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
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
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.
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!)
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
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.
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.”
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 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!”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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!
Feel like you could use some more creative business inspiration? Join the club!
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, 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.
Adorable sheepish sheets and pillowcases, the results of Gingiber’s collaboration with Land of Nod.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Love them or hate them (and we know, many people hate them), email pop-ups (those windows that appear while you’re browing a website asking you to subscribe to an email list) are a necessary evil in the e-commerce world. Adding a pop-up can increase email signup conversion rates by several percentage points on average, and with email’s ridiculous power in e-commerce marketing (a 4300% ROI, really?) every new email address you grab means dollar signs for you.
But, ugh. How do you use an email pop-up in your online shop without feeling like a total jerkizoid?
We’ve been developing e-commerce websites on Shopify for a while now, and we’re also nice people, so we felt particularly qualified to answer the question of Shopify email pop-up tactics that convert visitors into subscribers without inspiring rage.
In this post, we’re going to cover some must-haves for pop-ups (non-negotiable stuff that can affect your website’s performance and search rankings), as well as some general advice on how to use them effectively without annoying people. We’ll also look at some awesome email pop-up examples from past Aeolidia clients and friends. (And don’t worry, while we focus on Shopify and some of the specific advice here is for Shopify, this advice applies to all e-commerce websites.)
Must-Have Considerations for Email Pop-Ups
Understanding Google Penalties for Mobile Pop-Ups
Starting in January 2017, Google unleashed a penalty for websites using “intrusive interstitials” for mobile views. What does this mean? To start with, “intrusive interstitials” basically means pop-up content, which on mobile can be incredibly disruptive to the user experience if it blocks most of the main content. So if your pop-up email capture box appears when someone visits your website from a mobile device (a phone or tablet) and it blocks most of the main content, Google now penalizes you by not showing your website as high in the search rankings. Not good!
Now, you may have a website that isn’t even showing up in search anyway, and maybe you’re collecting lots of email addresses from people on mobile devices using a pop-up. You might choose to ignore this policy. But you should at least know the risks you’re taking.
Using a Shopify Email Pop-Up App with Flexibility
So how do you turn off or modify pop-ups for just mobile users? You can use a Shopify email pop-up app where you control display settings for mobile (such as Privy, JustUno, WisePops, or Sumo, among others). If you’re not using Shopify, you want to work with a plugin or other code that is flexible enough to control pop-up settings for mobile users.
Monitoring Load Times and Site Speed
Some pop-ups can slow down your website load times, which can lead to a higher bounce rate and more Google penalties. If your pop-up email capture box is image-heavy (and the images are big), your site visitors might experience an interruption. You can check your site performance by running your URL through the Google Page Speed testing tool.
How to Not Be Annoying
Now that we’ve covered the considerations that might lead to bad things happening (site penalties and people clicking away), let’s talk about things that might simply annoy people.
We love this cute pop-up example from Emily McDowell Studio. Who can’t help but love the Annoying Pop-Up Bear?
Timing Is Everything
We’ve coded pop-ups to work differently based on traffic source, time of day, browser, repeat visits, time on site, etc. Many Shopify email pop-up apps allow this flexibility out-of-the-box, and this advanced targeting can yield amazing results. You should be able to control when your pop-up appears based on traffic source, repeat visit status, browsing time, scroll depth, etc. You can also set pop-ups to appear only on certain pages, or just when someone is about to click away forever (this is called “exit intent”). Make sure your pop-ups are smart enough to stay away after a user has dismissed or submitted one.
Pop-Up Content is King
It may seem like people immediately click away from pop-up windows without reading them, but A/B tests reveal varying success rates with different pop-up messages, so we know people absorb the content. (Spoiler alert: discounts always lead to more signups — wah wah.)
Basic elements of an email pop-up window:
Graphics: the visual elements (including photos, illustration, and colors) that appear inside the pop-up box
Intro copy: serves as the headline or greeting and appears alongside the call to action
Call to action: the compelling reason someone should sign up to your list (for example: sign up to our list to get 10% off your first order, etc.)
Dismissal option: the “x” at the top right corner or “no, thanks” that allows a visitor to click to get rid of the pop-up box
A good pop-up window should:
Reflect your brand voice
Communicate that the visitor will be signing up to a list
Communicate the value of signing up for your email list (what do they get for joining?)
Where Your Pop-Up Appears Matters
Past Aeolidia client Shiny Happy World uses an email pop-up that displays in the bottom corner of the website.
Your pop-up doesn’t have to appear as a box in the middle of the page. With many Shopify email pop-up apps, you can control the display type, so your pop-up can appear as an announcement bar, or pop in from the bottom corner, or even display as a full-page takeover.
You Don’t Have to Offer Discounts
This email pop-up example from one of our past clients, Fox & Clover, does not use a discount incentive.
Even though discounts tend to perform better as list signup incentives, you can capture plenty of emails without offering an immediate discount or free shipping. While these calls to action tend to be somewhat less compelling, you can still use them in a pop-up to gather more emails than you would if your signup incentive was sitting quietly in your email footer.
Madewell‘s email pop-up doesn’t offer an immediate discount. Instead, it relies on the brand’s popularity to entice people to sign up for the promise of new arrivals alerts and future sales.
Here are some ideas for email pop-up calls to action that don’t rely on immediate discount offers:
Giveaways: offering a change to win a small product (usually monthly) in exchange for joining the email list
Free digital content: giving away free digital downloads with useful information for your target audience in exchange for joining the email list (things like cleaning checklists, children’s coloring book printables, recipes, etc.)
Access to exclusive sales: running sales that you advertise only to your email list and communicating that joining the email list gives subscribers access to these sales
Free gift with purchase: offering a little something (that doesn’t cost you much) with an email subscriber’s first order
Always Be Testing
Don’t assume you know what will work best with your audience, even if you know them well! Always test conversion rates on variations of your pop-up placement, design and copy. How does an announcement bar compare to a box that pops up in the middle of the page? Or how does one signup incentive compare to another? What timing works best? What copy or graphics convert better? Some Shopify email pop-up apps offer A/B testing functionality out-of-the-box, but you can track statistics on your own by counting site visitors and signups associated with each version of your pop-up.
Examples of Awesome Pop-Ups That Don’t Inspire Rage
This great example from past Aeolidia client Mapamundi Kids has a great intro (“Let’s be friends!”) and two sign-up incentives. The graphics are playful, friendly, and totally on-brand.
Are bears particularly high-converting? Probably. This “bear hug” pop-up from our past client, Gingiber, uses a beautiful illustration that’s quite endearing, coupled with (again) TWO sign-up incentives. What’s not to love?
This email pop-up from another one of our past clients, Tickled Teal, has an attention-grabbing intro and a simple discount incentive. We love how the pop-up box is designed like an invitation, too!
This email pop-up example from Dogeared Jewelry uses a simple discount incentive and includes all the important fine print right on the pop-up window.
Go Forth and Use Pop-Ups… Wisely
Collecting email addresses is so important, and pop-ups are very effective, but they’ll never cease to be controversial. Every website is different, so what works for one e-commerce business may not work for yours. Test, analyze, and tweak your pop-ups regularly. And look at how other maker businesses are using pop-ups to be inspired! What kind of incentives, language and artwork are they using? What can you incorporate in your own business?
You certainly don’t want to “trick” people into being on your list. Give them a real, compelling reason want to hear from you and you’ll build an engaged email list that you can rely on for steady sales for years to come.
Get help setting up all the important elements of an online shop. Download our online shop setup checklist, here:
In addition to designing websites, logos and doing branding, our designers love working on package design. Package design is so, so important for physical products businesses! A well designed package can mean the difference between customers having that “a-ha” moment with your product (and buying it!) or just never picking it up at all, whether it’s sitting on a retail shelf, displayed at a craft fair, or selling online.
We worked on a package design project recently that I wanted to share with you for two reasons:
The before and after is just incredible. Our client went from literally packaging her product in a cardboard shipping tube to finally displaying one of her most innovative designs in a package that not only did her product justice, it looks beautiful.
I want to share how fun and collaborative our design process is. We don’t disappear into a sealed vault while designing packaging—we share our ideas and progress every step of the way. As you can see with this project, clients sometimes come up with ideas that create real breakthroughs in our design process.
A better package design for Siamese Social Club
Kristin Cella started creating her modern, sustainable pet products by hand after she couldn’t find any cat accessories on the market that fit her minimalist aesthetic. She founded her business, Siamese Social Club, in 2005. Sarah on the Aeolidia team designed Kristin’s new logo and brand identity in 2014, and this year we came back to polish up her packaging.
While her products delight customers looking for minimalism and functionality in their pet products, Kristin found that her minimalist, functional packaging wasn’t helping to sell one of her best designs, her magnetic fishing cat toy.
Kristen started selling the fishing rod toy in a simple cardboard tube package, which she purchased from Uline, affixed with stickers. But, as she explains,
I found that the magnetic fish were hard to fish out from inside. Also, the tubes had [the Uline] logo printed in blue inside the tube which would rub off on my toys. I had to wrap them individually before putting them in the tubes and it was a pain in the ass.
The tubes didn’t showcase the delightful product, either! Stacked on a shelf, they looked more like a shipment of products about to be dropped in the mail than a cleverly designed, minimalist cat toy.
Kristen needed a package design that showed what the product inside was. So she and her husband made a DIY attempt at a better package design.
Kristen’s DIY attempt at package design. Not bad, but it just wasn’t working for her.
While this box was a much better representation of the product than a plain-looking tube, the felted merino wool fish kept “floating” inside the package, and the exposed plain cardboard felt unfinished. Kristen knew this packaging wasn’t ideal.
Though her husband owns a local sign company and could print, cut, and assemble almost any box design they could come up with, the couple were still having trouble envisioning how to display the product in a box that held it together correctly and illustrated the toy’s magnetic functionality.
Visually the box wasn’t all that appealing and there was something missing from the design. The toy itself is such an unusual one, trying to meet all of my requirements (functionally, visually, price-wise, etc.) was the most challenging part. That’s why I decided to contact Aeolidia for help.
Getting Started with a Professional Package Design
Demonstrate that the toy uses magnets to attach the fish to the end of the pole, so cats can “capture” the fish, which can be reattached
Hold the product in place so customers could feel the felted wool fish without pulling it through the box, detaching it
Display the wood fishing pole so customers could see the paint detail and hold the material in their hands
Match the minimalist and sustainable feel of the Siamese Social Club brand
Illustrate that the product is for cats (duh!)
Be fairly easy to pack and assemble, as Kristen would be doing the boxing by hand
In addition, the packaging had to communicate a short but important safety notice.
Tall order, right? Not to worry! This is why you call in the professionals.
Preliminary Sketches and Design Ideas
Almost immediately, Sarah came up with the idea to include an illustration in the product package design that would communicate instructions for use in a simple, easy-to-understand style.
You know, sort of like how IKEA do their instruction books. Step one, unbox. Step two, jiggle in front of cat. Step three, cat pupils dilate with hunt instinct. Step four, enjoy play. I see this in my head and it’s so cute and dorky!
I tried to keep everything as minimal as possible while using enough detail to convey how to play with the toy and that the end is magnetic and comes off once the kitty has pounced on its “prey.”
Because she was familiar with the client, Sarah included a few extra details in her IKEA-esque drawing and waited for Kristen’s approval.
Ohhhhh my gosh, Sarah, this is fantastic! Really, it is SO good! The cat is adorable (the increasing pupil size is amazing and I LOVE how you snuck in that cat butthole—classic Sarah!) and it totally shows how everything works as simply as possible. And the little zappy lines in the last one emphasize the magnet perfectly!
Haha, I am so, so glad you like this! I was a bit scared the butthole would be a bit too much but I am thrilled you dig it! I think anyone who owns a cat sees plenty of butt to not be offended by this. 😛
For the package design, Sarah envisioned a minimal, triangle-shaped box.
Since triangles feature heavily in your brand style I thought it might be cool to bring it into your packaging design, a simple triangle box with a fishy cutout at the bottom. Then we could get the fish pressed up against the cutout like you already do in the boxes you are using now. I love this as people can feel the texture of the fish. I worry that people might be able to pull the fish through the hole, and that would suck, so we might need to test some ideas on how to stop that from happening. Maybe even just making the cutout shape smaller so they can feel but can’t pull anything through.
Sarah’s original package design for the triangular Siamese Social Club cat toy box with paper sleeve, which included a cut-out that exposed the felted wool fish.
Sarah also envisioned a paper sleeve to fit over the triangular box that would contain a pop of color and all the information.
Then I’m thinking we add a fitted sleeve to the box that slips over the top and sits in the center. These are super easy to make and put together. I’m thinking bright white card stock, bright logo, and your triangle pattern sprinkled around the place with all the information for your product on each of the three sides: washing instructions, about Siamese Social Club, cat illustration, etc.
Sarah’s original design for the package’s paper sleeve.
One thing that this package design did not include, however, was a way for buyers to see and touch the detail on the wood rod design, which is actually dipped in paint—quite a beautiful finishing touch!
After interacting with Sarah’s triangular box design for a while, Kristen actually devised a hack she thought would work.
Kristen devised this package design hack based on Sarah’s design. Here, you can see the exposed wood fishing rod with its dipped paint detail.
We love working with clients who become a part of the design process! This innovation on Kristen’s end was a real breakthrough on this project.
Sarah and Kristen both came to the conclusion that, with the exposed rod, an additional paper sleeve was no longer needed. So Sarah worked up a new package design that incorporated the exposed rod cut-out with details printed directly onto the box design.
Finishing Touches and Final Details
Kristen worked at her husband’s sign shop to print up mock-ups of the box in several colors.
Kristen experimented with printing the design on several different colors and materials.
Ultimately she settled on white, which helped Sarah’s illustrations and designs really stand out.
The final design prototype!
The final package design in all its glory.
Back of box, showing instruction illustrations
Cut-out detail, where you can feel the fishy without detaching it, and understand that it’s magnetic.
Now that I have new packaging, my toys are selling much faster in person at craft shows and I’ve seen a slight increase in online sales, too. Overall, everyone who sees the new box design gets pretty excited, especially when they discover the illustrated directions on the back!
Are your product sales suffering because of poor package design? Contact us to talk about how Aeolidia can help design product packaging that elevates your brand and helps your products fly off the shelves. Want to know what we can do to help you grow? Download our services guide, here:
With its massive, built-in community of buyers, search ranking dominance, and near total ownership of the handmade marketplace online, Etsy is a powerful sales platform for entrepreneurs who want to start and grow creative businesses. You would be hard pressed to launch your own website and reach the sales numbers you can achieve within the first few months of selling handmade goods on Etsy, and that’s why so many sellers flock to the platform as a first step.
But what if, after some time selling on Etsy, you feel like you’ve hit a wall? Maybe your sales have plateaued, or you’re receiving violation notices with Etsy threatening to terminate your account. Maybe you’ve started running Facebook ads and are tired of paying for traffic that you have no control over. Or maybe your product line is expanding to the point where you can no longer adhere to Etsy’s manufacturing policies.
Whatever the reason, many sellers find themselves feeling like their handmade business has outgrown Etsy, and they’re unsure of next steps. How do you expand your business beyond the limitation of the Etsy platform, and is it worth the extra time and effort to do so?
Are these 6 Etsy issues limiting your business growth?
We’re going to take a look at a number of ways selling only on Etsy can limit your business growth, and we’ll talk about how to assess whether these limitations are just the worthwhile cost of doing business with Etsy, or a sign your business is ready to expand.
The Etsy Algorithm
Etsy’s search algorithm is complex and not fully transparent, so just when you think you’ve mastered getting your products found in search, things change. If you’re only selling on Etsy and your products are no longer discoverable via the Etsy search engine, you could experience a serious drop in sales.
While Etsy is transparent about some of its ranking factors, such as title and tag relevancy and listing quality, some sellers swear their shop traffic dips mysteriously from month to month, or that Etsy puts “sales caps” on their monthly earnings. This may sound conspiratorial, but the underlying frustration is that sellers don’t feel in control of their traffic from Etsy search, their most important acquisition channel.
Is this an issue for you? If you’re only selling on Etsy and you sometimes experience unexplained stretches with low traffic and zero sales, you may be coming to the realization that you can’t rely on Etsy alone for shop traffic. This means you have to do some marketing to drive traffic to your shop on your own, as Etsy’s built-in marketing engine is no longer working for you. The question then becomes: if you’re doing your own marketing to combat the ebb and flow of Etsy algorithmic changes, do you want to spend that energy (and budget) driving traffic back to Etsy, or to a domain you own?
For low-volume businesses, Etsy fees aren’t that much of an issue. Many sellers consider them to be part of the cost of marketing (which they aren’t paying for because Etsy already has a built-in buying audience). But once you start making more sales in your business, the Etsy fees add up, often eclipsing costs you’d pay on other e-commerce platforms. (Check out our blog post on Etsy fees for low versus high-volume shops.)
Is this an issue for you? At high volume, you can save hundreds—sometimes thousands—of dollars by switching to a platform like Shopify. You can redirect these savings into marketing expenditures to help drive traffic to your new Shopify store. If you want a real-life example of what this looks like, read about how Amy, owner of Little Hip Squeaks (now June & January), came to the conclusion that she was paying too much in Etsy fees.
Use our Etsy vs. Shopify fee calculator to see how much you would save on fees based on your monthly Etsy sales volumes.
No Control Over Your Branding
You may know you’re a legit business owner (you certainly work hard enough!), but when you’re selling solely on Etsy, people sometimes view your business differently. Tricia Lee, owner of KidEssence, summed this phenomenon up perfectly:
I cringe when friends ask, “How’s your Etsy business?” It’s not Etsy’s business, it’s my business that I work extremely hard to build.
Similarly, when someone purchases something from your Etsy shop, they don’t think of it as having been purchased from you.
When people buy a product on Etsy, and a friend asks them where they got [it], the response is normally, “I got it on Etsy,” not the store/artist/brand.
Is this an issue for you? There are instances when you may want to brand yourself and your shop as something bigger than “Etsy seller” or “Etsy business.” For example, think about the information that goes on a business card you hand to potential wholesale buyers at a trade show. Do you want to use your Etsy shop’s URL, or your own domain? Your own domain certainly looks more professional. And while it’s true that a domain can redirect to an Etsy shop, is that where you want to send potential wholesale customers?
Even if you’re making more sales on Etsy than your own website, just having a website lends a legitimacy to your business that is hard to establish on the Etsy platform, and if you need that legitimacy to reach the next step in your business, getting your own domain might be the smart way to get there.
Selling Next Door to Your Competitors
On your own website, you have a bit more control over the user experience than you do on Etsy, where a customer using the search tool might leave your shop and buy a similar product from another business on Etsy.
Is this an issue for you? While comparison shopping is to be expected, even outside of Etsy, the rules change when you start running ads.
If I am paying to drive the traffic, I want it directed at a higher-converting site that I own that is not showcasing my competition. I paid for that customer, so I want to retain them and put my best foot forward toward making the sale.
If you’re paying for traffic to your Etsy shop, you run the risk of paying for people to buy from your competition. Not a great position to be in!
No Control Over Customer Relationships
Even though people are buying from you on Etsy, Etsy maintains that the email addresses you collect in the course of a transaction can only be used for “Etsy-related communications or for Etsy-facilitated transactions.” Etsy does not allow you to add buyers to your email list, nor do they facilitate any intuitive, high-converting way of capturing the email addresses of people interested in your shop. In essence, there’s no easy way to keep in touch with people who have favorited one of your items or bought something from you.
Is this an issue for you?
Given that e-commerce conversion rates from email marketing are typically high, especially from advanced email marketing tactics like abandoned cart emails, controlling your relationship with your customer via email is important. Email also allows you to foster repeat purchases. If your business has any chance of getting another sale from someone who’s bought from you already, you might consider migrating to a platform where you have better control over building an email list you can actually communicate with.
Restrictions on Product and Production
In the course of running your business, you might need to update your production process in order to scale. Etsy only allows items made by you or a production partner (i.e. “manufacturer”), as long as you’re still the designer. And they have list of 4 critical pieces of information you have to share in every listing if you are working with a manufacturer rather than making the items yourself. While their policies make sense for the platform, they’re a bit restrictive for handmade sellers looking at various options for expanding production. Even if you are meeting the (somewhat nebulous) standards of the policy, Etsy states:
We reserve the right to reject any production partnerships that aren’t in the letter or spirit of this policy, Etsy’s Handmade Policy, or our ethical expectations. We would hate to do it, but if we find that you’re not being open and honest or that your shop violates our policies or ethical expectations, we may suspend or terminate your account.
This means your account could be terminated at any time without warning should you fail to respond to a more detailed inquiry about your manufacturing process.
Is this an issue for you?
If you’re a handmade seller making everything yourself, probably not. But once you venture into the world of hiring others to help with production, your shop and livelihood is at the mercy of Etsy’s cloaked decision making process. Just check out this story from Market Your Creativity’s Lisa Jacobs — who was making her full-time living on Etsy — describing what happened when Etsy decided her shop violated their policies. Once you start expanding your production process, diversifying your revenue streams helps protect you from unwarranted account closures.
Should You Leave Etsy, or Just Diversify?
If you feel your business is outgrowing Etsy, you now have a decision to make:
Keep your Etsy shop open and add other revenue streams
Close your Etsy shop and focus solely on new revenue channels
Each choice has its pros and cons.
Wrenay Gomez Charlton, owner of Paper Hive Studio, keeps her Etsy shop open in addition to maintaining her own website. “Etsy is just a sales channel,” she says, “so it’s one of many ways for me to expose my products to potential customers. I view my online shop as my main hub with Etsy, Facebook shop, Instagram shop, craft fairs, trade shows, etc. as strands from that hub — all working to reach new customers and promote my brand.”
With so many sales channels, inventory management can become an issue. If you do decide to keep your Etsy shop open, you should come up with a reliable system for tracking inventory as it sells from multiple platforms.
A few ways to handle this:
List only your best sellers on Etsy, not your entire product line
Use Etsy as a clearing house for old inventory and sale items
Invest in inventory management tool like Craftybase (we know this software has mixed reviews) that can help you track inventory across sales platforms
What Should You Do If You Want to Leave Etsy
If you plan on leaving Etsy entirely, be aware that driving traffic to a brand spankin’ new online shop isn’t a walk in the park at first. It takes time to build up traffic, especially the kind of traffic you’re used to from Etsy, so plan to work double time for a while, selling on both your website and Etsy.
Some ideas for getting traffic to your new shop:
Point all your social media accounts to your new domain
Think about any referral traffic (traffic from other websites, including blogs) you’re currently getting to your Etsy shop. Can you contact the blogger and have them redirect the link to your store domain?
Start directing Etsy traffic to your website for future orders (you can do this with your digital communication or with postcards included in each order)
Offer better deals through your website than on Etsy, at least for a while
Open up your website to wholesale orders, if you offer them
Consider running paid ads on social media to your new domain
Once traffic on your website ramps up, you can shutter your Etsy shop. But don’t delete your account entirely! Keep it open with no inventory, and use your profile to point to your shop domain. Etsy has fairly liberal linking policies, so it’s okay to include outbound links from your Etsy profile as long as they’re not directing users elsewhere to make a purchase.
It All Starts With a Plan
Whether you’re planning to leave Etsy entirely or simply expand your online presence, migrating away from a surefire sales channel is a daunting task — certainly not something you want to take on overnight. Leaving Etsy, or expanding beyond it, should be part of your long-term business planning. Create a list of pros and cons. Experiment with income projections. Make a list of assets you’ll need (a domain name, a website, a marketing budget) in order to make the transition.
While it may feel difficult at first, a move away from a single marketplace channel will ultimately give you more control over your business, and this can only help you grow.
If you feel like you’re ready to move beyond Etsy, you need a stellar website to get you to the next level. Want to know what we can do to help you grow? Download our services guide, here:
I subscribe to the Handcrafted HoneyBee newsletter, and I’m always impressed by how well our client, Stacia Guzzo, knows her audience and is able to keep her newsletter interesting and engaging. Her recent email about the evolution of her trade show booth is one that I wanted to share with you! –Arianne
There are times in life when new things feel exceptionally scary.
Sometimes the new things are small: a new schedule. A different teacher. A new pet.
Sometimes the things are much bigger: a move to a totally new location. A new job. Starting college (or your child leaving for college). A choice for sobriety. A new baby.
A shift into new territory comes with a bit of discomfort, no matter how good it is in the larger picture of our lives.
Back in January, I experienced that very discomfort from a new experience—and the implications on our lives as business owners have been significant. I exhibited at my very first trade show. And I felt so, so small.
If you’re unfamiliar with what a trade show might be, imagine it as a gigantic, temporary candy shop for store owners. It’s a place where hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of businesses, large and small, put their best foot forward. Everyone’s goal is the same: entice buyers from boutiques and big box retailers alike to consider selling their products.
On a cold, rainy morning six months ago, I set up a small booth at the Las Vegas Market and hoped that the buyers who walked by would see all of the love, sweat, and time poured into our microbusiness. I planned our booth for weeks ahead of time—I bought new furniture, painted props, and designed catalogs.
It was intimidating to watch people come by, look us over, and consider and what we had to offer.
At the time, I had wanted our booth to look PERFECT for that first show so we could get into as many new stores as possible. In retrospect… it didn’t look bad. But compared to many other talented artists around us, it didn’t necessarily stand out as stunning.
The first Handcrafted HoneyBee trade show booth at the Las Vegas Market wasn’t stunning.
I learned lessons throughout that first trade show—things I never could have known without actually doing it—about what worked and what didn’t. I learned about what translated well and what was confusing to buyers. I learned how much was too much and what I wished I had brought instead.
And afterward, even though I knew I would do a few things differently the next time, the scariness didn’t feel as scary anymore.
Improving a trade show booth design… one show at a time
So when we attended our next trade show a few months later, I gave it another try. Our next booth had a theme. We took a lot of time setting up, and we dove into the trade show hoping that our mission and message would come across more clearly.
Our second attempt at trade show booth design was better, but we still felt like there was room for improvement.
This worked a little better—but again, I left feeling like there were things I could have done better. Robert and I took notes and thought of how we could improve our clarity and presentation.
And once again, the scariness diminished a bit.
Just a few weeks after that, I flew out to Dallas for a market show with our new sales rep group. SmartyPits was featured in their showroom, and they had professionally designed my space. All I had to do was come and tell my story as the maker!
I was floored by the booth they had created:
It was so simple. So effective. So… perfect. They had conveyed effectively what I had struggled to express in my prior booth designs.
I walked around the showroom while I was there and studied the other booths. What worked, visually? Why had they been able to make such a compelling booth, where I had struggled?
You can’t skip over the hard parts
For a little bit, I felt frustrated that I couldn’t create such a clear, clean, joyful design on my own at a trade show. It wasn’t for lack of passion!
But the reality was this: I needed each experience to learn a little bit more.
Isn’t that such a common human experience? We want to feel totally comfortable and at ease with a new thing from the very beginning—the new job, or parenthood, or fitting into the new school, or adapting to the new schedule.
We wish we could skip over the hard part: the learning.
The part where we figure out what works and what doesn’t. Where we face the things that fall flat. Where we realize that we need to work harder at the things which are working.
Learning is one of the bravest things we can do. The chance to learn is ten times more valuable than the outcome of immediate success.
The opportunity to learn—to try, to receive constructive criticism, to adapt, to be praised—make us more compassionate, more emotionally and mentally agile, and more open to possibility beyond what we expected.
And so this weekend, we’re back at the Las Vegas Market for the second time. I’ve taken what I learned over the last 6 months—the critiquing eyes, the helpful suggestions, the confusion, the ‘A-ha!’ moments, and the guidance in the sales rep showroom—and I’ve come back to try again.
I think this might be our best booth yet.
I know there’s still plenty to learn. And I know that the design of a trade show booth isn’t, in the long run, that big of a deal.
But it’s significant to me, because it embodies a bigger lesson. It’s a lesson we all learn, again and again, and it’s a good one.
It’s the lesson that my best self is still out there, and that tomorrow I will get another chance to try to be that best self, from the knowledge I gained every day prior.
And, I suppose, that makes the lessons of tomorrow a little less scary. Or perhaps I just feel a little less scared.
You can get past this awkward teenage stage for any aspect of your business by hiring design help. Contact us to talk about creating a beautiful, cohesive brand for your business! Want to know what we can do to help you grow your business? Download our services guide, here:
Our website redesign for Cactus Fine Art incorporated use of a 360-degree photo app.
If you’re looking to replicate in-person shopping experiences on your ecommerce website, consider incorporating a 360-degree photo app into your product listings. As the name suggests, a 360-degree photo app lets your customers view your products from all angles—they can zoom in, zoom out, turn them to the right or left, and toggle up or down. This works especially well for products that customers may want to scrutinize before purchasing, such as jewelry, clothes, toys, housewares, and art.
Based in Mexico City, Cactus Fine Arts gathers the finest works of folkloric art from some of the most recognized artisans in Latin America. Entrepreneur and art curator Ricardo Vazquez knew that he needed to make web customers feel like they were viewing each piece up close and in-person in order to successfully launch his fine art store for an international audience. Ricardo wanted a website that would be more than a shop; it would be a gallery that showcased the craftsmanship, culture, detail, and traditions of each item in the collection. To serve their international market, the new website would also exist in two iterations: an English and Spanish version with corresponding currencies.
Aeolidia’s brand guide for Cactus Fine Art
Covering All Angles, Starting With a New Logo
Our first step entailed designing a visual identity for Cactus Fine Arts, which included a new logo, graphic design elements including patterns and brand marks, and marketing collateral. The brand’s tagline—Handmade Heart—served as inspiration for Brooke on our design team, as did this statement by Ricardo: “When I see the handcrafts that we will be selling, I see the heart of the artisans reflecting their feelings in the masterpiece, the same as a Cactus.”
Brooke created a clean logo mark to represent the brand’s high-end, exclusive products. The prickly pear watercolor illustration looks like an abstract heart, connecting both the name of the company and the heart of the skilled artisans at the core of the brand. “Together, these elements position Cactus Fine Art as a fresh, artistic, and welcoming brand that sells exclusive products and is respected by collectors of high-quality handcrafts,” Brooke said.
Business card design for Cactus Fine Art
Designing a Store that Showcases Your Art
When choosing colors for both the logo and website, Brooke was mindful of creating a palette that would be refreshing, but not intrusive. The shop’s main goal was to showcase the art pieces front and center, so she designed a sleek, clean home page that allows the images to shine without competing with other page elements. Scrolling below the fold reveals some pops of color balanced with white space, easy-to-read typography, and vibrant, eye-catching images of the artisans’ works.
The home page invites customers to visit the shop through a few different avenues: the main navigation, the category links below the intro text, or the featured items along the bottom of the homepage. Once on an individual item page, customers get a chance to really appreciate the art in all of its 360-degree glory.
We designed business stationery for Cactus Fine Art, too!
Our developer, Jon, chose a 360-degree photo app called Arqspin that could easily be integrated with the brand’s Shopify site. A real perk of the app is that it allows store owners to upload new products as they’re added to stock. You purchase or rent a turntable, shoot the products yourself, and use the platform’s phone app to capture a full spin of the product and upload it to your site.
The result for visitors is unlike any other shopping experience. “It allows for customers to spin the products around and see a 360-degree view, almost as if they were holding the product in their hand and examining it,” Jon said.
For art pieces such as sculptures, vases and jewelry, as well as home decor items such as pottery, or even children’s toys, this complete, multi-angle view allows customers from all corners of the globe to take in the products’ full beauty.
Have you been thinking about expanding a wholesale business into online retail? Although seemingly daunting, this process is actually easier than you might assume. After all, you’ve already done most of the important work: you have a brand your audience loves, products that are proven to sell, and systems in place to fulfill customers’ orders.
We recently completed a redesign of the Hester & Cook website to help them expand their e-commerce sales. Known within the gift industry for its trendsetting paper placemat pads and table runners, Hester & Cook is a favorite among retailers looking to cater to customers who love setting beautiful tables without any fuss.
Hester & Cook custom Shopify design for a kitchen accessories shop by Aeolidia.
Investing in your retail business to help it grow
Although Angie Hester Cook and her husband Robbie Cook launched their company 11 years ago, the Hester & Cook retail site had been running for eight of those years with pretty average results. Hester & Cook Art and Marketing Director Courtney Cochran had recently turned her attention to growing this part of the business, and she quickly encountered what she called “a barrel of limitations.” The website was not mobile-friendly, which made it harder for customers who shop on tablets or phones to make purchases. On the back end, adding new products to their growing line was becoming challenging, as was collecting important data, such as Google Analytics and visitor conversion rates.
Website design before Aeolidia:
Hester & Cook before Aeolidia
We kick off each project by discussing a client’s goals, and it was clear that Courtney was aiming high. This was great, because it meant every aspect of the new site would need to be at 100 percent upon launch. We always give projects 100 percent— and we love it when clients do, too.
To aim for the team’s high conversion rate goals, Arianne explained it goes far beyond design to also encompass photography, product descriptions, policies and shipping options provided by the client.
“Your marketing strategy will have to be refined to only be reaching out to your target customers,” Arianne said of how brands should expect to contribute to the process. “Your team would need to be available to provide the best possible content for the website during the preparation stage of your project.”
Website design after Aeolidia:
Hester and Cook website design for a gift and home décor brand.
Tapping into your brand’s strengths & potential
Our overarching goal that set the direction for this redesign was to make Hester & Cook’s online retail sales strong enough to be on par with their wholesale accounts. After all, the brand had huge potential—our job was to make their neglected e-commerce site live up to it, both in terms of design and functionality.
Do-Hee got to work on designing an updated and beautifully branded experience that would not only appeal to Hester & Cook’s current customer base, but also attract a new online clientele. Because the brand already had such a strong following, it was important that the online experience match the quality of their curated, flagship brick-and-mortar store.
“Visually, I took inspiration from Hester & Cook’s new logo, beautiful products, and timeless color palette to create a classic, but contemporary look and feel,” Do-Hee said. “Details such as the curved page corners, editorial typefaces, and stationery-inspired tables, add dashes of personality to this clean design.”
A completely updated and polished e-commerce design showcases Hester & Cook’s range of products beautifully, which helps to further instill customer confidence in the brand as the go-to for high-quality kitchen and home goods.
But the visual transformation is just the beginning. With a redesigned navigation, visitors can now quickly understand what Hester & Cook has to offer. That helps improve shopability and, of course, the retail shop’s conversation rate.
Beloved children’s clothing brand Well Dressed Wolf already had so much going for it when founders Sarah and Shannon came to us for a logo and web design refresh. Their timeless, yet original designs are adored by loyal moms and happy children. The growth and success of their brand had recently allowed them to expand their offerings through a family of sub-brands, Omi Jo and Wildling.
Given that Sarah and Shannon hand-sketch, sample, and fit every piece in their collections, it was no surprise that they’d also created a strong visual identity for them.
“Marketing is really something I love,” Sarah told us. “I design children’s clothing, but I have also done all of the graphic design and marketing and photography for our business up to this point.”
All together now: bringing sub-brands together through design
We were excited to help take the Well Dressed Wolf family to the next level by bringing their established aesthetic together in a more streamlined, functional fashion that echoed their beautiful style.
We expanded on an existing logo by creating a detailed brand identity for Well Dressed Wolf, creator of quality children’s garments.
Christine began by brushing up their existing logos and optimizing them for the web by vectorizing the previous artwork, which gave them all a crisper, cleaner look. Next, she focused on establishing visual unity by creating a color palette and selecting typography that would work well—both within each sub-brand and across the entire family.
A couple of new design elements helped complement and enhance the brand’s existing logos. A custom illustration of a hand-in-hand child and a wolf with stars and a moon floating above them served as a whimsical foundation for a new brand mark and textures.
A new set of websites for an enduring brand
With a refreshed brand guide in place, Christine designed an original, easy-to-use look for the new Well Dressed Wolf Shopify website that maintained all the adorable charm of the brand’s aesthetic.
Custom website design for Well Dressed Wolf, creator of quality children’s garments.
“The website expands on the sweet branding we’ve established, while telling the story of Well Dressed Wolf, showcasing your wonderful clothes, and inspiring your customers—new and trusted alike—to make a purchase,” she said. “Accented with a few illustrative details along with classic and feminine typography, the overall look is professional but warm. A place where the Well Dressed Wolf community will feel right at home.”
The site was designed to be equally beautiful on the inside, with more streamlined functionality to improve customers’ shopping experiences. Using the template we created for the main site, Sarah and Shannon were able to customize the web design for the Omi Jo and Wildling brands—all while maintaining a cohesive feel.