Small Business Gift Guide – Our Favorite Independent Designers

Shop small businesses for Christmas this year!

We’re big on shopping small here at Aeolidia, and value handmade goods and well-designed products from independent small businesses. Here are some of our favorites this year: things we’ll be gifting and hoping to get. I love how these lists give you a little peek into each person’s style, as well! Which Aeolidian do you match best with?

Katherine’s picks

Katherine has been working on our content marketing, creating courses and educational downloads for us, as well as writing for the blog and putting together our portfolio posts.

I’m moving away from Chicago next year after living here for 20 years. Sad face! We have an awesome maker community here that I will miss. Here are some of my favorite recent Chicago makers.

Tabletop Planter with Wood Stand | Midway Weekender Gym Bag

National Parks Poster | Toddler Dress – Ikat Heart

Little Fire Ceramics planter: You can’t go wrong getting someone a plant, and a pot to put it in. I’m a sucker for wood + ceramic pieces, too. I love the minimal design of these.

Po Campo bag: I’m not a cyclist, but I’m friends with so many people who are. I love Maria’s company because she makes stylish bags that are SUPER practical because they attach to bikes. And they even have a couple that aren’t super bike-centric, so you can give them to anyone in your life.

Sorry Design poster: If I could start my life over I’d be a screen print designer. I love these designs from Chicago-based Sorry Design — not your typical poster art. Classy, and I always think cool posters make the perfect gifts.

Lilla Barn dress: If you’re looking for the perfect gift for a little toddler, Lilla Barn makes the most amazing Scandinavian-inspired children’s clothing, all handmade in the U.S.A.

Ann’s picks

Ann is an Aeolidia designer, creating brand identities and websites for our clients.

I am featuring all Southern based businesses for my list.

Bourbon Barrel Bracelet | Vintage Home Goods

Frasier Fir Statement Tree Candle | Deer Doll “Jasper”

Scout Southern Market – bracelet: Anything from Scout Southern Market from right here in Beaufort, SC. I love absolutely everything in their store and can always find the perfect gift – not to mention they have amazing Sweet Tea Floats!

Indigo Collection vintage: My friend and former co-worker started an awesome vintage shop called Indigo Collection. She carries unique and interesting pieces for the home. Another Southern based business for the win!

Candlefish candle: I love a Lowcountry small business! Candlefish started in Charleston and now has a location in Atlanta. I’m a candle lover and these are the best!

Blabla Kids doll: One of my go-to kiddo and baby gifts, Blabla. An Atlanta based knit children’s product line, their dolls are some of my son’s most treasured friends. And you can’t believe how soft they are!

Natalia’s picks

Natalia is our copywriter, and helps our clients brainstorm business names, write compelling product descriptions, and describe their businesses winningly for About pages, among other things.

Wiltshire Sage Berry Flower Collar | Natalia Jewelry Set

We Are One | Ponderlily Planner

Silly Buddy collar: This flower collar by Silly Buddy for my pups!

Kate Winternitz jewelry: This is a local Austin jewelry designer whose work I’ve loved and worn for year. Guess what I just realized one of her new collections is named? It must be destiny!

Baggio Ardon art: This gorgeous artwork by Latinx artist Baggio Ardon Design celebrating culture and unity.

Ponderlily planner: I’m a planner NERD. I’ve used the same one for years but Ponderlily’s has me anticipating their web launch so I can place an order.

Sam’s picks

Sam is our Accounts Manager and is the friendly voice you will talk to as you get your project set up. She’ll also make sure it stays on track and she keeps everything humming busily in our hive.

Seed Collection Hardy Annual MixKakomi Ceramic Rice Cooker

Mini Notepad, Gold Little Note | Finger Knit Trivet Kit

Floret Flower seeds: Pretty packaging + the hope of cut flowers!

Kaufmann Mercantile – rice cooker: The perfect rice cooker.

Sugar Paper notepad: For popping notes into lunches.

Flax and Twine knitting kit:  fun and useful DIY kit.

Caroline’s picks

Caroline helps our clients with one-on-one marketing and business consultations. When a business owner is almost-but-not-quite ready to work with us, we’ll often set her up with Caroline first, so she’ll be prepared for success.

2018 Zodiac Calendar | Daily Essentials Set

Floral Trumpet Clutch | Monarch Cowl Kit

Wholesome Soul calendar: Illustrated zodiac calendar

Pure Luxe Apothecary skincare: What gal wouldn’t love some luxe, all natural skincare?

Harvest Crafts bag: Darling handcrafted clutch with leather details.

Pam Powers Knits kit: If only this knitting kit came with some free time.

Christine’s picks

Christine is a web and brand identity designer extraordinaire, and has been designing for Aeolidia clients for years!

Leather Card HolderMezzaluna Necklace

Nature’s Day BookWalnut Taper Candle Holder

Sugar Paper card holder: To carry my business cards in style (bonus if monogrammed!).

Rare Device – necklace: A pretty necklace simple enough for everyday.

Mapamundi Kids – book: A book to browse with my kiddos.

American Heirloom candle holder: For all those dinner parties I will someday throw.

Holly’s picks

Holly takes care of our clients and keeps all the details of projects organized. There are a lot of moving parts to a design project, and Holly keeps these under control while keeping our clients informed.

Geometric Oregon Necklace | Doughnuts iPhone Case

Change My Life Canvas Pouch | Mini Cat Wall Calendar

Crafty Wonderland – necklace: For the Oregonian at heart.

Frankie & Claude phone case: For the funky foodie friend

Emily McDowell pouch: For your Sephora-addicted friend.

Gingiber calendar: For your cat-loving co-worker.

Shoshanna’s picks

Shoshanna is a web developer, bringing our designs to life as fully functioning websites with the features needed to make sales.

Emerald Stacking Ring | Common Grounds Coffee Candle

Backyard Party Notepad | Hand Painted Green Mountain Mug

Dani Barbe ring: Emerald stacking ring in gold or silver.

Portage Bay Goods – candle: Real coffee candle from Seattle.

Hester & Cook notepad: Party birds notepad.

Common Deer – mug: Hand painted mountain mug from Vermont

Kelly’s picks

Kelly is a web developer, and makes sure the strategic features we plan at the beginning of a project are all working well by launch.

Calico Cat Enamel Pin | Signature Candle, Holiday

You’re Really Pretty Mug | Opal Aquamarine Studs

Gingiber enamel pin.

Sugar Paper holiday candle.

Frankie & Claude mug.

Danie Barbe earrings.

Arianne’s picks

Arianne is captain and founder at Aeolidia, and is responsible for steering the ship and making sure we’re exceeding expectations at every turn.

The more handmade things I have in my home, the happier I am. Here are a few things I would joyfully welcome into my Konmari-ed house.

Boughs and Blossoms 2018Day Bag – Rain/Wax

Staffa Scarf | Choose Joy Banner

Felix Doolittle calendar: I’m always popping open my calendar app to see what the date is. I’d rather glance across my desk to this most beautiful calendar by Felix Doolittle.

Bookhou bag: I’ve been following Arounna’s work almost since I started my business and love her style and artistic curiosity.

Collingwood Norris scarf: I love scarves. Knitted in Scotland, a woolen rainbow for your neck.

Schoolhouse Electric – banner: A daily happy reminder, courtesy of this special Secret Holiday Co banner made for Schoolhouse Electric.

Shop Small This Holiday Season

We know Aeolidia readers value shopping small already! I hope this list gives you some new ideas and shops to check out.

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Email Pop-Up Copy: What Works Best for Online Retailers?

Email Pop-Up Copywriting for Online Retailers

Email pop-ups. Love them or hate them, they’re well known to improve e-commerce email signup conversion rates, which is why so many online retailers use them. But writing copy for them isn’t easy! You know they’re a bit of a nuisance and you want to acknowledge that, but you also want your website visitors to sign up for your email list despite the slight annoyance. How do you convey all that in just a few lines of text?

We’ve written previously about best practices when adding an email pop-up box to your website. In that post, we included examples of pop-up email subscribe boxes that were well-written, nicely designed, and offered a compelling reason to join a list. In this post, I collected 24 additional examples of email pop-ups used by independent online retailers.

Because so many online shop owners wonder if they have to provide a discount or some type of incentive in order to get people to join a list, I divided these examples based on whether they offered a discount (or some other form of incentive), or just asked politely for people to join without offering anything. I included some of the pros and cons are of using each type of incentive (or no incentive at all) in your pop-up box, and detailed some ways you can incorporate these lessons into writing your own email pop-up calls to action.

Discounts + Free Shipping

Offering a discount is probably the easiest — and most popular — way to get people to join your list. The most common discount offers seem to be 10% off your first order or free shipping. Some retailers go as high as 15% off the first purchase or offer a flat dollars-off discount.

PROS:

  • Easy to communicate value
  • Usually increases conversion rates

CONS:

  • People sometimes join just to get the discount, then unsubscribe
  • You have to discount your merchandise

Some more examples of email pop-ups that offer a discount or free shipping (as you can see, this approach is very popular):

Free Gift with Purchase

Offering a free gift to be included with a customer’s purchase is another way to add value to subscribing to an email list. The free gift is usually something small that doesn’t add too much to shipping costs. For example, a skincare brand might include a free facial mask with each purchase, or a stationery brand might throw in free stickers.

PROS:

  • A gift adds tangible value to being on the list
  • The gift doesn’t have to cost you that much
  • Unlike offering discounts and free shipping, you have much more control over the cost of this giveaway

CONS:

  • Hard to quickly communicate the value of the free gift (what is it, exactly?)

Free Download

A handful of retailers offer a downloadable freebie as an incentive for joining an email list. This is less common in the e-commerce space as it is in the services space, but we’re beginning to see more retailers offer PDFs as email sign-up bonuses. Some examples include: recipes, checklists, calendars, and worksheets.

PROS:

  • Except for the time it takes to create it, you’re not cutting into your bottom line by giving away content

CONS:

  • It’s hard to communicate the value of a free PDF in just a few lines of copy
  • Some customers don’t think free information is as valuable as discounts or free stuff

Staying Up-to-Date (or “no incentive”)

Some retailers just don’t want to offer an incentive for joining the list. That’s okay! You don’t have to use discounts, freebies or giveaways when you ask people to join your mailing list. If you don’t offer anything as an incentive for joining, you still need to communicate the value of being on your email list. Some of these intangibles might be:

  • Future discounts
  • First access to sales
  • News of events (trunk shows, sample sales, classes, pop ups, etc.)
  • Exclusive content
  • Sneak peeks on new products
  • Being part of a community

PROS:

  • Doesn’t cheapen the value of your products or train people to expect to pay less, like discounts do.
  • More likely to build an engaged list of people who really do want to hear from you.

CONS:

  • May be harder to get people to sign up without a specific offer.

Contests + Giveaways

One of my favorite email signup incentives (and one that I’m surprised I don’t see more often) is entering to win a contest or giveaway. I’ve seen this done using gift cards as well as product giveaways.

PROS:

  • You control the giveaway amount and frequency, so it’s easy to budget for
  • Contests make it easy to communicate the value of joining the list

CONS:

  • Some contests require you to post terms and conditions
  • You need to handle fulfillment and winner notifications

Pulling it all Together: Writing Your Pop-Up Copy

Once you’ve decided what your incentive is, you need to figure out how to write it into your pop-up copy. I noticed two ways retailers tend to do this: making the incentive your headline, or incorporating it into the secondary copy.

Most retailers that had tangible incentives made that incentive their headline.

For example:

  • Enter to win a $2,500 gift card
  • Get 10% off your first order
  • Free shipping

When those incentives are the first thing you read in big, bold letters, you immediately get the value of joining the list and you’re probably less likely to click away.

This is difficult to do when you’re not offering a tangible goodie. In the examples above from companies that were not offering a discount, gift, freebie or contest entry, the intangibles (early access, sale notifications, etc.) were usually mentioned in the secondary copy, not the headline. The headlines were reserved for more direct calls to action (“Join our Newsletter”), or branded greetings (“Hello, Friend,” “The Party is in Your Inbox”).

Example of Discount-Based Email Pop-Up Copy

Use your incentive in your headline.

  • Headline (contains incentive): Get 10% off your first order
  • Secondary copy: Plus updates on sales, new products, and in-store events when you join our email list.
  • Button copy: Sign up

Example of Non-discount Based Email Pop-Up Copy

Mention the intangible benefits in your secondary copy.

  • Headline: Hello there, friend.
  • Secondary copy (contains benefits): We’d love to send you occasional shop updates, info on sales and discounts, and party planning advice from our blog.
  • Button copy: Subscribe

Always Be Testing

Many of the email pop-up apps that are available for Shopify incorporate A/B copy testing as part of their suite of tools. This means you can test out copy to see which is higher converting. You can even test different incentives. (I highly recommend using the same design to test different copy so you’re comparing apples to apples.) What works well in one online shop may not work in yours, so run tests to see which incentive — and what copy — converts the most visitors from your site to your email list.

Your Turn

What incentive are you currently using to entice people to join your email list? How is it performing? Have you ever thought about trying a new approach, or simply rewriting your pop-up copy to better communicate the value of being on your list? We’d love to hear from you!

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Shopify Blog Design Basics

We get questions all the time about the capabilities and limitations of Shopify blog design. Shop owners want to know: can I make a Shopify blog look exactly how I want it to? This includes: colors, logos, fonts, social links, graphic elements, etc. They also want to know if their blog will function how they want it to. Can I add an email signup to the sidebar? Can we embed our Instagram feed? The short answer to all this is yes, you can make a Shopify blog look and function any way you like. It all depends on the level of customization you want to invest in.

Picking a Shopify Theme vs. Using a Custom Theme

Your first choice is simple: do you want to use an out-of-the-box theme, or invest in a custom a Shopify blog design?

To help determine the answer to this question, ask yourself:

  1. How important is it that your blog’s design exactly matches your shop’s brand?
  2. How actively are you using your shop’s blog as a sales and marketing tool, both to acquire and convert customers?

The answers to these questions are based on your specific business goals. If blogging is an important part of your marketing strategy and design is important to your brand, you might want to think about investing in a custom Shopify blog design.

An out-of-the-box theme is less expensive, but it’s usually limited in its customization options, which includes where certain important elements are displayed within your blog design. If you’re not planning to use your blog as a sales tool or you haven’t nailed down your shop’s branding yet, a custom blog design might not be as important to you.

Limitations of Shopify Themes for Blogging

All of Shopify’s themes have blogging capabilities, but some themes have more built-in blog functionality than others. If you’re going to use a Shopify theme without any customization, check whether its blog capabilities will work for your needs. You can do this by carefully reading the theme descriptions and checking out examples of Shopify stores using that theme to blog.

Customizing a Shopify Blog Design

Customizing a Shopify blog design opens up a lot of options. In fact, if you have a custom theme created for you, your Shopify blog can look pretty much however you want it to. Rather than trying to find a theme that contains all the important blog functionality you’re looking for, you can design it from the ground up.

This is particularly important for shops that plan to use a blog as a content marketing tool that drives traffic to the shop. You have a lot more control over not only what your blog looks like, but how it functions as a sales tool.

Shopify Blog Design Basics

Here are some things to think about when assessing a Shopify theme’s blog functionality or considering whether you want to customize a Shopify blog design.

  • What do you want your blog’s homepage to look like?
  • What should a search results, or index page look like? Is this an important page on your blog?
  • Where do you want your most recent posts to appear on your website? Anywhere aside from your blog home page?
  • Do you want a side column? If so, what should be contained in it?
  • Where do you want sharing buttons to appear?

Elements to Include in a Shopify Blog Design

In addition to matching your shop design, your blog should help sell products and connect with shoppers as well. These blog features can help you do that:

  • Email signup form
  • About Us snippet
  • Links to products or product categories
  • Social links
  • Social sharing buttons

Recent Shopify Custom Blog Design Examples

The benefit to working with a Shopify developer is that you can design your blog to look exactly how you want it while giving it the functionality you’re looking for when it comes to organizing content. We thought we’d share some recent Shopify blog designs we’ve worked on so you can get an idea of the platform’s design versatility when you’re doing something custom.

Shopify Blog Design for Jewelry Designers

For jewelry designer Dani Barbe, we designed a Shopify blog with a minimalist look and feel that matches the shop’s sophisticated branding (right down to the diamond-shaped social sharing buttons!). Because the blog is designed to sell products, we included links to the collections in the sidebar.

shopify blog design example jewelry business

 

Love, Georgie‘s Shopify blog design also matches her jewelry shop’s branding, and like we did with the Dani Barbe blog, we included links to the shop categories. This blog also includes an email signup bar, so readers can subscribe to shop updates from the blog page.

shopify blog design example jewelry business

Shopify Blog Design for a Bath & Body Brand

With Mafu, we again designed a blog that matched the shop’s branding, and we included a personal snippet about the founder in the sidebar, which helps readers connect with the brand.

shopify blog design example skincare business

Shopify Blog Design for Home Decor shop

We knew blogging was going to be very important to for Nest Interior Design, so we designed a minimal custom blog that really helps the images in each blog post stand out. We used the blog sidebar to provide some background information on the business as well as promote both archival blog content and products in the shop.

 

shopify blog design example interior design business

Shopify Blog Design for a Children’s Clothing Brand

The blog we designed for children’s clothing brand Well Dressed Wolf matched the shop’s branding and also had a minimal look and feel to allow the images and content in each post to stand out. Again, the blog sidebar links to popular shop categories for a seamless connection between content and product sales.

shopify blog design example children's clothing business

Your Turn

What questions do you have about Shopify blog design? How do you plan to use your blog to promote your shop? Do you think you’ll need a custom design or are you searching for an out-of-the-box solution with a Shopify theme? Let us know in the comments!

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Planning Your Content Strategy

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Why Seeing a Single Design Concept Makes a Strong Logo

Why seeing one design concept is the best way to design a good logo

We have been showing our clients a single design concept for websites since Aeolidia’s beginning. For a few years now, we’ve been showing just one concept for logos as well. This means instead of presenting several different logo design options when revealing the work we’ve done on your brand, we only present one.

This process doesn’t mean you won’t be involved in design. Nor does it mean you could end up stuck with a logo or website design that you don’t like. Instead, it’s how we set your project up for success and satisfaction. Here, I wanted to explain why we take the single design concept approach for logos and why we think it works best for our clients.

How many design concepts should you see?

When you work with a designer, an early step is to communicate what your brand is about. Our goal is to make something just right for you, and we start with learning as much as we can about your business.

If you’re a designer or have a specific vision (many of our clients do), we have many ways to collaborate with you. We share Pinterest mood boards, use your illustrations or handwriting, and include you every step of the way.

The designer, armed with the information and ideas you’ve shared, then goes into research mode. She learns about your products, niche, competitors, and customers. Foremost in her mind are your project goals.

Next, she begins sketching, and may go through dozens of ideas and concepts before arriving at her best proposed solution to your design problem.

Logo sketch ideas for Puzzle Patterns

A few of the many logo sketch ideas for Puzzle Patterns.

Logo sketch ideas for Cajun Heritage

Logo sketch ideas for Cajun Heritage

She then shares a design presentation with you. In this example, let’s say it’s your logo idea. Aeolidia design presentations show one logo concept to focus on, and they are detailed, with examples to help you envision your logo “in the wild.”

As the client, your job is now to review the logo design concept. You need to report back to the designer how well you feel it’s working and what revisions you’d like to see.

There will be a big difference in your experience depending on how many design ideas you’re shown. I’m sure you can imagine that needing to give feedback on 50 ideas would be quite overwhelming. In fact, it would feel like you were doing the designer’s work for her, right? She should be able to take 50 ideas and pare that down to a smaller group of good solutions.

How many would you want to see? Five? Three? Let’s say she sends you three to look at. Now you have a tricky responsibility. You’re not a logo designer (that’s why you hired one). But you’re supposed to choose now? All three would work, but the fonts are different and graphics are different.

You don’t know enough about fonts to feel confident making a choice, and the graphics look beautiful! What to do? Maybe you could ask to see Option A’s graphic paired with Option C’s font? What would that look like?

Red alert! You’re wading in muddy waters now. This almost always leads to a weak and watered down logo, when focus strays away from one idea.

We used to work this way, it was often a total mess, and we moved on to a more effective method. Here’s why.

Why we don’t believe in presenting multiple design concepts

At Aeolidia, we show you a single design concept at this stage. One design concept doesn’t mean that the designer is singleminded, or isn’t open to ideas. Our designers usually sketch out dozens of ideas for you. They explore many concepts and directions, add things in, throw things out, mix and match.

It’s a tough process, and takes a trained and experienced eye. They don’t stop once they’ve pared down to a few concepts and then leave the rest of the work up to you. They continue the work they’re skilled at, and choose the one best idea to then refine with you.

I can understand why it might seem beneficial to be able to see more than one design concept. After all there is no single “right” solution, so how could a designer claim that any one is “the one?”

There are many designers that show multiple concepts. In my experience, when your designer shows you more than one concept, she already knows which is the best, and she is hoping you will pick it.

We decided to skip this risky game of giving clients choice for choice’s sake. We no longer present our 2nd and 3rd best ideas to you. Instead of leaving the work of refining a “not quite right” logo to you, the client, we put more upfront work into understanding your brand.

If we understand your brand, we can hit on one best solution out of the gate. We want to create a design that exceeds your expectations, delights your customers, and helps you meet goal after goal.

Real life examples of how well this works

We have seen outstanding results since we began focusing on one best solution. It’s now common for our designers to present a logo concept and end up with instant approval.

It’s a win when we get no revision requests from our client. Not because it makes less work for us, but because it shows that we understand the brand. It’s what we aim for now!

Here are a few recent “home run” client responses to our initial design concepts:

Miss Design Berry Shopify site launching soon!

“I LOVE it! It is so clean, straight foward, but still showcases our brand and vibe. I honestly have no feedback this point other than at the bottom where we have ‘Let’s be Friends’ the light pink behind the dark pink is giving me a weird visual effect of fuzziness so lets just switch that. Other than that, LOVE.”

“Hi! I agree with Kristin completely. I love how clean and simple the site looks, yet all the key elements are in just the right places! I’m loving the side navigation — makes so much sense.”
—The Miss Design Berry team

Logo and brand identity design for a home furnishing brand.

Logo and brand identity design for Lonestead Range.

“Oh Ann, take my breath away! This is such an amazing start, I’m having a hard time imagining it better! Okay, I will spend some time drooling over it all and give you my feedback, however I’m not sure there is anything else to say, other than AMAZING! You put in words what is in my head and heart.”
—Susan Merkle, Lonestead Range

Puzzle Patterns business card design for a maker of clothing patterns.

Logo and brand identity for Puzzle Patterns.

“Oh Jess! I was feeling very confident after our chat last week and you really delivered. This is beautiful and the design is so simple and clear but I keep looking at it and seeing more and finding more to love. I am so pleased, I can’t wait to see how everything ties together from here, fabulous work! I trust your judgement and can’t wait to see your vision.”
—Aimee Randle, Puzzle Patterns

This type of reaction happens so often now that we’ve started to expect it.

What if I don’t like the initial design concept?

What if we don’t hit it out of the park on the first design concept? Are you stuck with our idea anyway? Absolutely not!

We never force a client to accept a concept, or press forward trying to revise the wrong concept. In our partnership, we are the design experts, but you are always the expert on your own business.

We take that seriously. If you don’t believe our design idea will help you meet your goals or work for your brand, we’ll start again from scratch. If the first design is not right, it’s almost always because we didn’t have all the info we needed. So we go back to the research and discovery phase, and then begin again with a stronger understanding of the project.

This is something that almost never happens. I’m devastated whenever anyone leaves Aeolidia feeling disappointed. So if it does turn out that we didn’t understand something important about your brand, of course we go back and make it right.

Every client gets multiple rounds of revisions for every piece of a project. No one is stuck with our first idea if it’s not right.

In a nutshell?

Aeolidia shares one design with you, which means you will only see our best work. Our initial presentation is in-depth and well thought out. It usually is exactly what our client needs. When it isn’t, though, we do what it takes to make sure the design is right. Even if that means going back to the drawing board a time or two.

Our clients’ satisfaction levels are through the roof. They love being able to relax knowing that they’re in good hands. We really listen to everything they tell us about their brand. We are deeply invested in helping them meet their goals.

A single best design concept not only makes the process easier for our clients, they end up with a stronger brand because of it.

Cajun Heritage thank you cards for a jewelry brand

Logo & brand identity design for Cajun Heritage.

“My designer, Jess, was truly magical. She delivered exactly what I envisioned, and then some! She just “got” me from the very beginning. It was like she took everything I pictured in my head, and was able to make it a reality. She was reassuring when I was hesitant during the design phase. She graciously accommodated every request that I made. I really appreciated how she designed with my ideal customer in mind. She not only gave life to my brand, she inspired me to grow my business far beyond what I imaged. She helped me envision my brand on a much larger scale.”
—Lindsey Baudoin, Cajun Heritage

Logo design for a gift company

Logo design for a gift company

“After a thorough interview process, customers have to trust the process and expertise by turning over the “designer” reins to Aeolidia. This isn’t a common approach and I value this because that demonstrates confidence and understanding the customer’s needs. Too many designers want the customer to be in the driver’s seat although the customer hired them to do a particular job that he/she may not be skilled at.

I view Aeolidia as platinum-level graphics design services company. If you want a design company who has extensive expertise in brand development and creating a website to reflect your brand in the best light, hire them despite the price tag! They are worth every penny spent.”
—Patricia, Indigo Ember

What about you?

Have you worked with a designer before? I’d love to hear about your experiences. What works best for you? What would you have done differently, or what did you learn along the way? What questions do you still have about this process? Contact me if you’d like to talk more, or see how well this will work for your business.

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What Do I Charge for Shipping? How to Choose a Shipping Rate Strategy for Your Shop

What Do I Charge for Shipping? How to Choose a Shipping Rate Strategy for Your Shop

Shipping charges have a major impact on shopping cart abandonment in online shops. If you have big goals for your conversion rate, you have to be proactive about choosing a shipping rate strategy that makes customers happy while ensuring you’re not losing a ton of money on free or flat rate shipping.

Choosing a shipping rate strategy that works for your shop

There are two major factors that cause people to abandon carts over shipping charges.

  1. Not knowing what shipping will cost
  2. Thinking shipping is too expensive

You don’t have to jump immediately to free shipping to keep customers from leaving your site, you just want to pick a shipping rate strategy that is easy to understand and feels reasonable. If a customer is buying a bar of soap for $8, they might not want to pay $9.25 to have it shipped.

Let’s examine your options for dealing with customer skittishness around shipping.

Use a shipping calculator

With a shipping calculator, customers can provide their shipping details to get an estimate of shipping costs before checkout.

PROS

  • Customers understand exactly what their shipping charge will be
  • You pass the shipping charge on to the customer

CONS

  • No shipping calculator is 100% accurate
  • Shipping is expensive, so customers can still get sticker shock from shipping rates, leading to abandoned carts

Offer flat rate shipping

With flat rate shipping, you charge a single, uniform amount for shipping no matter where the customer is located or what they order. (You can offer a different flat rate for international orders.)

PROS

  • Flat rate shipping is easy for customers to understand
  • You make an extra margin on shipping small items that cost less to ship than the flat rate

CONS

  • You can lose money for shipping single large items
  • Customers don’t want to pay flat rate for small items

Offer free shipping over a certain order value

By offering free shipping on orders totaling more than a certain dollar amount, you encourage customers to order more. If customers don’t reach the free shipping tipping point, you can charge a flat rate for shipping or use a shipping calculator. You should aim to set the dollar amount of your free shipping threshold higher than your average order value (AOV), if you know it. This way you don’t give away free shipping on order totals you’d likely hit anyway, and over time, your shipping rate strategy can help increase your AOV.

PROS

  • Customers might order more to for more savings
  • Over time, your AOV increases as customers strive for free shipping

CONS

  • You lose money on shipping for high-value orders, especially bulky ones
  • If you sell high-priced items, it’s too easy for customer to hit your free shipping threshold

Offer free shipping on all orders

Free shipping is the clearest shipping rate strategy and the one that makes customers the most happy, but it leaves you eating all the shipping costs.

PROS

  • Customers love free shipping, so your cart abandonment rates will stay low
  • Conversion rates on sites that offer free shipping are typically higher

CONS

  • You have to find a way to absorb shipping costs or lose money on shipping
  • You can’t use “free shipping” as a sales incentive if you offer it all the time

Our favorite shipping rate strategy

After years of helping clients determine which shipping rate strategy they should use in their shop, we’ve hit on a favorite that seems to work for most shops most of the time.

We like the combination of offering free shipping on orders totaling slightly over your average order value, and combining that approach with a flat rate shipping on orders that do not meet the free shipping threshold.

Why this approach works

We’ve already talked about why offering free shipping over a certain dollar amount encourages shoppers to load up their carts to higher than your normal AOV (which is awesome for you). But by charging a reasonable flat rate for orders that don’t meet the threshold, you also encourage customers to add more to their cart as they try to get the most of the flat rate.

For example, let’s say you sell natural skincare products and you offer free shipping on orders over $75. You also offer a flat $8 shipping rate on orders that don’t meet the free shipping minimum. If a customer orders a tube of lip balm, she may not feel like an $8 shipping charge is fair. But knowing it’s flat rate means she can add items to her order without increasing the shipping charge, something that is not the case for calculated shipping. So she might add another item or two just to get the most perceived value out of a shipping charge she’s already paying.

How to track and measure shipping rate metrics

While we do have our favorite, there simply is no one-size-fits-all approach to shipping for e-commerce. It depends on what you sell, who your customers are, where they’re located, how loyal they are… too many factors to count!

Whatever shipping rate strategy you choose, you should track the following over a given time period:

  • Your shipping costs
  • What you charged for shipping
  • What you made or lost on shipping
  • Cart abandonment rate (especially from the shipping page)
  • Overall site conversion rate
  • Average order values

When you know these numbers, you can easily decide whether a particular shipping rate strategy is working. You might decide a lower conversion rate is okay if your average order values are increasing and you’re not losing money on shipping.

Now it’s your turn

We would love to hear about your struggles and approaches to choosing a shipping rate strategy in your shop! What has worked for you? What questions do you have?

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Get Your Online Shop Ready for Holiday Sales

get your shop ready for holiday sales

Online shops make a huge chunk of their annual sales during the busy holiday season. Retail sales skyrocket so predictably between Black Friday and New Year’s Day, even if you did nothing to promote or prepare for the holidays, you’d likely still see a boost in your shop sales. But if you really want to maximize sales — and limit headaches! — during the busy holiday shopping days, you need to have a plan.

We talked to a handful of seasoned online shop merchants to get their best tips for boosting holiday sales, and they all said pretty much the same thing: plan ahead. Most everyone had a version of the same strategy.

  • Make a holiday sales calendar that outlines key holiday shopping days with shipping cutoff dates for your shop
  • Plan your holiday promotions around those dates
  • Create all marketing collateral in advance, scheduling it if possible
  • Focus your time on fulfilling orders and customer service, not on last-minute promotions

Sounds awesome, right? Let’s take a dive into what it takes to execute a smooth holiday sales plan in your online shop.

Plan your marketing around key holiday shopping dates

Even if you aren’t creating promotions for big holiday shopping events, be aware of when they are. Holly Marsh, Aeolidia project manager and owner of the handmade accessories business MarshMueller, suggests avoiding Black Friday or Cyber Monday for your big holiday promotions. “I’ve found better success doing a sale either the weekend before or weekend after,” she says. “There’s usually too much noise with big TVs, Amazon deals, etc.”

Key holiday shopping dates for online retailers:

  • November 1st (the day we put the Halloween decorations away and the holiday decor comes out)
  • Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, with big brick-and-mortar shopping events dominated by big box stores)
  • Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving, dedicated to the concept of “shopping small”)
  • Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving, generally considered to be the biggest online shopping holiday)
  • Green Monday (a term coined by eBay to describe the second Monday of December, also a big online holiday shopping date)
  • Day after Christmas (December 26, and Boxing Day in Canada, when after-Christmas sales go into effect)

Determine your custom order cut-off dates

If you offer made-to-order items in your shop, you should have a cut-off date for delivery of custom goods before the holidays. Clearly communicate timelines for custom order fulfillment so customers know if they still have time for ordering custom gifts. This applies to both your online shop and selling at events.

“I usually do a craft fair in the second or third weekend in December that is my last big selling event,” says Jennifer Montgomery, owner of the online shop Paper Sushi. “I can guarantee customers who buy a custom stamp at that event that I’ll have them produced and shipped within 3-4 days. That makes Christmas delivery pretty certain and is the only reason so many people buy them at this event.”

Determine your shipping cut-off dates

Figure out when your final days will be for guaranteed holiday delivery. Include:

  • Holiday delivery cut-off dates for in-stock items
  • Holiday delivery cut-off dates for custom orders
  • Final day for guaranteed holiday delivery (regular shipping)
  • Final day for guaranteed holiday delivery (expedited shipping)

Make sure your marketing and website copy clearly communicates your shipping cut-off dates.

Don’t forget to order product packaging, too! Stock up on shipping supplies, labels, ink, business cards, and whatever else you need to get your orders out the door well in advance of the holiday rush.

Prep for holiday pop-up shops and craft fairs

What craft sales or holiday pop-ups are you planning this year? Add them to your holiday promotions calendar. To maximize holiday sales both in-person and online, your booth should:

  • Promote gift-y items
  • Have posted information about custom gift orders and shipping information (“Yes! We can ship these to your aunt in Arizona! Here’s how.”)
  • Be stocked with lots of business cards and print collateral that customers can include with gifts
  • Be stocked with gift certificates, if you offer them
  • Include an email signup list with incentive, like signing up for post-holiday sales alerts

Plan your marketing calendar in advance

Now that you have your important dates figured out, you can start putting together your holiday marketing calendar.

Figure out what holiday promotions you’re doing, if any

“I’ve learned not to go overboard in my holiday promotions,” says Jane Pearson of the shop Janery. “I keep my sales limited all year long, and then find that a simple 20% off, short-term promo starting on or after Black Friday is sufficient. In the past I’ve tried to be more like big box stores, even offering 50% off for Black Friday one year, and that was just silly. It devalued my brand and sales were just as good with the smaller discounts.”

So what holiday promotions will you plan on running? Some ideas:

  • Shipping promotion
  • Gift with purchase
  • Special holiday-only products
  • Discounts
  • End-of-year clearance sales

Decide how you’ll communicate your promotions

You don’t want to scramble around at the last minute putting a panicked 20% off email together. So before the holiday season kicks into high gear, figure out how you want to tell your customers about your planned holiday promotions.

Some marketing ideas to get your holiday promos out there:

  • Christmas countdowns
  • Giveaways
  • Social giving campaigns
  • Gift guides
  • Facebook ads
  • Instagram ads
  • Emails

Figure out what assets you need for promotions

Once you decide you’re going to do a 12 Days of Christmas countdown giveaway on Instagram, for example, spend time creating the images and graphics you’ll use to run your promotion. Stuff to gather beforehand:

  • Holiday props for staged photos
  • New product images
  • Stock imagery
  • Graphics
  • Ad copy
  • Email copy and graphics

Gather everything you need and put it together before busy holiday sales kick in!

Schedule your content in advance

To maintain your sanity during the busy holiday season, stay focused on customer service and order fulfillment, not last-minute marketing. Schedule as much of your holiday marketing content as you can in advance. This should be a lot easier now that you have everything in a calendar, planned out, and with all your assets collected already.

Schedule time for yourself, too

You might want to figure out what your own work cutoff date is for the holidays. This is a busy season for online retail, but you don’t want that business to cut into your ability to enjoy a little downtime yourself. Build your calendar so that you can take time off during the holidays, too!

Join the Shipshape Collective

join shipshape collective aeolidia

Do you run a creative product-based business? You’ll get a lot out of our community, with access to our free Facebook group, plus weekly emails with tips for making a website work, pricing your products, building a brand, and more. Let our helping hand lift you up. There's no need to do this alone!

How to Use the New Shopping on Instagram Feature

Last year, Instagram rolled out a new feature called Shopping on Instagram, which allowed merchants to tag products in posts, linking them directly to product pages on their websites. But it was only available to big brands.

Starting this month, Instagram started rolling out Shopping on Instagram to the little guys, too. Thousands of Shopify merchants now have the ability to tag products on Instagram, creating a direct link in individual Instagram posts to products for sale on their websites. In other words, no more annoying “link in bio” calls to action when promoting your products on Instagram!

Why Shopping on Instagram is good for small merchants

This is a game changer for shop owners on Instagram, especially those who have lots of followers. I talked to Kristin Gonzales, owner of the online store Gigi and Max (check out their Instagram), who says she’s already seen a 14% uptick in Instagram traffic to her shop since she started using the Shopping on Instagram feature. (It’s important to note that Shopify and Google Analytics group these new Instagram product tag links with the rest of your Instagram traffic reporting, so as of yet it’s not possible to attribute a specific amount of traffic to the product tags alone.)

Because previously Instagram only supported one hyperlink per account and did not allow users to include external links in posts (they still don’t), Kristin used to use the “link in bio” workaround to direct her Instagram followers to products that were available in her shop, meaning she could talk about her products in an individual post, but if she wanted people to click through to them, she had to replace the link in her profile (which usually links to a shop URL) with a link to that specific product. Most merchants on Instagram were using this same hack, which created an extra step to view products that many shoppers didn’t bother with.

“People like to click quickly, they love easy,” Kristin says. “They do not want to go find your bio, or wait for an answer from you on where your link is. Some don’t have the time to browse the site to find the exact item they saw on Instagram.With the product tags they can easily see exactly where to go and it takes them right to the listing they need.”

shopping on instagram example post gigiandmax

Gigi and Max is using the new Shopping on Instagram feature to promote products within their feed, rather than directing followers to a “link in bio.”

Eventually this feature will be available to everyone using Instagram with Shopify, but until October 16, 2017, Shopify is only rolling out the feature to a select group of testers.

What do you need to do to get the new Shopping on Instagram feature on your Instagram account?

According to Instagram, you need to:

  • Have products in a Facebook catalog
  • Use the Online Store sales channel
  • Have a business profile on Instagram
  • Update to the latest version of Instagram
  • Use the Instagram app from an IP address in the United States

How to Take Advantage of the New Shopping on Instagram Feature

Once this feature becomes available to you, how will you use it to sell more products? Here are our thoughts so far.

Grow your following, but keep it real

The more people that follow you, the more people are likely to click through to purchase products on your website. Consider this: if a typical Shopping on Instagram post has a 0.1% conversion rate (right now we don’t have stats on this, so I’m using a lower-than-average e-commerce conversion rate) and you have 1,000 followers, you’ll make 1 sale per tagged post. But if you have 25,000 followers, you’ll make 25 sales with every tagged post, assuming the same conversion rate. This is why we’re already seeing merchants with more Instagram followers having more success (read: more sales) with the new feature than those with fewer than 5,000 followers.

But if your followers aren’t engaged, those conversion rates won’t stay the same. Your Instagram should be about making authentic connections with customers and having real conversations. People who feel connected to you are more likely to buy from you, so you could see high conversion rates from just a few hundred followers.

Work your products into your editorial content

Your Instagram feed should add substance to your shop, not just be an extension of it. Instead of simply posting photos of your products with a tag, showcase your products in context. Demonstrate them in action, showcase seasonal items, and inspire your followers with ideas that incorporate things you sell in your shop. In other words, tell a story with your products that inspires people to buy. Don’t expect people to click through and purchase from a plain ol’ product photo.

shopping on instagram feature tags shopify

Lionheart Prints does a great job of staging product photos. Here you can see the new Shopping on Instagram tags added to a recent Instagram post. 

Beautiful images still matter

Instagram is a visual channel. You can’t connect with people or grow a following if your images don’t cut the mustard. You’re also not going to sell products from Instagram if your images are dark, blurry, cluttered, or just plain meh. If you want people to buy from you, you have to inspire them, and beautiful, nicely styled images are the best way to do this.

What’s Next for Small Online Shops on Instagram

Instagram will eventually roll out the Shopping on Instagram feature to all Shopify merchants (they’ve also started working with other online platforms like BigCommerce).

We’re excited to hear what the conversion rates shape up to be for merchants using Shopping on Instagram, but in order to accurately assess how many people are buying from tags, Shopify and Instagram will have to allow specific campaign tracking of shoppable links so they don’t get lumped in with the rest of Instagram reporting. Eventually it seems like Instagram will add the ability for shoppers to check out directly from within the app.

As of right now shoppable tags are only visible to Instagram users in the United States. And you can not put tags in an Instagram ad… although we’d bet on that being an eventual offering.

Let’s hear from you

Are you using the new Shopping on Instagram feature? What do you think of it so far? What results have you seen?

Does your shop allow you to take advantage of multi-channel shopping? If not, it might be time to see what you can do with Shopify’s free trial period.

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Level Up Your Creative Shop: Announcing the Shipshape Collective

Level Up Your Creative Shop: Ditch the Struggle and Transform Your Shop by Getting Back to Marketing Basics

A few days ago, I got an email from a business owner who felt she had reached a dead end in her business.

She used to participate in regional craft fairs and sell locally at her own shop. She said she knew that customers were interested in her products, but, “I have been limping (real bad) since closing my shop and trying to make that online transition. I’m just plain ol’ stuck with nearly zero revenue and tapped out resources, regardless of my efforts.”

She had tried to recover by putting a brand rep program in place, but after seeing firsthand how it worked, she decided that method was not for her. That left her needing to come up with a new sales strategy before her ship completely sinks.

She told me,

“I’m thinking I’m terrible at conveying my story. I’m not in love with spending countless days of my life trying to figure all of this out while time marches on, new release after new release (read $$$) is wasted with no ROI, including barely any traffic to my website, which I’m sure is a huge problem. I love my new website, but something isn’t working and I don’t know where/what that is exactly.

I’m sure my story sounds all too familiar. I’ve taken a good look at your site, am enthralled by your emails and you certainly have my attention, but I don’t know how I’d even begin to afford your services. Again, probably something you’ve heard many times over. I just am feeling like I don’t know what to do, very frustrated and certainly disenchanted with the brand rep world as a means of helping to build my brand and take it from mom & pop scene to something bigger and better.

I love what I do and I want to be able to share what I do with peeps that will appreciate what I create with the help of a small team of seamstresses here in the US.”

I seem to get an email like this once a week, with questions like:

  • I used to do so well on Etsy, but I never learned to market my own business, and now it’s drying up. How do I attract my own audience? Do I need my own website?
  • Social media has been changing and we’re having a harder and harder time getting traffic to our site. How do we promote our business in such a crowded product niche?
  • I’m suddenly noticing a lot of businesses popping up who sell similar things—would a rebrand help differentiate me?
  • I know I have a great product, but how on earth do I get the word out about it?

A new website or a rebrand doesn’t solve everything

I love hearing from creative and passionate people at all stages of their businesses. But the reality is, building a new website or launching a rebrand is not a magic bullet. It can’t fix everything. Sometimes the things you need to address in business aren’t as major as a new website or logo design. Sometimes they’re simpler.

You know what? I hated turning away business owners who weren’t ready for a rebrand, because I could always see tweaks they could make in their business that would help them break through to the next level.

I wanted to help everyone. But I just didn’t have the time or resources. This fall, though, I’m working to change all that.

I know there are so many of you out there who look at the businesses we work with and think, “How do I get my own business to that level?”

We try to answer this question by sharing tips in our blog posts, by interviewing the business owners we’re inspired by, and by offering occasional feedback and advice in our Facebook group. But I wanted to do something more. I wanted to make our efforts at helping you more official, more concrete, and more useful.

Announcing the Shipshape Collective

 

The Shipshape Collective

 

This fall Aeolidia is launching The Shipshape Collective, a community designed for business owners just like you who are committed to growing their creative shops and getting them to the next level.

Our first offering is an online course that will help address so many of the fundamentals the Aeolidia team has seen creative shop owners struggle with.

Level Up Your Creative Shop: Ditch the Struggle and Transform Your Shop by Getting Back to Marketing Basics

 

VIEW COURSE DETAILS

 

In this course, which goes on sale TODAY, we will address the fundamental challenges that keep your business from breaking through to the next level.

So tell me: are you feeling fired up by your business? Do you feel like your marketing might need a kick in the pants? Do you want to arrive at a crystal clear picture of who your products are for and how to sell to them? Do you want to know how to differentiate yourself from your competitors? Yes? Then let’s work together to make it happen!

One Course, Two Ways

This fall I’m offering two options for enrolling in the Level Up course. Both options go on sale TODAY, but the Group Course is limited to just 15 spots.

  1. The Group Course, an intimate 4-week workshop, starting on October 9, which includes a group forum, weekly feedback on your progress and a personal 1-on-1 phone session with me (limited to just 15 spots!)
  2. The Solo Course, a self-paced tour through the course material included in the Group Course, but without the feedback, support or 1-on-1 time with me

 

ENROLL

 

Oh, and: while the Solo version of this course will be available year round (I wanted to make this process accessible to all), I highly recommend enrolling in the Group course, where I’ll be working WITH you on your business. Have questions? Read the course FAQs or shoot me an email.

46 Favorite Podcasts for Creative Entrepreneurs

favorite podcasts creative entrepreneurs

What podcasts do you listen to?

I asked the gang in our Facebook group for shop owners what their favorite business-related podcasts are, and I was able to compile this list of 46 of your favorite podcasts for creative entrepreneurs. I like how this list shaped up to be a good mix of nitty gritty business podcasts, “business of craft” podcasts, and creative inspiration. Enjoy — and feel free to add links to your own favorites in the comments if you don’t see them listed here.

The Accidental Creative, by Todd Henry. “The Accidental Creative podcast shares how to build practical, everyday practices that help you stay prolific, brilliant and healthy in life and work. Host Todd Henry (author of the books The Accidental Creative, Die Empty, and Louder Than Words) interviews artists, authors and business leaders, and offers tips for how to thrive in life and work.”

Adventures in Design, by Mark Brickey. “America’s only daily morning talk show for creatives just like you. Exploring the reality of trying to live your creative dreams. Sometimes educational, sometimes off topic but always entertaining!”

Amy Porterfield. “Expert interviews, mini execution plans, and intimate behind-the-scenes secrets from my biggest launches… all tied together by my mission to make EVERYTHING you listen to as actionable and profitable as possible.”

Being Boss, by Emily Thompson & Kathleen Shannon. “Being Boss is a podcast for creative entrepreneurs with Emily Thompson & Kathleen Shannon. Our listeners (our tribe!) want to ‘be boss.’ They are the rebels, the quiet ones, the schemers, and the dreamers! So our stories, advice and interviews are about being boss the way we choose, and being who we are in work and life!”

Boss Mom, by Dana Malstaff. “Where women in all stages of raising their business and family go to get tools, tips and support to help make their boss mom lives just a little bit easier.”

Brilliant Business Moms, by Beth Anne Schwamberger. “The Brilliant Business Moms Podcast interviews mom entrepreneurs who are succeeding in online business while spending time with their families.”

Build My Online Store, by Terry Lin and Travis Marziani. “Started in 2012, Build My Online Store is one of the longest running e-commerce podcasts on iTunes. Travis runs a store called B Dancewear, a family business that sells made-to-order dance clothing. In May 2017, he started a new company called Performance Nut Butter on Kickstarter. Terry runs a store called Forever Home that sells cat & dog blankets which also launched on Kickstarter.”

Christy Wright’s Business Boutique. “Christy will inspire and equip you, answer your questions about business and share success stories from other women just like you.”

Create & Thrive, by Jess Van Den. “A weekly podcast featuring interviews with successful makers, as well as solo shows where I share advice gleaned via running my own successful handmade business since 2008; and from the experience of helping thousands of other makers grow their businesses since 2013.”

Creative Empire Podcast, by Reina Pomeroy and Christina Scalera. “Connecting you with industry thought leaders to help develop the business side of your creative hustle.”

Creative Mornings. Creative Mornings is a monthly breakfast talk for the creative community that takes place in over 125 cities. The podcast features some of Creative Mornings’ best talks.

andy pizza creative pep talk podcast for creative entrepreneurs

Andy J. Pizza’s Creative Pep talk podcast helps commercial artists make money making awesome work.

Creative Pep Talk, by Andy J. Pizza. “I make the Creative Pep Talk Podcast to help commercial artists make money making awesome work.”

Creative Women International, by Philiy Page. “Creative Women International provides opportunities for women around the world to come together online, and in person, to support and inspire one another. We love the conversations that members and the Creative Women International community have with each other. We hope that you will be inspired to join us too!”

podcast for creative entrepreneurs dear handmade life

Dear Handmade Life, by Delilah Snell and Nicole Stevenson. “This bi-weekly podcast features drinks and discussions on creative business, DIY, craft and design for entrepreneurs and makers. Each week we’ll feature a drink (sometimes it will be a cocktail and other times it may be a favorite tea or juice).”

Design Life FM, by Charli Prangley and Femke. “A show about design and side projects for motivated creators.”

Drop and Give Me 20, by Lindsey Germono. “Drop and Give Me 20 is the podcast for military entrepreneurs. Each episode is 20 minutes long, giving entrepreneurs a glimpse into the life of other successful military entrepreneurs—learning from their obstacles, and gaining insight and inspiration. Podcast episodes focus on the stories, challenges, and wins military entrepreneurs have faced in their businesses.”

Elise Gets Crafty, by Elsie Joy. “A weekly podcast that talks mostly about creative small business.”

Entreleadership, by Ken Coleman. “The EntreLeadership Podcast features lively discussions and tips on leadership and business by some of the top minds in the business, like Mark Cuban, Seth Godin, Jim Collins and Simon Sinek.”

Help Yourself, a new one by Tara Gentile. “Help Yourself is a weekly live talk show that tackles entrepreneurship, marketing, mindset, social media, and management… as well as the comings, goings, and news in the digital small business space. If people are talking about it, we’ll be talking about it too—and inviting you into the conversation.”

How I Built This, by Guy Raz on NPR, “a podcast about innovators, entrepreneurs, and idealists, and the stories behind the movements they built. Each episode is a narrative journey marked by triumphs, failures, serendipity and insight — told by the founders of some of the world’s best known companies and brands. If you’ve ever built something from nothing, something you really care about — or even just dream about it, check out How I Built This.”

Inc. Uncensored. A weekly look inside the entrepreneurship news and what the editors and writers at Inc. think about the most important stories in our world.

Invisible Details, with Cory Miller and Kyle Adams. “A weekly show about building a successful brand through story and authenticity, featuring clear and practical advice on how to define your brand from the inside out, connect with your audience and stand out from the competition.”

Just Between You and Me, by Jen Lee and Tim Manley. “An intimate weekly phone call mostly about art-making.”

Lucky Break Consulting podcast, by Lela Baker. “A wisdom-infused-but-ridiculously-fun podcast designed especially for makers and product designers on the move, featuring conversations with smart, savvy entrepreneurs, wholesale buyers, financial pros, retail influencers, graphic designers, product photographers, and packaging pros.”

Make It Happen, by Jen Carrington. “A podcast for people aching to build an impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable creative life and business.”

MarieTV, by Marie Forleo, also available in podcast form. “MarieTV is our award-winning weekly show. It’s full of wit, wisdom and actionable ideas to help you create a business and a life you love. It’s written, produced and created by me (Marie) and my amazing team. We’re beyond thrilled to have an audience of all ages in 195 countries worldwide. We take our work seriously, but not ourselves.”

Marketing School, by Neil Patel. “Marketing School brings you 10 minutes of actionable marketing advice every single day.
Get the right tips to take your business to the next level.”

merriweather podcast graphic creative entrepreneurs

The Merriweather Council Podcast. For people who want to make a living doing what they love, selling what they make.

My Wife Quit Her Job, by Steve Chou, “an interview-based show where I bring in small business entrepreneurs who are killing it online. But there’s a twist. All of the entrepreneurs on my show bootstrapped their businesses and started their own ventures to improve their lifestyle in some way.”

Open for Business, from Gimlet Media and eBay. “A branded podcast about building a business from the ground up. It’s about the stuff no one tells you, the stuff you wish you knew, the stuff you should know when you’re starting a company. We bring you entertaining and little-known stories that also teach valuable lessons about starting or running a small business.”

The Potters Cast, by Paul Blais. “My main goal with The Potters Cast is to serve the community of ceramic artists and potters around the world by bringing interviews of other ceramicists straight to you. My hope is that while these shows are listened to that you will be challenged, encouraged, and inspired for your own creative endeavors.”

Profit. Power. Pursuit. podcast graphic creative entrepreneurs

Tara Gentile’s podcast, Profit. Power. Pursuit. features interviews with creative business owners like Justin Sheils.

Profit. Power. Pursuit. by Tara Gentile, produced by CreativeLive. “Your Backstage Pass To Successful Small Businesses. A podcast about the nitty-gritty details of how small business owners really manage their time, get new customers, develop outstanding products, and build their teams.”

Savvy Painter, by Anterese Wood. A podcast about the business of painting.

Shopify Masters, by Felix Thea. “Shopify Masters provides the knowledge and inspiration you need to build, launch and grow a profitable online store, featuring interviews with successful e-commerce entrepreneurs, unpacking how they’re building businesses that allow them to live the life they want.”

Simple Pin Podcast, by Kate Ahl. “The Simple Pin Podcast is a show dedicated to using Pinterest to boost your business. I interview people using Pinterest in creative ways to build their email list and increase revenue. In addition, I’ll bring you the latest updates, trends, and tips for maximizing your efforts without wasting your time. No crazy hacks to ‘game the system’ just solid advice you can use to grow your Pinterest presence.”

The Smart Passive Income Podcast, by Pat Flynn. “Weekly interviews, strategy, and advice for building your online business.” (Pat Flynn also hosts the Ask Pat podcast, “answering your online business questions five days a week.”)

StartUp, from Gimlet media. “StartUp is a podcast about what it’s really like to get a business off the ground.”

Startup Camp, by Dale Partridge. “A weekly podcast for people who want to turn their passion into their profession.”

Startup School, by Seth Godin. “Seth Godin is a thought leader in the marketing and business world. In this rare live recording, hear Seth as he guides thirty entrepreneurs through a workshop exploring how they can build and run their dream business.”

Stop Sucking at Business, by Megan Brame. A podcast for creative small business owners.

TGIM, by Shopify. “The essential podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. Some people can’t wait for the week to end. This is the podcast for people who can’t wait for the week to start. Join us every other Monday as we bring you inspirational stories from people harnessing their passion and creativity to build incredible businesses. Plus, you’ll hear from some of the world’s top entrepreneurs as they offer advice and wisdom to help you accelerate your success.”

Thrive by Design, from Flourish and Thrive (Tracy Matthews and Robin Kramer). “Combines Tracy’s personal experience as a designer with Robin’s expertise in client relationships, sales, branding and business systems. Together they offer a depth of insight and knowledge you won’t find anywhere else… and they keep things fun!”

The Tim Ferriss show, “generally the #1 business podcast on all of iTunes, and it’s been ranked #1 (of all 300,000+ podcasts) on many occasions. It is the first business/interview podcast to pass 100,000,000 downloads, and it has been selected as iTunes’ Best of 2014, Best of 2015, and Best of 2016 (most downloaded). Each episode, I deconstruct world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. This includes favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.”

What’s Your Story, by Meighan O’Toole. “I sit down with artists, makers and creative individuals to talk about their work, hear about their stories and anything else that comes up in between.”

While She Naps, by Abby Glassenberg. “I talk with designers and makers about what it really takes to build a creative business. Then we recommend great stuff we’re loving right now.”

Your Handmade Business, by Isaac Watson. “Your Handmade Business is a podcast for makers about the big picture of your business brought to you by the Academy of Handmade—helping you to do what you love and love what you do. Each episode we tackle an important (and sometimes uncomfortable) topic about running a handmade business and feature perspectives and experiences from Academy of Handmade members, as well as the greater maker community.”

Hopefully you’ve found some new content to inspire you in your own creative business endeavors. Happy listening!

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How to Recognize (and Take Advantage of) Tipping Points In Your Business

How to Recognize (and Take Advantage of) Tipping Points in Your Business | Advice from a Business Owner Who Got Her Products into Land of Nod

I follow Stacie Bloomfield, one of our most recent clients and the founder of Gingiber, on Instagram. She recently posted about taking her business to the next level, and I wanted to share what she wrote with you.

My dream is to take Gingiber and to turn it into a huge company. I want to see our wholesale business double this year, and then continue to grow. I want to to find amazing big partnerships that will be the perfect match for Gingiber. I want to be on a Target end cap. I want to develop the best products possible for those customers who found Gingiber because of my nursery illustrations, and have them continue to engage with our brand for years to come after.

I want to write books! I want to scale up. Big time. And I feel like my foot is on the accelerator, and it feels like such an amazing time to just dream of the future for my little company. You know, the one I created because I was pregnant with my first kiddo and couldn’t find nursery art that I liked, so I made my own. I believe success is mostly hard work, but really there is some luck mixed in. I’m ready for all the pieces to fall into place. I’m gonna take Gingiber to the next level. Thanks for your support and for following along! I’m so excited for what is in store!

This inspired me because Stacie has already accomplished so much, yet she never stops dreaming and doing. I know some of you sometimes feel stuck in various stages of your business, so I asked Stacie if we could interview her about how she recognizes and pursues these areas for growth.

Aeolidia: You started your business when you couldn’t find nursery art that you liked. But your product offerings definitely expand beyond nursery art today! Did you have a full vision for all the products you wanted to create when you were just getting started?

Stacie: When I started my business all those years ago (2009), all I wanted to accomplish was to decorate my daughter’s room. I had never considered the idea of creating a product-based business. However, once I started selling my art prints online on Etsy, I began to listen to customer feedback and suggestions about the other products they would love to have my designs on: clothing, pillows, calendars, cards, tea towels, etc. I took that feedback and explored further what I would actually enjoy creating and what I needed to ignore.

You’re in a pretty competitive space. There are a lot of other businesses that sell tea towels, greeting cards, art prints, etc. How do you differentiate yourself? What makes the Gingiber brand unique?

You are right, it is so competitive! I feel like what makes Gingiber unique is that I have a distinctive illustration style and have built brand legitimacy over the years with press coverage and successful partnerships with other companies. Perhaps to Gingiber’s detriment, the company is me and I am Gingiber. It’s such an extension of myself, my tastes, my interests, etc. The goal going forward is to keep pushing what works for Gingiber (the cute animals, the colors, and the patterns) and find a new spin on how to put products in the market that feel fresh and different.

How did you get to 22,000 Instagram followers? Specifically, what were some of the breakthrough moments that lead to the most growth for you on Instagram? Was it something you had to work at, or did it happen naturally?

My Instagram growth has been completely organic and slow. I mean, to me 22,000 doesn’t feel huge because I look around and see brands much younger than mine that have exploded with 100,000 followers. (Note to self: stop looking around and comparing!)

Earlier in the Instagram days I was within a small community of makers and brands who all supported and promoted each other’s brands. It was a time when you felt like you had enough wiggle room to use your valuable social media posts to promote other brands. Now, I feel like Instagram is so much more competitive that people aren’t as free to promote other brands as much as trying to keep their own narrative cohesive and clear. I tend to see a surge in followers when we announce a new product partnership or if a prominent social media account lists us in their comments.

Honestly, I wish I could grow faster. I lose and gain followers every day. I used to have one of those horrible apps that would show who unfollowed me, and that just hurts my heart too much! So, I deleted that app and decided to move forward. To me, the story of Gingiber’s growth is a slow and steady one. A year ago I think I had about 17,000 Instagram followers, so we are still growing, but trying to find the best way to engage our audience.

stacie bloomfield founder of gingiber

Stacie Bloomfield, founder of Gingiber, at home in her studio.

We’ve been talking on our blog and Facebook group recently about how to expand your business beyond Etsy. Your products have been featured in Martha Stewart.com, Better Homes and Gardens and Country Living, and you’ve done collaborations with Land of Nod, Moda Fabric and West Elm, just to name a few. What have been the things that have helped you achieve that spotlight and success, while others who have similar businesses find themselves perhaps “stuck” at the craft fair level?

Years ago, at the height of my Etsy success, I decided to take the plunge and start our own Gingiber website. I was scared, but I remember being encouraged by Amy from June and January that a good business needs to stand on its own and not have Etsy as the sole source of sales and traffic. Etsy can be helpful in the case of being discovered by publications and influencers, but I feel like that is changing over time. Much of my early press coverage came from Etsy, honestly. Wholesalers found me through it. Partnerships came from it. However, I decided early on that I would treat Gingiber as seriously as possible as a business and work like crazy to drive my brand forward.

I have always bet on myself. I know that if I am given an opportunity, I will work like crazy to put my best foot forward and to create a great finished product or illustration. I realized that I could create opportunities myself if I simply put myself out there. I began pitching my work and my brand to other companies, and used one great piece of press coverage to leverage the next partnership.

The first scary email I ever sent was directly to The Land of Nod. I put some images in the body of the email, gave an elevator pitch, and told them of my press coverage and how I knew I was the perfect match for their brand. Shockingly, they wrote back and said yes. I ran with it and treated that first collaboration with the utmost care. I had no idea what I was doing, honestly, but I learned as I went and was confident that I could figure out product design and layout. That first yes was like a gust of wind that propelled me forward and gave me courage to keep pitching myself.

I still love to do craft shows. I do them to keep connected to the maker community and my local audience. I feel it is so important. Seriously. And I have lots of colleagues who do so many more shows than I do and kill it. There is value in that path.

Gingiber narwhal tea towel

Gingiber custom raccoon art print

What advice do you have for business owners who are seeking similar breakthroughs?

Not every email is returned with a yes. I’ve made a practice of every time I get a “no,” I immediately pitch myself to someone else to keep momentum.

What do you think have been the smartest decisions you’ve made in order to take your business to the next level? 

The smartest decision I ever made was to say yes to things even when I was scared. I’ve learned to treat each opportunity, big or small, as a chance to further the Gingiber brand. My first scary step was quitting my day job. But, I had worked for 2 years part time and waited to quit until I had replaced my income with the money I was making from Gingiber. I will be completely honest that it hasn’t all been smooth. I’ve lost accounts. I’ve fumbled big opportunities simply because I didn’t understand the scope of a project. I’ve learned from it. There have been some big embarrassments over the years.

A year ago, I was at my lowest point emotionally running the business. I had made a business decision that had not paid off, and I was questioning my place in this small business world. Then I got an email that I almost didn’t open about a 16-week business course through the SBA for companies like mine within a certain income and age range. I was invited to interview for a spot in that class, but I felt like I didn’t have it in me to take it because I was weary and doubting myself. However, I cleared my head and remembered, “This is an opportunity to grow and try something new.” So I went to that interview, got a spot in that 16-week small business course, and it changed my life and the way I run my business.

I remember prior to the course thinking of shutting down Gingiber. Not kidding. The truth is that I simply needed the tools to learn how to run a business, not just a creative hobby. I think everyone who runs a creative business should find conferences, classes, continued education, etc., in order to get a better handle on what your goals are and how you can get there.

Gingiber Land of Nod sheets

Adorable sheepish sheets and pillowcases, the results of Gingiber’s collaboration with Land of Nod.

Gingiber wallpaper for Chasing Paper

Gingiber wallpaper for Chasing Paper

Gingiber fabric for Moda Fabrics

Have you made decisions that you’ve regretted or that have held you back?

Yes, so many! Early in my licensing career a big company hired me to design something for them. They said it was going to be a huge launch and really get my brand out there. However, I had just had a baby and wasn’t putting my best work out there.

In hindsight, I should have said no and built a relationship with this company, then re-approached them once I was done with maternity leave. I felt like I had to say yes because it was an opportunity, but in all honesty I had too much on my plate.

The work wasn’t great, and that relationship didn’t grow. It was a fear-based “yes,” not a brave “yes.” I think about this often when I want to pursue new projects or partnerships. Do I have the time to truly invest in this partnership? Is it going to be my best work? In fact, I am sitting on several projects right now, not starting them, because I need to create the space for it in my schedule.

Gingiber Shopify website for a gift store

Custom Shopify website by Aeolidia for Gingiber

 

It was such a joy to be able to design the new Gingiber website here at Aeolidia! When did you realize it was time for a new website?

I’ve known that I needed a new website for years. It is an investment for sure. I knew that a site had to happen this year no matter what, so we saved and earmarked money last year to try and make it happen.

Did you feel like the old website was holding you back? Were there things you were waiting to do until the new website was finished, and what were they?

Our old site wasn’t telling the Gingiber story, and I feel like we sell and do lots of cool things! The old website was like white bread. It had no personality! We were just selling on it, not telling a story. Not blogging. Not talking about licensing or wholesale. The new site has a licensing gallery that is for our design partners. We have revived the blog. We are also creating a wholesale website so our 300 retailers can order directly from us online rather than emailing an order.

You recently wrote an Instagram post about your dreams for Gingiber that included having your products featured on a Target end cap. A lot of business owners have similar dreams, but you have a knack for getting yourself where you want to go. What’s your secret?

My secret is that I 100% will put in the work to try and make my dreams a reality, and I will be tenacious. I’m like a (polite) dog with a bone. I decided long ago that the only thing holding me back was fear, so now I feel fearless when it comes to pitching myself to companies or exploring new products to launch.

I value the process of building industry relationships. We are in a relationship business. We want to build a relationship with our customers. We want to view our contemporaries as being a part of a big community, not competitors. I do my darnedest to be professional and meet deadlines. I am open to feedback and criticism and adjust when needed, but honestly, I feel confident that Gingiber has nowhere to go but up!

I am completely prepared that my company will look different 5 years from now and that part of running these types of business is the ability to pivot when trends change. For instance, I used to sell pillows like crazy. Then the market became saturated, and I watched and reacted and went in the direction that I needed to go in order to stay relevant and profitable.

Another huge component to my brand and how I run it is that I value being vulnerable when things are hard. I try to not shy away from the hard aspects of this industry, and I often share about them on social media. I feel like it has built a type of trust with my customer that is honest and true. I appreciate having that space to just be me and I think it comes through in my brand.

Shop the new Gingiber website!

Do you feel like your handmade business is reaching a crossroads?  Contact us to discuss how we can help you take your business to the next level. Want to know what we can do to help you grow your business? Download our services guide, here:

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