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Success Stories – Boo and Boo Factory

 

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Christina is a powerhouse of imagination and creation. Her Etsy store literally stopped my in my tracks with my mouth open as I gawked at her beautiful (and bright!) jewellery and purses. I like bold, statement stuff and so I was pretty excited when she graciously agreed to be interviewed. I am so excited to share Christina’s rise to self-made business woman as she transitioned from architectural graduate to style icon.

 

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

 I began Boo and Boo Factory as a way to make some extra money to pay for architecture school. 

Supplies, models and computers can get expensive so any extra income was welcome.  I continued to craft on the side all throughout architecture graduate school.

I began to notice that my shop was growing very quickly and due to my heavy school schedule, had to start declining work and projects for Boo in order to keep me focused on my studies.

After I had completed my thesis in 2012, I decided to pursue Boo and Boo Factory full time instead of going back to work in architecture

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

The largest challenge for me is how to find balance between designing, making and many of the other tasks of running a business.

Since I am a one woman shop I tackle many elements daily that a larger business would outsource.

I source my own supplies, work with retail shops as well as manage wholesale, I do my own taxes, accounting and book keeping, inventory, design and upkeep my website, answer emails, network, market and all of this on top of designing and hand making each piece.

It can be really tricky trying to do it all and it never seems like there’s enough time in the day

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

My biggest successful moment was when Etsy had their first pop up shop in Soho during the holidays and they asked me to be a featured maker there.

They flew me out to New York and set up a work area for me to meet customers and sell my goods.

It really was one of the most amazing experiences.

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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?

I don’t have any doubts as to my future creative direction. 

Every day I learn something new in regards to business and I’m constantly trying to learn new techniques to help me push my product lines and experiment with new designs.

As I had mentioned previously, time is always an issue. 

I always feel like I don’t have enough time for one thing or another, I just try to do my best.

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

Every now and then I go through creative slumps.

I think that’s something that all creatives can relate to.  If I feel stuck, I go outside for a walk, go to a different part of the city I don’t usually go to or sit at Lake Michigan.

I find that ruts hit me when I’m swamped with work and tired. So taking a break and seeing something new usually does the trick to spark creativity.

You have to learn to take time for yourself and your well-being because if you don’t your business can suffer. 

 

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

Every day is a little bit different and depends on how many open orders I have. If I have a rush of orders I spend the whole day making and then try to package and ship at night.

If I don’t have too many orders, I use that time to make new products, photograph and list them in my shop.  Usual business tasks are also spread out depending on my work load.

Working for your self is way more work than working for someone else.

I work 7 days a week sometime from 8 to 14 hours a day. 

I love it and don’t mind putting in those hours.

I am so grateful that I am able to do something I truly love for a living. It is really one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced.

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

Instagram has been the best marketing tool for my shop!

I started it only a year ago and love it! I meet other creatives and network with people all around the world on a daily basis.  I also receive most of my wholesale orders as well as fun custom orders through Instagram.

The other thing I like about Instagram is the instant feedback you receive on products.

Whenever I’m working on a new design I’ll put up progress shots all the way up to the finished design and receive feedback on all stages of the work.

It’s so helpful and is a really fun way to try something new that you maybe wouldn’t have done before.

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

I think that a lot of creatives try to learn everything there is about business before they open their shops.

The truth is you won’t be able to learn everything and it doesn’t have to be perfect when you open.

You’ll learn as you go through experience and you never stop learning.

Of course it is very important to research before you begin but it’s also very important to take the leap and get your products out there for the world to see.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see myself in 5 years in a dedicated studio space outside of my home with employees!

It would be so amazing to hire help for the business side so I can spend more time designing and making pieces.

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Shop/Website

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Success Stories – Andie’s Specialty Sweets

 

 

 

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Searching on Etsy I just about squealed when I found this delightful duo, Andie and Jason, selling creative candy and sweets in all sorts of whimsical shapes and lifelike colours. Andie’s Specialty Sweets is the kind of shop which stands out from the crowd, not just for beautiful photography and simple styling but because it’s a unique and exciting product which speaks to our desire to buy artisan-made products.

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

I (Andie) started attending art school right out of high school. But I was quickly presented a job offer as Art Director of a small, handcrafted and innovative snowboard manufacturing company. I dropped school for the real-life education/experience, and it proved invaluable. The company had a small cult-like following and developed lines for larger, more commercial, snowboard companies.

I had no idea at the time that everything – from the skills I learned to the structure of the company itself, and the struggles and successes of being small and handcrafted – would one day serve as a resource for the direction of our business today.

From there I worked for several years as a photo-realistic airbrush artist, servicing record labels, and producing replicas of album covers, up to 24’ x 24’.These billboards were installed mostly on Sunset Blvd. at night clubs, street corners and major record stores.

When the ability to create large-scale digital replicas became more affordable, acing me out of a job, I began my own interior mural and decorative finishes business, including some restoration projects. One of these exciting restoration projects was on a cabinet from the 1400s Ming Dynasty.

It was during this time that Jason and I met. Jason had a business background and was running a successful pool and spa maintenance company. He also had an artistic ability and great eye for detail that had been set on a “shelf.” We married, and at 9 months pregnant with our first child, I retired from scaffolding and painting on my back, to relish the fleeting joys of motherhood.

At the birth of our fourth child, I listed a couple of sugar-crafted flowers on Etsy, during the kid’s naptime. I had acquired some culinary skills from my Dad, and had the privilege of creating a few wedding cakes for family and friends. Entertaining and making life special through culinary/pastry art had been one of my new outlets for artistic expression.

The most I thought that could come from those listings, and the most I aspired to at the time, was a little extra Christmas spending cash.

A little over one year later, and after the introduction of our Candy Vintage Buttons and Candy Gears, Jason sold his business and we took the plunge together, focusing both our attention and energy on the specialty sweets business.

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

We’ve developed our own unique recipe and some trade secrets unique to the industry. But most monumental, we have discovered a way to scale our business, which appears to be limited in its growth capacity.

 

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

We’ve had many amazing moments, most of which have taken us off guard.

To recall a few: collaborations with Martha Stewart Weddings, many special request from magazines and features in some of the most desirable blogs and publications, a place at the Martha Stewart Weddings Annual Bridal Market Party, unexpected and very large orders from international dignitaries, named Martha Stewart’s top D.I.Y. resource for edible art, our Chocolate-Filled Sea Shells featured in The New York Times (holiday gift guide 2013), several Etsy features, and our Buttons being one of the top selling items in the Martha Stewart American Made store.

Each time we are humbled and grateful, but rather than feeling like we have “scored,” we are more like spectators of a well-written, unfolding story, which is extremely entertaining but unpredictable.

We’re anticipating a climax, but expect we’ll be taken by surprise.

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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?

We’ve never been in doubt about our creative direction, just highly pensive. We’ve also been thankful we haven’t made any decisions in haste. Our ability and the time seem to converge just when needed.

We’re always on our toes, looking for that pull-the-trigger moment when one must act upon opportunity. But we know that every business has its restrictions.

It is rare for a business to have infinite resources and time.

The object is to keep your goals always before you, make adjustments when doors close or unforeseen doors open, and be thankful for what you’re getting to do today, and do it well.

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

Our ideas are as many as there are things in the world. For us, it’s choosing what will best translate to candy, and what will have a timeless appeal –trends that have lasting power.

 

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

Our goal is to indeed have balance in our life, but we will be the first to admit, we are not successful at a “balanced life” at this junction in our business. At present, a concentrated focus on our business is what is required, which will lead to greater balance in the future. Meanwhile, the sacrifices and adventures today are knitting us together as a family.

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

We have not yet paid for customer acquisition. But we do record and keep a customer list.

 

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

Focus on continually developing your craft and never get comfortable with your skill level or high-minded.

We have also known that if we focused on the depth and integrity of our work, the breadth would follow. We have seen evidence of this in a word-of-mouth, acquired customer and in the % of repeat business we are privileged to serve.

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Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

It’s too much to divulge and a little top secret. But, in a nutshell: more refined and greater capacity.

 

Online

Shop/Website:  etsy.com/shop/andiespecialtysweets

Instagram: instagram.com/andiesspecialtysweets

Facebook: facebook.com/andiesspecialtysweets

I need YOU… to help me, help you…

 

 

 

I need YOU... to help me, help you...

I feel like this should be sung… ‘help me, help yoooouuu’…

It’s true! I’m currently in ‘planning mode’ for Create & Thrive for 2015 (when I’m not making jewellery, that is), and I decided that the best way to help you next year was, well, to ask you what you’re struggling with!

So, I’ve put together a super-quick questionnaire for you to… wait, don’t go!! ;D

I know most of us loathe surveys and questionnaires, truly I do, but I promise that it’s short, easy, and will really help me help you in 2015. If you just tick boxes, it will take you less than 5 minutes. If you want to give me epic responses, that will take a bit longer (and would be awesome), but it’s not necessary.

Anything you can tell me about your struggles, questions, successes, goals etc. will really help me to make sure I’m sharing the right sort of helpful info to help you grow your handmade business. That’s what C&T is all about, after all.

Oh, and it’s anonymous (unless you fancy telling me who you are) so you can be totally honest!

Click here to be part of shaping Create & Thrive in 2015.

Thank you for being awesome!

Jess x

Three Questions with Megan Auman – July 2014




Three Questions with Megan Auman on Create & Thrive

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…

I am starting my craft business online but want to know how to create a terms and conditions page. Details like what I need to cover to make sure both parties are safe would help.

To really cover yourself, you should actually talk to a lawyer to make sure everything is really above board.  But to get you started, I’d recommend taking a look at the terms and conditions pages for other businesses in your industry.  Depending on what platform you’re using to build your online shop, they may even have recommendations or help you auto generate a terms and conditions page.  For example, Shopify will let you generate terms and conditions for your site inside your admin panel.  (See this article for more details. – http://docs.shopify.com/support/settings/checkout-and-payment/where-are-my-refund-privacy-and-terms-of-service-policies-shown-on-my-website )
At the very least, your terms and conditions should include information about returns, refunds, and damaged and/or lost goods.  Your policies should also include information about privacy, collection of personal information at time of order, security, and use of any third party services that track browser information and IP address.  (Such as Google Analytics.)  And, if your website uses cookies, you need to disclose those in a privacy or terms and conditions page.
Ultimately, terms and conditions can feel a little scary (all that legalese) so when it doubt, it’s always best to contact a lawyer.  (And just a quick reminder, I am not a lawyer and none of this should be construed as legal advice.)

In the last 6 months I have started my own small business and am in the process of developing a product to sell online and in retail.  My question is how to I protect my product from copy-cats? Any top-tips?

I know myself it’s very, very easy to get loads of great ideas from Pintrest and Etsy and other websites – and there will always be people who will be able to copy my product at home.  But how do I put them off being able to copy mine?

There is no foolproof way to keep people from copying you, and while copyrights, trademarks, and patents may help in certain situations, they can be very costly to police and defend and aren’t always applicable.  (For instance, copyright usually isn’t applicable in fashion, which can make it hard to protect designs in certain product categories, such as jewelry.)

There are a few ways to keeping copycats at bay.  One is to avoid overly simple or basic processes and forms.  I had a jewelry teacher once tell me that any piece that you put into production should take at least five steps to make, because it’s unlikely that most people will be dedicated enough to copy that many steps.
You also want to avoid putting any tutorials or how-tos out onto the Internet.  Even though it’s tempting to create these as part of your marketing, your true customers aren’t really interested and you’ll just be helping others make your work.  (Plus, if someone really did copy you, you wouldn’t have a strong legal case since you put your trade secretes out onto the Internet.)
Ultimately, the best defense against copycats is building a strong and recognizable brand.  If you build a clear and consistent brand image, it will be more likely that other people will notice if someone copies you and will recognize the copy cat as a knock-off.
The best brands are those that focus their energy on constantly designing, creating, and innovating.  You won’t be able to stop everyone from copying you, but you’ll be such an original that in the end it won’t really matter.

How often should you check in with your wholesale shops to see if they need a re-order?

There actually isn’t a straightforward answer here, because not every shop turns merchandise over at the same pace.  Within my wholesale accounts, I have stores that order every few weeks and stores that may only order once or twice a year.
Ultimately, you want to get to know which shops sell the quickest, because those are the shops you’ll want to touch base with every few weeks.  A good rule of thumb is to follow up a few weeks after you’ve sent the order to make sure everything and then check in once a quarter to see if they need to reorder.
At the minimum, you should reach out to your stores every six months, usually to coincide with the major trade show buying seasons.  But it never helps to reach out more, especially a month or so out from major shopping holidays (like Valentine’s Day or Mothers Day) and two months out before the Christmas season.

Got a question for Megan Auman?

Leave it in the comments below or email it to megan@createandthrive.com (that’s direct to Megan Eckman, Assistant Editor).

Ask the Makers ~ Accountants + Bookeeping

Ask the Makers - accountants

Cat’s Answer:

I do not have an accountant. I have a previous life as a bank manager and worked two seasons at H&R Block while in school, so numbers are fun to me. Plus I have Quickbooks to stay organized. (Of course, I am too paranoid to claim the home office deduction even though I am totally qualified, so I am probably a bad example.) I think I just do it myself so I get to use my big old adding machine with paper. I love to punch in my numbers (I am impressively fast by the way.) and staple the runs of adding machine papers to my monthly files! So satisfying!

Stacie’s Answer:

I don’t have an accountant. We use a combination of Quickbooks and Outright. I do, however, have an amazing CPA who keeps me on track with things like taxes, licenses, etc. He also happens to be my Father-In-Law so I feel like I really lucked out! What would I do without him?

Eleanor’s Answer:

My answer is ‘sort of’. Since I sell virtual products, I only need to create invoices for the occasional custom order. Generally everything is automated. Luckily for me my brother-in-law does my taxes, which are complicated because my business is based in Germany, but I sell downloadable goods all over the world. The tax rates vary from the Germany to the EU to ‘everyone else’. I realize that many business sell globally, but because I don’t require a shipping address, it’s sometimes hard to know where the purchaser is based, which impacts how much tax I need to pay per transaction. This requires digging through purchase orders every month. I also have to go through all the PayPal reports and convert the currency from dollars or GBP to Euros manually via a spreadsheet formula. So even though I have someone organizing my taxes, every month there’s a couple of hours work. It’s very specific to my business and I have yet to find software that would streamline this. I do hope to get someone in soon to take care of this task as I hate facing it every time the month ends!

Danielle’s Answer:

I have had an accountant since the beginning of this year. It’s wonderful – she works remotely and we use Dropbox to share files. I download all my statements and logs and categorize each line item- then she deals with the taxes and reporting portion. She also provides me with a quarterly overview of income and expenses!

Jess’s Answer:

The best thing I’ve done for my business book-keeping-wise this year is bite the bullet and upgrade from our trusty spreadsheet to proper accounting software. After some investigation, Nick and I settled on Xero which did everything we wanted it to. We can link our bank accounts, Paypal (in different currencies) and there’s the option to pay for plugins for extensions that do other things. Sure, it costs a bit of money, but the time Nick saves and the ease of looking at our money is WELL worth it at our stage of business. The pure usefulness of it came into its own this month when we had to do a BAS (business activity statement) for the first time, as we finally had to register for GST. It took 10 minutes to copy the numbers from Xero to our BAS form – brilliant! Our accountants actually have access to our Xero account too – so come tax time, they can just log in and do our tax for us.

Megan’s Answer:

I’m actually saving up money for an accountant for 2015 because I’m getting tired of doing my own taxes. Excel spreadsheets are my current go-to accounting tool but I know that if I want to take my business more seriously, and if I want other institutions to take my business more seriously, I need to have an accountant. Also, let’s be honest, nobody enjoys spending five hours or so every year doing taxes, let alone the hour or so every month to crunch the numbers. I also believe that having an accountant do the work for me will allow me to get a much clearer picture of the financial state of both my business and my personal accounts.

 What about you? Do you have an accountant? Do you want one? Do you love your accountant? Tell us below in the comments.