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.

What would YOU tell people just starting out in Handmade Business?

 

 

 

 

What would YOU tell people starting out in handmade business

 

Okay Thrivers, today I want to pick your brain.

I’ve been thinking of putting together a little ‘Getting Started in Handmade Business‘ guide here on the blog to help peeps who are literally just starting out.

I want to give them a quick-start guide to diving into online handmade business.

Now, I know what I want to tell them. But I don’t know it all! (I know, shocking right?)

And so, I’m reaching out to you today and into your brain… because you have some awesome knowledge in there that I would LOVE for you to share with us.

Bring out your inner agony-aunt, sit down with our newbie over an imaginary coffee, and share what you have learnt since you started out.

What mistakes did you make? What lessons did you learn? What MUST they do RIGHT NOW so they don’t miss out down the track?

Think tiny detail. Think long-term. Think what worked for you… and what didn’t work.

If nothing else, think of ONE thing you would tell someone starting out. The most important thing.

Share it with us (and them!) in the comments below.

I can’t wait to see what wisdom you have to share with us!

Image source: Jess Van Den

 

Three Questions with Megan Auman – May 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…

1. I have a question about pricing. I’m working on a prototype of my first product and trying to be very careful to record time, materials, etc. as I go (having learned from experience with an Etsy store several years ago). I think this product will take about 3 hours of labor, plus materials ($2-4). So according to your formula, if I “pay” myself $10/hour, my wholesale price would be around $66, making retail $132. That seems like a lot, especially b/c there are folks on Etsy selling similar products for as low as $8!! The highest price I saw on Etsy was $65. I’m in the US, by the way.So I’m wondering if my idea can even work.

First off, your equation is actually missing two key pieces in your pricing (though I am happy to see that you’re pricing for both wholesale and retail).  In addition to materials and labor, you need to include both overhead (this is all the additional expense it takes to run your business, like equipment, studio space, etc.) and profit into your wholesale price.
But the bigger issue here is that Etsy is not a reliable benchmark when it comes to comparison pricing.  Etsy has established itself as a low-end marketplace, as the majority of sellers on Etsy are not trying to make a profit off what they sell.  Many aren’t even priced to pay themselves a living wage.
Instead, you want to head off Etsy to look for other pricing.  I always suggest looking for the highest price you can find for a similar item.  While you may not end up pricing that high, finding the highest price lets you know what the upper potential of the market is.  It will tell you if there is a market to support the price you’ve found you need to charge to make a living.

From there, it’s just a matter of making sure your web presence, branding, and all the other details of your business are in line to support your pricing!

2. I’m thinking of doing one in 2014, although I know nothing about trade shows! I have never been to a trade show before as they are not normally held in my city. If you have done one before, do you have any insights that may be of help? How do I need to prepare?

There’s a lot that goes into prepping for a trade show, and if you’ve never done one before, one of the best things to do is plan on attending one prior to exhibiting.  Even if one isn’t held in your city, it’s worth it to travel to see one, because you’ll get a much better sense of what to expect.
Walking a trade show can help you understand all that goes into booth design, promotional materials, line sheets, and catalogs, and just to see the general vibe and atmosphere of a show.  Because shows are only open to the trade, it can be tricky to get a pass to attend a show.  Often, if you try and go through registration, you’ll be asked to pay a hefty fee to attend as a “non-exhibiting manufacturer.”  Instead, the trick is to reach out directly to the sales staff.  They are the people who are responsible for filling booth space, and if you let them know you’re interested in exhibiting in the future, they will often give you a pass to attend as a “guest of sales” for free.
Once you’ve walked a show, then you can begin to make a checklist of everything you’ll need for a show – your booth display, lighting, line sheets, orders forms, promotional materials, and of course, a well thought out and cohesive product line.  Everything you need to prepare for a show is more than I can cover in the scope of this column, but if you tune in to Creative Live on June 19, 20, and 21, I’ll be giving a free webinar on how to get your products into stores and sharing all the details of how to prep for a trade show.

3. I’m really interested in getting my newest product featured in a magazine for Christmas shopping.  How far in advance do I need to reach out to the editors?

Your timing for this question is perfect, because you’ll need to start reaching out to magazine editors in the next couple of months if you’d like to see your products featured for holiday shopping.  A general rule of thumb is that you’ll want to reach out by July, but if you have a particular magazine or magazines in mind that you’d like to target (and you should) you can get much more detailed dates.
You can find out just when you’ll need to submit products by Googling the magazine name and the words “media kit.”  This should take you to an online page or PDF that the magazine puts out to help sell ad space.  But it’s useful for you because it also includes an editorial calendar with deadlines for future issues.  Once you’ve found the month of the issue you’d like to be included in, take a look at the deadlines spelled out.  You don’t want to go with the last deadline.  (That’s the very last chance for ads to go in before the magazine goes to print, and editorial content will be wrapped up long before that.)  Instead, see what the earliest deadline for that issue is, and plan on pitching your products at least a few weeks before that!

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 ~ Tweaking for Profit






ask the makers - profit

This month we’re talking all about profit.  I didn’t want to focus on how to calculate profit or what we each do with our profits. Instead, I wanted to know how our makers have increased profit on an existing profit. Did they simply raise the price? Did they find a new supplier? Did they tweak the design? Did they change/streamline the production process?

Cat’s Answer:

I have raised my prices, revamped with product and packaging changes that makes the product more niche specific or more gift-worthy and cut costs. I recently added a kit option for wholesale with a couple products (almost zero labor) and have reworked some products (including this cork bracelet) to significantly reduce my labor time by switching from welding to riveting.

dragonfly bracelet by cat ivins

Danielle’s Answer:

Over time, I have increased the prices on a few of my items, mainly my personalized hoops. The price of materials is pretty consistent for me, if I purchase from the same vendors, but as I got more orders, I realized maybe they could be a bit higher in price. Likewise as I got more orders, my process became more streamlined so it didn’t take quite as long, though, only marginally.

danielle

Eleanor’s Answer:

This is a bit tricky for me to answer since the products I offer for e.m.papers as they are downloads. My main materials and cost is simply my time. So for me it’s really about a pricing and advertising strategy. This has given me a lot of flexibility to play around experiment with pricing and profit margins and it’s been great.
However, I am thinking about offering printed cards soon both direct to customer using a third party supplier (printer) and potentially wholesale. I confess this overwhelms me a bit. When I think about materials, shipping, paying other vendors and the trade show costs for going the wholesale route it seems that reaching scale in sales fast is really crucial. So I’m afraid I have more questions than answers this month!
em papers

Megan’s Answer:

I recently revamped and re-released my embroidery kits.  Instead of buying white fabric and ordering custom iron-on transfers for the kits, I now print the pattern right onto the fabric thanks to Spoonflower.com.  That means I no longer have to go to the fabric store AND it saves me about $1 per kit.  I’m actually planning to raise the price by $5 starting in 2015 after I have a few more wholesale orders and sales data to know which kits sell best.  I also raised my profit margin on the kits by having multiple designs use the same color of embroidery floss.  That way I don’t have 3 different shades of blue to order every month.
coming home kit pakcaged

Have you increased your profit on an existing product?  How did you do it?