Monday, March 28, 2011

Accepted! has been accepted to vend at the French Nest Open Air Market in Fort Collins, Colorado! The first one is May 21, 2011. The third Saturday of the month is when the market is held, May through October. I won't be there in July, but otherwise--that's where I'll spend my Saturday. Hooray!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Featured Crafter: Cari Shannon of Coquette Bath on Etsy

This week's featured crafter is Cari Shannon of Coquette Bath. Her interview has a lot of good information for crafters starting a business. There are several lessons to learn, here. Take one!

How do you find out about craft fairs in your area? Do you do all your own research? What about selling online?

I find craft fairs from Once at a show, I do ask the other vendors where they sell and if they’d recommend a show. It’s also very helpful to find shows not to do! I do shows, mostly in the fall, and I sell on Etsy, Artfire and eCrater. I also have a standalone website:

What was the impulse to start your business?

I owned a gift store from 2001-2006. When I’d go to Market, I couldn’t find the ‘right’ items for my store. After a bit of frustration, including finding a product I’d just ordered ‘stacked high and sold cheap’ at JCPenney, I decided to learn how to pour candles. After that was mastered, and they were selling briskly in my store, I branched out into other areas, based on consumer request. My product line now includes votive candles (by request only), jar candles, fragrance oil, sachets, soap (3 kinds), lotion bars, lotion (returning soon), lip balm, perfume, sugar cube scrub, and bath bombs. With all of the scents/flavors offered, I probably have about 350 different choices for my customers at any one time.

What is your niche? What sets you apart?

As mentioned, I had a store. It was rather fun and a touch funky…and that was what I wanted to find. Something made with great ingredients, but also something colorful and happy. I could find a lot of lines that were ‘spa’ themed. Or luxury themed. Or geared to kids. But nothing that was what I envisioned. So I made it myself.

Which materials/colors/techniques interest you the most right now? What is inspiring you, creatively?

We’re coming into spring, and I’m a super floral lover, so this is a good time for me! I’ve already introduced a new line: Simple Indulgence Soaps that has a lot of wonderful floral scents such as Sweet Pea and Gardenia that are hard to find in soap. I’ll be pouring candles very soon in springtime fragrances. But honestly, most of my products come from noticing a lack in a category, introducing a new product and listening to my customers. Of course, customer requests are also very welcome! A few top sellers have come from a simple ‘hey can you make X product in this scent?’

What piece of advice do you wish you had, when starting your business?

Knowing how to get folks to find me. I’m somewhat dense with the entire social networking/online promotion thing. When I went to college, I learned to program computers with punch cards! Not joking. I worked, as a student employee, on one of the very first intranets. But I’m not ‘tech’. I’m creative. And understanding this world is not easy for me. So, knowing more about it would be a blessing.

What question would you like to ask our readers?

Well, I’m always very interested to know what you like. Feel free to drop me a comment through my Etsy shop. I’m there everyday, reading and learning. You can also reach me through my website email at ‘info @ coquettebath dot com.’ Finally, I do have a Facebook page, but I don’t have it set up appropriately at the moment. Eventually, I’ll change it to reflect just business. Right now, it is a bit of a mix of everything. Finally, I do have a blog:

Thanks so much for the interview, Cari! Readers, what can you take from Cari's experience, to make your business better?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Business Update: 2011 Moving Right Along

World's best lip balm. Yummah.

Earlier this year, I posted some of our goals for 2011. Things are moving right along, and I thought an update is in order--not just to show you all what the goal-setting and follow-through process looks like, but to keep my ass in check. Keeping such close tabs on my goals is an actual goal of mine this year, but I don't think I wrote it down. Or kept track of it. Sigh.

The 2011 Business Goals Update:

Original goal #1: Attend one craft fair/market per month (as available) on Saturdays, varying the location.

Update: I've been accepted into the Firefly spring market (April), and the Horseshoe Craft and Flea markets (May and October). I don't know why I haven't applied for the third market I was looking at--probably because of deadlines. I will check on that next week. Additionally, I signed up to sponsor the Handmade Soap competition for the first-annual Denver County Fair! That's four days straight at the end of July. Whee! Outcome: Successful! Keep going!

Original goal #2: Increase contact with shop/spa owners who may want to do private label body products.

Update: I have one private label client who has re-ordered. I have been talking to another one: saw in person, got an email from the buyer requesting samples, emailed to remind her twice, she liked them and asked for a price list. Awesome. I also contacted a new shop opening up in Denver, and the owner was immediately responsive to the idea--I have an appointment with her on Friday, to show her samples and talk about it. My husband made a sample batch of a special soap, and he will begin talking to people in his world about those deals. Outcome: Potentially succesful! Keep pushing!

Original goal #3: Create a monthly sale for the website, and advertise it through our newsletter list.

Update: I have done this--had a monthly soap sale and have been sending newsletters every two weeks. Sales keep coming in, but I don't know if they are more or less than last year. Outcome: Successful! Keep it up!

New goal: Guest blog 3x per month, to increase traffic and sales.

Update: I'm adding this goal because I've been guest blogging already, and it is a direction I want to take. The guest blogging is for my publishing business, but it's crafty, too, so I'm including it here. Outcome: 2x per month achieved.

New goal: Continue Featured Crafter segment weekly, for the entire year.

Update: If you follow this blog, you know I've been keeping up ever since I said I was starting it again. I predict success. Outcome: In progress.

How has your progress been? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Photo by ribarnica on Flickr. Used through a Creative Commons license.

What do you do during the hard times? What can an entrepreneur do, to make it? Furthermore, what defines "hard times?"

I have been creating an Environment of Economic Scarcity in my household, because our refrigerator died. We have almost saved enough money for a new one. But as far as I'm concerned, we're broke. That money in savings does not exist.

So, to make more money, I'm having a soap sale for my newsletter people, this week. (Wanna sign up? You can do so here. I'm having a newsletter-only sale right now!)

What else can an entrepreneur do to increase income?

  • Have a sale
  • Send a newsletter
  • Write a blog entry
  • Tweet like the dickens
  • Email prospective clients
  • Do the taxes
  • ??
What else do you do when you're broke?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Featured Crafter: Alison Goyette of Boston Sea Glass on Etsy

For your inspiration, today we offer a glimpse of nature, elegance and the shore. Please welcome today's featured crafter, Alison Goyette of BostonSeaGlass on Etsy.

Describe your online selling experience.

Right now I sell online at Etsy. It has been a huge learning experience for me, but it is so satisfying to create something and have someone send you a note telling you how much they love it--especially if it is for their wedding day.

What was the impulse to start your business?

I had been selling sea glass in bulk to other collectors and crafters since 2008. In September of 2010 I lost my job, and decided to give this a try. I was blown away by the response, and had a wonderful holiday season, sales-wise. That got me really inspired to dive right in.

Anytime I talk about sea glass, I notice that people go all soft dreamy and say, “Oh I love sea glass." So many people have told me that they collect it with their moms, or grandchildren or best friends. There is a something magical about sea glass, not just the pieces themselves, but warm memories people seem to associate with it. I think that accounts for more than half of my sales.

Jewelry crafting is competitive. What is your niche? What sets you apart?

There are a lot of jewelry crafters out there, and no shortage of sea glass jewelry crafters. I am still working on discovering my niche. I started wire wrapping basically because I don’t have the right drill to create drilled sea glass. But I think I have come to prefer the wire wrapped look; it adds a little personality to each piece. Also, I try to do everything very simply. I don’t want the glass to look like it is being held prisoner by the wire. My goal is for it to look "flowy," and allow the sea glass to be the focus.

Where do you get your sea glass? Do you collect it all yourself?

I collect most of it on a beach near my home with my mom, my husband or my 5 year old son. I also find quite a bit at a beach that my dad and his wife showed me, but they swore me to secrecy as to its whereabouts.

The area where I live, Hough’s Neck, was a popular tourist destination at the turn of the century. There was a street car that brought visitors here from Boston, and they left a lot of glass behind. Also, there is a ton of sea glass out on the Boston Harbor Islands. I don’t have a boat to access them, but my neighbor and her sons have brought me some of the most beautiful pieces from islands.It is a little challenging to be dependent on the ocean for your inventory. If something sells well, I am at the mercy of the tides to get more. Luckily I have friends and family who are willing to let me pick through their collection. I just did a custom order of twelve coordinating necklaces for a wedding party and I had to go house to house, digging through jars and vases.

What do you see for the future of your business?

I am hoping to expand the business and do some craft shows, add more items for the home and create an entire wedding line. I was married in Key West and love the idea of beach weddings. I would love to make a sea glass tiara, although it would be heavy.

And here' a twist, readers. Instead of answering the standard last question, Alison has a question for you:

How do you get to know who your customers and and what types of things they are looking for when you primarily sell online? Is there a faster and more cost effective way than simply trial and error?

Thanks so much, Alison! Readers, please reply to Alison in the comments. Also, if you are interested in purchasing an item from her shop, she is running a free shipping promotion, through Mother's Day, with the code MOTHER2011.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Now We're Talking

So this is the quote from today's featured seller on Etsy, Julie Nolan:

"Handmade means dirty fingernails, scratches and cuts. And an occasional blister, maybe even a burn."

Now you're talking, sister.


I have been looking over the "stats" option on the blog, and I find it hilarious that this post is the second-most popular post for this blog's lifetime.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Take Time for Yourself

If you are:

  • ill
  • short on sleep
  • uncaffeinated because you just couldn't get your act together
  • seething with bitterness
  • wanting to poke your eyes out with a stick
then you should take a day off. Whether you work for someone else or for yourself, you must take a day off every once in a while. You must.

Or else you are no good to yourself or anyone else. Just take a break, already. If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything.

You may now return to your regular, mom-voice-free lives.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Handmade = Slower? Seriously?

I just saw this quote from the featured seller on Etsy:

"Choosing handmade is choosing a slower way of life, one rooted in tradition and creative expression."

Okay, I can accept that handmade things are traditional and creative. But a slower way of life? Really?

Not if you sell your crafts, it ain't. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Featured Crafter: Jessica Partain of Inedible Jewelry on Etsy

Please welcome Jessica Partain of Inedible Jewelry to our featured crafter party. With her sister, Susan, she creates teh kyootest (but inedible!) miniature foods and turns them into jewelry. Their items will appeal to all of us who love teeny-weeny cuteness. Count me in.

Your inedible food jewelry is adorable. What was the impulse to turn this artwork into a business?

Thank you! Susan and I have been sculpting our tiny foods since we were kids. We started out making foods for our dolls, and developed a passion for it. We kept making the minis, and decided they were better suited to jewelry than tiny tables.In 2006, we decided to try selling our pieces at the local Charlottesville City Market. The market is hugely thriving and a major social tradition on Saturday mornings- everyone goes to get fresh local veggies, locally-roasted coffee, and the fried-on-the-spot cinnamon sugar donuts. We were lucky to have such a great market that provides a lot of support to local artists, farmers, and food vendors.We set out a little table with just a few pieces, and immediately people connected with our work. From there, we built up slowly, and were lucky to have such great feedback from people each Saturday morning. I went full-time with the business in early 2007. Susan is part-time (she is equally passionate about her full-time job working for a non-profit up in DC.)

How long does it take you to make your items? Do you make them in batches?

Just like a real bakery, we do make most of our pieces in batches. There's burger day, cupcake day, etc. Each piece is assembled very much like its real-food counterpart. For example, when we make the burgers, we create the bun, the lettuce, the tomato, the patty, the melty cheese, and then assemble all of the pieces together. Then we make sure t
he bun looks nice and toasty and add the sesame seeds (each one made by hand!) on top. If you'd like to see how we make the burgers, we have a fun YouTube video.

Please describe for our readers a typical Day in the Life of a Fancy Fake Food Jewelry Maker.

Susan works full-time, so she does her sculpting after she's home from work and on the weekends.I'm full-time, so my day is all about the tiny food.

9.30a coffee, english muffin (with bananas and almond butter- yum!), email, a quick scan of Twitter and Facebook

10a to-do list for the day, print off any orders that need to be shipped, thank you notes

10.30- I flip on my Pandora happy mix and get sculpting

lunchtime- coffee, lunch, email, Twitter, Facebook, maybe flickr (especially if it's Wednesday, when I try to post photos of my works-in-progress)

1ish- sculpting, photography

3ish- finish up packaging orders that need to be shipped

4ish- post office run, and then head to the gym with my fiance, then dinner, something fun (Wednesdays it's always Modern Family, Thursdays it's often salsa dancing)

Later: I often head back to sculpting for a couple of hours after he heads to bed (he owns a coffee shop, so gets to bed early since he'd up around 5a).

After 10p, that usually means hoping that Hulu and Netflix have some great overly-dramatic shows to listen to in the background. A last check of email, Twitter, and Facebook, then I head to bed and read for half an hour or so.

What sort of networking and promoting do you practice? What do you recommend to others?

We're on Twitter, Facebook, and flickr, and have found all three to be great forms of networking online. I enjoy chatting about all things food and miniature, so those are the kinds of conversations I end up having. In real life, we're at a market or show once a week from April through December, so we meet lots of people. I recommend social networking o
nline only if you're interested in conversations with people. I love the Twitter chats about new foods or recipes, the Facebook comments about new work and how we could tweak it, and the flickr chats about beautifully photographed foods and crafts. They're the conversations I have in real life too.

The fifth question is always the same: what advice do you wish you had when you started your business?

1. Have an accountant set up your spreadsheets, or give you advice on setting them up before you begin selling. It's MUCH easier to just update them than do this retroactively. If you don't know the first thing about bookkeeping or spreadsheets, hire an accountant to do it for you- it's money well-spent, and not expensive.

2. Spend out. This idea comes from Gretchen Rubin, author of one of my favorite blogs, The Happiness Project. This doesn't mean spend ridiculous amounts of money on your business (I'm a huge advocate of growing slowly so as not to go into debt, but that's off-topic!). Rather, "spend out" means to not hold on to ideas for fear. Fear that you'll be copied, fear that you'll never have another good idea like this one, fear that you should "save" this idea for a specific time. Let that brilliant idea out into the world! Let people comment on the idea, see how they react to it! You'll clear that mental space where you were holding the idea, and the feedback will spur you to have 100 new ideas.

Thanks so much for sharing with us, Jessica! Readers--what about Jessica's story inspires you?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why I won't sell through Amazon

I refuse to sell my books through Amazon. There are many reasons for this, the most glaring one being that the Kindle has a black-and-white screen. All of my books are in full-color fabulousness, and that's part of their appeal. I won't dilute that experience for the scraps that I might get from Amazon's table.

Here is one more reason that I won't sell my ebooks through Amazon. The books you buy for your Kindle? They really aren't yours. Andrei Codrescu elaborates, on NPR:

I'm reading a new book I downloaded on my Kindle and I noticed an underlined passage. It is surely a mistake, I think. This is a new book. I don't know about you, but I always hated underlined passages in used books. They derail my private enjoyment.

When somebody offers perception of what's important, something moronic, usually, which is why I always prefer buying books new so I could make my own moronic marks. But moronic or not, it was all between me and my new book.

And this thing on my Kindle is supposed to be new. And then I discovered that the horror doesn't stop with the unwelcomed presence of another reader who's defaced my new book. But it deepens with something called view popular highlights, which will tell you how many morons have underlined before so that not only you do not own the new book you paid for, the entire experience of reading is shattered by the presence of a mob that agitates inside your text like strangers in a train station.

So now you can add to the ease of downloading an e-book the end of the illusion that it is your book. The end of the privileged relation between yourself and your book. And a certainty that you've been had. Not only is the e-book not yours to be with alone, it is shared at Amazon which shares with you what it knows about you reading and the readings of others. And lets you know that you are what you underline, which is only a number in a mass of popular views.

Conformism does come of age in the most private of peaceful activities -reading a book, one of the last solitary pleasures in a world full of prompts to behave. My Kindle, sugar-coated cyanide.

I'm certain you can turn off the highlighting and underlining, can't you? I don' t have a Kindle, so I don't know.

As a business owner, I read this and take a lesson: Sell actual files.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Featured Crafter coming Friday!

Stay tuned--we've got another featured crafter this Friday! Click the Subscribe button to the right to get all posts in your reader, automatically.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Image by rubyblossom. Used with permission via a Creative Commons license.

There is value in what you do.

I was reminded of this lesson the other day. I was lamenting the fact that I am not yet self-employed all the way, 100%, and why was it taking so long, and maybe this isn't the way to go anyway. What am I doing, here? This is taking far too long to see any financial results. Is it worth it?

And then I got this message on Facebook:

Hi Amy,

I just friended you, and didn't want you thinking, "Who is this chick?' so I'll explain. At the end of 2008 I bought your first two ebooks about soap making. A little more than 2 years later, I have a thriving soap business than continues to grow and has enabled me to take my full-time job of 20 years down to a part time job. By the end of this year, I hope to leave that job altogether and focus entirely on my business. I just want to say Thank You for everything. For your knowledge and your inspiration that's helped me get this far. If you ever find yourself asking, "Is anyone even benefiting from what I'm doing?"take a look at my website

Again my sincere thanks,

Michelle Harps

Summer Kitchen Soaps

There. THAT'S the value in what I do. I publish books that help people to learn things. One of my books might be the thing that lifts a woman out of poverty. One of my books has already changed one person's life for the better--she wrote to me and told me so. I am so grateful that she did. I cannot express to you all how much that message warmed my heart and affirmed that I am doing the right thing.

I don't just write and publish books. I help people.

Look at the work you do, and ask yourself, "What is the value of this?" Crafting has value. What needs are you meeting? Do your items make someone more comfortable? My soaps are great for the skin, and are helpful to those with sensitivities to artificial fragrance. They help people. Do your items make people feel more beautiful? Enhance their living spaces? Perform a useful function?

Crafting has value. Our pursuits are not frivolous.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Featured Crafter: Riley of MagnusJournals on Etsy

Handbound Journals

Everyone, please welcome Riley, from Magnus Journals on Etsy. This shop is unique and an ultra-niche: paper and journals. That's it! Please click the photos if you find them intriguing--they are all linked to Riley's shop.

This blog is about crafts and business. How do you find out about craft fairs in your area? Do you sell online exclusively?

Craft fairs right now are still a bit of a mystery to me, but as far as finding them, I live in an area where craft fairs are extremely popular so I’m lucky that they always seem to just present themselves. But if you’re having trouble, connect with other crafters in your area. They’ll know what’s up and they’ll get you plugged in. Right now I also have items in a little boutique that sells items from local artisans, but I’ve primarily been focusing on Etsy.

What was the impulse to start your business?

A lot of it was simply people encouraging me to do it. People would see my journals and say, “You should sell those on Etsy!” and finally I investigated it and decided it was something I wanted to do. I wouldn’t have been able to afford bookbinding as a hobby without selling my journals, but now it has totally shifted from a hobby to a business. I still love and enjoy it, though!

What is your niche market?

I think creative, artsy types are definitely my niche because of how I try to use unlikely materials to create my items. The kinds of people who have bought my products are very diverse though, so luckily for me I think my niche transcends the normal barriers like age and gender. I think what sets me apart is that I try to never make the same thing twice. I’m constantly looking for new ideas and new ways to do things; I don’t have an established format that I always stick to.

Vanilla-scented Paper. Have you ever?

Which materials/colors/techniques interest you the most right now? What is inspiring you, creatively?

I’m really into natural materials right now, stuff that looks and feels very earthy. But I’m also really liking bright colors since we’re getting towards spring! It’s hard to find something that isn’t inspiring me, to be honest. Ever since I started trying to use more unusual materials, I can’t look at anything without trying to figure out how I could make it into a journal.

What piece of advice do you wish you had, when starting your business?

Let yourself grow. Don’t feel like you have to have everything perfectly set up when you first open shop. I think it’s best to jump into it and learn on the way. Also, photos are the most important thing on Etsy. You need to really have someone who knows what they’re talking about look at your photos . If you feel your shop is struggling, your photos are probably the culprit!

Thanks for joining us on a Featured Crafter Friday, Riley. Readers, please leave a comment if you have a question or enjoyed this interview. Thanks for joining the conversation.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

All at Once

The life of an entrepreneur does not happen bit by bit. You must know this. If you have not yet started your craft business, know this. Accept it now.

If you are the sort of person who does not handle chaos well, then this business life may not be for you.

I'm not saying to you must accept the chaos or embrace the chaos. I'm asking you to accept the fact that entrepreneurial things happen all at once, much of the time, and are chaotic, and you must be good at

making sense and order out of the chaos.

When you are having a slow, mellow period in your week, get to work on your crafting. Pre-work. Cut fabric strips. Pre-measure soap oils. Order supplies online. Do something every day to keep things moving forward.

Because when it rains, it pours. An entrepreneur must have said that first.

Here are my tips for managing chaos:

1. Stop. Assess the situation, then respond.
2. Carry your calendar with you at all times.
3. Say, "no," often and as needed.
4. Be professional. If you are scheduling a meeting, and the time they asked for doesn't work for you, don't just say "I'm not available then. When else?" Say this, "I can't do that time. Next week I am available on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday anytime after 4pm." That's faster and more specific. It respects the other person, and yourself.
5. Note when bloggers wax philosophical about situations they are currently experiencing, and pay attention so you can be successful the first time.

What are your best tips for staying organized and on-track? How do you manage the chaos?