Monday, January 29, 2007

Marketing Seminar, Women's Expo, Faires

Prettycraftythings: Alternative market for indie designers and crafters. Next show on March 4, 2007. February 2, 2007, 12-4 pm. Located in Leeds, UK.

Gem Faire: Exhibit featuring fine jewelry, gems, beads, crystals, minerals, and other jewelry items. Also has workshops such as wire wrapping, bead stringing, etc. Other fair dates between February and June for California, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. February 2-4, 2007. Located in San Rafael, CA.

Women’s Expo: Three-day expo featuring seminars and workshops targeted towards the busy working woman. Seminars on finances, business opportunities, and career training sound especially helpful to indie entrepreneurs. February 2-4, 2007. Located in Lansing, MI.

A Valentine Craft Affair: Craft fair featuring handmade goodies as sponsored by the Richmond Craft Mafia. February 12, 2007, 12-5 pm. Located in Raleigh, NC.

25+ Ways to Drive Traffic To Your Website: Seminar on how to promote and publicize your business, from press releases, postcards, blogging, podcasting and other free or low cost marketing strategies. Feb. 5, 2007, 7-10 pm. Located in Birmingham, MI.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Event Bliss, SchotlandPR, and Portland Mamas, Inc

A triple threat-that sums up Marlynn Jayme Schotland. As a full-time mom and the founder of three thriving businesses (Event Bliss, a custom stationery and graphic design studio, SchotlandPR, a public-relations firm specializing in mama-owned/family-owned businesses, and Portland Mamas Inc., a local resource and networking organizations for mom entrepreneurs), Marlynn's wealth of experiences and knowledge is a pleasure to share! Here she talks about her life as a mother, her business tips, and her motivations and inspirations:

Life As A Mom Entrepreneur
“I am a full-time mom to a 2-1/2 year old son and have a baby girl on the way! I think most parents would agree that there is no such thing as balance [between motherhood and business]; it is the mythical beast that needs to be stricken from all parenting magazines and books and all business articles. I like to say that it’s just living life on a scale, and sometimes the scale tips more toward parenting and sometimes it tips more toward business. There is never a total and equal balance.”

“I work whenever my son is napping, sleeping, at night, on weekends, etc. I purposefully have structured my businesses so that they are truly family-friendly and I make them work for me: most of my clients are also moms, and my son comes with me to 90% of all meetings, because the nature of my clientele and my businesses allows me to do so. I also make sure to schedule in playdates as well, which are just as important for me as a mom and as a business owner whose target audience consists of mothers, as they are for him as a kid!”

Typical “Marlynn” Day
“I think most moms who work and have kids home with them full-time will agree there is nothing typical about any day… like today for instance, I could be working on the following: for Event Bliss, two different wedding stationery designs, my new stationery line, three Mama Calling Card designs, updating my website and reconfiguring/cursing my cart, and promotional postcards for a business design client; for SchotlandPR …an 8-piece speaker’s kit for one client, writing a press release for another, and brainstorming how to package a new product launch for yet another client; for Portland Mamas Inc... updating the Events Calendar, writing a blog post, checking in periodically with the Forum, responding to anywhere from 20 to 100 emails…That sums up what I did today for the most part in between hanging out with my son, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning up constantly, and consuming lots and lots of chocolate!”

Making Her Mark
“The majority of my clients come through word of mouth, and after about six months I started getting a steady stream of repeat clients and their friends and family. I do newsletters to my database every once in a while, offer products or gift certificates for various events that reach my target market, put business cards in coffee shops and fun retail stores, and just generally get the word out where and when I can. Media relations and not marketing has definitely garnered the most amount of business in one chunk of time for me, but overall I think it’s just all of the little things I do here and there that have cast a greater net of customers.”

“About once a year I will spend less than $100 on a small online boutique ad with a media outlet I know my customers love or on a couple of ads with small online businesses that I want to support. I’ve been able to work out some co-marketing partnerships too where I’ve gotten free ads in exchange for a product or service. That said, if I had a lot of extra cash lying around, I would probably do more ads just to get the name out there more. But I don’t, so I stick with mainly marketing and PR tactics to build my business.”

Knowing Her Clientele
“I send targeted surveys to past clients, as well as do my own market research and analysis of the related industries. Surveys are critical, and I do them for all of my businesses whenever I can.”

Obstacles Along the Way
“Funding has definitely been and continues to be a constant challenge, especially since I have been using savings. Right now, however, I have a lot of plans for expansion of the businesses and those plans will need upfront spending which will likely require business loans.”

“Other than that, I think my initial main challenge was finding others in similar situations who could share advice, resources, and really talk about what it is like to be a mom AND a business owner. I was involved with several professional organizations, but none of them offered me both – it was either a moms’ group where we talked about mothering, or a professional group where we talked about how to increase business. That’s why I started Portland Mamas Inc. – I knew there were other moms out there who wanted to start their own businesses too, but wanted to talk about things like how to find good childcare, how to structure work times versus play times, how to balance relationships with partners and also how to balance new accounting spreadsheets. ”

What Keeps Her Going
“The constant support of family and friends, the thrill of coming up with a new design for a client or for myself, the “I love it!” happy comments and smiles from happy clients; helping other moms and watching their own small businesses blossom; coffee and chocolate; the fact that when I wake up I answer to myself and that no matter what happens, I can say that I did what I dreamed of doing and that is enough to motivate me to do anything else.”

“[My mentors are] all of the women in Portland Mamas Inc. – I learn from them each and every day. And it’s cliché, but my mother, who has always been a working mom and now runs here own company.”

Recommended Business Resources
“[I recommend websites such as ] SCORE, SBA, Portland Mamas Inc. , local and national business publications…and magazines such as Entrepreneur, Inc., [and] Fast Company. I’m a mom so I don’t have time to read many books these days, just magazines and online publications!”

Words of Advice
“Find others who run their business the way you want to run yours and learn their secrets. Ask people about their mistakes and how they overcame them. Research like crazy, especially before making any large purchases. Be prepared to work long, long, long hours and be committed to making it work. But make it work on your terms. Only you can determine what success means to you, and remember that ultimately, at the end of the day, all of the successes and all of the failures rest on your shoulders and yours only (at least in the beginning). Most of all, have fun with it and make sure you have a solid support system of friends, family, colleagues and contacts.”

Marlynn Schotland
Event Bliss
Portland Mamas Inc.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

It's All Business

Carry your identity with spunk and flair with cases meant for showing off. Far from the nondescript black, these business card cases will surely reflect the creative entrepreneur within you!

Martini Personalized Business Card Holder from Kyle Designs, $25

Mother of Pearl Stainless Steel Deer Case from Paperberry, $29.95
Jetsons Mint Case from Metro Retro, $12.95

Shag Silhouette Vinyl Wallet from Bumbles and Lu, $8

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Gift Fairs, Shopping Events, Design Workshops

Sugarloaf Craft Festival:Festival with 350 craft designers and fine artists selling sculptures, fine prints, etc. Also features craft demonstrations like wood turning, print making, and paper making. January 26-28, 2007, varied hours. Located in Chantilly, D.C.

Feria Urbana: Urban fair of 20-25 artists selling handmade goods. Ongoing show dates. Check out their website for artist applications for future shows. January 27, 2007, 3-7:30 pm. Located in San Francisco, CA.

Quilt, Craft, and Sewing Festival: A three-day festival featuring a wide variety of sewing, quilting, and other needle-arts supply exhibits. You can also participate in educational workshops and seminars. January 25-27, 2007, 10 am to 5 pm. Located in Phoenix, AZ. Standby for additional festivals in Pomona, Sacramento, and Pleasanton, CA in March and April 2007.

Hollywood Shop Till You Drop: Monthly shopping event featuring independent and major fashion lines. January 27, 2007, 11 am-3pm. Located in Studio City, CA. Always looking for vendors-check out website for designer applications.

Design Writing for Designers Workshop: This three-hour seminar promises to teach you how to write about design, not only to promote your own products, but to position yourself as an expert in your field. January 23, 6:45 to 9:45 pm. Located in West Hollywood, CA.

New York International Gift Fair: Market for gifts and home furnishings showing the latest products and best merchandising ideas. A great event for entrepreneurs thinking about exhibiting at a gift fair. January 28-Feb. 1, 2007. Located in New York, NY. If yon can’t make this one, next event is August 11-13, 2007.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Peggy Li Creations

Meet Peggy Li, the creative brain behind Peggy Li Creations (PLC), a company specializing in handmade jewelry designs that are deceptively simple, with “artisan craftsmanship mixed with contemporary approaches to contrast, color, texture and composition.” Peggy has built a successful brand, with her designs gracing the magazine pages of Lucky and Oprah and adorning celebrities from TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Medium, and CSI: Miami. Here Peggy shares her tips on getting to know your customers and marketing your brand, and recommends her favorite business resources.

A Balancing Act
“I had a full time job for the first five years of my business. I've been part-time for over a year now. Working both jobs gave me a lot of freedom for my business, but not a lot of time for sleep! You essentially live, breathe, sleep your business when you have to juggle both. But I understood the tradeoff I was making.”

“I wake up, check email, [and] head off to the day job (3 days a week). Answering emails and then filling orders are my priority. After those tasks, it is PR, new designs and updating my website.”

Knowing your Customers
“My typical customer is a woman in her 30's who appreciates simple, clean design that is timeless, unique and feminine…I keep my eye on the latest trends by shopping, reading fashion magazines and doing the pop-culture thing and watching lots of movies and TV (which I would do anyway!).”

Getting the Peggy Li Name Out
“[I send press kits out] to the appropriate magazine editor as well as [make] the occasional cold call. I only cold call if I feel the magazine or whatever is a good fit for my product. Know about the magazine or person you are going to talk to before you call! The more knowledgeable and professional you are, the better your chances.”

“I regularly look for fashion websites and request reviews of my sites or products. I have found that magazines and websites that focus on shopping or fashion have been the best drivers of sales for my site. I [also] write a blog about fashion and my business, which is a great way to help drive traffic to your site.”

“Having a good website is very useful, since you can always refer press to your site to see your product and learn more about you…I use paid advertising like Google Adwords with a very targeted keyword for my business…I make sure my site is search engine- friendly and looks as professional as I can make it. This allows my site to be found easily by someone online and gives them an easy shopping experience when they arrive. The site must have clear pictures, helpful descriptions, and a way to contact me with any questions.”

From Lucky to Buffy
“I had met the costume designer for Buffy previously (as a journalist) and sent her a press kit and samples and they liked what they saw and put it on the show! That was my first placement and those relationships have held me in good stead ever since then. I don't recommend this method for everyone -- a press kit and line sheet should do the job. Mostly, you need to remember to be persistent and not let the rejections (and I've had more of those than yeses) [get you down].”

Encountering Challenges …
“Right now the biggest challenge is deciding how to grow my business, setting new goals..., and not losing momentum…[Another] challenge is being able to take rejection and stay committed to the business. It takes a lot of work and it is a *business* -- you have to learn about your industry and make business decisions and not just be an artist.”

And Persevering Through Them
“I love to create beautiful things that people enjoy. I love the challenge of running a business and learning how to make that better. [However, you have to] know your strengths and weaknesses. Stay persistent. Know your market and try and learn as much as you can about your business. Dream big, but don't forget to set realistic milestones for yourself!”

Recommended Business Resources
“I frequently read The Switchboards Forum to network with other small business owners. I'm currently listening to "The E-Myth" on tape, about entrepreneurs and small business. I read fashion magazines and learn about other businesses and what they are doing to be successful -- you can learn a lot from your peers, or by seeing what designers you admire do.”
Contact Info:

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Trend Watching 101, a consumer trends firm with a network of 8,000 trend spotters around the global, just released a summary of its top 5 consumer trends for 2007. It’s such a great list because it predicts trends that will affect not only how people shop, but how they live in general. I’ve provided a brief summary of each but you can go to the actual article here. Of course, you can also buy the comprehensive 2007 Trend Report- it will set you back $500.

(1) Status Lifestyles- “Old, mass-era status” [i.e., Gucci, Rolex] and other traditional luxury items may not necessarily be the keystone of every consumer’s pocketbook. Instead, as consumers become more transcient and saturated with stimuli, they increasingly rely on experiences for entertainment. The new status lifestyles are just that-the need for consumers to experience, to participate, and to connect, illustrated by the past and continuing popularity of sites such as meetup, myspace, or flickr.

“Eco-lifestyles” are also on the rise. The internet revolution has created a smaller, close-knit world and has weaved people into a global community, making consumers more aware of domestic and international ecological issues. As a result, consumers are actively trying to “greenify” their lives and place premium value on chic, well-designed, eco-friendly products.

Advice for the indie entrepreneur? Knowledge of these new status lifestyles allows you to develop strategies such as focusing your product line or using materials with an eco-friendly twist or developing marketing strategies that fulfill a customer’s needs to participate and network.

(2) Transparency Trend: The easy accessibility of the internet and the need for humans to communicate is a powerful combination. The result? An onslaught of websites compiling and tracking advice, opinions, and advice of regular consumers (like you and me) for a multitude of products and services. While the effect of this trend depends on the positivity of the customer’s review or opinion, it is uncontestable that this trend has created an unprecendented transparency in many products and services.

For indie entrepreneurs with typically limited resources, this trend can make or break your business. A favorable product mention on youtube or tripadvisor may propel your business to a new level, but one ill-written review can cause bad publicity or lost sales.

Therefore, knowledge is power. Investigate and be fully informed of where and how your product/service is mentioned. Google yourself-you never know where you’ll come up! This allows you to do damage control early on in the game. In addition, a customer review, whether positive or negative, is feedback which may help you in developing strategies and getting a different perspective of your products/services.

(3) Web N+1: The online revolution is showing no signs of cooling down. In addition, technology will only continue to evolve faster than ever. Stay on your toes.

(4) Trysumers: In conjunction, or perhaps as a reflection of the trend towards participation and connection, consumers are becoming more daring in what they consume and experience-new foods, new flavors, new services.

This is great news for indie entrepreneurs, who traditionally service as forerunners and innovators of creative products and services way before larger stores and mainstream designers. Give consumers the chance to experience and sample your products. This is a crucial strategy, especially for many indie entrepreneurs who sell their products online, as it is difficult for consumers to get a tactile experience of a product’s qualities. For instance, for companies offering bath and body products, entrepreneurs can invest in small vials and send samples of their products with customer’s orders, or if financially possible, allow potential customers to request product samples. In addition, participating in events such as homeofthesampler allows you to reach a different or larger audience for a small monetary investment.

(5) Global Brain: The global brain is about tapping into your customers’ creativity and making them feel a connection with your product. This strategy has been used by a variety of companies, such as Mastercard (which allowed consumers create their own "priceless ads") and McDonalds (which casted ordinary people to appear in its bags and cups). Involving your customers in an activity that connects them to your business enables them to establish a stake in your products or services.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Networking Events, Debbie Bliss, and Craft Swaps

Check out these events:

Debbie Bliss Event: Debbie Bliss, yarn maker, author, and knitter extraordinaire, will be at the Woolie Ewe Store this Friday, January 19, 2007 for two 3-hour seminars. She will talk about the design process, color forecasting, and also show her new designs. Located in Plano, TX.

Crafty Supply Swap: Another event to swap or trade craft supplies you thought you'll use. January 20, 2007, 2:30-5:30 pm. Located in Seattle, WA.

Social Philly Young Entrepreneur Networking Hour: Are you in Philly? This event, which is part of the Social Philly's Young Professional Series, is specially designed for business owners and is a great way to meet new contacts and possibly gain new business. January 18, 2007, 6-9 pm. Located in Philadelphia, PA.

An Elegant Affair Expo: Bridal, Prom, and Special Events Expo: For those with wedding-related products or services (photography, event planning, etc). January 21, 1-5 pm. Located in Sullivan, MO.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Second Week of January Events

Some events to keep you busy this weekend:

Post X-mas Craft and Gift Swap and Sale: Purge of your unwanted crafts or designs! Sponsored by Blim Art Society, Vancouver, Canada. January 13, 7-11 pm.

Crescent City Craft Mart: Sponsored by the New Orleans Craft Mafia, New Orleans, LA. January 14, 2007 2-6 pm.

Mid-Atlantic Crafter Expo: Great event for anyone looking to profit from their art or craft. You will be able to interact with professionals in the crafting industry and learn tips on how to run your business. Tickets are $30 for the day and are available at the door. Event will be held in Annapolis, MD. January 13, 2007, 9 am -4:30 pm.

Down the Street Bead Show: For jewelry makers in the Florida region. Retail/wholesale show featuring beads, findings, PMC supplies, wire wrapping supplies, string materials, and other jewelry supplies. Located in St. Augustine, FL. January 13 and 14.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Open Studio, Open Creativity

As indie entrepreneurs involved in creative pursuits, we are always looking for new ways to improve or expand our craft. I am always looking to learn a new skill or knowledge, and if you’re like me, you’ve discovered how expensive the pursuit of knowledge could be! Half-open supplies and barely used tools have taken over my hobby room, hoping to be used in my next project.

That’s why places like Craft Gym and the soon-to-be-opened Ekcetera studio are the perfect practice boards and playgrounds for the creative types. With prices ranging between $10-20 for daily use or $50-60 for a monthly membership, you can (inexpensively) play at you’re heart’s delight, with jewelry tools, photography equipment, ceramic kilns, and other goodies ready for your disposal. Many of them also offer workshops and classes. These places allow you to try a new project or create product prototypes without the initial investment of new tools and equipment.

If your community does not have these craft-type places mentioned above, you can also check out art studios at local colleges. While these studios are usually reserved for their students, some of them may allow non-students use of their studios and equipment for a minimal fee. Certain cities also have recreation centers with open studios for both residents and non-residents.

Here are some to get you started:

Irvine Fine Arts Center: has a ceramics studio equipped with wheels, kilns, slab roller, wet storage and a complete glaze room.; a photography darkroom; and a jewelry open studio. Located in Irvine, CA.

Lakeside Pottery: a pottery school, gallery, and open studio. Located in Stamford, CT.

The Workspace: an open studio through the Iowa State University offering jewelry, screenprinting, photography, woodshop, printmaking, and glass making. Located in Ames, Iowa.

Atlanta Art Worx: jewelry and metal arts open studio. Located in Marietta, GA.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Upcycling: The New Recycling

The famous Bizarre Bazaar craft show and Etsy auction site had teamed up to offer a special contest called Upcycling. Upcycling was coined by authors William McDonaugh and Michael Braugart in their book, Cradle to Cradle, and is the practice of taking something that may be considered trash and transforming it into an object of design, use, and utility. In this contest, Etsy users are challenged to create objects from materials that would otherwise have been recycled or thrown away. Entries must be posted on Etsy by January 15, 2007 and prizes include a free booth at the May Bizaare Bazaar show, an Etsy gift pack, and a trip to San Francisco. See Etsy for the complete contest details.

Kim Family Auction

There is nothing like crafters getting together for a good cause. Sisters Lisa Congdon and Stephanie Barnes, and their mother Gerrie Congdon organized an auction of delightful arts and crafts handmade goodies donated by generous artists to benefit the James Kim Family. 100% of the auction proceeds go directly to the Kim Family Fund. While it is too late to donate items, support your fellow crafters by buying auction items or telling your friends about this worthy cause. Auction bidding runs January 3-7, 2007.


The crisp blank pages, the uncreased binding, the distinctive smell - new planners/calendars signal new beginnings and endless possibilities. Bearers of to-do lists, important events, or mundane thoughts, we treasure these objects for their ability to keep us on time, in control, and in touch. Months before the new year, I am already on the hunt for the perfect one. Not too big, not too small, not too loud, yet not too simple- I strive to find the perfect balance for my life and my needs. If you're still in the quest for one, here are some to aid you in your journey. Calendar above from JHillDesign. Also check out these ones from Jill Bliss and Sherwood Press.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Grammar is your friend

So you’re typing away and writing your press release/website contact/business plan and you’re stuck. Where do I put the apostrophe? Is it affect or effect? Do I use your or you’re?

But who cares, you say, I have my glossy pictures and my eye-catching graphics. I will wow my customers with my logo, my format, and my profound knowledge of Adobe Photoshop. But that’s not enough. To present an image that projects professionalism, it is necessary to look at how your words are presented on paper.

Here’s Grammar Girl to the rescue! I listened to her podcasts and I was hooked. They’re short, witty, easily digestible, and most importantly, fun. A much better way than going through your tattered elementary school grammar books (if you can still find them!) or pouring over thick boring textbooks. Now who says grammar can’t be fun?