Success Stories ~ Cat Ivins of Polarity and Uncorked


Cat, for once, away from her workbench

I met Cat nearly 3 years ago when I was just starting out my own business.  Her hysterical blog, Olive Bites, drew me to her but then I saw that she was running not one successful Etsy shop but two!  Uncorked and Polarity jewelry was selling like hot cakes (and still is) and somehow she still finds the time to partner with an array of amazing artists to create new collaborative works.  I knew you’d have a ton of great wisdom and advice to share and I’m so thrilled I got to chat with her again!

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

I used to be a banker (not the kind that makes gazillions of dollars). I started as a bank teller when I left college and worked my way to vice president.
I worked with a lot of business clients and learned a lot about money from that process. Eventually I was burned out and needed something more my own.
I launched a personalized print product line on mall carts during the holidays and started selling collages I made at craft shows and a few local stores. I had always worked with sustainable materials and things that had outgrown their original usefulness, so my jewelry lines have just been a natural outgrowth of that.
I now work with cork, recycled steel and wood scraps to create my Uncorked and Polarity Locket lines which are sold online and in dozens of gift shops and museum gift shops around the world!

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

My biggest challenges are always internal – the physical demands of production work, the 24/7 pull of this thing – the feeling that other people have this so much more together than I do (which could be true actually – ha!).

It’s usually more about letting go of my attachment to a specific outcome (sometimes big opportunities that come up do not end up happening) than overcoming for me.


 Arrow Color Block Recycled Cork Keychains

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

My fist pumps are when an idea works or when I do something I didn’t think was possible for me. I never thought I could learn to weld. I had been burned as a child over 30% of my body and had always been afraid of fire, so mastering the flame (and master may be the wrong word here!) was huge for me.

I’ve had a lot of good things happen with my business – new accounts and opportunities, too, that were definitely worth celebrating!

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 have about 5 new jewelry lines still in my head. I am going to write a book or maybe many books, but have no idea what they will be about.

I am going to start a service business, maybe something local that connects people – but have no idea yet what that is going to look like.

I just catch little glimpses of these future selves I will be creating.

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

There are times when creativity is alive – like ideas are catching fire and you can’t sleep. And those are great and amazing times.

But I am more about the process than the outcome and I know that explosive energy at the beginning will wane – it’s supposed to wane.

The real stuff happens after it wanes. It’s part of the flow, you just have to move with it. Now our lives are our own – we always have free will – so we can jump into the flow at any place and any moment.

If I want to make something new but am stuck – I make something else – like a cake or a poem or take my camera to the junk yard – there are uncountable ways to move back into the vibration.


Pinterest Locket

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

I am not so great at this and I had thought until recently that this was ok since I was in a period of my life that work could take a greater piece of me, but I am rethinking this.

It should only take so much of us – it should take 100% of that part – but we still need the other parts to be healthy. My typical day is a terrible example of balance right now – unless balance is me, spinning plates on every finger and toe, I wouldn’t recommend it.

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

I am not sure I have ever made any marketing moves – I just make connections.

I collaborate with a lot of artists. I got on Twitter when everyone said – “you must do Twitter”, then along came Facebook, then just as we get settled there along comes LinkedIn and Pinterest and Instagram – it’s never going to end, but the days of any kind of traditional marketing are gone and the whole thing for makers like me is exhausting.

We just have to realize there are a whole hell of a lot of people that are just never going to hear about us! Niche PR beats any kind of marketing – stuff like this interview – thank you very much, Megan!


 Rhino Fun Necklace made from recycled cork

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

It is not about finding our passion.

So many people get stuck in that idea.

It is about being passionate about the work we do.

These things get unearthed through process. We can only start from where we are, so when we choose to do the things we are doing today with more passion, whatever those things are – the form doesn’t matter, only the energy; the intention matters – when we start being passionate about our life as it is, we draw more and more of the things we are passionate about into our world.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I’m definitely seeing myself living a more balanced life – more hands in the dirt instead of the keyboard, more travel, most likely doing something that hasn’t even occurred to me yet!

You can find more of Cat’s work in her Etsy shops: Uncorked and Polarity

On her Facebook page: Olive Bites

And on Etsy’s Quit Your Day Job series

Introducing: Create & Thrive InspirationBombs!

Thomas Edison 1

You might notice there’s a new page up top there… say hello to Create & Thrive InspirationBombs!

I know it’s probably lame and cheesy to admit… but I love a good inspirational quote as much as the next person.

However, I wasn’t sure where to find a lovely, bright, visually-appealing compendium of quotes relevant to creative business people like you and I.

So, I decided to create one!

A few times a week, I’ll be adding new InspirationBombs to the site. They’ll also be over on Pinterest, and no doubt I’ll share them on the FB page, too.

I am VERY keen to include quotes from female entrepreneurs, as well as our modern favourites in the creative industries (I’m looking at you, Seth Godin, Tara Gentile, and Jonathan Mead!).

If you have a particular favourite quote that fits, please head on over and leave it in the comments here so I can turn it into an InspirationBomb.

Oh, and of course, please feel free to share these wherever you so desire.

Hope you enjoy them!

{UPDATED} Like to be my mentee? One of my Set Up Shop students will get to work with me for 3 months – for free + get a financial grant!

Jess Van Den - Mentor Mentee


UPDATE – Friday 29/3/13

I am very, very happy and excited to announce that I’ve been contacted by the lovely Renata Cooper from Forming Circles.


Renata and I have chatted a few times before, but her email to me was an unexpected and wonderful surprise…

She’s generously decided to offer my mentee a financial grant to help them grow their business!

Now, I can’t currently release the exact amount, but I will tell you that this grant will be a SIGNIFICANT boost to grow the business of the person who becomes my mentee.

Even better – Renata is happy to extend the funding globally – so it doesn’t matter where you are in the world – if you’re one of my Set Up Shop students, and I decide that you’re the one I’m going to work with, you’ll get the grant, no matter where you are. I think this is a fabulous example of the new global economy we are all building together!

If you’d like to be considered for this mentee position + grant, please make sure you don’t miss out registering for Set Up Shop – registration closes tomorrow evening.


For a while now, I’ve been thinking about how I can offer more to you – my creative community.

The creation of this site – and my new course – have all been percolating for a long time. I’ve been writing and speaking about how to grow a creative business for a few years now, and saw a yearning amongst you – a yearning for the right information, from the right people.

From those who had already trodden the path through the gnarly forest and made it a bit easier for you to follow it.

My writing team and I are here to point out that spider web in your way that you might not have seen. To break down those branches blocking the path. To tell you about the mis-steps we’ve made. To show you the short-cut you might have walked by.

It was only by relinquishing one of my babies (*bespoke* zine) at the end of last year that I created the time and the mental space to make this new online space a reality.

I’ve been LOVING the ride so far!

The comments and feedback I’ve gotten from you has far surpassed my expectations.

But I want to give more – in a deeper way.

Right now, I don’t offer ‘consulting’ or ‘one-on-one’ coaching. That’s just not something I want to do at this point in my life and my business.

However, I DO want to give something deeper to this community. And I think the best way to do that is one person at a time.

So, I decided to do something a little different.

Starting in May, I’ll be taking on one mentee – that’s you – every three months. For free.

This person will be passionate about their creative business. They’ll be dedicated to bringing their dream to life. They’ll take what I can teach them and RUN with it. They’ll have fresh ideas. They’ll have BIG dreams. And they’ll act despite the fear that they feel.

I will be choosing my first mentee from my Set Up Shop students.

Over 50 of you have already proven your commitment to your business by signing up for the course.

Thank you.

Thank you for taking that step. Thank you for putting your faith in me – trusting that I can help you take those next steps. I don’t take that trust lightly.

At the end of April, I’ll choose one of you to work with on a deeper level.

I’ll be at the other end of your email to answer any questions for 3 months. I’ll critique your photos, your blog, your online presence  I’ll tell you exactly how I do things. We’ll get together once a month via Skype or Google Hangout and just talk. I’ll be your sounding board, your cheerleader – your mentor.

Together, we’re gonna make big things happen for you. Promise.

If you’d like the chance to be that person, make sure to register for Set Up Shopregistrations close on Saturday evening AEST, so don’t hesitate.

I can’t wait to be your way-clearer through the forest.



Have you chosen the best business model for your handmade biz?

what's your business model

{image from the awesome Cardboard Safari – they have a unicorn!}

Thank you everyone for your comments to the last post I wrote! Your comments – and especially this comment by Jess – really got me thinking on the ways we sell our creations:

“Something that I do across a few venues is upload a core product range. So, on Etsy, Madeit and my own site, I make sure to have my entire range available, but on other venues, I just spend the time to upload my core range – that I’m pretty confident won’t change – and use that as a way to showcase my wares in as many places as I can. It’s a little way of having the best of both worlds – of course, you have to find the time to even upload that smaller range, which can be challenging!”

There are so many different “business models” – so how do you know which one is for you?

I cannot say that I’ve gotten it right myself yet – but I can say that this year, after applying certain changes to the way I sell my creations, I am much more comfortable with my model.

Let’s take a look at a few of the different models that are possible for your crafty biz.

Markets based business

Selling mainly at the markets (with the stock left over offered on Facebook or at an online shop).

I like this model and if you are set up for it with a car that fits all you containers and stall decorations and you don’t mind working weekends then it’s a great model for you. At a good market, you sell well and walk away with money on hand.

You can budget you stall costs for a year with no listing fees and fixed amount of sales. However, preparing for a market can be stressful (even when you’ve done it a few times). Cancellations due to weather will leave you with stock and, unless you do markets every week, less money coming in that month. I would say nowadays, an online shop is a must for a stall holder so customers can shop after the market too.

Selling made to order items online

You have your range of products, like cushions or jewellery,  for example, and you list the samples and then print/sew/make them to order.

This model minimizes the storage space but requires you to work to a deadline so you get the order posted fast enough to insure higher turnover and to keep your customers happy.

Facebook based business

You don’t have time to set up and update a shop, maybe you work full-time…so you create in the evenings and weekends and release items in batches once a month or so.  

I know businesses that prefer to work on – let’s say – 20 items for a month and then release them in bulk on so called “Market Nights”. Works great  once you have large-ish Facebook audience.

Selling only ready to post items online with occasional custom orders

If you don’t like stress of a deadline and a huge list of orders then welcome to my world!

I did have to take more space for storage but I like that I have plenty of stock and I just post it when I sell an item. As I make toys, I sometimes have to make them to order when they need to be personalised or made into bride & groom like the order I am working on now.

Having a stocked up shop, gives me an opportunity to relax a little more and advertise my business without the fear of being swamped and when I end up with a few orders, the shop is stocked so there is no “I need to make a few items for the shop even if it kills me” thought in my head. In order to achieve this, I have to accept orders only a few times a year and regulate it strictly.

Selling wholesale to the shops and building up as many stockiest as you can handle

It’s a good model for artists who can make a bunch of items at once like fabric printing or kits making.

You make items for a week or so, package them and send them off to the shops. This model is great if you like to know approximately the prospective earnings and you can just drive/post your stock to the shops and maybe have an online presence just for showing your range  to the prospective shops.

I personally love this model but it won’t work for my creations (I tried).

Complex business model

Mix and match applies not only to clothes!

You can create you own business model by combing all or a few of those listed above. I know a very successful  business that does all of the above: markets, Facebook sales, website with stock and offers made-to-order. However, I think, it’s a job for more then one person or a very organised and dedicated crafter!

Each of those models are very personal to the business owner as there is a long road before you find the right one for you and what you make.

Based on my experience, it took me good few years to identify what works the best for the time I have available and my creative process. Time is the obvious factor to consider but, I was surprised to come to the conclusion that the way I create is determining my business model.

I am impulsive, not very patient and hate being under pressure as a designer! If I have a new idea, I have to do it straight away!

I used to do made-to-order all the time for 2 years and it really put me under pressure.

I wished I could have more control over my creativity, but trying to make new things in between the orders, which I stayed up late to do in time, wasn’t fun.

I started wondering – “why I am doing this and what for?”

I identified that what I love is designing and creating, losing myself in that feeling when you have a new idea and you go with it.

It’s a lovely feeling, isn’t it?

Well, before I cut down wholesale orders, customer orders (to a manageable amount), and markets, I didn’t feel comfortable with my chosen business model. However, that’s just me 🙂

That’s how I came to my business model – sell only what I have in stock – so it’s make-list-sell-post model.

My friend asked me a good question when I shared  my decision with her – “Won’t it result in less money”?

That’s a very good question as it did cut my earnings at the start – but I believe in thinking long-term now.

A very important argument that I made – when trying to justify the decision to cut down on wholesale and customer orders – was that I couldn’t even promote my business before.

At the moment, the way I’m working is a great model for me.

With time it might not be and, hopefully, I’ll move on the the mixed business model. Who knows! Owning your own business means you can adjust the model to suit your needs and it’s awesome!

So, why has the comment that Jess made triggered this rambling?

Because I love the way she has her “core product” listed in the shops and think if you do the made-to order then it’s such an awesome way of doing it!

I am going to think how I can apply this to my business model.

In conclusion: identifying your business model is vital for you Indie business.

The model that makes you feel comfortable, as stressed out maker is an ingredient that will spoil the recipe. If you feel stressed, unsatisfied and unhappy, re-evaluate and reconsider the way your business is run.

You might have a great product – but maybe the way you sell it is bringing you down?

I would love to hear all about  your business model! Which one of those mentioned is yours or do you do it differently?


Do you want to get started with an online shop – and get it right, first time?

Join us for Set Up Shop and take your business to the next level! Registration closes Saturday, class starts April 1.

This is what’s holding you back from succeeding.


The giveaway I ran for Set Up Shop had one kinda unexpected outcome.

You shared your stories with me. You told me why you NEEDED this course to grow your business. And out of what you shared, I realised that there were a core group of things that seemed to be holding you all back from taking that next step in your business.

Today I wanted to tackle some of those things, and then open up the discussion to you – I’d love to hear what you feel your biggest obstacle is (whether it’s on this list or not!).

Why do I want you to share? Because it’s only when we know what our challenges are that we can face them head-on.


Or – more accurately – lack of knowledge. So many of you said you desperately wanted to set up an online shop – or, you wanted to improve the one you have – but that you just didn’t know what you needed to do and know to make it happen, and do it right.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

Of course, I’m part of the Google generation – my kneejerk response when I don’t know something is to ‘google it’ – and honestly, this is how I’ve learnt pretty much everything I’ve needed for my business over the last 6 years.

However, that only takes you so far, for two reasons.

  • One – goodness me, does it take a lot of stumbling around in the dark trying to find the right info!?! Research sucks up a LOT of time – time you could be spending working on your products or other aspects of your business.
  • Two – as we said above, you don’t know what you don’t know. Maybe there’s some immensely useful technique or tool or program that would make your life and business so much easier to run… but you don’t know about it. This is where being part of a community, learning from a mentor, or taking courses comes in useful.

You cut through the crap and save an immense amount of time by learning from those who’ve gone before.

I always say that everything I teach (and honestly, that ANYONE teaches) in my posts, talks, ebooks and courses is stuff you could find for yourself.

It is! The info is out there – it’s not a secret known to only the elite few and passed down to the select.

With the magic of the internet, the barriers to acquiring knowledge have been obliterated… but the amount of information available has also exploded.

The benefit of buying a course, attending a talk, or reading an ebook is that you skip the research. Someone has done it for you. They’ve searched, tried, tested, and then shared the distilled – immensely useful – information with you.

This, then, segues perfectly into the next limitation that’s holding you back.


We all have the same amount. 24 hours, every day.

However, we have also all chosen a certain lifestyle that affects how much time we can devote to our businesses – and this will vary immensely between us.

For example: I’m in my early 30s. I don’t have kids. I also have a husband who is at home with me full-time. He does the domestic chores and supports me in the business so I have the time to grow it and work on it. To achieve this freedom, we choose to live in 2 rooms in a converted barn on my parents’ property. We have one car. We don’t buy expensive things, but we do spend a great deal of money on things that mean a lot to us – like travel.

That is my lifestyle, and it’s something I’ve chosen deliberately. I’ve had a ‘regular’ job. I’ve lived out on my own, rented, shared houses, Nick’s had and paid off a mortgage. We know that’s not the lifestyle either of us ever want again. We don’t need more space. We love being close to my family. We love the freedom to travel our lifestyle affords us. We’ve never been happier.

Your life is going to look different to mine.  This is the point Megan was making with her ‘secret of success‘ post a while back. You are not anyone else – you are you, and your success will look different to mine and anyone else’s.

It’s taken me 5 years to reach the place I am with my business – over 3 of those it has been my full-time job. If you have a day job, kids, other commitments… your time is limited.

The time it will take you to achieve what you deem ‘success’ is the time it will take you. I know that sounds a bit zen, but it’s the truth. You can be clever about how you spend that time, but there is no magic bullet that will make it happen faster.

However, getting a bit of guidance will help. A lot. 


Just like time, the money we have to devote to our businesses will vary wildly. Maybe you have a partner with an awesome job who rakes in the dough. Maybe you’re both working part-time and just scraping by. Maybe you’re on your own and studying, or raising your kids.

Wherever you’re at, you have a limited amount of cash to invest in your business. Only you can decide what the best use of that money is. Do you need to invest in tools? Materials? A website?

It’s never been easier to make money from your creativity than it is now. You can open a shop on Etsy and get 20 products up in there for 4 bucks. The only thing you need to spend is time.

I’ve chosen the time route, because I have it. I still spend time rather than money wherever I can – which is why I love social media marketing and blogging. Some of you might prefer to spend money on advertising instead (though please still have a social media presence, it’s unavoidable these days!).

You need to spend one or the other – TIME or MONEY – in order to grow your business.


Honestly, I believe this is THE biggest thing holding most of you back.

If you don’t believe in yourself, nothing else matters.

I don’t care how much knowledge, time, or money you have. If you don’t believe in yourself and your product you will not succeed.

You will never take that leap forward because you’re always scared you’re not ‘doing it right’.

You’re frightened to devote yourself to your dream because you don’t believe that you can make it a reality.

Quite simply – you don’t think you’re good enough. You don’t think you deserve it. You don’t think it’s possible.

I call bullshit on that.

No-one can live your life. No-one can do this for you. No-one can make you believe in yourself.

YOU have the power. YOU are the one with the dream. YOU are the one who WILL make it a reality.

This is YOUR life to live EXACTLY as you please, because you’re not going to get another chance at it.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Get out of your own way and go for it.

And if you want me to hold your hand while you do it – I’m here, baby. But really, you don’t need me. You just need YOU.

So, now it’s time to ask yourself – what is it that’s truly holding you back?


If you want to turn your dream of having a successful online handmade business a reality, you can join us for Set Up Shop – a 30-day e-course where I take you step-by-step through everything you need to know to get a fabulous shop up and running smoothly. You’ll also join over 400 alumni in our private facebook group and gain invaluable support, friendship and understanding from those already turning their dream of having a handmade business into a reality!

Click here to find out more…

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