Please welcome the fabulous Megan Auman – jeweller, business strategist, artist, designer, brilliant entrepreneur, and my lovely friend. Megan is going to be stopping by every other month to answer three of your burning questions – think of her a little like a whip-smart, no-nonsense business advice columnist.
Take it away, Megan…
1. I see online many line sheets are titled by season/collection. What if many of my pieces are 1- 2 years old and/or good for all year round? Are you always changing your line sheets? I don’t come up with a new collection every six months as much as that would be nice!
While you should be at least tweaking your line sheet twice a year to coincide with the major trade show seasons, that doesn’t mean you have to do a complete overhaul, especially if you aren’t a true fashion brand. (Meaning you aren’t designing two brand new collections a year – and most of us aren’t!)
Retailers want to see what’s new, but they also want to be able to reorder their favourites and best sellers, so you’ll want to strike a balance between the two. Each season, give yourself some time to go through your line and ask the following questions:
What items sold the best?
What items didn’t sell?
What items were most profitable?
What items were least profitable? (Or not profitable at all?)
And finally, are there any gaps in the line? Are there items that retailers have been requesting? (Such as earrings in a different size or a different metal option.)
With these questions in mind, you can make changes to your line (and line sheet) that keep buyers interested but don’t require the substantial effort of designing a new collection every season.
2. I realize many retailers expect wholesale to be 50% of retail prices. I struggle with this because until now, I have generally done that, but I ‘fudge’ prices on a case by case basis depending on which location/type of boutique I am in. Some retailers want to match my retail so will only buy half price, others will charge more and just ask me for my asking price. In attempts to polish up one price point for the line sheet, I am considering raising all my wholesale prices, unless you think there is some flexibility with the 50%?
This questions actually looks at wholesale pricing from the wrong perspective. Retailers aren’t looking for a discount off of retail, they are looking to mark up a percentage from your wholesale price. That means if you are selling to stores, it’s your job to establish a set wholesale price. From there, your retailers will mark the price up anywhere from 2 to 3 times. (2.2 and 2.3 are also common wholesale markups.) As a vendor, you can suggest a retail price (MSRP), but you’ll likely not be able to enforce it.
Since you’ve been approaching your wholesale pricing from the standpoint of a retail price, it’s very likely that you’ll need to do some new calculations and set new wholesale pricing. It’s essential that you are profitable at the wholesale level. That means your wholesale price needs to take into account your materials, labour, overhead, and profit.
You’ll also want to make sure that if you’re selling retail (on your website or at a retail market) that you’re marking up in a way that’s comparable to your retailers. Every industry is different (jewellery tends to mark up higher than other products) so make sure you ask around so that you aren’t undercutting your retailers.
3. I have many one of a kind (ish) items that could be made again and/or slight variations. I am afraid my line sheet will be way too long if I include all the options. For earring styles that come in different colours, would you suggest putting an image for each different stone, or just one photo with an option list of all the different stones? Also, real gemstones often vary slightly, so one batch of amethyst may be more faceted or dark purple then another. How should I handle this?
It’s important to understand the distinction between true one of a kinds (which are pieces that can never be reproduced again) with items that include options or variations (like different stone choices). While it’s not impossible to wholesale one of a kind items, it does produce it’s own set of challenges and often involves communicating designs to buyers in creative ways.
In your case, you’ll just need to communicate to buyers all of the options that are available for each style. You’re right in thinking that your line sheet will be incredibly long if you showed a full image of each variation. Instead, you’ll want to show one image and then show a cheat sheet of the options, such as an index that shows all the stone options available for your collection.
As far as variations go, that’s completely understandable when working with natural gemstones (or any other natural material) and buyers will understand. Just make sure you note on your line sheet that variations can be accepted. If you really want to ease buyer concerns, let them know that if they don’t love a particular stone, they can always exchange the piece for another one. Buyers will rarely take you up on this, but it gives them enough peace of mind that they’re more likely to place an order!
Each to Own is a super fun jewellery shop by Brisbane maker, Kirsten Devitt, who designs and laser-cuts her work at home on her very own laser cutter (she also runs Short Cuts Laser cutting stuff for other makers)! She was super nice and sat down with me to share the story of her own success story.
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
I started Each To Own 4 years ago after having my little boy. At that time I was still running a shoe shop with my family but I tended to have more free time at home than I had had before so I started making things. Just little assembled pieces with found and bought objects that people seemed to like.
I was encouraged by friends to open an Etsy shop and I started attending markets with a little collective of girlfriends. We called ourselves the Pin Money Collective as we were all just doing it for fun and a bit of pocket money. As time went on I started to put my pieces in rent-a-space stores and got a few good wholesale orders. I left the family business nearly two years ago to work fulltime with Each To Own and so far it has been great.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
I think that the largest challenge is that there are days when I don’t know if I have successfully juggled being a mum and working full-time in my own creative business. Like many other creative people, I find it hard to be organised, and that I need to make sure that I give both my family and my business the time that they need to thrive.
What has been the biggest ‘fistpump’/successful moment for you so far?
I would say it was the day that we got the laser cutter delivered. We had bitten the bullet and decided that if the business was going to grow I needed to set up a proper workshop and go for it. When the guys unloaded it and I was in the room alone with my new “baby” I think I could have burst with excitement and possibilities. There have been some really great retail milestones too but I think it was the endless possibility that had me jumping out of my skin.
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction?
Absolutely. Just about every day. I know few creative people that don’t question themselves and their decisions and work regularly. I have always been drawn to the creative side of life but I never take the business and my work for granted as you never quite know where ideas are going to come from or if they are even going to come at all. I just let it roll and continue to play and hope that inspiration and ideas still keep coming to me for a while yet.
Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
Yes, but I think that you have to accept that. And you might not ever find the time. Having this little business has made me incredibly grateful for what I have and being able to come into my workshop everyday and do something I love is really the achievement I am most proud of.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
I have quite a few days that are very low on inspiration and I tend to just leave it all alone when I feel that way. I walk out of the workshop and do something else. If I stay in there and wallow and push myself it makes it worse so those times are the times to get out and about and wait to ride the next wave when it comes.
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
Firstly, I have to say that my husband Richard works with me on a lot of projects for Each To Own and we have a really great supportive relationship. I couldn’t do what I do without knowing that he has my back and supports what I do 100%.
A typical day is hustling the kid out the door to school and then coming home to make and pack orders until it is time to head back up at pick up time. It is all family time and the usual palaver until after my little boy goes to bed and then I will do another few hours in the workshop before bed.
This year I have given myself a 9.30pm curfew as we were getting slightly out of control with work hours last year. We were not in a good place when it came to sleep! This year is about working harder, learning to say no, and spending quality time with family.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
I think that the best marketing move for me has been to fall in love with social media I enjoy it and have a good rapport with people online and I truly would not enjoy my job as much if I wasn’t sharing it with my followers on Facebook and Instagram.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
Don’t get too caught up in the business side of things. Don’t let that side of things rule over what you are making and who you are. Be proud of what you do and work hard but don’t ever believe your own publicity - the public recognition for your work will always be fleeting so breathe, enjoy the life you have made and then get back to work 🙂
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Still making, still happy and still making enough money to buy one new kitchen appliance and one amazing family holiday per year. It’s not high finance but it is a lovely life.
Thanks for your Mailing List Guide. I’ve had it in my mind to purchase it for ages, so glad I finally did. Can’t wait to put some of those tips into action. It seems the best thing – not any extra work than what I’m currently doing, but just changing a few things…
I’m writing to ask if you have any advice about raising prices? I’ve looked on your blog, and found a couple of short posts about it. Do you announce it to the world that you’re raising your price, or not say anything? When I set our prices I did all the planning and research and I know the prices are good – but I think on the lower end of “good”. I think what I undervalued was our creative process and artistic aspect. I costed our time out, but only at a set nominal rate of what I thought I’d have to pay someone else to do the hard work of what we do. I guess it doesn’t take into account our designing aspect.
We’ve had an excellent Christmas, much busier than I expected. And already the year has started off busily – we barely got a break before our stockists were reordering. Of course it’s fabulous that people want to buy our beautiful work, but I feel like maybe if we raised our prices we might be less rush rush busy and still be making same dollars (and have more time for designing new products).
I’m just unsure of how to go about raising prices. Do I have to justify it all to existing customers and shop stockists – or simply say it’s what’s happening? Do I give notice for people to buy up before we raise our prices or just do it? Do I announce it on all our social media, or just on our website page and blog…???
Thanks so much for any thoughts or advice you can offer me. Or even perhaps directing me to some links or books to read.
I don’t think pricing is something we’re ever done with in our business – it’s always something to re-consider on a regular basis. Are your prices still reflective of your skill and experience? Is the market bearing them? Are you selling too much – and therefore do you need to raise them? These and many more questions will come up during the lifetime of your business.
Ellie is at the brilliant stage of being so successful that she’s struggling to keep up with orders and still keep the rest of her business going strong. It’s a pretty lovely reason to have to re-consider prices – but it’s also a stressful one.
Why? Because even though you know you need to raise those prices, you’re still scared that once you do, your sales will suddenly dry up and you will have shot yourself in the foot.
I know this intimately – I’ve been through this process myself a few times with Epheriell over the years.
As for how you go about it – the answer is… it depends.
I don’t really have stockists, so that’s something I’m flying a bit blind on. Since I sell the vast majority of my products direct to the customer, I have a slightly different relationship to consider.
However, I think we can use some general guidelines that will work for both situations.
I have raised prices a few times, as I said. Twice over the last few years I’ve raised my prices store-wide. The most recent price-rise I implemented was a more focussed one – I only raised the prices on my rings.
I approached each rise in a different way.
For one of my store-wide price rises, I actually made a pretty big deal of it… to my fans. I wrote a big post to my mailing list, telling them that I was raising my prices – and why. I explained that I was so extremely thankful for all their support, and that I was simply reaching the point where I realised I had been under-valuing my work, AND that I was, frankly, getting too busy to keep up. Hence the price rise.
I used this as a bit of an opportunity to encourage my customers to take advantage of the last few days of old prices – kinda like a pre-price-rise ‘sale’, if you will. I got a lot of orders through and lots of lovely words of support from customers and friends. It was heartening that I didn’t get any ‘how dare you put your prices up’ messages. I think I helped deflect that by being open and honest, and explaining my reasoning.
However, I didn’t really make a big deal of it to the wider public. I saw this as an opportunity to connect and basically reward my fans – not only by giving them a heads-up about the price rise so they could get in beforehand, but also by sharing my story with them.
For the wider public – those people who didn’t have a connection to my brand, and who were perhaps just finding my work for the first time? I didn’t feel any need to publicise my price rise to those folks. Because when they saw the new price, it wasn’t new to them. It was what it was. I only felt the need to tell those people who’d bought from me before, so they didn’t get a shock when they came back again and saw the jump in prices.
Sales did slow down a little for a while after the rise – but because I put my prices up, I wasn’t earning any less money (actually, more) with less work. Things were back in a place where I had time to work on other aspects of my business again.
In short – I like this approach as an option for you, Ellie. You can get in touch with your stockists, let them know you’re rising prices on such-and-such a date, and why, and encourage them to get in with an order before this date if they want to. Depending on the level of connection you have with direct retail customers, you might like to do the same with them. It’s really a personal decision – as you know your customers best, and therefore how they will respond. I think people appreciate being kept ‘in the loop’ so to speak – especially with small handmade businesses where they might feel a deeper investment than they would with somewhere like Target.
That said – for my most recent price rise, I took a totally different approach – one born out of sheer overwork more than anything else.
I had been slowly releasing more and more sterling silver wedding band designs throughout last year – and I honestly didn’t realise how popular they would prove to be.
I had planned a much neater and more organised price rise after Christmas – one where I was going to again talk about it with my community. However, as November rolled along, and the orders kept rolling in, I reached a tipping point… and in one mad stretch of a few hours, I put up all my wedding ring prices across all my venues. Thankfully I’d already pretty much worked out the rise I wanted to enact, so it was just a case of slogging through all the updating, with Nick’s help.
I didn’t publicise the rise – I just did it. And once I had, I felt relief – even if the orders kept coming in at the same rate, I knew I was finally going to be getting paid what I needed to be getting paid. The new prices aligned with the effort and time each ring was taking me to make, and so my cognitive dissonance was eliminated.
This rise was reasonably significant – but my fear of ‘will people still buy at the new prices’ was outweighed by the ‘I’m overwhelmed’! feeling.
(They still kept buying, by the way.)
This isn’t a method I would recommend, unless you’ve reached the end of your tether. Ideally, you want to be raising prices before you get to this point, so you can do it a bit more methodically – as I did the first time round.
However, sometimes things pile up on you, and you just have to take action to lighten the load.
So, in short – if you can, I reckon it’s a good idea to give regular customers and fans a heads-up… but you don’t HAVE to explain your reasoning. However, if you feel comfortable doing so, I think you can use it to actually weave another thread into the story-rug of your business, and make it a positive thing.
Thrivers, I open the floor to you – have you raised your prices? How did you do it – and what was the result of your approach?