I’m happy to introduce Erin Dollar, a designer I’ve admired for a long time! She’s here to share a behind the scenes of growing a textile business, creating multiple income streams, and partnering with other businesses to grow her brand.
My interview with Erin follows. Text in bold is me, answers to the bolded questions are Erin. Here we go!
I’m the designer behind Cotton & Flax, a collection of modern handmade home decor featuring my original pattern designs. I create pillows, tea towels, coasters, and other decor and gift items, with a focus on natural materials and low-waste production practices. I aim to create beautiful home decor that’s gentle on the environment.
My patterns begin as ink drawings, and I focus on creating minimal patterns with that perfect level of handmade, wabi-sabi imperfection, which adds charm to your living spaces. My fabrics are special because they are high-quality natural fibers, and each piece is hand silkscreen printed in studio, which makes for a stunning piece of utilitarian textile art. I’ve recently started partnering with other companies to license my designs, like my first fabric collection with Robert Kaufman, which debuted this summer.
How long have you been in business? What can you pinpoint as a turning point to your business’ popularity? What propelled you forward and how did you know you’d “made it?”
I’ve been in business for five years. I think the turning point was really in year two, when I finally had a grip on how to market my products, and partnered with some talented photographers to execute that vision. Ira Glass describes the frustrating state that lots of creative people face, when your vision doesn’t match the outcome of your creative pursuits. It wasn’t until I started collaborating with more photographers, stylists, and designers that my vision for Cotton & Flax started to match what I imagined it could be. I knew the business was working when I started to see my work featured on blogs and in magazines. Having my work recognized in that way was very encouraging!
Is your product entirely handmade? Could you describe who makes your product and how? How has that changed over the life of your business?
All my products begin as pattern sketches and handmade prototypes. I draw each pattern by hand using a brush and sumi ink, which give my patterns their unique look. Production for Cotton & Flax is often handled by me in my studio — I still print all the fabrics myself, and manufacture the coasters, trivets, and some of the tea towels in house.
Now that I sell to dozens of retailers, and my product range has gotten more diverse, I have production partners who help me finish certain products. I have wonderful sewers in LA who take my printed fabrics and turn them into pillows and tea towels, I partner with Scout Books in Portland to create the patterned notebooks, and I collaborate with local small business owners to create the leather keychains (Deakin Handmade) and sachets (Minor Thread).
How have you found production partners, and what have you learned from the experience?
I’ve found most of my production partners through word of mouth, and talking with other textile designers. Some designers are happy to share their production partners and sources, because it means sending more support to a vital partner of their business. Living in Los Angeles, which has a large manufacturing sector, it’s been relatively easy to find the supplies and production partners I need for my business. Even so, it’s been so important to have a firm understanding of my profit margins, so I can decide what products make sense to put into production, and how outsourcing can fit into that plan.
I know you balance your business with multiple revenue streams: wholesale, retail, workshops, and consulting. Could you share a bit about how that works, and why you would recommend diversifying like this?
I love having multiple income streams, because I naturally have a lot of interests, and having lots of different projects keeps me from getting bored with my work. I love the way that my retail and wholesale business feeds into my work as a creative educator! Sometimes my customers will learn more about my work, and want to learn more about printmaking or pattern design by taking a workshop with me. Sharing my passions with others through teaching has been a great way to keep things feeling fresh in the studio.
Similarly, the consulting and education I do for other small business owners is my way of connecting with the creative business community, and sharing what’s worked for me in running Cotton & Flax. Running a creative small business can feel really isolating at times—you spend your days in the studio, or fulfilling online orders, and you often don’t have a lot of people to bounce ideas off of, or get advice from. By partnering with CreativeLive, as well as speaking at conferences and doing interviews like this one, I hope to connect with other creatives, and form a supportive network that will boost all of our businesses.
You have worked with retailers large and small. Do you see a big difference between working with chain stores, such as West Elm, and independent stores, such as Rare Device? How have these relationships shaped your business?
I love working with my retail shop partners! The majority of the shops that I work with are independent stores, often run by just a handful of people. These shop owners truly amaze me with their incredible dedication to supporting designers and sharing their love of handmade pieces. Developing great relationships with my stockists is very important to me, and it all comes down to communication. Keeping them informed about turnaround time, product updates, and what they can expect from you makes that working relationship a lot smoother.
With larger stores, like West Elm or CB2, there are a lot more hoops to jump through in terms of onboarding and production, but the reach is incredible! Having lots of eyeballs on your work can be incredibly beneficial, and many of the larger retailers are eager to partner with up and coming brands. It’s all about finding the right fit, and making sure that expectations are clear from the get go.
Where do you promote your work most? How do you sell it? How much time do you spend on marketing or promotional work?
I love using social media to keep in touch with my customers, and that’s my biggest go-to in terms of marketing my work for Cotton & Flax. I try to take a pretty relatable and authentic approach to selling my products; I try to highlight the things that set my work apart, and share with a group of people who value handmade work. I haven’t done traditional advertising so far, but I do everything I can to share what I’m doing with editors from magazines, blogs, and other influential spaces, and I’ve been lucky to receive some coverage from those efforts. Each year I try to refine my marketing process—everything seems to change so quickly these days, with the growth of new social media networks and new ways of sharing your work with the world.
What do you like about how you sell your goods? What about your selling process is not ideal for you?
One of the things I’ve debated over the last year is whether to open a retail space for Cotton & Flax. It’s one of the natural next steps for a business like mine, but the financial commitment and level of management required has been somewhat unappealing to me. Cotton & Flax is primarily an online retail business, which means I miss out on organic traffic of people walking into a physical retail space. For now, I’m satisfied with relying on my retail partners, who carry my work in their shops, to fill that role in my marketing plan. Someday I may be ready to expand into my own retail space, but for now, lower overhead is still a priority.
Is your business financially sustainable?
For the foreseeable future, yes! As I continue to grow Cotton & Flax, I hope that revenue will continue to increase, and that I’ll be able to continue my journey as an artist and a product designer. My worries are likely the same ones that other business owners face—what happens if I get sick or injured, or if I want to take time away from the business to have children? I’d love to see changes on a public policy level that would help create a safety net for small business owners, and encourage more people to take this path.
How do you see your business growing in the next few years? Do you intentionally keep it a certain size? Would you like to expand? If so, how?
In the next few years, I plan to focus more on pattern designs and licensing my creative work. I love working on large-scale projects, and I’ve found that collaboration has been the key to taking on projects that are bigger than what I can handle on my own. Licensing and collaboration are going to be my priority as I continue to grow Cotton & Flax.
What advice or encouragement would you give to other handmakers about getting help in a way that feels organic, and not a betrayal to their values?
It’s easy to forget this amongst all of the other considerations of running a business, but I try to remind myself all the time: there are no rules, and you can create your own path. It’s so important to check in with yourself as you build and sustain your business, to examine your reasons behind what you’re doing. Knowing your “why” behind your business can fuel your creativity, as well as your ability to make choices that stay true to your values. In Cotton & Flax’s case, my love of natural materials, and dedication to ethical manufacturing led me to find partners who create beautiful natural materials, and production partners who live close to my studio, with similar values of sustainability.
I always advise creative business owners to find mentors or advisors who really understand your priorities and values, and turn to them during good times, and during times of stress for support. That network of support can make all the difference.
Visit Erin’s website here, and snap up some of her designs: Cotton & Flax
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Packaging and photography to change brand perception for Mafu, maker of botanical health and skincare products.
When you’re an indie maker, DIY-ing it often comes with the territory. Over the years, we’ve worked with hundreds of brands that started with humble, resourceful, and scrappy beginnings, but there comes a time when they are ready to hire a team that will not only refine, but transform, their brand’s vision.
We were ecstatic to be that team for Bonnie Juma. She came to us just as she’d renamed her apothecary business and needed a beautiful visual identity to go with it. Mafu is a range of botanical skin and body care created to nourish mind, body and spirit with plant-based ingredients. Established in 1996, the company’s website launched in 2008 with a DIY template. While the brick-and-mortar aspect of her business was going well, Bonnie wanted to seize the potential of her online shop, both aesthetically and sales-wise.
“I would love to have a beautiful site—one that I would enjoy visiting—and that would appeal to the senses.” She set a solid goal for online conversion rates and an increase in internet sales.
Website design to change brand perception for an apothecary shop
One of the characteristics that sets Bonnie’s approach apart is how inspired each product is. As Christine on our team worked on initial concepts for her web design, she thought of ways to make the customer feel equally inspired: to learn about Mafu’s ingredients and process, and to (of course) make a purchase.
“I kept thinking of your target customer, imagining her visiting your site because she wants to put something good and natural on her skin and in her body,” Christine said. “The softness and warmth of the site invites her in, while the cleanness of the site makes it a breeze to shop.”
The top navigation features hand drawn icons to make the shopping experience a seamless part of the brand. An “Ingredient Spotlight” image leads to the blog while highlighting the educational aspect of the brand. Enticing customers to learn builds trust in the brand’s knowledge and expertise, while also inspiring them to shop.
Logo and brand identity for Mafu by Aeolidia
Mafu oils logo and packaging by Aeolidia. Photo & styling Jen Lacey for Aeolidia.
Logo and packaging design for Mafu by Aeolidia.
Custom website design for Mafu by Aeolidia
Surprise! When your small business is all grown up
We got some very flattering feedback on this initial design from Bonnie: “I think ‘magazine’ since the logo is so strong (which I love), and the picture is so crisp.” But, she added, it almost felt too polished and mainstream. In other words, the design looked too good, too polished and professional, to be Mafu.
We scratched our heads a bit and chatted internally before it dawned on us: if starting your own business is like raising a child, then getting a professional makeover is like seeing that child all dressed up for prom before you’re emotionally ready. It’s all grown up! Where did the time go? Is it really prepared for such a big step?
What Bonnie needed, then, was a boost of confidence. Maybe the design wasn’t what she’d imagined; it was beyond what she’d imagined.
“The saying that comes to mind is ‘dress for the job you WANT to have,'” Arianne told her. “This website design dresses your business up to be a leader in organic and botanical products. Even if you’re not there yet, this is the outfit you need to make it to that next level.”
She pointed out that the “polish,” like all the special details infused throughout every section of the site, are what set the design apart from more mainstream sites. Too many apothecary brands look homemade, but not in a good way. It makes it hard for customers to break out their wallets when they don’t get a trustworthy, polished experience up front.
Getting used to the idea of success
After taking some time to sleep on it and see how the design felt after the weekend, Bonnie came back with a fresh perspective. It turned out she needed some encouragement and time to re-imagine her brand’s potential. We were already seeing big, beautiful things in her future, and she simply needed a gentle vote of confidence to see herself there, too! Once she did, she fell in love with this new direction for her brand.
“My experience working with the Aeolidia team surpassed all my expectations, partially because there was SO much I did not know, and mostly because of their commitment to excellence in their work. I would recommend this company to anyone desiring to take their business to that next level of polish, beauty, and excellence. Thank you Aeolidia team—you are awesome!”
Are you ready to transform your brand beyond your wildest imagination?
We would love to help you change your customers’ perception of your brand–and perhaps your own perception of it as well! Contact us to take your DIY branding to the next (and the next, and the next) level.
We are hiring a Content Marketing Manager to plan and execute our editorial calendar. Are you the perfect person to board the good ship Aeolidia, my strategic design studio? Or do you know a marketing whiz who could use a new challenge?
I have built a strong content marketing foundation over the years. I am ready to let an expert take over and improve on it. The Content Marketing Manager’s main goal is to increase our client base. They will do this by creating effective sales funnels and driving targeted traffic to them.
We want a talented writer and engaging marketer who will use my skills as an educator and community-builder to grow our business. Having the day to day marketing tasks taken care of will allow me to do more for our community and design clients.
I don’t want to give orders or micromanage. I need a self-motivated person to manage, schedule, and track both content and outreach. This wonderful person will learn all about Aeolidia, strategize with me, and assign me content jobs.
The ideal candidate will have grown brands, with obvious and verifiable results. We want to hear about your experience working with a marketing group, ad agency or directly for a brand.
Aeolidia puts its heart into changing business dreams to realities for our community. Would you like to work with a team that pulls together, enjoys each other’s company, and makes real change for hundreds of creative businesses? We’re your team!
Why use Shopify? Shopify is our ecommerce platform of choice at Aeolidia, and we don’t work with any other software. WooCommerce is too buggy and WordPress wasn’t meant for ecommerce. We’ve heard that BigCommerce is too complicated, and can’t handle high sales volume. Squarespace’s checkout is very limited, allowing only Stripe or PayPal payments. Wix and Weebly-type programs are meant for beginners, and it shows. Etsy’s a great addition to your ecommerce strategy, but it can’t be the whole strategy.
Shopify is the best ecommerce software! They are always updating and innovating. Their latest feature announcements blew all the other options out of the water. Particularly what’s happening right now with mobile checkout.
But no need to listen to me! I asked our Facebook group members (join us!) what they would tell a shop owner who wanted to know if they should use Shopify. So here is some great info and advice from shop owners like yourself. Here’s what’s important to know about Shopify when deciding whether to sign up.
Shopify offers much more than just ecommerce
Shopify offers a lot more than an ecommerce sales platform. This tool is more like a product database or inventory management system, allowing you to sell items on a website, through channels such as Pinterest and Facebook, and in a point of sales situation. I use the portable card reader when I go to craft shows and sell items directly from the online store inventory. This tool helps me to manage inventory and sales tax collection.
For us when deciding, it came down to Shopify’s capability to handle a large inventory relatively easily, it’s simple to use (less tech-y), lots of beautiful design options, and it is a platform which we can grow into
and add more features as we need them.
Overall, Shopify is very well thought out—meaning it takes care of the nuts ‘n bolts so well, you can focus on the actual shop, get up and selling, then go back and make more adjustments easily as time goes on. Feels much more organic. It’s always evolving. And has a very engaged community for brainstorming and support. Sometimes the options seem endless.
Something to note, the add on apps do cost extra, which can be frustrating when money is tight, but you know that’s how it works when you sign up. I like that we can pick and choose based on our needs. It’s like it evolves with you. So far all the add on app developers we’ve used have offered excellent customer service as well. Two of my favorites: Better Recommendations and Out Of The Sandbox.
Shopify customer support is awesome! It’s incredibly reassuring knowing they are there when you step out in to unfamiliar waters when editing your online shop. You get more done.
Just finding enough time to implement everything is a challenge. We are at that awkward place where we need to outsource more of our shop tasks, but I suppose that’s a good problem to have. Switching to Shopify has definitely increased our online sales. Very happy.
My advice really focuses on the help and assistance that’s offered to Shopify storefronts. I can’t even tell the number of times I’ve contacted their chat support for help—for everything from uploading fonts to setting up shipping profiles properly. They can help with anything and everything. They’re incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and always available to lend a hand. I feel that their level of customer service is what makes me solid in my decision to choose Shopify in the first place. I know that no matter the problem I might run into, help is always just a click away.
Shopify integrates with social media for added sales channels
I usually tell people about how it also integrates with Pinterest and Facebook easily for added selling channels. When so many people are trying to use a bunch of platforms, I find this integration very easy and manageable. In that same vein I think it’s the most advanced platform in terms of integration possibilities for free and paid apps.
Tip: prepare your content before signing up for the trial
Shopify is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to set up a robust and professional looking website for your e-commerce business. To make the most of it from the start, and save a little money, take time to prep before you open your account Sketch out how you’d like your site to look, write the copy for the pages and product listings, and collect and resize all your product photos and web images. This way, as soon as your free trial starts, you can plug the info + images in and hit the ground running.
Shopify is an incredibly robust platform and they really take care of everything you need to set up your shop. One of my favourite features is their POS. I can sell online and in person, while managing my inventory and keeping track of my products. I do pop-ups and markets frequently and I love how easy it is.
I love how easy it is to manage orders and inventory. I do a lot of giveaways, and with Shopify, I can manage those free orders (and their inventory) with the paid orders, without any fee! I love Shopify and I wish I would have started my business on it.
What I like best about Shopify is that I never feel alone. There’s so much support both directly from Shopify and third party groups. It’s a sure bet that someone has already asked your question and someone else has provided a clear answer with a step by step solution. It’s also incredibly easy to get someone on the phone or on chat and get direct help from a real person. It’s a great community.
Shopify is great if you don’t want something too tech-y
Way back when I first started my biz, I started my very first website in WordPress and struggled to achieve the look I wanted and use the features the way I really wanted. I was drowning in tech-y black holes. And, at that time I couldn’t afford to hire a developer. After a frustrating 6 months I found Shopify and never looked back.
It couldn’t be easier to set up a site and sell your products or services and just get going. When someone is starting out I think it’s important to just start, and to keep things simple, instead of getting caught up in the perfectly polished site.
The beauty of Shopify is that the templates give you a professional clean look from the start and you don’t need to waste time fiddling with too much code or tech issues. I was able to gain back my time and put more energy into my creative work.
PS. Later on I decided to hire professionals (my dream team) and really customize my site. It’s the best thing I’ve done for my online presence.
Shopify is fantastic for improving your SEO
For any website SEO is key and Shopify allows for SEO everywhere (product photos, collection photos, product listing tags etc.). I’ve only had my Shopify shop open for a month now and I’m already showing up in the first page of search! One more note I am certainly no graphic designer or website builder, so in the beginning I struggled with setup (had a Wix site previously, which was mostly drag, drop, and adjust).
I like a lot of customization and didn’t want my site to look cookie cutter and playing around with and adding apps into HTML was terrifying for me, but I was able to find everything I needed in Shopify’s support and forums without a single phone call! The Wix support was very lacking waiting 30 mins or more on the phone oftentimes or days for return emails and the SEO wasn’t great, for years my site blearily paid for itself. So far I’m very pleased with Shopify, just this week I got my first sale.
Oh, Shopify how I love thee! Let me count the ways… You make me look beautiful and professional. You’re support is awesome and answers all my silly questions. You integrate with so many apps that you’re a dream come true. You offer many experts to make my life easier—like Storetasker and Kit. And for a non tech-y gal, you make it so easy to do updates and implementation. I’m so glad we found each other…
Shopify takes charge of updates and security fixes
Having started out in the Stone Age of the Internet, when you had to code multiple databases to run an eCommerce store, Shopify is hands down the easiest and most robust platform for selling products today. My favorite aspect? I don’t have to be in charge of updates and security fixes! Pair that with a huge selection of apps to extend functionality, and great built-in features at a low monthly cost and you have a no-brainer.
It’s our favorite! Sign up for your free trial here today. That’s our affiliate link, and I’d be glad to help out anyone who signs up using our link by answering a question via email or pointing you in the right direction to get started.
Grab our free ecommerce checklist while you’re making plans:
Aimee Randle had been following Aeolidia on Instagram for about a year when she finally made the leap and reached out to us about creating a logo and visual identity for her brand new clothing pattern business, Puzzle Patterns. We were thrilled at the chance to start from scratch, especially because she was looking for a team of logo and brand designers who could work with her business as it grew.
Puzzle Patterns sells PDF clothing patterns for collection pieces that are interchangeable, like a puzzle. With an initial launch of children’s clothing patterns and plans to expand to women’s clothing later, the brand has a style that is modern, hip, and functional for play and tumbling, with a dash of cute and quirky. As Aimee put it, she wanted a visual identity that would quickly let customers know that “this is not the same kind of patterns their nana uses.” She also envisioned clear lines and structured design, to keep the logo reflective of the brand’s easy-to-follow patterns. Enthusiasm paired with simplicity were key.
As we kicked off work on her new logo design, Aimee told Jess on our team: “I don’t want people to look at it and think of the chore of sewing things for themselves, but the fun and imagination that can come from it.”
Minimalism and quirk? Sign us up. Inspired by Aimee’s love for Scandinavian design, Jess began researching and exploring imagery options and kept coming back to retro Scandinavian folk art flowers. They’re graphic and fun, but with a minimal amount of lines and detail. Using this as the foundation for the logo, she then incorporated scissors and pins—tools of the trade—into a flower design made up of individual geometric pieces. “They can be shuffled around to create new and different types of flower designs, much like your concept for your products! In addition, the line-art style of the icon also mimics the design of clothing patterns.”
Jess paired the flower icon with a simple lowercase serif type that has a retro fun flair with the loopy “t’s”. The resulting combination hints at a vintage aesthetic, but with a clean and contemporary twist that Aimee absolutely loved.
Check out the branding guide and accompanying brand elements, like Puzzle Patterns postcards and Instruction Sheet Templates, that Jess created using the new logo as a foundation. The color palette has plenty of vibrant pop, but delivered in a really simple balance that makes it feel clean and refreshing.
We’re so excited for Aimee’s new business and look forward to the time when a custom web design is on the horizon! We loved cheering her on as her business identity came to fruition.
“This was a huge step for me and everyone involved made the whole road clear, exciting and incredibly easy to navigate,” Aimee said. “The logo is beautiful and the design is so simple and clear, but I keep looking at it and seeing more and finding more to love.”
Could your business use this kind of clever design? We still have some spots left in our August design block, which means you could show off your new brand and packaging to all of your Christmas shoppers! If your products make good gifts, contact us today to ensure you’re sending the right message by Black Friday and Cyber Monday this year.
Do you want to know the real way to increase online sales? It’s not a tweak here, a tweak there, or any kind of fiddling around.
There are no good shortcuts.
The real way to grow your business is to review your entire online presence as a cohesive unit. Then, rather than tweaking what’s there, build a new tool that will propel you toward your goals. The tool I’m talking about is your website. It’s also your brand identity: your logo and all the strategy that goes into the look and voice of your brand.
Adjusting what’s ineffective is only going to create incremental change. To see BIG change, you need to look at where your business stands now. Consider your goals, then build the tool that will get you there. That’s where we come in! Are you wondering if we’d be a good fit?
Do you own a creative or design-oriented product-based business?
Are you gaining traction in growing a customer base?
Would you like to be making more sales online?
Are you ready to get to the next level with your business?
Yes? You can’t afford not to invest in your business right now. Things change quickly, and what worked a few years ago is not going to keep you competitive now.
Your business is at that tipping point where the return on investment for hiring Aeolidia can be huge. Let’s talk!
If you’re new here
Aeolidia is a web and graphic design studio that has been designing brands and setting up online shops for designers, makers, and other creatives since 2004, when ecommerce was still a toddler. Aeolidia serves those at early stages on their path with an informative blog and supportive community, and meets established businesses at that tipping point where strategic design can be transformative and cause exponential growth.
Your customers can feel it when your business is overwhelmed. It’s not something you can hide. Are you barely achieving the day-to-day, much less purposefully growing your business? It’s time to make some changes.
Specifically, it’s time to start making plans for Future You. “Future Me?” you ask?
I spent my college years watching Seinfeld. My husband and I enjoy our Seinfeld in-jokes. Every time I have grand plans for summer, I shout, “IT’S THE SUMMER OF GEORGE!” One of the concepts that has stuck with me all this time is this stand up bit about “night guy and morning guy”:
JERRY: I never get enough sleep. I stay up late at night, ’cause I’m Night Guy. Night Guy wants to stay up late. ‘What about getting up after five hours sleep?’ Oh, that’s Morning Guy’s problem. That’s not my problem, I’m Night Guy. I stay up as late as I want. So you get up in the morning with your alarm, you’re exhausted, groggy, oooh I hate that Night Guy! See, Night Guy always screws Morning Guy. There’s nothing Morning Guy can do.The onlythingMorning Guy can do is try and oversleepoftenenough so that Day Guy loses his job and Night Guy has no money to go out anymore.
Why you have a hard time hitting your goals
Michael Gerber says in The E-Myth that each new business owner has to take on three roles. If you’re a designer or creative, you probably started out in the Technician role. You’re the person designing and/or making the product. You also need to serve as the Manager, overseeing operations. The personality you need to encourage is your Entrepreneur, to grow the business.
The problem is that it’s easy and rewarding to work on the day to day stuff. The easy projects you know how to do where you can check off wins all day long. The Technician enjoys the work and doesn’t have to make tough decisions. The Manager knows what to do and doesn’t need to take risks. But step back: are you serving your business best in these roles? Or could you train someone else to delegate tasks to, freeing up your time to find ways to make more sales?
Think of it this way: the work you’re doing today for your business is all for Future You to enjoy. Treading water each day in 2017 means that 2018 Future You won’t have made it anywhere. Don’t you want something spectacular to show for all the work you’re doing now?
The place where I see many business owners losing momentum is when they try to do everything by themselves. If you’re the only person responsible for day to day operations, how on earth are you going to find time to grow your business? Once you start seeing success, you need to prepare for the next level. What got you here won’t get you there.
What to do to get Night Guy under control
How can we stop our present selves from screwing things up for our future selves? Imagine if Future You could be doing only the things you’re the best at, and getting help with all the rest. Oh, and making more money than your business has ever made, too.
To get there, you need to care about your future self’s success more than you care about your present self’s discomfort or reluctance. You’ll need to take some calculated risks, make some investments, and put in some time now.
There are dozens of ways to be a good Night Guy to your Morning Guy, but let’s keep it simple. Here is how to best serve your future self so you can get off the treadmill you’re currently on with your business:
Pick a date (5 years from now, say) when you will be Future You and figure out what Future You should be doing. What jobs in the company are yours? What are other people doing for you? How much money are you and your business making? What’s in your product line? What stores are you sold in? What milestones has your business achieved? What collaborations have you forged?
What is the one thing you could do this year to set yourself up for the 5 year plan? What is the one thing you could do this month to set yourself up for the year’s goal? What could you do this week to meet the month’s goal? What will you do today to get on track for the week’s goal?
Now find a way to do these things, and stick with doing them until you’ve satisfied Future You. Let the day-to-day suffer while you take leaps to build your business. The day-to-day isn’t serving Future You anyway. In fact, focusing solely on the day to day leaves Future You out of a job!
How Aeolidia can help to immediately take over your most vital work
We’re the design studio that uses data and strategy to design a brand and website that will get you more sales. To reach your goals, you’ll want a few tools in your belt. You’ll need a strong brand identity, impeccable product packaging, and a high-converting website.
Waiting until you’re in pain to make a change is not the entrepreneurial mindset. Please have your Entrepreneur personality contact me. We’ll make a plan that will have all three of you sitting pretty by the time they become Future You (is your head spinning yet?).
What will you do right now to get on track for your day’s goal that’s going to knock down the week’s goal, that’s going to start a chain reaction on the whole stack of domino goals that are going to lead to the Future You 5 years out?
The last few spots with Aeolidia in August & September are being filled now. Our design work propels businesses forward and helps hit goal after goal after goal. Let’s start making some real changes that will have you in a much better position for 2018 and beyond.
Contact me today and tell me all about the wonderful business you’re building. I can’t wait to hear!
Your second-best step today
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Susan Merkle came to us with a vision for her business and a completely clean slate. A designer of fine furnishings and goods made from cowhides and artisan leather, she described her pieces as trophies of nature for the high-end clientele that lives in the luxury mountain homes of the west. She needed a name and logo—a visual identity that would appeal to an elevated taste level while keeping the rustic vibe of western landscapes. In short, she was starting from scratch. Just like the spirit behind her brand, Susan was adventurous and fearless.
“One thing I have heard over and over from makers is that they wished that they had launched with professional help from the beginning, to eliminate costly do-overs,” she told us. “So I have decided to heed this wisdom and invest in professional help from day one. I have my ideas, but I’m not married to any of them and am open to professional advice.”
During our business name brainstorming, certain themes and images began to emerge. Rawness paired with sophistication, as well as a very strong sense of place guided the process to a name that was completely original but also felt timeless. Lonestead Range evokes the idea of homestead, of the Lonestar state, of independence and a vast expanse of land that stretches to a sunset horizon.
With the name enthusiastically in place, we moved on to the brand’s visual identity next. A lifestyle brand like Lonestead Range needs to very clearly communicate its essence, and so Ann on our team focused on conveying a refined but rustic sensibility. It was important that the design go for the unexpected.
“Lonestead Range needs to have something strong with a little toughness, but also beautifully classic,” Ann explained. “I wanted to create a literal ‘brand’ for Lonestead Range that represents the ranch lifestyle and the incredible artisan quality of the products.”
She began this by choosing typography with a slightly vintage feel and a non-trendy approach, purposely avoiding anything overdone, too dated or too decorative. Considering that the brand’s higher price point would mean that customers would be purchasing to make a statement with their items, it was important for the design to be more chic and exclusive than other labels.
The typeface incorporates modern lines and a bit of rustic industrial. The star, although a simple symbol, is instantly recognized as part of Western American iconography, evoking spurs, state flags, the “big sky” country, etc. It also represents awards for high quality, like 5-star hotels and trophies. Together, they create a simple but strong logo that becomes its own iconic brand mark. It feels more luxe and modern than other brands in the same niche, while still capturing the essence of the lifestyle.
We knew we’d hit the right mark when Susan responded to the initial logo concepts with exclamation points and a heart emoji.
“Oh Ann, Take my breath away! This is such an amazing start, I’m having a hard time imagining it better! I’m not sure there is anything else to say, other than AMAZING! You put in words what is in my head and <3.”
Do you spend a lot of time on Instagram or another social media platform, but no one will buy? You need a way to get your perfect customer to move from admiring to desiring to buying. When you’re communicating with your customer, consider what they need to know to make a purchase.
Does giving a person a reason to buy make you feel pushy and unpleasant? It doesn’t have to be that way. First, decide you only want to convince your perfect customer. It’s the people who are trying to convince everyone to buy that come off like used car salesmen. Your perfect customer is close to being very happy to buy from you, and you need to help her get all the way there.
Are you giving your potential customers a good reason to buy?
When you propose an action to a customer (click here! buy now!), their first reaction will be, “why should I?”
Make sure that your writing answers this silent question before it’s asked.
Every time you ask someone to do something (and you should be asking), think, “why should she?” to yourself. Then put the answer in your request.
Examples of bad and good calls to action
When you ask someone to do something, that’s called a “call to action.” Here are four small business photo captions I found on Instagram. Which do you find more compelling?
“Fresh out of my kiln today!”
Okay, great! You made it. Will it be for sale? What is it, what do I do with it and why do I want it? Perhaps this post wasn’t meant to sell anything, but even if I find the work interesting, nothing here sparks me to action.
“This old rack is pretty perfect. 4 metal hooks, 35″ long. $55”
At least the price tells me it’s for sale! But this is all info, no call to action. I need to know what makes it perfect (what’s the benefit?), and I need to know what the seller wants me to do (“head to our website to grab it before it’s gone!”).
“Our cube chair is a beautiful and functional piece of furniture that promotes independence (starting at about 5-6 months). It comes in Birch or Walnut and is fully assembled.”
This is so close. This tells me a bit about why I want it (independent baby–but what’s so great about an independent baby?), but how do I get it? Remember I’m on Instagram. What do I do next? Is there a website I go to?
“Entertaining in style is kinda what I live for. It’s what’s behind the brand @suiteonestudio in the simplest sense. I wanted to bring a new freshness to the table, because I believe that sharing meals together isn’t something that needs to remain in the past. Sure gathering around the table is a bit more challenging these days (life is busy busy!) but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t carve out time to do this, and to do it well, and beautifully. Visit the link in my profile to enter for your chance to win this platter and gorgeous @rebecca_atwood napkins so you too can make mealtimes beautiful.”
Ding ding ding! Oh yes. I can relate to this, I understand it, I know where to go and what I’m getting there, and “so you too can make mealtimes beautiful” answers the question I’m asking in the same sentence as it asks me to visit the link. This is how to do it with grace and effectiveness.
Do you always have to include a call to action?
It’s true that a picture is often worth a thousand words. Some people go far on the strength of their photos alone. People figure it out, love it, and buy it, with a sales process that is more like friendly chit chat.
If demand for your products beats the supply, do whatever you enjoy on Instagram. But if you wish more people would follow through after you post, use your words wisely. Not only on Instagram, but across social media and on your own website or Etsy shop (think product descriptions!).
I’m not saying that you should sell every time you post. People will appreciate your just-for-fun posts–the ones that show your personality. It’s fine to use social media to be social! When you do want to sell, though, make sure you know how best to bring people along with you.
If you’re interested in psychology, like I am, this research study on the answer to “why” is fascinating (it turns out that almost any dumb reason after the “because” causes people to help you!):
One thing you may not know about hiring the Aeolidia team to design your website is that we don’t let you get away with flimsy calls to action on your home page! We’ll include our copywriter on your team, and make sure that every bit of content gives your customers a reason to buy, counters their objections, and helps them sail smoothly to checkout.
Our website redesigns consistently increase conversion rates for established businesses and provide a killer start for new businesses. That means that you can see many more sales with the same amount of traffic you get right now. Same marketing effort, bigger results! Get in touch with me today so we can chat about making your website really work.
Once they get to your website, will they trust what they see?
When your shop has grown beyond pre-made Shopify themes, and you’re ready for something more powerful for your creative business, it’s time to call Aeolidia. We specialize in custom Shopify design, tailor-made to your business and your customers. We design strategically, and our design decisions are all meant to support your goals, increase conversion rate, and multiply your current sales numbers.
Here is a quick peek at our clients’ recent launches, and at what we’re working on going into the fall. These motivated creative businesses include: 4 gift and housewares designers, 2 children’s clothing brands, 2 shops for the mother-to-be, 1 party shop, 3 bath and body brands, 1 doll maker, 1 fine art gallery, 1 interior design studio, 2 clothing pattern designers, 3 jewelry designers, 1 flower farm, 1 cooking club for kids, 2 designers of art prints, 1 furniture designer, 1 eyewear designer, 1 ceramic artist, and 1 shop specializing in cheese storage.
It is such an honor and a delight to be able to work with such creative, ambitious, and dedicated business owners. I think you’ll like them, too!
We will write about these projects in more detail in the upcoming weeks, but for now, I wanted to give you the rundown of what work we’ve finished and what we’re beginning now.
These ones are totally done!
Design block three at Aeolidia has wrapped up, and block four of 2017 is underway. Some of our logo clients from block three are having a website built, some sites designed in the last block are being developed, and the others are new to us this block. I’d like to show off the inspiring brands that are ready to put their plans into action and achieve their goals now! Here are the projects we’ve recently completed:
We wanted to create a bright and happy home for Bamboletta’s dolls. The website balances simplicity and warmth, while telling the Bamboletta story, showcasing the dolls and what sets them apart, and inspiring customers (new and trusted alike) to make a purchase. The homepage features woodland inspired illustrations paired with storybook typography all on a clean, responsive layout. There is no white background, but there’s still enough visual space so the important information doesn’t get lost. The photography is beautiful, so we made sure to give the photos room to breathe. By keeping the overall design clean, the photos are able to shine, telling the story of the Bamboletta brand and products.
Known for their paper placemat pads, a gift industry trend they started.
Project: Custom Shopify website, copywriting, SEO consultation
Status: Project complete, website launched!
Visit: Hester & Cook, a custom-designed Shopify site by Aeolidia.
Our goal was to create an updated and beautifully branded experience that would not only appeal to their current customer base but also attract a new online clientele. We also wanted the online experience to match the quality of their curated, flagship brick & mortar experience.
Visually, we took inspiration from Hester & Cook’s new logo, beautiful products, and timeless color palette to create a classic, but contemporary, look and feel. Details such as the curved page corners, editorial typefaces, and stationery-inspired tables, add dashes of personality to this clean design. The fresh, polished design showcases their range of products beautifully and helps instill customer confidence in the Hester & Cook as the home for high-quality, kitchen and home goods.
Not only is the visual transformation from the old site to new site striking, the redesigned navigation now allows visitors to understand at a glance what Hester & Cook has to offer, improving shopability. We’re so excited with this makeover and can’t wait to watch Hester & Cook continue to grow!
This brand started with our business naming process and became Indigo Ember. Patricia was ready to invest in what she needed to take her business to the next level, so we completed a business and marketing consultation with her, wrote the copy for her website, and styled and shot photos of her products. The new brand identity and custom website design are now complete as well.
We created a literal “brand” for Lonestead Range that represents the ranch lifestyle and the incredible artisan quality of the products. The star is a symbol that not only appears in much of Western American iconography, but also represents high quality and awards. Together they create a simple but strong logo that becomes its own iconic brand mark. The simplicity of the typeface contrasts perfectly with the roughness of the more traditional serif used with the star. It’s blending a bit of old and new.
To begin the rebrand, we worked with Robyn to change the name from “Georgie Designs” to “Love, Georgie.” The logo starts with a feminine script, paired with the modern lowercase type. It’s casual but contemporary, sweet but professional. The lowercase “georgie”—while not in the same exact font as before—echoes Robyn’s former business name and logo. The handwritten “love” and hand drawn heart show the personal touch that goes into her products (and every single package she sends to her customers). While the typography and illustration choice is a departure from the ones in Georgie Designs, it is similar enough that it still feels like her brand, just more grownup and polished. There is a stacked version of “love, georgie” that can be used in alternate layouts/spaces, as well as a monogram that can be used in places she may not need the entire logo (like a sticker or as a watermark on an image). We used the same hand drawn, carefree illustration style for other icons that are used throughout her branding, such as a flower or maybe even an “xo.”
The logo design features solid, classic typography, paired with a whimsical hand-drawn illustration. It reflects Mafu’s trusted, tried and true handmade botanicals and the friendly services that Bonnie provides in her own home. The primary mark includes an “est.” date, which establishes the business’s longevity and experience. The macrons (little lines over the vowels) and dictionary inspired pronunciation tag are fun and helpful visual cues. The thin, delicate lines in the leaf drawing adds contrast to the bolder type. The alternate marks feature a version of the logo with the “goodness & beauty” tag line, along with the word mark alone and an M monogram.
The website design expands on the modern botanical branding we established, while telling the story of Mafu, showcasing Bonnie’s wonderful products, and inspiring her customers (new and trusted alike) to make a purchase. The slightly darker, muted tones of the branding colors add legibility, while illustrations and a new handwritten font, bring softness and warmth to the site.
While putting the design together, Brooke incorporated the brand’s colors in a refreshing but not overly intrusive way. The top of the page, in particular, is more sleek and clean, as it is important for the logo to stand out, the navigation to be clear and concise, and the slider images to not be competing with other page elements. As you scroll further down the page, you see more color and more detailed design elements, but it is still balanced with white space, clean lines, and easy-to-read typography.
Well Dressed Wolf is a well-loved brand for well dressed children, and they came to us looking for a polished brand identity. We fine tuned their existing logo, as well as the logos for their sub-brands, Omi Jo and Wildling, ensuring the marks would work well online and in print. We created a color palette and selected typography that would work well across the entire brand—not just within each sub-brand. And we designed a few patterns that would breathe life into it all.
Together, the branding elements give Well Dressed Wolf’s family of brands a streamlined look with a touch of whimsy. The website expands on the sweet branding we established, while telling the story of Well Dressed Wolf, showcasing it’s beautiful products and explaining its wonderful mission. The photography has a clean and airy canvas so it can shine. 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.
With a unique collection of handcrafted items from artisans across Latin America, Ricardo was looking for a brand that reflected both the artists he features and the masterpieces they create. The “Handmade Heart” tagline remained at the forefront in our minds as we designed colorful branding, print, and web designs that stay true to the roots of this new online hub of artistry. Visitors can browse work by exploring amazing 360 degree views of each piece, and learn the specifics of each creation and its artist before purchasing.
We first got to work on branding for Geese & Ganders. They had an adorable logo, but needed business stationery and packaging pieces to round out their brand identity. We were inspired by their love of patterns and highlighted the brand’s personality in their printed pieces. Since this is a new business, we also worked on website copy and marketing strategies to give her a unique voice in the marketplace.
View the Geese & Ganders project in our portfolio.
These ones have moved to the next phase
We were hard at work on these projects in block three, and now we’re moving right along with the next step through August.
We first got to work on defining Adoren’s target customer and unique selling proposition with a business and marketing consultation. These exercises provide great detail about the audience we are designing for and really help us move forward. Next we designed a logo and brand identity that relates to Adoren’s mission of “loving deeply, living simply, and making life more beautiful.” Now it’s time to incorporate all of this goodness into the website design.
Empowering curvy women to sew timeless clothing that makes them feel proud of their bodies and of themselves.
Project: Brand identity, custom Shopify website, copywriting
Current site: Cashmerette (new site scheduled to launch October 16)
Status: Brand identity design is complete, and website design begins.
Cashmerette’s brand identity has served the business well, acting as a wonderful launchpad for the brand. The logo just needed a refresh so that it reflects a European simplicity while having a fun and happy vibe. An identity that’s a little more grown up and sophisticated, giving the brand the flexibility to grow. And grow it will! Cashmerette currently has a very successful blog-with-a-shop and we have been working hard to come up with the best strategy to turn it into a shop-with-a-blog.
Handmade jewelry made with gemstones from the earth, and talismans from around the globe.
Project: Custom Shopify website, copywriting
Current site: Dotted Line Jewelry (new site scheduled to launch August 18)
Status: Website design complete, and development begins.
Dotted Line came to us looking for a website that could become the backbone of her business, so we have been working hard to deliver her one. We have been writing copy and designing the site around the brand’s beautiful photography to create something that will not only speak to her target audience, but also be something to be proud of.
Family-run flower farm specializing in growing unique, uncommon, and heirloom flowers.
Project: Custom Shopify website
Current site: Floret Flowers (new site scheduled to launch August 18)
Status: Website design complete, and development begins.
The Floret Flowers site was a project that required even more critical strategy as usual, since we were helping them replatform from WooCommerce to Shopify, while keeping the blog on the WordPress platform. They had experienced some frustration with their website, and we are working to make everything smooth sailing post-launch. We’re coding away on this one!
It has been such fun writing copy for this cheese loving brand. We’re currently working closely with Mark on content for each page of the website and for customer-facing emails, planning the website strategy, and providing art direction for photo shoots so we have strong imagery for our design.
Celebrating the zesty, peppy essence of animals with original designs and goods for your nursery, home, desk and beyond.
Project: Custom Shopify website, copywriting
Current site: Gingiber (new site scheduled to launch August 18)
Status: Website design complete, and development begins.
This one is going to be so much fun! We spent the first part of this project advising Stacie on her brand graphics, and moved right along to a web design that captures the spirit of Gingiber and will engage her customers and bring them along on her business journey (with an emphasis on purchasing her products, of course). I really can’t wait to show you this one!
We’re enjoying the challenge of marrying modern with ethnic/traditional, bold with subtle, and simple with complex for this brand identity. The logo is complete and we are deep in pattern design to create a harmonious look and feel to this brand’s diverse aesthetic.
When working on the website design, we really honed in on the concept of creating space for story-telling along with commerce. Visually speaking, we were influenced by the brand’s beautiful editorial photography along with its nature-inspired color palette and timeless type. The priority was to introduce customers to the brand story and their range of high quality, ethically-made handmade children’s goods. An experience both existing and new customers will love!
With a successful Etsy shop, Oh Baby Names had the proof of concept they needed to take their business to the next level. We first started with new business name brainstorming and then moved into logo design. We came up with classic yet playful logo with vintage-inspired details that reflect the authenticity, heart, and soul behind the brand. Now we will begin website design.
We updated the Pam Powers logo, making it a natural evolution for her brand. It pays homage to her past but will appeal more to her mature target audience. We also worked on a variety of business stationery and packaging items—staying true to the new brand guidelines we created. Next up is a custom website design that will support Pam’s new look and specific business goals.
Petit Mignon already had so many of the key pieces to a darling brand identity. The logo just needed to be polished so that it reflected a higher end, European style aesthetic. We are very excited to start designing a soft and sweet website that evokes the innocence and wonder of this brand.
A cooking club for kids bringing families together in the kitchen and at the table through edible education.
Project: Custom Shopify website, copywriting
Current site: Raddish Kids (new site scheduled to launch August 18)
Status: Website design in progress.
We have been working hard behind the scenes to come up with a framework and strategy to meet Raddish’s specific sales goals. With this project, as with all our work, marketing and sales strategies are just as important as design aesthetics. Raddish recently moved from their garage to a shipping facility, and we’re excited to assist in this boost up to the next stage for their business.
These ones have just begun
I’m thrilled to introduce you to these inspiring businesses who are beginning work with us in block four. See where they’re at now, and check back with us in a couple of months to see their transformations!
I don’t have a cohesive brand style/personality. I feel like the chevron and mint combo is well liked and I get a lot of compliments on the packaging. However, I feel like the brand image is missing a luxe element or something special. The products are fantastic, but I’m not sure if the brand is memorable.
I am ready to rebrand. I need a new logo and guidance with the look of my website. I want people to see edgy contemporary jewelry and the influence of the desert. I want them to see jewelry that will make them feel special and help them to make an impression.
We started on Etsy in 2010 and opened our current shop in 2012. This is our second website and although we are super thrilled with our branding, the logistics and functionality of our site is really lacking. We feel migrating to Shopify will help to alleviate many of the issues we are having.
The majority of my retail sales have come from my presence at a local farmers market, and honestly, that’s where I’ve focused most of my energy up to this point. It’s been a needed learning experience and ‘proof of concept’ for me to build confidence, gain selling experience, develop customer relationships, establish a few wholesale accounts, and expand to making larger product batches.
While I’ll continue to grow my presence and sales at the farmers market, it’s time to shift and invest more energy in developing online sales.
I make beautiful handmade ceramics of the highest quality. 36 individual steps where my hands are forming, shaping, touching, from the first handful of clay through to the final glaze firing give way to dishes, trays, cups, bowls, bottles, vases, jars, and pitchers. Each piece is hand crafted with care and consideration to form and function, with no two exactly identical. They serve a functional physical purpose to contain and hold the food meant to nourish our bodies, but also feed our souls in the way they evoke a feeling of intimacy and connection from the expressive marks left by my hands in the process of making the work.
I seek a business name and brand that will visually translate well with marketing materials, packaging, and a craft show booth, while supporting the feelings of connection I am trying to evoke.
Do any of these hard working business owners sound like you?
Your small but fast growing business is perfectly poised to make a big splash in online retail, and that’s exactly where Aeolidia loves to meet you. We are highly-ranked official Shopify Experts, with a history of exceeding expectations. Our work is strategic, completely custom, and entirely goals-based. We like to get involved when we know our work can be transformative and cause exponential growth.
Ready? If you’re ready to move forward with your business, and to invest in some outside help, we would love to be your team. Please contact us if you’re interested in telling us more about your retail goals and objectives so we can put together a custom proposal for you.
Not quite ready? If you’re not quite ready to do this work for your business (or you aren’t sure if you are or not), a great next step is to join our community, The Shipshape Collective. Not only will we send you our best info about pushing your business to the next level, but you’ll be invited to our Facebook group, and be able to access all the free business building tools in our members’ area. Join here: