12 Little Buttons: From Sketch to Logo

It is always such a pleasure to work with clients who have big dreams and a clear vision for their small business. Pichamon’s whimsical handmade doll business in Bangkok needed a logo that would capture the interest of customers and she knew exactly how the logo should make them feel:

My desired logo would give the feeling of sitting on a cosy-flowery armchair in a small house of the little red riding hood’s grandma, listening to the fairy tales and folklores. During the story-telling, you will hear the sound of birds, the wind blows and maybe the giggles of wood nymphs and flower fairies. (And, she is a good story teller as she can keep you focus to her story while knitting at the same time!) By looking through the windows, you will see rabbits, deer, squirrels, raccoons and skunks playing together. Then, grandma invites you to join her afternoon tea break in the backyard garden full with wild flowers. You are sitting under the walnut tree and excited to see some foxes passing by.

From sketch to logo

12 little buttons logo sketches

Sarah was inspired by Pichamon’s love of woodland animals to create a warm and friendly mascot for the new 12 Little Buttons logo.

Because Pichamon makes cute bunnies, I got to work drawing adorable bun buns and had a lot of fun playing with their shape. I wanted to find something iconic without being cliched. When you think rabbits you think of their ears… so I kinda wanted to stay away from something so obvious. Rabbits have a beautiful shape to their bodies, and instead of focusing on their heads, I started trying to find ways I could draw their butts! Replacing a bunny cotton-tail with a button was my first big idea. It would be something unique, it would tie in with her business name and my head was swimming with the different ways I could use actual buttons sewn into her print work.

02_round01

Pichamon loved the idea of seeing a wild woodland bunny in her branding. Something sweet and curious. She didn’t want something too cluttered, and I knew it would have to look good when printed quite small as it would be used on tags for her products.

Whenever I send over my first round of design ideas I always keep them black and white so we aren’t distracted by colour and can focus purely on the composition of the logos. From the first set of designs, Pichamon loved the first 3 designs. She had the same thoughts as me, something unique, simple and sweet.

From there I took the first 3 options and refined them a bit more. I added some colours and texture and they started looking a bit more polished.

In the end, we had to cut it down to one, so Pichamon made the decision to go minimal with the third design. She loved the idea of having some flowers in the design, and loved the handwritten look of the text, but wanted me to explore it a little deeper in the next round to tighten it up. She also asked me to open up her bunny’s eyes so it looked curious and a bit more alert rather than like it was dozing in the sun.

12 little buttons logo sketches

Her final request was to go bold with her colours. We had talked about being unique and standing out and she thought we were almost there with the design, but the colours were too pastel. She wanted something bold but delicate, and was a bit unsure if this was something we could achieve. I told her, with risk comes reward, and dove in!

I brightened her colours up, opened her bunny’s eyes, changed the font to something a little sweeter and simplified the lines down to be thicker to match the new font. I added some sweet bell flowers behind her ear to bring back that wild and free feel and everything looked beautiful!

Twelve Little Buttons logo and brand identity

Pichamon’s response to her final logo

Sarah, I would like to tell you that…your works are OH-SO-PERFECT!

This is surely the LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT as you told me. You make me short of word to describe how wonderful I feel right now. I love every details presented in the style guide including the furry lines that you added. Actually, at first, I have a little concern as I am not sure that polka dot theme would go well with the woodland theme or not. But you have made it! LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Lastly, I am so sorry that I have to copy your words because I have the same feeling as you _…..You have honestly been such a pleasure to work with and I am SO thankful to Aeolidia that has chosen you as my designer. I think our styles were a perfect fit :)

Thank you very much for making me smile.

Sarah’s final thoughts

Pichamon’s feedback and helpful suggestions really made this project work. She told me what she loved and what wasn’t working for her. She gave me lots of visual direction and let me go a little crazy with my own style. It felt very natural and together we made the perfect team!

We have room in our schedule for logo projects right now! Please get in touch with me about your logo, and be ready to knock ‘em dead in the new year!

Search Results Page Design

There’s a page on your website that you may not have given a lot of thought to – your search results page. If you haven’t spent much time thinking about your search results page design, go check it out. Search for something using the search box on your site, and take a look at what results your visitors get.

  • Are the results accurate?
  • Is the list of results understandable?
  • Will people know which link to click once they’ve gotten a dump of results?
  • Do you include photos and excerpts to help guide searchers?

How smart is your search results page design?

I’ve gathered together some search result designs we’ve done that I think are particularly helpful to the searcher.

1canoe2's search results page design

1canoe2’s results help you shop

Ecommerce sites with no other content are the easiest to make a simple search results page design for. But what about improving upon that and letting people add items to their cart directly from the search results page? Chris set this site up so that you can buy what you were looking for with no extra steps.

 

Aeolidia's search results page design

Aeolidia’s results differentiate between posts and projects

On our site, I wanted to be sure searchers would be able to tell if they’d found a project in our portfolio, a blog post, or a page on our site. Shoshanna added little aqua colored boxes that tell you what type of page you’ve found.

 

Ann Kelle's search results page design

Ann Kelle’s blog archives are attractive and helpful

Ann Kelle’s search results page was a total mess before Zoe took a crack at them. Now they’re nicely organized with photos and excerpts that let you know where to go.

 

Cloud9 fabrics search results page design

Cloud9 mixes blog posts with fabric lines

Cloud9’s site lets you sort and filter, and Shoshanna also set up a clear search results page that lets you see a photo, a title, a date, number of comments, and sharing icons.

 

I Heart Guts search results page design

I Heart Guts has so much content!

The I Heart Guts site has products, blog posts, information about guts, and much more. The search looks through all of that content, and will give you all the info you need about the gut you searched for. Zoe spent some time organizing these results in a way that is informative and interesting.

How is your search engine results page looking? If you’re interested in redesigning your site, and  having all of these little details lovingly cared for by Aeolidia, please come say hi to me today!

Making Time for Business Development: Nik Naks

I have spent the last couple weeks enjoying a storm of questions from everyone who entered my “Best Next Step” giveaway. I have learned a lot! The questions were so interesting, and my thoughts and replies so universal, that I thought they would make a great series on the blog. So you will soon be seeing all kinds of businesses in various stages of growth, wondering what to do next. And you will be seeing my ideas for how to proceed forward most efficiently and ambitiously. I hope you’ll enjoy these! First up is Nik Naks Fused Glass.

Nik Naks Fused Glass

Business: Nik Naks Fused Glass
Owner: Trisha Nakagawa
Site: http://www.nik-naks.ca/
Etsy shop:
 https://www.etsy.com/shop/niknaksglass/

Below are screenshots of Trisha’s current website and her Etsy shop.

Nik Naks Fused Glass - making time for business development

Nik Naks Fused Glass current website

 

Nik Naks Fused Glass - making time for business development

Nik Naks Fused Glass Etsy shop

About: 

I create contemporary handmade fused glass home accessories and jewellery such as coasters, soap dishes, plates, pendants, rings, and earrings. I would say my business personality is a lot like me – simple with a bit of style. Customers can purchase my products in a few art gallery shops in Alberta, Canada (SAAG, AGA) as well as at the Whistler Farmer’s Market in Whistler, BC Canada.

Challenges:

I have been running my business part-time for the last 7 years. As it’s part-time and I still have a full-time job, I feel like the business has become a bit stagnant and stale. My website has had limited improvements over the last several years as I don’t have the time to spend on revamping it. I have started to create my own Shopify site in hopes of improving my website but finding the time to complete it has been difficult. I like having my Etsy site (it’s easy) but would like my website to have an e-commerce portion within it.

Objectives:

I would love for my business to be my one and only job. I believe that is my long term (5 year) goal. I’d love to revamp my website but need to find the time (and/or money) to complete this. I am planning to participate in a couple of Christmas shows this Fall in hopes of creating more publicity for my business and to also approach local stores.Besides updating my website, my main goal is to really organize my time better since it is so limited. I need to set aside specific evenings during the week to really work on my business!

Promotion:

I mainly use Twitter and Instagram. I’d like to start being able to collect emails to start email marketing campaigns but haven’t yet. That is another goal of mine! Is it best to focus on one social media platform to promote/market your business or should you choose many/multiple platforms?

Nik Naks Fused Glass business advice

Nik Naks Fused Glass business advice

Nik Naks Fused Glass business advice

Nik Naks’ Best Next Step

Hello Trisha,

Thank you for entering our Best Next Step giveaway – hooray, you’re a winner! My thoughts follow (read them with a grain of salt, since I only have a brief outline of your business and challenges right now).

Oh yes, running a business while having a separate, full-time job can certainly be a challenge! You’ve been running Nik Naks on a small scale for a long time, and as you can see, it’s going to stay small unless you make some big changes.

You can’t wait for time to work on Nik Naks to pop up – you have to make that time, purposefully carving it out of your schedule. You can’t expect to have as much free time as you used to if you’re working full time and trying to grow a business. For at least the first year or two, you will be spending nights and weekends on your business. If this doesn’t appeal to you, your choices are between dropping the business, dropping (or at least going part-time on) the job, or continuing at your current pace with Nik Naks. Or maybe hiring help?

Making time for business development

So, let’s say you decide you’re going to prioritize your non-job time to work on Nik Naks! What should your next step be?

With your limited time, you are going to want to think of all the things you need to do to make your business profitable and busy. Leave out the “would be nice” items and concentrate on the things that will make a big difference. You can break big things down into manageable chunks that you could get done in a weekend or at night after work. Either prioritize the list and begin chipping away at it in order, or you could try what I’m currently testing out – set aside a day each week for a certain type of business building, so nothing ever gets left out for too long.

For instance, my rough schedule right now is:

  • Monday: Inbox zero and catching up with what people need from me
  • Tuesday: Website improvements
  • Wednesday: Business improvements
  • Thursday: Take some time off!
  • Friday: Creative ideas and wacky plans day
  • Saturday: Write, edit, and create graphics for the blog
  • Sunday: Take some time off!

Nothing happens super quickly this way, but if I work away on improving our website every Tuesday, eventually it’s going to look pretty darn good.

Shopify setup and mailing list

So, you could break down the move to Shopify into pieces, and just do it until it’s done. The mailing list should be set up today – go do it now! The earlier you start collecting email addresses, the more you’ll have a year from now, and the easier you’ll be able to sell your work. We like MailChimp.

They will give you code to add to your website, and it’s just a matter of copying and pasting. Once you have the list, you can tell people about it on your website, on social media, and in person. Make sure you come up with a few things to email out to people regularly. You can’t just collect email addresses, ignore everyone for six months, and expect them to remember you when you suddenly start sending them email!

Social media strategy

As for social media, it can be overwhelming (and unnecessary) to try to cover all of the bases. Pick a program or two that you enjoy and that make sense for your business. Twitter and Instagram are plenty! Keep posting there, see what reaction you get, aim for high engagement, and add more followers. Here’s a program I like for monitoring how well you’re doing on Instagram: Iconosquare.

For Twitter, you can try Klout.

Once you feel like you’re rolling well on Twitter and Instagram, you may want to add another social media outlet – or maybe not. Spreading yourself too thin across multiple platforms and not doing well on any of them won’t grow your business.

Getting press and publicity

Pitching to blogs, magazines, and press is vital, and my best advice if you’re unsure of how to start is to purchase our Pitch Kit. Jena on our team created this for her clients, and the $44 will be the best money you ever spent on publicity once you start getting all the blog mentions and other press. You can learn more about that and purchase it directly here:

Go get the Pitch Kit

Good luck with your priorities and time management!

Thanks for the chance to learn more about Nik Naks Fused Glass. I hope this all makes sense, and I encourage you to make some time, decide on your priorities, and chip away at making Nik Naks your full time job!

Are you ready for the next step?

If you’d like the power and experience of the Aeolidia team behind you, please get in touch! We would love to untangle your business priorities and take a few tasks off your hands so you can do your work. Contact Aeolidia – we never bite!

Naming a Business – Should I Use My Own Name?

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

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

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

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

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

Naming a business: Don’t Call it That

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

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

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

naming a business

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

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

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

Read more biz name stories here.

Living Up to Your Brand Identity Design

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

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

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

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

Fabric Hive Logo & Brand Identity Design Project

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

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

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

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

Our Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, thank you!

Fabric Hive logo and brand identity design

Fabric Hive logo and brand identity design

Fabric Hive logo and brand identity design

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

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

What Our Client Had to Say

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

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

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

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

Visit The Fabric Hive on Etsy here.

Is Your Brand Ready to Look Right?

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

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

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

Here is how I stick to a blogging schedule:

Blogging is a high priority to me

I’ve set a reasonable schedule

I don’t talk myself out of it

That’s all!

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

1) Prioritize your task

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) Make an actionable plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) Make it non-negotiable

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

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

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

How does this work for you?

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

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

Mockingbird Store Logo and Interview

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

Interview with Kathryn of Mockingbird

A little background:

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

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

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

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

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

Mockingbird store grand opening

Mockingbird brand identity by Aeolidia

Mockingbird store family

Mockingbird store products

Mockingbird store products

How many people currently work with you?

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

How does a standard day of running Mockingbird go?

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, absolutely.

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

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

The Mockingbird store logo & brand

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

Mockingbird brand identity by Aeolidia

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

See this project in our portfolio.

Can we help you build your brand?

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

Improving Sales by Understanding Your Conversion Rate

Graphic by & © Design*Sponge

Graphic by & © Design*Sponge

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

One of our newsletter subscribers, Stacia, asked us:

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

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

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

Read the rest of this article on Design*Sponge »

Printable Ecommerce Setup Checklist

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

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

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

Aeolidia’s ecommerce setup checklist

ecommerce setup checklist

Download the PDF guide and checklist

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

Companion resource list

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

More like this on my newsletter

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

Best Ecommerce Platform: Shopify (and a Giveaway!)

Best ecommerce platform - Shopify

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

A brief personal history of ecommerce

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

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

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

ecommerce frustration!

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

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

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

Why you will love Shopify, the best ecommerce platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s giveaway

Shopify setup and consult

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

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

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

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

Enter the free Shopify setup and consulting giveaway

This giveaway is no longer active. The service turned out to be so popular that we are now offering it as one of our regular services. The price is quite affordable. Please contact me to schedule your guided Shopify setup and launch with us!

Other active giveaways

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

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

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

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

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