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Thursday, April 24, 2008

My First Sale

It has finally happened. I made a sale! There it is over there... the little red bag. Cute, huh? Totally excited. I know I should just take it all in stride, so I will ... the next time. This first one, well, I printed all the orders, payments, etc. Maybe over printed, gotta save a tree here and there. I also need a system for packing, printing the shipping label, etc. After waiting almost 3 months I had, well, not really given up, but decided it might jinx it if I got too organized. Not really particularly businesslike, I realize. Maybe even a little superstitious. So, I will set up a system. One sale, does not an empire build, however, so I think I have a little time.

In the meantime, the smocking progresses. One smocked dress has already been listed, but the design took way too long to be profitable. Back to the drawing board, and now I've designed a halter style dress with smocking only on the front. The prototype is almost finished, and I hope to have a completed dress by the end of the weekend. The one in the picture, currently listed. The smocking goes all the way around (but the flowers are only on the front).

Monday, April 21, 2008

One a Day Challenge

The best thing that has happened to my shop is a challenge that was started in the forums by Bittersweets. The premise... make an item every day and list it in your shop. So far so good. I was off to a bad start (though the reason is explained in the post about buying new supplies). I posted 2 items the next day, and have managed to do one every day.

So why is it the best thing? Well, first of all the exposure has been great. I think at one point yesterday I was in at least 3 treasuries. (I made one of my own today... they are such fun). But even more important than that, has been the discipline. It's made me plan, and have some small things. Little bags that are quick to make have been the backbone of my challenge, and I'll make more to fill in. My smocking is coming along though, and I plan to list my first smocked dress tomorrow!

But even better than all that... the friendships that are developing among the other challenge participants (I think we need a name!). Everyone is so talented, and I have lots on my wish list now!

Here's a treat from the woman who started it all...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Get to Know... MonkeyBuns

I’m starting a new feature, “Get to Know an Etsy Artist”, a fun way to know a bit more about who is selling on and creating for etsy, and for other venues. It’s a way to see the person behind the art.

Today, I’m introducing Krystal, the owner of the shop MonkeyBuns, who joined etsy in March of 2007. She has been making jewelry for about 15 years, since she was about 10 years old. She has been bead weaving for a year now, and most of the pieces in her shop are woven. She is completely self-taught. Two of her most popular pieces are Stain Glass, which she designed and copyrighted:

And Oil Spill:

Krystal is from Iowa, born in Clear Lake, and now living about 10 minutes from there in Mason City. She has a son, who is the inspiration for the name of her shop. When he was born she started calling him Monkeybuns. She finds bead weaving to be very relaxing after a day of chasing a toddler around. She also loves the satisfaction of seeing the completed piece. When she isn’t making jewelry, she loves playing with her son.

But that’s not all she does. Besides her etsy shop, she owns a drop shipping business.

If you ever find yourself in Mason City, Iowa (about halfway between Minneapolis, Minnesota and Des Moines, Iowa, just off of I-35), check out the MacNider Art Museum, where you will also find Krystal’s jewelry in the museum’s shop.

In the meantime, here is one of Krystal’s favorites:

And take a look at the Emerald Shimmer Bracelet that she just added today. I love it!

Update: A message from MonkeyBuns to my readers... if you buy one of the items featured here today, she will give you a 10% discount. Leave a comment for confirmation and tell her you saw it here... I'll convo her to let her know. What are you waiting for?!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Buying Supplies

Today was tax day (well, not for us... tornados in Fulton County, Georgia... deadline extended... yay). OK, it was tax day for most of the country. My favorite quilt store, Dragonfly Quilt Shop, in Watkinsville, was having a tax day sale. I went. I shopped. I got lots of great deals. She had marked all Westminster Fabrics (including Amy Butler!) 20% off. And the clearance fabrics were all 75%(!) off.

Since I'm still not ready to buy wholesale what with minimums, etc., finding great deals is really important to me. I've posted a poll to see what other etsy artists do about finding supplies.

My apologies for the stilted tone of this post. I'm really tired.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Coming Soon... Featured Artist

One of the ways that my blog is changing directions is to focus on etsy and the business of my shop... and other's. I'm starting a "Get to Know an Etsy Artist" feature, and the plan will be to have at least one artist a week featured (maybe more if I get good at this!). So, every Thursday you can get to know an artist. The first one to be featured is MonkeyBuns. She asked on a thread in the etsy forums about how to get featured, so she seemed like the perfect candidate. Plus, I LOVE her shop's name. And, just a little teaser... it's a nickname for her son. How cute! I love when the shop name really means something special, and I love learning about it.

Etsy has so many members that I hope that I can make even just a few your new best friend, that just happens to be fabulously artistic!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Finding Your Niche

I've been thinking a lot about this, as I have yet to make the first sale. Two things happened yesterday that have spurred me on to write more about my own niche and about doing business on etsy in general.

The first was a comment by a fellow etsian who was making a critique about my shop. It was basically (and I'm paraphrasing here) to think about one genre of sewing... he liked my aprons. More on this later. The second was a thread dedicated to the idea that before you open a shop on etsy, you should be able to answer 8 specific questions. These were put forth by the phenomenally successful littleputbooks, so she knows a thing or two about doing business. And they are great questions... here they are:

1. Can I create something unique, well made and marketable?
2. Can I make that item affordably and sell it within a competitive price range?
3. Do I know my target market and is it here on Etsy?
4. Do I take good photos and write good descriptions?
5. Do I have an avatar, a banner, a profile?
6. Do I offer decent shipping rates?
7. Do I know how to mail items efficiently and quickly?
8. Is my business & product ready to show off?

So, what about me? I can answer yes to all of them except the second part of #3. At least I think I can. Now, like many fellow crafters I'm certain, I did not major in business in college. In fact, the only other time I tried to start my own business, it ended in failure. Mostly, due to the fact that my partner and I did not know how to market ourselves, and she, in particular, was not willing to spend the money that was necessary to do any marketing anyway.

So... again, what about me? and what does this have to do with finding your niche, and why does that matter. Well, of course, I sew. And I sew pretty well, and can do a number of specialized techniques, i.e., clothes making, quilting, smocking, home dec. I'm not trained to tailor. OK, that's fine, but let's say I'm a painter... again, in a number of techniques, but I've looked around, and right now dog paintings are hot. I paint a bunch of dogs... price them competitively... market, advertise, participate in forums, etc. ... and then nothing. OK, what do I need to do to improve. I take better pictures, change my banner and avatar, advertise off etsy, and still nothing. Maybe the dog lovers aren't buying right now. So I second guess, and start painting cats, and then I draw a few illustrations and make some cards because maybe that would work.

Do you see where I'm going here? Sometimes you can answer yes to all the questions, and you still are not successful. Maybe it really is the economy. Your product is beautiful, but the market is saturated, or has dried up. Maybe the day you opened your shop, 200 other dog painters also opened up, all having done their homework too.

There is another aspect to all of this as well, and that has to do with littleput's question #1. Can I create something unique? Well, I think I can, and I love what I do. I'm not going to look around and see what sells, and try to make that, too. Because there are lots of things I can do, like many other creative people that have dabbled in other genres. The bottom line for me... I'm going to keep plugging away, learning day by day what works and what doesn't, and in the end, by happy that I have tried.

"I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate."
--George Burns (1896-1996)

So, thank you to littleputbooks and unlesssomeonelikeyou for inspiring this post. As I continue with this business of selling on the internet and on etsy in particular there will be more and more fellow artisans that I will have to thank, and more and more that inspire me in many ways.

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Direction for this Blog

OK, I surrender. Not really. It's just that the more I learn about running a business on the internet, and specifically on etsy, the more I realize that this blog could really be a valuable marketing tool. However, it's not a marketing tool if I'm talking about my family, my kids, other aspects of my life. So... that's going to be moved to another blog. No name for it yet, but I'm working on that. In the meantime, I'm brainstorming with myself about the direction I want this blog to go.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ooooh, A contest

Wow, two posts in one day! Not really like me, but I was catching up on all the "blogs I like to read" and came across this contest by Persimmons Gal to celebrate more than 10,000 views! Wow, again. While I think maybe 3 or 4 people might read my blog, if you happen to read it, go check out Miss Persimmon and enter her contest! That's what I'm going to do!

Sunday afternoon blahs

I'm kind of bored this afternoon... everything is quiet. I've been practicing my smocking, and working on a duffle bag for Laura's roommate, so that's good, but I feel a bit distracted and unfocused. The good thing is that the smocking stitches are coming back to me. It's been about, ummm, 12 or 13 years since I last made anything that was smocked. But part of what I love about it is that really, it's not that difficult, it just looks that way.

Ok, so, we've all caught up on our sleep since the trip to Parris Island, and I've debated about the pictures (which one or two to use... close up or the whole platoon, etc.). So, here is the proud Marine and his mom and dad...Way to go! We're all so proud of him, and a little anxious, too.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Whirlwind Trip

Mood: Exhausted... but:

Round trip from Atlanta to Parris Island, South Carolina: 25 hours
Time spent in car driving: 14 hours
Time spent in semi-sketchy hotel near Savannah: 4 hours
Time spent for breakfast and dinner: 2 hours
Time spent at the graduation ceremonies (and lunch) for my nephew, a brand new marine: 5 hours

Seeing Aaron beaming (or trying really hard not to!): Priceless

Pictures tomorrow.