6 Business Lessons I Learned in 2010 - advice from one crafty maker to another

1. Deals with big catalog companies do not always translate into big dollars for little maker companies

(enough said)

2. Stores are not always ready to buy when we are ready to sell - repetition is a key to success with mailings and store contacts.

(maybe with everything now that I think about it)

Instead of moving on to new stores too quickly when a postcard doesn't generate any interest, I have found if I mail to the same store again (and sometimes again) I usually get the account.

(note - make sure your postcard is awesome,

< ---- mine is

the store is a good fit for your work and you mail directly to the owner, manager or buyer and follow-up with a phone call - I always call just to check in that the postcard arrived and let them know about a "special" I am having that week)

3. Store accounts need to be reminded to re-order.

When I started calling shop owners to see if they needed more stock (instead of just assuming my stuff wasn't selling because I hadn't heard from them) - my re-orders went way up.

(shop owners are as busy as we are)

4. Being in control might make us feel safe but that is pretty much the only benefit. Sometimes things fall apart so they can fall together.

We need to let go sometimes.

5. Some of this social networking has got to go. I am becoming less averse to automating certain things or just eliminating them all together.

There are only so many hours in the day.

6. I have been avoiding growth and change (partly because I want to stay small and personal, but mostly from pure exhaustion) but static, maintenance mode doesn't work - no matter how firmly we dig in and put in roots we will be uprooted -

Our business is alive.

It is changing everyday - whether we like it or not.

(we cannot stop this anymore than we can stop our toddlers from becoming preteens, although we would sometimes like to)

Static, maintenance mode will not work for long -

our income will drop, our work will become outdated, the competition will swoop in and undercut us, we will stop innovating -

for our business to survive it must be growing. The good news is we get to decide how that will happen.

It doesn't have to mean more work for us, in fact it has to mean more freedom and more creation because otherwise we might as well all get a real job with a 401K and dental insurance.

(if such things exist anymore)

There is a way to do this without putting in more hours (I don't have any), learning any more techno crap (my head will explode) or losing the personal nature of my handmade, upcycled business - I refuse to sell out.

We will find the way.

(I probably learned way more than this, but my head cold is still causing my noodle to be even foggier than usual and these are the first things that come to mind - hope someone finds them helpful)

*learn more things print by NayArts


KJ said...

It's amazing how we need things and they come to us. I needed to read your #6 today. And it's kind of, well, stunning to me that of all the people in the world, it was you who wrote it. (More on that in a bit.)

I am living proof that your #6 is a solid fact.

Since 2006, I have been on Etsy, motoring along. In 2008-2009, I finally reached a good place -- a place where I was happy with my success. I was making the amount of money I needed to make, not to go out on weekly shopping sprees, but to comfortably get by. If two days went by without a sale, I got antsy, because that didn't happen very often.

I could give you all my reasons why, but to make a long story short: My business stagnated in a big way. I've not put up a new piece in my main shop since last February.

I've been determined to turn things around, to get back on track and full steam ahead. To do all the things I've been afraid of doing. To come back from this setback stronger than ever. For the first time, instead of just fumbling along, I actually have a plan.

Suffering from a head cold like you, feeling a bit vulnerable and just yucky, this morning I started getting very overwhelmed and defeated (in advance!) with doubts and "what if I can't"s and "it's too much for one person to do" swirling in my head.

Your post was the swift kick in the pants I needed. I MUST forge ahead. If being stagnant put my business on life support...certainly putting all my might into growing and transforming will be like CPR, reviving it, right?

Anyway, the reason I am struck by the fact that it's you writing this is that for about the past two months, I've had, on my plan: "Contact Polarity once you have new work to see if she's accepting new artists." Seriously.

So I'm refusing to listen to the doubts, I'm forging ahead...and I will be contacting you when I have new work to see if you're accepint new artists. :)

Thanks for this one.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! I am loving this post!

I have been thinking about this a lot lately... the whole social networking buzz, that stings me personally, because I'd rather be crafting. And not to grow to quickly because you want to stay small and intimate... dig it, agree, love your way of putting it all together.

Keep thinking out loud, we love you miss! ♥

Catherine Ivins said...

KJ- OK the totally amazing Dreamy Giraffe on a Polarity Locket would have me singing for days (well, not out loud because that wouldn't be fair to my family) but my smile would be too huge- I am a huge fan from way back!

I am totally familiar with stagnation - I have been so focused on Polarity the last year that Uncorked totally stagnated and I really paid for it at Christmas because my sales there were down in a huge way.

I realize I can only do so much, so my real plan is for some real help and some trusting that the help will pay for itself over time - yes, I agree the plan is the thing and the contact Polarity part of your plan is in the bag!

Sherry said...

Ah, grasshopper, you are so wise. and I am happy to see KJ and Janell here too.

Here's to less angst, less buzzing and more beautiful making.

I had a long answer in my head, but after finishing Rework, I am just going to do it and not think so much.

Julie Boyles said...

Oh yes, there has to be a way and I'm determined to find it as well. I'm still in the midst of finishing up holiday orders but have begun to make plans for the New Year. One of the first orders of business is a visit with a SCORE counselor.

Here's to a great 2011!