Today’s guest post comes from the Handmade Cooperative. This amazing organization is a select group of 70 businesses that create handmade goods for children. As a cooperative, they work together to support and generate exposure for one another. They are more than a Blog; they are a community. Today, they’re sharing tips they’ve learned from working together.
Working from home is fantastic. In your handmade business, you are the boss, your hours are flexible, and you’re much less stressed than you would be in a corporate environment. Sweet. But there are downsides to doing it alone and a major negative is the isolation. Not only is working from home a lonely path to tread. Being alone means that you no longer have anyone to bounce ideas off, to work collaboratively with, to support you in the rough times, to celebrate achievements with you, or to give you advice. Luckily for you, the networks of handmade business minds are thriving in Australia and these networks are both the perfect fix for your sanity and a great way to grow your small business.
Here are four ways that members of our group, Handmade Cooperative, have successfully used networking to expand their hobbies into small businesses.
Social media is a wonderful tool for handmade businesses to create networks with other brands and follow up with customers. These days, many small businesses cannot and would not survive without their social networks. If you are not on the social media bandwagon yet, you need to be.
Amanda from Dream Time Designs genuinely interacts with other handmade businesses via Facebook, swapping shout outs and shares to gain exposure to new audiences and generate sales. She says “Each time you share my page, I get heaps of likes and meet new friends.” Remember, though, that you don’t need to be on every social media platform. It’s better to communicate well on one or two platforms and to build a strong relationship than to use many platforms sporadically.
Even if you don’t want to commit to becoming a market store holder, if you love handmade then you probably make a habit of visiting handmade markets in the real world. Social media is a poor substitute for meeting other business owners in person and making face-to-face connections with them.
Rebecca from Little Toot Creations says “I’m not shy about saying hi and introducing myself at markets (both as a smallholder and a shopper).” She uses networking at markets to make connections, which then result in friendships, collaborations, and support. Remember to carry a few business cards to share so that your new connections know where to find you.
Conferences are a great way to build your networks. Get in the habit of attending organised events both to learn from the formal presentations and also to network with presenters and attendees.
For Christine from C Percy Designs, networking is a big part of her marketing, leading to features and advertising opportunities. She says “Networking at the first Artful Business Conference opened a lot of doors and provided great opportunities.” Even if you can’t physically attend conferences, many these days have virtual tickets, with chat interaction during the event and private online communities.
Online communities and guilds provide a little extra to the social media experience as they bring together groups of like-minded business people. Online marketplaces such as Etsy and Madeit have forums or private sellers Facebook groups where handmade businesses can share feedback on products, tips and advice on how to be successful, and upcoming opportunities. Other communities bring together specific business owners who have similar skills, locations, or target markets.
Tracey from Ben & Jess says being part of a community brings “like-minded small businesses and start-ups together to share ideas, support each other, and enable access to advertising opportunities that some small businesses could not afford on their own.” Networking in dedicated groups offers the wisdom of experienced crafters, who can promote, teach and encourage one another.