Aeolidia signing off for 2016

Aeolidia seasonal merman in wreath

This is the last post on the Aeolidia blog in 2016! Most of our readers are very busy this time of year just keeping afloat with fulfilling orders, so this is when we slow down, recharge, and get serious about 2017 planning.

I have a lot in store for you, including:

  • A proper members’ area on this site that contains all of our bonus content to help you build a business. It will be free to newsletter subscribers.
  • An ebook for those of you who are DIYing your social media efforts. Learn how to do what the agencies do in a way that’s effective for your business.
  • A live Q&A in the Facebook group about forming an LLC (next week!).
  • Upcoming newsletters: books that will change your business for the better, night guy vs. morning guy, what to do about Google’s change for sites with pop-ups, why your brand is like the velveteen rabbit…
  • Upcoming blog posts: using Facebook groups to create customer communities, how to choose a great name for your business, deciding when to invest time or money, things that could be affecting your conversion rate, and more interviews with amazing handmade shop owners.

Even though the blog will be taking a nap, we will be chatting in our Facebook group and I will continue to send my weekly newsletter. Subscribe below to be included in both of these things:

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Gift Guide For Designers and Other Nerds, 2016 part 2

Do you have some creative design snobs on your list? I asked the Aeolidians to let me know what they have their eye on this season to give you some ideas. Let’s look at some beautiful, adorable, and quite useful things that we’re thinking of gifting or getting for Christmas.

The Aeolidia team is back with a 2016 gift guide! If you’re new here, Aeolidia is the web design studio that transforms creative shops and into profitable powerhouses. Many of these shops are our clients, and the rest we’d love to work with one day! We’d be honored to boost online sales for you next year—see what we can do, then get in touch!

Do you have some creative design snobs on your list? I asked the Aeolidians to let me know what they have their eye on this season to give you some ideas. Let’s look at some beautiful, adorable, and quite useful things that we’re thinking of gifting or getting for Christmas. This is part 2, and part 1 is here.

Shalon’s Picks

Shalon has been a graphic designer for over 14 years, is a bit of a crafter as well, and documents the little things in life behind her camera.

Greatest Adventure Art Print by Harvest Paper Co. • Lavender Soy Candle at Pink Olive

Ceramic Tea Infuser Mug Set from Stone Haven Pottery • Stitched Leather Ipad Mini Case at Anthropologie

 


 

Arianne’s Picks

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

Floral Infinity Scarf from HillScarves • Ooma Bowl at Uncommon Goods

Anchor Necklace at Beehive Handmade • Wool Log Pillow from Hi Tree

Whales Sticky Note Cube by Ilee • Urban Tote in Yellow Dots by Red Staggerwing

 


 

Brooke’s Picks

Brooke bakes lemony desserts, continues a quest for the perfect slice of pizza, and knows every line to Steel Magnolias.

Midnight Everyday Agenda by Rifle Paper Co. • Book* (Wine) Tote Bag by Emily McDowell

Hand-Printed Linen Calendar by Jen Hewett • Herringbone Cutting Board by American Heirloom

 


 

Jon’s Picks

Jon, a web developer, is a fan of handmade work and the independent spirit and has a fluffy cat named Wilson.

Dapper Cat Pin by Emily McDowell • Serious Starters Drawing Book by Serious Creatures

Cat Glass at Curious Experience • Bright Side Hat at Tilde

 


 

Kelly’s Picks

Kelly is a web developer on our team, and is perpetually seeking her next big adventure in the small, quirky towns she discovers along her travels.

Colorful Planner at Paper*Source • Michigan V-Neck at The HomeT

The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson • Geometric Diamond Infinity Scarf at Nora Gray

 


 

Maggie’s Picks

Sci-fi, fantasy, and mysteries make Maggie giddy, and 75% of her daily conversation is in the form of movie quotes.

Geometric Cutting Board by American Heirloom • Tacos Pennant by Three Potato Four

Coffee by Grounds & Hounds • Offhand Shoulder Bag by Hardgraft

Red Horse Towel by Mirdinara • Wooden Magnets by Butternut Brooklyn

 


 

Sarah’s Picks

Sarah is a self taught artist living on a 5 acre homestead in the most isolated part of the world.

Purrmaid Necklace by Small Wild Shop • Mini Golden Bee Pin by Chris Uphues

Amazonite Mala at Hanuman Heart • Squirrel Wall Art by Winding

 


 

Happy Shopping!

If you’d like to see what else we’re loving right now, visit our “Handmade and Boutique Goods” board on Pinterest. We’ll be back to serious business advice in January.

Gift Guide For Designers and Other Nerds, 2016 part 1

Do you have some creative design snobs on your list? I asked the Aeolidians to let me know what they have their eye on this season to give you some ideas. Let’s look at some beautiful, adorable, and quite useful things that we’re thinking of gifting or getting for Christmas.

The Aeolidia team is back with a 2016 gift guide! If you’re new here, Aeolidia is the web design studio that transforms creative shops and into profitable powerhouses. Many of these shops are our clients, and the rest we’d love to work with one day! We’d be honored to boost online sales for you next year—see what we can do, then get in touch!

Do you have some creative design snobs on your list? I asked the Aeolidians to let me know what they have their eye on this season to give you some ideas. Let’s look at some beautiful, adorable, and quite useful things that we’re thinking of gifting or getting for Christmas. This is part 1.

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.

Set of Nesting Covered Bowls at Sarah Kersten • Coco Rose Lip Set at Herbivore Botanicals

Ribbon Scissors at Angela Liguouri • She’s Mum and Then Some Mug by Bespoke Verse

 


 

Christine’s Picks

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

Flat Clutch at Clare V • Prime Timber 2.0 Mechanical Pencil at Little Otsu

Dawn Necklace at Sycamore Street Press • In the Company of Women at Design*Sponge

The Standard Graph Notebook at Iron Curtain Press • Modern Birds puzzle at Petit Collage

 


 

Terry’s Picks

In addition to design, Terry has business and music training under her belt—99% of her memory is comprised of song lyrics, and she thinks George Michael has the voice of an angel.

Silhouette Plate at Flutterbye Prints • Pennsylvania Tank at Megan Lee Designs

Book of Cocktails at the New York Times • Cheese Board at Anthropologie

 


 

Jess’ Picks

Jess is an enthusiastic and passionate designer whose home is filled with plants.

Ladies Drawing Night Book from Leah Goren • Agrumes Art Print at Lea Maupetit

Teardrop Himmeli at Handmade SamMade • The Future is Female T-Shirt at OtherWild

 


 

Do-Hee’s Picks

Do-Hee dreams of being a pig and/or flower farmer, but is constantly torn because she loves city living so much.

Boss Lady Pencils from Harvest Paper Co • Inflatable Dinosaur Card by Pango Productions

Lip Balm Kit from Handcrafted Honeybee • Brooklyn Pouch from Lovewild Design

 


 

Caroline’s Picks

Caroline loves peanut butter inexorably, and thanks to her global family and a year abroad, speaks two (maybe three) foreign languages.

Mini Papel Picado Banners by Ay Mujer • Table Runner by Sweetgum Textiles

Mosaic Scarf by Block Shop Textiles • A daily painting by Lisa Daria

 


 

Jen’s Picks

Jen delights in wildflowers sprinkling rolling foothills, beautiful light, and the smell of wet earth, and is our talented product photographer.

Pink Bomb Canvas at Lindsay Letters • Leather Moccasins by Koala Tea Moccs

Embossing Rolling Pin by Valek • Custom Family Portrait by Brittani Rose

 


 

Happy Shopping!

If you’d like to see what else we’re loving right now, visit our “Handmade and Boutique Goods” board on Pinterest. We’ll be back to serious business advice in January.

What Makes a Handmade Business Really Work? Interview With Opposite of Far

How community, collaboration, and love can lead to success for a creative handmade business owner.

Do you have a handmade business? You know that at Aeolidia we love creative handmade businesses that started with a fiery little spark in someone’s sewing room or garage. We’ve been celebrating these handcrafted businesses by learning a bit more about them, and getting tips for keeping a crafty business going, and even expanding it beyond what your two hands can do. This is an interview with Jessica Near, of children’s costume business, Opposite of Far.

Opposite of Far is a small operation that takes pride in carefully hand making high-quality items for children. Every single item is designed, cut, sewn, finished and packaged by Jessica Near, the creator and owner of Opposite of Far. Christina is Jessica’s right hand woman who helps with everything from cutting to shipping to sewing! Mike Near, Jessica’s husband, also helps with several steps of the process. During extremely busy times they are fortunate enough to have lots of family and friends who pitch in to help where they can!

What do you create and what makes it so special?

I make handmade felt animal masks, tails, ears, paws and more! My designs are 100% original, drawn by me to be recognizable as the animals they represent while still being soft and playful for children.

Is your product entirely handmade? Could you describe who makes your product and how? How has that changed over the life of your business?

My product is completely handmade. I hand draw my patterns and sew the majority of the pieces. My husband and friend/contractor do all the cutting and trimming. We’re a really small team working hard to create unique, high quality items for children!

Is it important to you that your product stays handmade, and why?

It is really important to me that Opposite of Far stays handmade! The reason is simple—there’s so much detail on every item and manufacturing would compromise those design details. I don’t want to make those changes because I believe those details are what make Opposite of Far special!

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How long have you been in business? What can you pinpoint as a turning point to your business’ popularity? What propelled you forward and how did you know you’d “made it?”

I have been in business for almost 6 years! I can’t really pinpoint one thing that made me feel like I’d “made it” because there were several opportunities that propelled my business forward in significant ways.

One surreal moment was realizing I had more work than I could handle myself, that it was time to ask for/hire help in order to not only keep up with current orders but expand too! Renting my first studio was a big moment too. That made me feel really legit! ;) Seeing people share Opposite of Far all over Instagram, blogs, etc is always exciting- that never gets old!

Honestly, I’ve been amazed all along that that I’m making products people love so much! Instagram, Etsy, bloggers, magazines, etc have all aided in my popularity and my fans are incredibly supportive, I feel very lucky to have found my unique niche in the handmade world!!

Do you keep inventory of everything on hand, or is it made to order? How do you keep up with inventory for your shop?

Everything is still made to order! I say every year that I will build inventory, but with such a small team and steady orders year round, it’s nearly impossible to achieve any substantial inventory!

How have you adjusted pricing, process, and methods as your business grew, and how did that affect inventory and sales?

I started out at $5 per mask, but as my designs evolved and I grew my team I realized my products needed to reflect the work being put into making them! I do try to keep my prices low because I want Opposite of Far to be affordable so my products can reach more children.

It’s so important to place value on your work. I’m only charging for the actual product I make, which doesn’t take into account all the time I spend marketing, managing my website, answering emails, researching, designing, purchasing supplies and materials, shipping, organizing, and all the other day to day tasks outside of production time.

Being handmade doesn’t automatically mean a product is high quality, but I firmly believe that once people hold a high quality handmade item in their hands they know exactly why it is priced higher than cheaply made products.

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Where do you promote your work most? How do you sell it? How much time do you spend on marketing or promotional work?

Almost all of my promotion is on Instagram. I recently started a Facebook group for my fans too (The Opposite of Far Imaginears Club). I set aside time each week to create flat lays to post on Instagram that include Opposite of Far products along with other handmade/small shop items for cross-promotion. I also love working with brands and photographers to organize photo shoots. My handmade/small shop community is invaluable to me!

At the beginning of 2016 I moved my website to Shopify and couldn’t be happier! I like to send out a postcard/coupon with every order, so I spend a couple hours every other month or so designing a new card to include in packages.

I notice that you do collaborations with other makers. Could you share with us how some of those relationship began, how your promote each other’s work, and how that has grown your business?

I admire a lot of hand made makers and find so much inspiration in people creating unique items! I have a million ideas swimming in my head at all times, but I can’t possibly do everything myself. And why would I do something myself when I know other talented people could work with me to create something extra special?!

Usually, I will approach the maker with an idea/s and we will begin brainstorming to make the collaboration really amazing! I think collaborating is really important in the handmade community where you often hear of people stealing designs or products rather than creating something unique. If we work together we can combine our talents and make the absolute best of each unique product to offer to our fans! Team work, integrity, originality… these traits benefit every small handmade business and the people who shop with us!

What do you like about how you sell your handmade goods? What about your selling process is not ideal for you?

I love seeing children playing, being silly, reading books, enjoying and imagining with Opposite of Far! I don’t like that I can’t just give everything away for free! haha. Customer service can be really hard. I am a pleaser; I don’t want anyone to be upset with me, my products, my service, my turn-around time, anything! I struggle with saying no and respecting my own boundaries.

But these things make me real and people really do respond well to seeing the REAL (flawed, sensitive, sincere, caring) person behind a business. I’ve had so many customers thank me for “personally responding” to them. As hard as it is to wear every hat behind this business, I can’t imagine it any other way. That personal touch is an integral part of what Opposite of Far stands for! Really, I just love seeing families playing together, that’s the best part of the whole process!

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Is your business financially sustainable?

Yes! We do have a busy season and less busy season, but the business is sustainable!

How do you see your business growing in the next few years? Do you intentionally keep it small? Would you like to expand? If so, how?

If you had asked me a year ago my answer would have been “BIGGER! BIGGER! BIGGER!” But 2016 has made me re-evaluate for personal reasons and now my answer is “I’m not entirely sure where I see Opposite of Far in the next few years!” We’re definitely not going anywhere, but I may slow down a little in order to make a really good plan for the next few years. I would love for Opposite of Far to include more focus on the importance of play, more family outreach and more options for everyone interested in including Opposite of Far in their play, parties, costumes, etc!

What advice or encouragement would you give to other handmakers?

First of all, be sure you’re doing this because you LOVE it! Find something unique that is meaningful to you in some way because that is the only way to sustain a successful business. Find a community of makers and small business owners so you can share sources, ask advice, lift each other up, commiserate and support! This community will be your backbone!

 


 

Thank you so much, Jessica!

Dear reader, are you a product designer, handmade business, or creative shop owner looking for a community? May I suggest the Aeolidia Biz Tips group on Facebook? We would love to have you. All of our newsletter subscribers get invited to the group, invited to our members’ area (which is jam-packed with tools to help you grow your business), and get my very best and timeliest tips delivered personally. Join below:

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Join our Facebook group

Cushy Cove: from Amazon to “Real” Business in 5 Big Steps

Thinking of taking your Amazon shop and turning it into a real brand? When we first met JJ, he was ready to capitalize on his success selling on Amazon and turn his playmat-selling business into its own brand and online store. We were ready with a multi-faceted plan.

When JJ Park bought his first South Korean cushy mat for his son in 2008, he was working as an engineer and analyst for Amazon. He soon realized this play mat was something special; more than a mat, it was an extra-safe, extra-large space where his baby could feel free to roam and grow his curiosity. It was big enough that he and his wife spent plenty of time on the mat as well, making it an integral part of their home.

Because floor-living is so central to South Korean culture, JJ knew the mats were hugely popular, but he also saw a potential to bring them to a new audience in the U.S. He began selling them on Amazon in 2010 to much success—he received an Amazon Choice Award and an overall 5-star rating from more than 1500 reviews.

When we first met JJ, he was ready to capitalize on his success selling on Amazon and turn his playmat-selling business into its own brand and online store. We were ready with a multi-faceted plan.

Step 1: marketing strategy consultation

Working closely with our marketing consultant, Jena, JJ delved deep into his target audience, his unique selling proposition, and core mission. This helped our entire team focus from day one on the strongest differentiators of his brand and how to connect that to customers. Jena also worked on developing an online marketing strategy that encompassed ways that JJ’s new brand might connect to its audience through social media, press coverage, blog communities, and online ads.

Step 2: a new name and tagline for a new brand

The most important selling point for JJ’s company was the safety and softness of the mats, and how they inspire play, bonding and wonder for both babies and families throughout many stages of life. As I brainstormed new name concepts, I kept coming back to names that emphasized a sense of place. I imagined a fun, happy place full of happy creatures and hints of adventure. The softness of the mats, combined with the idea of a safe habitat where a baby and parent bond, led us to the perfect name and tagline: Cushy Cove – Playmats for Life.

success selling on Amazon: cushy cove's logo

Step 3: visual identity and logo design for Cushy Cove

About his goals for the design, JJ told Melanie: “I want the logo–together with the entire brand and website design–to give the reliability and trust for customers to feel safe to shop on my site. In that sense, a simple yet elegant logo with dignity may be preferred over a kiddy style logo, even though our site would mostly sell kids play mats.”

Melanie’s initial design concepts explored the usage of animals, like kangaroos and otters, to illustrate the special bond and feeling of safety between mother and baby. In subsequent rounds, the otters won out—both for their cuteness but also their shape. “It is shaped a bit like a C, but this isn’t necessarily just because I wanted to make it a C,” Melanie explained. “That is something that I do love, but the main reason I made it bend, is that I like icons to have some graceful movement and feel more ‘iconic’ and less like a visual representation of the animal.”

This gave the new Cushy Cove logo that clean, simple elegance so important to the brand, while also conveying the rounded, connected feeling between otter and mother with a bit of whimsy.

Cushy Cove Quick Brand Guide. After seeing success selling on Amazon, JJ came to us to turn his import business into a real brand.

Step 4: bringing Cushy Cove to life through words and images

With the visual identity complete, we got to work on beautiful, effective art and copy that would tell the Cushy Cove story through words and images. Jennifer, our photographer, styled, produced, and shot completely new images of the many play mats in the Cushy Cove collection. Far more than product shots, the images of babies and moms enjoying the mats conveyed the emotions and lifestyle that Cushy Cove products provide. This same value- and philosophy-driven approach set the tone for the website’s copy: from the Home Page to the About Page and FAQs to each individual product description.

Cushy Cove model product photography

Cushy Cove styling and photography by Jen Lacey for Aeolidia

Cushy Cove model product photography

Cushy Cove styling and photography by Jen Lacey for Aeolidia

Step 5: a guided Shopify setup for CushyCove.com

With newer businesses, we recommend that they invest in the brand as the top design priority, and one of our logo packages includes help setting up a pre-made Shopify theme to work with your new brand. This is a good solution when funds are tight and is a great first step to making a good impression online.

With custom photography, a new visual identity, and copy development, Cushy Cove was nearly ready to make its big launch. We helped JJ take all these great pieces and put them together into a Shopify theme that worked with both his branding and e-commerce goals. Three cheers for Cushy Cove! This project called for some big steps and major work, but we were delighted to do and delighted that JJ felt empowered by the process.

“From the brand name, tagline, copywriting, logos, hero shots and more, it’s been a great pleasure to work with the Aeolidia team where experts for each area kindly and professionally led me through projects that seemed overwhelming at first. Moreover, they have a working process to deal with ambiguity and find the perfect balance between the needs from the client and the target audience.”
–JJ Park, Cushy Cove

Ready to take some big steps in your business? Contact us to set sail on your new journey!

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View Cushy Cove’s new site

Want to build a brand around your product?

Selling on Amazon is one thing, but building a brand that lasts is a whole different skill set. Over the years, we have watched many businesses succeed, and many more struggle.

Those businesses that seem to have had an overnight success and barely needed to work at promotion? There is something special about them. They know it and their customers know it. Their work can be spotted from a mile off, it’s something that people want, and it’s easy to promote – like a snowball rolling down hill, gathering speed, and getting huge.

Why is it so easy for them? If you have what they have, it will be easy for you, too. If you’re lacking this, it will be like trying to win a race with a bicycle that has square wheels. A crazy amount of work, with few results. Find out what I’m talking about by watching my video presentation on building your brand story:

Building the Story of Your Brand

My video includes:

  • A puppet show! And access to my general goofiness.
  • A bonus story about how storytelling saved Aeolidia, my own business
  • Additional detail and explanation on topics

Get the free 40 minute video here

Should You Attend the NSS or NY NOW Trade Shows?

Trade show booth tips and more! For those of you planning to exhibit at the NSS next year, or who are building up to showing at the NSS or any other trade show, such as NY NOW, the Atlanta Gift Market, or your own local trade shows, you might be wondering how to get started, and what you should know.

This is our third tips post about how to exhibit at trade shows! This one features Bundle Design, Chase & Wonder, Indie Olive, and Underwood Letterpress.

The National Stationery Show is a big deal show for anyone in the paper and gift industry. Many businesses have been launched there, and many rely on the yearly show to stay in touch with their retailers, find new ones, show their new product lines, make connections for future collaboration, and get press for your business.

For those of you planning to exhibit at the NSS next year, or who are building up to showing at the NSS or any other trade show, such as NY NOW, the Atlanta Gift Market, or your own local trade shows, you might be wondering how to get started, and what you should know.

We asked these NSS exhibitors how the show went for them, and what tips they could offer. These will be helpful if you’re doing any kind of in-person selling or setting up a booth at a craft fair or holiday market, too. Read on for National Stationery Show tips.

Bundle Design

Christine Miller
Bundle Design

“I’m Christine, and I’m delighted to introduce Bundle Design–home to cheerful, cheeky cards and notes, all wrapped up in hand-drawn charm.

I’m a Florida girl at heart but have called Atlanta and Phoenix home over the last 10 years. I’m a Gator, Portfolio Center grad and Tradeshow Bootcamp alum who spent a few years in the agency world before branching out on my own when my son was born. I’m proud to design everything in-house and print in the good ol’ U.S.A.”

Bundle Design booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Bundle Design booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Bundle Design booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Bundle Design booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Business and show history

I began designing custom invitations in 2010 but only started focusing on greeting cards and the wholesale market in 2014. We are 50/50 wholesale/retail.

I have exhibited at the NSS two years (2015 & 2016). The jury is still out on exhibiting next year. It might be more beneficial for me to take that marketing money and focus it on mailers and advertising.

Mistakes, advice, and tips

My biggest mistake happened my first year when I had an in-line booth. I wasted prime real estate (the outside edges) on my booth number and graphics, instead of putting my cards where buyers would see them. I put more than half of my product on the back wall, assuming people would come in. Turns out, they prefer to glance quickly as they walk by. This year I got a corner booth and made sure to place my new products on the aisle for greater visibility.

Benefits of exhibiting at the NSS

For me, the main goal of the NSS is getting my name out there and picking up new stores. I was thrilled this year to connect with a national retailer, so that was huge.

Chase and Wonder

David & Faye Aspinall
Chase and Wonder

“Chase and Wonder is an independent British stationery and gift brand focused on producing only the highest quality designs and products, all of which are proudly made in Britain.

The brand is based in a converted cowshed in the heart of rural England. Where possible they use traditional techniques to print and reproduce their products, many of which require hand finishing.”

Chase and Wonder booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Chase and Wonder booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Chase and Wonder booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Chase and Wonder booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Business and show history

We Set up Chase and Wonder in late 2010, so we’ve been in business just over 5 1/2 years. It is crazy how quickly time has flown! We originally set it up because my (now) wife and I were in the middle of a transatlantic relationship, and so both quitting our jobs seemed the fair way to go. It was a great leap into the unknown, and although it has had its trials, the benefits have been great. I would definitely recommend it!

The business is probably about 95% wholesale–we would like to increase our retail side though, but have focused on wholesale up to now.

This year was the second year at the NSS–I think we are almost certain to attend next year, it is a great show (although it seemed a little smaller this year?), full of wonderful companies, people and designs. Definitely worth checking out!

We exhibit here in the UK at a show called Top Drawer, usually twice a year. The other big show here is Spring Fair in February, although we have not exhibited there for a couple of years. We also exhibited at NY NOW last August. Trade shows generally work very well for us, we get to reconnect with existing stockists, and catch up on what has sold well for them, as well as meeting new stockists. They have really helped us grow our business, and although expensive, I think they are an essential part of our success.

We don’t tend to exhibit at markets/craft fairs any more, although we did a few when we started out. Our logic is that they take as much time up as a trade event, and although they cost a lot less, also earn you a lot less (generally!). There is also the risk you are displaying next to a low quality product, which generally with trade shows is not the case. On the plus side you do interact with the final buyer of the product, and get invaluable feedback.

Mistakes, advice, and tips

There is always something! It could be your product not arriving in the booth, or arriving damaged, or your walls not being set up. You just have to roll with it, and if you are well prepared before you leave you should be fine. Build in some contingency with your booth, like packing spare stock/shelves in case you need it. Failing that, research hardware stores near to the exhibition centre before you go, in case you need to dash to one!

Tip wise, I would always go for a corner booth, as you get more buyers walking past (they may skip your aisle by mistake), and we personally like wooden wall booths, as it means you can hang shelves/fixings up which (in our opinion!) gives a higher quality finish, and is more likely to attract buyers.

The best moments come when you get a ‘big’ buyer stop by your booth. They almost never make an order while there, but sometimes you will get a nice surprise order a couple of weeks later. This year we also won two Louie Awards, which as a small independent company is pretty hard to beat!

Benefits of exhibiting at the NSS

The main objective is to take orders, obviously, but there are often lots of bonus things that happen–not all financial, or directly beneficial to your business for that matter. An example of this is the other people/companies who you meet on the trade show circuit–some have become great friends of ours! Its nice to discuss the industry with people who understand it, and to have a drink and post show debrief after being on your feet all day.

Indie Olive

Virginia Merritt
Indie Olive

“Virginia and Dustin Merritt are the husband and wife duo behind Indie Olive. Virginia has been in business since 2008 specializing in one of a kind stationery. She began working closely with brides and grooms to create invitation suites that are both personal and beautiful.

Being self employed creatives who happen to be married is not always easy but we make it work and couldn’t imagine life any other way.”

Indie Olive booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Indie Olive booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Indie Olive NSS booth

Indie Olive booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

What to know before you go

You should know that there are valuable resources out there to help get you ready for trade shows and the wholesale market. Tradeshow Bootcamp/ Paper Camp is a great resource and beyond the initial investment you’re welcomed into a large community of stationers who have had experience with NSS and other shows. The stationery industry is a friendly one and reaching out and asking questions is totally accepted. Don’t be afraid to ask. Sycamore Street Press also has a great online webinar series full of useful information and insight into the industry. The industry is a generous one and make sure any advice you receive and that is helpful you share and pay it forward.

What the difference is between different trade shows

We only currently have experience with NSS but have been told NY NOW is a larger show. It’s great if your line has more items than only paper goods. We have pens, art prints, and some desktop accessories, for example. NY NOW is a gift show so may be a good opportunity to expand your line if you’re interested in attending. We’ve also been told it’s more expensive to exhibit than NSS so maybe NSS is a good starting point and then with success you can explore NY NOW. We decided to store our booth crate in the NY area in case we decided to do one of the NY NOW shows. I believe that is our next step.

What your business can expect to get out of a trade show

You can expect to get a lot of new contacts and feedback about your products. We made several sales with several of our top stores and have paid for the expense of the trade show with those sales but we’re told you see the actual profit come from sales post-show and the connections you make at the show that build throughout the year. Take the feedback you receive at these shows and use it, the people you meet are experienced within the industry and they know their markets. Some really great things can come from these conversations.

Preparing in advance

Make sure you send out your pre-show mailers. Also, spend a lot of time researching the stores you think would be a good fit for your products. I don’t believe our show would have been as successful if we hadn’t sent out the mailers we did. Also, make them stand out, especially if it’s your debut. It’s worth a little extra expense in this area I believe. Enter a few of your products into the best new product competition at the show. It is a great way for buyers to see a little of what you have to offer and maybe generate a little more traffic to your booth.

Underwood Letterpress

Cara Underwood
Underwood Letterpress

“Live life with passion and no regrets. This mantra is something I live by personally and professionally every day. My Italian grandmother, lovingly known as Nonie, taught me to be myself, to celebrate the simple things, to never turn down a new adventure and to live with a generous spirit.

These simple aspirations brought me to create Underwood Letterpress. I learned to letterpress print in 2005 during a bookmaking class where I authored, illustrated, hand-printed and hand-bound a series of children’s stories about my adventures with Nonie.

Immediately drawn to the combination of creativity and industriousness, I loved moving between designing and getting my hands dirty on the press. Years later, I have had the joy of crafting wedding invitations, greeting cards, social stationery and business cards. Everything we create at Underwood Letterpress is made with passion and love, and a generous dose of adventure.”

Underwood Letterpress booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Underwood Letterpress booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

underwood-letterpress-booth

Underwood Letterpress booth at the NSS. Photo by Sam Hirst for Aeolidia.

Business and show history

I’ve been in business three years, and exhibited at the NSS for two years.

I have done Unique LA and Unique SF, but have made the decision not to do retail fairs. It’s mostly a personal decision since I like to save my weekends for family. I am considering a west coast trade show or NY NOW in the future.

Mistakes, advice, and tips

The first year that I exhibited at NSS, my card line included 40 designs. I developed the line based on what inspired me and that’s what kept me going creatively. I quickly realized that my line was too small and too niche for buyers. I needed to develop my offerings to better meet the needs of buyers, particularly in the birthday category which my line was terribly lean in. By my second year at NSS, I had grown the line to 72 designs and had a balance of categories that better fit the needs of retailers.

While I wasn’t overly strategic in how I developed my card line initially, I don’t necessarily consider this approach a mistake. I needed to have fun and let my creativity flow, however, I now see how important it is to have a robust line so that buyers are able to select cards that fit with their shop aesthetic (aka, only need to purchase 10% of your line and still be able to meet your minimum opening order). I also give more attention to the categories that sell! Participating in NSS is very costly, so while it’s important to bring passion into your work, it’s also important to pay attention to the bottom line in order to build a sustainable business and brand.

Benefits of exhibiting at the NSS

I’ve expanded my store list, met new reps, made connections that lead to custom or commissioned work and have received follow up press as a result of participating. I also enjoy meeting other exhibitors who are now friends and have been helpful resources as I navigate this world of cards!

Ultimate trade show packing list

I have a bonus for you today! 14 stationery companies shared their own trade show packing lists with us, and we’ve compiled it into a master list. You can also peek and see each business’ exhaustive list, with things like how many catalogs they bring, etc. The one thing everyone agreed on was to bring at least four different kinds of tape! Want this? Sign up and nab it below:

Ultimate Trade Show Packing List

Download our ultimate trade show packing list and be totally prepared

How to Market Your Shop Online After Offline Success: Miss Rose Sister Violet

Sometimes even a successful business needs to go back to basics. When it is time to learn how to market your shop online, talk to an expert! Here's how we built an online presence for an established brand.

Nowadays, it’s hard for many of us to imagine growing a business without an online presence. But Miss Rose Sister Violet is one of those rare exceptions—they’re a miraculous unicorn of a business that, over decades and trade shows and word of mouth alone, thrived.

Since being established nearly 40 years ago in Australia, the company—a range of original women’s and children’s apparel, home decor, and accessories—has made iterations and launched in the US. As it’s grown, it’s always stayed in the family, and it’s this sense of warmth and care that really shines through and makes the brand unique.

Yasmin and her sister Gabriella attend about 11 trade and retail shows a year, with much success. They operate mostly as a wholesale company, selling their product nationwide. Although they didn’t yet have a website when they came to us, they’d grown an incredible social media following: 94,000 likes on Facebook and 9,000 Instagram followers!

“We have never done anything in regards to branding, marketing or PR until this year,” Yasmin told us. “It seems to have reached a level as being a successful ‘small business’ and we want to take it to the next step.”

To do this, they needed a website that would grow both their online retail sales and expand their wholesale options. They needed an online space to direct their very loyal following to. “We have no catalog, no e-newsletter, and no online access for them to re-order,” Yasmin said. And, since this would be the first time doing major branding and messaging work, they knew they wanted to really define themselves by moving away from a “cottage craft” image to a more sophisticated and contemporary, pretty style.

Learn How to Market Your Shop Online

Right away, we got to work playing “catch-up” on some marketing essentials. Yasmin signed up for a 2-month marketing and promotion session with our marketing strategist, Caroline. Together they identified essentials like Miss Rose Sister Violet’s target customer and the company’s core values and messaging differentiators. The experience gave Yasmin an entirely new perspective on her customers. At trade shows, and throughout her travels, she and Gabriella would think about the guides and questions Caroline had prompted them with. “Even while walking to and from work each day, we would study the public and look around us and pick out our customer from the crowd. It was so much fun… and wonderful to spot a woman and say “THAT’S HER!!! THERE SHE IS!” from how she dressed, what she was doing, which stores she was walking in and out of, etc.”

Miss Rose Sister Violet homepage design by Aeolidia

Miss Rose Sister Violet homepage design by Aeolidia

With this customer in mind, Sarah was ready to begin designing the company’s new website, starting with the homepage:

“When I design a homepage, in truth I am not simply designing a homepage – I am designing your whole website. The rules I set up on this one page will be repeated and carried through ALL the pages of your site so I take great care to plan all the little details to make sure that when it comes to the rest of the design everything else should flow and break down easily for responsive browsers like tablets and mobile phones.”

To complement the beautiful floral details of Miss Sister Rose Violet’s branding, Sarah focused on creating a balance between the details and the minimal nature of the brand and products. Because the company’s visual identity had already been developed, Sarah decided to focus on making the site a joy to arrive at, emphasizing its user-friendliness. She created a simple homepage that invites customers to click deeper—this builds brand trust as they fall in love with your products and notice how easy your site is to use.

Miss Rose Sister Violet product page design by Aeolidia

Miss Rose Sister Violet product page design by Aeolidia

In working with the images Yasmin had submitted, Sarah noticed that a majority of them were vertical images, and so she suggested hiring our photographer, Jen, to help balance out the visual variety with some horizontal images as well. Yasmin was fully on board; her openness to our suggestions and approaches as we discovered ways to strengthen her brand was paramount to this project’s success. By the time it was complete, Miss Sister Rose Violet had a beautiful new retail site, complete with customized blog designs, Home and About page copy that gave voice to the company’s warm and charming personality, plus beautiful gift cards that were designed and developed to help keep in-person customers engaged online as well.

Miss Rose Sister Violet styled product photography

Miss Rose Sister Violet styled product photography by Aeolidia

We shared many smiles, happy dances, Star Wars references, and overall giddiness as Miss Sister Rose Violet’s new site came to fruition. But it was Yasmin’s words at the end that had all of us Aeolidians high-fiving and sending virtual hugs to everyone involved: “I’m so excited I think I have to pinch myself that this is actually REAL!! You are all a team of angels.”

Aw, go team! We love working with businesses that are just as passionate about branding and design as we are. Is yours next? Get in touch.

See this project in our portfolio.

Ready to figure out who YOUR dream customer is?

This was a vital step in getting Miss Rose Sister Violet online. Download our dream customer exercise below! Print out & fill out, to create your own customer profile of your dream girl or guy. The more specific you get, the more helpful it will be in the long run. Have fun, and dream big!

Who is your dream customer?

Go get the dream customer exercise

Ready for Cyber Monday? How to Prepare Your Shop For Holiday Sales

Holiday sales season! This is the time of the year when many of our custom website clients are seeing their biggest sales numbers of the whole year, doubling or tripling what they do in an average month. And for other types of businesses, winter can be their slowest time of all. I have some tips for both of these scenarios, including real life advice from four shop owners.

Gift wrap photo © Ashley Wilbur

Holiday sales season! This is the time of the year when many of our custom website clients are seeing their biggest sales numbers, doubling or tripling what they do in an average month. And for other types of businesses, winter can be their slowest time of all. I have some tips for both of these scenarios, including real life advice from four shop owners.

It’s true that more people are shopping during November and December, but it’s also true that your competitors are out there shouting about what they’ve got going on. So what can you do to make yourself heard in all the noise, provide value to your customers without being annoying, and make the most of this lucrative season? Read on!

How to get more sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Treat holiday ecommerce plans like a launch date

Treat your holiday sales season the same way you would treat a launch date, be it a launch of a new brand, a new product line, a new website. Here’s a post that gives tips on keeping your customers in the loop about changes and special events: Smart Strategy: How to Rebrand Without Losing Customers.

Plan special offerings in your shop around the holidays

Decide what special happenings will be occurring during the holiday season for your customers. Will you be offering a seasonal line? Limited edition products? Will there be a sale or a discount of some kind? Will you add an extra gift to each package? Think of something newsworthy that makes financial and practical sense for your business. You may want to consider having an exclusive offer just for members of your mailing list, as well as what you do in your shop for regular customers.

Build momentum in your newsletter and on social media

Then, you’ll want to build momentum. Start early, and mention repeatedly on social media and email what you’ve got going on. Share what you’re excited about for your brand this holiday season, and what your customers should keep an eye out for.

As Black Friday and Cyber Monday get closer and closer, your mentions of the holidays should start coming closer together as well. If you were mentioning the holidays once per week on Instagram, it might be time to start posting three times a week about your event or products. People will expect your newsletter to be more frequent before Christmas, so don’t be afraid to send more! You aren’t spamming people, you’re providing valuable help to them in finding that perfect gift for that special someone.

Bringing holiday shoppers to your website

What publicity can you get during this season?

Take advantage of any holiday-based opportunities, such as gift guides, holiday collaborations with other businesses, or finding ways to cross-promote businesses with the same audience as yours. Rather than waiting for these things to drop in your lap, be active in seeking them out or getting them started!

How can you enhance your social media and your website?

What ways can you feature seasonal specials on your site and on social media? Now is a great time to start a Christmas Pinterest board, change out the photos and content on your homepage, and create a gift guide on your own site.

The Thanksgiving to Christmas season is a perfect time to create shop categories such as “gifts for her” or “gifts under $25.” Keep in mind that while people are shopping more in general around Christmas, they tend to be shopping at a lower price point than the rest of the year.

How can you bring value as you keep promoting your site?

This is a great time of year to consider how your products make great gifts (paired with chocolate? bundled in kits?), and who they make great gifts for (crafty cousins? wisecracking BFFs?), and then do the work for your customers. Give them ideas and spark their imagination! People won’t get tired of hearing from you if you’re giving them relevant ideas for getting through a kind of stressful season. Be warm, be helpful, relate to how much they’re trying to get done at once, and offer to take the worry out of that gift purchase for their sister. They’ll thank you for it.

Tips from shop owners

Four shop owners in our community replied to my newsletter about holiday sales with the following tips for you:

Tina doesn’t forget the other winter holidays

My biggest piece of advice is to not forget about other winter holidays like Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and New Years. I find the focus of so many articles is on Christmas but there are other opportunities for boutique brands in the winter months to increase sales.

If you have a home decor brand think about doing gift guides, special collections or bundles for Thanksgiving. Gift guides for decorating a Thanksgiving table or hostess gifts can be really unique ways to stand out. I plan to do a guide to dressing the kids for Thanksgiving dinner with fall themed dresses and nice dress shirts for boys. Last year I had a lot of traffic from my Hanukkah gift guide board with baby outfits and toys that linked back to my shop.

The biggest traffic driver by far for me the last 3 years was from FreeShippingDay.com. Any merchant can sign-up for it at no cost. All you have to do is provide a free shipping code that is valid on Dec 16th. If you have ready to ship items and can meet the Christmas deadline I highly recommend registering on this site and promoting your free shipping offer across all social media. I will be updating my homepage banner and social media headers with a free shipping message to make it front and center with potential customers.

–Tina Bar, Wild Dill

Ruth opts out of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday craziness

Color Learning Educational Toys at Handmade Happiness by Ruth

Color Learning Educational Toys at Handmade Happiness by Ruth

Since I’m a small handmade toy brand marketing that my toys make parents’ lives easier, I’m not putting anything on sale the weekend of Black Friday. I’m running my big holiday sale the week BEFORE. I want parents to feel the freedom of spending their holiday weekend with their families, so I’m offering my biggest sale of the year the week before the holiday so that I can spend the weekend with my own family and so that I can take one more thing off of a busy parent’s plate. I’m hoping that the commitment to family time will raise the feel good factor of my brand.

–Ruth Rau, Handmade Happiness by Ruth

Stephanie plans thoughtful gift wrapping, packaging, and shipping

My holiday approach with my hand-printed glass ornaments is my packaging. It’s the same year round (note, I do NOT change anything about my packaging for the holidays) but it has a different appeal at the holidays. My ornaments are always individually packaged in rigid, hinged boxes and tied with organza bow. They’re sturdy which makes them great all year long for shipping (from my perspective) and storage. But at the holidays, this means that they can be handed to the recipient without any work at all–it’s already a little box done up with a bow, what else could you need?

The answer to that question is a gift tag–and I’ve already done that for them too… I will ship any order directly to their recipient. It doesn’t change my process, but it takes an extra step out of their hassle for the holidays for that sister who lives a few states away. And as an extra courtesy, I put on a gift tag, hand written with a note from them. My customers can send me what they want it to say when they’re placing their order, and I put that right on the box for them on a sweet little hanging tag (which is actually one of my watercolors printed on inexpensive business cards and punched out with a tag motif punch from the craft store).

All in all, it’s a little more like the big box store approach that people are so accustomed to around the holidays. It doesn’t change anything that I do in my process, it’s really just a different focus for my marketing in the holiday season for these uber holiday gift items!

–Stephanie Lendrum, Phylogeny (ornaments here)

Kara solved the problem of low sales in winter for a wedding business

Our First Christmas Ornamenet at Kara's Vineyard

Our First Christmas Ornamenet at Kara’s Vineyard

I sell a wedding product, so my business is booming essentially from January – September… completely opposite the typical retail cycle. While everyone else was drooling over the holiday season and thousands of sales it would bring, I dreaded it because those were the months that my sales completely dried up.

To counter this, I began cultivating more of a long-term relationship with the brides and grooms who purchased from me, by way of a mailing list and Facebook page. This way, I could re-target my purchasers during the holiday season with a Keepsake Ornament collection that I designed to celebrate your “First Christmas” as an engaged or married couple.

Suddenly, my seasonal wedding-based business was a robust, year-round sales cycle that brings me more sales revenue in my previously “dead” months than at the height of wedding season!

I hope my story will help others who may be struggling to get going with a holiday product line. Although it’s a bit late in the game to design and bring a brand new product to market in time for the 2016 holiday season, it’s NEVER too late to provide consistent, friendly & stunning client service, and to cultivate a mailing list full of your raving fans. Patience and consistency will pay off.

–Kara Lamerato, Kara’s Vineyard

Let’s talk about this in person

Join Aeolidia’s Biz Tips Facebook group to chat with other shop owners about what you’re doing this holiday season.

Not only will we be talking about this informally off and on through the holidays, but we’re also having a live training and Q&A on Thursday, November 10th at 10am Pacific / 1pm Eastern. Danielle Spurge of the Merriweather Council will be chatting about holiday promotion, management, sanity and success! She will stream live in the group and take questions concerning email marketing through the holidays, prep steps, and keeping it all together through the busy season. Danielle will also give tips for making the holidays a starting point for a successful new year. Please join us:

Request to Join

This was originally an email sent out to my subscriber list. Be sure to join our subscribers, so you don’t miss emails like this in the future

Get your Targeted Traffic workbook

Want to get started figuring out how to attract holiday shoppers? Grab our workbook to research and pin down what you know about where your best customers are hanging out. It explains traffic-generating concepts in more detail, and you can use the included tips to make a plan to get high-quality, high-converting traffic to your website.

How to Get Targeted Traffic

Download your Targeted Traffic workbook

How About a Facebook Group For Your Customers?

Do you have a Facebook group for customers? I've heard from quite a few shop owners that their Facebook group is a big deal for growing their business. Maybe you're not impressed with your Facebook business page--that doesn't mean that a group wouldn't work well for you!

Do you have a Facebook group for customers? I’ve heard from quite a few shop owners that their customer community Facebook group is a big deal for growing their business. Maybe you’re not impressed with your Facebook business page–that doesn’t mean that a group wouldn’t work well for you!

At least for now, Facebook shows your group members what’s in a group without that pesky algorithm blocking your posts from most of your audience. I am not sure exactly how Facebook decides which posts to feature in your members’ news feeds, but I can definitely say that I get much much much more engagement on my posts in my Facebook group than I do on my Facebook page, even though the page has more subscribers than the group has members.

But a Facebook group is not meant to be the same as a Facebook page–another place for you to broadcast your information. Instead, it’s meant to be a place for your customers to meet and connect with each other. Your role is less about promoting your business and more about fostering community, inspiring customers, and answering questions.

Wondering how a Facebook group would work for your business? Facebook groups seem to work very well for crafty businesses, where the customers are creating things they want to share. I’m really impressed by what Lisa Spearman has done with her customer Facebook group for her sewing pattern business, Twig + Tale. Below, she’s going to share how she started her group, what she uses it for, and how it helps her build her business.

The Twig + Tale Facebook Group

The Twig + Tale Facebook Group

Why Lisa started her customer Facebook group

Lisa: I decided to start the Facebook group when I had reached the point where my customers were really comfortable conversing with me via email. Customers would email me for pattern support, ask questions, send me finished pics of their “makes” and were generally just conversing, which was so wonderful. When the business started to grow, this personal communication became a bigger commitment on my time than I could afford.

The move to a group setting still allowed me that personal communication of answering questions directly, yet others could also see the replies which cut down the time commitment immensely. I absolutely love to see the amazing items people have made from my patterns, but I didn’t anticipate how much inspiration they provide for others too. The group has become a real community for like-minded crafters to ask questions, give/receive advice, share pics of finished garments and simply have a place to connect. Twig + Tale group members are an incredible bunch of people–so much inspiration can be found in what these talented ladies are making. From first time sewers to seasoned professionals, the same desire to create is within us all, and there is a fellowship amongst us which is supportive and kind and I think just a little bit magical.

I want people to know there is “Lisa” behind Twig + Tale and we are not a faceless company. I am essentially one person, creating patterns in my treehouse studio in the forest (with the help of some passionate colleagues), and am available for pattern support, purchasing support and a general “how’s things?” when needed.

How Lisa promoted her business’ Facebook group

Lisa: I got the word out by:

  • Adding a link to the group on each sewing pattern
  • Providing a link to the group in my website and Etsy receipts
  • Adding a link to the group on my Facebook page
  • When promoting a new release online, I sometimes have the discount code in the pinned post of the group, so customers need to join the group in order to receive the code
  • Link to the group in my email signature
  • Link to the group on my website FAQ

How Lisa directs her customer community

Lisa: At this point, it is more customer led. Customers can ask questions and have myself and/or other group members assist, they can share images and chat amongst themselves for ideas and inspiration. Group members are sometimes sewing not just for themselves, but selling the items they make. The group provides a forum for people to chat about related business questions, such as pricing, compliance, craft show display etc. too. Rather than directing conversation I am there in a support role, or am promoting a new release, giveaway, blog post or other information. I often have intentions of weekly prompts, but they never seem to wiggle their way into my schedule ;)

How she promotes her business with the group

Lisa: I find it an easy and fast way to communicate promotions, new releases etc. I find it is my primary form of communication with my customers. When I launch a new pattern I post in the group and encourage the other people who “tested” the pattern to share pics of their test versions too. Same goes for giveaways hosted on my blog/Instagram/Facebook etc. I promote them all inside the group with a link.

I only started on Instagram in earnest recently. I posted in the group that we are now on Instagram and come and join us, and we gathered hundreds of followers that same day. Now after a few weeks we are at over 1k–small I know, but I’m pleased with the progress! Same thing with reviews; when I rebranded last month and launched my new site there were no reviews, so I simply asked in the group and customers were very happy to help out.

I am wary because the group setting right now is unbelievably perfect for my business. In light of this, I am anticipating the inevitable change that will come sooner or later when you use a platform you don’t own–and am encouraging customers to join my subscriber list so I can still communicate with everyone if things change on me! But for right now, the Facebook group setting is great for allowing me to be present with my customers.

How much time it takes to manage a Facebook group

Lisa: In terms of time–there is a tipping point. At the beginning I spent a lot of time chatting and answering questions as a lot of people were new to my patterns and there wasn’t a big knowledge base. Now the group has grown and more customers have experience with the patterns. Group members are able to answer each other’s questions more and more, so I spend less time answering and engaging, and more time working on making patterns :)

I spend about an hour a day in the group, in small increments throughout the day, answering questions etc. but to be honest, I just love popping in and seeing what people are making! The fabrics they are using, the upcycling happening, and I truly feel really connected to everyone’s success!

I do have some amazing people who help me moderate the group. Two of the ladies are in different time zones to myself, and they help cover group approvals, questions etc. in a timely manner while it is night time for me in New Zealand.

How the Facebook group helps Lisa’s business

Lisa: I think perhaps the biggest way the Facebook group helps my business is in the way it has helped create a community around the Twig + Tale brand. That is something I’m proud of and care deeply about. Everyone has an inner need to create, and sharing experiences with others is just so satisfying! Often crafting can become a solo activity–especially for mums of small children–so this allows a bunch of like minded crafty souls to come together and hang out–and it is free! It is not an imposition on customers’ inboxes—they only need to check in if and when they feel like it. Our community is all about inspiring, helping and simply connecting, and to be able to provide that space alongside opportunities to promote new releases, and events–on a free platform–is about as good as it gets.

Visit Twig + Tale’s online shop

See Twig + Tale’s logo in our portfolio

If you like to sew for kids, join the Twig + Tale Facebook group

First step: find out who your customer is

You can’t effectively create a space for your customers unless you understand who they are. Download our dream customer exercise below! Print out & fill out, to create your own customer profile of your dream girl or guy. The more specific you get, the more helpful it will be in the long run. Have fun, and dream big!

Who is your dream customer?

Go get the dream customer exercise

How to Drive Traffic From Instagram to Online Stores

Wondering how to drive traffic from Instagram to online stores? It can be frustrating. Selling online is a science, and we have to be scientists.

Are you wondering how people drive traffic from Instagram to online stores? Recently, a client of ours told me,

Honestly, I’m not sure if Instagram is working for me or not working. Since, my site is not up and running yet. I am however, extremely frustrated with ALL social media. I would love it if I didn’t have to use it!

Instagram has been extremely frustrating because I feel there is no loyalty. For example, I will gain 5 followers in a day, and lose 5 followers. It almost makes one feel inadequate and then you start to question yourself.

I really hope that once my site is launched Instagram will be more helpful in marketing my business because right now I feel like I’m running in circles and getting nowhere!

It can be frustrating. Selling online is a science, and we have to be scientists. If a strategy is not working, throw it out and start over. If it shows promise, repeat what works until it grows.

Social media changes all the time, and you don’t want to get into a pattern where you’re doing the same old thing over and over and wondering why it isn’t working. Here is where taking a look at your stats can be really helpful. For example, if you have a business account on Instagram, you can view their insights to see what kinds of posts people are responding to, and which ones fall flat. Then do more of the good ones, and drop the duds.

It can also be helpful to back even farther out and see what channels are working the best for your business. For instance, if Pinterest is sending you ten times more traffic than Instagram is, you might want to lower the amount of work/time you put into Instagram, and give that time to Pinterest instead. Here’s my post on tracking your social media stats.

And remember, social media can be a long game. You shouldn’t expect huge numbers overnight, and you shouldn’t expect huge engagement numbers from a small following. Keep your eye on it and make sure that your numbers are growing, and not staying stagnant. It may not go as fast as you’d like, but it’s like a snowball rolling down a hill. The bigger your account gets, the faster the ball will roll. But if you always feel like you’re pushing the ball uphill, take some time to evaluate what you’re doing and whether it’s working.

Our Facebook group for creative product-based business owners (is that a mouthful, or what?) is always jam-packed with great advice. I asked about Instagram in the group, and I got a treasure trove of good tips. Read on for advice from businesses like yours, about how they drive traffic to their online shops from Instagram.


Jennifer Ciraulo
Blooming Lotus Jewelry – jewels to support your soul
@bloominglotusjewelry on Instagram

Photo quality is probably the most important. Make them bright, colorful, clean, clear!! I use Photoshop and also the Instagram edit tool to brighten my photos.

To decrease the clutter, I put almost all hashtags in my first comment. This gives my main caption a clean look. I would only put your business #aeolidia hashtag in your main caption. Just a personal preference! Another reason not to have all those #hashtags in your main caption is because when someone clicks one of them, they’re gone and off your page and perusing another #stationeryshop or #etsyshop. Hence why only to use your own hashtag… if they click it, it’s still all about your business!

Take the time to answer all questions and comments. This gives people that warm fuzzy feeling.

Post progress photos. My followers tend to really love to see behind the scenes and progress pics.

Post a mix of product and lifestyle shots. Lifestyle shots usually get better engagement.

Create an overall look to your feed. For example, every sixth picture on my feed is a quote with a white background. When you scroll down my feed, it’s pleasing to the eye (I think).

Patience….it takes a while! Just be authentic in your posts and you’ll create a following!


Tiffe Fermaint
babyteith – futuristic clothing for your little rocker
@babyteith on Instagram

Since we are a product based company, we are using a service called Like2haveit.

It creates an Instagram feed on our page that, when you click on the photo, gives you links to buy that item. I then use the page link of that feed on my site as the profile link on my Instagram. This not only allows me to see how much traffic is coming from Instagram but it also leads them to our site where I can then use my retargeting pixels and also serve them my email sign up hook.


On the bench this evening – a custom ordered 18ct white gold twig and Diamond dress ring in progress.

A photo posted by ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀Christina Lowry Designs (@christinalowrydesigns) on

Christina Lowry
Christina Lowry Designs – artful jewellery for everyday
@christinalowrydesigns on Instagram

I love Instagram for my jewellery business!

I use the app ‘Mosaico’ to easily schedule my feed and curate my gallery–usually two pics a day. I share only original content–photos of my products, model shots from our photoshoots, behind the scenes peeks in my studio, pics of my home and family life. I ask each of my customers in their thank you email to please share a photo of their purchase on social media and hashtag it #christinalowrydesigns, then include a sticker on their order that says ‘Share the love on social media @christinalowrydesigns’ as a reminder. I don’t have a huge following, 1,944, but I have an engaged following! Many of my sales and custom made jewellery clients have come from Instagram. I use my hotlink to go to my website, as from there they can navigate to my shop, blog, newsletter signup etc. I offer incentives to encourage my followers to join my newsletter, as this is what leads to sales long term.


Vana Chupp
Le Papier Studio – laser cut silhouette jewelry
@lepapierstudio on Instagram

I’ve struggled with this so much and I finally gave in and subscribed to a marketing campaign app that bundles a few services like social sharing, shoppable Instagram, Adroll campaigns, and triggered emails. What I love about it is that it breaks down the clicks and gives me analytics (who clicked, who purchased). It also creates a separate page which links to products they can purchase.

It’s called SpringBot and it is $299/month. Totally worth it for my business and it pays for itself.

Bit.ly is also great for using custom links.


Thank you for being at #etsy613 this past weekend! It was great to see familiar faces, as well as meeting new ones. If you are a new follower – welcome! Get ready for lots of wonderful modern calligraphy for your Instagram feed! I am 100% exhausted, but you make it worth it. I am glad we got to connect and chat about who you want to get a card for, where you can put that Ottawa map print up, or how I managed to get the colour gradient to look like that! Per your request, you will see more maps, more Bible verses, and more birthday cards to come! I am always taking requests, so let me know what else you want to see! My heart is full, and my legs are tired. xo Steph Psst, if you are a bride-to-be or friends with a bride-to-be, I hope to see you this Sunday at @wedcycle at the Glebe Community Centre!

A photo posted by Stephanie Ko (@simplystephko) on

Stephanie Ko
Simply Steph Ko – calligraphy and greeting cards
@simplystephko on Instagram

People follow me on Instagram for the social connection and pretty pictures. And most of the customers I get are from Google searches. My Instagram following has grown as a result of me sharing my work, but mostly when I show the process, and share gold nuggets in the captions.

To be honest, I am not practicing what I preach, and I tend to share mostly finished products nowadays. But I’m in the process of rethinking my Instagram strategy, and I want to use it to build brand loyalty, share the pretty process pictures and connect with my audience. And not focus on the click-through rates. If it adds one drop to their bucket and they will remember my brand name and search me later, then great! My work has paid off.

I have adopted the custom Insta-yay link from what you had tried before [note from Arianne: I am now using Linkinbio for a custom Instagram page], and I like it for tracking purposes. It gives a nice exclusive feeling to people visiting my site from Instagram, too. But I don’t find that the effort that I put into updating that page is really worth it. I have made a handful of sales from Instagram, and I meet people who tell me in person that they first found me on Instagram. So It’s totally working for me. But the whole clicking through thing? Doesn’t seem to happen much.


Johnny Gordon
Gordon Glass Studio – handmade stained glass gifts
@gordonglassstudio on Instagram

I’m a glass artist making the transition from chasing commission work to creating a production line. Looking at potential wholesale opportunities and really excited about putting everything together. Your site and your newsletters have been extremely helpful in getting my to do list in order (and helping me realize how much I need to think about).

Your newsletter asked about the Instagram. I’ve been working on growing a following by using the old way of searching for the #stainedglass and pretty much liking every one of those pictures. I’ve grown my following from about 300 people to almost 4000 over the past year. It takes me about 30 minutes a day.

I believe that if your pictures are interesting, you tell a decent story and you’re not a dick you can create some engagement. Once you’ve liked a photo, chances are that person will check out your feed. Saying thank you and answering any questions will help convert someone.

The Instagram is definitely a global community (I’m strangely popular in the Ukraine) and by liking the #stainedglass pictures, I have many followers that do stained glass as a hobby–so I get a bunch of how-to DM questions. I’ve also met folks from glass studios that have been around forever that I’ve admired for a long time. I’ve enjoyed both of those aspects. But how I make this global group of glass followers generate work or money I haven’t figured out yet.

… but it is kinda nice to have some folks genuinely interested in the stuff I’m making.

Little steps, all the time.

Thanks for throwing all your stuff out there. I’m reading it and thinking about it and more prepared because of it.


Cecilia Leibovitz
Ceci Leibovitz – Textile jewelry and supplies
@ceci_leibovitz on Instagram

I’ve noticed that my engagement is higher than a lot of accounts I see, even those with many more followers than I have. I usually get likes that equal 10% – 20% of the number of followers I have and lots of comments, especially when I focus on making my posts engaging. I attribute this to the fact that I am selective in who I follow, making sure that our interests/focus are compatible.

I also want to share that I recently tried following a bunch of people who are following large businesses similar to mine (like Anthropologie) and that was a flop. I really think it’s better to get followers through press, mentions, brand ambassadors and other forms of marketing, as well as following those who are a good fit. Much better engagement that way in my experience.


Jane Pearson
The Janery – fabulous pet beds and home accessories
@shopjanery on Instagram

I started this year by switching to very intentional posting, including snippets about me and my pets and my business. I found that using 5-15 well chosen hashtags really helped grow my following. When I lose momentum with daily posting, or post in a hurry with fewer hashtags, I see less growth. I also use it to drive newsletter signups. I get those regularly, and care more about that than increasing my Instagram follower count.

I also experimented with driving sales and linking directly to the product I was pushing in that post. It didn’t work as well. Maybe it will when my follower count is larger. (Currently right below 600)

Scheduling and pre-writing has been really useful. I like Latergram. I also have my sharing hashtag printed on my business cards, in my thank you emails, and in my shipping notification email.

Oh, one more tip. I put “wholesale & retail” near the top of my Instagram profile after a store found me and wanted to order wholesale. Now when I follow my target retailers they will see that easily if they check me out.


Jennifer Boaro
The Cat Ball – maker of the cat ball and cat canoe pet beds
@thecatball on Instagram

Instagram is promoting video a lot now, so think of how you can provide video content. I just used a phone app called Videoshop to edit and tie together 5 short videos, add an overall sound track and novelty noises.

One sure fire way to grow followers is to sincerely engage with people. It’s quite time consuming, but it will help to grow a strong network and base. I will follow a hashtag around and see who used it and when I see a photo I have a reaction to, I post a sincere (and sometimes funny) comment.


They are all this good! Landscape beer steins for Tuesday's restock. I did a 😄💃🏻when I saw them.

A photo posted by Lee Wolfe Pottery (@leewolfepottery) on

Lee Wolfe
Lee Wolfe Pottery – ceramic artist
@leewolfepottery on Instagram

I have had huge success with making and posting videos on Instagram and just got on their Ceramics channel! I wrote a blog post about how I did it. I think it will interest those who are struggling with building an IG following. Not many are using videos yet so it’s easier to rise to the top now than it will be a year from now.


👊Boom in your face Friday! I'm finishing my work tasks like a boss and then clocking out for some fun time!

A photo posted by Cards & Gift By Kaitlin Goodey (@goodeystudio) on

Kaitlin Phillips Goodey
Goodey Studio – sassy cards and gifts
@goodeystudio on Instagram

Some things that have grown my account:

Definitely working on my image quality. I learned to take and edit my images to be much brighter. Honestly sometimes I think something is too bright or blown out and then it’s usually perfect 😂

I used to mainly do images on white but recently started using brand colors as backgrounds to liven things up.

Using lifestyle shots made a big difference. For example not just a mug on the table but a mug with tea in where you can see the tea bag string or the marshmallows floating in the hot chocolate.

I plan out my images so I rotate through marketing all my products instead of mugs back to back or something like that.

I regularly change up the call to action.

I know that part of my Unique Selling Proposition is my style and voice so I make sure to feature that in all aspects from image styling to writing my captions.

I decorated my office to suit the brand so I know I can take photos anytime almost anywhere and be on brand even when it’s just behind the scenes desk shots.

I have several different hashtag sets to coordinate with the type of images I’m posting (mugs vs. cards vs. office pics all have different tags).

To fill out my posting schedule, I mix up product shots with stylized color shots, funny regrammed images and funny original pics I do with miniature figures.

To sum most of this up: I saw growth from creating a strong personality for my feed.

Obviously I also engage by liking and commenting on images in the hashtag feeds I use. I’ll also engage with people who have liked or commented on my image.

Oh, A BIG TIP that’s paying off for me is to ask people to tag a friend in the posts. I only started doing it recently but now even when I don’t use that call to action I have some people doing it anyways!

I could talk Instagram strategy all day!


Julia Gold
Whispering Willow – handcrafted natural apothecary
@whisperingwillow on Instagram

We’re trying to build cohesiveness & increase frequency of posting as I’ve been rather lax with that.

A new thing for us is working with influencers. I’ve just started and am learning what works and what doesn’t and, most importantly, how to clearly communicate our expectations. The best part so far? Most of it has been for trade, and although we have picked up very few followers, I now have content available for use that didn’t take much of my time.

Our paid collaborations are yet to come (trying to set them up closer to the holidays) but I am excited to see the potential!


Brenda Myers
512 Organics – natural skin care
@512organics on Instagram

Love this post! Instagram is my favorite social media–I love photography on the go, and since I have a day job and need to use spare moments whenever I can to squeeze in my social media posts (because I’m still a hair’s breadth away from scheduling), I can take a photo, add a few words/hashtags, and it doesn’t take much time. Instagram has suited my need for spontaneity perfectly and has been really gratifying in helping me find my voice. I’m looking at Later (because you recommend it, Arianne) to start scheduling.

I’ve been working on the idea lately of focusing on one or two products at a time, and I like the response. I need work on calls to action, but one thing that I find boosts engagement and likes is occasionally sharing what other Austin-based businesses have in their feed and tagging them. It’s harnessed invites to events by Austin Monthly several times, and I’m now a frequent emailer with their events coordinator. In other words, building relationships. I like that part very much. My likes and engagement are pretty good considering I have less than 200 followers, so I’m anxious to read your blog posts for more tips. Exciting!


This 'Slipper Chair' from @bofredcpt, covered in our Breeze print, is currently on sale via the @bofredcpt website.

A photo posted by Heather Moore (@skinnylaminx) on

Heather Moore
Skinny LaMinx – midcentury-inspired textiles and home goods
@skinnylaminx on Instagram

I find Instagram such a great “sociable media” platform where I get to engage with likeminded folks, rather than using it as a sales-driving channel. I use it to share “how a designer sees the world,” and I enjoy the human interaction, as well as how my daily engagement with what I decide to post helps me to continually review and shape my brand.


To my mind, nothing says HOME like a colorful stack of quilts.

A photo posted by Gina Martin (@ginamartindesign) on

Gina Martin
Gina Martin Design
@ginamartindesign on Instagram

I struggled keeping up with it too… until Later.com. I love the app! It’s been less than a month that I’ve been scheduling posts and I’m gaining new followers everyday. I have found that when my biggest client shares my work in their feed that my views and new followers jumps quite a bit.

Another interesting finding is that I get more views when I post late in the evening. I’m sure there are whole studies around the best time of day to post. I’ve started alternating early morning and late evening. It seems to work for me.


Bonus tips from me

Hey, here’s a bonus Instagram tip. If you use Iconosquare, you can see a list of who your “top followers” are (this is a list of all your followers, sorted by follower count). Maybe you have an influencer or two already interested in your brand, but you didn’t know it. You could make a point to be friendly to them on Instagram, and maybe one day a collaboration will ensue!

Another thing that seems really obvious when I say it, but it’s easy to forget: when I’m really excited about what I’m doing on social media is when I get the most interaction. Of course!

But it’s so easy to feel like social media is a chore that I must do, so I just plod away at it, and wonder why no one’s replying. When I can make it fun and interesting for me again (by trying something new, or creating posts that I’m proud of), it’s a win-win. I don’t hate it, and people respond well to it.

Which of course creates a great feedback loop: do good work, people praise it, feel proud, do even better work, people like it even more, etc.

If you’re doing the bare minimum, people can tell.

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