: connecting sellers with manufacturers

An interesting move on Etsy’s part is the launch of Etsy Manufacturing:

Etsy Manufacturing is a marketplace that helps sellers find and connect directly with manufacturers to form responsible partnerships. Starting today, we are accepting applications from manufacturers in four categories: apparel and textiles, machining and fabrication, printing, and jewelry and metalwork.

Thanks to Abby Glassenberg for tipping me off to this. This seems like a great idea, and I wonder how it will play out.

Amazon is up to all kinds of things

Unrelated to craft, but highly interesting: after pulverizing small bookstores, Amazon has created a brick and mortar bookstore of their own. Audacious! This is in Seattle, where I live, and I haven’t checked it out yet. I have been eying that building for a while, wondering what was going to appear there. I’m very interested in the forward-facing books, because that is my favorite way to shop for books. I like the tables in the front where new releases, best sellers, and staff picks are laid out.

Why is this a challenge for handmade product designers?

We are talking via the Aeolidia newsletter and in the Aeolidia Facebook group about making the big move to self-reliance in ecommerce. One member of our Facebook group asked,

I’m all for switching from Etsy to Shopify because I like the idea of driving people to my website instead of the “sea of competition” on Etsy. My fear is the cost of Shopify coupled with the lack of sales I’ve gotten on Etsy. I keep thinking “If I’m not doing so well on Etsy, then who am I to take this next big step?”

The huge problem for many is not knowing how to market their business and drive traffic to their site. It is a wonderful thing that Etsy can do the work for so many businesses, keeping them afloat and busy with sales without the shop owner needing to find customers on their own.

The flip side of that is that if you don’t know how to gather your own audience of customers, you will be high and dry if Etsy stops sending them to you. At least until you can figure out how to do so yourself.

If you aren’t confident in your ability to attract customers, sell to them, and keep the momentum going, setting up your own Shopify site is not going to be your best next step – not without some attention paid to marketing strategy. If no one is buying from your Etsy shop, no one will buy from your own shop. If your Etsy shop is busy, but you know that Etsy is sending you all the customers, you’ve got the same problem. You need customers that are yours, not Etsy’s.

What should Etsy sellers do about an unpredictable future?

So what should you do now to prepare your business to weather the difficulties which may come up? Things may go well, they may go poorly, but you want to be captain of your own ship, and you need to know how to steer it if you see an iceberg ahead.

Now is the time to learn how to promote your own shop, get your name out there, gather a tribe of loyal customers and people who will spread the word for you. You need to create a mailing list, send a newsletter out regularly, choose one or two social media platforms to get good at, pitch what you do to the press, attend trade shows or craft fairs, network, collaborate, and make what you do worthy of sharing.

Rather than sending these new people to Etsy, I would recommend sending them to your own domain name, even if that domain directs people right to your Etsy shop, or to a simple site that has a link to your Etsy shop. If you can afford to (the fees aren’t incredibly different, depending on how much you sell), go ahead and set up on Shopify, or try out Big Cartel or another “starter” ecommerce platform.

Keep an eye on your stats and work to grow the amount of sales you get from your own efforts. Once you feel that you have a sustainable group of customers, you can invest more time and energy in your own shop, and ease away from dependence on marketplace platforms.

I am going to write more on this topic in the new year, and we have also written about many of these topics before. Here is where you can get started learning how to take charge of marketing your own business:

Aeolidia’s blog posts about marketing your business »

If you’re interested to growing your business to where you can call the shots, subscribe to my newsletter. I’m a champion of small business, and I share info in my newsletter that doesn’t make it to the blog.

Is Your Product Shelf-Worthy?

Katie and Kristen are two sisters who set out to find cool, boyish dolls for their sons and ended up creating a collection themselves when the market came up short. We were ecstatic to create the Boy Story logo and identity, especially knowing how important the right visuals are when getting a new product onto shelves at brick-and-mortar stores.

Boy Story offers Action Dolls and pairs them with comic book-style stories that feature the dolls on a big adventure. We knew that catching the eyes of young boys, girls, their parents (and stores!) would require tapping into their unique sense of fun and excitement.

baseball bat icon design for boy story by aeolidia

Our designer Sarah got to work on the logo first. It’s a fundamental part of a brand, usually guiding future design choices like web design, packaging, social media visuals, and even little things like business cards and thank you notes. Katie and Kristen were creating the kind of high-quality dolls that stay in a family for generations, so they really wanted a visual identity made up of a “collectible and classic image along with a cool, fun, adventurous feel that will spark boys interest.”  They pictured the dolls and books in boutique stores as well as large chains like Whole Foods, Amazon, and Nordstrom.

Because it would be used for the company as well as their series of books, Katie and Kristen needed both a symbolic graphic logo and a spelled out logo. Together with Sarah, the three swapped illustration and typeface inspiration on Pinterest, which helped Sarah come up with a first round of logo concepts. Centered around the idea of a boy becoming lost in a story, they included visual treatments of a boy reading, a boy reading with friends, and a silhouette of a boy reading in a camping tent.

Katie and Kristen were excited about this first round, and gave wonderfully detailed explanations of what they liked—such as the stars and the moons in one of the concepts, the typeface used in another—as well as what they didn’t feel would connect with their audience (for example, they didn’t want to use actual faces in the branding). Ultimately their helpful feedback steered the project in a better direction: “You are capturing the cute side of it, which we love, but we feel like the cool side is missing a little bit.  We have to remember that not only are we selling to the moms, but we are selling to the little boys who need to see it and think it’s cool.”

canoe icon design for boy story by aeolidia

Newly inspired, Sarah submitted a fresh batch of logo concepts that explored new typography directions, a Captain America inspired design, and a more textured, hand-drawn looking design that played with a slightly roughed up look. This time around, Katie and Kristen were excited about two specific designs, and they asked Sarah to continue exploring them. They liked the color and textures involved, and wanted to see it with different font options.

The logo began to take shape, lending itself nicely to symbolic graphic options as well. “We love the font and LOVE the way that the “B” has come together. We really like how the swirl looks now coming off the plane too.”

B icon design for boy story by aeolidia

Doesn’t it just look like the adventure’s about to begin? That’s how Sarah felt designing it. With the main Boy Story logo approved, she got to work on accompanying elements, like the color palette, graphic elements made up of a baseball, a plane, and a B, and the textures, patterns, and typefaces that would all come together throughout the Boy Story product packaging, stationary sets, and books.

boy story brand identity by aeolidia

Did we mention there were also stickers and buttons involved? Just imagine these goodies getting dropped into shopping bags at brick-and-mortar stores for a completely delightful branded experience!

boy-story-print-design by aeolidia

Getting Products into Stores

Do you have a product you’re hoping to launch in retail stores soon? Contact us to get your logo and brand identity designed with an aim of getting products into stores.

How to Find Customers for Your Weird Creative Business

Have you noticed what is going on all around you? If you have a creative product-based business, congratulations! You’re taking advantage of the only time in history it’s been easy to do what you do. This is the time when the long tail can succeed.

Do you have a quirky creative business? Wondering how to find customers who would want to buy exactly what you make? Those people are out there, and they would love your product if they knew about it! You just need to find them, and it’s easier now than ever.

Let’s imagine, for instance, that you had made a collection of greeting cards with curse words on them in the 1980s. How the hell would you have sold those? Maybe taking out ads in the back of offbeat magazines and hoping the right people would mail you a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) to get your catalog? See if you can convince Hallmark cards to try something edgy? It would have been a long, hard road.

What if you designed and sewed dolls that looked like monsters, but it’s the early 1900s? Are you going to go door to door with them? It’s not likely you’re going to become the Henry Ford of monster dolls.

small businesses + big ideas = limitless possibilities

But now? Martha Stewart has a yearly contest for American made products. Amazon is challenging Etsy to a duel. Shopify helps over 175,000 businesses sell their products on multiple sales channels. Small creative businesses are making a huge impact.

We live in exciting times. You can now make a creative, unique, unusual – even downright weird – product on your own. It’s easier than ever to figure out how to accomplish your ideas, thanks to the internet. Then, you can take that idea, and (for free!) spread it out into the world.

Instead of watering down your idea or trying to make it appeal to more people, you can hunt the entire globe for the perfect people for exactly what it is you do – no matter how odd or how quirky.

Instead of speaking to a large audience composed mostly of people who don’t care, you can speak to a tight group of people who are fanatics for your particular product.

The kind of product that never would have been successful in a big box store can sell like hotcakes on your own ecommerce site. You no longer have to figure out what your local community would like and sell that. You can make what you like and find the people who agree with you.

This is a beautiful thing!

Aeolidia manifesto

What do you need to make this work for you?

A product that is worth finding out about.

You need to stand out from all the noise and make something that stops people in their tracks with a “wow!”

Here are some of our posts that help with this and show examples:

Make Marketing Easy With A Unique Selling Proposition

Sourcing and Creating Products: Shop Sweet Lulu

A Unique Brand Vision: Aheirloom

Aeolidia’S Creative Biz Crushes On Instagram


Products don't speak to people, the stories behind them do

A compelling story.

The new marketplace is all about the story your business tells. It may look like Aeolidia is a design and development studio, but really we are storytellers. You have your amazing product and you’ve found an audience and we help tell your story in a way that makes people feel like they need your products.

Here are some of our posts that help with this and show examples:

Make Magic For Your Biz With A Strong Brand Story

How To Identify & Attract Your Dream Customer

Bamboletta: Made With Crafts(Wo)Manship And Love

Start Right By Choosing A Business Name With A Story: 5 Junes


A fitting and memorable logo and brand identity.

If people go to all the trouble to find you, you want to make sure they will remember you. This is part of your story, and it needs to work for you.

Here are some of our posts that help with this and show examples:

Why Your Full Brand Identity Matters

Launch And Sell A Product To Brick & Mortar Stores: Hipcity

Begin With Your Brand: The Paper Seahorse

Using Your Brand Identity: Siamese Social Club


a good idea becomes a great idea when you let it out

A way to find your perfect customers and keep them updated about your business.

This could be your own website, your social media accounts, a marketplace shop, attending trade shows or craft fairs, a newsletter. You need to be online, because that’s the only place with enough volume of shoppers to be able to find the ones that will totally get what it is you’re doing.

Here are some of our posts that help with this and show examples:

Start An Online Shop With Shopify

Printable Ecommerce Setup Checklist

Two Great Email Newsletter Guides To Finally Start Your Mailing List

How To Bring Quality, Targeted Traffic To Your Online Shop


Ready for some support with all this?

Call on the Aeolidia team! We are master storytellers, able to distill the heart of what you do into a brand identity that your ideal customers will relate to and into a website that will make perfect sense to them.

We still have a couple of openings for brand identity design and custom Shopify web design in January, and we’re expecting a busy year. We’d love to talk to you about transforming your business now, and get you on our schedule.

A Friendly and Organized Redesign: Shiny Happy World

We first met Wendi Gratz, owner of Shiny Happy World, when she won our Best Next Step giveaway and received our input on what to focus on next. Wendi is a self-taught sewist on a mission to help beginners make their crafty dreams reality by offering a plethora of video tutorials, patterns, and sewing supplies on her site.

In fact, she’s such an avid DIYer that she’d previously done all her website work herself, starting with a Blogger site, moving to the Wordpress platform, then adding a members-only platform and more. In less than four years her business and product line had grown so much that load times and user-friendliness on her site were beginning to suffer.

“I’m starting to worry that the whole thing feels cobbled together. I know it feels that way on the back end, but I worry that it feels that way on the front too,” she told us.

shinyhappyworld logo by aeolidia

There were a lot of factors to consider in terms of the site’s functionality: hundreds of tutorials in different categories, hundreds of free patterns (some accessible to members only), pattern series customers can subscribe to, and a daily blog. All this information needed to be managed and organized to showcase what Shiny Happy World has to offer and help customers find what they’re looking for.

For Wendi’s Next Best Step, our advice was 3-fold: build a stronger mailing list by making the newsletter sign-up more accessible and value-oriented, find meaningful ways to guest post that’ll drive traffic back to your site, and invest in a professional website redesign when there’s room in your budget.

shiny-happy-world-home page design by Aeolidia

We were thrilled when Wendi came to us to design and develop her new site. With a focus on a clean, fresh, and friendly look that would be consistent with Shiny Happy World’s branding (including illustrative details and bold pops of color) Christine came up with a new concept that featured: a new, decluttered header; easier-to-find search, account login, shopping cart and wish list functionalities; and a brand new navigation system that clearly distinguishes between free content and products in the shop.

The new design also made Wendi’s main offerings immediately clear to site visitors so that they knew right away what the store has to offer: 1) to shop 2) to learn 3) to join the mailing list, which is one of Wendi’s main business drivers.


Wendi was so happy with the design, her first thoughts were,

“I clicked on that link and there was my dream website.”

With the look and feel of the site approved, Zoe, our developer, began working on the logistics of each visitor’s shopping experience, which would be improved with things like a wishlist, suggested items that help shoppers find supplies and other items related to their purchase, and new ways to shop, like by category and by skill level, on the shop’s landing page.


“Once again you’ve totally nailed it – such a fun and inviting shop home page,” Wendi said.

The new site not only looks more inviting, but it creates an environment and experience where customers find what they’re looking for, and much, much more.


Are you ready for your best next step?

Need help navigating and showcasing a large variety of products to your customers? Organizing and managing your shop in beautiful, enticing ways is our specialty! Contact us to get started.

Protect Your Shop From the Amazon vs Etsy Battle

We have been talking about Amazon Handmade, the new challenger to Etsy, on my newsletter the last couple of weeks. This is big news for all crafters, makers, designers, and small creative businesses. Even if you don’t sell on Etsy, the current state of handmade online speaks to how important the handmade/indie designer movement is. Handmade at Amazon vs Etsy! Creative small business has big corporations fighting over it now. How impressive that handmade has become such a big deal!

How to protect yourself in the battle of Etsy vs Handmade at Amazon - you can win!

How makers feel about Handmade at Amazon

Amazon has spent many months getting in touch with handmade sellers to launch Handmade at Amazon. There has been a lot of talk about this in the Facebook groups I’m a member of. People seem to fall into one of two camps: the one that feels that Amazon and handmade aren’t a good fit, and have no interest in joining, and the camp that feels dubious about Amazon, but thinks it’s worth giving it a try to see if it pays off or not. The billions of people who shop on Amazon are certainly a temptation.

I haven’t yet heard from any makers who are wholeheartedly supporting this new venture. On a side note, watch the video on Amazon’s page I linked above – so many uncomfortable smiles at the end there!

Lots of people are dissatisfied with Etsy for many reasons which I don’t need to recap here – just Google it if this is a new concept to you. Some see Handmade at Amazon as a viable alternative, and some see this as a sign pointing to the end of Etsy.

What does this mean for handmade in general?

Etsy is ten years old now. In all that time, they haven’t had any competition that’s made them sweat. There are other online marketplaces that you can sell handmade goods on, but none have become large enough to be a threat to Etsy. I, for one, would not feel calm if Amazon specifically targeted my business as competition, like they have with Etsy.

In a perfect world, competition is a great thing. We don’t want Etsy having a monopoly on the handmade marketplace, because that gives them less pressure to improve things for their sellers and customers. Abby Glassenberg wrote an article that outlines why some healthy competition would be a good thing for Etsy. The problem here is that that competition is Amazon, and Amazon is not known as a company that fights fair. Amazon will tear its own leg off if clubbing their opponent with it will be the lethal blow.

Most media outlets are calling Handmade at Amazon the Etsy Killer, which must be what Amazon wants people to say. It wasn’t in the press release I found, but it seems like odd wording to be coincidentally repeated across so many news stories. What if Amazon isn’t interested in making a good solution for makers, but a “good enough” one, so they can corner the handmade market? Amazon has a history of losing money strategically to destroy their competition.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m an expert on stock valuation, but if my business relied entirely on Etsy’s continued existence, I wouldn’t feel confident about this:

Etsy's dropping stock valuation


Google “AMZN stock” to see a graph that’s basically the opposite of this, if you’re curious.

What should you do to protect your business?

After reading my newsletter, some people got in touch with me with the realization that if their Etsy site was shut down tomorrow, they wouldn’t have a business at all. If you sell exclusively on Etsy and rely on the traffic they send you, now is a great time to start making a Plan B.

While Etsy may be working wonderfully for you right now, you don’t want to put all of your eggs in someone else’s basket. I feel most comfortable with my eggs in my own basket, and you will at least want to distribute them around. You don’t want your entire business to rely on a single company that is out of your control.

Even if Etsy survives and thrives under Amazon’s attack, there is nothing stopping them from making a wee change to their search algorithm that leaves your shop out in the cold. I have heard from some of you that your views and purchases on Etsy have reached an all time low recently – bad news before the holidays, and I’m hoping it’s only temporary.

Wouldn’t it feel better to have some control over this? Here are steps you can take towards a healthy independent business.

Purchase your own domain name

If you currently send people directly to your Etsy URL when marketing your business, I would advise against that. You want to promote yourself, and build a following that can actually follow you if you need to move.

At the bare minimum, purchase a domain name (I’m using and recommending DNSimple right now), and ask customer support at the domain registrar to point it to your Etsy shop. Then, always send people to your own domain (, not when promoting or marketing your shop.

Your own domain name should be on your business cards, in your social media profiles, and in any kind of advertising or promotional opportunities you get.

Think of your URL as an address people can always use to find you. If you decide to move your shop, people will still have your address, and you won’t lose traffic from links or bookmarks. You won’t need to tell people that you moved – they will come along with you.

Set up a little online home and learn how to market your business

The next step up in claiming your own “land” on the internet is to set up a simple informational site that tells people about you, has some way to contact you, and directs people to shop with you on Etsy. This way, you have a bit of a home built and the transition won’t be as tricky if you end up moving away.

There are a lot of ways to do this. Many domain registrars and web hosts offer a free home page or splash page. To go a step further, you could set up hosting and install WordPress, using a pre-made theme that fits your brand’s style.

At this interim stage, you don’t need to worry about setting up your own shop, but this is a good time to learn how to drive traffic to your own site. If you are going to go to the effort of getting press for your business, the new customers should be sent to your own site, otherwise you are just spending time doing marketing work for Etsy.

Etsy should be sending you sales via and you should be sending your own hard-won new customers to your own website. You sending new customers to Etsy is not the best use of your efforts.

It is great having the work done for you, but if you let Etsy send you traffic without learning to market your business yourself, your fate is tied to theirs. If you “learn to fish,” you can be independent and carry on in business regardless of what happens to the marketplace(s) you sell on.

Setting up your own shop

Your most future-proof move would be to set up your own shop off of Etsy. You direct all of your marketing efforts to your own shop, and let Etsy send you customers from their search engine as well. You no longer promote Etsy or send traffic to Etsy yourself.

Your goal will be to make more money on your own shop than on Etsy, so that Etsy is just supplemental income to you. You don’t want a change to their search algorithm or rules to be devastating to your business.

We like Shopify, which is built to make ecommerce as accessible as possible for you. You can learn more about Shopify and set up a free trial account here. There are, of course, plenty of other options as well.

“But isn’t that just switching from relying on Etsy to relying on Shopify?” you ask. The difference is in the structure of the service. Etsy is a marketplace, they set the rules, and they are seen as the company customers are buying from. If they closed their doors tomorrow, you wouldn’t have a great way to let people know that your shop still exists and where to find it.

Shopify provides software and web hosting to allow you to set up your own shop. You set the rules, and customers know that they’re buying directly from you. If Shopify ceases to exist a few years down the road, it will be inconvenient, but it’s just a matter of moving your shop to new software.

Once that is done, you can route all your traffic to wherever your new shop is, using your own website domain name. People won’t be forced to find you again. In fact, if you make the move seamlessly, customers won’t even know you moved.

You can’t rely on any service provider to be able to serve you forever, or even to continue being a good fit for your needs. But purchasing your own domain and learning to market your own business protects you from changes that would devastate businesses that haven’t taken these steps.

What to do today

  1. Don’t have a domain? Buy your domain from DNSimple or any other reputable domain registrar. Point your domain name to your Etsy shop or set up a simple home page to do this.
  2. New to marketing? Learn how to pitch your products to bloggers and editors to tell the world what it is you do. Our Pitch Kit is a solid start.


I’d love to answer questions or hear your thoughts in the comments today – let me know what you think!