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Design

The People Feeder: A Charming New Way to Serve Snacks in Style

November 24, 2015

People Feeder | UncommonGoods

The People Feeder

Colorful feeders dot the landscape below as you soar above; you swoop down for a quick bite. A passing bird, you need just perch and eat, with gravity doing the work as you nibble to your heart’s content. The snacking freedom birds enjoy with bird feeders inspired us when we first considered Francine Zajac’s design, intended to facilitate a similar fly-by snacking with her glass and ceramic concept.

Francine is a potter of over 30 years, and had been producing her own feeder snacker with a ceramic base and repurposed mason jar. The design was simple but effective, employing gravity to direct candy down through the mason jar, the ceramic chimney, and out through the arched opening, filling the dish with just enough to enjoy a handful while ensuring an even flow after each sampling.

People Feeder - Zajac original design | UncommonGoodsWe sought to re-imagine Francine’s design by incorporating sleek and clean lines and components, and providing enough capacity for even the most ravenous snackers. In doing so we needed to identify the attributes important in making the original design functional and effective. As Production Manager, I was tasked with working as a liaison between our design team and our manufacturer of the item, to ensure that our design was both appealing and executable.

With such a unique item, both in form and function, much thought went into balancing the impact and function of the item with how it is made and the capabilities and limitations of ceramic, a medium that can be notoriously tricky to predict after it goes into a kiln.

We started the design process from the top down with the glass cylinder. Its selection was important, as we needed something lightweight that showcased the snack. The separate glass cylinder also allows for a simple and straightforward way to fill and clean the feeder. From there, we considered how the base would be shaped and how it would function in conjunction with the glass piece.

People Feeder base | UncommonGoods
The base would employ a ceramic chimney similar to Francine’s but provide a deep shelf to adequately hold and maintain the clear cylinder. The base of our Feeder also took into consideration the need to manage the amount of snacks fed at any given point, so as not to drain the cylinder and flood the saucer. We originally conceived the bottom saucer as having a vertical, 90 degree angle lip to keep the snacks from flowing over the edge when entering the saucer. However in testing the sloped edge saucer, we found that it wasn’t necessary. The snacks did not flow over, yet were easier to grasp at then they would be with a vertical lip.

Our first prototype worked fairly well. We found the capacity ideal and the gravity fed the M&Ms we tested nicely, providing just enough of a handful at a time. But things were complicated when we tried other snacks. Peanut M&Ms, for example, were easily crowded at the exit point of the chimney, bottlenecking to the point that none were able to escape. A wider opening was the clear solution, but not too wide that a smaller candy would completely pour out.

People Feeder prototype bases | UncommonGoods

Our revision worked very well, allowing for candies both large and small to successfully pass through while collecting in the dish. With a design successfully worked out, our final step was selecting the right color. We chose a warm, white glaze that would fit well in most decors, as well as a bold red, reminiscent of a similar, nostalgic dispenser of candies: the gumball machine.

Fill and enjoy!

People Feeder | UncommonGoods

See the Collection | UncommonGoods

Design

How Our Makers Prepare for the Holidays

November 23, 2015

As purveyors of cool and unusual gifts for any occasion it is no surprise that the holiday season is UncommonGoods’ busiest time of the year. But, we’re not alone. Research firm eMarketer predicts holiday sales to grow 5.7% this year which will be the biggest jump in sales since 2011. This estimated jump in sales means that online retailers like us have to work even harder this year to make sure we are prepared for the influx of business the season will bring. A busy season for us also means a busy season for the artists and designers we work with. We talked to two of our makers to learn how they prepare their businesses for the holidays and deal with holiday stress.

rsz_1jill_henrietta_davis

 Jill Henrietta Davis in her studio with units of her Birthstone Wishing Balls ready to send out this holiday season.

 

Jill Henrietta Davis, Owner & Designer, Henrietta Glass

In both business and life generally, I try to avoid stress by being prepared well in advance of deadlines. We were delighted to start making the Wishing Balls for our holiday purchase order (PO) in July, so that we’d be done early and have plenty time to fulfill additional orders. I deal with stress by making lists, counting things, and playing in whatever supplies might prove helpful in dealing with whatever’s causing the stress. The fourth quarter is a real love/hate time for us in the studio. The increased volume of sales is exciting and great for the ego, but when a new design turns out to be more successful than I could have even imagined and is selling faster than we can make them then the stress gets pretty intense.

We have tally-boards in the shop so everyone can see exactly where we are and what most needs to be done. You get to put a star down when a category is completed. It sounds silly, but that star feels just as good as an adult as it did as a little kid getting back a good paper at school.

I also makes lists…every day and sometimes more than one. My lists alleviate stress by reducing the worry that I’ll forget something, by making concrete the many things that need to be done and by providing tangible proof of progress.  I hardly ever “finish” a list because I typically transfer the last few things to a new list. Every time I cross something off I enjoy the illusion that it is possible to finish the list and that all these tasks are completely manageable.

One last funny thing: Being an uber-recycler, I make many of my lists on the backs of envelopes. Being a little superstitious, I choose envelopes that held checks, or good news, or came from people I like. Probably doesn’t matter, but hey, it can’t hurt!

 

Mary Kearns_Fotor

Mary Kearns last year with the first round of holiday season shipping boxes ready to send off to UncommonGoods.

Mary Kearns, President & Founder, Herban Lifestyle, LLC 

Like many makers, the holiday season is by far my busiest time of year, a concentrated few weeks filled with deadlines for making products, vending at craft shows and fulfilling orders. As you know, making this all work smoothly can be incredibly fun but also incredibly stressful!

There are some things I’ve found help me get through those intense few weeks:

  1. I make sure that I have extra help available.
  2. I delegate as much as I can at home and at work.
  3. I try to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep each night so that my head is clear and I have the energy to plow through each day.
  4. I meditate regularly – just 5 to 20 minutes five days a week, but it’s enough to keep things in perspective for me.
  5. I try to get in some form of relaxing exercise a couple of days a week, like yoga or hiking.
  6. I try to carve out some time for fun and relaxation each week with friends and family, to take my mind off of the endless to-do lists running through my mind; and finally,
  7. Every year from December 25 to January 2, I take time off to spend with my family. Knowing that I will have that uninterrupted time to relax, unwind, and have fun keeps me going through the most intense days leading up to that time!

 

We want to hear from you! What are some things you do to combat holiday stress?

Design

5 Tips to Get Your Products Featured in the Media

November 4, 2015

Nothing helps catapult your brand and products into the public eye more than being featured in a national print magazine. As a product-based business owner or designer, it can seem overwhelming to try to get your product featured in magazines. It may even seem that editors have to find YOU, but it often works the other way around – you have to find THEM and pitch them your story.

Here are five ways to get your products featured!

How to Tell Your Story

1. Tell a Story

What the media really want is stories! Whether you sell jewelry, greeting cards, natural baby toys, storage containers or mugs, the media is mostly interested in one thing – your story – and more specifically, how your story fits into their readers’ lifestyles. If you only think in terms of press releases, you probably won’t be able to complete with the sheer number of other small business vying for the media’s attention. The old model of writing a press release and using a wire to distribute it is no longer as effective as it used to be.

Instead, think about your products and then browse some of the magazines that you’d like your products to be featured in. Think outside the box, too, and consider trade magazines, regional and local magazines and digital magazines, not just the large national magazines. Then, browse the pages or websites of the magazines you think your products would be a great fit for and think about what section of the magazine would be the best fit for your products.

2. Make a List

Your first step is to make a list of media you want to see feature your products this year. Think about every type of magazine and, if you sell your products to retailers, don’t forget to include the trade magazines. While these magazines have lower circulation rates, they often land directly in the hands of a very important target market: retailers.

Next, browse each publication’s website or back issues to learn if they’re a good fit for your products. Look at the types of stories each publication runs and the products it features to decide if it’s a good fit for you.

Calendar

3. Get to Know Their Story

Many magazines publish their editorial calendars on their websites for advertisers, but anyone can download them. Editorial calendars are a wealth of information as they often describe the ideal reader, themes for each issue and publishing deadlines. You can also find them plugging the search term “Publication Title + Editorial Calendar” into Google.

Gather contact information for each publication you want to reach and the editor working on the section of the magazine you want to be featured in. This information is often listed in the magazine’s masthead (the list of employees at the front of the issue) or on the publication’s website (try the “About Us” and “Contact Us” sections). When in doubt, simply call the magazine and ask.

It’s also important to research the publication’s editors, so you know who to direct your pitch to. Find someone who has written the kind of story you want to be featured in and direct your pitch to them. See what kind of articles they write and how your business could fit into it. A quick Twitter search could help you learn more about a specific editor. You can also see if they have an online portfolio to find out what other publications they write for that your business may be a fit for. This will help you foster a mutually beneficial one-on-one relationship with the editor.

Magazines

4. Pitch Your Story

Write a story pitch for each publication, keeping in mind what you learned from the back issues and the editorial calendars. The more targeted and personalized your pitch is to the publication’s needs, the more likely you are to receive coverage.

While your research and pitch are important steps to getting coverage, this last one may be the most important. So many entrepreneurs assume that if they don’t hear back from the media immediately it means no one is interested. This simply isn’t the case.

Pitches should be focused and to the point, like an elevator pitch in written form. Also, reiterate why your idea is relevant to the publication’s readers. Bonus points if you connect it with content they have written already to show how it fits and to demonstrate that you’ve done your research.

Keep in mind that you should make sure your “request” (the main point) is clearly stated at the beginning of your pitch and also in the subject line. Remember that editors sometimes get hundreds of pitches per day, so you want to make sure you’re compelling them to 1.) Open your email and 2.) Not zone out and stop reading before they’ve gotten to your point.

5. Follow Up

One of the most important lessons you can learn as an maker or designer is that following up is crucial to any business contact you want to make, whether you’re contacting a magazine or a potential wholesale customer.

About a week after you send your initial pitch, send a quick follow up email. If you still don’t get a response when you follow up, that doesn’t mean that the editor is not interested in your products. It can mean that they are not interested right now or, many times, they can pass on your info to an editor who is working on a story that might be a better fit.

It makes sense to reach out to them again a few months later, but this time with a different story idea and pitch. Persistence and follow up are key!

Dave at the 2015 UncommonGoods Holiday Showcase

UncommonGoods’ CEO Dave Bolotsky chatting with editors from Martha Stewart Living.

A Few Things to Remember

When pitching journalists and editors, keep in mind that they are busy people, just like you. If you don’t hear back, don’t take it personally. Move on and contact them at a later date with a new story idea.

Don’t forget about the importance of being everywhere! Selling through an online store or catalog like UncommonGoods can bring you even more press. While you have to do a lot outreach initially, magazines are always on the lookout for the latest and greatest products, too. They constantly scour product websites and online stores, so working with brands can mean even more press for your products!

With some elbow grease, research, and determination, you can experience the thrill of seeing your products in one of your favorite magazines.

 

Andreea Ayers | Launch Grow Joy Andreea Ayers is a serial entrepreneur who loves PR! She started an eco-friendly t-shirt business in 2007 and sold more than 20,000 tees
in four years before she sold her business. Since 2011, she has been working with other product-based entrepreneurs helping them get their products in the media, including O, The Oprah Magazine, Yoga Journal, Self, Organic Spam, and more. Her mission is to make PR less intimidating and more affordable for entrepreneurs who are ready to share the spotlight in print magazines.

You can find her at www.launchgrowjoy.com

Design

Maker Mentors Holiday: How to Make Your Holiday Season a Success!

September 14, 2015

Maker Mentors Holiday

Last spring we were super excited to team up with the folks at Maker Mentors to offer webinars with a few of the artists we work with here at UncommonGoods. We heard some great feedback about the online conference, so when we heard that the event is back for a one-day pre-holiday maker education extravaganza, we couldn’t wait to get on board.

Maker Mentors Holiday is September 19. The online conference will focus on helping makers make the 2015 holiday season a success and features 10 live-streamed sessions. (Including one with me, where I’ll talk about storytelling and content creation.)

Register now with the code UNCOMMONGOODS for $25 off, and don’t forget to sign up for the Maker Mentors newsletter for more from the Maker Mentors community.

Design

How to Cultivate a Positive Workspace

September 4, 2015

Editor’s note: When we visited jewelry artist Jen Pleasants for a Studio Tour earlier this year, we knew we’d found a special place we wanted to tell everyone about. “I could really feel and see the love she built within her surroundings,” said our contributor, Emily, after spending some time with the artist.

We asked Jen to share her favorite tips for turning a workspace into a place filled with creativity, happy thoughts, and positive energy.

Jen Pleasants | UncommonGoods

I guess something about the showtheLOVE studio feels good to people– which is why I was asked to write this article, even though I am in no way an expert on the topic.

If you walk into work and you feel good just being in that space, then you are more likely to put good energy into whatever you are working on. If you are an artist making things for others to enjoy, this becomes especially important.

Below you will find two lists of ideas for cultivating a positive workspace – one more mainstream and the other more out there. Pick and choose items as you please that might work for improving your space!

Jen Pleasants' Studio | UncommonGoods

10 Basic Ideas for Promoting a Positive Workspace

1. Hire people who are positive, happy, and kind

If for some reason you accidentally get a bad egg, don’t hesitate to let them go and skip to my second set of advice to remove bad energy.

Go into the World and Do Good

2. Hang inspirational posters on the walls

I love inspirational quotes and love to surround myself with them. Some of the ones hanging in my office are:

-Change your thoughts, change your world
-You are looking particularly good today
-Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn
-Somewhere over the rainbow
-If you work really hard and are kind amazing things will happen
-Everything will be okay
-What would you do if you knew you would not fail?
-The only zen you will find at the top of the mountain is the zen you bring up there
-Live what you love
-Give and be happy
She believed she could, so she did

Inspirational Quotes

3. Speak kind words

Try not to gossip or speak ill of people in the space you want to keep clear. One of my favorite quotes is by Hafiz, “The words you speak build the house you live in.”

Be Kind

4. Burn candles

This helps the office smells good without toxins. (Which is why I use beeswax candles with essential oils, not synthetic fragrances.) It also creates a peaceful atmosphere because something about candles is magical. Just don’t forget to blow them out before you leave!

Beeswax Candles

5. Remove clutter

It is so obvious that a clutter-free environment feels better. Having said that, this is the one that I have the hardest time with. I am a pack rat and want to turn everything into an art project and don’t have an organized bone in my body. This one is really challenging, though I always feel better when I finally pick up my messes!

Computer Space

6. Provide good healthy snacks and drinks.

Fresh organic fruits and nuts are good, though I am partial to dark chocolate and tea too.

Jen with Elwood the Rainbow Unicorn Mug

7. Hang a team mission statement or manifesto on the wall

I haven’t done this yet but I think it is good idea! Instead, I have #8 posted on my wall.

8.Keep a copy of the Desiderata–or any poem or sentiment that speaks to you–on hand

I have posted this special poem on my bulletin board and anytime I start getting upset I look at it and it brings me back to what is important “…for you are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars, and whether or not it is clear to you now, the universe is unfolding as it should”.

Desiderata

9. Avoid indoor air pollution

Office space can be polluted by plastic off-gassing, asbestos, radon, mold, pesticides, etc. Be acutely aware of any products you bring into your space that might be a culprit. We use natural cleaning products and pesticides. Sick employees don’t foster a positive workplace!

Open Door

10. Surround yourself with live plants

Not only does this create a peaceful feeling of being in nature, but the plants also clean the air! Oh, and they are beautiful decorations too, making the space a happier one to be in just from a pure aesthetic level.

Indoor Plants

10 Things That Only a Half Hocus Pocus/Half Crazy Person Will Do to Create Good Ju Ju in an Office– A.K.A. How to Remove BAD ENERGY from an Office (CAUTION: The list below might not be up your alley, but it has worked for me!)

1.Keep on hand a magic selenite wand

I have one on my desk and I use it to clear negative energy from me or anyone who needs it. I just use it like the security guy at the airport uses the wand to check for metal. I slowly wave or rub it across the person or myself including my head and shoulders until I feel cleansed! Selenite works well to clear people and promotes mental flexibility. Black tourmaline is also said to clear negative energy.
Selenite Wand

2. Post sign at front of office that says “Take responsibility  for the energy you bring into this space”

I love my sign but don’t always have the nerve to put it at the front door, so sometimes it is hidden back by my desk.

You are responsible...

3. Burn white sage

When we need to remove negative energy we do what many cultures before us have done and burn dried white sage to get rid of bad energy! It smells so good and the ritual itself just puts everyone in a better mood as we are being proactive!

4. Combine salt and Saint George’s sword

Cut the leaves of the plant Saint George’s sword  (also known as snake plant) and put them in a jar of half water and half salt (maybe 7 teaspoons salt). Hide the jars behind doors and under desks. This keeps bad spirits at bay, according to my Brazilian friend Ju Ju, who has the best ju ju! We do this a couple times of year.

Change Your Thoughts-Change the World

5. Play new age music

You will feel like you are in spa and all is well. Monk chanting is good too. Both of these choices are only to be done if you are trying to rid negative vibes not if you are in regular work mode. High frequency music is recommended by some too, though it gives me a headache. Most of the time we have on a variety of top 40, reggae, or R&B, just to keep the environment fun and relaxed.

6. Spray essential oils

Take some drops of essential oils and mix with water in a spray bottle, and then spray away (not near computers). Use basil oil to stimulate the conscious mind to invoke happiness or lavender oil to calm and relieve nervous anxiety. Sometimes if I don’t have a spray bottle, I put it on my wrists and rub!

Essential Oils

7. Open windows

Fresh air can make a world of difference; especially in a small office.

Open Window

8. Plant some rue outside your office or studio

On our office deck, we have some rue. It’s supposed to purify the environment and it clears the mind of negative thoughts and energy. And  it smells good! Plant with some rosemary in the same pot for extra potency.

Rue

9. Light a Himalayan salt lamp

I love my lamp and in addition to giving off a warm peaceful light, it gives off negative ions, which supposedly are a really positive thing!

Salt Lamp

10. Wear meditative charms

Like our Tibetan Bell to remind you to think good thoughts! Wear it and do great things!™

Tibetan Bell Necklace by Jen Pleasants | UncommonGoods

If you have tips for making your workspace a happy place, share them in the comments!