Mother/Daughter Businesses

Business, lady like, photography

A few years ago, handmade crocheted and knitted accessories for women and children was the rage.  Anything vintage-inspired was flying off the shelves.  My daughter Kristy suggested that I create headbands for ladies and toddlers with a 20’s and 30’s style. After testing the local craft markets we had some reasonable success. We knew it had to be a collaboration of our strengths in order to move the business beyond our own backyard.

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Since my daughter is a blog designer and photographer and I loved working with yarn, our joint venture seemed obvious.  The idea of actually selling it on the open market was a little daunting at first.  Etsy was the new on line storefront to showcase handmade items with minimal financial upstart money.  It seemed the perfect opportunity to test market our products.

We had to first sit down and talk about branding, colors and design ideas. Simple, right? Let me say that both of us are very independent thinkers.  Although we had the same vision in which direction we wanted Lady Like to go, we had some kinks to work out.  Definitely not taking everything personal was a hurdle to overcome. Through time, we’ve learned to respect differing opinions.  It’s not about who’s right or wrong but rather giving each person a chance to share their ideas,  good or bad.  When you put all concepts on the table and brainstorm, wonderful results can happen.

One important aspect of a joint business is that each one deserves credit for their work.  In our business, my handmade items are displayed in our Etsy Shop,  my Facebook Fan Page, Twitter, and all other media sites.  At first glance,  it might appear that I’m Shopladylike which is far from true!  Without Kristy’s expertise in her gorgeous photography, building my blog site and additional technical needs, there would be no business.  Her style, adventurous personality and creative mind keeps my fingers working on our next idea.  After all, it’s a partnership.

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I can’t tell you how many times people have commented how wonderful it is to see a mother and daughter working together. I’ve also noticed more mother/daughter enterprises telling their unique stories of success.  Kristy and I have shared a special journey with our small business.  It has stretched our creative juices and opened up an opportunity I never would have dreamed of.  Because of the business, I’ve met some wonderful people on social media who continue to inspire me.  If you’re thinking of taking that step to join your mother or daughter in business, it can be a rewarding experience like ours.  I would love to hear your family business adventures and any advice would like to share.

A New Passion – Sewing

Business, sewing

Quite a few years ago, well actually 3 decades, I just had my first little girl and like all new mothers, you want to make that special keepsake gift for them.  One you’ll save in a box, cherish until it’s time to pass it along to them.  One day I came up with an idea to sew her a flannel nightie.  Sounds really simple right!  First problem, I didn’t have a sewing machine and didn’t know how to sew. I found a used one at a sewing center and was floating on air.  Off to the fabric store I went, found an “Easy Sew” pattern, just the cutest material and was ready to start cutting and stitching.

Since I had no experience with the operation of a sewing machine, I think it was a older White, I had to first learn how to operate it.   It had the craziest threader and bobbin casing. That crunching sound it makes when something isn’t lined up right is not exciting to a newbie! Hours later I was finally ready to go.  I actually discovered that I had a little talent, as long as the machine cooperated, and sewed the cutest nightgown.  I even figured out how to put in sleeves.  Miracle time!  I was all ready to do the finishing touches when I realized I had put the interfacing in backwards!  Details, details! I would have had to take most of it apart because of the pattern design. Being somewhat of a perfectionist in some areas, I felt defeated.  I’m embarrassed to tell you that I threw it in a box and didn’t finish it!  My sewing days were over. Secret time – I still have it in that box!

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I didn’t totally give up sewing.  A few years ago, I bought a new machine and started teaching myself how to make the usual beginners potholders, coasters and took a beginner’s quilting class which I loved.  I started making tote bags for family and friends.  A new opportunity for selling them in a retail Etsy store in Oregon has opened up, together with my crochet and knit products.

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I’m so excited to be using my newly found talent and enjoy the challenge of new designs.  One of the best parts of sewing is going to the fabric store and choosing from hundreds of bolts of material. If you have a dream to start a new craft or adventure, give it a try.  I never would have thought that sewing would become another passion after that first disaster.

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Be Original – Not a Copy

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Recently I saw that a friend’s beautiful metal artistry had been copied and sold as an original. Her shop creates the most stunning designs of wall decor, standing art and business signs.  She was devastated by this blatant act and contacted the individual.  To her amazement, she was told that a few changes to the original design had been made and it was now their artwork and sellable. A similar situation was repeated a few weeks ago by a friend in one of my Facebook groups.  Her original drawing and artwork was literally stolen off the net and claimed as their own.  She was able to get this resolved quickly.  In my opinion, these are desperate thieves who lack creativity of their own and stoop to robbing others of their livelihood.

These are just a few instances of artists’ hard work and imagination having been stolen.  I have an Etsy shop and noticed many ideas being duplicated and sold without compunction.  The term original is now interchangeable with enhancing, embellishing and reworking the piece to claim it as their own design. They steal the idea, make a few adjustments and then cheapen the cost to sell their replica to customers as an original.  A recent Etsy policy now allows sellers to add adornments to retail items and call it handmade. Somehow I don’t see that as “original”.  That’s a blog post for another day.

In the fiber community, it is true that there are basic knit and crochet stitches which become beautiful products.  The originality comes from taking those few stitches and creating a one of a kind masterpiece. When I sit down and design a new headband pattern,  I let my fingers work the yarn and write down each row in the event it’s a “keeper”.  It’s automatically recorded in my pattern journal, date it and sometimes draw a picture of it even though I may not market it.  But I know it’s my design for shopladylike.

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A few years ago, I was contacted by a lady who wanted to buy one of my headband pattern designs pictured above and make it for all her friends. Since I don’t sell any written patterns in my shop, I declined her offer.  Yes, I was happy that she loved it so much that she wanted to make some herself. She didn’t want to buy one of the headbands, just the pattern that took me many hours and mistakes to perfect.  But I’m in the business of selling my finished products, not my designs.

I’m sure that we all have similar stories.  There’s so much elation and excitement in being an original!  Why would you want to be a copy?  I hear that being copied can be considered a form of flattery, but is it really?

Craft Addictions

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Do you have a craft addiction?  Do you have stacks of fabric, a hidden stash of yarn, the newest paper crafting tools?  Join the club of thousands of serious artisans. I would never say that we’re hoarders we just appreciate the need to have slightly more of our product than the casual crafter.

About 20 years ago, I got the urge to start crocheting again which meant the usual afghan for family and friends. I knew nothing about quality yarn so I’d just purchase it from a retail store. They had many beautiful colors and combinations to choose from and I was happy as a clam to take my five or six skeins home.  When I found that perfect ripple pattern, I was in afghan heaven, using the softest yarn and newest decorator colors to hit the market. You can’t imagine my distress when they discontinued my favorite yarn! Fortunately I had maybe 10 extra skeins in my big stash to fall back on. That was a serious mother lode for me back then.

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Fast forward to the present day! With the guidance of a yarn shop owner about ten years ago, I learned that all yarn is not created equal. Really, isn’t it just fibers woven together? Don’t tell that to a serious spinner or an alpaca farm owner! It didn’t take long for me to crave using some of the luscious alpaca, Peruvian wools, bamboo and silk yarns on the market.  New to the Etsy Shop scene, I knew it would be important to use good quality yarn. This was the beginning of my “need” to increase my inventory. Gone were the days of buying only 100% acrylics which the shop owner called “dinosaur yarn”! I seriously could not go on a trip without checking out if there was a LYS (local yarn shop) in the area. When my husband and I go out shopping together, he always says “Do you need to stop at your shop?” Silly question!

I never would have imagined years later, from that first yarn lesson, that I would have such a comfortable inventory of beautiful colors and wonderful fibers. The fun is not just buying it but touching the fibers.  It’s like being a kid in a toy store and you don’t know which skein you want because the choices and delicious colors are endless. Gone are the days of grabbing a few skeins off the retail shelf. I’m not a yarn snob (cough) because I do have acrylics in my stash. I would never admit to how many skeins I have because a lady never reveals private information!

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No matter what your passion is, be fully committed.  I love to see artisans share their incredible studios, craft rooms filled with their goods, cupboards of gorgeous fabric waiting to be sewn.   Enjoy the process and continue to share your ideas and art.  It’s what motivates and inspires that new crafter who can’t wait to try making that sweater, quilt, or painting.   Would love for you to share your craft addictions and photos!

Pinterest Love

Pinterest, Social Media

A few years ago, I was introduced to Pinterest and signed up for my shopladylike account.  Following their help site, I started out by adding basic board names like Sewing, Knitting, and Recipes, the topics I enjoyed reading.  I added a few pins here and there but wasn’t too excited about it.  Then I read articles about The Power of Pinterest which encouraged businesses to use this tool to advertise their products. I took this advice and added my Etsy Shop.   As my fascination with pinning increased, I found a whole new world of creativity.  There is literally a board for every conceivable topic you can imagine.

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As I expanded my search into new areas, I discovered that Pinterest contained a wealth of links to books, music, cooking, and endless tutorials.  When you pin from one board, you’re immediately directed to another pinner’s board.  It’s a continuous chess game of jumping from board to board and very addicting.

Since my initiation, I’ve added more specific topics and have increased my number of followers. The more you pin, the more interaction.  My blogging tips, social media and tutorial boards is a virtual filing cabinet of information at my fingertips.  Although I keep a tab on my computer for blog posts I need to read, I also Pin them.  I love that my Facebook Groups have their own space and I can add their pins directly to it.

Pinterest is less personal where you don’t actually link up with your followers.  Sometimes I’d like to say “Hey, thanks for pinning from my website”.  By re-pinning from their board it’s a special thank you back to them.  But seriously, with Facebook and Twitter, there’s enough socializing to last a lifetime.  I love spending time pinning to my Expressions and Quotes and my other favorite Book Lovin’.  Stop by and see me on Pinterest sometime.

Are you a List Maker?

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In a previous post I told you how much I love Journals of all kinds.  Most of the time I use them for writing my knitting, crocheting and sewing patterns.  I can’t pass by a stack of them without checking out the new covers. I wouldn’t call it an addiction but my daughter jokingly said that I possibly needed to go to “Journal Therapy”! Chuckle!

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I admit I have another habit which I consider a good one but I can seriously obsess over.  List Making!  It doesn’t matter what the occasion: A trip I’m planning or participating in a local craft fair. I have to start making a list immediately. A month before our local Christmas Bazaar, I started listing all my headbands, scarves, cowls, bags, tablecloths plus every possible accessory I would need. It was amended numerous times and even the day of the event, I was still adding to it. Good news was that I didn’t forget anything. Throughout the year, I also compile a list of all my yarn, needles with sizes and hooks which is always getting updated. Instead of going on a scavenger hunt, I have an overview of my current inventory. Blessed are my lists!

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My compulsion really kicks into gear when I’m going on a trip, short or long. I did a lot of traveling last year and I noticed that my categories are growing. I start by opening my journal and write down a basic agenda including the date of my trip and categories of items I need. So far it doesn’t look too bad, right? This is only my first list. I will rewrite and reorganize this initial list at least 5 more times before I actually walk out the door. I keep my trusty list close at hand, crossing off each item that’s ready for the suitcase or tote bag. The items that didn’t get crossed off, get moved over to a new list of unpacked items until all the items are checked off.

You might consider this is a little obsessive, but it works for me. Without my journals and lists, I would be unorganized and quite frustrated. I would love to hear if you’re also a “List Maker” and any tips you’d like to share. In two weeks, my friends and I are heading over to the Oregon Coast for a few days and I’m Making A List, checking it once, twice, three times….

Craft Business or Hobby?

Business, crafts, lady like

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How many times has your business been confused with being a hobby rather than a legitimate endeavor? Have family or friends complimented you on finding a craft to fill your extra time?  Then there’s the one person who says, “It’s a great hobby but you can’t make any real money”! Really! I believe the problem lies in the assumption of what constitutes a craft.  I looked at a few of these terms according to Wikipedia:

A craft is a pastime or a profession that requires some particular kind of skilled work. Hobbies are practiced primarily for interest and enjoyment, rather than financial reward. A business, also known as an enterprise or a firm, is an organization involved in the trade of goods, services, or both to consumers.

There it is, in black and white. The first one for using your skills as a pastime, the second one is simply for enjoyment, and the latter is for making money. When Etsy (an internet storefront to buy and sell handmade items) launched, crafters and hobbyists finally had a venue to showcase their wares. This was the first great opportunity for millions to transform their craft into a business.

My friend Tracey recently shared her perspective, “The contribution that hand crafters make to the cultural stability of our culture, keeps alive and updates crafts that are inherited from family and history. Many crafters today have combined modern technology with ancient skills to make all things old new again.”

The terms we use to define ourselves is how others see us. I am a crafter but I am firstly a designer and creator of handmade fiber products. Whether you are a photographer, painter, card maker, wood or metal worker, or quilter, you are a talented artisan and deserve the respect of the business community.

Branding your Business

Business, Social Media

You’ve made the decision to open an on line business.  You have product and decided on pricing, so you’re ready to go live.  Sounds simple, right?  Not even close!  There’s this little concept for success called “branding” that’s critical to any business.   Major businesses are known by their branding, colors, logos all inclusive of “Who They Are”.   You want people to recognize your new venture by your branding too.  So where do you begin?  You’ve got a lot of important decisions to make.  Here’s a little history of ShopLadyLike’s branding.

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My daughter Kristy and I took the plunge in 2009 and opened an Etsy Shop.   Next we chose Ladyknitster as our business name.  It told customers that we sold handmade knitted items by a sweet “lady” but hey, I also crocheted too.  Bad choice for a name which we changed later on.  We had a glitch when Etsy gave a one time option to change our shop name.  We wanted Lady Like but someone already had that name but didn’t sell or buy anything.  We asked if she would consider releasing the name for a nominal fee and she said no.  So we chose ShopLadyLike since our items have a vintage-inspired design and we wanted our customers to feel like a lady when they wore our products.

We already decided on most of our products, colors and pricing but had to choose our branding.  First step was the design and color for our shop logo.   I felt pretty fortunate that Kristy had a photography and blog design business and had developed her branding for both.  We chose simple, clean lines in black and white.  Since most customers refer to us as “Lady Like” we changed the Etsy Shop banner to Lady Like with a subtitle of Handmades and carried the branding to business cards, labels for our products, pricing tags, and banner.

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I suffer from crazy moments when I want to add something to the branding to “spiff” it up and then I come to my senses.  I actually love the clean look and would never change it.  One of the nice things about keeping with your branding is most printing companies already have your template and there’s no extra set up fees.  Sometimes you may have bumps in the road on your way to branding but you have to love it.  Be comfortable in your choices and feel excited when you get that referral because your customer remembered your shop.   Oh yes, you can find that item at Lady Like.

 

 

Yes, You Are Worth It!

Business, Social Media

During this Holiday Season, it seemed to me that online shops were all but giving their product away. There were sales deals of buy 1 get one 1/2 off, Black Friday sales of up to 50% off, buy 2 get one free, and the list goes on. As Christmas week approached, some discounts were even greater. If 50% off didn’t work, maybe 70% off would entice buyers. The end of year sales frenzy is definitely a way to reduce inventory and recoup capital and add new product to their shops. So why do we feel the pressure to sell our products below cost during the holidays? It’s the same product sold in our shops throughout the year so why cheapen it’s value for a few weeks?

After the rush was over, I decided to revisit a few of my favorite shops. These are shops, among other reasons, that I respect for their sales approach. This includes advertising methods, pricing structure, and special discount events. One shop primarily sells pre-made items, that are ready to ship while the other shop sells a combination of pre-made and made-to-order items. These well established online shops offered some holiday discounts but they didn’t give away the farm, so to speak. They consistently offer quality products, great service, and customers are willing to pay the price. My business motto has always been “quality over quantity” and ideally should be reflected in product pricing.

Each handmade artisan knows what it takes to design, create, and produce a quality item. Production of a handmade item requires design time (which can be hours or days), the expense of shopping for fabric/yarn/art supplies, and perhaps making a proto-type. These happens before one takes into account marketing the finished product, time creating the product, and shipping costs. So what is your product truly worth to you? Maybe it’s time to reevaluate product value and re-price accordingly.

I recently saw a statement on Facebook or Pinterest and felt I needed to re-post it. I have to say, it hit me square in the forehead. It was a reaffirmation of our Lady Like business statement.

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I expected the usual 25-30 people on Facebook who saw the post. Surprise! As of writing this blog, 920 people have seen it and are re-posting it. I’ve never had that many see any of my posts. What great encouragement! And I hope this means that many of you are inspired and finding their worth and not making concessions. This statement can be your business motto but also can apply to your personal life:  Yes, You Are Worth It!

Winter Craft Fair 2013 and the Storm

lady like

Seriously, we had the weirdest weather at the beginning of December where I live in Southern Oregon.  The area got hit with one of the hardest snow storms in many years together with temperatures at 5 degrees at night and icy roads.  Our big local Christmas fair was cancelled on December 7th due to the severe weather and rescheduled to the following Saturday.  The problem on the next Saturday was ice covered roads.  The temperature rose a little bit but people were just afraid to drive even after two weeks and so was I! It was a pretty picture as you can see but dangerous.

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Fortunately, my good friend Pat helped me out by taking us in her big 4-wheel drive truck on the 15 mile trek to the Show!  I never could have made it in my vehicle.  I so appreciate her!  Thanks Pat!  My friend Cheryl from Lady Lemaire and I have shared a booth for 3 years and it’s always fun!

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The event was not well attended due to the weather but Pat, Cheryl and I had so much fun. There was plenty of laughter and people watching throughout the long day.  Thankful for all the customers who were willing to drive to the show in very bad road conditions.

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As this year ends and a new one begins,  I want to thank all the new friends I’ve met on line through a Creatives group.  Their knowledge and support is immeasurable and I appreciate each one of them.