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How a Head Full of Dreams Became petal & pins

 

 

 

Guest Post by Sandra Alcorn.

 

A Head Full of Ideas & Dreams

When I began petal & pins I didn’t start with a plan – but I did have a head full of ideas and dreams – and if that’s you too, it’s a good place to start! My project manager husband would say it’s an agile approach, responsive to change and opportunities.

I wasn’t new to running a small business, but like all new creative start-ups, I found you bring skills with you, discover ones you didn’t think you had and find new things you need to learn – sometimes quickly and sometimes with a bit (or a lot) of trial and error.

Starting a blog before I had a product to sell was a great way to get feedback and firm up my thoughts on what I wanted to do and allowed me to build up a following while researching the market as well as how I would produce and sell them.

Taking the plunge to get my product to customers, I started with a small print run which I listed on etsy with a link on my blog as well as selling them from my studio.

I soon discovered I enjoyed writing and it has been instrumental in getting featured in an article in Faerie Magazine (Issue 27 Summer 2014) and on other blogs and it also led to my first wholesale customers in Australia and America.

 

Tips:

  • Blogging takes commitment, you need to do it regularly and if writing has never been your strength get a friend or partner to proofread what you write before posting – it will help you improve your writing skills and develop your own style over time.
  • Make sure you put your name/website on images you post so if people share your images (which they will) it leads back to you.

 

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

When petal & pins was still just an idea my father was diagnosed with cancer. Designing and blogging provided a calming positive space for me throughout his illness and I am pleased that before he died he got to see the fledgling beginnings with the launch of the first petal & pins card collections – Spring Gala & High Tea.

The dream was starting to become a reality but I realised to build up sales and a significant wholesale base would require me getting out there promoting, selling and cold calling retailers not to mention more of my time.

My experience is in a studio environment and when I designed clothing ranges in Sydney someone else did the selling so with this side of building the business I was out of my comfort zone. Grief also scattered my focus and I still had other work commitments so for a while I let the sales side just amble along without much pushing.

A year later I applied for a space at a local design market which helped renew my focus and I started the petal & pins Facebook page to work on promotion – it was the beginning of the next phase in the petal & pins story.

 

Tips:

  • Be realistic about the amount of time you can commit to your project – it will influence the time it takes to achieve things.
  • Give yourself an objective strength vs weakness analysis and set yourself a challenge to build/work on them.

 

Time to Dream Bigger

My dreams are now our dreams – my husband Simon has always helped behind the scenes with his IT expertise and he happily stepped out front with me at that first design market, we both enjoyed the face to face interaction with customers talking about something we’re passionate about.

Twelve months on, with a year of design markets under our belt, the addition of art prints to the range and a beautiful petal & pins website (credit goes to Simon!) sales have grown.

I’ve discovered the fun and value of having an Instagram account as another promotional tool and I’m proudly still blogging!

Doing the markets has led to new stockists, new friends, a weekend magazine feature, a wallpaper commission and the confidence to tackle our first trade fair in February.

We have tons of ideas and other plans for 2016 so there are new things to learn, excitement and fear but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All this from a head full of ideas and dreams … where might yours take you?

 

Tips:

 


Sandra Alcorn – Bio
Sandra Alcorn studied fashion design in Sydney and after working for several fashion houses made a sea change to Hobart where she opened her own successful fashion design studio.

Swapping fabric for flowers from her Tasmanian garden, Sandra started creating petite ephemeral dresses and in 2012 launched petal & pins to retail and wholesale greeting cards and art prints featuring images of her garden couture.

You can find Petal and Pins in the following links:

Website:​www.petalandpins.com

Blog:​​blog.petalandpins.com

Facebook:​/petalandpins​​​

Instagram:​@petalandpins​​

Twitter:​@petalandpins​​

Image Source: © 2016 Sandra Alcorn www.petalandpins.com

Why I No Longer Sell Wholesale (but Why you Might Want to…)

 

 

 

 

You’ve probably hear me say that I don’t sell my jewellery via wholesale.

What you might NOT know is that I have (I even had an agent for a while)!

I first sold Epheriell jewellery via wholesale back in (I think) 2010. I was lucky enough to have a shop reach out to me and ask if I sold my jewellery wholesale (because until that point, I hadn’t even considered it!).

Of course, after the initial ‘yay!’, panic quickly set it – I had NO idea how to go about selling my work via wholesale!

What followed was a mad scramble to educate myself about the process – to put together terms and conditions; to work out what my minimum order would be; to decide what pieces I would wholesale, and which I wouldn’t… and the list goes on.

I struggled to find clear, simple, actionable info on how to make this wholesale gig a success, and I muddled my way through that first wholesale order. To be honest, I muddled my way through the next few, too.

Eventually, I sorta got the hang of it, and I enjoyed selling to boutiques – it was nice to think of my jewellery being ‘out there’ in the world where new people could find it!

So – why don’t I sell wholesale any more?

One simple reason: I’m far too busy with my direct retail sales!

I LOVE the internet (in case you couldn’t tell) and my goal was always to build up my online business, selling direct to my customers.

So for me, wholesale was a stepping stone towards that ultimate goal, rather than the goal in and of itself.

Why am I telling you this story? Because I want you to know that everyone is different, and that even if wholesaling your work isn’t your ultimate goal, it can be an awesome part of the process. And if it IS your ultimate goal, then you owe it to yourself to work out exactly how to make it happen!

 

There are so many benefits to selling via wholesale.

They include:

  • Earning bigger chunks of money in one go – and the potential to earn WAY more money WAY faster than you would building up only a direct-to-customer business.

 

  • Gaining a certain ‘legitimacy’ and reputation for your business – there’s something special about having your work chosen and stocked in stores. Someone (the store buyer) has already assessed your work and decided you stand out above the crowd. And how cool would it be to walk into your favourite boutique (or somewhere like Anthropologie) and see your work on the shelves?

 

  • You’ve heard the saying ‘it’s easier to retain customers than it is to gain customers’, right? Well, think if it terms of wholesale. Say you want to sell 100 pieces. Selling direct, that’s probably going to mean gaining almost 100 new customers… but if you sell wholesale, it might mean selling 25 pieces to just 4 shops… who, if you treat them right, will order from you over and over again!

 

  • You don’t have to spend anywhere as much time on self-promotion via social media… because your stores promote and sell FOR you. That frees you up to spend more time – you guessed it – actually designing and making!

 

  • You don’t have to drag yourself away from your family (or your bed) of a weekend to do markets. And, if you aren’t comfortable selling direct to people in a market setting, all the better. This is YOUR business – do it your way. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way.

 

  • You don’t have to rely on online sales – which can be an absolute relief when you are building your business, and those sales are still few and far between.

 

These are just some of the reasons why I decided to create Wholesale Know-How.

I heard from so many of you that you were struggling to build an online direct-to-customer business, and I knew that wholesale could be exactly what you need to light that fire under your business and really get it growing!

But, since I don’t class myself as an expert in selling via wholesale (even though I have done it many times) I invited my friend Mel to teach this course with me.

She IS an expert – someone with around 10 years experience selling wholesale (she’s sold handmade cards, fabric, jewellery…) who currently runs a thriving wholesale-based handmade jewellery biz.

 

Register right here.

As with all Create & Thrive courses, you get lifetime access to both the content and the private course forum!

If after reading this, you know that selling wholesale is something you want to aim for, don’t miss it!

Jess x

P.S. If you have any questions after reading the course page, ask below!

P.P.S. Yes, you can do this course even if you don’t live in Australia! It’s written to be applicable to anyone who wants to sell their handmade goods, no matter where you are in the world.

How to Sell More at a Trade Show

 

 

 

 

 

For any first-time exhibitors at a trade show it can be an exciting but daunting experience. Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of exhibiting at the Life Instyle Sydney exhibition. It’s one of a handful of retail trade exhibitions that occur twice a year, connecting business owners of products and brands directly with retailers.

If you are unfamiliar with trade shows, these differ to weekend markets in that all products are sold on a wholesale basis, with the buyer (shop owners) ordering at the trade show. Exhibitors later fulfil the order by providing the stock after the trade show period has ended.

As thousands of potential buyers can pass your stand, it literally pays to be prepared. Here are a few tips that I learnt through exhibiting at my own first trade show.

1. Set and know your terms and conditions inside and out

Your wholesale terms and conditions are the backbone of any wholesale transaction with a buyer.

Terms and conditions define certain obligations and outline key points of the selling agreement between the buyer and the seller (you!).

I recommend that terms and conditions include details of minimum order amounts, payment options, turn-around time, shipping details, and refund and cancellation policies.

Cancellations do occur from time to time and the last thing you want to be is out of pocket due to a buyer who has changed their mind.

2. Be prepared for buyers to ask you about ‘exclusivity’.

Exclusivity (also known as postcode block out) is a popular word at trade shows.

Buyers may ask you for exclusivity before placing an order.

Essentially this means that once an exclusivity agreement has been made between yourself and the retailer (and an order placed), you have committed to not selling your product to new buyers that operate stores within the neighbouring area, often within the same postcode.

This is one method that a buyer will use to ensure that their store does not stock the same products as competing neighbouring stores.

Having a well thought-out response to this question before exhibiting at the trade show is integral.  Determining whether you will offer exclusivity is a business decision and there is no right or wrong answer.

3. You need Line-sheets and business cards

At the end of the trade show you may feel like a nightclub promotional girl (or guy!), but handing out brochures, business cards and line sheets (or catalogues) to buyers is essential.

A good line sheet has a list of all your products currently available for wholesale purchase, each with a photo, an SKU or product code, wholesale price and a short description if necessary.

When asked for your line sheet don’t be afraid to ask for the buyer’s business card in return. This provides you with their contact details so you can follow up with them post trade show, should they fail to place an order.

My advice to you is to ensure you have enough line sheets printed and prepared well and truly before the tradeshow. I had the unfortunate experience of having to re-print hundreds of line sheets the day before flying out to the trade show after a printing error on my behalf.

It was a stressful experience that could have been avoided had I been organised with my line sheet 2-4 weeks prior to the trade show.

4. The days are LONG

Be mentally prepared for some seriously long hours. If you’re anything like me and spend most of your days sitting at your desk beavering away in quiet isolation, well… trade shows are the complete opposite.

Trade shows generally run between 8-11 hours a day over a 3-4 day period.

During this time you will be standing (not sitting!) and speaking to various interested buyers. While it is a challenge to appear permanently happy standing for ten hours a day it is important to greet each customer as if they are your first customer for the day.

Smile, be polite and answer the questions regardless of whether you’re at the end of a ten hour day. Impressions last with buyers and you want to make the purchasing experience pleasant and as easy as possible.

5. Provide a time sensitive sale for the trade show

To secure a few extra sales, it may be beneficial to have a time limited promotion that is valid only for orders placed at the trade show.

This could include offering a percentage off your wholesale amount, free shipping or a free product.

This may be all that’s needed to bump a waning buyer into a committed buyer.

6. Send your invoices immediately after the trade show

Yes, immediately.

Not next week, not even when you return to your home city, but after the trade show when you get back to your hotel.

It keeps your order fresh in the buyer’s mind and it allows them to prepare financially for your order. Buyers often attend multiple trade shows and buy from tens (or hundreds, depending on the size of the retailer!) of different exhibitors.

By doing so, it shows the buyer your commitment to fulfilling their order and keeps your business fresh in their mind.

Better yet, your invoice may be a given higher preference for quick payment than other invoices received at a later date.

7. You don’t have to do business with everyone

While it is tempting to accept orders from a diverse range of stores, I recommend that prior to accepting an order with a buyer you first learn about the type and style of store the buyer owns or is managing.

The best stores are the ones that attract customers who align with your ideal customer.

While uncommon, some exhibitors reject orders from certain industry retailers when there is a belief that the store is not suitable for their product. I heard of one exhibitor rejecting a $6000 order because they believed that the buyer’s franchise would potentially cheapen their brand!

 

Finally, for anyone who is contemplating attending a trade show, I would recommend first walking the trade show prior to applying to exhibit, so you can get the feel of how a trade show operates.

Exhibiting at a trade show can be hard work before, during and after the show.

However, it’s a rewarding experience with great opportunities not only to connect your business with buyers face-to-face, but also to meet and network with like-minded creatives to build lasting friendships.

If you want to expand your wholesale biz by attending trade shows, make sure to join us for Gold or Platinum Membership to the new C&T e-course: Wholesale Know-How.

Not only will you take part in a 30-day course that will teach you all you need to know to successfully wholesale your handmade goods to stores, Gold + Platinum Members will also receive an extra module of lessons that teach you everything you need to know to have a successful trade show – with all the nitty-gritty details.

Click here to register now!

Class starts May 25.

The Top 5 Things You Need to Know When Selling Your Goods Wholesale

 

 

 

Let’s face it, it can stressful selling our handmade pieces in a retail setting. We inject a little bit of ourselves into each item – and that can mean it’s daunting to explain to customers why what we’ve made is so amazing and special when we have such a personal connection with it.

Sometimes the act of talking about yourself and singing your own praises just isn’t part of your personality.

That’s totally OK! You are unique as the products you make and you need to do what works for you.

Some creatives turn to another type of selling to get their goods out there: wholesaling it to a retail space so they can be the ones to sing your praises from the rooftops and you can get on to making more amazing products.

I am always asked by crafter friends and colleagues about my perspective on buying handmade items after owning my own bricks and mortar store which specialised in artisan wares.

Invariably, they ask me the same five key questions:

  1. How do I approach a shop if I want to sell my products wholesale to them?
  2. What will that shop expect from me?
  3. How do I set my prices?
  4. What is the usual mark-up the shop will put on my prices?
  5. Do I need to supply anything other than just the products?

 

I have some pretty standard answers these days, but often the replies are particular to the type of person you are or the products you make.

  1. The best possible way to approach a shop is softly.

Don’t bring your suitcase of wares into their store like a travelling salesman – that’s always been my pet peeve!

Scope out any potential stockists and visit the store either in person or online to see if it’s a good fit.

If you want to just mention you make something fabulous, that’s great; then take my card and email me your catalogue, I can’t wait to see it!

 

  1. The shop expects you to be professional above all else.

Provide a catalogue which is easy to read and with clear images and a simple way to order.

Make sure you can give an invoice that fits with the needs of the tax regulations in your country.

You will need to be able to fill their orders quickly and within an agreed time-frame. How long does it take you to make 20 items? How about 100?

 

  1. Make sure you’re not short-changing yourself on price.

Working your fingers to the bone for minimum wage probably isn’t what you dreamed of when you started your own business.

Make sure you’ve figured out your pricing so you can pay yourself properly for your time – even if all you do is sell wholesale.

As a starting point, read through the C&T pricing posts below:

createandthrive.com/street-smart-pricing-part-1-did-you-price-your-products-correctly

createandthrive.com/street-smart-pricing-part-2-the-fear-that-no-one-will-pay-your-asking-price

createandthrive.com/street-smart-pricing-part-3-convince-your-customers-to-happily-pay-you

 

  1. Most shops will need a minimum 100% mark-up on your wholesale price.

This is the answer which is usually hardest to swallow for a creative.

Why do they need to mark-up 100%? That sounds ludicrous and it feels weird that they will be making more profit on your item that you do.

One of the great things about a home-based business is that you have very few overheads compared to a retail business.

You don’t pay:

  • large amounts of rent for a retail space
  • fit-out on a shop
  • loads of lights (some which stay on overnight)
  • security system
  • staff to have the store open 7 days a week
  • stationery and other incidentals which keep a shop running etc.

So the retailer needs to make enough money in their mark-up to pay for all these things and still pay themselves a wage.

If I could make more than the 100% mark-up in my retail store, it went a long way to making my business viable and eventually profitable.

 

  1. You need to supply exactly what you would send to a customer.

This includes all the packaging and business cards to go along with purchases.

Always check with the retailer if your packaging is particularly large and isn’t for display with your items as they will need to find a place to store it.

Make sure you provide a copy of the invoice when you fill the order and follow up every couple of months to ensure the retailer is happy and to let them know about new products.

 

Of course, these are just a few of the questions that makers have when they branch out into selling wholesale – there are hundreds more!


 

Want to sell to retail shops, boutiques, and gallery shops, but don’t know where to start? Join us for Wholesale Know-How. This eCourse will take you – step-by-step – through everything you need to know and do to get your work into retail spaces.

 

Wholesale Know-How Registration is Open Now!

 

Hey Thriver,

Are you ready to light a fire under your biz and launch yourself into the world of wholesale?

 

Then join us for Wholesale Know-How!

 

This 30-day course will teach you all you need to know to start and grow your wholesale business, no matter where you are or what you make.

If you want to learn from an expert – someone who has almost 10 years of experience running a handmade wholesale business – then this course is for you. I’ve invited my friend Melanie Augustin of Kimono Reincarnate to be the lead teacher on this course!

The info in this course is practical, tried-and-tested, and comes from a place of hard-won knowledge.

 

You can register for the course

right here.

Registration closes Saturday May 23rd, and class starts Monday May 25th.

If you have any questions after reading the course page, just leave them below and I’ll get back to you personally.
Jess x

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