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Maker Resources

Maker Resources

5 Things No One Tells You about Starting a Business

May 17, 2016

*Editor’s note: Whether you’re just starting out or have been running your small business for a while now, you’re probably no stranger to the unexpected challenges that tend to pop up from time to time. Designer, entrepreneur, and author of the book How to Create Your Own Jewelry Line, Emilie Shapiro, shares her advice for working through a few of the trickier things about running a creative business.

 

Business is the Keyword in Jewelry Business

A business without a goal is just a hobby. Owning a jewelry business is much more than making pretty things. The biggest difference between running a business and engaging in a hobby is the goal; you’re running a business to make money. More and more people are pursuing the life of entrepreneurship and becoming their own bosses. Being a designer and a creator is an amazing gift, but when you decide to become a business owner, your main goal is to make money.

There are a lot of difficult decisions and many hats that you have to wear every day, especially if you are a one woman shop. Accounting, sales, customer service, production management, shipping & handling – all things that are part of running a small business. Running a business is not for everyone. It requires a lot of persistence and ambition. As a craft business owner, you are focusing on efficiency over creativity. Making jewelry is just one small part of running a jewelry business.

As an artist, there is a tendency to make decisions based on feelings and intuition. As a successful businessperson, it is necessary to make decisions based on rational calculation. I like to strike a happy medium between the two.

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Maker Resources

4 Tips for Responsible Materials and Supplier Sourcing

May 10, 2016

How to Take the Leap from Maker To Business Owner

As the Senior Production Manager here at UncommonGoods, my job is to oversee the connection of design ideas with manufacturing resources to create new products.

Thomas Edison claimed that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. From my experience, product development warrants a formula of its own. To carry an idea through to a finished product you should start with a spark of inspiration, then add in equal parts diligence and thoughtfulness, especially when it comes to sourcing.

I’ve pulled together the following considerations for responsible material and supplier sourcing inspired by my experience partnering with our makers on new product development. I hope these thoughts will help other small business owners navigate the rough waters of sourcing.

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Maker Resources

5 Things You Need to Know Before Selling Your Designs Online

May 4, 2016

As a creator of original designs or handmade products you’ve tackled the most important part of your business, what to sell. Now you find yourself taking on new questions that may be harder to answer. You’re starting to ask, “Where can I sell my handmade items?” and inevitably “How do I sell my designs online?” We’re happy to answer your first question and encourage you to check out our submission page, but before you click that link, take some time to think about whether your product is ready for retail.

 

Designing the Milkyway Scarf

Ali Bennaim and Ximena Chouza working on their Cat’s Paw Nebula Lightweight Wool Scarf

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Maker Resources

5 Ways to Attract Retail Buyers to Your Brand

March 16, 2016

attract retail buyers

*Editor’s note: For many artists, the idea of approaching retail buyers can seem intimidating. We’ve tapped Emilie Shapiro, jewelry designer, instructor and author of the new book, How to Create Your Own Jewelry Line, to share some ideas that budding entrepreneurs can use to attract retail buyers to their brand. 

 

1. Design a Marketable Collection

Whether you are starting from scratch or have created hundreds of pieces, making a collection is very different from designing just one piece. Designing a collection is about translating one design into many different forms. For example, when creating a jewelry collection, you should be able to translate a design for a ring into a necklace, earrings and a bracelet. Every customer will gravitate toward a certain type of piece. Some customers love rings and that is all they buy while other customers want pieces that go together. Retail buyers for a wholesale account will typically want to present the full collection so there is something for everyone.

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Maker Stories

Inside the Artists’ Studios: A Year of Creativity

January 8, 2016

Inside the Artists' Studios | UncommonGoods

One of the most exciting things about serving as Editor of The Goods is that there’s always a Maker Story right around the corner. I am honored to get opportunities to meet talented artists, to see what they make and how they make it, and– when I’m extra lucky– to actually step inside their creative spaces. Over the past year, I had the pleasure of visiting several artists and seeing them in action, as did a few of our blog contributors, photographers, and buyers.  

From woodworking to weaving to jewelry making and beyond, we saw so much creativity last year that we couldn’t help but give our 2015 Studio Tours one more chance to shine before heading out with cameras and notepads to capture more inspirational moments in the year to come. Here are a few hand-picked highlights from those Studio Tours, complete with a few inspirational quotes, photos that made me want to drop everything and start a new creative project on the spot, and plenty of great advice. 

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Maker Resources

Jewelry Designer Jacqueline Stone Talks Design Inspiration and Tackling To-do Lists

December 9, 2015

We caught up with JCK Design Ambassador Jacqueline Stone to learn why she believes it is important to support other designers. Jacqueline is one of several members on the JCK Events team made up of industry insiders that have come together to ensure that each JCK event is flawlessly executed. She is also the lead designer and founder of Brooklyn-based fine jewelry company, Salt + Stone, so we tapped her to share her perspective as a designer with us. In part two of our interview, Jacqueline talks about where her design inspiration comes from and her secret to tackling a never-ending to-do list.

Missed the first part of our interview? Check it out here.

saltandstoneig_Fotor_Collage

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Maker Resources

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?

Maker Resources

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

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