Tuesday, July 31, 2007

IE Tip 35: Craft Memo: Be Organized

If you're an jewelry, clothing, or other craft designer, you know how overwhelming your supplies and tools can be. Enter Craft Memo, an easy-to-use record keeping and management system specially designed for craft enthusiasts. With this system, you can organize and keep track of your craft goodies and generate lists of inventory, where it was purchased, and what you need for a project. Some features include ability to upload images of your craft supplies and projects, and ability to import and export data from financial applications such as Quickbooks. A powerful tool for busy entrepreneurs!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Craft Fair, Freelancing

Detroit Urban Craft Fair: alternative craft fair featuring independent DIY artists and designers. Located in Detroit, MI. August 4, 2007.

Breaking into Freelancing: Workshop course on how to present yourself as a writer, pitch stories, and target publications. Located in Los Angeles, CA. August 4, 2007.

Friday, July 27, 2007

2 Fresh Petunias

Stephanie Ignazio of 2 Fresh Petunias creates colorful purses, totes, and accessories in a myriad of designs and colors. Stephanie is inspired by her two daughters, her "Fresh Petunias", as evident by the sweetness and fun that she incorporates in each design. According to Stephanie, 2 Fresh Petunias is all about surrounding yourself with things that make you happy. For her, its her two little girls, her supportive husband, fresh flowers and fabric..and a healthy dose of glitter for extra sparkle!

The Beginning of a Business
"I met another mother at a party one afternoon. Her daughter was dressed in the most beautiful vintage chenille outfit I had ever seen. Complete with satin bows and a flower in her hair. Suddenly, I became obsessed with finding an outfit for my own daughter. At home, I had a large collection of vintage fabrics and ribbons that I had begun gathering as a college student. I never knew what I wanted to do with them, but I knew that I loved them! After looking on the web and realizing that those types of outfits were a bit out of my price range. I decided to make one myself. That first outfit turned into 2, then 3 and so on. As I took my daughter places, other mothers started asking where I had gotten her outfit and word spread. I was now in business."

From Dresses to Purses
One of my clients at the time told me that if I ever made purses using my fabrics she would love to buy one. A few nights later I sat down and worked out a pattern for my first purse. Rushing to a party one night I grabbed it and by the end of the party I was known as the “one who makes the purses”. A few days later I got a call asking if I would do one of my “custom purse parties”. Not sure where that idea had come from I knew that it would be the perfect way to spread the word about my new business. One party turned into 5, 10 and 20 and the next logical step was to set up a website so that women who couldn’t come to the parties could still order their own custom bag. Soon after the children’s custom clothing aspect of the business was no longer. I was too busy with purse orders. 2 ½ years later I no longer do custom purse parties and rely totally on website sales. Occasionally I love to participate in women’s shopping nights at friends homes. It’s a great way to test out new styles and meet new clients."

Inspired by Her Own 2 Little Petunias
"I have 2 little girls for which the business is named. Julia is 5 and Mia is 3 ½. Balancing a business and young children is a true challenge. There are many times I feel that one or the other is getting short-changed. However, I am growing the business along with them as they grow... One thing I dream about is that there will be a published book that tells you how to balance a creative career with children fabulously with no guilt. Perhaps that’s my next project!"

Background for Business
"I have a degree in Fashion Design, my K-9 Art Education Teaching Certificate and my Masters Degree in Art Education. Before having my girls I worked as an elementary art teacher and a muralist. What makes me laugh is that when I graduated from college I put my sewing machine away and didn’t touch it for at least 10 years! Since then I have bought 3 more."

The Joy of Creating
"At one point I found myself creating items that I knew would sell. I was working so hard to please clients that I lost track of my own inspiration. At the same time to gather more buyers I was making way too many different items. It became overwhelming. After taking some time to think I decided to drop those things that were really just “fillers”. I stopped doing custom work and only offered items that were one of a kind and small multiples. Once I did this I found new energy to create and some of those items are my bestsellers to date."

Wholesaling Products
"Originally I did not plan on wholesaling. I really wanted to keep my product line to my own website. But bit by bit, I was getting calls and inquiries from shops so I decided to do it on a small scale. Most shops find me thru searches on the internet for handmade bags, belts, etc. My first wholesale account nearly doubled my minimum requirement, which was such a great feeling. Nowadays I take a look at the shop who is inquiring to see if it would be a good fit and go with my gut. I do like the fact that wholesaling has expanded my presence in different places."

Collective Marketing
"I am a member of Indie Finds. Belonging to this group has allowed me to market to different venues that I would not be able to afford on my own. Being in group ads has been wonderful press and marketing for 2 fresh petunias .I found out early on that mass (paper) mailings just do not do it for me so I don’t send out anything other than a newsletter. Its all trial and error. Being on blogs has been a wonderful addition to marketing. I get a lot of traffic from interviews I have done and shopping guide placements as well."

A Balancing Act
"Balancing [the business] with my children lives and family life. There are moments when I feel like I am ready to go full throttle forward with the business, but that isn’t really possible with two young children. Once they get into school full time, I will evaluate where I want to head with the business. I would also like to take some thinking time and test out some new ideas that I have been sketching. Finding time to just “play” is a tough one to schedule."

Recommended Business Resources
"Another Girl At Play was the first website I found when I was thinking about going into business. So many wonderful stories and tidbits from women who are making their business dreams come true. The Switchboards was my second stop and the amount of fabulously helpful information there is just amazing. It was so wonderful to find other women entrepreneurs who were willing to help each other out.

"I can get inspired from just about anything that I come into contact with. I love reading decorating magazines, sometimes just a color combination alone will send me to my sketchbook. I love anything and everything handmade so I am constantly seeking out other creators. Just by taking a look at a painting or an illustration or a cool photograph I can get ideas of my own. I especially love vintage styling and love to go antiquing. Vintage fashion is one of my slight obsessions! I carry my sketchbook at all times."

Words of Advice - Be True to Your Heart
"Don’t sell yourself short. As a creator you will be most successful if you are doing something that really makes your heart sing. Don’t create items that are fillers just to get more sales. It just comes off as non-genuine. Be inspired by others, but do not try to recreate and imitate what they are doing. Be respectful of your time. Don’t charge less than what your items are worth. (I learned this the hard way early on. I was originally selling my items for what my wholesalers now pay!) Take time to grow your business and don’t be afraid to change your focus as you grow. Read as much as you can about other successful entrepreneurs but realize that you are unique and need to follow your own voice and dictate. Some businesses will grow steadily, some others will jump to the moon in a day. Do what is comfortable for you."


Stephanie Ignazio

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

IE Tip 34: TheSwitchboards.com: Your Connection To Creativity

One of my all-time favorite online resources, TheSwitchboards.com is a wonderful resource for creative entrepreneurs. TheSwitchboards forum is made of up of a community of mostly women entrepreneurs who generously offer helpful business tips, personal advice, as well as support to their fellow entrepreneurs. Join now and be a part of this awesome group!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

IE Tip 33: Trendwatching.com: Keeping Up with Trends

Run by an independent consumer trends firm, Trendwatching.com relies on more than 8,000 trendhunters all over the world. Its monthly trend briefing report is a gem, keeping you in pace with the latest trends and inspiration. A must have marketing tool for indie entrepreneurs!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Networking, Podcasting, and Fashion

How to Pitch Yourself at Business and Networking Events: Learn the art of pitching yourself and your products. Located in New York, NY. July 24, 2007.

Accelerated Networking Reception for Businesswomen: A reception for business owners, entrepreneurs, and sales professionals in need of marketing and networking opportunities. Sponsored by eWomenNetwork. Located in New York, NY. July 25, 2007.

The Power of Podcasting: Learn the power of podcasting for entrepreneurs, artists, and performers. Located in New York, NY. July 28, 2007.

Fashion Coop: Designer show featuring emerging designers showcasing their products. Located in Los Angeles, CA. July 28, 2007.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Anna Bella Stationery

Meet Dawn Marie Viola, the creator and creative director behind Anna Bella Stationery, an online design studio and stationery boutique offering its own brand of stationery and paper products, custom wedding invitations, birth announcements, and a casual collection of occasion invitations. Anna Bella was launched in January of 2006, first selling products for moms and kids, after which it expanded a few months later to include wedding and occasion invitations. Anna Bella is a home-based, woman-owned, indie business.

The Anna Bella Customer
“We’ve got a little something for everyone, so other than being mostly women, we don’t really have a typical customer. Every once in a while we’ll be pleasantly surprised by a helpful groom who is sending messages on behalf of his bride-to-be, but other than that, we mostly sell to women of all ages, all lifestyles – it’s wonderful.”

“I have a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and worked in advertising as a creative director and copywriter for 15 years before starting my career in stationery design. Although it was complete torture at the time, my previous business lessons really set me up for success with Anna Bella – the design part was always very natural and easy for me, but the business side had always a bit of a vague mystery.”

“When I first began Anna Bella, I worked full time as a designer and copywriter for Disney and ESPN. After about 6 months, I went to part time hours. Then in April, 2007, I was able to work for myself full time. I supplement with copywriting services and affordable mentoring services for women wanting to start their own stationery business, but for the most part, I rely on stationery sales.”

Start-up Challenges
“The idea of starting a business is simple, but when you really sit down and start to map everything out, it can become absolutely overwhelming. My biggest challenge, which I still struggle with today, is the best way to organize my products and web site so that it makes ordering as easy as possible for customers. I’m always moving products around and streamlining the ordering system to be better organized and make better sense to customers.”

“The other challenge I face is time management and staying focused. It’s super easy to get lost in answering emails – before I know it, I’m 10 pages deep into blog surfing because I opened a Google Alert email with a favorite key word. I had to learn to be my own whip-cracker and give myself time limits on breaks, surfing and research during my work day.”

“Owning your own business can be lonely at times, too, especially for a home-based or small business. I don’t see people (other than my family) very often because I’m so busy working at the computer or packing and shipping orders.”

“ I want everything to happen fast. But for things to happen fast, you need money. Starting out with no money and having a limited budget, makes things happen at a snail’s pace.”

Pricing your Work
“I first figure out my cost to produce the product – this includes paper, printing, supplies, and design time. I then compare that to retail prices for like products to be sure I’m not about to over price the item or under price it. If I notice a product is not selling well, I’ll change the price – and not necessarily to something lower. There is a good amount of psychology involved in pricing products and how consumers perceive the value of what they’re purchasing. Sometimes you just need to put the price up or down by a few cents or even dollars and see what the consumer accepts.”

Marketing on a Shoestring
“Marketing on a budget has become a way of life for me. I am a copywriter as well as a designer, which comes in handy when it comes to PR.”

“I literally send dozens of emails every week with product updates and information about our company. I utilize email blast campaigns to past/present/future customers and editorial contacts. And I send out a lot of samples to relevant trade and consumer magazines. The samples often result in free editorial – with advertising rates so high, I rely heavily on free editorial.”

“And again, there is no secret formula to this. I’m often asked how my products got onto a certain blog or how I was able to be on Martha Stewart Radio. I didn’t do any tricks or hoop jumping – I simply sent an email with a short (very short) proposal.”

Forecasting Trends
“People laugh when I tell them this, but if you want to know what the next stationery trend will be, look to JC Penny, Macy’s and similar department stores. The reason I say this is because stationery trends are dictated very much by fashion trends. Anchor department stores want to offer their customers the latest trends at relatively affordable prices, so they consolidate all of the high-end manufacturers’ design ideas and patterns into one dummied-down collection of clothing, hand bags, etc. The department store has essentially done all of the market research for you and placed it all, nice and neat, in the women’s sportswear or hosiery department.”

“I am constantly looking at style blogs and other stationery manufacturers – not only for trends in stationery, but also so I’m not duplicating efforts when I create new products. I’m also a big copyright advocate, so I like to be familiar with what other manufacturers are creating - kind of keeping an eye out for them as well as myself.”

An Artist’s Challenge
“I’m very critical of my work and very self conscious about it – I often second guess every new product I put out there because, essentially, I’m being judged on it. That’s a scary concept for an artist or craftsperson because the work is very personal and often an extension of themselves.”

Motivated By…
“The desire to help people…the love of graphic design and the entire collaborative design process…the need to do something good for people and with my life. Fame, fortune (kidding…sort of).”

Recommended Business Resources
“Anyone who is opening a creative business needs to read the following: How to Get Your Point Across in 30 Seconds or Less, The E-Myth Revisited and Creatively Self Employed.”

Words of Advice-Live, Love, and Learn
“Don’t start a business unless you love the work you’ll be doing. The beginning stages will consume you, so it really needs to be a labor of love. "

"Self education is so important. Learn absolutely everything you can about your craft, from concept to finished product. Then, learn everything you can about your industry. "

"Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and ask questions – the worst that can happen is you may not receive a response or they will say, “No” to answering your questions."

"Network, network, network! Join organizations in your area that will benefit you, then go to the meetings and talk to people.”


Dawn Marie Viola

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

IE Tip 32: United States Patent and Trademark Office

Interested in protecting your business trademark or copyrighting your work? Head to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, which contains basic information on the process, definitions on what qualifies for a trademark or copyright, as well as official forms you need to get started.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Art and Craft Workshop

All About Art and Craft Shows: Workshop led by Tasha McKelvey, who will teach the ins and outs of craft shows- from picking the right shows for your work, photographing work, product packaging, building or buying display equipment, day-of-the-show checklists, and accepting credit cards at shows. Located in Brooklyn, NY. July 22, 2007.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bel Bacio Jewelry

Megan of Bel Bacio Jewelry creates sparkling delicate baubles with feminine and unique details. Her jewelry items are constructed with the finest materials- genuine semi-precious gemstones, pearls, Balinese beads, Swarovski crystals, sterling silver and gold filled components. Every pearl and gemstone are hand picked for each piece of jewelry.

Here she shares her business journey:

"I have a gemological degree from the Gemological Institute of America. I was working at a small mom and pop fine jewelry store and was hired as a gemologist. The business was slow so I decided to move on, I needed a little more excitement. So I started working on my jewelry line and looked for a new line of work for the mean time."

Craft Show Experience
"I have done 3 craft shows. My first show was great, I had a lot of compliments and a lot of wonderful customers. My last 2 shows were pretty sad. The last show I did was the worst, I only sold two items and one of them was from a friend. I was set up next to another jewelry seller who sold pre-made mass produced jewelry.”

Low-Cost/Free Advertising
“I advertise on a few indie websites that bring in quite a few visitors. The fee is pretty low and the customers that shop on those sites want to shop indie.”

Business Challenges
"My most challenging part of starting my own business has been finding the right avenue for advertising without breaking the bank. I am always looking for more options."

"[Another challenge is] separating myself from the rest. There are a lot of jewelry designers out there so finding your own style and niche can be difficult sometimes.”

“It motivates me to know that I can be successful; it is just working harder and be more and more creative.”

Recommended Business Resources
"SCORE is a great website that offers wonderful information for small business owners. They have one on one meetings free of charge and all kinds of templates to use like business plans. SCORE stands for Service Corps of Retired Executives, they really know what they are talking about.”

Words of Advice-Think and Navigate
“ Think about your options (websites, advertising, product, etc) and make sure that you find the best way to navigate your plan. I didn't think to much into advertising or how it worked and I wish I had read more about it.”


Bel Bacio Jewelry

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

IE Tip 31: Workit.com

Looking for business and networking events? Workit.com contains a chockfull of event information on entrepreneurship, legal and intellectual property, and sales, to name a few. Events are sponsored by different non-profit organizations, government agencies, or law firms. Most of the events are located in San Francisco and the Bay area.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

IE Tip 30: PR Web

Slaved over your press release and dying to share it to the world? Submit it to PR Web, and get your message across to media professionals, journalists, news sites, and search engines. Fees depend upon the desired visibility of your press release-their most expensive package, the Media Visibility Package for $360, ensures that your press release make front page headlines and includes enhanced reporting features that allow you to geographically map your readers.
This level contains all the features and tools from the other packages plus distribution through the AP, Feature Video and enhanced reporting features that allow you to map your readers geographically and tools to easily create and export distribution reports.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Workshops, Networking

Should I Start a Business: Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur? This seminar sponsored by the SCORE Silicon Valley will discuss
the personal characteristics and capabilities that are needed to succeed in business. Seminar will discuss requirements to succeed in business and the SCORE resources for getting advice and help. This seminar may be the start of a new and exciting adventure for you. Sponsored by SCORE. Located in San Jose, CA. July 10, 2007.

Kernspiracy: A Place For Designers to Share Secrets: Another get together for Kernspiracy, a community peer support group for designeres and other creative professionals. Located in Los Angeles, CA. July 11, 2007.

The Power of the Press Release - How Do You Get Your Story Covered by the Media? Workshop targeted towards small and indie business owners on how to use and write a press release efficiently to promote a business. Located in Seattle, WA. July 11, 2007.

Felt Club XL Event: Craft featuring handmade goods, including handbags, jewelry, paper products, clothing, and more. Located in Los Angeles, CA. July 15, 2007.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

If'n Books

Deb Dormody of If’n Books creates beautiful journals and albums, which she promises to “guarantee miracles in every bite.” There is something special about her products, which are lovingly handmade and created using vintage and contemporary bookbinding techniques and equipment.

Her continuous search for unique book coverings also led her to commission artists to create exclusive designs for If’n Books. This collaboration helps strengthen the network of independent artists and provides an opportunity for artists to showcase their work.

Beginning of Bookbinding
“I first started bookbinding in high school when my public high school art teacher introduced us to a simple Japanese stab binding. It just clicked with me immediately and inspired me to go home and disassemble a few atlases and dictionaries so I could examine how they were made. I made some pretty horrific books back then. But now I make awesome ones and sell my journals and albums to about 200 stores nationwide and a smattering of stores around the world.”

Typical Customer
“My typical customer is someone who perhaps wore Garanimals or Underoos, has definitely sipped a Capri-Sun at some point, appreciates minute details and fine craftsmanship (and is maybe even snotty about it), and prefers to keep their secrets written down rather than blathering them out to everyone in the whole entire world.”

Background in Business
“I went full-time with the business just as 1999 was turning into 2000. I quit my job as Marketing Director of a craft gallery and said “No thank you” to such frivolities as a 40 hour work week, dining out regularly, and health insurance. Instead, I said an emphatic “Yes!” to 80 hour weeks, hand-numbing work and poverty-level income. I super love it. And thankfully the extremes have mellowed a bit in the ensuing years.”

“Having worked on the store-end before selling to stores really helped me understand what’s helpful to a buyer and how to package things. And seeing sales reps in action made it clear what their needs are too.”

On Hiring Employees
“[M]y first employee’s very first day was September 11, 2001. And because she has a brother who was a pilot who frequently flew out of Boston, it was extra-tumultuous. He was fine, but it made for a bit of a rocky beginning.”

“Everyone that I’ve hired or who has been my intern has come to me through a personal connection. While working with friends or acquaintances can be tough for some entrepreneurs, it’s definitely been important to me. Since this business is so much my baby, I don’t want just any babysitting joker to be a part of it. I want to work with someone who gets the whole picture.”

“I contract out for the text blocks (sewn pages) for my Corace Journals . I developed that product because I wanted to have an item at a lower price point in my line to balance out the finer – and pricier handbound work. This way I can still offer a product that is primarily handmade since it is hand-printed and hand-numbered in an edition."

Meeting and Overcoming Challenges
“Nobody ever warned me ahead of time that it makes the whole entrepreneurial process totally easier if you are already rich. Not sure why that didn’t occur to me. The challenge never really goes away either when you are creating products for which you have to buy supplies in order to make the items you are selling. I have seen that lesson played out in larger hand binderies as well. It’s just that the bigger you get the more zeroes there are behind the positive and negative numbers.”

“I have certainly made adjustments over time though. Particularly by reducing the amount of labor-intensive books there are in my line and streamlining efficient work methods. That absolutely made a difference – and my aching shoulders thanked me for the change too.”

Dealing with Wholesale Accounts
“Mostly I get wholesale requests through my site. I have a form that buyers can fill out. I used to have a fancy package that I would put together and mail out to those requesting wholesale info. But I found that became a low priority for me because it was so time-intensive and I would only send them out once every few months. How terribly ineffective! So I streamlined it all and now when they submit their info, I check it out and send them an email with my terms and a link to a downloadable pdf that has my line sheet and an order form. So easy! And much faster turnaround for sales.”

Shopping/Gift Shows
“I’ve done the NY Gift Show with my rep. I have since stopped working with her (as part of my labor decreasing systems) but maintain the accounts I got through those shows.”

“I generally develop and introduce new wholesale products twice a year. When I do, I send out press releases via email to magazines, blogs and newspapers; and online via PR Web and I mail a handful of press kits. I could definitely improve the frequency and breadth of these campaigns. It’s on the To Do list. Right next to “Give those gigantic boxes of scrap paper you’ve been hoarding to the teacher resource center immediately.”

Low-Cost Advertising
“I’ve been involved with co-op advertising groups which I think are a brilliant example of the great community we’re in. I also have a Flickr page in lieu of a blog so that people can see the sparkling personality behind the scenes of my work. There are always deals to be had for making promos like business cards and pins and then distributing those to other crafty types. It’s one big family really…I also help organize a craft show called Craftland that assists in the bigger picture.”

Motivated by…
“I really love going to work almost everyday and doing what I do. So the idea of the alternative to that keeps me going. Also pressing deadlines for orders keep me on task.”

Inspired by…
“Libraries, snacks, DIY aesthetics/ethics, Lynda Barry’s dialogue, good music, worrying, the productivity of my fancy friends, Joseph Cornell’s collages, lying down and thinking for long periods of time…”

“There are plenty of people who I [also] find inspirational: Jen Corace and Alec Thibodeau (who doubles as my honey) are the tops. Unrelated to my business are some all-around swell gals: Sarah from The Small Object Faythe from Flying Fish (and Paper Boat Boutique, and the Indie Craft Documentary ), and Ileana from India Romeo. And Providence itself is a community filthy with nice people doing amazing and inspirational things, like tinyshowcase.com!”

Words of Advice-Combine Uniqueness and Efficiency
“Find a way to make things unique to you. And then figure out how to make them in an efficient way. And be particular and concise when asking for advice. Don’t forget to take deep breaths frequently too.”



Deb Dormody
If'n Books
info@ ifnbooks.com

IE Tip 29: Co-op America

Co-opAmerica is a non-profit organization that promotes green and fair trade business principles as well as build sustainable communities in the U.S. and abroad. Entrepreneurs with "green businesses" (and they have their specific guidelines of what a green business is) can join the Co-op America's Business Network, which is dedicated to helping socially and environmentally responsible businesses emerge and thrive to form a global green economy. Some membership benefits include free listing in the National Green Pages (like the Yellow Pages), special discounts, media expoure, and advertising opportunities.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Art and Craft Shows

Art vs.Craft: Craft show featuring local as well as out-of-state designers showing a range of handmade goodies. Located in Milwaukee, WI. July 7-8,2007.

Art to Go DIY Show and Tell: Craft show featuring some of your favorite artists. Located in Burlington, VT. July 6, 2007.