Will You Participate in a Winter Slowdown?

I’m taking a cue from the Oh My! Handmade community this December, and pausing the Aeolidia blog over the holidays. We have some great articles planned for January, we’re working on our Christmas gifting, and we are cramming our new year’s schedule full of projects. Let’s meet again then!

This December on OMHG we are taking a collective deep breath and putting the brakes on for the great Winter Slow Down of 2014. Think of it as a season of slow, or a holiday without hustle, permission to ease into a winter of contentment and calm-even if life is swirling around us. Whether you are a maker,  small business owner, shopper or someone who hides from the rush, it can be hard not to get caught up in the frenzy of the holiday season and end up overwhelmed. Commitments like packing orders, promoting sales, events, shows and magic making for our families are all important but we often prioritize them over rest and then need to squeeze in simple goodness. What if this year we all made our own policies that protect our right to slow down for one month a year? It starts here!

Instead of regular posts and social media-ing from December 1-24th OMHG is celebrating a new kind of advent with our #24DaysOfPresence challenge. For the weeks leading up to Christmas take time to document the gifts each day brings whether it is a lovely sunset, a sweet note, or a quiet moment then share them (or don’t!) with the hashtag #24DaysOfPresence. Connect with others who know that the real treasure is never presents but the gift of presence. Once we slow down we can start to pay attention to where our presence is most needed in our lives and communities. Why is being present not only for ourselves but especially for others so very hard?

Read more on Oh My! Handmade Goodness »

Here’s hoping your shops are bustling over the holidays, you get some quiet time with your loved ones, and that you’re reinvigorated in the new year to give your business a good look-over, tidy those corners of it that need tidying, and make it the best it can be! We would love to help. Get in touch today so you can beat the January rush and secure a cozy spot on our 2015 calendar.

Merry merry!

7 Last-Minute Marketing Tips For the Holidays

Holiday season is upon us, to-dos are piling, stress ensuing, and often marketing is the last thing on our mind around this time. But it’s not too late to make an impression, and an impact with your customers that can help you see more sales both now and into next year. So, whether you’re already busily wading through holiday season orders or are hoping for more to come in, here are some marketing tips you can use in these couple weeks we have left to help get the word out about what you have to offer this holiday season!

Start the countdown

What is your last day to receive orders so that you can ensure delivery by Christmas? Figure out that date, know it, and start shouting about it! Update it on your site’s front page in a slide, button or text. Send a newsletter now, and another when there’s only 1 day left. Start doing little countdowns on social media, “only 5 days left to order for delivery by Dec 25th!” It’s information your customers will be looking for so don’t feel weird being upfront with it, or reminding people about it. It keeps your customers informed and gives them an incentive to act! Also make sure your shop policies are updated with your holiday shipping options and last dates to order for both standard and expedited delivery. And remember, what’s every last minute shopper’s best friend? E-gift cards! Spotlight ‘em if you got ‘em.

Pitch to blogs

As long as you’re still shipping, you can still be pitching! It’s not too late to get the word out to bloggers about your holiday season goodness. People are still on the hunt for gifts and seeking out blogs they like for recommendations and ideas, and gift guides are still being compiled and published by busy bloggers behind the scenes. Approach them about your work, point out specific gift or holiday perfect items they might be interested in, keep the emails short and friendly and hit send! For more details, check out this short podcast I recorded a couple years ago on how to pitch last minute for the holidays, or my e-book, The Pitch Kit!

Share your own holidaze

Right now’s a great time to be tweeting, pinning and generally talking about holiday stuff around your favorite spots to socialize online. Share what you’re personally up to for the holidays- cooking, decorating, celebrating, shopping, planning… Pepper in shop talk about your holiday items, things that’d make great gifts, a glimpse of the behind the scenes busyness, yes, but make sure your online communication isn’t all about business these days, even if that’s your main concern at the moment. Don’t forget to connect and continue to foster those relationships with content that’s personal, from the heart, sharing honestly even if it’s the most stressful time of the year for you and you feel overwhelmed, etc- share that! People connect to people.

Serve those customers well

Your customers may be stressed out, you may be stressed out, but that’s even more reason to handle your customer interactions right now with utmost attention and care. Communication and kindness are key to keeping customers happy this time of year (well, anytime!) and can help keep things running smoothly. Also be prepared now to give your holiday packages some extra attention: wrap your items up extra pretty, write out thank you notes with orders or include a cute little gift that can brighten your customer’s day. The better you serve them at this time of year especially, when awesome customer service can be hard to come by, the more likely they are to come back and shop with you again!

Incentivize, incentivize, incentivize

Counting down to your holiday ordering deadline is one way to get the customers who are thinking of buying to buy now, but what else can you do to incentivize people to shop? Have some extra or outdated inventory you could include as a gift with purchase, or mark down on sale? It’s a good time to send out a special discount or shipping offer to your newsletter subscribers or social media followers. Maybe you can include a discount off a future purchase with those thank yous you’re sending out with current orders? Or create some special gift packages that include multiple items together at a discount? Motivate those customers, they have lots of choices and there’s lots of last minute shoppers out there!

Send holiday cards

You may be used to sending out cards to friends and family every year, but do you also send them to past customers? It’s a great personal touch that goes a long way in helping you foster a personal relationship and stay on their minds. You can just send to particular stand out or memorable customers, repeat ones, or whoever you’ve worked with this whole year, it’s up to you, but consider it time well spent! And consider sending to anyone else you’ve worked with peripherally that made an impact on your biz in some way- social media or craft fair buddies, service providers (like a graphic designer or consultant), or any blog or magazine editors who’ve already featured you- they’re good fodder for a holiday hello, too! A hand-written note inside adds personality and can make them feel extra special. Totally running out of time? Send an e-card instead!

Breathe

Depending on what you sell and how much marketing you’ve done up until now, this might be the busiest time of the year for your business (yay!), or it might be one of the slowest (boo). Either way, it can feel daunting, whether you’re overwhelmed with busyness or worried about the slow down. But don’t fret- give thanks for what you’ve got right now, whether it’s more time to focus on home and family, or a deluge of orders that’s going to pay for your family trip to Hawaii, if only you can make it through all of them. Know, either way, it’s all just temporary. Do what you can in these last couple weeks. And breeeaaathe.

Hope this helps you get the most out of these last days to market your shop before it’s (thankfully!) time to slow down and celebrate. Have any other last minute ideas before the calendar turns its page to the new year? (Already?!) Let us know in the comments below!

Gift Guide for Designers & Other Nerds, pt. II

This is part two of our 2014 gift guide! The link to the last one will be at the bottom of this post, if you missed it. I work with some folks who have really good taste – like, bordering on impeccable. I know you’re all out there selling up a storm for the holidays and can’t quite concentrate on any hardcore business advice right now. So let’s look at some beautiful, adorable, and quite useful things that we’re thinking of gifting or getting for Christmas.

Arianne’s Picks

Arianne is captain and founder of Aeolidia, and tends toward cuteness and simplicity.

Salad Serving Set, Cherry Wood and Feather GreyNarwhal Soft Sculpture

Seattle Layered Papercut in AquaPDX Scarf

Q & A a Day: 5-Year JournalDip Jug in Speckled Clay

Judy’s Pick

Judy is the newest addition to our illustration team! She is from Barcelona, and is an identical twin, and lover of life.

No Man’s Land book

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.

Calico NecklaceSaddle Ring Desk Collection

Ikebana Stack VaseAmber & Moss Soy Candle

Ceramic MugPickles Tea Towel

Meg’s Picks

Meg is a web designer, and her taste and style is anything but subdued.

String LightsConvertible Dot Clutch

Poop Emoji PillowPinna Rings

Santal 26 Vintage CandleThe Martian: A Novel

Jon’s Picks

Jon, a web developer, is a fan of handmade work and the independent spirit and fans his creative flames through music.

Bear Custom StampBohnanza Board Game

Margot’s Picks

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

Blue Apron Meal Kit DeliveryMikado Pick Up Sticks

DIY PaperwhitesArtists’ Board Books

Christine’s Picks

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

My Favorite Things BookTropical Punch Necklace

Lomo’Instant Sanremo EditionWalnut Cake Stand

Kid Made Modern Colored PencilsABLE Scarf

Missed the first gift guide?

You can find it here.

Sustainable Business Growth: What is a Big Little Business?

Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps asked me about our tagline – Aeolidia: Helping Your Little Business Become a “Big Little” Business. What does this mean? Big business is unappealing to most of our clients, and to us at Aeolidia. We don’t want to conquer the world, start an international chain store, or have 600 employees. We get tired of being little businesses, though, responsible for all of the daily grind that goes into a business, unable to produce enough product to meet demand, and feeling like hobbyists.

Finding a cozy spot between these two extremes is ideal, and knowing where that cozy spot is is important. We want our businesses to grow, but we don’t want them to grow out of our control. Having things a bit past our comfort zone can be great, but growth needs to be sustainable, and it needs to be a direction we’re glad to be going in.

Some signs that you run a big little business

1) A big little business gets “enough” business. We may or may not be at what we feel is “max capacity,” but we’re no longer in that early phase of scrambling for sales and trying to make ends meet. Our products sell, and sell out, and business hums busily along every day. Now that we’re over the hump of getting our customers to notice us, we can concentrate on sustainable business growth.

2) A big little business has a team – but not too big of a team! It is fine (and valuable!) to be a “one man band” when starting a business, but eventually as we sell more, we will need help. Maybe with production, customer service, packing and shipping, or keeping our website updated. If we insist on doing all these things ourselves as it becomes more unsustainable, we’ll find ourselves with no time left to create or be the brains of our businesses.

3) The founder of a big little business sticks to her or his area of expertise, while keeping an eye on everything else. Our time, as the creator of the business, is valuable, and should be spent doing the things no one else on our team can do – namely, the creative work that launched our biz in the first place, and the ideas that propel us forward. We will delegate the rest, hiring help with marketing, website development, or product photography, rather than trying to learn how and leaving the rest of the business to suffer.

4) Big little businesses are excited about growth, but have a limit. We want some press and fame, we want to hire more people, add a second storefront, rent a studio, be on Oprah. But we would never want a board of directors, to sell stock in our company, or to become those CEO-types who are so removed that they don’t know what is going on on a day to day basis. Many creative business owners want to keep making their product by hand, even when they’re wildly successful. As the one in charge, we can totally do this! Customers choose us because of our story and the heart we put into our businesses. Whatever it takes to keep our fire burning brightly is what we should do.

5) Big little businesses have values and won’t drop them to increase profit. It is not all about the money for us. We’re not going to lower product quality, hire workers who are underpaid or work in bad conditions, harm the environment, or sell out in any number of ways. Being in this business for the joy of it will make it easy to stay true to our values, even when tempted to go astray.

Do the top level shit

Jen Gotch of Ban.do delivered a hilarious talk at the Nearly Impossible conference, the message of which was:

Do the top level shit

That is what being the owner of a successful business boils down to. The more you can get away from the day to day stuff, by delegating it, the better chance your business has to grow. You can’t pursue or create opportunities while you’re knee deep in shipping labels.

Value the creative mind and wild ideas that got you to where you are and set aside the time and space to make things happen.

Keep the “big little” mindset, push yourself, make a profit, hire help, and fly fly fly! But not too high or too far. You decide what success feels like.

Can we help you push to the next level?

I hope we can – it’s basically our favorite thing. If you feel like your logo, your website, your product photography, your marketing strategy, heck – even the text on your website – is holding you back, please get in touch with me. I’ve put together a team of friendly geniuses to take care of  these tangential parts of your business for you.

P.S. January always fills up quickly for us, and from the buzz I’ve been hearing from folks this year, they’re all planning to come to us in January with projects. So if you’re thinking of getting a start in the new year, contact me today so you can be sure not to be put at the end of our waiting list.

Gift Guide for Designers & Other Nerds

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

Mariah’s Picks

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

Wobble BowlsBottle Neck Glass Table Lamp

Georgia Brown Picker’s WalletSilver V Ring

Dutchtub OriginalScout Door Mat

Marina’s Picks

Marina is our browser-tester extraordinaire, balancing her tech skills with an eye for design and quite a few crafty bones in her body.

The Tiniest Ring, PearlCuddly Friend & Mini Sweater

Pennsylvania Birds and Blooms PrintMr. Hulot’s Holiday Perfume

Nesting Dolls of TomorrowRoyal Dopp Kit

Sarah’s Picks

Sarah loves science, farming, painting, and great design and makes some beautiful logos and websites for Aeolidia clients.

Geometric Glass TerrariumRose Gold Fox Ring

Triceratops HeadbandGoonies Pencils

Fox Crossbody HandbagBig Dipper Ear Pins

Zoe’s Picks

Zoe is the “designer’s developer,” with a keen eye for design and usability, and a knack for explaining the trickiest subjects.

Nested Pour Bowls with Gold FlourishDual Deco Pen Set

Colored Wall SconceHeirloom Popcorn Set

Simple Journal PlannerLined Paper Tear-Off Notepad

Lauren’s Picks

Lauren is an Austin transplant from California, who, as you can see, has gotten into the Texan vibe. She’s been making smart ecommerce websites for us for years upon years.

Vintage Brass ArmadilloThe Book of Barely Imagined Beings

Ann Shoulder Bag“Indigo Cactus” Watercolor Giclee

Mini Cactus Zen GardenMid-Century Modern Patterns coloring book

Zak’s Picks

Zak is a superhero at organization, and an enthusiastic tackler of interesting problems. He’s an expert Shopify developer, and a cycling enthusiast.

Lightning CablesNatural Collar + Leash

Amazing Grace CanvasDaytrader: A Financial Board Game

Moleskine Squared Cahier Journals

Shalon’s Picks

Shalon is a designer, crafter, and photographer, and you can find her making pretty websites and brand identities for small businesses while listening to classical music.

Chocolate Tote BagDIY Embroidery Kit

Christmas PrintChuck Taylor Foil Polka Dots

Handcrafted Fox SoftieLeather Cuff Watch

Finding Your Niche: Keen Peachy Stationery

This post is part of our Best Next Step series, where you will hear from creative business owners like you, who are wondering what to focus on next. The background stories and questions are from all kinds of businesses in various stages of growth, and I share my ideas for how to proceed forward most efficiently and ambitiously. I hope you’ll enjoy these! Today we’re hearing from Keen Peachy.

Keen Peachy

Business: Keen Peachy
Owner: Amanda Ngur
Site: http://www.keenpeachy.com
Etsy shop: http://keenpeachy.etsy.com/
Minted shop: http://www.minted.com/store/keenpeachy

Below are screenshots of Amanda’s website and associated shops:

Keen Peachy website

Keen Peachy website

 

Keen Peachy Minted shop

Keen Peachy Minted shop

 

Keen Peachy Etsy shop

Keen Peachy Etsy shop

 

About:

Amanda Ngur of Keen PeachyMy business is named Keen Peachy, and it is a design and stationery business. I sell art prints, greeting cards, tags, stationery. My work can be found in the Keen Peachy Etsy shop, on Minted, soon on Paper Culture, and I have an art print currently being sold by West Elm. Keen Peachy is unique because it’s bold, modern, colorful and has my unique perspective. Keen Peachy’s business personality/style is colorful, modern, considerate, professional and high-quality.

Challenges:

I started Keen Peachy in March 2013, and I think one of the things I’m struggling with is finding my clear voice and niche. I love many different kinds of art and design, and so it’s hard for me to pinpoint where I want to go and harder yet to find my own style. I think I’m torn between where I should put my focus.

I have limited time to work on projects and promote them. There are opportunities that I have with online stationery sellers (if designs are selected), and then opportunity for work sold on my own when there is time. One of the biggest things since I work full-time is finding the biggest return for my time spent, but I’m scattered!

Objectives:

My potential next steps include rebranding my logo and collateral to better reflect the modern side of my work. I have been trying to finish my business plan (cart before the horse, I know!) for months, but new work comes up and it is put on the back burner. That said, my goal for completing my business plan is by the end of the year, as well as logo development.

I may be letting the Etsy shop close because it is so time consuming on the back end, and I have limited time to promote and add new products. Without promotion and new products it gets very little traffic.

My financial goal is to increase my earnings by 15-20% next year. I have been able to reach my earnings increase for this year already.

Blog features of my work is a publicity goal.

The primary internal business goal is to know my brand and have a clear style that can still encompass many design interests.

Promotion:

Currently I use the blog (aka free website on Blogger) to announce new work. I previously sent work to a stationery blogger in the hopes of a feature, but it was only the one time. I actually don’t really use social media myself. I have a Facebook profile to view one community group alone. I am curious about best practices for blog or press features.

I pretty much get zero sales of my own work from Etsy. My sales have been primarily through online stationers and commission, as well as commission from a piece selling at West Elm.

finding your niche

finding your niche

finding your niche

finding your niche

finding your niche

Keen Peachy’s Best Next Step

Hello Amanda,

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).

First: I love your business name! It got stuck in my head the other day, and it is so cheery. Turning the “peachy keen” phrase around makes it feel new but still familiar. Love it, and boy would it be fun to create a logo for!

Finding your voice

Finding your voice and niche is going to be mostly about you, with a dash of your customers’ preferences. Obviously, you want to narrow down to something that will sell well, but I don’t recommend choosing your least favorite style or product to focus on, because as the sole creative talent at Keen Peachy, you need to feel interested in what you’re doing.

The Field Sketch art caught someone’s eye at West Elm, so continuing with that style seems like a possible path, for sure! They know what sells. Take a look at your other top sellers and see if they form a cohesive collection (it sounds like you’re leaning modern). If not, pare them down by which ones you’re most fired up about, or which ones you feel are the most unique – looks you haven’t seen elsewhere in the stationery world.

Promoting your work

Your Etsy shop has had 3 sales. I would recommend closing it, at least temporarily, if you’re not excited about promoting it.

Promoting your work to customers and wholesale clients is where you’ll want to turn your attentions. It’s easier to promote your work if it makes sense together as a group, so narrowing your range of styles down to one “Keen Peachy” style will be where you want to start.

From there, you need to spend time pitching your work and developing wholesale relationships. 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

Jena also offers invaluable one-on-one marketing consults, focusing on media outreach or social media, and we would love to discuss that more, if you’re interested.

Good luck finding your niche and telling the world!

Thanks for the chance to learn more about Keen Peachy. I hope this all makes sense, and I encourage you to figure out what exactly Keen Peachy is all about, design-wise, and then tell the world about it! If there is anything we can do to help launch you on your way, please let me know.

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!

Craft Fair and Trade Show Tips From Experienced Sellers

Hey, it’s holiday craft fair season! I’ll be heading out to Seattle’s Urban Craft Uprising this year, and I’ve been admiring everyone’s booth displays on Instagram, after each of the big trade shows and craft fairs hits.

I thought it would be nice to get some tips from creative businesses who have done it before – so if you’re thinking of attending your first show, or if you’d just like some trade show tips on upping your game, get some advice here from a variety of different businesses, about a variety of different shows.

Some of the shows mentioned in this article are:

Trade shows:

Retail shows:

Of course there are many more. I’d like to hear what shows and fairs you attend in the comments! Read on for advice from creative business owners who’ve attended some fairs and shows and can let us learn from their mistakes and triumphs!

Be over prepared and remember how to sell

Tips from Amber J. Favorite A.Favorite Design

A.Favorite's booth at the National Stationery Show

A.Favorite at the National Stationery Show

A.Favorite's booth at NYIGF

A.Favorite’s booth at the NY International GIft Fair

I am very fortunate and have done the following shows: National Stationery Show, New York International Gift Fair (now called NY Now), Renegade Craft Fair.

Retail shows are a little different for me than trade shows. I’ll be speaking to trade shows mostly, since that is fresher in my mind and personally I find them more stressful.

Preparing an application

Make sure your website is up to date with your most current products. Look through your photos and reshoot any you are not happy with before hitting send on the application. If they ask for a booth layout and you haven’t built it yet, be as descriptive and detail oriented as possible. Don’t be afraid to tell them who you want to be by. Location can make or break a show for you.

What to pack

This list is very lengthy… I have an ongoing Excel sheet I use to prepare for each show with several categories. Here’s a brief overview:

  • there’s the pallet list – everything to ship to show i.e.
    • booth
    • furniture
    • decorations
    • signage
    • office supplies
    • giveaways
    • tool box
    • product, etc.
  • the pack list – what to bring on the plane i.e.
    • binder with all paperwork
      • plan-o-grams,
      • certificates of fireproofing,
      • order confirmations,
      • travel reservations
      • receipts
      • tracking info, etc
    • extra master deck
    • some catalogs
    • business cards and order forms in case pallet doesn’t make it you’ll have something
    • map
    • clothes
    • shoes, etc.
  • here is a list of my show tool box:
    • stapler
    • pens
    • 2part order forms (one for you, one for customer to take)
    • clipboards
    • catalogs
    • business cards
    • tape (packaging, carpet and double sided)
    • xacto
    • zip ties
    • tape measure
    • etg tape gun (& extra rolls of tape)
    • small level
    • scissors
    • fishing line
    • hammer
    • pliers
    • couple screwdrivers
    • surge protectors and extension cords

Booth setup

Pre-planning makes all the difference. I spend months designing my booth and have a plan-o-gram in Illustrator of each wall that I rearrange cards on until I’m happy. Once all furniture, lights, displays are set on the plan-o-gram we start creating the actual booth. I’m very fortunate I have a large studio and we usually set it up in the space to do a dry run. We don’t typically hang all the cards but we do try out adhesives, flooring, hangers, furniture spacing, pretty much anything we can to make sure it’s going to work how we imagine. Once our dry run is done and we’re feeling mostly confident we start loading the pallet. Besides the plan-o-gram and dry run I would suggest set up early. I know travel is not cheap but peace of mind and a good night’s sleep (or a comfy bed to lay awake and obsess in) before the show can make all the difference. If your pallet is set to arrive 3 days before, try to get there then. Things often take a little longer than you think. Dress comfortably for set up, it is often hot in the summer and cooler in the winter before show time, the dock doors are wide open so dress accordingly. Bring snacks and water for set up too, food can be a challenge to find especially if you’re working late to get your booth done.

How to sell

My first trade show was NSS in 2010. I am a huge researcher and honestly had prepared for 24 months before my first show. I had a booth I was proud of, I had created products I loved, I reserved a space near businesses I admired and aspired to be like, I had helpers I vetted on all my goods and processes, I had beautiful catalogs, order forms, business cards and super cute totes; I thought I was over prepared. Then the first customer came in and I froze. All that preparation and it never crossed my mind how to start a conversation or what my spiel would be. It was terrible. I smiled and said hi. When they left I felt like an idiot but was determined to not let that happen again. After that, I was a pro. Greeted everyone that came in, told them a very brief, who I am, what I do and what I sell. Let my failure be a lesson to anyone wanting to sell… Don’t get so wrapped up in the logistics you forget what to say.

How to follow up

Try to get a business card or contact information from anyone that takes your card or catalog. Afterward I always send a little note whether they ordered or not. And I add them to our email list. We’ve had several customers that saw us at a show but didn’t actually order until months later.

Any surprises that you wish you’d known about?

The giant Starbucks line at the Javits Center! And read about the shuttle schedules. Some run on set up days too… I spent money on cabs that weren’t necessary the first show.


Don’t skimp on your catalog

Tips from Erin Hung of BerinMade

Berinmade craft fair booth setup

Berinmade craft fair booth setup

We just did our first trade show in the UK and the one tip I have is: Don’t skimp on your catalogue!

We put a lot of effort into our styled shoots, making sure our look book is stunning, and that our product shots show off our work in the best angle. We also printed the catalogues in a saddle bound booklet (as opposed to a line sheet which a lot of other vendors used). The reason for this is that a lot of shops (especially the big department stores and national stores) do not buy at the show, and they see a LOT of stores in a few days, so the catalogue is the only way for them to really remember your work—so make sure it represents the brand in the best way possible.


Make everything visible and don’t be a pest

Tips from Wendy Bryan Lazar of I Heart Guts

I Heart Guts' NY Comic Con retail booth setup

I Heart Guts’ NY Comic Con retail booth setup

I Heart Guts' NYNow wholesale booth setup

I Heart Guts’ NYNow wholesale booth setup

I’d break up my advice into two areas, since a wholesale trade show is a very different beast from a retail sales show.

Retail advice

(Renegade, Comic Con, etc.)

If they can’t see it, they can’t buy it — make sure all your goodies are visible and attractively displayed around eye-level if possible. Use crates, props and display stands, hang stuff up so it can be seen. Also, make sure all your stuff is clearly priced. Sometimes people fall in love with stuff and MUST HAVE IT, but that’s rare — most of the time people shop by price.

Even if you are bored in your booth — don’t look bored! Find a way to have fun and enjoy interacting with your customers. Think of how you feel when you walk into a shop with a sullen employee with her nose in her phone. Everyone is interesting and interesting to talk to. You are the face of your brand and a smile goes a long way.

Trade show advice

(NY Now, Stationery, Toy Fair, etc.)

Make your booth look beautiful, but also easy to pack up. Getting your stuff in and out of a convention hall costs a fortune. So when you design your gorgeous and amazing display, also think about how it will fit in your car, or how it will load onto a cart or how it will pack down to be shipped.

When it comes to follow-up and sales, trade shows are a lot like dating. If they like you, they will call you. Don’t be a pest. I’m not saying to not follow up, but your stuff just might not be right for their store. Or maybe I’m just lazy.

P.S. Megan Auman has posted some really helpful trade show tip videos.


Set your booth up like a small shop

Tips from Laurie Johnston Two Trick Pony

Two Trick Pony booth setup

Two Trick Pony’s National Stationery Show booth setup

I’ve exhibited at the National Stationery Show eight times with three different companies and also attended as a buyer. There is so much to know, so I think it’s great you are gathering tips for newbies. Here are my thoughts:

What to pack:

Start your packing checklist as early as possible so you have time to add items as you think of them. Mentally go through all the steps of your set up and sales process so you can write down all the supplies and tools you may need.

Don’t be afraid to over pack! Anything you think you might need, bring it. Even if you don’t end up using a flat head screw driver, your neighbor might and will love you for coming to the rescue.

In addition to your booth supplies, be sure you are well stocked with healthy snacks and plenty of water before the start of each day, especially if you are on your own. Selling all day is exhausting so you want to be as alert and focused as possible.

Booth set up

If you can, set up a mock booth at home or in your studio. The set up will go quicker if it’s not the first time you are doing it. You may discover that something you planned doesn’t actually look how you expected and you can make adjustments beforehand.

Keep in mind that the venue will likely have certain requirements and restrictions regarding what materials you can use (non-flammable, etc.) and what tasks need to be performed by professionals (electricity, etc.). So be sure to read your contract thoroughly and ask questions if you are unclear.

Try to think of your booth as a small shop, you want it to be inviting yet spacious. Don’t place furniture or other objects that will impede buyers from easily entering and exiting your booth. No one wants to enter a booth if they feel they can’t get out quickly if they want. And like a shop, signage is key! Yes, you want buyers to engage with you, but you also want them to be able to get the info they need if you are with another customer or they just don’t feel like chatting.


Get your product in customers’ faces, and tell your story

Tips from Lisa DeMio Red Staggerwing

Red Staggerwing's event booth design

My displays were custom built and this is the second edit – I changed the tabletop pieces.

Red Staggerwing's event booth design

I have been doing shows since I started my business in 2009. I started out with a small local fair and have built up to larger, exhibition hall types and some national shows. Here are my tips, in no particular order:

What to bring

If it’s an outdoor show and you are bringing a tent, make sure you have weights for your tent! Minimum of 25 pounds per leg but 40 is better. Many shows require this now but not all. Protect yourself and your neighbors from accidents. All it takes is one gust of wind. Weights can be found on Amazon or other retailers that sell canopies, but you can make your own with PVC and cement, bags and gravel/sand, or purchase kettlebells and use ratcheting straps to attach them to the tent frame. The important thing is that there is tension on the weight. Very hard to secure with ropes since you can’t really get them tight enough. Rubber bungees work well, too.

For all shows, have a ‘kit’ – doesn’t matter what you carry it in but I use a really cute vintage cosmetic case. Another friend uses a vintage tool box . I have sunscreen, hand wipes, extra tags, business cards, a variety of sizes of zip ties, velcro straps, pliers, screwdriver, tape (both duct and masking), pens, markers, snacks and a first aid kit. I try to keep some feminine supplies with me as well.

Booth display

Regardless of where you are displaying, the display itself is almost as important as your products! I have seen some really cool products that are displayed poorly and are easy to walk right past. If you have room, set up your display at home to get an idea of how it will work. Mark out your booth size so you know it will all fit and then make sure it’s shop-able! Boost tables to counter height, especially if your items are small. You can use bed risers for that. You want your product literally in people’s faces!

There are many boards on Pinterest with craft show display ideas – try not to literally copy other vendors but you can find some great inspiration there. Simple and clean is best if your product is large or colorful. If it’s small or simple, try to add some visual interest to draw people into your booth. With a large market, like Renegade Craft Fair or American Craft Council, there are literally hundreds of vendors, so if you don’t draw people in, they are likely to walk right by. Also, visit the show website if there is one and see how vendors are displaying their products. Again, it’s not a good idea to blatantly copy another display but you can find inspiration. Generic display pieces like gridwall or hanging panels are certainly not proprietary so don’t be afraid to use them or any other commercially available pieces.

How to sell

Remember that you are representing your brand. People make quick judgements at shows and this is a place where first impressions really count, so make sure you are welcoming and approachable. If you are selling fashion items, look fashionable! If possible, be wearing something you have made. Nothing will make shoppers turn away like a poorly presented vendor slouching at the back of their booth. Be honest with yourself and if you are not great at the in person sales piece, bring someone who is. Some really talented artists are terrible at selling their own art work! And you have to sell – there will be markets where it seems like all you have to do is stand there and take money, but it’s far more common to have to actively sell your goods.

Get your introductory speech down: ‘Hello. Everything is handmade by me, so just let me know if you have any questions.’ I say that a million times every show. :) Try to keep them engaged without being pushy and if possible get the products into their hands. People are much more likely to buy something they have held and examined. Encourage them to touch/smell/try on. Be observant of facial expressions and other non-verbal cues to make sure your customer isn’t becoming uncomfortable. It takes practice but you will be able to tell eventually.

And don’t forget to smile! Even if sales are slow, smile and act like you are enjoying yourself! Bad energy will keep people out of your booth. Be yourself, but have the story ready – handmade is generally more expensive, so you need to show people why it’s worth it to buy your item. I love what I do and make sure that people know that! When they compliment the fabric choices, I tell them that’s my favorite part – choosing the colors. Just try to be ready with your story – do you have a cool studio? Do you have something unique about how you make your products or source your supplies? The story is a large piece of what makes handmade appealing to people.

Encourage visitors who don’t buy right away to take a card and take a picture of the product they were looking at – I know some artists are protective and don’t like photos taken, but there are great photos on my website if someone wanted to copy my work, so I assume the best and encourage potential customers to take a photo so they remember what they were looking at. If you do run out of cards, tape the last one somewhere convenient and encourage customers to take a photo of your card to keep your information.

Preparing for surprises

As for surprises, there will always be some. If the market is outdoors on grass, the ground could be uneven. Bring shims or something else to level your display. Sidewalls are a good idea and are necessary for overnight outdoor shows to protect your display and/or products. If it’s indoor in a large convention hall type venue, find out what is being supplied in your vendor fee. Most provide pipe and drape but not all. My second show I didn’t look and so didn’t know they didn’t provide booth flooring. All I had was a small little area rug that I use for my outdoor shows. The next show, I made sure to look and found an inexpensive solution with vinyl flooring from home depot. Lighting is key for indoor shows so I recommend purchasing electricity if available, but you can also use a portable battery if necessary. The easiest solution is to rent a crossbar or purchase one – this goes across the top of the pipe at whatever spot makes sense (usually the front, but jewelers tend to need more than one) and attach track lighting (also from Home Depot/Lowes) with zip ties or velcro strips. Again, very easy – see examples of this online. If possible I try to visit the show or talk to a vendor who has done it before to get the scoop.


Prepare icebreakers, shop at home

Tips from Cathy Pascual of Catshy Crafts

Catshy Crafts craft fair booth

I like using a mix of vintage pieces and store-bought pieces. I made the signs and banners/garlands as well as all the small price signage.

It was one of my business goals early on to be in a craft fair, but it seemed so daunting. From the amount of preparation and set-up to the hours interacting with people to the fears of not selling anything, I was pretty overwhelmed. The first one is always the hardest. I prepared for months for my first one. To this day, each one is still stressful for me, but I believe it is worth the time and effort. The customer feedback and interaction (which is probably what I feared most as a shy introvert) is probably what is the most rewarding. I have never had amazing sales at craft fairs, but I still see the value in them. (And I guess I still have hope that I will have amazing sales one day!)

Here are a couple of the posts I’ve written about my experiences with craft fairs. My last one was from the perspective of a shy crafter:

A Shy Crafter’s Guide: Selling at Craft Fair
One of my favorite tips from my article is this one: Prepare icebreakers or questions you can ask a visitor to your booth. I don’t know about you, but small talk is not one of my strengths. Taking a few minutes to think about some questions or icebreakers for your booth visitors could help alleviate some of that small talk anxiety. After all, she is taking time to visit your booth, make her feel welcome with some friendly conversation. For example, compliment her on something she is wearing OR ask her how she’s likes the craft fair so far. If she is looking at a particular item in your booth, tell her something interesting about the piece or what inspired you. But if your mind goes blank or you get a little tongue-tied, a hello and smile never hurts. And who knows, maybe she is shy too! And here’s a link to my very first craft show experience. Read more…

10 Tips on Surviving Your First Craft Show
Tip #3: Shop at home. Before you head out to the store for items for your display, take a look at what you already have at your home. Chances are you can find many things to use in your crafty display.

For example, do you use props when you photograph your items? I have a wooden tray that I love to use for my product photography. It is carved. It has a richly stained patina. It has scratches and is well-worn from use. If you read this blog, you may remember when I picked it up from one of my favorite thrift shops last year. It continues to be my go-to photography prop. Not only is this item doing double duty, it will tie back to your online shop. It’s nice to have continuity between your Etsy shop and your craft show presence. Read more…


Take your lighting very seriously

Tip from Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press

sycamore street press nss

sycamore street press nss

Sycamore Street Press’ booth at the National Stationery Show

My number 1 tip for the National Stationery Show is to not skimp on your lighting! I’ve written several blog detailed posts with NSS tips, including this one:

Top 5 Tips For Your National Stationery Show Booth
If you plan on exhibiting again in New York — either at the NSS or another NY based trade show like NYNow, the most economical thing is to store your booth with a local freight and storage company. (Although, our first year doing the show, we just packed everything into our car and drove it back and forth. Always an option if you live close enough.) Pack your entire booth (walls, displays, product, etc…) into a crate or onto a palette, and get the freight company to ship it to the Javits for you. When the show is over, they will then pick it up and store it until the next show comes around. It’s definitely cheaper to go this route than to ship it back and forth from New York to wherever you live every single time. Read more…

P.S. Sycamore Street Press have put together an online course for people who want to start a stationery business (or who could use help with a struggling one): Stationery Business 101.

Next, let’s talk booth design

I’d like to do a followup post that shows off some beautiful booth design and shares some tips about that! If you have seen some amazing booths at fairs, please let me know about them by posting the business owner’s URL here in our comments. I’ll get in touch with them and see if they’d like to share some photos and tips with us. If you have some booth design and setup tips for our readers, email me to let me know.

P.S. what events have you attended for your business, and how did they go? What did you learn?

Creative Business Podcast: Posie Gets Cozy and Aeolidia

Hey there, we’ve got something new today! Instead of clickety-clacking away on my computer keys, as I usually do, I am talking about creative businesses, websites, and branding with my actual voice, which you can listen to with your actual ears.

Abby Glassenberg of While She Naps aired a podcast this week which is a chat with Alicia Paulson of Posie Gets Cozy and me. Please check it out! I’d love to hear what you think about it. I discuss a lot about our process and share some good tips.

Click below to go over to Abby’s site to get the scoop:

While She Naps podcast with Posie Gets Cozy and Aeolidia

Listen to the Podcast

Abby wanted to talk about how a small business knows it’s time to invest in a custom website, and I thought Alicia would be a good fit, as we redesigned her website this year, and Abby’s audience of softie makers would be thrilled to hear from Alicia, who has been running her business her own way for nearly 15 years.

It was great to get some insight into Alicia’s business, how she keeps things humming along, and how it’s evolved over the years.

Do you listen to podcasts? I don’t usually, because my work involves a lot of reading and writing. However, I’ve recently found myself busy with some manual labor tasks (preparing and packaging welcome kits and thank you gifts for our clients), and doing a bit of sewing for fun, and podcasts are nice to listen to while doing this kind of mindless work.

So far, I’ve listened to Abby’s chats with Robert Mahar, Lilla Rogers & Lisa Congdon, and Mimi Tsang & Jahje Bath Ives, and enjoyed them (you can find these in the While She Naps podcast archive).

Happy listening! Do you know of any other creative business podcasts I should listen to?

Growing a Handmade Business: Queen Bee

This is an interview with one of our clients, Rebecca Pearcy, who runs Queen Bee, a shop selling handcrafted accessories for your home and life. Rebecca shares her insights on growing a handmade business.

Interview with Rebecca Pearcy of Queen Bee

rpearcy

How did you get your business idea, and what kind of market research did you do when starting out?

Queen Bee really came out of a life-long love of making things with my hands. I was making clothing, accessories, and jewelry throughout high school and college and would sell at fairs & bazaars. So it is hard to really know how I got the initial “idea” – it is as if I was always doing it. But our official start date is when I actually got a business license, which was May 1996. I honed in on making bags because while I love clothing, designing and making apparel is a lot harder and more complicated than accessories. And I like that with accessories, people are often willing to be a bit more colorful, playful, and adventurous, so I could really express my love of color through my designs. And I just love to create things that are functional and really useful on a daily basis.

I didn’t do any market research. I was 23 years old, didn’t know anything about business. I just had a lot of ideas, creative energy, and loved to sell what I was making to others. I was essentially making things that I loved and wanted, and other people started to respond to that.

How many people currently work with you?

I have a staff of 7 worker bees who do a whole range of things including sewing & non-sewing production work, helping customers online & in our shop, bookkeeping, screen printing our textiles line, ordering and managing inventory and running our wholesale business.

queen bee staff

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

Oh I don’t remember – I didn’t keep the best books back then! But I don’t think it took very long. I started really really small, had a very low cost of living, and didn’t have anyone else to take care of in my life.

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

First: idea. I have lots of ideas. The challenge is finding the time and resources to make them happen. Next, working out the design through prototyping and sample making. I do all of the design work and I do it all by hand – no computers. I love this part- cutting, sewing, experimenting, seeing what works, seeing my idea come to life. I get feedback from staff to help edit and adjust to arrive at the final design. Once I’ve finalized the design and all the color combinations that we’ll make it in, we write up instructions for production.

Sourcing materials & hardware is a BIG part of design and bringing a design to market, so there’s always time spent finding the right materials to work with. I price out all the materials and labor costs and work out the wholesale and retail pricing. We sew up the final samples to be photographed for the website and sometimes also do a lifestyle photo shoot with a model. Once we have the photographs we can build the product pages on the backend of the website. In terms of actually making the products, we either make them at our studio in Portland, or our production partner down the road makes them for us. When they’re finished, we inspect for quality and get them up on the site and on the shelves of our shop!

Some things I’ve learned: a design that I love will not always be the best-seller. I’ve learned that people always love flowers (me too). Everything takes longer than you think it will. Production sewing is really challenging and there will always be something going wrong & lots of problem solving along the way. There is always more to learn and ways to improve processes.

growing a handmade business with queen bee creations

growing a handmade business with queen bee creations

How do you handle shipping and customer service and organize the back-end of your business? What tips do you have for newbies?

We ship most packages through UPS but do ship smaller items via USPS because it is more cost effective. We use UPS Worldship software and Dazzle for USPS. One staff member is mostly in charge of handling customer service questions and issues, and she is the main person that also helps me manage the back end of the website. Our lovely website built on Shopify by Aeolidia is pretty darn easy to use so the two of us can manage it pretty smoothly.

In terms of tips, well, like a lot of small businesses, we all have to do lots of different tasks. In an ideal situation, I would be able to hand off more of the backend website management, but the reality is that I am still pretty involved in it. I recommend trying to delegate as much as possible so that you can really focus on the heart of your job. For me, that is design & overseeing the business. Customer service is a hugely important aspect of running a business, and it applies to every business, not just those that sell product. Answer queries as quickly as possible. Be kind, generous, and appreciative. When things go wrong, try your best to make them right. Understand that in today’s social media-heavy atmosphere that word travels extensively, so make sure that your customers are walking away from their experience feeling happy and satisfied. Of course, that isn’t always possible, so remember that it’s impossible to please everyone, all the time. Go easy on yourself.

queen bee bike

How does a standard day of running Queen Bee go?

Most days I ride my bike to & from work – this gives me about 7 miles of time to myself, to clear my head, think through ideas, get breaths of fresh air and what I call an “Oregon facial” (a.k.a. RAIN). I check in with staff and check messages and email. I try to take care of any meetings or admin stuff in the morning so that I can focus on design and creative ideas in the afternoon. This doesn’t always happen, though, especially in the 2-3 months before the holidays, which are just sheer madness.

On any given day I’ll have meetings with staff, a business advisor, a fellow business owner, or any number of people. I am always playing catch up with emails (Unroll.me really helps with this!), I may have to run errands to pick up fabric or materials, spend time pricing out a new product, or work on a new design idea (the best part!) or redesign an existing product to improve it. You can also find me taking out the trash or trying to figure out how to help a squirrel or bird that has made its way into the shop find their way out.

Basically, being a small business owner naturally involves wearing LOTS of different hats on any given day. That said, I am always striving to bring my focus back to my most important jobs: design & running the company from a big picture point of view.

queen bee window

What mistakes or setbacks have you had, and how did you learn from them?

Too many mistakes to list here, especially when I was first getting started. I tried to do too much: learn Quickbooks and manage our financials, run payroll and taxes, none of which are anything that I excel at. But I didn’t really know what else to do and who to turn to. I wish I had sought out a mentor or business advisor earlier on. Over the past several years I’ve been taking some business classes and worked with a business counselor who has guided me through many challenges.

I have also gained so much from tapping into my fellow business owner community. I love talking with other creative business types – we share so many similar experiences and I always learn so much from them, as well as feel more connected and supported.

The biggest setback we’ve experienced is the Great Recession. That hit us toward the end of 2008 and we are still working to adjust to the new landscape. That is, far and away, the biggest challenge I’ve faced since starting Queen Bee in 1996. I have learned that even when I (always) try so hard to make the best decisions I can with what I have to work with, it may not work out. I have learned to be nimble, flexible, and not get too attached to the way things have been. I have learned to reinvent myself and the structure of my organization.

queen bee products

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

Given that I started Queen Bee in pre-internet times (yes, I’m that old), my options were more limited for how to promote. I started out by making a crude but awesome little black & white xeroxed catalog that I cobbled together in the computer lab at my college, Evergreen. I would send that out to interested folks and they would send back (yes, via the postal service) their little order form and payment. I saved all of those. I would also set up outside my college buildings and sell stuff that I made that way. I went to Riot Grrrl gatherings. And a lot happened by word of mouth. Now, it is a whole different universe and frankly, it can be pretty overwhelming. Marketing, social media, advertising, and PR combined is a full time job – it is a whole heck of a lot to stay on top of, which sometimes makes me miss the days of yore which seem simpler. There is so much that is exciting and possible with all the technology and internet development, but there’s a downside to that, too.

queen bee retail store

How did you know it was time for a new website? Was it a task you were dreading?

Our previous website was totally custom-built and it worked fine for us for a while but over the years it became bandaid on top of bandaid fixes. We also lost our web support person when he took a full time job. Through researching, I found that it was hard to find available developers that knew Ruby on Rails.

Shopify was recommended to me and so I looked into it. I really wanted to switch to a platform that we could mostly manage in-house and not have to constantly have a developer be working on it. I also liked that so many people have been using Shopify and they have a good track record for making improvements. I got bids from three different agencies, and Aeolidia was the clear choice. To some degree I was dreading having the website redesigned because it is so much work to take on a project like that. And it is a risk and investment, so there is always some anxiety with that. But as soon as we started working with Aeolidia, any fears subsided. The process was so smooth, professional, friendly, and organized! Plus, I love the results and I can rely on continued support.

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

Updating the look of the site to reflect our evolving aesthetic, putting more managing and control of the website into our hands, and having a reliable and professional team of folks to turn to for any web or design needs.

See this project in our portfolio.

Can we help you grow your business with a professional website?

Sometimes it is just time to start over with a smart and modern website. Come tell us more about your business.

Surface Pattern Design & Licensing: Laura Wooten Studio

This post is part of our Best Next Step series, where you will hear from creative business owners like you, who are wondering what to focus on next. The background stories and questions are from all kinds of businesses in various stages of growth, and I share my ideas for how to proceed forward most efficiently and ambitiously. I hope you’ll enjoy these! Today we’re hearing from Laura Wooten Studio.

Laura Wooten Studio

Business: Laura Wooten Studio
Owner: Laura Wooten
Site: http://www.laurawootenstudio.com
Etsy shop: https://LauraWootenStudio.etsy.com/

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

surface pattern design and licensing

Laura Wooten Studio website

surface pattern design and licensing

Laura Wooten Studio Etsy shop

About:

Laura WootenI create surface design and illustration for fabric, home decor, and paper products. My work has a hand-drawn style that retains the touch and texture of traditional media, while combining digital techniques. I love to draw from nature, landscapes, and gardens. I specialize in floral, food, and travel imagery.

Challenges:

I have been drawing and painting for over 20 years, but just in the last year have been trying to make a business from my creative work. I spent two years studying surface pattern design and worked very hard to develop a portfolio. I got a print studio agent last spring, and have just started to sell my work to the fabric and paper industries. While I plan to continue developing this side of my business with my agent, I would also like to diversify my income streams. I’d love to one day license a fabric collection, get freelance illustration work, and also sell some retail products (art prints, cards, tea towels?) through my own website. I have a neglected Etsy shop with old work that needs refreshing. Or maybe I want to abandon Etsy and have a shopping cart on my own site. My website is set up as a simple portfolio site, not a shop, so I would like to change that to better showcase design services and products. My target customer base is both wholesale manufacturers/art directors and maybe also retail customers if I can develop some products to sell directly to my tiny fan base!

I also have a separate website for my “fine art” which has all my old paintings from the last ten years. I am bothered by this brand confusion and wonder if I should integrate everything somehow, keep it separate, or even take down my old painting site and just work on my new surface design and illustration site.

Objectives:

Develop retail products for sale- art prints, cards, tea towels. Get a shopping cart on my website. Develop my illustration portfolio. Start a newsletter. Learn to use social media to develop a following. Identify my target customer base- both wholesale buyers, art directors, and retail customers. Learn how to get freelance illustration work. Develop licensing collections. I am doing a drawing-a-day on Instagram and thus have a large amount of source material that can be developed into illustrations, art prints or patterns. (I am on Day 95.) By Christmas of this year I want to have a group of 12 illustrations that can be sold as art prints and also serve as an illustration portfolio to attract freelance work.

Promotion:

I post to Twitter, FB, and Instagram, but would like to plan and coordinate more effective social media strategies. I attended Surtex last spring, where I was represented by my agent and this was a very valuable learning experience. I would love to learn how to get blog features and/or press. I am unclear about how to begin communicating more with my target audience and potential clients. I would like to learn how to grow my newsletter list and begin gradually building a following.

Thank you for the generous give-away contest and taking the time to read my story!

surface pattern design and licensing

surface pattern design and licensing

surface pattern design and licensing

Laura Wooten Studio’s Best Next Step

Hello Laura,

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).

Quit offering the things you don’t plan to do in the future

You mention your second site that has your fine art with your old paintings. It sounds to me like you’ve moved on from this, and it doesn’t factor into your plans for the future. If you don’t intend to have customers commission fine art or buy finished paintings from you, there is no reason to have this additional website. I know you want to honor your old work and show people the breadth of what you can do, but if you don’t want to do that any longer (at least not as a business), your instinct is right to drop it and quit confusing people. People who are interested in your pattern work are not going to care one way or another about your oil painting.

Approach selling from multiple angles

I also think it’s a great idea to not put all of your eggs in one basket. Develop products to sell with your patterns on them, for sure! Create a shop website that showcases your patterns, allows people to purchase products directly, and make it obvious that your work can be commissioned. Approach potential wholesale customers – being able to show them that your products are selling on your own website will reassure them about selling your products in their shops.

Start a newsletter

Start the newsletter right now! It is never too early to start a newsletter, and the earlier you set it up now, the more people you will have on it next year and the year after. This is one of those things that takes some momentum and some steady build up. Don’t just gather addresses and allow people to forget about you, though! Come up with some updates to send out on a regular schedule. They don’t have to be mindblowing, but they should offer something of interest. New patterns, updates on your progress developing your business, “best of” what you’re posting on Instagram, that kind of thing.

Prioritize your objectives

All of your objectives sound smart and worth doing. Remember there’s only one of you! Prioritize this list. Which things on the list will help other things on the list happen? Which will take time? Which will have the most immediate helpful effect? Plot out the steps you need to take to do each thing and chip away at them all regularly until you make it.

Good luck pursuing sales avenues and meeting  your goals!

Thanks for giving me a chance to learn more about your work. I hope this all makes sense, and I encourage you to keep going on all of these steps to success. You sound like you have a reasonable and well thought-out list of goals, and I see no reason why you won’t reach them if you put in the work. Develop the products, and take your newsletter subscribers along for the ride, while continuing to work on licensing, manufacturing, and wholesale deals.

Keep in touch! I would love to hear how it all works out, and help out if I can.

Are you ready for the next step?

We are currently offering a special service for businesses that would like a hand getting started with ecommerce:  our Guided Shopify Setup service, a crazy bargain at $600! This is the first time in years that we’ve had such an affordable option, so please do check it out.

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!