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Meeting people inside and outside of your computer to make friends or market yourself

I know that when you’re already busy enough with the family, the housework, and making your handcraft items to sell the idea if of making time to socialize on top of all of the other stuff you have to do is perhaps less than appetizing. But marketing yourself is only one of the benefits of meeting people face to face and virtually. There are many others such as:

  1. Running your own business (especially in a home situation) can be a very lonely endeavor. Sharing with others what you do is an important socializing opportunity, it’s great fun, and it’s good for your emotional health!
  2. It’s a fab opportunity to make like-minded friends. I have!
  3. You can share and create business ideas with like-minded people who are just as enthusiastic about craft as you are.
  4. There’s nothing like a fresh perspective from a new pair of eyes to point out things than can be modified or improved in your business.
  5. There’s strength in numbers; you can explore ways that you can help each other in your business such as material/equipment swaps, employees, suppliers tips, or even forming partnerships.

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Meeting Virtually (Social Media)

Ways to socialize virtually involve joining social media sites. Love or hate them, I think that signing up to some of them is an important way of getting yourself out there; just don’t abuse them. You don’t have to spend ages on them (which is kinda easy to do) rather spend a bit of time posting some quality content, making a few meaningful relationships (as opposed to going for sheer numbers) and your virtual social life is sure to blossom. I don’t even need to suggest ways to get involved with Social Media because Bloggirrl has written A very long list on ways to get blog traffic which is jammed packed with social media ideas and sites.

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Meeting face to face

How about ways to meet folks face to face? Unless you live out in the sticks (which I admit I often wish I did) why not arrange to meet folks for a coffee and a crafty chat? You could try:

  1. Asking regular commenters on your blog whom you know live reasonably close if they would fancy meeting up for a Crafternoon, like I did recently
  2. Looking for websites such as Meet Up where individuals can set up groups for anything and everything to meet up get together.
  3. Check out what craft fairs or exhibitions are happening in your area and arrange to meet new folks there and maybe share a stall. Craftster has excellent international notice boards for such happenings.

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You can meet like minded crafters make new friends, eat yummy cakes together, talk about craft and share ideas and tips, and did I mention you can also eat yummy cakes. What’s not to like?

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PS I finally did it! I have succumbed and joined Twitter. I still don’t quite know what is it yet but so many folks have recommended it to me so please follow me here. I’d love meet you and say hi :)

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How to set up and Etsy shop Step by Step by StudioJewel

Oh bless her! Lisa Lehmann has written an excellent easy to understand step by step post on How to set up an Etsy shop. How’s that for making your life easier?

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Lisa is a seasoned Etsy seller who makes luscious jewelry like the yummy silver bangles below:

Thanks for the telling me about the post Lisa! You get yourself one of these shiny CraftBoom! badges for your good work :)

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Etsy as your Craft Business this weeks fave Etsy shops

**Hey folks I just want to apologize if i haven’t replied to some of your comments. For the last couple of weeks there was comment glitch in my WordPress. It looks like it’s fixed now, thanks for bearing with me :) **

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Most of us will already know that Etsy is a wonderful resource for newbies who want to go into craft business for the first time and many sellers have made a great success of selling through Etsy alone. Etsy shops are easy to set up, attractive, easy to use, and best of all there is heaps of help and support for sellers.

Here is my weekly round-up of my 3 fave Etsy shops. Every week I review 3 Etsy shops from a Craft Business point of view rather than just commenting on yumminess of the products that are sold. This means I will be looking characteristics like:

  • the photography
  • the product descriptions
  • the mix of products
  • and signs of marketing activity such as other websites or blogs

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This week’s Etsy Faves…

Celebrate necklace

Etsy Shop Name: Monaco

Website/Blog: Monacodesigns

CraftBoom! says: “In this attractive shop you’ll classy looking ‘less is more’ handmade jewelery. The photography is very good in that the backgrounds are crisp and clean, and all similar (which makes the shop look tidy) and the plainness of the backgrounds shows the jewelery off to best effect. There are also several views of each item to help with viewing. The product descriptions are clear and informative and she has taken the time to tell a little story about each item which I think is nice as it can have the effect of helping you ‘bond’ with the product.”

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Custom Etsy kit – shop banner with templates

Etsy Shop Name: Lolaness

Website/Blog: www.lolaness.com

CraftBoom! says: “This useful shop specializes in graphic and web design to make running your craft business easier and prettier. Items include custom business cards, ready made Etsy kits, and custom thank you notes. The imagery is fresh and attractive. In her product descriptions she puts a strong emphasis on quality, good service, and the individuality of each of the custom designs. From those descriptions it’s clear that she is friendly and helpful and her prices are very reasonable too.”

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Lil’ Red hand carved rubber stamp

Etsy Shop Name: The Mayberry Sparrow

Website/Blog: The Mayberry Sparrow

CraftBoom! says: “In this very cute shop you will find sweet stationary goods to brighten up your correspondence. The shop specializes in delicious looking handmade stamps and custom designs are also available (look out for the mushroom – so cute!). Her product descriptions are clear and she also takes the time to write a little story behind the products too.”

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As all of the shop above have been awarded CraftBoom! fave shop of the week they will get this groovy badge to ‘wear’ on their own shop and/or blog. If you have appeared on one of my Etsy fave shops of the week posts and you would like your very own shiny badge please contact me and I will send you the magic code :)

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Crafting Heroes Interview with Amy Butler: Pattern & fabric designer and author extraordinaire!

Woo Hoo! Here is another fabulous Crafting Heroes Interview hot off the press. I am really loving these interviews. Like you, I am finding them so inspiring and full of great advice on how to run my own business. For those of you who don’t yet know, I asked the lovely readers of my other blog to vote for their favourite Crafting Heroes and LOADS of them responded, it was great! There are more wonderful Crafting Heroes interviews in the pipeline and this one is no exception…

This time the I’m featuring the lovely Amy Butler. I think it would be fair to say that for most all of you this amazing lady needs no introduction, but just in case there are one of two of you who do; Amy is an incredibly talented fabric and pattern designer and she also is the author of several hugely popular craft and design titles. Known for her friendly and clear pattern writing, Amy has helped make sewing hip and accessible to a whole new generation of sewists and her gorgeous fabric designs have a huge and loyal fan base. However, for all of her all talent and success Amy remains very warm, helpful, and generous to work with. Amy lives and works Ohio with her husband David, and her two beloved cats Pete & Birdie. In our interview Amy shares with us her experiences of starting up and running her own Craft Business.

I hope you enjoy the interview. The picture captions are all Amy’s words.

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I’m sporting a vintage find from my favorite clothing store “Foot Loose” here in Granville. The color is delicious. “

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CraftBoom!: How long have you been in craft business?
Amy: 8 years.

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CraftBoom!: Where/how do you sell your items, and do you work from home?
Amy: I have a wonderful group of retailers and distributors who sell my fabric and sewing patterns as well as my paper crafts with K & CO.

My pattern business has grown and grown! We’ve literally run out of space in the lower level of my house. It was getting a bit tricky reaching over the cat boxes to secure batting for a quilt project! Everyone was patient, but we finally found the perfect home for Amy Butler Design. We rent a beautiful 1850s greek revival house in the heart of our village. It’s a 10 minute walk or 5 minute bike ride from my home. We moved my business in July and it’s been a terrific change for all of us. I still keep my home studio as does Dave. It provides me the time to concentrate on designing and stay focused.

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CraftBoom!: What made/inspired you to go into craft business, and what were you doing before?
Amy: I’ve crafted all my life, it’s something I’ve always loved doing for myself and I’ve always enjoyed making things for my friends and family. My business in craft started through my efforts as a contributing editor for Country Living magazine. I had designed and manufactured 2 sewing patterns and sold them through the magazine for a couple of years to accompany the ” how to ” stories I produced using my fabric collection. At that point I didn’t realize that I would turn the patterns into a business, I thought my sewing patterns would be a side project to compliment my illustration career. ( little did I know! )

After a couple of years, the magazine ended their fulfillment service and I was left with a strong demand for my patterns but no way to get them to customers. I researched avenues for marketing and selling my patterns. I asked several quilt shops and fabric stores where they would go to purchase patterns and similar products and they suggested I exhibit at the International Quilt Market. I rented my first 10 ‘ x 10 ‘ booth and ever since then everything has fallen into place.

“The Birdie Sling is a great beginner project.” New pattern available soon

David and I have had our Art of the Midwest studio since 1992. Our business started out of necessity because we wanted to move back to Ohio to be with our families. Prior to our move home I was a creative director at Hallmark Cards for their paper entertaining products and Dave was an art director at River City Studios. When we moved home and started our studio we each did a lot of different jobs to make ends meet. Dave did freelance graphic work and I picked apples and painted surface designs that I sold through an ex- Hallmark friend.We had one vehicle and Dave needed that to get into the city while the only job I could get in walking distance in the country was at the local orchard! At night I painted and sewed.

Over time Dave wrangled me into doing drawings / illustrations for his projects and we ended up doing a lot of fine art exhibits together and my confidence in illustration grew. Through the years that followed we built up a graphic design and product development business where we built product collections and the marketing support for various brands. All the while both Dave and I had secured a national illustration rep and I began to do illustration full time. We began buying and renovating homes and getting heavily into gardening. That’s about the time we met Country Living and we started producing freelance lifestyle stories for them around 1997.

The customisable Laptop Case is very simple and super functional. I love using mine. The audiophile in me had to have an mp3 case too.” New pattern available soon.

Every life and working experience has led me to each step that I needed to take to find the career piece that truly makes me happy. For me, my road started 20 years ago in art school and I’ve been in graduate school ever since! I always encourage everyone to respect and appreciate all of your experiences. You begin to learn more about yourself and how to make yourself happy. You learn to trust your instincts and follow your passions confidently.

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CraftBoom!: How did you finance the start-up of your business?
Amy: We started with the money in our pockets when we moved from Kansas City back to Ohio. I believe we had $ 1,000. We squeaked by month by month for a couple of years as we slowly built up our resources. There was one instance when we had to borrow money from Dave’s Mom Vert. We were strapped and didn’t have the $400 to fill the propane tank! She loaned us $ 4,000 to help us cover our bills for 2 months and we paid her back $ 5,ooo a year later! We’ve always been a cash business and we used our sweat equity and talents to continually reinvest in the studio. A greater percentage of all the money we made and still make goes back into the business. It’s always served us well.

“This is the cover for my NEW sewing book ” Little Stitches for Little Ones “with Chronicle! The little fella on the cover is sporting the kimono style PJs project. Little Stitches will be available in September 08. It’s chocked full of fun projects for Mom and baby 0-12 mos.”

Cheeky Monkey Laundry / or Diaper keeper. Cute- cute!”

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“This is a wonderful dress and cute bottoms set. Super easy to make!”

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CraftBoom!: What things do you do to market your business?
Amy: The avenues for marketing my business have evolved over time. One element never changes and that’s our drive for putting ourselves out there. Dave helps me with all of my promotional materials. He does my photography and designs my collateral. We’re a great design duo. I love making every piece of my business sing. Every detail matters, especially how I share my products with others.

The internet had been a huge component in the growth of my business. The web site is an incredible tool for me. It’s a great platform for sharing my brand story and my products as they develop. It’s most important because it’s an incredible vehicle for inspiring others and making a connection with folks who enjoy craft as much as I do. Another huge component in marketing my business has been exhibiting at an industry trade show. The international quilt market has been pivotal in the making connections with my retailers and their customers. It’s been a very powerful vehicle for promotion. There’s nothing better than meeting your retailers and getting the opportunity to share my products with them. No one promotes you, better than YOU!

I’ve had some incredible press opportunities that have helped me find my audience and have helped me get to know my community. From the get go, I’ve tried my best to be helpful and work alongside editors in both trade and consumer magazines. My experiences over the years have given me a few advantages in terms of working with magazines an editors. It’s that one thing leads to the next scenario again! Staying in the flow of things and paying attention to opportunities that are a fit is key.

“These images are from my new promotional pieces for my fabric and pattern launches. Dave and I worked on these together for Quilt Market initially and we’ll be able to incorporate them on our web site soon. Midwest Modern is my new quilting weight fabric and August Fields is my new home dec collection (Jul 08). I’m also super excited about releasing my ‘ solids’ lines for both home dec and quilting fabric!”

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CraftBoom!: What things do you know now that you wish you knew from the beginning?
Amy: I don’t really have anything that I’d change. I think my experiences have all been positive whether they be challenging or not. I’ve needed to go through them in order to grow and learn. You have to experience everything first hand to make the best, most educated decisions. Sometimes you hit the mark and sometimes you don’t. That’s part of doing business and it keeps things interesting! I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but I feel they happen for a reason so that I can learn to make better decisions in the future and become a better person. Struggles help define who you are, build character and help you appreciate your life. Through the process, though, I have learned that it is important to let go and not take things too seriously or stretch yourself too thin. Save time for yourself to nurture your creativity. If you fulfill yourself, you’ll have lots more to give to everyone else… giving is the best part!

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CraftBoom!: What do you love most about running your own craft business, and what do you like least?
Amy: As far as my studio and business goes, I love the creative freedom I have in both working for myself and working on products that allow me to explore my passions and share them with others. The most challenging aspect for me has been balancing creative time with business.

“A promotional piece for my fabric and pattern launches.”

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CraftBoom!: What advice would you give to newbies who want to start their own craft business?
Amy: The first step is to focus in on one or two projects / products that you feel strongly about, projects that you feel you have a passion for. Often these jewels are right in your lap, just look around your studio and pay attention to what you spend most of your time on. Then make up actual samples or prototypes and share them with friends and family to get their feedback, take it a step further and show your product to local shops. There are blogs like U-Handbag’s blog that support creative communities where you can share your projects with other like minded folks, swap ideas and build a network.

Try starting out by creating a simple on line shop like an etsy or ebay store. This is a great way get an immediate response and to start to establish a strong customer base. If you are interested in selling your products wholesale, it would be helpful to research wholesale trade shows and find a market that fits your products, search for a sales rep or set up a booth yourself. I found that exhibiting at a major wholesale show made all the difference in the world as far as getting exposure and meeting retailers and distributors who would potentially sell my patterns. You also receive the most bang for your buck in terms of expense. Trade shows are an investment, but truly the best way to get the most exposure for the minimum cost. These shows also expose you to loads of resources and it’s a great way to meet peers in your industry whom you can swap ideas with.

Everyone has their own unique way of approaching their business. However, know that whatever you decide to do is just right for you and that’s the most important thing to remember. There is no black and white way for sure, so much of how I have built my business is by trial and error and trusting my instincts. I think that every experience you have is valuable and you learn so much as you go. Being true to yourself will naturally establish your unique voice. That’s the biggest piece of advice I can give you. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Everything will fall into place and evolve naturally. Be consistent from how your products look and feel all the way to your web site, advertising and marketing material. Everything you do should feel consistent in every way.

Set about your goal, don’t worry about set backs, focus on only the things you can control, don’t worry about people who dissuade you or don’t understand you…move on to the next! Be honest in EVERYTHING you do and you’ll never have to worry about yourself or your business. And if it stops being fun, do something else, even if it’s for a short respite. With your passion and creativity, you can make anything happen. It’s really true. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you lack passion, confidence and drive
the road to a fulfilling creative life is short. It’s all about loving what you do.

“This is my window at the Mikasa showroom on Madison Avenue in NYC! I just launched my first tableware collection with Mikasa two weeks ago during the Tabletop market. It was an incredible experience! The entire line will be available this fall.”

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CraftBoom!: Are you satisfied with the income that your craft business brings?
Amy: Yes, it’s been incredible to watch our business grow! For David and I our focus has always been about creating and the cash has followed. We’ve always known that we’d be ok and all the funds we need will be in place. With this in mind we’ve tried to make sound financial decisions and respect our resources, not take them for granted. From the get go we always believed in what we were doing and our faith and responsibility has never failed us. Seriously, if you build it, they will come. It’s that sincere affirmation and conscientious decision making that will always support you.

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CraftBoom!: What are your plans for future growth?
Amy: I don’t have any long term goals in what I want to achieve specifically. I want to grow conscientiously while I’m building relationships with other companies to crossover into other design and product categories. I’d love to see this grow as well as my core business focus, my patterns and fabrics with Rowan . I want to keep designing, enjoying and sharing the process, and along the way continue to evolve sustainability in the products I make or work with.

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Thank you so much for your interesting and informative interview Amy. It’s so obvious that put a lot of love into what you do and that has been a big factor in making your business grow. Best of luck with everything that you do. We’re very much looking forward to your August visit to Twisted Thread in the UK. Woo! Amy’s visiting the UK la la la! :)

Etsy as your Craft Business – this weeks fave Etsy shops

Most of us will already know that Etsy is a wonderful resource for newbies who want to go into craft business for the first time and many sellers have made a great success of selling through Etsy alone. Etsy shops are easy to set up, attractive, easy to use, and best of all there is heaps of help and support for sellers.

Here is my weekly round-up of my 3 fave Etsy shops. Every week I review 3 Etsy shops from a Craft Business point of view rather than just commenting on yumminess of the products that are sold. This means I will be looking characteristics like:

  • the photography
  • the product descriptions
  • the mix of products
  • and signs of marketing activity such as other websites or blogs

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This week’s Etsy Faves…

Pleated shoulder bag with detachable leather strap – Black Japanese plum flowers.

Etsy Shop Name: Cotton and Cloud

Website/Blog: Cotton and Cloud

CraftBoom! says: “In this attractive shop you’ll find cute hand sewn bags, pouches and fabrics for sale. The photography is very good in that it’s clear, each product has squillions of different angle shots, and the products all appear with items like keys to give you a sense of scale. The backgrounds are also clean and uniform which gives the shop a tidy appearance. The product descriptions are clear and informative as are her shop policies which helpfully comprehensive.

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Custom fabric labels

Etsy Shop Name: Mommie Made It

Website/Blog: None

CraftBoom! says: “In this fun shop shop you’ll all sorts of useful items needed to make running your craft business easier such as the custom labels above to etsy shop banners and graphic design (perfect for when you haven’t got the time or know how and you want to just get going). The graphics and photos are clear and attractive and the product descriptions are fun which makes them engaging.

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Sparkling Green Tea Hemp Oil soap

Etsy Shop Name: 4th Ave Soap Co

Website/Blog: None

CraftBoom! says: “The look of the shop front and the product photography combine to make the shop ooze style and quality. Tho photos are not only clear, but they are also works of art in themselves with a wonderful use of lighting and the props. The imagery and the language used in the product descriptions truly give the shop a boutique feel so naturally you assume the products are of a high quality too.”