Make a Trustworthy Website: Free Video

If you think your website is making you look like an amateur, this video is for you.

Another day, another video!

If you think your Shopify website is making you look like an amateur, this video is for you. Kiffanie Stahle offers artist businesses help with the legal side of things on her site, The Artist’s JD. She interviewed me about what you should think about when setting up a professional website for your business. Want to know how to make a trustworthy website? We’ve got you covered!

In this 39-minute interview we discuss:

  • Why a strong understanding of your brand is critical
  • What content you’ll need for your website to support your shop
  • How to define measurable, attainable goals for your shop
  • The importance of a website traffic-generating plan
  • How a custom site can help you achieve your goals

This video was previously only available to members of Kiffanie’s site, but she has graciously allowed me to share it with Aeolidia newsletter subscribers as well. I hope you’ll join us and watch it!

Here’s a little sample clip where we talk about the five ways to drive traffic to your site:

Ready to watch all 39 minutes with a Shopify Expert and feel more ready to tackle your website project? Sign up to watch it here

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Growing a Creative Business: How to Love Your Job Again

for-creative-founders-7-steps

Growing a creative business and going from maker to business owner can be a rough transition, and there will always be a point where you’re wearing too many hats. If you’re feeling like there’s never enough time in the day to make progress on all that your busy business needs, this series of blog posts is for you!

As a creative business owner, it can be hard to know what to focus on, what to delegate, and what to not do at all. At the start of a business’s timeline, a solo business owner has to do absolutely everything from designing the products to maintaining wholesale relationships to ordering materials and supplies to bookkeeping.

It makes sense to do this at first, before your business is profitable. You may find yourself working overtime, rarely taking a day off, and burning the midnight oil. This is okay, but only at first! Things have to change if your business is going to be sustainable.

Once your business is working (meaning you’re more concerned about getting your product to your customers than finding customers for your product), you will hit periods of “growing pains” where you’re stretched to the limit of what’s sustainable.

Recognizing these periods of growth and knowing what to do to push through them and get to the easier side is vital.

Being handy at a lot of things is nice, but if you want to make jewelry, you’ll find you have a hard time doing that if you’re also the bookkeeper, accountant, legal counsel, sales rep, marketer, order fulfiller, web developer, etc.

  • You can get people to help you
  • You can get software to help you
  • You can even help yourself by becoming more focused

So let’s talk about how you can transition from designer to creative business owner and keep doing the work that you’re best at without getting burnt out by all the rest.

7 steps to shaping up a growing creative business

This was originally a series of posts from 2015. I have re-read, refreshed, and updated the posts so that they have my best information and are applicable for 2017.

1. Clear the decks by getting focused

Before you do the big work of growing your business, let’s set the stage for your best work. You’re not likely to find more hours in a day. Instead, let’s make those hours count: How To Find Time By Cutting Back On Reactive Work

2. Figure out what only you can provide to your business

The best foundation for getting help is to decide what your ideal role should be. Then you can consider how to take care of the things that may not be the best fit for you: Shift Into CEO Mode and Get Help With The Rest

3. Quit trying to do everything at once

Ask yourself the question, “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” It brings you focus that will improve your business: Kill Your To-do List And Focus On One Thing

4. Face the reality of burnout

This post is an appetizer, helping you think about why you might be resisting delegating the tasks that you don’t want to do yourself (or don’t have time for): What Happens When We Resist Delegating Business Tasks

5. Figure out when and how to hire help

Do you feel like there is not enough time in the day? Are you worried that you’re falling behind in an area of your business? Here is how you’re going to get some help: How To Make Time & Enjoy Your Work By Hiring Help

6. Implement systems so your business can survive without you

Creating systems for your business is a step you shouldn’t skip. Everything that can be systematized, templated, or automated should be: Do You Have Solid Systems For Your Business?

7. Be a good boss to yourself, too

You work for yourself because you want to have time for yourself and/or your family and because you believe in and enjoy what you’re doing. So don’t ruin it all by working yourself to exhaustion: How To Be A Fantastic Boss To Yourself

Ready, set go! Please check in and ask questions in the Aeolidia Facebook group for creative business owners! Get your invite here.

Free Video: How To Figure Out What Branding Means For Your Business

How To Figure Out What Branding Means For Your Business

Do you feel like you’ve heard a lot about “branding” and “brand identity” but it just hasn’t quite clicked for you yet? Maybe you understand the big picture concept, but are having trouble relating it to your own business? Do you really need a target customer? Can you have more than one? How do you make your business stand out in a saturated market? Do you need to hire a graphic designer? How do you prioritize what to invest in when your budget is low? We dig into what branding means for your business.

I have something for you today!

Tracy Matthews of Flourish & Thrive Academy (a savvy resource for jewelry designers) invited me to an interview and Q&A session in her private Facebook group, available to paying students only. Our session was bonus content for her business-building students. Tracy has generously let me share this video to Aeolidia readers as well, free of charge.

We talked about branding basics in this live interview and Q&A period for this online course for jewelry designers growing their businesses. We got in-depth on target customer, your brand’s personality, differentiating your business from others, how to prioritize the different things you need to invest in at the beginning of your business journey, and so much more. I’m glad to be able to share this bit of bonus training with you for free!

Here’s a little sample clip where we talk about your dream customer:

Okay, want to watch the whole hour long video? Sign up to watch it here!

Branding 101: Laying the Foundation LIVE course

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Low Ecommerce Conversion Rates? Here Are the 5 Big Problems

Here are a variety of things that might be contributing to a low ecommerce conversion rate.

Your conversion rate, in ecommerce-speak, is the percentage of website visitors that make a purchase and convert into customers. If you’ve taken my advice to look at your conversion rate, you might be feeling a bit discouraged if it isn’t above 3% or so. Maybe you feel like your website is no good. That’s not necessarily the case! Let’s talk about the wide variety of things that might be contributing to a low conversion rate.

Low ecommerce conversion rate: when the problem is your product

Maybe your website is great, but your product is just plain hard to sell. Here are some reasons that might be:

Products that take work on the customer’s end. For instance, if you sell a personalized product based on your customer’s photo, you’re asking them to do a lot of work to place the order. They may put it off or decide not to do it at all. Can you think of some ways to make the customization process easier for your customers?

Products that appeal to the other senses. Do you have a product that people need to touch, smell, or taste to know if they want it? You need to work hard to get past those barriers online. Samples, testimonials, videos, a satisfaction guarantee, beautiful photography – all these things could help.

Non-impulse buy products. Maybe you sell a luxury item with a high price point. Or an enormous item that is complicated to ship. If the purchase feels daunting to your customer, you’ll need to work harder than a business that sells products that are easily purchased on a whim.

There isn’t a large enough market for your product. Perhaps your product is so niche that you aren’t able to find enough of the right people to want to buy it. In-person sales at markets or fairs can be a great way to validate the market for your product.

Low ecommerce conversion rate: when the problem is your checkout process

Here are some choices you can make about checkout that can affect how easily your customers make it to the other side.

Shipping options & cost. Shipping that customers perceive as being too much is one of the top reasons people will abandon their shopping carts online. If you have any way to get shipping costs down, it can be a huge help. They decide how much they want to pay for your product when you set the value on the product detail page. Then, when it suddenly costs more at checkout, it can feel like too much.

Payment options. You want to be sure you offer payment options that your customers really use. For instance, if you only offer PayPal, you could be losing a lot of people who don’t use that service.

Ease of checkout. If you require customers to create an account, have a complex checkout process, or there is anything on the path to purchase that could confuse or distract your customers, you are losing some people.

Low ecommerce conversion rate: when the problem is your website content

Maybe your website design and layout is fine, but your content is not doing its job. Your photography and all the text on your site needs to interest people, draw them in, and be the next best thing to seeing your product in person and trying it out. Consider the quality and desirability of your:

  • Product photography
  • Product descriptions
  • The story you’re telling about your business
  • Home page text
  • Video content

Low ecommerce conversion rate: when the problem is your marketing strategy & traffic sources

When driving traffic to your site, you can be broad or you can be targeted. Being targeted is generally regarded as a smart method, and if you’re talking just to your perfect niche of people, your conversion rate will be high. Those people already get it, and need less convincing.

Getting a small amount of targeted traffic can give you more sales than getting a medium amount of less targeted traffic. But! Getting a high amount of less targeted traffic can also be great for your business.

For instance, search engine traffic to my site, aeolidia.com, has a terrible conversion rate (compared to my other traffic streams), because many of those people aren’t in my niche of just-right people. If you get a lot of search engine traffic, you might be seeing a low conversion rate, too.

But Google sends me so much traffic that it’s okay that the conversion rate is low, because the overall number of people who convert is good. Even if Google is your lowest converting stream of traffic, it could make you the most money. And since search engine traffic (once you’ve built it up) doesn’t really cost anything or take any maintenance, you may be very happy with your low conversion rate.

Low ecommerce conversion rate: when your problem is your website itself

Of course, it will be harder to sell even the most amazing products from a website that’s not user-friendly. If people don’t immediately get what’s going on when they see your site, if it’s not mobile-friendly, if the layout is confusing–these are all things that could be losing you sales.

You know we would love to help out! Aeolidia designs Shopify ecommerce websites that tell a creative business’s story in a way that is engaging and compelling to visitors. Our work consistently raises conversion rate for our clients, and we can help you tackle the problems listed above and get on the right track for steady online sales. Get in touch to tell us about your business.

Want to get to know us a bit better before diving in? Our newsletter is the perfect place. I’ll explain it all bit by bit over a few weeks, right to your email:

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Still doing it yourself?

If you’re interested in making some tweaks yourself to get more sales, here’s our post on ways you could try to boost your conversion rate: Improving Website Conversion to Increase Sales

Selling Crafts on Shopify: Gather Here’s Sewing Shop is Cozy and Easy to Use

We are big fans of selling crafts on Shopify, and used it to make a sewing studio's online shop as cozy and charming as their brick-and-mortar store.

One thing we know about the crafting community: it’s warm and welcoming! So selling crafts online should be, too. That’s why we are such big fans of selling crafts on Shopify, and recently implemented it to help transform gather here’s online shop into a space that’s as cozy and charming as their brick-and-mortar store.

The Cambridge, MA-based stitch lounge (not just a sewing studio, as they welcome all fiber crafters, knitters, and crocheters) opened in 2010 with two main components: a shop offering fabric, yarn, sewing machines, and notions, and studio space and classes to bring out the maker in everyone.  After relocating to an exciting, more central location, owners Virginia and her partner Noah were struggling to integrate their in-store POS system with their online platform, and their class calendar—which fills up quickly and is constantly adding new events—was slow to load and missing essential features like a waitlist.

Filming a sewing tutorial. Photo © gather here.

Filming a sewing tutorial. Photo © gather here.

Felix Fox sewing kit. Photo © Threadfollower.

Felix Fox sewing kit. Photo © Threadfollower.

Virginia & Noah, serious and silly. Photo © gather here.

Virginia & Noah, serious and silly. Photo © gather here.

“Ninety-nine percent of people exclaim, ‘the new store is AWESOME!’ We want people to feel the same way about our web presence.”

We set out to transform gather here’s online space with a user-friendly redesign and website copy that brings the brand’s friendly, encouraging vibe to life. Because gather here is a place for everyone, from beginners to experts, it was important that the copy motivate novices to push aside their doubts and feel welcome, while letting super-crafters know that they’ll be amongst their people. We did this by infusing all the copy with Virginia’s enthusiasm and belief that crafting is for everyone.

When viewing the very first design concept, Virgina told us,

“Is it odd that we both think this is great just the way it is? Like, you captured the overall mood and tone. THIS is how we want people to think of us.”

For the redesign, Brooke created a modern and uncluttered site that incorporates clean typography, a few simple illustrative elements that visually connect to hand crafts, and a prominently displayed video on a loop to capture the energy of the unique space. Using Shopify plugins, we were able to streamline the class sign-up process for both customers and for Virginia on the backend.

“The site is easy to navigate so that your customers can do what they came to do — shop your beautiful products and register for your amazing classes. (And, of course, be inspired to return to the site soon to buy/register again… and again… and again!)” Brooke explained.

To help visitors find the boutique’s fabulous new location, she created a custom illustrated map and placed it prominently on the home page, along with four calls to action. These are meant to invite visitors to the most important areas of site: the shop, the class calendar, the gather here story, and FAQs.

gatherhere_website_home

Gather Here home page

The new design had us wishing we could pay gather here a visit! And Virginia was so happy to finally have an online presence that reflects their fun, authentic selves. After the project, Virginia shared,

“What we absolutely loved about our experience would have to be the actual process Aeolidia uses to “get to know you.” Through a series of questions that really asked us to delve deep into who we are as a company and what we want from our business, Aeolidia developed a Shopify site that reflected the essence of gather here. We found the soul-searching to be just what we needed to discover who we really are.”

View this project in our portfolio »

View the gather here site »

Do you have a crafty business that could use some love?

Are you selling crafts online and thinking about switching to Shopify? We’re at the ready to build an exciting new space for you. Contact us about getting started.

Want to get to know us a bit better before diving in? Our newsletter is the perfect place. I’ll explain it all bit by bit over a few weeks, right to your email:

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Should You Invest Your Time or Your Money to Grow Your Business?

A business isn't going to grow itself. You are going to need to invest time and money to grow your business. For almost any business task, you can choose whether you should spend time or money on it. Here's how to decide.

A business isn’t going to grow itself. You are going to need to invest time in your business and to invest money as well. For almost any business task, you can choose whether you should spend time or money on it:

  • Administrative tasks
  • Marketing and social media
  • Bookkeeping
  • Graphic design & product packaging
  • Shipping and fulfillment
  • Web design & development
  • Product photography
  • Customer service
  • Product production/manufacturing
  • Creating and managing wholesale relationships

In the beginning, you tend to have to do all these jobs. The business is not profitable yet. You have much more time than money. Time to learn how it all works, try strategies and new methods. Time to write out mailing labels by hand for every order.

How to notice growth

As you get busier and busier with customers and sales, you might feel stretched thin. These are growing pains! This means that there is a shift happening, where you find yourself with much less time, and (hopefully) more money.

Any time you are feeling stressed by your business, it’s time to stop and evaluate. Are these growing pains? Is your time vs. money ratio changing? Maybe it’s time to delegate some of those tasks. Time to hire an employee, pay for a service, buy software, or outsource.

Almost everything in your business that you started out doing yourself is something that you could train someone else to do. In many cases, you could hire an expert to take care of a job without any training at all.

It is so easy to get used to the way you’ve always done things. There comes a point where the old way is no longer appropriate for the business you’ve become. If you, as creative lead, are spending most of your time on non-creative tasks, something has to change!

It is common for businesses to stagnate when they hit a period of growth without recognizing it. It’s easy for a business owner to stay attached to what used to work for them. Maybe one person is trying to do the work of four people, and dropping all the balls. Maybe a team is doing something by hand that could be done in a fraction of the time with the right tools or software. Maybe a cousin has been bribed to redesign the website, or too much time is being spent fruitlessly trying to get Facebook fans to buy products.

Investing profit in your business’s future

Once you’ve started the ball rolling and you’re seeing success, it makes sense to start trading time for money. Get your time back to create and innovate for your business by paying to get the other necessary (but not necessary for you to do) tasks off of your plate.

One of the business owners we’ve worked with (twice!) who I admire is Amy Richardson of June & January. We asked her how long it took for her business to be profitable, and she told us:

“Surprisingly, I was in the green from day one. I was able to use my ‘real’ job to front the cash for my business, and just kept reinvesting. Always reinvesting (STILL reinvesting). Almost every dollar of profit goes right back into the company, and every time that return is bigger and bigger.”

This seems brave to me, but I imagine it’s common sense for “real” business people. Creative businesses are a bit different. You didn’t get into this because you were savvy at business; you got into it for the love of what you do, learning business tactics on the side as you had time.

What happens when you value your money more than your time

I was fascinated by this post from Megan of Handmade Brooklyn, who insisted on doing everything herself, burned out, and quit her business:

“Last year, I was doing the biggest order of my life: 42,000 vials of body oil for a subscription box. Not only was it the biggest order ever, it was also the dumbest decision I had made to date, because I filled the order by myself. I can’t explain the reasoning behind it, I think that I knew it would happen over the summer, which was my slowest time of year, so at least it would give me something to focus on. In any case, it should’ve been outsourced.”

From Feeling Burnout In A Successful Business And How To Change It

What should you choose? Time or money?

Time can feel less risky to spend than money. But, while you can get more money, you can never add more time to your day. This article was so interesting to me:

“Which would lead to greater happiness — the money or the time? For a research project, we put this question to more than 4,000 Americans of different ages, income levels, occupations and marital and parental status. In a paper in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, which we wrote with our student Uri Barnea, we found that most people valued money more than time. Sixty-four percent of the 4,415 people we asked in five surveys chose money.

Is money the right choice? We had also asked our survey respondents to report their level of happiness and life satisfaction. We found that the people who chose time were on average statistically happier and more satisfied with life than the people who chose money.

So money may turn out to be the wrong choice.”

From What Should You Choose: Time or Money?

What next?

As you know, we’re in the business of making things easier for creative business owners! If it’s time to finally get that website off your plate, have someone take over your social media marketing, or redesign your brand, let me know. I’d love to help you make a change that will not only make you more money, but give you back your irreplaceable time to do what only you can do in your business.

Here is the list of services we offer:

  • Brand identity design, including logo, product packaging, and marketing materials
  • Custom ecommerce website projects using Shopify
  • Copywriting: about pages, home pages, product descriptions
  • Product photography: hero shots, model shots, white background
  • Business naming and trademarking
  • Marketing & business consultation and social media management
  • Search engine optimization

Get in touch today! I’d be delighted to hear from you.

Ready to scale your business?

Are you ready to prepare to scale your business? First, you’ll need to figure out what your ideal role in the company is, and figure out what you can delegate now to free up time for the big thinking and planning you’ll need to do to take your business where you want it to be. Grab our free workbook to do this:

determine your role & reclaim your time PDF

Determine your ideal role in your biz and consider how to take care of the things that may not be the best fit for you.

Download your PDF

Designing Petit Collage’s Shopify Website With Personality

Here's how we designed a high-converting Shopify website with personality for a toy designer's online shop. Petit Collage case study.
When you’re building your business website, it’s imperative that your personality continue to shine through, even as your brand evolves. Such was the case with Petit Collage, a line of modern, sustainable, innovative goods for kids and play. Since its launch, the brand had evolved from art prints into a full-out lifestyle brand with a presence in gift shops and museums all over the world. But the playful, design-forward personality that Petit Collage had so mindfully cultivated wasn’t coming through in its web design. Founder Lorena Siminovich told us, “we are more fun than we sound, and more aspirational than we show.”

The previous web design was showing signs of growing dated, and it was slow and not very social media-friendly. Lorena wanted a new site that would allow video and larger photos, in order to immediately let customers experience their beautiful products. The main goal was three-fold: explain the brand better, boost ease of shopping, and make it mobile-friendly to start capturing mobile sales the site was currently losing. We set out to make sure all these elements reinforced one other. Letting the brand’s personality shine through entices customers to make a purchase, while a user-friendly shopping experience serves to further illustrate the functional elegance of the brand.

petit-collage-animals

Animals of the World, photo © Petit Collage

petit-collage-map

California Map, photo © Petit Collage

Aeolidia designer, Christine, told the Petit Collage brand story by implementing an airy layout with bright photography, pops of color, and rich functionality. The new header was designed to be clear and compact, with multiple levels of navigation to let customers know they can shop by age, price, theme, or one of the shop’s other categories.

The resulting design was not only more aesthetically pleasing, but more user-friendly, regardless of their online platform. Updating to a mobile design helps with sales and gives businesses an immediate boost in search engine rankings because Google demotes sites that aren’t mobile-friendly.

Petit Collage home page

Petit Collage Shopify home page design

Petit Collage product detail page

Petit Collage product detail page

On viewing the first design concept, Lorena was instantly taken by it:

“Quick note to say I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. I’m sure we may find some tweaks here or there needed but this is RIGHT ON!!!”

We love hearing these positive initial reactions from clients because that tells us that we’re on the right path to quickly build that same emotional connection with their customers.

Take a look at the new Petit Collage website! And tell us, how has your brand evolved over the years? Contact us about creating a stunning new web design that showcases your business personality in all its glory.

Want to get to know us a bit better before diving in? Our newsletter is the perfect place. I’ll explain it all bit by bit over a few weeks, right to your email:

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How a Facebook Group for Business Can Save Time and Drive Sales

Facebook Groups for small businesses and online shops. Facebook groups are places to build community, and they're pretty different from a business page.

Have you considered starting a Facebook group for your customers? We heard from Lisa of Twig + Tale about how she built and uses her Facebook group (check that post out here), and today we’re talking to three other shop owners who run business Facebook groups.

Facebook groups are places to build community, and they’re pretty different from a business page. The main difference between a Facebook group and a Facebook page is that people will actually see what you post in a Facebook group (rather than a small percentage who see your page posts). Groups (so far) aren’t pay to play, because they’re intended for actual community gatherings, not for brands to advertise to customers.

If you aren’t a member of any Facebook groups, you may want to join some to get a feel for how they work before starting one for your business. I think you’d like the Aeolidia Biz Tips group!

You may be a member of some groups already. I am in business-building groups, neighborhood groups, and event groups. You may be wondering why customers would want to join your group, and what they would get out of it.

Things to know about starting your own Facebook group:

  • If you have really nailed down who your target customer is, it makes sense that they would want to hang out together, as they should have a lot in common if you’ve done it right! So they may be more eager to form a community than you may think.
  • If you aren’t sure what the point of your group will be, start small, and your customers can guide you as far as focus and topics. You may be surprised what they want from your group.
  • Starting small is fine, but know that for a small group, you’ll need to be in there more often spurring action and starting conversation, or it may fizzle out. Once you hit the right number of people, natural leaders and extroverts will keep it humming busily without much from you. There’s a second tipping point where your group grows large enough that it will require more moderation from you, so keep that in mind as you grow. Too many people can be chaos and detract from the usefulness of your group.
  • If you’re on the fence about this, it’s better to start now than delay. Just think of how many more people you’ll have a year from now if you don’t wait! Growth snowballs on these kind of things.

And here is how our three real live business owners are using Facebook groups!

Using a Facebook group for community and customer service

Brandon Beaver, photo © Shiny Happy World

Brandon Beaver, photo © Shiny Happy World

Wendi Gratz
Shiny Happy World website
Selling sewing patterns and giving sewing lessons
Shiny Happy People Facebook group (1,077 members as of 1/15/17)

I have a Facebook Group for my business and it’s terrific! I sell patterns, so it’s primarily a place where people can “show & tell” and get lots of nice oohs and aahs over what they’ve made. It’s also a place where people can ask questions, “audition” fabric choices and get feedback, and more. I jump in there with comments and occasionally answer questions—but mostly it’s customer-led.

I know a lot of people say to start a FB group right away, but I’m really glad I waited until I already had a pretty substantial following. That allowed the group to be mostly fan-driven and not feel like yet another sales channel.

I link to the group in my out-of-office autoresponder when I’m on vacation—recommending it as a place to go for a quick answer to a question while I’m away. And I share cute projects a few times a week on my business Page.

The group definitely leads to sales. Any time someone posts a particularly cute or well-made item I always see a boost in sales for that pattern.

Using a Facebook group as a customer VIP club

Birthday shirt, photo © Cuddle Sleep Dream

Birthday shirt, photo © Cuddle Sleep Dream

Ryann Kahn
Cuddle Sleep Dream website
Selling boy’s special occasion outfits
CSD Insiders Facebook group (211 members as of 1/15/17)

I recently started a group because I felt like the mission of my main Facebook business page had shifted as it grew. I have over 30k Facebook page fans now, and the majority are in the “gaining awareness” stage and have not actually purchased from me. The Facebook page is doing a nice job at building brand awareness in that group, but I felt like my real/best customers were getting lost in the crowd.

In the Facebook group, I don’t post more than once a day and I post things I wouldn’t normally post on the main page (behind the scenes stuff, asking for opinions, heads-up on sales, etc) and I get really great interaction. My repeat sales are WAY up and the group members seem to really connect with and feed off each other. Starting the group is one of the best social media decisions I’ve made.

I asked Ryann how she promoted her group, and what her members had in common that made them feel like a community—were they just moms of young boys, or was there more to it than that?

To get my initial group – When I launched [what I call version 1.0 of my own outside-of-etsy] website, I had a big build up on social—5 days of live Facebook chats with a different big announcement each day. One of the days was the creation of the insiders’ group and that’s when I got the majority of them. Since then, I try to post something to the main Facebook page once a week that was shared in the group with just a little call-out “hey come join us over at: ” and usually get a few each week by doing that. I also have an ongoing incentive of a just-for-group-members giveaway for every 100 members we get.

Mostly, members share pics of their boys wearing outfits and even collages of them wearing lots of different of my outfits and they like to comment on each other’s pics. They sometimes ask questions that they wanted to ask me directly (bypassing my customer service help). I like to ask their opinion on designs I am considering, etc.

They do have more in common than just moms of young boys/ I do have a very specific target nailed down in terms of other interests.

Using a Facebook group to drive interest in your products

Lemon Tea candle melts, photo © Crumble Co

Lemon Tea candle melts, photo © Crumble Co

Brandon Wagner
Crumble Co. website
Selling scented candle melts
Crumble Family Facebook group (10,152 members as of 1/15/17)

We grow our group through a list + group building Facebook ad funnel. The group alone has outshined our Instagram as our biggest hook for customers, for the first time. It’s made our FB page way more active, and customers simply interact more. They talk more. It’s a community not a giant ad. People educate others and answer Q’s before me or my team have a chance which is wonderful.

We also have a sub group for UK customers and a sub group for Swappers who want to sell and trade—that group we keep separate because we don’t wanna moderate that stuff and it brings us no cash, and makes it fair to not allow swapping and selling in our main group when we have a designated area for it set up.

It’s like running a party non stop. Like, a selling scentsy/pampered chef type party. Make interactive games to thrive! ASK them to leave comments, vote, join in a give away, share something etc. and they will.

It’s also made me a mini-celebrity and has helped me become a more trusted figure to my customers, they know they are not buying from a big company but Brandon and his team.

Freaking LOOOOVE my groups!! (Email list is #1, but FB is #2, followed by Instagram as #3.)

I asked Brandon how he moderates his group, and he shared,

It’s closed which means members can view the group but have to request to join to be a part of it and interact. If it’s open, people can join without us approving and that leads to spam. We get an occasional spammer, but considering most people have to sign up to our email list to find the group, it’s rare.

We prune and trim ALL day. We close comments (you can turn comments off on any post as an admin) on posts that ask customer Q’s or basic things or any off topic stuff, after the Q has been answered (we usually point them to the FAQ or ask them to email us). We commonly delete threads that are closed and kinda just not on topic, you have to curate.

We post in our group description to email us instead of post threads, and to join the sub group to sell etc. We try to pre-teach this so we don’t have to moderate as much down the line. Plus people kinda learn these rules and community-police for us which is nice!

They share receipts after a purchase which we love! We post about it saying,“share your receipt and show what you got for a chance at a gift card” and it obviously promotes trust to see others actually buying etc. and it stems from there!

People post our waxes, they talk about favorites, they share hauls and collections, storage ideas, cool pics of it in use, share funny stories about the wax, how to remove it, how the dog ate it or the husband spilled it. This community really taught us a lot about who our ICA [Ideal Customer Avatar] REALLY is.

And because we have the sub group for selling and swapping, people don’t usually ever complain or leave bad feedback in our main group—as they do it in the swap group instead, and they wanna sell it etc.

We do SO MUCH to keep our vibe high. We make it very clear what attitudes we expect and we are NOT afraid to piss off a negative nancy who needs to be removed. One drama loving person can ruin a group for thousands. Be merciless, trim them. They have other groups they can poison.

What about you?

Do you think your business could benefit from a Facebook group? Ask questions or share your insight in the comments, or chat about it with other business owners in the Aeolidia Facebook group!

First step: find out who your customer is

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

Who is your dream customer?

Go get the dream customer exercise

Helping a Healthy Wholesale Business Sell Stationery Online: Emily McDowell

Emily McDowell

Emily McDowell, photo © Portraits to the People

What do you do when your business grows so fast you can barely keep up with it? We first met Emily McDowell in 2012, at Altitude Summit. She was starting her greeting card line and needed a website to sell stationery online. We worked with her to build that first online shop, and sat back and watched with glee as she hit on an ingenious idea and her business took off like a rocket.

Emily McDowell’s greeting cards are unflinchingly funny and honest, and have revolutionized the greeting card industry, shifting away from sympathy to empathy. Her line of Empathy CardsTM launched in 2015, resulted in an incredible amount of press and national attention, and changed her business dramatically.

“At the end of 2015, in looking at our numbers, we realized that the wholesale arm of our business was bringing in slightly more than half of our revenue, but took ten times the resources and effort to run than our website, which accounted for the rest of our revenue. We had a lot of internal conversations about the best way forward, and it was clear that we needed to make some changes.”

Her brand started off strong and grew much stronger, but her retail website hadn’t kept up. When Madison Park Group joined her to take over the wholesale side of her business, that left Emily with time to strengthen her retail sales, and one of her priorities was to work on her website. Emily’s team shared,

“We had previously worked with Aeolidia on our very first e-commerce site back in 2013, so we already knew that they could build a pretty killer website. After outgrowing our shopping platform in 2014, we decided to move the site to Shopify and took a stab at managing an out-of-the-box theme ourselves. The theme we picked was fine; it was clean and simple and did the trick while our business continued to grow. Here’s the thing…as you grow, you start to realize that utilitarian themes don’t necessarily highlight the strengths of your brand or help you connect with potential customers in a meaningful way. We needed a site designed to let our products shine and decided it was time to give our friends at Aeolidia a call.”

We were thrilled to meet her again to push her online sales to the next level, and we put everything we had into making a personality-packed, high converting online home that firmly establishes Emily McDowell Studio as a business that’s taking itself seriously.

Selling stationery online: why should a business with strong wholesale sales focus on retail?

In some ways, selling wholesale can seem much easier for a business: talking one retail customer into a sale could mean $10-$50 spent, whereas talking to one wholesale customer could mean hundreds or thousands of dollars. Scrambling after retail customers one at a time can seem much more challenging. Emily makes it clear that selling wholesale at the scale her company has been is a lot of work:

“Our company has two branches: wholesale, which involves selling our products to about 1,800 stores worldwide, and what we call retail, which means selling directly to regular people on our website. Running a wholesale business on that scale requires many times the money, infrastructure, and staff as running an e-commerce site does, and the wholesale side is where most of the biggest challenges have come in.”

There are many reasons a healthy retail branch of your business can be beneficial, and even help your wholesale sales. See: Successful With Wholesale? 7 Reasons to Focus on Retail Sales

The strategy for redesigning the Shopify website

As Emily’s business grew over the years, and online shopping became more important, she moved the site to Shopify, adjusting a pre-made theme. It served its purpose for a couple of years, but was lacking in the Emily-ness that you’d expect. For a business that has seen the success that Emily McDowell Studio had, an off the shelf theme was no longer fitting. It was a great stopgap, but they’d grown beyond that stage.

None of Emily’s products are cookie cutter—in fact, she’d once had a dress designed and made out of cards for the cover of a catalog, and laser-projected Valentines on the San Francisco fog. I wanted her new website to be the ecommerce equivalent of a card dress.

The goals for this project were to:

  • Increase retail sales by 30%
  • Increase the mobile conversion rate
  • Increase the average order amount
  • Minimize abandoned checkouts
  • Integrate the WordPress blog into Shopify
  • Increase the blog readership
  • Showcase the business’ personality
  • Create a killer, custom-tailored site
  • Showcase Emily’s upcoming book

We asked Joe Rubacka of Emily McDowell Studio if there were any pleasant surprises about working with us, and he told us,

“The best part of working with Aeolidia was the initial planning phase. Our project manager, Samantha, spent a lot of time collecting information about our business, what resonates with our customers, and where our utilitarian Shopify theme was missing the mark. Everyone on our team was excited about the goals we set for the new site and welcomed collaboration and constructive feedback to help us achieve them. We were especially psyched to be paired with our designer, Christine, whose work we’d already admired for a long time (she’s awesome!). After managing our first Shopify site pretty much on our own, it felt great to work with Aeolidia again on a project with a cohesive vision, proper budget, and timeline, not to mention the patience of our dedicated developer, Jon, who stayed up past midnight on the eve of our launch to make sure that any last-minute changes were just right when we went live.”

Here is a side by side comparison of the pre-made Shopify theme and the new custom site:

Focus to sell stationery online. Emily McDowell website redesign before and after

Ta-da!

We were all pretty thrilled with Christine’s work on the site design. Let’s see it a little closer:

 

emily-mcdowell-home

Christine created an initial concept that only needed minor adjustments to be just what their team was looking for. She shared,

“I’ve been familiar with Emily’s work for ages, but it was fun to really dig deep and get to know it even more. I wanted to create a homepage that shows off her colorful and witty, beautiful and honest products, one that lets customers know right away what Emily McDowell Studio is about and makes it easy for them to buy stuff.

The header is much more compact than on your current site. A reduced logo has made room so the shop navigation and account/cart links live in one area. Compact does not mean that it is cluttered, though. Each link has its place and purpose.

This makes room for a much larger slideshow image, showcasing the gorgeous color and detail in your products. I’ve moved your recommended products right below the slideshow. The sooner your customers get access to product links the better.

There are three featured categories, broken down in a more visually appealing way than your basic thumbnails.

The first category featured is cards. One of the things that makes your cards so awesome is that they take the words right out of our mouths, so I created a carousel that gives you the option to view cards based on message type. It adds some fun to the card search.

If your customer clicks ‘I’m sorry,’ three cards from the I’m Sorry category will be displayed. If she clicks ‘I’m glad you’re alive,’ then three birthday cards will replace them.”

This much care and attention was put into each page (and even more work into the behind-the-scenes tasks, such as moving a busy WordPress blog to Shopify), and we’re so proud of the results. Emily and her team told us,

“The redesign launched in early October 2016 and we’re thrilled to finally have a site that can support the needs of our business while reflecting the aesthetic and spirit of the brand. We highly recommend working with Aeolidia if you’re ready to take the plunge and spend some time and money building a custom Shopify site that does your business justice!”

More about Emily’s creative business

Are you as fascinated by Emily’s trajectory as I am? Here is some more great reading and listening:

Shop the Emily McDowell Studio website

Behind the Stationery: Emily McDowell, on Oh So Beautiful Paper. This is an overview of the milestones in Emily’s business.

Announcing Our Partnership With the Madison Park Group! This is the story of Emily’s solution to a rapidly growing business, with barely any time left for creative work.

Emily McDowell Studio’s manifesto

Behind the Scenes of Explosive Growth podcast. Tara Gentile interviews Emily on CreativeLive’s podcast about the struggles of growing and hiring with no business experience. I was particularly fascinated to hear how difficult wholesale can be to maintain when you reach a certain level.

Emily has written a book. It’s called There Is No Good Card For This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful and Unfair to People You Love.

Is it time for a solid retail site for your business?

Get in touch if you feel that your site isn’t conveying your business’s personality or appealing to your perfect customer. No, you don’t need to be at the level Emily is at to work with us! If you’ve been growing, but lately are having a hard time gaining traction, these growing pains may mean it’s time to take a closer look at your website. We would love to strategize for you and design a Shopify website that will work for your one-of-a-kind business.

Want to get to know us a bit better before diving in? Our newsletter is the perfect place. I’ll explain it all bit by bit over a few weeks, right to your email. Subscribe here.

Trade Show Tips for Small Businesses: National Stationery Show

trade-show-tips-nss

This is our fourth tips post about how to exhibit at trade shows! This one features Foreignspell, Caroline Creates, E. Frances Paper Studio, Fox & Wit, I Must Draw, and Mr. Ellie Pooh.

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

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

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

Foreignspell

Niki Baker
Foreignspell

Foreignspell makes art + greeting cards + onesies + journals + more for music lovers, quirky peeps, foodies & hippie dippies. Hand-pressed one by one from hand-illustrated, hand-lettered, hand-burnished, hand-carved & hand-inked rubber stamps. Made by a gal (& her cat) in California using locally sourced & earth-friendly materials.

Niki Baker. Photo © Foreignspell

Niki Baker. Photo © Foreignspell

Photo © Foreignspell

Photo © Foreignspell

Photo © Foreignspell

Photo © Foreignspell

Photo © Foreignspell

Photo © Foreignspell

Business and show history

I started Foreignspell part-time after work in 2012 because I desperately needed daily creativity and color. In 2014, I got laid off and took that as an opportunity to make Foreignspell my bread & butter.

90% of my business is wholesale. Since I print each item one-by-one it’s much smarter and more satisfying to print in large quantities. I do have items available on my website, but need to work on encouraging day-to-day shoppers to stop by!

This was my first year at the NSS. It exceeded expectations and I’m so so thrilled it was my first trade show. Unfortunately, my budget doesn’t allow me to try out multiple trade shows a year. In lieu of NSS, I’m hoping to show at LA Mart in 2017.

Mistakes, advice, and tips

Aside from forgetting to bring enough pens the first day (silly!), my biggest mistake was being too timid. It’s easy to forget you’re an extension of the work. Luckily, my amazing friends helped me sell! They were incredible at talking me up.

In the future I might include the SKUs under the designs to make for easy ordering in case the main deck is being used. I left them off as an aesthetic choice, but it may not have been the smartest decision.

Seeing people light up while looking at my work was by far the best part of doing the show. I especially loved when they recognized specific song lyrics. Aside from fulfilling my inherent need to make stuff, I got into this business to spread happiness and pay homage to the music I love.

Benefits of exhibiting at the NSS

Foreignspell is now in a ton of new shops! It’s wonderful. I’m so honored whenever a new shop chooses to stock Foreignspelll. They are the reason so many of us creative types can even think of trying to make making things our livelihood. Meeting current stockists face to face was super fun too! It feels awesome watching people flip through the deck and laugh or smile.

NSS also connected me with fellow stationers – that’s invaluable! We were able to chat about the industry, our lives as makers, give advice, etc. It was crazy awesome. Risa with Papallama, my stationery soulmate, and I met in SF before NSS to help each other stay on track and troubleshoot any trade show challenges. Since then, we’ve started a collab called Amongst Friends – which we’ll be launching soon. NSS brought me truly indispensable experiences and connections.

Caroline Creates

Caroline Hull
Caroline Creates

Caroline Creates is a line of modern, fun and earthy greeting cards, stationery and gift products that are what we like to call “green without all the granola.” At Caroline Creates, we value big cups of coffee, tribal patterns, modern hand lettering, big comfy sweaters and time spent in the mountains. We hope our products encourage you to love the earth a little more and spread love through the mail.

Designer and Owner, Caroline Hull has a background in music and was a ballet dancer at the University of Oklahoma before finding her niché in design. Originally from Texas, Caroline now resides in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband Chip and daughters Fiona and Maeve. When she’s not designing, you can find her checking out the latest indie music sensation, trying to recycle everything in sight, buying more pens and most likely stalking a coffee shop. Caroline also has a passion for helping other small business owners like herself.

Caroline Hull. Photo © Caroline Hull

Caroline Hull. Photo © Caroline Hull

Caroline Creates trade show booth. Photo © Caroline Hull

Caroline Creates trade show booth. Photo © Caroline Hull

Photo © Caroline Hull

Photo © Caroline Hull

Business and show history

I’ve been in business for 8 years! Crazy to think it’s been that long. I originally was a custom wedding invitation designer but have shifted to focusing more on my brand and my shop. I’d say that shift has happened over the last 2 years. Now my online shop, greeting cards and gift products are my main focus.

Right now wholesale is a very small part of my business but I’m trying to grow it. I’d say right now, wholesale only makes up about 10% of my business. I originally started with just a wedding album, but the last two years have been growing my greeting cards and gift products in my line. I really feel like this year and next are when I’m going to see that percentage go up.

This was my third year at the NSS and my second year in a booth by myself. My first year, I was in a shared booth. I’m unsure if I will attend again next year. It’s a very expensive endeavor. Not only the show itself is expensive, but travel and lodging in New York is very expensive. I made a lot of new connections at the show this year, so I want to take a couple months to see what grows before I determine if the show was a success and if it would be worth it for me to attend again.

I occasionally will do local craft shows but NSS is the only trade show I do or have done so far. Craft shows and trade shows are completely different beasts. Preparation is very different and interactions with customers is also different. Trade shows are not cash and carry so your main goal is to show your entire line in a creative and enticing way so retailers can envision the products in their shop. For craft shows, my display is not as complicated and I have to prepare a ton of inventory. I do fairly well at craft shows, but for me, trade shows are about creating long lasting relationships so the value there can be intangible.

Mistakes, advice, and tips

The biggest mistake I’ve made is not getting enough rest! You have to be able to answer questions rapid fire from potential retailers. If I don’t get enough sleep, my brain shuts down and then I stumble over my words. The best thing I did was bring help! I’m an introvert by nature so these types of situations make me uncomfortable. This year, I brought my sister in law who is as outgoing as they come. She really helped me fill in the gaps and kept my energy levels up. I really couldn’t have done it without her. You stand on your feet while talking to strangers for four days so having someone in your corner like that is pure gold!

Benefits of exhibiting at the NSS

Trade shows are really unique opportunities where you can meet people and make connections that otherwise would take multiple contacts to make. This year, I met a ton of potential retailers and press. Follow up is crucial but the potential there is amazing. Plus, that initial contact is made and makes it so much easier to approach them in the future. That’s why focusing not only on sales, but also those connections and intangibles is really important at Trade Shows. You are laying foundations for the future. I didn’t really realize this my first year but now I understand that the work doesn’t stop after the show.

E. Frances Paper Studio

Ali Flippin
E. Frances Paper

The story of three sisters, two grandmothers and a bubblegum factory. Well, it’s technically two sisters and one cousin, but sisters always seemed a more appropriate term; when that cousin was small the whole family worried that she might never learn to walk because the other two never put her down. So the three grew up in the typical way: best buds, sharing jokes, dances and finishing each other’s sentences and baked goods. So after years of speculating how to work together, use Ali’s artwork, and spread positive energy, Ali started a greeting card company and brought Jenni and Pippi in soon after.

Working together every day, creating and growing a business, and hopefully making products that make people very happy is such a blessing. We pinch ourselves daily. One of the most amazing feelings is creating jobs, not only for ourselves but for women in our community. To be able to see smiling faces come to work and then PAY them is such an honor.

We strive to make all of our products remarkable, both in quality and message. We all feel that one of the best gifts you can give back to the world is to spread positive energy, so we hope your experience with E. Frances Paper is happy and full of indubitable positivity.

E. Frances crew. Photo © E. Frances Paper Studio

E. Frances crew. Photo © Maaike Bernstrom Photography

E. Frances Paper trade show booth design. Photo © E. Frances Paper Studio

E. Frances Paper trade show booth design. Photo © Samantha Hirst

 

Photo © E. Frances Paper Studio

Photo © E. Frances Paper Studio

Photo © E. Frances Paper Studio

Photo © E. Frances Paper Studio

Business and show history

We’ve been in business three years, and this was our 3rd year at the National Stationery Show. Most of our business is wholesale. Along with the NSS, one of our rep groups does NY NOW Gift in January and in August, and we are represented in their booth.

Mistakes, advice, and tips

Best moment: our first NSS, I had to step out of the booth because it was too packed with buyers (!) I almost fainted with happiness.

Most valuable tip I learned during prep for this year’s NSS: Not to worry about anything that wasn’t currently in front of me. I completely concentrated on one task at a time and I found that I was much more productive and focused. Zero freak-outs!

Biggest Mistake: Not being prepared enough for POST-show our first year. We had concentrated so much on trying to create an amazing booth with amazing product that we didn’t leave time to prep enough product to be ready to immediately ship after NSS. You’re mentally and physically tired when you get home from NSS (especially that first year, where it’s all the unknown), and then to have to dive right into figuring out post-show fulfillment was extremely difficult. We learned our lesson the hard way and now spend a ton of time getting all of the product ready to be shipped so that post NSS is busy, but not too stressful.

Attending Tradeshow Bootcamp’s Paper Camp really prepared me for NSS in the best possible way. It was there that I got specific packing lists, booth help, industry standards, and a community to lean on! I would recommend anyone who is thinking about attending NSS to check out TSBC.

Benefits of exhibiting at the NSS

Our biggest goal for the show is to find new retailers and possible collaborations.

Fox & Wit

Mary Nguyen
Fox & Wit

Fox & Wit has a bit of an odd beginning. In 2011 I made wedding invitations for one of my best friends and had hundreds of leftover envelopes and sheets of card stock. I opened an etsy shop to sell handmade cards as a way to declutter my home of the leftover stock. Somehow over time I found myself really loving creating handmade greeting cards. My methods refined of the years and I’ve expanded my company to incorporate a full line of stationery and homemade goods. What started off as an endeavor to clear out clutter has had the opposite effect. My inventory has expanded 10 fold and has taken over an entire room dedicated as my studio space. But most importantly, it’s become a passion.

Fox & Wit trade show booth. Photo © Fox & Wit.

Fox & Wit trade show booth. Photo © Samantha Hirst.

Fox & Wit trade show booth. Photo © Fox & Wit.

Fox & Wit trade show booth. Photo © Samantha Hirst.

Photo © Fox & Wit.

Photo © Fox & Wit.

Photo © Fox & Wit.

Photo © Fox & Wit.

Business and show history

I started fox & wit in 2012. Currently, about 10% of my business is wholesale and 90% is retail. This was my second year attending NSS. I’ll be attending next year for sure. When I ventured into trade show I made the mental commitment of a full 3 years and then reevaluate from there.

I’ve attended a few local craft fairs in Houston and I’ve done several pop up shops at West Elm and Madewell. Personally, I prefer doing trade shows, despite the 100x more work that goes into prepping for a trade show, over craft fairs and the like. I make connections and contact in ways that’s simply not possible at the level of pop up shops and craft fairs. For craft shows and pop ups I feel like, “okay. I made x amount of revenue” and that’s the extent of what those do for my business. Trade shows, however, I feel, “okay, I make x amount of revenue but I’ve gotten to really meet some wonderful business people in all regards (press, other stationers, retailers) to the stationery industry who have had or will have a shaping hand in my business’s growth.” The bigger expense and larger time commitment pays off better.

Mistakes, advice, and tips

Smartest tip: Allot 1.5 x more time to set up than you think it’s going to take you.

Also, Katie Hunt gave the best tip yet: no one knows what your booth is “supposed” to look like except you. So if things go wrong, roll with it and do your best to recover but no need in fretting over perfection. For instance, my walls were a mess! I ended up having about 100 zip ties holding them together and up from the back because of some issues that arose when putting together the booth. They had strange buckles in them. Yet, no one noticed it (or at least was kind enough not to mention it) and I ended up getting a ton of compliments on my hand painted wall even though that was the worst wall of the three.

Biggest mistake during my 1st show was 1) not enough products to fill the booth, 2) too much of a focus on cards. I’ve definitely learned it’s good to have a diverse line of items outside of just greeting cards. People will buy cards but, for me at least, they came in because of a gift or other stationery product.

Benefits of exhibiting at the NSS

I acquire new retailers but definitely the biggest benefit is connections for future work, orders and collaboration. And because I’m a small business, it’s really nice getting to meet many of my existing retailers in person. I feel like it forges and strengthens the relationship between a small business retailer and a small business stationery wholesaler.

I Must Draw

Desiree B
I Must Draw

Desiree B. began I Must Draw by making plush creatures that fit into the palm of your hand and look up at you with surprised eyes or a surprisingly stern look. Then she brought her characters to life in cards and wood engravings. Her more than 200 different styles include the Friend Chips, Moose Willis, Happy Birdays and some puns that go straight over people’s heads; a Valentine’s Day card featured a tick dressed as a Roman—but only the Brits got that one.

Desiree. Photo © I Must Draw.

Desiree. Photo © I Must Draw.

National Stationery Show Booth. Photo © I Must Draw.

National Stationery Show Booth. Photo © I Must Draw.

Photo © I Must Draw.

Photo © I Must Draw.

Photo © I Must Draw.

Photo © I Must Draw.

Business and show history

Been doing Stationery full time for 3 years, and I’ve exhibited at the NSS twice.

Renegade, Unique, Artists and Fleas are craft shows I do and for the most part I do pretty well. I find it helps to test out new designs first hand to gauge people’s response, make sure my pricing is right, and I also get ideas for new work. NSS helps me grow my business with new wholesale accounts and access to retailers who might otherwise not see my work. It’s also pretty inspiring to be surrounded by so much talent, it makes you step up your game.

Mistakes, advice, and tips

This year I had paid for hard walls through the show which weren’t up when I arrived. I couldn’t do any of the set up on day 1 which meant working doubly hard on day two or three. Because Javits lays down carpet on day 3 of set up, you can pretty much stay there as late as you want on the day before the show, I was there till 2am but not through choice.

Smartest tip—sleep as much as you can and don’t forget to eat. No one knows if you don’t have a design up except you. Be prepared to compromise.

Benefits of exhibiting at the NSS

I get focus primarily, all the investment means that you have very clear deadlines, you can’t put off stuff you don’t want to do like making a catalog; it’s such an essential piece of marketing that it has to be ready. You also have to produce new work and it’s good to have a goal by which it will be ready.

Desiree has also posted detailed accounts of NSS 2015 on her blog.

Mr. Ellie Pooh

Karl Wald
Mr. Ellie Pooh

Like many young people, Karl Wald always knew that he wanted to make a difference in the world. A trip to Sri Lanka and a chance meeting with a paper maker named Thusitha Ranasinghe turned out to be life-changing for Karl—and for the elephants.

Elephants naturally are not favored as neighbors by farmers, who, in turn are shrinking the elephants’ habitat. When elephants trample and destroy valued crops, they are often shot and killed. Karl and Thusitha believe that providing sustainable papermaking jobs gives value to elephants.

While it may not completely resolve the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka, Ellie Pooh paper is already going a long way toward raising the tolerance of farmers toward the elephants—by actually compensating them for damage to their crops. For this reason the elephant is seen more as an economic asset and less as a nuisance or threat. The people will not want to see the elephant disappear from their midst, and Ellie Pooh paper plays an important role in the saving the population of Asian elephants in Sri Lanka.

Karl Wald in Sri Lanka. Photo © Karl Wald.

Karl Wald in Sri Lanka. Photo © Karl Wald.

Product creation. Photo © Jennifer Foreman and Carl Avidano.

Product creation. Photo © Jennifer Foreman and Carl Avidano.

Trade show booth display. Photo © Samantha Hirst.

Trade show booth display. Photo © Samantha Hirst.

Photo © Carl and Kirsty Avidano.

Photo © Carl and Kirsty Avidano.

Business and show history

I’ve been in business 10 years, and my business is 95% wholesale. We have been exhibiting at NSS on and off for the last 6 years. We love the show. It’s close to home for us. We will most likely do it next year, it all depends if it conflicts with family life.

We used to do all types of shows; retail, wholesale, holiday markets, now we just do local shows. NY Gift twice a year and NSS. Next year, we may do the book show and the toy show.

Mistakes, advice, and tips

There are always mistakes with logistics that can be spendy. Unions, shipping, drayage, electricity and lights…the selling is the easy part. It would be best to let the host company handle the first show.

I usually call the warehouse and order the appropriate merchandise. It changes for every show. Always bring business cards… lots of them, handouts and freebies. Especially if you don’t have a printed catalog.

Benefits of exhibiting at the NSS

It’s mostly connections for us. We never pay for the show with sales at the show, it is what you do after the show that works best for us. Remember, always follow up.

Ultimate trade show packing list

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

Ultimate Trade Show Packing List

Download our ultimate trade show packing list and be totally prepared