Today’s interview is with Michelle Danielson of Grandma Skills and Make Your Mark Labs.

Michelle Danielson is a veteran creative who is an expert on selling handmade goods at markets.

She opened her handmade product business Grandma Skills® in 2013. After many years of continued success and growth she knew she had something worth sharing.

In 2021 she started the education side of her business Make Your Mark Labs which focuses on teaching handmade business owners how to successfully sell at in person markets.

Today Michelle shares the progress of her business since 2013 – and how it has evolved and remains a successful business alongside her part-time healthcare job and raising her son – especially in the face of some serious health challenges that led her to re-structure and learn how to delegate aspects of her business.

She also shares her top tips for selling in person at markets and shows, including some pitfalls to avoid and clever hacks to make it easier to engage potential customers!

You can listen to the podcast below, or on your fave podcast app – or you can watch it on YouTube!

Get access to my Selling at Markets 101 Online Workshop!

Ever thought about selling your work at markets and shows, but don’t know how to get started?

In this workshop I’ll take you through the basics you need to think about – things like choosing a market, taking payments, making stock, creating a stall design, and how to sell on the day!

Thriver Circle members can attend live (May 30, 2024) or watch the workshop recording on demand.

Watch on YouTube…

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Show Notes

  • Michelle was always creative but didn’t start seriously until after graduating college, when she would craft at home after work.
  • After trying to climb the corporate ladder with little results, Michelle decided to focus her efforts and talents into her craft business and reap the rewards, although she still works in healthcare part time.
  • The business started in 2013, selling at markets which is her passion, and has recently started helping to educate other makers in how to succeed at markets.
  • Michelle is in the United States and has kept her healthcare job so as to continue with health insurance and benefits, but only works part time so she can also stay at home with her son.
  • Following a health incident, it became obvious that Michelle couldn’t continue to do everything herself, so began to delegate parts of the production to others.

‘…I would keep working on the things that made me, me, were profitable, and the things that were uniquely my skill.’ {Michelle}

  • Michelle started out crocheting baby hats, but now does mostly sewing of luxury winter apparel, and some kitchen and baby lines through her brand, Grandma Skills.
  • The brand name is in honour of Michelle’s late grandma, who taught her to crochet and sew.
  • Michelle’s working week was discussed, and how she balances her time. Tending to the business ebbs and flows, depending on Michelle’s health, energy levels, time she needs to spend with her son, etc. 
  • The pull of these conflicting obligations was discussed, as it can be difficult for Michelle to focus on one thing, when she feels like she should be elsewhere and doing something else. This is a part of her life that Michelle is working to improve so that she has a clear idea of her vision and product line, and knows where to spend her time and energy.
  • Jess spoke about how constrictions can be useful in a creative business as it helps makers really prioritise and focus on specific tasks and ideas. 

‘It think it’s nice to have that flexibility, and I think it’s important too for wherever you’re at in the season of life, to honour that season, and be realistic in the time that you have and the goals that you have.’ {Michelle}

  • Jess noted that she sees many makers that have a lot of tension between what they need to do and what they have time to do. Sometimes it is better to stop fighting the constraints, and work around the ebb and flow.
  • Jess and Michelle spoke about the constant need to grow, push forward, hustle, etc. Makers should remember that they don’t have to put this pressure on themselves and should do what makes them happy.
  • Michelle noted a book that she read called ‘In the Flo’ by Alisa Vitti, and how this impacted her. Jess agreed with this examination of ‘cycles’, and how they can impact women particularly, but also businesses which can follow cycles rather than being always go, go, go. For example, there are busier periods like Christmas, but then there should be quiet times when makers can take a break to recharge and avoid burnout.
  • Markets were discussed as this is Michelle’s specialty, with the biggest challenges being that makers find it hard to focus on one task and instead feel that they need to do everything themselves. Many market stallholders also think that they need to have a grand booth display to start out which simply is not the case.
  • Jess queried how makers should choose the best market to sell at that suits their wares. Michelle stated that makers need to know who they are making their products for, then they can establish where they shop, and which markets they visit.
  • This is why Michelle attends markets because that’s where her people shop.
  • Jess suggested that new makers try all avenues initially, then they can figure out what works for them, and who and where their customers are. Put products out there in the real world and see what happens.
  • Michelle highlighted for makers that there is no success or failure when it comes to markets, there are simply results and lessons that you can use to determine your next move. Pay attention to everything that happens, then you can decide to pivot or change.
  • Michelle commented on pricing, as you cannot price things high without demonstrating the value of that item, and making sure that it is a quality item.

‘This also comes down to branding and how you are showing your business to the world… It takes time to develop a brand and a following, and I find that part of that can be where you sell’ {Jess}

  • Tips for makers selling at markets include: 
    • Doing things prior to the market that ‘fill your cup’, as selling and customer interaction can be draining, especially for introverted people. 
    • Don’t just make products and expect them to sell because they are at the market, think about how you can sell them. 
    • Have a script of 10 or so phrases to help you start a conversation with a buyer, for example compliment them on something. 
    • Know what is unique about your product and how it will benefit the customer.
  • Michelle noted for stallholders that the product line should be clear to customers, so they know what it is that you make, and also what your brand is. Makers should also consider what they wear to attend markets as this is representative of your brand.
  • Top 3 tips:
  • Honour your creative space and protect that. 
  • Stay in your lane, don’t compare yourself to others, but compare to the previous year’s markets and learn from them what went well / not so well, what would you like to try next year. 
  • Networking at markets is important as this can lead to some great outcomes, and friendships. 
  • Do what you enjoy.
  • Jess enquired how makers can work on their self confidence and belief in themselves. It was suggested to choose three things to improve on each year that will boost your confidence. For example, take a course in something that you feel is a weakness in your work. 
  • Further, don’t focus too much on negative feedback. If you need to, fix the problem, and learn from the experience. Otherwise, don’t dwell on this too much as it can affect your confidence.
  • Quote from Michelle is from Romans 12:12: Be joyful in hope, patient in trials, and faithful in prayer.
  • This quote was helpful to Michelle during her health challenges, but it can be applied to a lot of seasons of life. 
  • You can find Michelle’s educational products on Instagram @makeyourmarklabs, and the website:
  • You can find Grandma Skills on Instagram, Facebook, website, and Etsy.
  • Michelle also has seven templates available for market stalls including hang tags, care instructions, signage etc.
  • Grab Michelle’s Market Printables Template Pack.
  • Jess briefly raised QR Codes for customers to access social media, and how these can also be used for mailing lists to encourage people to sign up, but makers should remember who their customer base is as they may not be savvy with QR Codes.

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