Making the Most of the Summer Break in the Northern Hemisphere

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We just relocated my life and business from Oklahoma to Arkansas. Sure, it is a relatively short distance (a mere 5 hours), but having to inventory, pack, move, unpack, and reorganize my entire business while still shipping out orders within a reasonable amount of time gave me some food for thought. We had visualization on what’s been selling and what products we needed to find a way to either promote better.

 

The summer is an excellent time to think through your business plan & to think forward for holiday product planning, new product development, and trying to reach a larger audience.

 

 

Here are some things we have been thinking about for Gingiber.

 

1. Prototyping

We spent the good portion of Jan-May preparing for the National Stationary Show.

Launching a new line is difficult, but I have to be able to do that while still planning other expansions for the Gingiber brand. Now that the card line is off and running, We are using the summer to dream about where else we can take the brand. We are prototyping new ideas, using our best sellers as inspiration for related lines, and are trying to dream bigger.

*If summer is a slow season for you, use the time to experiment with new but related products.*

 

2. Advertising

We have always targeted the same audience. Generally we sell to early 20’s to mid 30’s women who are very active on social media, tend to have children, etc.

Now that we are prototyping new products, we using our down time to study sales trends, identify where our future ideal customers would shop, and how we could reach them. We have taken informal surveys of a different sales market, and are using our data to craft an elegant marketing campaign for Q3 & Q4.

*Have you tried to reach a different audience for sales? Think about how you could grow your business if you reached a larger audience!*

These are just 2 focuses for Gingiber this summer.

 

 

What are you doing over the next few months to set yourself up for success? Is your holiday line already planned and photographed? Are you taking a “creative retreat” to refresh yourself before the busyness of a new school year?

Try to find the best use of your time and run with it!

3 Ways to Get Your Creative Spark Back

 

 

 

 

take time to get creative

When I first started Gingiber, it was just me in the corner of my living room with a little desk, my laptop, & a sewing machine. I would come home from my day job, wait to put my daughter to bed, and then stay up into the late hours of the night creating.

It seemed like no big deal, the sacrifice of sleep in order to create prints and pillows to sell in my Etsy shop! But then the business began to grow. I found myself working on things like spreadsheets and filing for business licenses, prepping for craft shows and packaging orders.

Where did all of my fun creative time and energy go?

 

If you’ve experienced the same, here are 3 strategies to get it back!

 

1. Schedule Creative Time

As my business grew, I had to decide to give myself permission to take one day a week & do nothing but create! Currently it is Tuesdays. I have a babysitter come to my home and watch my daughter for a few hours while I go to my home office and work on new ideas, freelance, etc. But it wasn’t until I made Tuesdays an essential need for the business that I felt my creative energy soar!

Do you have a few hours that you can consistently schedule every week for brainstorming & sketching – or whatever your creative equivalent is?

Make it a priority.

 

2. Avoid the Sophomore Slump: Don’t Over Think It

Years ago, I had literally 1 successful illustration that was selling quite a bit. It was my Owlphabet print. I tried to create more similar work, but couldn’t produce anything that I felt was equally as good. I knew that I was supposed to create work that I loved, but nothing else that I drew seemed like it would ever be as popular as the Owlphabet!

That is when I decided to start sketching every single day. Even if it was just a no meaning doodle in the corner of a notebook. I started saving every sketch. Then one day I went through them and pulled out some of my favorites. Out of my daily sketches came the idea to create a calendar, and soon that led to my next successful product line, an Owl Calendar (I guess owls were all the rage back then)! I finally got my groove back because I stopped over thinking it and just created!

Where does your creative inspiration come from?

 

3. Take a Break From Work!

This is where I need to take my own advice. I literally never stop working. When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I was sewing pillows while having contractions that were 3 minutes apart because I desperately wanted my orders to go out on time! Yikes! Talk about work obsessed!

What I am learning from my workaholic tendencies is that I can put myself completely on the back burner. When was the last time I did something nice for myself? As the “Creative Director” of Gingiber, if I don’t take care of my personal wellness, eventually it will lead to burnout. I don’t want that!

I am making it a priority next quarter to take some time away from the business every week to be alone, sip some coffee, and give myself permission to turn off the Gingiber portion of my brain.

What do you treat yourself to? A vacation? Weekly coffee dates with a non-work friend? Getting away from the business is healthy!

Get Inspired This Spring

 

 

 

 

Get inspired this spring

{Note from Jess: It’s the changing of the seasons. Here in the Southern Hemisphere, we’re starting to feel a little nip in the night air as Autumn makes an appearance. But in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re all yearning for the warmer days of spring! This month we’re talking about how the seasons affect your business and vice versa…}

Spring is supposed to be just around the corner, right?

Lately in the Midwest, though, we’re still in the thick of snow storms. Regardless, I love the newness that comes with spring. Sprigs of bright green grass sprouting from the earth. Baby goats being born at a friend’s farm. The shift towards softer colors in my favorite publications. I find that the beautiful aspects of Spring are a huge inspiration for me when I create and think about my business.

Here are some ways I have found inspiration in the new season and applied it in my work.

 

Change your environment

The rush from the holidays is over, and the need to be glued to my studio chair is less urgent. The days are staring to get warmer and brighter, so I like to take the opportunity now and then to do some sketching outdoors or take my work to a coffee shop.

Spring is the perfect excuse to change up your work routine a bit. Sometimes going out of the studio for just a little while leads to a huge amount of inspiration and planning!

 

Release a special seasonal item

I love releasing seasonal products to celebrate holidays and the changing seasons. St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Arbor Day, and Cinco de Mayo, to name a few, are all right around the corner.

Get inspired by the themes that these days celebrate and create accordingly!

 

Update your product photos!

There is nothing lovelier than than photos lit by natural light! Why not take your product and your camera outdoors and have a mini photo shoot? Or simply bring a springtime element indoors to add as a photo prop?

Small changes to some of your product photos with the seasons can be a fun way to make your products work for any season!

 

I hope these ideas will also help you find inspiration for your business in this beautiful season! And I’d love to hear from you – what do you do in your business to celebrate the change in seasons?

3 Tips for a New Year Product Overhaul

 

 

 

 

3 Tips for a New Year Product Overhaul

The new year is a fresh start.

As an illustrator I look forward to trying out brand new ideas, improving on what is already working, and maybe even cleaning up my product offering to create a leaner, stronger line.

Every January I really enjoy digging into my previous year’s sales and analysing what went well (and what fell flat) with my products.

I like to think of it as a mini product overhaul. Looking back at a full 12 month period can inform me of what my customer would probably like to see more of, which will hopefully lead to stronger sales.

 

Here are the 3 things I recommend you consider during thisprocess:

 

1. Analyse last year’s sales trends and identify your best sellers. Then decide how you can build upon their success.

When I analysed my 2013 sales I found that my Safari Animal illustrations were my best sellers. With that in mind I decided to expand the series with two new animal:, a monkey and a tiger. In 3-6 months I will review how the new illustrations have been received. Hopefully by reviewing 2013’s sales trends I can get a jump start on a successful 2014.

Did you have a design that did particularly well? What can you do to build upon its success?

 

2. Have a slow moving item? Is the idea good? Is it a solid illustration? Is it great design? Maybe it’s time to change the medium.

Example: Last year I released an 8×10 art print called “January Bear”. Although the design was solid, the print was not selling very well even after several months. Discouraged, I was about to pull the design altogether when I decided to try out the illustration on a different product: a single colour screen printed tea towel.

The illustration was so much stronger in this new medium! Almost instantly this bear towel was selling. This soon led to us offering themed tea towel sets, where we sold the bear towel with accompanying fox and owl tea towels as a bundle. And the forest animal towel bundle is my best selling bundle to date.

Do you have a product that might just need some tweaking? Try this exercise and see what you can come up with!

 

3. Do you have a product line that has done well in the past but sales have been steadily declining? Maybe it is time to retire some existing products to make room for new offerings.

I have a large product line, and because I have an online shop I can literally offer as many products as I want. However, I have learned over the years that a leaner, stronger line can actually be of benefit (especially if you are wanting to transition to wholesale at some point).

When I noticed that some of my previously better selling illustrations (an alphabet series that stylistically seemed different from my existing illustrations) had steadily been declining, I make the decision to remove them from my catalogue altogether. Trends change over time. And it is okay to retire products to make room to introduce new work that not only keeps of with current styles, but is well received with your customer base.

Can you tighten up your product offerings?

 

Hopefully these 3 tips will help you to start of 2014 with a good sense what your customers want, & that will translate to more sales this year!

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