Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

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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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!

Start Today – Plan 2014

Business, journal

I’ve noticed recently some blog posts about starting your business plan for 2014.  Isn’t it too early to start thinking about this?  Absolutely not!  I wish I took this advice more seriously last October.  On January 1, 2013,  I thought about making a new plan for Lady Like.  I made mental notes about promotions, advertising, new products.  I just didn’t write my thoughts down on paper.   You always think you’ll remember that awesome new idea but sometimes you don’t.   There’s really no excuse for me since I’ve always been a list maker for traveling or planning a get-together.  Looking back, I realize now that the first day of the new year is too late.

I’ve read a few blogs with steps to start your 2014 business plan now. This advice has encouraged me to make some changes.  A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about my love for journal books.  I’ve used them primarily for patterns, inventory, purchase history but never considered using one of them as my “Plan Book”.

As of today, Step #1 is to dedicate one of the new journals for my 2014 Plan with those words right on the front.  I don’t want it to get lost with my other journals and I want to know it’s sitting on my desk.  There’s nothing more frustrating than looking for that important paper and it’s lost in the shuffle.    Once the initial plan and changes for the upcoming year are documented, I’m going to divide it into sections with the next important items:   Inventory, new design ideas, costs, advertising.  You get the picture.

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Step #2 is to stop letting distractions hinder my creativity.   When a new idea pops into my head,  I can’t wait to work on it.  The phone rings or the TV grabs my attention and the idea is history.   To help me stay on track,  I realized that a special place for working on Lady Like was the key.  I reorganized my guest room/office where it’s very quiet and my mind is not cluttered by outside activities.  There’s my sweet desk, a perfect place for my laptop and my new 2014 journal.   My printer is handy when I need to print off an important list of “must do today” items.  I did say I was a list maker and having a hard copy helps me finish tasks.  I love to cross off the finished ones!  It’s going to be my “go to” place for working on Lady Like business.

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Step #3 is TAKE ACTION!  It’s always easy to say you’re going to start a new plan.  The excitement and anticipation keeps the adrenaline flowing for a few days and then we do nothing.  Well, this time I’m going to be accountable and aim for the best year ever.  Look,  I’m already two months ahead of last year.

I appreciate all the blog posts that have brought this to my attention.  I would love to hear about your business plans for 2014.  Any advice or posts to read would be appreciated.  I’m still a work in progress!

 

Loving your Craft

Business, crafts, crocheting, knitting

Have you ever wanted to ask fellow artisans how they got started in their craft?  Being a curious kind of gal, I love to hear their stories.  Through their tales, it can be awe-inspiring to take those first steps toward your new passion.   I know a professional artist, photographer, knitter, author and I’m amazed at their talents.  I personally know a few developed their gifts from youth while some fell into it by accident.  One day they were gifted a camera and their love for photography became all consuming.  Others become accidental artisans who are fortunate enough to find their gift and pursue it.  In the same vein, from childhood I’ve always had a thirst to learn or try something new.  I can actually say that I’ve even been a little bit of a daredevil. Don’t ever tell me I can’t do something!  That’s when I’ll surprise you.   One little question started me down a path I never would have anticipated.

While talking to my cousin one day, she asked the big question.  “Have you been knitting?”  She had to be kidding.  I hadn’t picked up needles since I was in college.  With a little encouragement from her, I bought some needles and went about trying to learn how to knit and purl again.  BUT first I had to remember how to cast on.  All thumbs and pinkies, I was a tad disappointed by the sight of my first few rows. This just wouldn’t do.  Not one to give up easily and with her over the phone tutorials, she retaught me how to knit!  Together with YouTube videos and printing off lots of easy patterns, I got my knitting mojo going at a steady pace and I never looked back, only forward.

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I have a love for the art of sliding those needles and yarn from one side to the other.  I’ve enjoyed making my first pair of socks, baby sweaters for all of my great nephews and niece and fashion items for women.   This love of fiber arts brought about my daughter Kristy and I opening our shopladylike offering both knitted and crocheted items.  Over the years, I’ve designed and created unique headbands for ladies and children.  Who would have guessed that I could actually take yarn, needles and hooks in hand and feel confident to make a pattern specific for our shop and customers would want to purchase them?

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Do you have doubts that’s stopping you from attempting that new project idea?  Do you buy all the necessary items and then put them in a drawer?  Take them out and surprise yourself.  Believe and you’ll amaze yourself!  If I didn’t have that little push to retry an old craft,  I may not have found my perfect niche to share my items with family, friends and actually open our Etsy Shop.

From my blog you can find Shopladylike links to my Facebook Fan page, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.  I’d love for you to link up with me and share your craft story or what inspires you.

Journals – How Many are too Many?

Business, crocheting, journal, knitting

Do you have a collection of journals?  You know, those pretty little books with the inspirational quotes or beautiful scenery on the front.  Some have 3D images that make your eyes go crazy while trying to see what’s in the center of the holographic picture.   They come spiraled, hard bound, lined, unlined and in different sizes.  I confess!  I can’t go by a shelf without checking out the new ones.  The covers are so beautiful and I can envision the book sitting next to my work table, inspiring me to create a new item.  I never thought I had a problem until one day my daughter and I were shopping and I had two new ones in the cart.  She laughed and said “Mom,  you have so many journals already and you’re buying more?”  Of course my dear, you can never have too many!  Maybe I need  “Journal Therapy”.

Confession time.  Being a designer of handmade knitted and crocheted items, I am always working out patterns.   I never wrote my ideas down on paper.  I just knew I’d remember the stitches I used and the yarn.  Are you kidding me?  This concept started a few years ago when I took a knitting class at a new local yarn store.  The owner said “Where’s your journal”?  I had no idea what she was talking about.  Susan explained that pattern ideas, yarn and color used, needle and hook size must be written down.  Also important was the date of the design.  I thought this is a bit over the top for me but I took her advice and I never looked back.

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I now have a collection of journals that contain all my pattern designs and important project details including the start date.  It’s amazing how many times I use a date reference to find a specific pattern I need to recreate.  As artists, we have so many ideas popping into our heads throughout the day.   Have you ever thought of a great new idea, didn’t put it on paper and days later try to recall it?  I have and it’s frustrating.  It’s great just to have a notebook to immediately write them down.

I have a book for my sewing projects too.  I love to make totes, aprons and quilts.   When I need a new tote bag,  I just open my sewing journal and the pattern is at my fingertips.  I don’t have to go on line and try to find that design.  Searching for that missing pattern does nothing but stop creativity in its path. I love that I have all my diagrams and size cuts in my trusty little book and I can get right to work.

Last week when I had my ladies over for craft day, my friend Kathy said how grateful she was to me for teaching her how to journal all her crochet patterns. I appreciated her sweet comment but said to truly thank Susan, my journal mentor.  I hope you enjoy shopping for your next notebook and remember, you “never” have too many journals!

 

Lady Like & Little Yellow Couch

Business, lady like

It’s the beginning of October, the leaves are starting to fall and Lady Like has a little bit of exciting news to share with you.  For me, it’s been a very busy week since my last blog post.  Crafting days with friends, dinner with family, and totally reorganizing my guest room.   To add to the busyness,  Lady Like was contacted by littleyellowcouch , a new upstart company offering a specialty box each month showcasing three new designers each month.   They were drawn to our vintage inspired items and the 30’s and 40’s era photography by wrecklesscreative  and invited us to be part of their October offering.  Zandra and Karen June, the two ladies from LYC,  have been wonderful to work with and made our decision to participate easy.  How much fun is creating a new headband design and using a new yarn color!  Here’s the basket of headbands that I recently shipped to Massachusetts!

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Our new design is a simple ruffle flower, with a stretchy comfortable headband in a teal blend,  pure merino from Malabrigo.  The different shades of aqua are so subtle and beautiful.  It reminds me of my trip to the Caribbean this past February and it’s gorgeous waters.

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The headband is now part of their October offering entitled “Let’s Be Civilized”.  Stop by and visit their website and get to know the gals.   Here’s the blog post and I encourage you to read their sweet posts:  http://littleyellowcouch.com/living-a-connected-life/2013/10/1/lets-be-civilized.

 

 

 

Where’s My Craft Room?

Business, crafts, crocheting, knitting

A while ago I did a post on reorganizing my craft room. I worked for hours putting all my yarn, needles, fabric, and all other accessories I use on shelves, in baskets, or drawers.  You see,  I really can’t stand to lose anything.  When I need that particular skein of yarn for my project and it’s not where it’s supposed to be, creativity stops dead in its tracks.  Nothing else will get done until that pesky lost item is found!  That’s when I know it’s time to reorganize yet again.  Now what does telling you about organizing my craft room have to do with anything?  Read on.

For new inspiration, I look on Pinterest at the beautifully designed and organized sewing,  scrap booking and art studios and drool.  But seriously,  my craft of knitting and crocheting really doesn’t need anything elaborate but I love to look.  Recently,  Lady Like was asked to do a special project with the sweet company littleyellowcouch next month and they asked for a picture of my studio,  where I create my projects.    Simple, right?   Panic set in because I don’t really have a studio where I sit in a comfy chair knitting and crocheting.   I’m not surrounded by baskets of overflowing yarn, stored in special cubbies, projects displayed and an inspiration board.  So where is my craft room?  Wait, here it comes…the couch is my creating space.

Yes, I do have shelves and organized drawers for my yarns, needles and books, but it’s very simple.  Sorry I don’t have a photo of “all of my yarn stash”.  That’s my secret!   I keep those in special drawers to protect them.  I love to open drawers and pick out a new skein of yarn and get to work.  It’s all about the sound of the needles clicking together when knitting or the slide of the crochet hook as it weaves its way through the loops of yarn.

Here’s a little basket I made up just for this post.  It contains all Malabrigoyarn which is Lady Like’s favorite fiber.  We do use other brands but for specialty items, there’s nothing I love better.

 

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So the truth is that I truly love to sit down with a cup of tea, notebook and pen,  yummy yarn in hand and start designing new headbands or cowls on my comfortable seat.   Since Lady Like’s color theme is all about nature’s beautiful pallet, I’m content to sit on the couch and take in the view from my living room windows.  It’s the perfect studio setting and awe inspiring.   Sometimes my studio travels with me to a friend’s house for a craft day which is one of my favorite times.   Your studio or crafting room doesn’t have to be perfect or a special room.   It’s your place of comfort and creativity.  So enjoy wherever that may be.

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