Success Stories ~ Hania of Moose Design


Hania of Moose Design

Since I can barely sew in a straight line well enough to hem my pants, when I find a maker who creates handbags that look like they belong in a museum, I’m instantly enthralled and want to chat them up.  That’s exactly how I found Hania, the entrepreneur behind Moose Design.  She’s based in Poland and sews the most amazing handbags characterized by minimalist style and originality.  I think you’ll really enjoy her interview today.

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

As a child I loved to sew, embroider, and draw porterty. Creation always gives me a lot of fun. That’s way I decided to become an architect. I graduated architectural studies and started to work in an architectural office. Unfortunately, in that profession creation was only a small part of the whole process…too small for me. After a few years working in architecture offices, I decided to change something in my life. I quit work and I started designing handbags.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

When I decided to change my life and run my own company making bags, I needed to become a boss of my own company instead of simply being a worker doing jobs requested by someone else. I think that has been the biggest challenge for me so far.


Felt Bag with Leather Handles – Fox Bag

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

It was when I started to cooperate with foreign companies (e.g. from Belgium, UK, Germany, etc.). At the beginning I planned a small business selling bags only in Poland, but it turned out that there were a lot of requests from abroad for my bags and with that I’m really happy.

Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

Of course there are lot of ideas in my head I wish I had time for but there are so many things to do right now that I need to take care of. I’m planning now to hire my first employee. It will be a big step for me.

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

I like running. It helps me rest and clear my mind. Then when I’m tired after a long run, before I fall asleep a new ideas comes to my mind easily.


White Cotton Tote Handbag – Seal Handbag

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

I wake up, go out of my bedroom, turn left into the next door and I’m already at work 🙂 My home is also my workshop. It cuts both ways. I can walk in sweats all day but as I don’t have to rush to work, I have big problems to wake up and get started.

I’m a seamstress, designer and manager in one person that’s way my day is a bit crazy and chaotic. I answer on e-mails, order materials and of course sew and design handbags.

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

I believe the decision that I made to cooperate with a professional and talented photographer was a really good idea and had a big influence on my business. I believe that a great photo is needed to attract the attention of customers and sell an item.  (Megan here – I think you can agree with me that Hania’s photographs are absolutely breathtaking!)


Gray Cotton Tote Handbag – Bear Bag

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

You work needs to be your passion; you do not need anything else.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I hope to develop my business, have a big workshop, and cooperate with shops from all over the world.

You can find more of Hania’s work online at:

Her website:
Her Etsy Shop:
Her facebook fanpage:

Our New Favorite Tool – Stitch Labs

As makers we have lots of physical tools in our studios but for our online business needs, there are some great tools you should look into getting for your virtual toolbox.  I’m constantly looking for new apps and websites to help me work smarter, not harder, and today I wanted to share a new tool that I found.  It looks really cool and I can’t wait to try it out.

Let me introduce you to Stitch Labs!


I heard about Stitch Labs almost a year ago and when it first came out I thought it was simply an online inventory system.  Being at a point where I was making everything to order, I didn’t think I needed an inventory let alone an online one.  Well, times change and so has Stitch Labs.  It’s now so much more than just an inventory system.

Okay, so what does it do?

  • Creates cloud-based inventory systems that can be exported to Google drive or Excel.  This sounds pretty cool, especially if you would like to know how many of each product you have in stores across the country.
  • It syncs with Amazon, Etsy, BigCommerce, Shopify, Storenvy, using Spark Pay, ECWID, or other online platforms to manage your inventory, sales, AND invoices.  Cool, right!?
  • Okay, it gets better because it also creates reports based on all of that data.  I admit that reports sound boring but these ones are super-colorful (which we makers love because we’re such visual people), and it helps you see where and when you’re making money.  No more guessing about which product is your best seller or which online platform sells the most.
  • You can use Stitch Labs to send invoices.  For those of you who wholesale, this is a great function because you can continue to keep everything in one place.
stitch labs

Sounds pretty good right?  Well, there’s one last thing that I know you’ll like: you get to start for free!  Obviously for more bells and whistles, you’ll pay but it’s definitely worth a peek at the free version to see if it helps you feel more decisive and confident in your business.

I’d love to know if you already use Stitch Labs and what you think of it.

A Simple Retirement Plan for the Self-employed


{Forest Patchwork Wallet by Faith on Earth}

It occurred to me a while ago that I was not doing anything to plan for my retirement.

Of course, I never really plan on ‘retiring’ per se – I think I’ll be one of those people who’s doing some sort of work till the day I die – simply because otherwise, I’d get terribly bored.

However, it seems only common sense to ensure I have enough money for my old age should something prevent me from being an internet-savvy old woman, right?

If you’re a passionate, self-employed entrepreneur, I’ll bet you probably have the same dreams for your old age. But do you have a retirement plan in place in case you can’t work forever?

Now, Nick and I do own a house in England, so that’s one part of our retirement plan, but that in and of itself won’t be enough to see us through. We need to start putting money away for the future, and as the breadwinner, it’s my responsibility to make sure this is happening.

I’m not an anti-money-creative-type. I actually thrive on the money side of my business. I love knowing how much I’m earning week-to-week, knowing how much I’m spending.

I love setting money goals.

We keep on top of all the business income and expenditures so we always know where we’re at – and if you don’t, I HIGHLY recommend you start. Because if you don’t know what’s going on in the financial side of your business, it’s my opinion that you don’t have a business, you have a hobby.

So, the fact I’ve let this slide for the last few years is surprising, and something I’m relieved to have taken the time to think about.

Like the rest of my fellow Aussies, I have a Superannuation account (or Super, as we call it). For those of you outside of Australia, Super is a government-mandated retirement fund that every working Australian must have, and their employers are legally bound to contribute money into this account on their behalf.

So, I have some money in a Super fund from when I had a ‘regular’ job – but I haven’t remembered to put any additional funds in there for the last few years that I’ve been self-employed.

BIG money fail on my part.

However, unless you want to go to the trouble of putting together a self-managed Super fund, you don’t have a whole lot of control over where your money goes – my Super fund is managed by a company who invest the money on my behalf. And considering how many people near retirement age lost a huge chunk of their Super with the last GFC, I’m actually not all that keen on putting all my retirement eggs in the share market basket.

So, I’ve done the simplest, easiest thing to start off with – set up an automatic savings plan.

At the moment, $200 a month goes straight from my regular account into a dedicated retirement savings account that receives a good interest rate.


The key here? You need to make sure it’s HARD to get the money out of your retirement account. You need to basically forget that money exists.

There are a few great online bank accounts you can get here in Australia that meet these conditions – like an ING or UBank account (I have accounts with both for different reasons). If you have one of these accounts, you can make sure your retirement money is completely separate from your regular money, and you don’t have a keycard that lets you access it.

We’re also lucky here in Oz to not have completely horrendous interest rates at the moment (horrendously low, I mean) – you can get an account with that will give you around 5% p.a. return (at least at first…).

That might not sound like much, but check this out:


If I just put that $200 a month away in a regular account, I’d have just $69,600 by the time I hit 60. With a 6% interest rate (I’m assuming it will be more and less than this over the years, but it’s a nice believable average) I end up with $183,512.

Pretty amazing. And all for just putting aside $200 a month over 29 years, and never touching the capital.

If you want to play around with this calculator yourself, you can find it here.

Another important piece of the puzzle is my Super – I can’t totally neglect that.

However, I don’t want to put lots of money in there because 1) I only have a very basic level of control over where that money is invested 2) I can’t access that money until retirement age.

As much as I never, ever want to touch my retirement account, I still have the security in knowing it’s there should something catastrophic befall me and Nick, and we desperately need the money – for a life-saving operation, or some such.

But, I’d be missing out if I didn’t take advantage of the Australian Government’s Co-Contribution Scheme.

“The superannuation (super) co-contribution is a government initiative to help eligible individuals boost their super savings for the future.

If you are a low or middle-income earner, you can take advantage of the super co-contribution payment by making eligible personal super contributions to your super fund or retirement savings account (RSA). The government will then match up to $1,000 of your personal super contributions.

You don’t need to apply. If you’re eligible, all you need to do is make eligible personal super contributions to your super fund or RSA and lodge an income tax return.”

So, let’s add to my plan – putting $1000 per year into my Super, to get what is basically a free additional $1000 from the government each year towards my retirement. I’m kicking myself that I’ve let that slip through the cracks for a few years now.

After writing this all down and getting it straight in my head, I’m feeling a lot better about my long-term financial future.

So, in short, my plan is:

1. Set up a $200 auto-payment per month that goes into a ‘forget-about-it’ retirement account.

2. Put $1000 into my Super account at the end of each financial year to take advantage of the Australian Government’s Co-Contribution Scheme (This site/resource is no longer available.)


3. Care for our current investments to ensure they’re giving us the best return possible (house rent and shares).

So, that’s my take on a simple retirement plan for the self-employed.

At least, it’s a start!

If you’re self-employed, do you have a retirement plan in place? Or is it something you need to get done?

It’s time to start on Christmas stock: The importance of creating items in advance


Once your business grows, the way you release your products will organically change and you might feel the need to create items in advance like a nice creative squirrel.

Last year I realised that I desperately need to have a box with products that are not in the shop yet so I can whip them out when I am way too busy to stitch.

Having an actual collection, like Easter for example, that is ready in advance is a dream for me at the moment but I am taking specific steps to make it happen – and I’ll share them with you today.

In the beginning of last year I told myself that I must – yes MUST – start making Christmas items in June.

You know what? It never happened!

I didn’t expect to be as busy as I was. I didn’t know that I will have new ideas rolling in and I had to obey the creative urges!

So, this year I am trying to learn on my experience and figure out the art of making items in advance. Little steps at a time.

This year, I start working on Christmas items this month. It might seam a little overboard and it did take me some time to come to terms with as I felt a little tired of  making my Christmas creations. However, I think we can all hugely benefit from having more of ready to sell items so we can take more orders.

I don’t want to make hundreds but at least 2 of each item will be great to have in September to show my customers, and start selling while I work on more.

“How do I make items in advance when I am already busy as it is?”, I hear you ask.

I think you might turn away after I say – planning.

Planning is key!

The art of creating items in advance can only be mastered with planning and practice. Once you get comfortable with it, creating a collection “on the side” along with new stock for the store will feel natural and a part of the routine.

As it is the most important collection and the busiest time of the year, let’s take Christmas as an example.

The preparation will take some time but after it all set up, the idea is to make one or two items a week starting from today.

Get a box and stick a label on it – Christmas collection. Easy!

Now to the being organised part

  1. Do you have Christmas themed items already? Make a list and attach it on the lid so you can mark how many items are in there as you go.- Don’t have Christmas items yet? Start brainstorming ideas! Even if you will have one of each item ready to show so customers can place orders, you are will be ahead.

  2. Get the release schedule ready. There is nothing like a deadline to keep you motivated. Let’s say mid-September you need to have the collection photographed and ready to go. Pencil other dates in your planner like – first sneak preview, pre-release  and release date. Also, book special promotions in advance on other websites, organise features and schedule newsletters.

  3. Cut out everything required for a batch so when you have a day when you are not as busy, you can pick something up and make 1 or 2 things. Once the item is finished, pop it in the box and write on the lid what you’ve made.

  4. Take pictures as you got – start, progress, creative space full of green/red supplies…. Every picture will be handy for the pre-release blog post, teaser or Facebook post.

  5. Keep making stock, have prices ready and think about the special Early bird offers to motivate people to order early as there will be plenty of last minute request, trust me.

Christmas is not that far away and, judging from the experience, you will be very grateful for any preparations you will do now. After all, you’ll have more time for eating cake and being jolly once all the items are loaded and there are plenty of stock.

That’s what I am doing this year. Do you have any tips on how to get ready for the busy season? Do share!

Success Stories ~ Megan Auman


Megan Auman at work on her newest adventure: painting

I thought you’d love to hear the ‘success story’ of a true Renaissance woman today so may I present my friend, mentor, and a panel member at last year’s Artful Business Conference, Megan Auman.  She’s a jeweler, a business coach, and now a painter!  This interview is long but it’s absolutely packed full of advice a slightly embarrassing stories.  You’re going to love it!

Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?

I spent my entire childhood drawing and painting, taking private art lessons, and visiting museums and painting class with my mom.  It was well established that I was the “art one” of the kids in our family, but at the same time, I always had a sense for business.

When I was a kid, I used to play “business.”  I had one of those little bead looms, and I would make bracelets and hair clips.  Then, I would take pictures of them and make notes for each one on an index card where I wrote down how long each one took me to make and what the price would be.  Then I stored all that information in a little metal recipe box.  (I promise you I am not making this up!)  Around that same time, I started my first “real” business, selling little packets of confetti that I made myself to the other girls in my fourth grade class.

I had planned on going to college to study painting, but discovered jewelry making my senior year of high school, and decided to major in metalsmithing instead.  Because I didn’t know what I would do with a BFA in metalsmithing, I decided to go on to get a Master’s degree in metals and jewelry.  I knew heading into graduate school that after school I either wanted to teach or start my business, and I kept both options open throughout school.  For my thesis show, I made large scale sculptural work, but I also used that work as inspiration for my first production line.

After graduate school, I had a one year stint as a visiting assistant professor at a university.  I ran the Metals + Jewelry department while the head of the program was on sabbatical.  This is the closest I’ve ever come to having a traditional job, but being a college professor is hardly a 9 to 5.  I was required to be on campus three or four days a week to teach and advise students, and the rest of the time, my job was to make my own work.  That said, running a department right out of grad school (when I was younger than many of my students) was incredibly stressful. I always say that the biggest thing I learned in that year was that I didn’t want a full time teaching job.

I used my year as a professor to launch my eponymous jewelry line.  I started blogging.  (Waaaay back in 2006.)  And in February of 2007 I opened my Etsy shop.  I remember sitting on my bed, creating my first listings, and being really excited.  And then for six months, NOTHING happened.  Not. A. Single. Sale.  Fortunately, Etsy wasn’t my only revenue stream.  In 2007 and 2008, my focus was on outdoor, retail craft shows.  I did a mix of traditional art fairs and indie shows.  I also did NY Gift (a wholesale trade fair) in 2008, and that helped my business take off.  In 2008 (my first full year in business) I made enough to turn a profit and support myself.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?

The biggest challenge in my business was my own personal slump of 2009.  2009 was the height of the recession in the US, and it would be really easy to blame my rough year on the economy.  But the truth is, I got in my own way.  I spent a lot of money launching a new product line that didn’t sell very well.  (Not a failure in my mind, just a really expensive learning experience.)  And that product line took focus away from my jewelry line, causing sales to slump there as well.  But the biggest obstacle was my own mental state.  I started having serious doubts about being a creative entrepreneur.  I worried that I was wasting my time on something “frivolous” and that I should be focusing my energy on doing something good for the world.

By the end of 2009, I was incredibly frustrated with my business, and I confessed to a friend that I was thinking about going to get my MBA.  “That’s crazy,” she replied.  “You could teach that stuff.”  I took what she said to heart, and decided that the best way to teach other creatives about business would be to start another blog, focused on business thinking for creatives.  I launched Crafting an MBA (now Designing an MBA) in December of 2009 and it truly saved my business.  Not just from a financial standpoint (though it is a consistent revenue stream for me) but more importantly, from a mental one.  In working with other creative entrepreneurs, I was able to assess my own mental roadblocks and work through them.  From the beginning, Designing an MBA has been as much about helping me grow my own business as it has about helping others.  It’s also opened so many doors for me and really helped me establish myself as an expert and a brand.


Large Satellite Necklace (This site/resource is no longer available)

What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?

I feel like my business has been a series of small “fist-pump’ moments and it’s hard for me to name just one.  So here are some of the highlights:

  • Picking up the SFMOMA Museum Store (and a lot of other amazing accounts) at my first ever New York Gift fair.
  • Watching my readership of Designing an MBA grow really quickly in the first few months.
  • After five NY Gift Shows, finally designing a booth that felt like “me”.
  • Speaking about Creating a Culture of Profit at the annual Society of North American goldsmiths conference and then being asked to contribute a regular business column to Metalsmith magazine.
  • Having a sale with One Kings Lane and making and packing 130 orders in five days.  (Two of those days I had no power thanks to a hurricane.)
  • Being recognized by people “in real life” because they’ve watched my videos online or because they recognize my jewelry.  (I once got recognized on an airplane, which was just crazy!)
  • Hitting six-figures in annual jewelry sales in a year where I took a lot of time off.
  • Seeing so many people walking around the Buyers Market of American Craft this year wearing my work.
  • Seeing the successes of my students and alumni from my Designing an MBA programs.  (And having one person tell me, “Marketing for Makers saved my business.”)

But one of the coolest moments may have been last year when I was away speaking at a conference.  At a family gathering, my husband’s aunt asked where I was.  After my husband told her, she asked, “Is her business doing well, because you always hear about that whole starving artist thing?”  And my husband simply replied, “She made more money than I did last year.”

Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?

This last year has been full of doubts. My mother passed away in March of 2012 after a battle with cancer.  My mother was a painter, and she encouraged me as an artist from a young age.  My mother’s death left me with a desire to do a lot of soul searching and a need to start painting again.  I think it’s common after that kind of loss to feel a need to re-asses everything in your life.  What I wasn’t expecting was how easily painting would slide back into my life after nearly a decade away.  Once I embraced painting, I started feeling a tug of war between that creative activity and jewelry, the core of my business.  I found myself fantasizing about a new successful career as a painter.

What I’m working on now is adopting a both/and approach.  I’m still committed to running my jewelry business (it helps that I have an employee who handles the bulk of my production) but I’m also giving myself permission to paint and see where that takes me.  I’ve been trying to figure out what my creative identity is and what I want to be known for.  For a while, I was really trying to own the title of “designer” and while that is still true, I’ve come to realize just how important it is for me to think of myself as an “artist,” one who explores different processes and creative paths.

I feel like every few years something shifts in my business and I need to reinvent or add a new identity or aspect.  But that’s really who I am – someway who is easily excited but can also become bored quickly.  I’m learning to embrace that part of my personality and figure out ways to maintain a strong and consistent brand while following my passion and creating side projects.

I’m also incredibly passionate about teaching, and I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate more teaching back into my business, without the frustrations and bureaucracy that come with teaching at a university level.  I love teaching business and working with creative entrepreneurs, but I also miss teaching hands on skills, techniques, and designs.  I’ve got some ideas up my sleeve for bringing that back into my business as well, but I haven’t quite worked out the timing to bring those ideas into fruition.


Steel and Silver Leaf Chain Necklace (This site/resource is no longer available)

Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?

I’m a big fan of the Chuck Close quote, “Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.”

That said, I find it incredibly difficult to “show up and get to work” in the winter.  I am not a cold weather person.  My body and brain pretty much shut down.  But over the last few years, I’ve come to recognize this in myself and I’ve learned to ride my own waves of productivity.  I plan my one new jewelry collection of the year for the August trade shows, so that I can focus on new designs when I’m at my creative best.  (I love working in my studio on a summer night when it’s warm and it stays light late.)  In the winter, I don’t put any pressure on myself to design anything new.  Instead, I focus on maintaining the business and emphasize activities (such as writing and leading e-courses) the can be done from my couch with a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate.  (Or, I travel somewhere warm!)

The other thing that always sparks my creativity is a trip to New York City.  Even though I’ve never lived there, I always think of New York as “my city.”  I live in the country of Pennsylvania, but I crave the energy of the city.  Whether it’s visiting a museum, participating in a show, shopping (at my favorite bookstore in the world, Strand), or just connecting with friends, a trip to New York always seems to get me going again.

How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?

There is no such thing as a typical day in my life, and that’s actually how I manage to balance my work and my life.  I’ve come to realize that one of the most important things to me is not being tied down to a schedule, ever.  I was teaching one day a week at a college, and having to be somewhere once of week started to feel like torture.  I’m a total control freak, and the most important thing I want to have control over is my own time.  I do try and focus my work day between 7 AM and 4 PM because that’s when my husband is at work, but there’s nothing strict about that.  Some days I sleep until 7:30 or 8, other days I’m up at 6:30.  (I’m a morning person.)  Depending on what I have to do, I may get right to work, or I may take it easy in the morning, go for a run, or run errands.  I’ve structured my business to be really freedom driven, so I have plenty of free and flex time, and it’s rare that I work more than six hours in a given day.  Lately I’ve been bouncing between the administrative tasks of my jewelry business, teaching and coaching for Designing an MBA, and painting.  (A lot of painting, which right now doesn’t feel like work at all.)  Over the next few months, I’ll focus on creating a new jewelry collection for the summer trade show season.  I tend to work best in short, intense bursts, with time for travel and relaxation in between, and that means every day, week, and month looks different for me.  (And that’s the way I prefer it!)

What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?

On the jewelry side of my business, the best move by far was my decision to do the New York Gift trade fair.  I wouldn’t have the business I have now if I didn’t do that show.  I had applied for the show in the fall of 2007, having never even seen the show, with the plan that I would walk the winter show and exhibit in the summer of 2008.  But I got a call in November of 2007 saying there was a space in the January show for me if I wanted it.  Without even thinking, I said yes, got off the phone and thought, “What did I just get myself into?” But it was the best decision I ever made.  I didn’t know enough about the show to be scared, or overwhelmed, or to wonder if I was “ready.”  I just did what I had to do to get there.  I picked up some incredible accounts at that first show, and several turned out to be long term, consistent accounts for me.  I’ve done NY Gift twice a year since then, and it’s really the marketing force that drives my business.

On the Designing an MBA side of my business, the best marketing move I made was to be myself.  (Translation: highly opinionated.)  In the early days (when the site was called Crafting an MBA) I wrote a slightly critical post called “Etsy and the culture of cheap.”  The post presented a different view point of the Etsy marketplace and voiced some of my frustrations about the downward price spiral.  But it was also presented my ideas in a thoughtful, intelligent, and researched manner, and people really responded to it.  That post (along with a strategically timed guest post on Design*Sponge) helped grow my readership almost overnight.


Nellie earrings (This site/resource is no longer available)

What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?

Raise your prices!  I often feel like a broken record, but setting a high enough price (and sticking with it even when it was uncomfortable) is what has enabled me to build the kind of business (and life) that I have.  I have an employee who does most of my production.  I have freedom and flexibility.  I don’t have to work 60 hours a week.  (Let’s be real, I don’t usually work 40 hours a week.)  I travel (I’ve been to Europe twice in the last year and a half, and I’m planning another trip for the fall) and take time off.  I play in the studio and make work that I love.  And all of this is because I listened to some incredible mentors when I was first starting out and raised my prices to where they needed to be.  Once you raise your prices, you have to have the confidence and the brand to back them up (or you have to fake it until you do, which is what I did) but nothing in your business will really work the way you want it to if you are underpricing your work.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

On the cover of a magazine.

Actually, I’m not entirely sure.  I spent my 20s as someone who was completely goal-oriented and driving in a straight line.  Bachelor’s degree? Check. Master’s degree? Check.  College professor?  Been there and it’s not for me.  Six figure business.  Check and check.  (That’s for two years in a row.)  Now that I have a business that supports my life, I’m planning on spending my 30s experimenting a little more and enjoying my life.  Yes, I want to keep the momentum going in my jewelry business, keep educating other creative entrepreneurs through DMBA, and continue painting.  But I also want to focus on enjoying life as much as I can and seeing where things take me.  I want to travel as much as possible, and we’ve been working on remodeling a new (to us) home, and I’d love to get that to a place I’m happy with.  But otherwise, I don’t have a clear path for the next five years, and I’m actually ok with that.

But I wouldn’t say no to that magazine cover.

You can find more of Megan at:



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