Growth and BrandingFebruary 7, 2013 - Author: admin
Three months ago, I was literally thinking to myself at a rink-i-dink craft show in MD, in the basement of a hospital, with my friend Jessica “wow, I really hope I can sell these pillows so that I can justify all the money I spent on art supplies!”
It was the first time I indulged myself in buying art supplies in at least 5 years.
I ended up selling $50 worth that day…just barely enough to cover flying there, and not even close to covering the $250 I had spent on art supplies and material and zippers and ink. I went home truly wondering what I was going to do with the remaining batch of pillow covers and extra fabric, thinking, that at least I could just give them all to my friends.
Flash forward 3 months.
My etsy shop is blowing up with emails on a daily basis asking for custom orders, or wholesale orders, blog features, and to date, I have sold about 200 pillows and the demand just keeps increasing. The shop is making money and, at this rate, is projected to do rather well in 2013 as an extra source of revenue for my family. But aside from the obvious financial rewards, it is truly enjoyable whenever I get a message entitled: “I LOOOOVE your pillows!!!” or “OBSESSED!” or “Your Aesthetic is SO cute” – I mean, seriously? My stuff? Come on. Nobody has ever gone banana’s for something I’ve done or created before…I was not prepared for this in any way!
To say the least, there is a huge part of me that is completely blindsided and overwhelmed by all of these recent developments and any success that I have enjoyed. Print making is something that I am absolutely passionate about and LOVE doing, and I have always kind of dreamed of owning my own business somehow – but for the two to go hand in hand is kind of surreal. The pace of everything has caused me to make some mistakes, but I am trying to learn quickly and make the most of this opportunity as it presents itself. I am now walking that fine line of dealing with rapid growth and time constraints and supply chain management and efficiency and pricing and ultimately making sure that this is all worth my while (which it is, even if I have some fine tuning to do).
SO, I thought I’d share a little insight into how I am handling the challenges and, also, what my core values are as a small business owner, and what I hope to incorporate into the branding of this shop as things unfold.
Printing. With hand printed items, sometimes it takes multiple tries to get the screen to print cleanly. This can be time consuming. Sometimes it takes multiple tries to MAKE the screen image. This can be very frustrating, but it is also what makes me unique as an artist, and it also makes every finished product a piece of art. I love the process anyway, so this is the least of any of the challenges.
Fabric. At first, I started out just shopping at discount fabric stores and getting a few yards here and there. Then I realized after selling out of something, that I need to reorder fabric to fulfill an order, only to discover that it is no longer available (yikes)- and I am suddenly in a bind. Finding similar fabric to fulfill orders has mostly worked out, but sometimes not. I ran into this a lot a few months ago. Now I have earned enough money to reinvest in purchasing 10-15 yards of fabric at a time. This has significantly reduced my stress.
Sewing. Ugh, sewing…so time consuming and so not enjoyable! At least this is a fairly simple product to sew (4 straight edges) and it looks great when I am done with it! I do have a high quality of craftsmanship which my seamstress mother ingrained in me, so even though I don’t really enjoy this part, it does feel good to make high quality pillows.
Branding. This is potentially another fun one, but right now, while managing everything else, taking high quality photographs and making sure that I present a cohesive brand is kind of in its infancy at the moment. Fortunately, working with the girls at Brickyard Buffalo has taken care of the marketing end of things, but branding (including packaging) is something I want to make sure to pay close attention to as time goes by.
Pricing. There is a delicate balance toward what is worth your time and what is not. I started my price point at $15/pillow so that all my friends could afford one, and that I could recoup my cost of making them. Remember, it was a hobby then. I also ran a few deals on Brickyard Buffalo at a significant discount so that I could put my name out. When things started selling out so quickly, it became apparent that prices needed to go up…but how much? I am comfortable with the $20-$30 range at the moment, so we’ll see how that goes!
Time Management. I have a day job, a really great one too (I love my job)! But the problem is that now I have TWO full time jobs, and my husband does not have a crafty, handy bone in his body – so I’m totally on my own. I’ve tossed around the idea of hiring my friends to help with the production, but I admittedly still need to work out the pricing so that it all makes sense. We shall see…
Quality. I refuse to send anything out that I am not personally proud of. I’ll remake the item and spend extra time before sending out something that is not great.
Customer Service. I worked at enterprise rent-a-car for an entire year, and while I was there (slaving away) I did absorb and internalize many of their core values and what has made them #1 in the industry. At Enterprise, you cannot get promoted unless your customer services scores are in the 95% (as in, your customers are 100% completely satisfied with their experience). Thanks to that job, I will without exception always go above and beyond to make sure that every customer I have is completely satisfied, no matter how much they paid for something I made. I recommend this core value to everyone. Do whatever it takes to people feel happy about their experience with you, and they will come back again and again.
Authenticity. If you haven’t noticed, I’m a huge authenticity proponent. Everything I design has personal significance and comes from the heart.
Affordability. I think it is ridiculous to pay a million dollars for a painting. I also think it is ridiculous to pay $120 for a pillow at anthropoligie. My price point is always going to be set at what I personally would pay for something I like – which, is not much. I think you all appreciate that too!
I love the idea of simple, classy, clean and comfy packaging - and creating a brand that feels like “woah, i love you, where have you been all my life?”
The other night, Brigham told me something really sweet. He said “Babe, it’s like there are these pillows that people really want, but they don’t know they exist until you create them, and then when they find them, they are happy because they finally find what they didn’t know they were looking for.”
Here are some brands that I really enjoy:
That’s my 2 cents for the day.