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...