Who Can You Ask for Help?

 

 

 

 

 

Feb 2014 post picture

I had three rules for dating:

  1. He couldn’t be an artist.

  2. He couldn’t be a co-worker.

  3. He couldn’t be a janitor/plumber/AC repairman/etc.

 

Then I met my partner and broke all three of my rules when I asked him out.  He was a fellow art student working at the same museum I was in the position of janitor.  The first year of our relationship, I had all of these fears concerning him and my artwork.

I feared dating another artist because I’m so competitive.  I didn’t want to find myself turning everything into a contest.  If he ended up drawing better than me, I’d hold it against him and nurse a grudge.  It wasn’t that I wanted to be the best artist in this relationship, I simply didn’t want to have to fear a competitor.  I know that sounds ridiculous but I think many of you will understand.  We all want to feel a little bit special because of our talents.  Thankfully, I saw my partner’s Drawing 101 homework one day and learned why he was a photographer.  Hehe.

So after that fear of competition  was gone, I turned my mind to collaboration.

 

I wanted the two of us to become one of those ‘power couples’ in the art world and the only way to do that was to ask each other for help.

  • I needed help with my product photography.  Yes, I’m all right at it but having a professional photographer with a full lighting studio and the latest and greatest editing software (not to mention the ability to figure out all the buttons and settings of the camera AND the software) is ten times better!
  • He needed help with his copy.  I was also an English major and grammar is my best friend so I continue to be the chief proofreader in our apartment.
  • I needed help with my design.  I can work on a business card design for 2 hours and it will look like a first-grader made it.  Then I give up, pass it to my partner, and 10 minutes later (I kid you not) I will have it back looking more beautiful than I ever imagined it could be.
  • He needed help writing pitches.  I’m the fake extrovert in our relationship so I’m the one who writes up all the pitches, collaboration requests, and dinner date emails for the two of us.

 

We all suffer to some extent with the solopreneur syndrome.  We feel that we have to do everything ourselves.  Every.  Single.  Thing.  Even if we aren’t that good at something.  However, my business has been able to grow and become more and more professional thanks to asking for help.  I don’t have to spend hours on website design because I ask my partner for help.  In return, I line up workshops for him.  In the end, we both come out on top and it takes less time because we’re working to our strengths.

 

What can you ask your friends and family for help with?

  • Photography
  • Sharing your work with friends
  • Web design
  • Proofreading
  • Packaging orders
  • Shipping

I’d love to know if you already ask people for help.  And, if so, what do they help you with?

The Do’s and Don’ts of Bricks & Mortar Retail. Part 2: Maintaining Sales & Enthusiasm in Retail

 

 

 

Dos and Donts of Brick and Mortar Retail Part 2

This is a guest post by Simmone Spring. I’ve known Simmone for a few years – we’ve bumped into each other at markets here in Brissie on numerous occasions! She’s uniquely qualified to write this – the first of a short series of articles on getting your work into a B&M shop – because she is both a crafter AND a retail coordinator, so she knows the score from both sides of the fence. You can read Part 1 here.

 

When we start in retail, or stock a new shop, we are often very motivated to do well. Maintaining this can be a challenge with the ups and downs that retail experiences.

Here are some tips to keep you selling and in good favour in a retail space.

 

Continue to present your work well

Spend time presenting your product and change your packaging if the situation calls for it. I am not a fan of excess packaging but think that simple things like card backing for earrings, or a box for a necklace can make a huge difference. Let you packaging evolve if it needs to.

A little info on the packaging is also recommended. Do you use a special finish to protect your product? Does it need to be washed regularly? Are the findings hypo-allergenic? This gives the shopper confidence in your product.

 

Emails and Phone Calls

Keep in touch with the shops you are stocking with a simple email every 2-4 weeks. Keep on top of your stock levels, and gather information about what is selling well.

Now, I cannot stress this enough, let the shops you stock know if anything is going on that will affect your stock supply, or their ability to contact you! If you change address let them know, if you have a crisis let them know. Anything that affects your supply to them and their contact of you. Let them know whilst it is happening, better yet, before it happens! Even if you are going on holidays for 5 days, let them know!

 

Listen to the Manager or Coordinator

Listen to those who run the shop. This is so important. If they want some more stock, restock as soon as possible. If they think you could improve sales by swapping stock, get onto it. If they think your product would work better with a simple change, give it a try.

These are the people in the shop every day selling your work, listening to your customer, watching how customers respond.

 

COMMIT!

Be committed to the shop. If you are just starting out slowly add retail locations to your repertoire so you can be sure you can manage the amount you take on.

If something happens that means you cannot be committed for a period of time communicate this and see what the shop wants to do about the situation.

 

Broken Items and Refunds

Your manager should have discussed their policies on returns and refunds when they set up your contract. Make sure you know what you are obligated to do and do it promptly. If you are fixing an item stay in contact with the shop and let them know time frames and make sure they pass this on to the customer.

I once had a customer tell me it meant a lot to her to know we were so accommodating with returns and refunds and were going to do the right thing by her. This can be such a difficult aspect of handmade retail but one that you really need to be good at. It is your reputation and the reputation of the business you stock at stake.

 

:: Something to Remember ::

Make sure the shop you stock is holding up their side of the bargain. They should be following these rules as much as you. As a retail coordinator I know how difficult managing retail can be, but if we all follow these points it can be painless for all of us. If you are thinking a retail space is not holding up their side of the bargain, call them on it and discuss ways things can be better. There are always improvements we can make, on both sides.

Good luck!

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Simmone Spring coordinated the retail space at Bleeding Heart until it sadly closed due to renovations. She has been making Anatomy for 6 years as Your Organ Grinder and coordinates Hands On Brisbane.

Image sourc: Martin Wessely

Success Stories ~ An Interview with the Ladies of 1Canoe2 Letterpress, Beth & Carrie

 

 

 

 

1canoe2

As an illustrator, I’ve always marveled at those who can make an entire business around note cards.  The sheer number of beautiful designs needed boggles my mind.  Yet, 1canoe2 thrives in the industry, winning trade show awards and awing customers over and over.  The ladies behind this letterpress powerhouse were nice enough to sit down and share their story and insight with us today.  I hope you enjoy it!

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

Beth :: I got a degree in Graphic Design from the University of Missouri, then did design for a TV station in Nashville for 6 years before I moved back to Missouri. Here, I worked as an Art Director for Columbia Business Times for 4 years, while simultaneously running 1canoe2 out of my basement! It was a big step when I finally quit the magazine and started working for 1canoe2 full time.

Carrie :: My degree was in nutrition (also at University of Missouri), then I got certified in art education to teach elementary art. I taught Kindergarden-5th grade for 6 years until 1canoe2 became my full-time job.

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

Beth :: Growth — it was a big transition to take 1canoe2 from being a part-time hobby to a full-time job. We had to hire more people and learn how to manage them. It’s not just us anymore; we have full-time employees that look to us.

Carrie :: Getting out of Beth’s basement and into our own work space. We turned a 150-year-old barn into a working studio. It’s a really creative and happy space, but we’re still working out some kinks.

1canoe2calendar

2014 Oversized Wall Calendar

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

Carrie :: We felt great after the 2013 National Stationary Show in New York. It was a great week and we won several awards (Best New Product Award for the 2014 Oversized Wall Calendar and 3 Louie Awards for cards in a couple different categories). Everyone just responded really well to us that year.

Beth :: There have been several times where I’ve thought, “Okay. This is it!” The first time that happened was when Anthropologie bought our recipe box. It was so exciting! We were the real deal and, now, they’re a loyal partner.

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?

Beth :: Well, any creative business is naturally a little unstable. But I have no doubt that our creativity will keep flowing. It’s who we are. As for projects, we always keep a running list of things that we want to try out. There are a lot of projects that we want to do but haven’t had time to research the details. But we’ll get there!

Carrie: I’m always just trying to better my artistic skills. When you’re running a small business, there are a lot of responsibilities that tend to pull you away from what you really want to be doing. Everything has to get done, so we just have to try to prioritize the best we can so we can each focus on the parts that we really enjoy.

1canoe2

I’d Be Lost Without You Illustrated Card

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

Beth :: Yes! I do spreadsheets to give my creativity a break. When I can’t focus anymore, I go back to designing.

Carrie :: I just have to take a break. Go outside. Do something that’s totally unrelated.

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

Carrie :: Well. I don’t know that I have a typical 8 hour work day. I work at home a little in the morning before I come to the barn, then talk to everyone here and do some more. I may go workout in the middle of the day and work more at home later in the day. Basically work for me comes in little spurts of a couple hours at a time.

Beth :: I have to have separation because my daughter, Amelia, is in daycare. While she’s there during the day, I work really hard and try to do nothing but work. Then when she’s home, I try to only be home with her, physically and mentally.

1canoe2card

Washington Illustrated Card

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

Hiring Haley Arndt, our Creative Marketing Director. She is the engine and the (brilliant!) spark that moves our publicity. Having a talented person so dedicated to that job frees us up to concentrate on design and new products.

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

Beth :: Work hard, make things happen. Work hard, make things happen. You just have to watch the numbers. You can’t ignore the numbers and trust that everything will work out in the end. It doesn’t all work out on it’s own.

Carrie :: Surround yourself with a good team.

Beth :: Yes – find people to fill in the holes of your skill set.

Carrie :: Focus on the skills that you’re good at and love to do, and make sure you have other people around you to fill in the holes of what needs to be done.

1canoe2recipecard

Letterpress Recipe Cards and Recipe Box

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Carrie :: Hopefully still doing what we love and finding ways to expand. We didn’t start 1canoe2 with a set business plan and we still don’t have one. We just want to continue making good decisions and doing projects that we love and care about. We’ll see where that takes us.

You can find 1canoe2 online here:

Website: 1canoe2.com

C&T Recommended Reads – Week 8, 2014

recommended reading week 8

Here are our fave reads of the week:

 

From Megan E:

From Jess:

Create & Thrive Reviews ~ Designed to Sell

DesignedtoSell-Cover

 

Jess and I were SO excited to review Designed to Sell – The Unconventional Guide to Creative Freedom by Jen Adrion and Omar Noory.

We’ve been holding our breaths waiting for it to come out for months and now it’s finally here!

We know you are going to love this one.

 

Designed to Sell - Quote

 

Designed to Sell

UnCon_guide_cover_final

By: Jen Adrion and Omar Noory

Famous for: These Are Things, one of the coolest shops full of illustrated maps.

 

What It Includes:

  • 139 page e-book
  • Interviews and advice from 13 full-time makers
  • Ultimate pricing toolkit
  • A master to-do list to get you to creative freedom
  • Directory of creative resources
  • And much more!

 

Why We Loved It:

I don’t even know where to begin.  This guide can be used in two big ways.

 

1. If you haven’t officially started your business yet, this guide shows you how to analyse your talents and passions and build a successful business around them.

2. If you’ve been in business for a while, this guide helps you re-assess and dig down into what products will really make your business take off to be your full-time job.

Creative Freedom - Designed to Sell - Review by Create & Thrive
A tiny excerpt from Designed to Sell…

 

I loved how it included advice and insights from makers from all different industries.  You can learn so much from a screenprinter or a retail shop owner even if you’re not one yourself.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the novel concept that this book goes from the very beginning of your business through growth and first sales all the way to hiring help and going full-time.

Most guides stop once you have your shop set up. This one takes you into 5 or more years of business.

It covers everything you need to know in 5 Parts – from actually coming up with your ‘Big Idea’ through planning, implementation, getting started, marketing, and more. And it’s laser-focussed at people just like you and me – people who want to create a physical product with passion and care – and make real money doing it.

Did I mention that Chris Guillebeau had a hand in setting this up? It’s one of his Unconventional Guides.

If you weren’t convinced that you need to add this book to your ‘must read’ business shelf yet, then that little tidbit should tip the scales.

 

Check out more about the guide here.

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C&T Trees: 5 out of 5!

 

C&T Tree Rating - 5 out of 5

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Yes, it’s our first 5-tree review. It’s that good.

 

{A note from Jess: There are a phenomenal amount of useful and informative books/ebooks/courses out there – so how do you choose which ones are right for you? Megan & I decided to start a monthly review series here on the blog where we share our favourites with you. If you know of a great book or info product out there that you think we should take a look at, make sure to contact us and let us know about it!  Disclaimer: C&T is an affiliate of some of these products. We give honest reviews and only recommend stuff we think is genuinely useful and practical.}

 

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