Three Questions with Megan Auman on Create & Thrive


{Ed Note from Jess} Create & Thrive is growing – and as part of that growth, I’m thrilled to be introducing the first of our new team of writers.

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. How do you feel about having made to order or custom listings in your shop?

Before I answer this question, I think it’s really important that we get our terms straight.  Made to order means that you design something once, but then you only make it again after someone orders it.  I LOVE made to order!  It’s the big reason I do so much wholesale.  And for a small business, it’s incredibly efficient.  You’re not wasting time, energy, or storage space on inventory that may or may not sell.

Custom, on the other hand, means that you are doing something special.  A special size, color, length, material, etc.  It can be tempting to want to make custom an option for your customers.  After all, you make each item by hand, so why not make each item completely special.  I’m not a huge fan of custom, because it doesn’t suit my work style.  And if that’s you, it’s completely ok to say no.  But if you do love custom, it’s important to remember that custom should cost more.  Let me repeat that.  Custom should cost more!

And I don’t mean that custom should cost more because it takes up more of your time.  (Even though it does.)  Custom should cost more because it’s a greater value to the customer.  If the customer is getting something special, just for them, that should cost them more than if it’s a one size fits all object.

So if custom is your thing, go for it!  Just make sure it’s the premium product in your shop and not something that’s consuming your time and energy without any additional revenue.


2. If a site of your own is still in the future, what is the best platform to use?  Etsy, MadeIt, Big Cartel?

When I started my selling online in 2007, I started on Etsy.  At the time, there weren’t many other options for an e-commerce site that weren’t expensive, ugly, or hard to use.  (Or all three!)

But today, there are so many other options, and if I was starting an online shop today, Etsy (or any other similar site) wouldn’t be a consideration.  That’s because Etsy has a few flaws that just can’t be overlooked if you are building a brand.  With Etsy, you only have so much control over the look and feel of your site.  Plus, your customer is always just a click away from leaving your shop and seeing a million other options.  Plus, the downward price spiral on Etsy creates a cut-throat attitude that feels so different from the initial spirit of the site.

Fortunately, there are so many other great alternatives that let you quickly and easily set up shop.  The two that I always recommend are Big Cartel and Shopify.  Both Big Cartel and Shopfiy let you create your own, autonomous shop at your own domain.  They also both offer a good selection of nice themes, and if you do a little searching, you’ll find plenty more great themes for sale online.

I’m a huge fan of Big Cartel, and I use it for my online shop.  It’s a great place to start because it’s inexpensive and easy to use.  But if you know you want to really grow a large, robust online (and want to have bells and whistles) Shopify has a lot more features.  (Though admittedly, if you aren’t tech savvy, they might be overwhelming.)

With so many options now for setting up shop, don’t get too wrapped up in the platform you choose.  As long as it’s something where you have complete control over the entire look, feel, and domain, it should serve you well.


3. If I have two different products, should they each have their own shop?

Running two shops is hard! (I should know.)  So even if you have a new product that feels different from your own one, don’t assume you need a second shop.  Two shops mean double the work and can actually dilute your brand and confuse your customers more than just having different items in the same shop.

The first consideration is who is the customer.  Even if your products are different, if they appeal to the same customer, stick to one shop!  Just make sure you clearly define categories to make it easier to browse.

It’s also important to remember that things that seem completely different to us may not seem that different to someone outside our world.  Grab some friends or family members who aren’t makers and ask them about both product lines.  Would is seem weird to them if they came upon both these items in the same shop?  Chances are, they’ll see them as more related (since you designed them all) then you do.

And if having two different products in one shop seems confusing, I always suggest adding a third type.  Two product types can sometimes make you seem like someone with split personality disorder.  But adding a third?  Suddenly, you’re just a designer with diverse product lines!


Got a question for Megan Auman?

Leave it in the comments below or email it to (that’s direct to Megan Eckman, Assistant Editor).

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