Monday, December 28, 2009

The End Of Another Year In My Hanmdade Business

As 2009 winds down it's last few days, it's always interesting to see how the year has played out for my little handmade business.

The economy certainly played a major factor in spending habits. At times, it seemed I may have made a mistake in moving my business to all sea glass jewelry and away from mixing in some less expensive glass bead creations... but looking back on the decision, I feel it was the correct move to create a niche product for myself.

Handmade craft fairs seemed to be hit & miss once again in 09. When the weather wasn't wreaking havoc, the economy sometimes affected some of my shows. Some shows that were good the previous few years, turned into absolute busts in 2009, while others remained solid events...once again, offering a niche product exclusively may have been a reason for shows that I deemed to be less than successful. Yet shows like AbbieRoad's The Handmade Faire continued to be solid shows and when the weather cooperated, the show was the best show in Central NJ (and perhaps the best show in all of NJ...Abbie and friends do a top-notch job of's a must-do show if you live in the tri-state area)

2009 also found my creations in various brick & mortar shops with varying levels of success. A display on LBI didn't live up to expectations, while a small gallery in Barnegat did better than expected...and considering I wasn't in the gallery for the summer months, I have high hopes for this location in the coming year.

I also have a display in a new shop, JerseyMade, which is run by a fellow Etsy member who I've done many shows with. I'm very excited to have the opportunity to sell my sea glass jewelry in Holly's (LeafPile) shop. The shop is located in Historic Mt Holly, NJ, in the Mill Race Village shopping area.

In looking ahead to 2010, I'm hoping to do fewer shows (but keep those where my product does well) while looking to add a couple more consignment/wholesale accounts with brick & mortar shops. My main focus will be on Long Beach Island and I'd like to add one more shore resort shop to the mix for this coming year. I will also be focusing on doing the North American Sea Glass Festival in 2010 (I really wanted to take the plunge in 09, but wasn't sure I was ready & didn't believe I had enough product)

My CreationsByRobin shop on continues to live up to my expectations. Sales seemed a bit sluggish this holiday season when compared to 2008, but again, the economy may have had a lot to do with the slower sales. As the economy begins to improve, hopefully sales will increase in the coming year.

I am also hoping to open my own website in the coming year. The site will be all sea glass... my sea glass jewelry creations, sea glass decor, and possibly loose pieces of sea glass- for both mosaics and jewelry quality pieces.

2009 had it's ups and downs. But I survived the year and the disastrous economy...and even took a few positive steps forward in the process. I'm looking forward to the new year!

My next entry will introduce a few vendors who stepped forward and offered the handmade community some fantastic product...hopefully I can get the blog posted in the next day or two.

til next time...


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Last Show Of The Holiday Season... Jersey Made

Wow, the end of the year has arrived quickly. With less than two weeks to Christmas (and so much shopping still to be done in my house) tomorrow, Sunday December 13th will be my final handmade show of the year.

I will have my sea glass jewelry at the 2nd Annual Holiday Magical Family Event at Historic Smithville Park in Eastampton, NJ. The hours for the show are from 12pm-5pm. My table display will be located in Area 3.

This event was a huge success last year. The crowds came out to enjoy Santa, music, carolers, etc. The event seemed to have plenty of room and vendors, but the show was overwhelmed with visitors. It was literally wall-to-all people and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves (despite longer than expected lines) This is a great event for the entire family (my boys especially liked the reindeer last year) The event is held under huge, heated don't let the weather stop you from enjoying this wonderful holiday experience!

If you can't make it to the show, and don't see what you're looking for in my Etsy shop. I'm also located at the Gold Duster in Barnegat, NJ and my sea glass jewelry has just arrived at a brand new shop... JerseyMade.

JerseyMade is located in the Mill Race shopping village in Mount Holly, NJ.

JerseyMade features many handmade artists/crafters from the Etsy New Jersey street team (EtsyNJ team) I'm very excited to be part of this new venture...the area is beautiful and the village has 15 or so shops. Holly (LeafPile from Etsy) has done a wonderful job creating a warm, inviting shop. Craft classes are already on the schedule and I hope to offer a sea glass/basic wire wrapping class in the future. Kudos also go out to Abbie (AbbieRoad on Etsy) and her husband, Sean for helping Holly create "her look".

Mill Race Village is having an event later tonight to help raise funds for the South Jersey Food Bank... From 6pm-9pm tonight, December 12th, the shops of Mill Race Village will be having a Chocolate Walk... visit each of the shops to pick up free handmade chocolates (a $20 donation get you a box and you are off on a chocolate hunt through the village) The shops will remain open through 9pm for chocolate hunters and holiday shopping... it's a worthy cause and the donations will help out our neighbors in South Jersey that may be struggling during these times.

'til next time....


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Start Of The Holiday Season- EtsyNJ Sale!!

Thanksgiving is upon us in the US...and that kicks off the holiday shopping frenzy! The malls are gearing up for what they hope is a busy season, the "box-stores" are all extending shopping hours and getting ready for a crazy "Black Friday"...the most important shopping day of the season for retail shops.

The handmade community is also gearing up for the holiday season...and the EtsyNJ street team has planned something special for those shoppers that just love to buy and give handmade gifts (and maybe purchase a few things for themselves)

EtsyNJ Thanksgiving Sale

More than 50 members of EtsyNJ team are participating in the sale which starts today, November 25th and runs through Cyber-Monday, November 30th! The members of the EtsyNJ team have either lowered prices, giving a percentage off an order, offer free shipping, or have a buy free gift with purchase/buy one get one offer in their shops (please check the individual shops to see what they are offering in this sale)

My shop, CreationsByRobin, will be offering free shipping world wide for this sale and I'll be marking down prices on selected items during the 6 day sale... if there is something that has caught your eye in my shop...check back often, you never know if the price will be reduced during the sale. Plus, I'll be adding a few new items during our 6 day sale!

Why bother battling the traffic, only to find empty-shelves and insanely long lines at check-out? Stay home, pour yourself a cup of tea and come check out what talented EtsyNJ team has created for those on your holiday shopping list...or maybe pick out a few things for yourself...after preparing and cooking on Thanksgiving, you deserve it. Click on the EtsyNJ Sale link above and see what we have for you and yours....

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sea Glass Hunting... After the Boys of Summer Have Gone

So one would think it's not the ideal time to go sea glassing (aka-hunting for sea glass) Well there is nothing further from the is the optimum time to long as 40 degree temperatures and cold, biting winds don't bother you much.

Okay, I have to admit...frigid conditions on the beach DO in fact bother me and I often don't accompany the hubby on his bordering on insane excursions, but after a bunch of convincing (he told me it would be great!) we went after work earlier this week and as he planned, the conditions were perfect. It wasn't too cold, and the winds weren't horrible...and since he knew that winds were blowing lightly from the west, the full moon had just passed and we arrived at low tide- everything was in place for a bountiful sea glass hunt!

Kevin has often told me of these perfect opportunities to find sea glass...and now I know exactly what he meant. I had never been to the beach to see this type of low was out at least several more feet than I had ever seen before...and the waves coming into the shore, weren't waves at all, they were more like gently rushing water.

With the shell/rock beds on the ocean floor exposed, this was I know how he sometimes come home with several dozen pieces. While I picked from the higher beds, Kevin braved the water in his not-so-cool-looking water-proof boots and together we came home with what you see in the images above. (the boots might not be cool looking, but he found several pretty pieces lying in 3 or 4 inches of water, pieces that would have been out of reach otherwise...besides, I bought him the boots for Xmas last investment in my

He told me it would be great...and he was right.... however, he told me it would be great again yesterday and he was right again, but this girl ain't no fool.... temps in the low 40s and a colder, stronger wind...this girl stayed indoors and drank a hot cup of tea while the hunter went hunting : )

'til next time...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My First Creation For The Boys...

Due to popular demand, I finally created a necklace that boys would wear. It's a unisex necklace, but one that the local surfer dudes (and dudettes) have purchased from my display at craft shows.
I used some larger deep olive pieces of sea glass, with a hole drilled, and it hangs on a black waxed cotton cord.

My son loves his and I even wear one from time to time...and the few that I've sold, have been purchased for boys. So I finally answered the request... good for boys and girls, and perfect for surfer first sea glass necklace that the males will wear.

Once again, I've been away from this blog for far too long. Between my J-O-B, custom orders, replenishing my shop and consignment shops have me swamped. I have a list of ideas for blogs, so they should be coming every couple days (now that I've settled into my new position at work) and hopefully, I'll have several new creations to share with each blog.

'til next time...


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Friday's Thoughts....

Once again, it's been a while since my last blog entry. My recently crazy work schedule, craft fairs, servicing my consignment shops, and keeping my Etsy shop somewhat stocked, has left me with very little free time, and my blogs have suffered.

I have jotted down a number of subjects that I had hoped to blog about (and still may) but since my schedule book is still overflowing with need-to-do's, it may be a good idea to throw out some random thoughts on these subjects.... and call it a blog entry : )

The first subject is the pros & cons of promoting off of the Etsy site.
There is an obvious need for promoting. But when off-site promoting results in several hundred views, (in less than 48 hours) do Etsy shoppers begin to wonder why the item hasn't sold?

I've been using a few sites to help promote my new listings and I have found that either there are a lot of people on one particular site that like sea glass jewelry, or the members love to look at handmade items. Either way, I'm no longer stunned when one of my new items receives 500 views in less than 12 hours! Some of my items have 750+ views in the first 24 hours. But I wonder what Etsy shoppers think when they see a large number of views...and very few hearts. A perfect example is the last item I listed, earlier this week.

After listing the item, I had to run out to get my sons off their school buses and didn't have time to promote. Shortly after getting them settled into their homework mode, I promoted in the Etsy forums a little. In the first 90 minutes, the new listing had 11 views, and 2 item hearts (wow 2 hearts from 11 views...very cool!) So I promoted off the Etsy site... in the next 6 hours my item had been viewed over 600 times (and still only 2 hearts) and by the end of the night, the item had been viewed more than 800 times!

Perhaps because of listing the item (on Stumble Upon) several of my other items listed there also received views, with one item (now up over 1,100 views and just one lonely item heart) adding another 100 views for the day...and I haven't promoted that item on Etsy in several days.

Is it a good thing that my items are being viewed by so many? I'm not sure the number of views on some items is a good thing...and I wish the feature was hidden from buyers and only available to my eyes... but I also think that some of my sales can be contributed directly to promoting off-site. There have been days where I added an item, failed to do any promoting on Etsy, but did promote off-site and the item sells within a few days....and often to someone who just joined Etsy that very day! Still, I'm not sure what buyers make of a new item with hundreds of views, but no takers.

Another thought on promoting... My hubby uses traffic exchanges for his various "things" and he has promoted my shop on several of these exchanges recently...some with little to no success, but the results according to Google Analytics on a few others were quite startling!

On one particular exchange, out of 175+ visits, I had a bounce rate of 58%. But those that did look at my shop, really looked! My overall stats were more than 2.4 pages per visit and the time spent in my shop was over 90 seconds per visit...and more than half of those visits left those that stayed, really looked around! And what is best about this one particular site...the numbers have not dropped off terribly on subsequent campaigns.

I just asked hubby if he could please promote my shop a bit heavier this weekend and I might have to look into joining one of those free sites myself, just to promote my shop on a daily basis. The numbers matched up well to those from Stumble who knows, it may be worth the effort. (not the number of views, but the bounce rate, time on site and pages per visit.. hubby doesn't promote a particular item, only my store page, so views are not skewed)

My final thought for today's blog is ... the sea glass supply is slowly drying up. Yikes, I have a niche market and now no one is dumping their garbage in the ocean anymore... what is up with that! And worse yet, no one uses glass bottles anymore. Everything is now plastic.

My recent trips to the beach have been total busts. I've come away with very little sea glass and zero pieces that I would consider jewelry quality. And unfortunately, the conditions were perfect for sea glass hunting... no one on the beach, low tide, lots of shells...but sadly, very little sea glass.
We even had back to back to back weeks of tropical storms off the coast or strong winds from the east and still almost nothing.

I wonder if sea plastic is the next rage : (

'til next time...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Has The Holiday Shopping Season Begun??

I don't really pay much attention to the financial news, but I've been told that the economy is turning around a little. People are beginning to re-invest in the stock market and retail companies are doing better...that's what the latest financial indicators are saying .

Well it might be true! My indicators seem to be mirroring what the financial markets are saying. In my last entry I blogged about how the last show I did exceeded expectations. During the week, I noticed a little bit of added traffic to my store and over the weekend, my numbers (according to my shop analytics) hit a couple all-time highs for visits and page views, with Sunday's numbers going over 1,000 visitors for the first time.

Another indicator for my store is in the "hearts" I am receiving in my shop. I have always found that a positive indicator was to see buyer-only hearts and the last 10 shop-hearts I received, 5 of those are from buyers-only. So buyers are visiting Etsy and surfing the site. (when I refer to "buyers" I mean registered Etsy members that do not have a shop on Etsy) A couple of my individual items have also been "hearted" recently by Etsy buyers.

One of my upcoming craft shows has a blog that includes the vendors and those with websites are back linked. My Etsy shop analytics have shown visitors from the shows blog to my site, and this weekend, I received a handful of visitors from the blog.

Maybe last weekend's show was than just a better than expected show. Perhaps people are beginning to purchase gifts for the holidays earlier and spreading out the cost of their holiday shopping over a few months, rather than a 5 or 6 week period of time. Maybe we are just beginning to see a light at the end of this horrible economic tunnel.

It is certainly something to consider as I start getting my inventory geared towards the holidays. The "indicators" seem to be telling me I need to step up my plans for the remainder of the year and try to take advantage of what seems to be many buyers coming back to
Hopefully the worst really is over and we all get to finish the year off with a couple solid months of sales.

'til next time...


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Words On Wednesday

I usually post a "Wordless Wednesday" entry with images of new items. I did have images of new items to share. But I also wanted to share some info on my craft fair this past weekend. Since it is positive news, I hope it's just the start of some good things coming our way in the handmade community.

The show I did this past weekend (The Beach Plum Festival) was fairly well attended, though a few of the vendors that did the show last year seemed to think it was slower in terms of traffic. It was my first year at this show, and I found the traffic to be fairly constant and it seemed like many people stayed at the show for a few hours.

Last year I would have considered this show to be slightly better than that I would probably do again next year, unless a much better show such as The Handmade Faire was held on the same day) But in a struggling economy, I viewed the show as quite hopeful for future craft fairs, since I had lowered my expectations for the early fall craft shows.

There seemed to be several people their buying items for family members or friends and people were asking vendors if they had gift boxes for their purchases, as the purchase was to be for the holidays or a future birthday.

Also quite hopeful was the amount of business cards that were handed out. I don't believe I have gone through as many business cards as I did for this show. I started with a box of 250 and came home with probably about 100.

What I also found encouraging, was that almost all of my sales were credit cards purchases. The show did have an ATM around for miles and the customers were happy to pull out a credit card and to make their purchase. this was so encouraging, that I'm considering making it known to my Etsy customers that I will take credit cards, along with Paypal payments during the holiday season.

Maybe, just maybe the economy IS turning around... people have a little disposable income and they aren't maxed-out on their credit cards. I was also happy to see that many of the handmade vendors at this show seemed leave that day looking tired, but happy that the show turned out better than expected.

I'm still approaching each show a bit hesitant and I'll continue to keep expectations lowered, but I'm hoping that everyone with craft fairs on their fall and holiday schedule have the same outcome I had on Sunday...positive and hopeful for the future!

'til next time...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

End of Summer...Fall/Winter Show Schedule, Milestones...

With September just around the corner, Labor Day Weekend is next weekend and the kids go back to school in a little over a's the end of another summer. And it doesn't even feel like summer ever arrived! A couple of the nicest weekends we had this summer, I spent doing craft shows and when I was ready to go to the beach, the sun didn't cooperate...and now we had back to back weekends of tropical storms.

With the end of summer near, it's time to concentrate on getting my inventory levels built up Etsy and my Fall /Holiday craft fair season. I have a bunch of shows already booked, a couple more pending and a few more applications to consider.

My show schedule is booked for September.

Sept 13th- The Beach Plum Festival, Island Beach State Park

Sept 26th- The Spirit Of Chesterfield Festival, Village of Crosswicks, NJ

Sept 27th- Arts In The Park, Historic Smithville Park, Easthampton, NJ

I'll have many new handmade sea glass creations for these shows and a few will appear in my Etsy shop starting in October.

I hit a few milestones this past month, my 2ooth feedback, my 2 year Etsy anniversary and my 200th sale! If someone would have told me that I would have made 200 sales on Etsy in 2 years, I would have told them they were crazy. I've come along way in the last 2 years (just check out the images above of the 1st item I sold and one of my latest items listed on Etsy) and much of my success can be contributed to my friends in the North American Sea Glass Association and especially to my friends in the EtsyNJ street team. EtsyNJ members have been invaluable in sharing info, tips and support over the last 2 years and I would not be close to 200 sales without the team.
Looking forward to another fun year with my Etsy friends!

'til next time...

Friday, August 14, 2009

I was featured in a blog!

I logged onto my Etsy shop this morning and found a convo a few minutes later that informed me I was featured in her blog! Apparently, the blogger had a tough time selecting an image to use because of a couple of the sales I made this week : )

Julie is a great photographer and I've been secretly watching her work for a bit...appearing in her blog is an honor. Thank you JulieMagersSoulen for the feature...

Please visit Julie's shop and check out this talented photographer-

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Busy Weekend,...New Creations...

With no shows on the calender this weekend, I've been trying to play catch-up. I made a few new items and put them into my Etsy shop, as I try to get my inventory numbers back up to a comfortable amount.

I woke up early, not of my own doing, but because my youngest son had a nightmare, climbed into bed with us and then proceeded to stretch his arms out....across my throat. Fearing possible suffocation, I climbed out of bed at 4:30am, made a pot of coffee and sat down to do finish some wire wrapping I had started the night before (see image above) for a custom order.

After breakfast, we dropped the boys off at their Aunt's and headed to LBI to add a few new pieces to my consignment collection there...only to find a couple of my necklaces were looking dingy. I cleaned what I could, and brought the rest home to clean up.

We headed up to Barnegat to another consignment...The Gold Duster. I brought a few new jewelry displays with me, in hopes of grabbing another shelf in this beautiful gallery...and lucky me, the curator (Karen) had one available for me...and even better, a check for a sold piece (don't you love when that happens!!)

We got back home in time to get the boys to a birthday party, and then ran them up to my younger sister's home for a sleep-over with their cousin...went home and passed out : )

Now I'm hoping I can get hubby to do a little early morning sea glass hunting and out to breakfast...maybe. Coffee is done brewing, I'm off to pour a cup and get hubby out of bed.

Enjoy the day!

'til next time...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Business or A Hobby Part 3

In the 3rd blog on running your handmade shop as a business as opposed to a hobby, I wanted to talk about how important it is to network at craft fairs, and how to use this information to plan future shows.

When I first began doing shows, I sat behind my table quietly...almost sheepishly, like my creations weren't worthy. Well several shows later, I've learned how much time I wasted at these shows... even though I thought I had a decent show, I missed out on so many opportunities. Opportunities like networking with some of the more experienced sellers, missing chances to sell my services for possible custom work, etc.

In my opinion, networking with other vendors is a huge key to doing a show. Finding out what shows these vendors do every year and more importantly, which shows they do very well at and which shows are over-rated is info worth it's weight in gold (especially the shows that are over-rated!!)

The street teams on Etsy can be very valuable in the show info sharing department. The EtsyNJ team constantly provides show info and I can't stress the importance of being part of a strong team. The info has saved me from having some horrible shows, and steered me to shows I would have never known existed...I currently have stacks of applications on my desk for late summer/autumn and winter shows, along with a semi-full calender of shows I've already been accepted to. I'll turn to my team members for feedback on some of the upcoming shows before mapping out the remainder of my 2009 "show circuit".

A big soon as you know you've been accepted to shows... create a flyer to let your customers know where they may find you in the future. Not everyone likes to by online yet. Some don't like paying for something they haven't held in their hand, while others don't want to pay for shipping when they can find you at a future show. I have several specific areas where I have a small "following" and I try to let these repeat customers know when I'll be back in the future.

I also make sure to book a few to several shows in these areas throughout the year. If it is a good area, there's no harm in booking a return show 2, 3 4 weeks later. If that's where your business does well, then that's where you need to be! On the other hand, if a show has not lived up to your expectations... well there's no sense in beating a dead horse (or maybe fool me once, shame on you, fool me... I just had to use one of DH

In my last installment, I also mentioned how finding my niche made my handmade "business" a bit easier on me. While I love creating, sitting at the table, thumbing through a Fire Mountain supply book to purchase beads was always a bit boring. Going to the local craft shop was okay, but also time consuming and it took up so much of my creating time. But turning to something (sea glass) that had been a passion of mine for decades made this venture fun again. And now I have help : )

My hubby is also quite passionate about sea glass. He knows rarities, is very good at evaluating sea glass and he's very good at locating jewelry quality pieces. DH knows what I like to work with, probably knows sea glass values much better than I do and he keeps me fairly well stocked all year long. And that allows me more time to create or take a much needed break from the business when I feel burnt out after several weeks of working, coming home to create and then a long day at shows.

I still select all my silver components, but when it comes to sea glass, DH is my source. Since he shares my passion for sea glass, he has no problem going out on awful weather days to hunt at the beach for some new inventory. He actually looks forward to the possibilities of what might be waiting for him to scoop out of the surf.

Of course, his knowledge is also helpful at my show table. Since eliminating glass bead/semi-precious stone jewelry (which he knew zero about) he can give me long breaks at shows. For the most part, he knows where the sea glass was found and if it's not a local piece, where the piece came from. Creating a niche category has allowed me to spend time with DH at shows and has made him my show partner. He finds the sea glass, drills holes for the few pieces I need drilled and I make the finished product. It works well for both of us.

Our niche jewelry category works in the area we live in. Being near the beach, we have many customers stop at our display to talk sea glass. It is something that people remember from their childhoods, something they want to share with their children and my sea glass jewelry is a way to keep that memory alive.

Of course there are people who see my creations and move onto the next jewelry vendor to buy something, because sea glass means little to them. So in that respect, some people walk away as fast as they came. In the past, that wasn't a problem because I something for everyone with my glass beads jewelry. But focusing on just one medium...sea glass creations... is much easier to me than worrying about what the market is bearing for several types of jewelry.

I've always believed that stagnation is very dangerous selling handmade. I think you always need to create something new, something to catch the eye of your customer. Since I enjoy working with sea glass, I have incorporated some old ideas into some new creations. This new line is still a work-in-progress, but I hope to have a few pictures of my new creations in the next few days.

I hope you have found some useful info in this 3-part blog and to those that have asked me for a couple of suggestions, I hope this has helped. Successful craft shows can be very important to your online sales and your handmade business as a whole. Building a following/repeat customers are what will help you to be successful.

'til next time...


Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Business or A Hobby.... Part 2

Yesterday, I blogged about starting my handmade venture... how I chose to make it a business rather than just a hobby and how it all came to be.

This (hopefully) short blog is going to be about how I started out with scarf and hat sets, branched out into handmade jewelry and what it's turned into today.

After trying to sell scarves in 90+ degree heat in August, it was clear that sales were going to be slow. There were so many quality scarves on Etsy as it was and lets face it... practically no one was thinking winter when it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

Jewelry was an obvious choice. Of course, it was a brainstorm... there was 5x as many handmade jewelry shops as scarf shops. But despite awful pictures, I eventually began selling some of my creations. Going into the holidays in 2007, Etsy was beginning to receive quite a bit of media attention and membership was growing quickly... as were shop openings and even worse, the competition in the jewelry category. the debut of the Gift guides at the end of 2007 opened my eyes to what I really needed to do to just stay afloat on Etsy.

The Gift Guides opened and well, I was disappointed that I wasn't selected for them. Clearly the reason was my images were pitiful and to compete, I would need to upgrade my camera. Despite not making the GG that holiday season and having a poor November, my shop began getting noticed in December and sales were pretty good at the end of 07 and the start of 08 (one of my items were briefly in the GG...before selling!)

It was in 2008 when I decided that I needed a niche. Jewelry was just too competitive to continue what I was doing. So I opened up my jars of sea glass jewelry and began a new line of jewelry.

Craft shows also became a big part of my business. The shows weren't really great, but I was able to actually see the reactions of potential customers as they viewed my displays. Seeing what they were drawn to, what they didn't look twice at and what gave them sticker-shock became valuable information in determining what type of show I would do in the future. These shows also indicated that Etsy was now entrenched in the handmade mainstream (is there such a thing), as no one knew what an Etsy was in 2007, but at least 50% of the customers that visited my displays in 2008 had heard of Etsy and many of them were currently members... in some cases, these shows led to online sales a week or two after the shows. Now I was really promoting offline...the shows became an advertisement of my creations.

The decision was made at the end of 2008 that I would phase out my glass bead/semi-precious stone jewelry making and concentrate solely on sea glass jewelry during 2009. The game-plan was to add several new shows to the mix, in hopes of driving more people to my online sites (yes plural...ArtFire and 1000 Markets shops were opened at the end of 08) Unfortunately, the economy continued to tank after the holidays and a great many people began tightening their spending habits and looking for extra ways to make money...less spending and more competition on Etsy.

In the next entry, I hope to share how the info we pick up at shows, leads us to select future shows, how choosing to limit my creations to a specific niche as fared, and the ways I've continued to expand my business.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Handmade Crafts- A Business or A Hobby? Part 1

I have had a few people ask me about selling crafts, both online and at shows and while I'm certainly no where near an expert on the subject, I thought it would make a decent subject to blog about too....

Many years ago, I worked for a local boutique and the owner allowed me to make summer-type handmade items to sell and they went over quite well. Of course, the business plan was already in place and I had free reign as to what I made...all at the owner's expense, but it was a profitable venture. Unfortunately, life happened and I moved on and eventually came to a crossroads where I could begin making handmade items again... but this time, I was the boss footing the bill.

I started selling my handmade items (scarves at the beginning- in the on Etsy and added handmade jewelry to my shop after a few weeks..and the realization that scarves weren't going to sell in 90+ degree weather. My husband and I read all the threads on Etsy, learning how the site operated and how to maximize the site in hopes of making sales and money.

It became quite clear that there were two types of sellers on Etsy... those who treated their shop like a business and those who had a shop, but as a hobby. I had/have dreams of supporting the family with a handmade business, so we chose to run our shop like it was a business. We began to learn how to promote properly, (and online promoting seems to be a facet of the business that will always be an ongoing learning experience) worked harder at improving my shop and began doing shows to promote my business locally.

Promoting your online business is an every day adventure. We think it is imperative to promote everyday... to do something each and every day. Even on the days we plan on taking the day off, one of us will log on the Etsy site and promote, relist or add a new item to the shop...anything to put the shop and it's items in front of potential customers.

I already mentioned that doing local shows was part of my business plan. In my next blog update, part 2 of this subject will delve into how my business plan has changed regarding handmade shows, what type of shows I look to take part in and how my online business has morphed into what it is today.

'til next time...


Monday, July 20, 2009

Recovering After A Busy Week.....

It was quite the busy time for my shop the last 7 days. A custom order, an appearance on the front page and a very good craft show on Saturday. All have me scrambling to put my online shops back together and try to get ready for more shows in less than two weeks.

My appearance on the front page came from an Etsy chosen "treasury". I was selected as an alternate in the treasury, but my item must have been moved to the front page after original selections sold.

My item received approx 250 views before it was purchased (along with a 2nd item from my shop) Overall, my shop had more than 600 item views, 25 item hearts (and the featured item had 13 hearts before it was purchased) and 20 shop hearts. Lot's of shop exposure from a 30 minute feature...thank you very much Etsy!!!

It's funny how the weather can effect outdoor craft shows. The shows I did the last two weeks had basically the same weather. A beautiful sunny day, not to hot, not very humid. One would think the show results would be close in comparison. Not hardly.

The show 2 weekends ago was held at an ocean resort area (my display pictured above), so the weather made the day a beach day, not a day to be strolling along the boulevard shopping. In the western part of NJ, the very same weather meant for a turnout that no one could have predicted. Burlington county residents came out in droves for the summer edition of The Handmade Faire.

The community support for this show was very good last fall, until the weather turned nasty. This year, the community began showing up a half hour before the show was scheduled to start and they were still walking in when the show was scheduled to end. I saw some of the same people in my tent two and three (or more) times and each time they seemed to be carrying more purchases than the time before! And even more important... they were raving about the crafters they saw at the other end of the show...I have a feeling the October edition of the Handmade Faire will be an even larger success, based on the positive response of the community. I know I'll have my application in early : )

A big thank you to Abbie, Pola, Sean and the rest of the HMF crew for a great show!!

Now back to my crafting table in hopes of restocking my shop.

'til next time...


Friday, July 17, 2009

One of the BEST Handmade Shows in NJ... Saturday July 18th!!

If you are anywhere near the Burlington County area tomorrow, Saturday July 18th, one of the best handmade craft shows in all of NJ (perhaps the best) will take place in Medford, NJ at Freedom Park.

The quality and wide array of crafts is simply amazing...and this show is free to the public! Get there early for the great re-usable totes (supplied by ArtFire) filled with give-aways, promos, and coupons from participating vendors and members of the handmade community that were unable to attend. The show goes on rain or shine...but you want to get there early for the totes!

Here's a copy of the shows press release, copied from the Handmade Faire site...

Handmade Faire: Summer of Love
Freedom Park
86 Union Street Medford, NJ
July 18, 2009 10am-4pm

Burlington County’s most cutting edge art and craft show - The Handmade Faire - Summer of Love. The festival will take place on Saturday, July 18, 2009 from 10am-4pm at Freedom Park in Medford NJ. This event will go on Rain or Shine, and is free and open to the public. There will be goodie bags - a reusable screen printed tote full of coupons for the vendors, samples, treats and more for the first 100 shoppers starting at 10:00. Also, throughout the day we will be having giveaways of a variety of items. As usual, the giveaways will be rewarded at random to people who are already shopping from our awesome vendors!

Freedom Park is a new home for what will be the third Handmade Faire event. The previous events have been held in Waretown, and most recently, Medford’s Flying W Airport last October. With the space available at Freedom Park, along with its central location, the third Handmade Faire is expected to grow even larger than previous shows.

Expect to see the most talented emerging artists from the local, regional, and expanded Indie Art Scene. Last year’s
show welcomed artisans from as local as Medford to as far away as Maine. We welcome 100 of the most unique, talented and creative artists with a large variety of products and specialties including clothing, jewelry, paper goods, children's items, ceramics, and more. Items will cover a wide range of budgets and prices so everyone can leave happy! The Handmade Faire has become Burlington County’s most cutting edge art and craft fair - come see for yourself! This event is not to be missed!

The Handmade Faire is the brainchild of Abigail Mylod-Galie, 27, an artist living in Historic Medford Village. Pola Galie, Abbie's mother in law who is also an artisan, and former Medford councilwoman is the other half of this completely home grown event.

Growing tired of showing at mediocre craft shows, sitting in a sea among flea market items & manufacturers' representatives, Abbie longed for an outlet where handmade artisans could shine. In the true essence of the Handmade and DIY lifestyle, Abbie took things into her own hands and started the Handmade Faire in 2008. Abbie says: "I love the art community, I love being surrounded by fabulous art and artists, and I am thrilled to have the ability to motivate and support the handmade lifestyle because it allows myself and other artists the opportunity to not only live, but thrive on the Handmade Lifestyle.

Hope to see you there!

'til next time...


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Shows, Economy Woes & New Sea Glass Necklaces

I was hoping for a great show this past Saturday at OM Baby in Pt. Pleasant. The weather report was for mostly cloudy skies and no rain. (two days before the show) The day before, the weather called for partly cloudy skies... the day of the show was... sun, sun and more sun. Not a cloud to found in the sky... and abundant sun in a beach town usually doesn't bode well for lots of traffic...except near the beach.

The traffic flow was resembled a leaky sink. People dripped in every once in awhile.... that doesn't mean it was an awful show... far from it. Doing a show with 20+ EtsyNJ vendors is always fun. I had not had the chance to talk face to face with some of the members before, so it was great to put a face/faces to the shop. There was quite a bit of future show info being shared, lots of show stories being shared, etc. It also helped that Kim, our show's organizer, brought in a jazz guitarist for a bit a flavor.

In the afternoon, the beach started clearing out and we did see a bit more traffic. Many tables did see a bit of customer action, a couple sales at the end of a show are usually a great way to end a matter how well you've done during the day.

Some insight into buying habits at this show... It certainly appears that the slow economy is on people's minds. Disposable income seems very limited and in many cases non-existent. I watched several people walk away from a vendor's space empty-handed, even in spite of raving about a product that they loved. I also noticed that the vendors that accepted credit cards, were using their knucklebusters during the show. IMO, accepting credit cards is an absolute must when it comes to doing least at this point.

This show was the first where people seemed to be buying items for themselves, rather than buying items as future gifts. In all, I think I need to re-think what makes a show successful. For me, the benchmark for a good show used to be 8x-10x table fee. I think in this economy, that number needs adjusting. And marketing/promoting my shop with potential customers at shows needs to be paramount. Buyers have so many quality handmade items to choose from, so getting them to stop at one of my online shops after a show has become more important than ever.

My new silver order was delivered today, so I'll have several new items over the next few days. The images of my latest Etsy listings are above.

'til next time...


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Back from vacation and I have a show in 3 days

There's nothing quite like a Disney vacation to make you wish for another vacation (or even a long weekend) to recuperate!
I really thought my long treks on the beach, looking for sea glass, would have me ready for all the walking at the Disney parks. No such luck... but I did lose a few- 10 pounds with all the walking, 90+ degree days and high humidity.

I considered bringing my laptop with me on the trip, but decided that this vacation would be a no-promoting, (other than wearing some of my personal sea glass jewelry) no Etsy vacation. After arriving home and getting the boys to bed, I checked my shop and now wonder if that was really a great idea.

Even with no promoting, I made a sale, have an item in a treasury and received 4 convos. It sometimes takes a month or more for me to receive 4 Maybe on the next vacation, the laptop needs to join us.

It's supposed to be sunny later today and I hope to have a few pictures of some of the new items I created before my vacation and the creations I make today. Above is an image of one I created and listed on Etsy before I left.

I'll be in Point Pleasant this Saturday, at OM Baby for a show with all EtsyNJ vendors... if you're near the Jersey shore this weekend, stop by OM Baby and say Hi!

'til next time...


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Summer Shows

Schools out for the Summer and the Summer Craft Shows are upon us... and there are going to be several great shows at the Jersey shore and in the central Jersey area over the next 6 weeks!

The first is the 2nd annual OM Baby show in Pt. Pleasant, NJ on Saturday, July 11th. 20+ EtsyNJ vendors will take over the OM Baby yoga studio with a variety of handmade creations. Om Baby is located in the heart of the Pt. Pleasant shopping district, there's plentiful parking in the area and the show has FREE admission. Plus the beach and boardwalk are both only a 5 minute drive from the show...handmade items and the Atlantic ocean. Show begins at 12pm and runs until 6pm, but get there early for the giveaways : )

Next on the calendar is the Handmade Faire's Summer of Love event. The summer 2009 version of the Handmade Faire will be held in Medford, NJ at Freedom Park on Saturday, July 18th. Approx 100 juried handmade vendors (and 6 food vendors) will participate in what is probably New Jersey's finest craft show. If there is but one craft show to attend, this is the one. The variety and quality of the vendors will simply blow you away and as always... free admission!! Click on the banner in the top right column for more details-------------------------------->>>>>

Turning to August, I'll once again set up my tent at the Lacey CrabFest and Craft Show. The Crafts Show is in it's 9th year and the Crab Fest in it's 13th year. Last year's show found a handful of EtsyNJ members attend and this year will probably be no different. Handmade items, great food and a well organized event always make for a fun time. This year's show will be held on Saturday, August 1st and the show is held on Lacey Rd in Forked River.... just a stone's throw from Rt9. Bring the children, as there are always activities for the little one's and a couple of local radio stations make appearances and free admission for the craft show!

We're still hoping to get a show organized in time for August 15th on LBI... more info to follow.

'til next time...