Sigh. My 2000 Ford Explorer I had named Gilda has gone on to Explorer heaven. I got her in 2002 to be my ride across my sales rep territory of Kentucky and Tennessee. Then when I moved on from that job after two years, she helped shlep all of my craft show necessities across the entire Eastern half of this country. We went to New York City, Austin TX, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Chicago, Indianapolis, and so many more. She had been stolen once, lost her stereo twice, broken into more times than I can count, and been in a few fender benders but she held her head high. Never once did she break down on me... until I got a tune up last week. Although technically she still hadn't broken down, she was gettin' shaky and it was only a matter of time before she gave out. 10 years and 168,000 miles later, she became a retiree.
Greg fills her up with my craft show display
I'll miss her, that loud and clunky Explorer; my first car purchase, my interstate friend.
It's a miracle - the Christmas rush is over and I can finally sit back and relax a little... bah ha ha ha!
There is no rest in my world. :(
After a record Cyber Monday (but I really only have last year to compare it to), and an insane amount of orders after that, I have been doing nothing but making jewelry, sleeping, and eating. I've neglected many other administrative duties yet luckily have not seemed to have missed any major deadlines. I've decided it's time to bring on some help. For reals. And most likely move this circus out of our house and on to greener pastures... or perhaps just a small studio. Just gotta decide what I can afford in this town where I won't get mugged after dark.
Here's what else that's been going on:
* Bought a new car! Bye bye, hubs '98 truck. Hello, sexy Sonata.
* Got baby girl baptized! It was a great family weekend, full of warm fuzzies and friends.
* My 2000 Explorer seems to be breaking down in a major way... do we have to buy another car? Bye, bye income earned during 2010.
* We're going to Orlando for the very first ACRE wholesale show in January! Being a guinea pig is always scary and I have very low expectations but at least we'll be in Florida if it totally blows. Harry Potter World, here I come.
* In light of trying to save money, I'm tossing the idea around of not printing a catalog for the next round of shows. Is a printed catalog really necessary? Should I just print a catalog teaser then direct people to the website for the full line? Decisions, decisions.
* Got Zero a "Thundershirt" to help with his separation anxiety. He hates it and now shakes whenever he sees it. Thundershirt fail. I'd return it but I lost my receipt. :(
* Going to Atlanta tomorrow to deliver most of our fabulous new wholesale display to the warehouse for Atlanta Gift. I have all the pieces to the puzzle of my new display but have no idea how it's really going to turn out. Hmm.... We're also going to Ikea while we're there. This may be a really bad idea, being only three days before Christmas and all.
* Christmas is coming! Baby's first - can't wait to see her reaction to her new toys. Not that we got her many and not that she has any idea what's going on but it's still fun. That reminds me, I need to watch Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas special this year!
So that's my brain - swirls and swirls and swirls. I have so much to tackle and so little time. I tell everyone "I'm pretty much busy from November to after Valentine's Day". And I can't WAIT for February 15th!
I'm still working out the kinks in my shopping cart, but I'm ready to announce my new free shipping policy!
So shipping is free on ALL orders if you don't mind First Class. If you want to speed it up a bit, you can still upgrade to Priority Mail although the way my cart is set up to do that is pretty silly and I have to find a better way... Anyone out there use Cart Manager?
Anyway, I've been absent from the blog because I've been so. So. Busy. Wholesale is rockin' and rollin' and kickin' my butt. I think I'm about to start teaching the hubs how to make jewelry. It's a slippery slope to driving an RV and wearing tie dye as the crafts business becomes the family business. Yikes!
It's getting very fall-like around my website! I changed the background to a brown pattern and took some photos outside today on my deck for a print ad. I liked them so much, they already made it onto the home page. They look a little too orange on the website, but whatev. It was heaven to be outside in pants and feel the cool breeze. Let's hope 90° weather is behind us!! Welcome fall!!!
In other outdoor news, Greggars and I went to the TACA craft fair in Centennial Park today. Kinda funny that on my weekend off, I went into the office, so to speak. It was great to see my crafty friends including Lisa Norris, Bebo & Betty, and Karen Fincannon, and introduce them to my extended family (Zero and baby) since I don't bring either to craft shows. And I scored a sweet wooden brownie spatula, so I guess I'll have to make some Trader Joe's brownies again - yummy!
We just got back from the Renegade Craft Fair this afternoon. It was our fourth year doing it, and what can I say? It was awesome! Fabuloso! Best ever! I love Chicago.
We went up on the Skydeck on a clear day. We don't usually do the tourist thing, but Greg suggested it and it seemed silly not to!
It's so real that it looks fake!
We used a new earring display made from louver blinds that the gracious owner didn't need any more. It think it worked really well and made it easier to see the earrings.
I modified my branch display to better showcase necklaces, and it received many complements.
And we got to see Mucca Pazza up close and personal. They were fantastic. I wish they would come to Nashville - that is a live show I would pay to go see!
We were so busy that we didn't get to talk to many of our crafty friends, and from the sounds of it, they had awesome shows, too! And for the first time, I was too busy to really shop my heart out. So sad. I did manage to sneak in the purchase of another Nate Duval t-shirt (Greg's 5th shirt by him) and an Urban Posture t-shirt that I am currently wearing. People and events such as Renegade remind me how much fun my job is!
We went to the New York Gift Fair again this month. It was my second time at the show, and my only sales goal was to break even, since I pretty much broke even at the winter show. The stakes were raised, though, as I had a shared booth last time for half the price and this time I had it all to myself with all of the cost. And it's expensive. Did I sell more than the winter show? Yes. Did I break even? Uh, no. * Sigh *
I can cite a million reasons that would explain why I didn't do so hot, mostly to do with the economy and the high cost of doing business in New York. I analyzed my display all 5 days of the show to see how it could be improved (and decided even though my display looks good, I'm ready for a total overhaul). I agonized over the lighting and decided it is not highlighting my jewelry to its best abilities. So many ways to change what I'm doing... So many possibilities to try and sell more jewelry...
Even if I had a killer display with the best location in the show, I'm still not sure I would do anything but marginally better. It's one of those things where you just have to build it up one step at a time and I think my business has grown really well through a lot of word of mouth and sales performance. Some examples: Customers ask their favorite shop if they carry my jewelry, and then the shop looks me up. My (very nice) retailers tell other retailers how well my jewelry sells, and based on these recommendations, I earn a new account. This past Atlanta market was a great example of building my business over time - it was my fourth time there and my best show ever by far due to loads of amazing reorders! Kick ass!
So when I put so much time, effort, hard work, and cash into a trade show, it's so frustrating when it doesn't seem to pay off. Sometimes you want to just tell people "Just buy it. It sells. I promise." But of course I can't say that without sounding like a jerk. I did open new accounts and that's fantastic, but with the money I spent vs. the money I made, I'm right back at square one.
our NYIGF display - time for a change
However, you can look back on the months passed since a trade show and say "This account that I opened at the show turned out to be a great account and that made the show worth doing for sure!" but you never know if that will happen, and you can only hope. When you're sitting in your booth breaking out in a cold sweat adding up your expenses vs. your sales, it's a hard pill to swallow. So far, my sales resulting from trade shows in the long run are always higher than my show expenses, but as an actual return on investment, it's not very impressive.
So will I do NYIGF again? I'm not sure. I wish I could skip the winter show (too cold!) and do the next summer show but I'd probably lose my spot. But is it worth saving? I can't decide, and that contract is due soon...
I received a book called 500 Tips for Marketing Your Crafts for Christmas last year and every now and then I pick it up and flip through its pages. It's a bit pricey for a paperback, especially one that isn't even that thick, but it is full of information ranging from taking photographs of your work to prepping your car for craft shows. Most of it I already knew, but some tips are new to me, like this one:
Don't list your craft shows on your website.
Really? Their reasoning is that your competition will apply to all of your shows, get into some of them, and take your space or half of your money.
I guess I forget how cutthroat this business can be. I have always listed my previous shows on my website, going back to 2006...until today. I took them all off except for my next three upcoming shows. I see no need to not list the shows I am already in since the application deadline has passed and I can take them down once the show is over. This is going against their advice, however.
I don't know. Is that good or bad advice? What do you think?
Greg and I successfully made it through the heat of the American Artisan Festival, and we even sold some jewelry, too! I also successfully survived the first craft show after baby - a mere 6 weeks after she was born.
Was I crazy to attempt it?
But it was my third year of applying (and getting rejected) and I was so happy to actually get accepted! But Lordy Lordy it was HOT (heat index was over 100°)!!! But how cool was it to be in a show that I've been attending my whole life?? It was awesome, I tell you. And having friends in the same city as the show had its perks - we had friends bring us some Las Paletas one day and another friend bring us Sweet Cece's the next. Bless those dear people. May their air conditioners never fail them.
My sign really sparkles in the afternoon sun
Next we head to the Atlanta Gift Show - my first wholesale show after baby. Again, yes I am crazy to attempt it but I am relearning time management - something I've not been so good at with so many distractions like facebook and email. I am learning to say no to rushing orders out by staying up too late and to pace myself instead. My brain may never be as sharp as before (babies apparently have a way of melting your brain cells away), but as long as my list-making skills stay in tact, I should be good to go.
Here are some photos of what prepping for a massive wholesale show look like:
This is what pendants look like after being shaped and hammered but before their finishing loop.
Displays - a work in progress.
More displays - these will be making their Atlanta debut
My jewelry table has little room for actual jewelry making - I do a lot of work in my lap no matter how often I clear it off!
This photographer makes me want to use my fancy jewelry camera on my baby more often. Her name is Amelia Lyon and she lives in California AND she even teaches classes on how to be an awesome photographer. I have found my inspiration for better family photography, although if I lived near her I would definitely book her. Visit her website here: www.amelialyon.net
Here's one of my faves:
But this one is my absolute fave:
I just had a photo shoot with the lovely Libby Diaz (married to Jonny Diaz) and the photos turned out great! Have a look-see:
One of the photos above is gracing my new wholesale catalogs which were supposed to be done today actually.... Hmm... I never heard from the printer so I guess they are are not ready, which is their m.o. and why I always tell them a few days before my actual deadline. Shouldn't a printer with "speedy" in their name at least meet their deadline?
Yes, it's true - the website is open again! And from the orders I've already gotten, it seems as though some people were standing by as the clock struck midnight on June 1st! I'm calling it a "soft re-opening" since I'm not sending an email blast about it just yet. I have so much on the books that I may not be ready to do an email blast until October! Like a crazy person, I am still doing the Atlanta Gift Show and the New York Gift Show this summer - it sounded so plausible before baby was born. Now it sounds like one enormous challenge but I know i can do it. People do it every day, right?
It's not easy getting back in the saddle again after being out of the studio for four weeks, in addition to all the transition that a new baby brings! My strategy has been to make mini to-do lists of only 5 things per day. Have I crossed all 5 things off the list on any day? No. But they get done, usually in a day and a half and that's good enough for now.
I have some fun new things in the works for Freshie & Zero - new styles with more pretty gemstones, possibly more rose gold if I ever get around to that to-do list, and I have a photo shoot with a new model scheduled for Friday! AND I will be exhibiting at the American Artisan Festival for the first time ever this month! I have grown up going to this festival and I'm so pumped about it - it's my first outdoor craft show in my home town that I'll actually be exhibiting in! Can we say it's about time? Can we pray for a heat index below 85°? The festival just added a facebook fan page - go over there and show them some love!
So peeps, thanks for being patient during my maternity leave! I'm so happy to be making jewelry again!
... you can still order from my in-stock-shop on etsy! Since I have such a hard time slowing down, I will be listing items that are made and ready to go as time permits in my etsy shop. Maybe it will help you indecisive ones make a decision since there's only a limited amount of choices? Check it out!
Please get your orders for the next month and a half in this week! Starting next week the website will be closed for an extended period of time while we undergo major changes in our personal lives!! I may leave my etsy shop open and list only items that I have in stock and ready to ship, but I'm not making any promises!
Here's a fun little tip for keeping your jewelry looking fresh and new! You know those little silica gel packs that come with your shoes or electronics that say "DO NOT EAT"? Instead of tossing them in the trash, toss them in your jewelry box! They absorb moisture in the air which is a common culprit of jewelry tarnishing. Just don't eat them. :)
I went to a lecture last night at my Alma Mater, Harpeth Hall, to hear two business women (also alumnae) discuss what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The first speaker on the panel was Olivia Mullin who started her own stationery business 15 years ago, Olivia Mullin Co. With over 1,000 retail stores and a very distinctive look, it is a very well known and respected company in my opinion. I was very surprised to hear she had just closed it in December but her reasons why made sense, but that's a whole other topic. The other speaker was Allison Wills Brooks - she started Calypso Café with her husband Phil about 22 years ago. I eat at Calypso Café often and even worked there for a couple of weeks (shortest job I ever had!) - they're known for fast, affordable, and healthy Caribbean food. There was also a moderator whose name I can't remember - he seemed like a small business/entrepreneurial coach who led their discussion.
I don't really want to re-hash the entire lecture, so I'll just mention a few key points that struck me.
An entrepreneur's first decision is "Do I want to do this or delegate this?" Are you someone who enjoys doing something or are you someone who can recognize talent in others, nourish it, and keep them happy as employees?
This was very interesting to me because I have always skated this fine line between artist and businesswoman and after hearing it put into terms like that, I think I really fall more on the artist side. I don't think I'd ever want to delegate out the making of the jewelry and just design it - I enjoy making it, selling it, promoting it, etc. I enjoy everything about running Freshie & Zero - except maybe calling for credit cards and dealing with disgruntled customers. It would be hard for me to delegate out certain aspects of my business, which is a lot of the reason why I haven't seriously considered bringing in help yet.
"Salary" is not an entrepreneurial term.
Basically, what's left after you pay your bills and your employees is your profit and what you take home. That makes me feel a lot better, too since I really have no idea what my income actually is until I file my taxes at the end of the year. I thought after 2008 I would have a better understanding, but since I spent so much on wholesale shows in 2009, my expenses went up by thousands of dollars and I was afraid to "pay" myself. I just spend money as needed and put money in my bank account when it's low. It's "very gray" as a friend of mine put it, but it doesn't really bother me doing it this way.
True profit is what you make after you hire help, and it's obviously a lot less than what you make when it's just you.
Yuck - another reason I haven't wanted to hire anyone. Luckily, I've been able to get a few necessary things done here and there for trade, which is definitely my ideal situation!
Don't let your ego get tied up in your business.
Allison said that they have closed a location or two of Calypso because it wasn't profitable and they couldn't worry about how it would look to consumers. Their ego wasn't so tied up in their company image that they had to keep a store open just to save face.
That's tough - especially when I pretty much am doing it all! I recently got someone to write a press release release for me, and it's embarrassing that it took me about 5 years to get that done. I felt like I could do it because I knew it wasn't rocket science, but I kept putting it off because I really just didn't want to do it. I should have known 5 years ago that I needed someone else to do it for me.
Many entrepreneurs start by asking themselves "Why can't this be better? Can I do something to make this better?"
Both Allison and Olivia took calculated risks - they saw a need for something and thought they could fill it, i.e. make it better. They tested their products, did a lot of research, and did not take out loans to start their company much like myself. Allison said that what they spent on their first year in business was basically like paying for a year in graduate school but with a much better education - even if they failed in business, they would have gained an immense knowledge and they wouldn't really have lost anything!
Seek out a mentor.
When asked if they had mentors they each had to think long and hard and both named their fathers as inspirational since their fathers were both entrepreneurs. But they both suggested that if you want to be an entrepreneur that you seek out a mentor.
It was a nice lecture - I don't think I yawned once which is saying a lot! I am personally asked all the time for advice and tips about being a small indie business, and let me tell you - I am SO over me. It was such a relief to listen to other women talk about it who are way more established than myself. It was also great that they were so forthcoming with information. The handmade jewelry business can feel a bit cut-throat especially when a stranger out of nowhere emails you and asks you pretty detailed questions about where you buy your supplies or even just an open ended question such as "how did you get started?". Ummm... forget about my lack of free time to type out an extensive email - do you really think I want to freely give out advice to someone who could become my competition? I think a lot of people who want to start an indie business are so starry eyed that they don't realize that there is a reality of always watching your back and being on the lookout for your competitors. Luckily, the longer I'm in business, the less I care about the copycats out there, and the less it stings when customers tell me that so-and-so is copying me. So what? They may try and mimic the product, and they may try and sell it for less, but they'll never be you, your brand, or your heart. And of course, they'll always be one step behind as they say!
All in all, I don't know that I would even classify myself as an entrepreneur. I don't have dreams of building up this big company and sitting behind a desk all day delegating responsibilities and employees. That sounds a lot like management, which I can do but that's not why I started this business. I think I prefer self-employed artist, thank you very much.
Well, we did it! I knew we could do Atlanta since it was our third time (we're totally pros now), but New York was a first for us and I knew it would be a challenge. The funny thing was, loading in at the Javits Center in New York was super easy and they didn't charge us to use our own car like Atlanta does (ridiculous, right?). My brain is still fuzzy from the past few weeks, so I'll just post up some booth photos for now:
The finished Atlanta booth! We added the long skinny solid colored displays on the back wall to better showcase the lariats, and hung them at eye level.
This was close to the aisle so people could get a good glimpse, and of course walk right in! I taped our 8 x 10 press photos to the front of this desk, and because Cesar Milan is on the cover of one of the magazines, people kept thinking I was selling dog jewelry. It's just press, people!
15 days later we were off to New York! Here was our home sweet home for 6 nights - sharing a double bed was not conducive to fabulous sleeping, but at least the bed was comfy and the room was cute (the New Yorker hotel).
Our New York Gift Show Booth! I split the booth with Olaria studio - her beautiful handmade porcelain jewelry appeals to the same type of buyer, but is completely different than mine and therefore we felt like we were a good booth share match. The only problem with only having half a booth was that in order to squeeze in all of my styles, some of my jewelry was hung a little too high to see very well but it wasn't the end of the world.
Amy's jewelry - she also made those cool faux bois slabs to display her jewelry on!
I debuted these letterpressed earring cards in Atlanta and New York and they were a hit! I designed these and had them hand printed - they are completely custom including the shape and die cut holes. They are pretty pricey for me but if they skyrocket my earring sales like my retailers think they will, they will be so worth it!
This is one of MANY coat check stations at the Javits - amazing!
Now all I have to do is enter my orders and get back to jewelry making! We opened up new accounts in Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, South Carolina, Montana, New Jersey, and Connecticut to name a few! I will update my retailers page as the orders ship out so you will know where to find Freshie & Zero at a store near you (or your friends in other cities)!
Now that the holidays are over and the Christmas rush is behind me, you would think I get to relax, right? Wrong!! In a few days, Greg and I will head to Atlanta for the Atlanta Gift Show to set up our wholesale booth and sell to retailers all over the world! This is the third time I've done this show and I already feel like a pro, which translates into even more procrastinating than usual! A few of the things on my to-do list:
~ make one of everything (I'm a little over halfway done with this) ~ attach all jewelry to my canvas displays, type labels with item numbers and wholesale prices, then attach to displays ~ plan a modified booth layout ~ find everything that needs to go with us and pack car ~ finish website orders from last week and mail
It doesn't sound too bad, which is probably why I'm procrastinating but making all that jewelry takes time! At least I know my catalogs are ready to be picked up. I forgot to put a few things in motion before I left for Utah, such as ordering extra postcards (I have less than 100 I think), and get jewelry images blown up to hang in the booth. Neither one is devastatingly important but it's the little things that make you stand out.
Greg & I in the booth last January - bright eyed and bushy tailed!
In the meantime,for Christmas I just (finally) got a copy of Craft, Inc by Meg Mateo Ilascoalong and 500 Tips for Marketing Your Crafts by A.B. Petrow. I am going to enjoy looking over those for the next few days as a kind of pep talk to having a great show!