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profitable tips for designers + indie retailers

by Sarah Von

Indie Boutiques:: Wellington, New Zealand

 

Wellington is the gorgeous, windy capitol of New Zealand.  With a population of only 300,000, the city still boasts tons of amazing cafes, bars and boutiques - and more coffee shops per capita than New York.  Wellington native and Cupcakes and Mace owner Kim Laurenson shares some of her favorite haunts with us.

 


I don't buy a lot of things, so when I do I'm glad to be in a city full of indie businesses, vintage clothing stores, and art made for the less traditional buyer.

 

Eyeball Kicks

 

Art to shock the eyeballs. Bright, graphic, and beautifully printed. Here you can buy framed or unframed prints of the kind of "lowbrow" art you'd expect to see in a grownup punk's house. Eyeball kicks also offers custom printing and framing.

 

Eyeball Kicks-  An Indie Boutique in Wellington, New Zealand

 

 

Wanda Harland

 

My go-to for gifts. Martha fills her store with quirky designs from NZ and around the world. You'll find anything from tea towels and tea pots to garden planters and stationery. It's worth the trip to Petone for a visit.

 

Wanda Harland-  An Indie Boutique in Wellington, New Zealand

 

Madame Fancy Pants

 

Madame Fancy Pants herself has been offering up a selection of the cutest jewellery, stationery, and clothing since 2007. New trinkets, and beauty products are added to the shelves all the time, and it's the only place in New Zealand to get Sublime Stitching goods in a store.

 

Madame Fancy Pants-  An Indie Boutique in Wellington, New Zealand

 

ALC Headquarters

 

If you love tattoos and streetwear you'll be right at home in ALC. As well as shoes and printed clothes ALC hosts a few of Wellington's best tattoo artists.

 

ALC Headquarters-  An Indie Boutique in Wellington, New Zealand

 

Emporium 103B Cuba Street

 

Fairly new to Cuba St, Emporium relocated to Wellington from Christchurch after the February 2011 earthquake. Emporium serves up cute vintage clothes and accessories mostly imported from the USA. Watch out if you're tall, many of the dresses have been hemmed to a more "modern length."

 

Emporium-  An Indie Boutique in Wellington, New Zealand

 

by Tara Swiger

MasterList:: How to Use Twitter

 

For the private, non-flashy amongst us, Twitter can be a bit of a mystery. It’s supposed to drive sales and create connections...but what in the world do I say?

 

This week I found three people that answer exactly that question for you:

 

Jane Hamill gets real and tells you not only what to say, but how to make actual sales from Twitter.

It’s a Must-Watch.

 

“Having a high follower count means nothing if they're unlikely to ever be interested in what you have to say, or sell.”

-Amelia, in How To Get Followers On Twitter When You are Just Trying To Make Sales

 

Ask questions to get input or crowdsource solutions. Looking for a recommendation for a nice restaurant? Want a review on a movie you’re thinking of seeing? Having trouble finding a piece of information you’re seeking? Ask. Chances are you’ll get responses that you’ll find helpful.

-James Howe

 

That’s how we use Twitter (are you following Vianza?) - we ask questions, share links to help you in your business and introduce you to our favorite designers and retailers.

 

How do you use Twitter? 

 

by Piper Toth

Find your Online Customers

 

So you opened up your online shop, hung out your shingle (so to speak) and did all the things you were “supposed to”, to find your online customers.

 

Guest posts on other blogs?  Check.

Store featured on blogs and online magazines?  Check.

Facebook page created?  Check.

Spending time daily doing the social media thing?  Check.

Advertisements on other blogs and magazines?  Check.

Writing your own blog?  Check.

 

And then you reach that point…where your traffic and customers hit that plateau.  And won’t budge.  And you start wondering…

 

WHERE ARE all the online shoppers hanging out? 

 

The thought becomes…well, I’ve done my part, I’ve set up all the online pages that I’m supposed to, got featured a few times, I’m writing my blog and keeping up with social media.  So how do I get past that plateau?  And then you ask again…

 

WHERE ARE all the online shoppers hanging out?

 

I don’t know about you, but I can count on one hand the number of friends I have who actually read blogs.  Or online magazines.  Or who have even been on Twitter.  Most of them have never even heard of Decor8 or Design*Sponge – um, what??  They’re like our rock stars! 

 

But here’s the thing – those same friends?  They ALL shop online.  Yep.  ALL.  So if they’ve never even heard of these blogs or magazines, how do we find them?

 

By getting offline.  It sounds strange and counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?  We’re online shops – why would we find customers offline?  Because that’s where they’re hanging out!  At work, at home, at events, at parties, at school functions, you name it!

 

So let’s brainstorm some ideas for showing off your online store:

 

1. Pop Up Shops – Connect with some local stores in your area to have an evening or weekend “pop up shop”.  You can team up with a business that you’re not in direct competition with so that you can cross-promote. (ex:  you have an online retail store – you can set up event with a local cupcake bakery)

 

2. Home Parties – Have some friends or local customers have a “shopping party”

 

3. Advertise in non-online magazines – especially local ones. People love to support their local businesses.

 

4. Look for press opportunities in local, non-online magazines & newspapers

 

5. Offer your goods for giveaway at events, school functions and clubs.

 

6. Speaking engagements – show off your expertise AND promote your business.

 

Okay, indie retail shop owners, let’s continue brainstorming!  What other ideas can you think of for finding where YOUR online shoppers are hanging out?

 

 

Photo by Vladimir Kukorenchuk on Photography Served



Piper Toth happily traded the corporate world for the online world when she opened her online boutique, one sydney road. She authors the blog of the same name where she waxes poetic on the crazy roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship!

by Mita Patnaik

Co-Create A Private Label + Differentiate Your Shop

 

Private label product is created in partnership between a retailer and a producer. This partnership allows both retailers and producers to get what they want. A retailer gets a product made to their specification, with their brand, and the producer can create something knowing it has a market. The new brand is sold as an alternative to one of the major brands.

 

Big retailers such as Walmart, Target and others have long used this model as a way to sell similar, private label merchandise as an alternative to some of the biggest brands they sell in their stores. The focus was on higher margins and smaller retail prices.

 

While private label started as a way to provide cheaper alternatives to national brands, it is now a strategy for differentiation. The modern private label partnership comes in two flavors. One has the retailers brand on the label, while the other is a form of co-branding, where the label says “Producer Brand, exclusively for Retailer.” The newer form of private label partnerships results in an exclusive line of products co-created by retailers and producers.

 

Target has been experimenting with this by partnering with established designers (Missoni for Target!). Indie retailers can do it with small batch artisans or producers and highlight their unique story.

 

The partnership of retailer and producer is necessary because each party needs something from the other in order to succeed.

 

The retailer needs products that offer value and are unique in order to satisfy their customer base. The producer needs access to the customer base of the retailers in order to actually sell their products.

 

When both parties understand the relationship, they are able to work together to grow each other’s businesses and profit. The future is  a model where retailers focus on selling products from small, independent producers and manufacturers. Buying widely-distributed branded goods and competing on price is not a sustainable long term strategy for most indie retailers.

 

You can use this same model in your tiny retail business, by partnering with your vendors to create an exclusive line just for your shop. There are a few Vianza users who are using the platform to do just that. They search through the catalogs, find products they like and then talk to the producer to create a product line just for them.

 

Examples of Private Label Deals in Retail

 

A variety of industries are experiencing a trend toward smaller producers as consumers focus on value and quality instead of just price.

 

Sperry Top-Sider Brand Expansion

 

Popular footwear retailer and producer Sperry Top-Sider announced an expansion into other areas. The brand has partnered with independent manufacturers and brands to produce watches, luggage, eyewear and other accessory items.

 

The move highlights the trend of popular retailers focusing on independent producers. For Sperry, the move means a more diverse offering for their current customer base.

 

There can be a limit to the top line sales with any business that is focused on one product. Sperry looks to expand their sales by offering complementary products that their current customers will use with their boat shoes.

 

Sperry understands that the other products are outside of their core knowledge. As a result, they are partnering with producers that need the power of a bigger brand in order to achieve sales growth. While Sperry is looking to established brands there is also room in many industries for retailers to partner with newer, less established producers. These small and independent producers often need the power of a relationship to successfully launch their product while a brand like Sperry can benefit from the innovation and freshness of the new producer.

 

Surf Shops Get Back to Basics

 

Surf brand Billabong recently announced the closing of 150 stores. This came as a shock for some while surf enthusiasts may have seen it coming.

 

It appears that Billabong lost focus on what their core customer base - dedicated surfers - needed and instead focused on the more general population. The loss of focus alienated the core base and resulted in an expansion that did not pay off.

 

Today, the desire is for niche producers of surf equipment. The core target customer wants the independent style of small producers of boards, wax, and other equipment and accessories. Surfers want value and believe that independent producers traditionally provide the best equipment. This is where the opportunity for independent producers and retailers is.

 

By offering some of the smaller, newer, independent brands in their stores, retailers can still serve their core customer while offering the most popular brands.

 

Balancing popular, well-known brands with independent brands is the biggest struggle for retailers in the retail world today. There is a need for both forms of merchandise. Even as the smaller brands gain acceptance with consumers, the larger brands are still needed. It’s hard to replace decades of branding effort established brands have created. There are still a lot of consumers that want well-known brands.

 

But in order to succeed today, retailers can also focus on smaller independent brands where there is more profit to be made while also serving a growing portion of the consumer population.

 

Next Steps for Indie Retailers

 

The next step is finding independent producers of products. The Internet has allowed many independent producers - artists, designers, etc. - to create websites for their brands. Social sharing websites like Pinterest and other niche sites allow these small producers to gain an audience for their products.

 

The first thing a retailer needs to do when meeting with independent producers is to make sure the value proposition is profit and growth for the producer as well. A true partnership with the producer will help retailers turn their dreams of owning their own product line a reality.

 

Independent producers often have the products customers are demanding, but the retailers have access to these consumers. The partnership is beneficial for both parties, but each has to give up something in order for everyone to succeed.

 

Now indie retailers can build these relationships via Vianza.

 

Request an invitation and start browsing our catalogs for small-batch producers that you could work with, to create co-branded products. Its a win win all around!

 

 

 

by Jen Wallace

Bloom: An Indie Boutique Maximizing The Window Display

 

One of the keys to attracting customers to your brick and mortar boutique is your store window display. Bloom, an eclectic and inviting specialty boutique featuring indie made goods, understands just how important the window display is. With a background in fine art and design , owner/operator  Mimi Sullivan-Sparks may have an advantage over the rest of us, but we can all take a page from her book.

 

The overwhelming effect one feels when taking in Bloom’s window display is that part enchanted forest, part whimsical museum exhibit, part Versailles during Marie Antoinette's rein, and part work of art. It’s eye-catching and most folks walking down the street in Newark, Delaware (where the store is located) can’t help but sneak a peek.

 

Mimi updates her window seasonally, both to incorporate new products but to also provide a seasonal backdrop for which to curate those products. She also incorporates plenty of art, craft and diy in her displays that help to make them more than run of the mill.

 

Additionally, she uses props to complement Bloom's window displays---many of the items she uses are from her own home, which I imagine must be quite a showcase. Past displays have included: the most gorgeous chandeliers; a cast iron rooster; a toadstool table; birch branches, driftwood, starfishes and other natural elements; crystals; beaded curtains and more. Pretty much anything you can imagine, Mimi has incorporated into her displays.

 

One of the most endearing elements of Bloom's window displays is the way in which Mimi does blend natural materials with man-made goodies. Her displays come off looking more like a movie set of an alternative universe where gorgeous Jonathan Adler ceramics really do grow from trees! If that world exists, I want to step into that looking glass. Or, I could always just visit Bloom.

 



Jen Wallace shares her indie life over at IndieFixx where she writes about making, creating, cooking, learning, playing, loving, and pretty much anything else that strikes her fancy. 

by Sarah Von

How To Get Followers On Twitter When You are Just Trying To Make Sales

 

Amelia divides time between quaffing as much green tea as humanly possibly, promoting a small publishing haus cum bookshop and herding cats writers at Silence Cupcake. Follow these exploits on twitter!


We're told, or someone said once, that people don't like to be sold things. This is a barefaced lie. People want to buy things, so long as it's what they're looking for. When it comes to Twitter, people expect conversation. So how can you make your sales-based stream engaging?

 

Who Follows You? Who Do you Follow?

 

Does your current Twitter following match your ideal customer base? Are you following potential clients? Did you set up an auto-follow app (based on keyword, or location) and now find yourself following all the members of the local cycling club when you specialise in personalised china cat sculptures?

 

Having a high follower count means nothing if they're unlikely to ever be interested in what you have to say, or sell.

 

When I started out tweeting for my bookshop cum publishing house, I followed every London-based person who followed the London Review of Books. They were already interested in books, and they lived in the area. I say 'everyone' but that would have taken hours. Every afternoon, for a week, I spent an hour finding people to follow on Twitter, who were following accounts with similar interests to ours. Book review magazines. AmnestyUK. Larger bookshops. This takes some personal legwork, but these people will turn out to be your champions.

 

Why should they Follow you back though?

 

The first thing your followees will do is click through to your stream. If all they see is “buy, buy, buy”, it's unlikely they'll click that all-important follow button.

 

Nowadays, we're used to content-based marketing. You've probably seen it with bloggers who write about their daily doings, inspirations, interviews, and then BAM, they've got a book coming out and it's a bestseller, before it's even published. How can you emulate this with your Twitter stream?

 

Tweet opinions, facts, tips, feelings.

 

Are you facing a busy day? Let your Twitter stream know. Excited about getting thirteen boxes of buttons packed and shipped? Tell them how you got it done. Trying a new carving technique? Enlighten us. When people feel as if they're gaining something, information or entertainment, they're more likely to want to hear from you. Don't have time to tweet constantly? Take a few minutes in the morning and use an app like HootSuite or Twuffer to schedule tweets throughout the day.

 

This can turn one-sided though, so engage! Converse with people who don't follow you yet. Let them know why you want to Follow them (“Your opinions about how cats are better than dogs blow me away!”). Thank everyone who follows – that's just polite.

 

We got a great response when I asked new followers if they planned to come to any of our upcoming events. People asked when they were, they RSVPd via Twitter. Do you have anything your potential followers can immediately engage with?

 

 Ask them if you'll see them at the next Trade Fair, how they got reviewed in China Cats Monthly, what they're doing about the postage price hike. Debate with that china dogs boutique two streets over about which is better, cats or dogs. Encourage your followers to pitch in. Turn it into a hashtag party! Offer a free piece of cat china to whoever comes up with the best reason that cats are better than dogs.  People want to feel a part of something, not just a coin-purse to be marketed at.

 

All of this sounds like a lot of hard work, and starting up will take some time and effort.

 

Eventually, fresh faces will start Following you, Tweeters will start to recommend your stream, you'll be touted as one-to-follow.  And your Followers will be so, terribly, grateful when you tweet that picture of the latest cat figurine (only $59.99!), on display in the window, and ask them to name it. 

 


Sarah Von is a Vianza contributing columnist and interview wrangler.  If you follow her on Twitter, you’ll be privy to all sort of tweets about small business, good ideas and, um, cheese.

 

by Tara Swiger

Masterlist: Process + Prototype

 

Earlier this week I tweeted a great article from Fast Co, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about. How do you know what your customer wants? How do you choose what to create next?

Here’s a round-up of advice on figuring out to what to make and developing a process.

 

 “People don’t want quarter-inch drills--they want quarter-inch holes.”

 

- 3 Ways To Predict What Consumers Want Before They Know It

 

 

“As you continue to grow and make more products, your time becomes more valuable. Have you ever considered that being smarter about your creative process can actually allow you to be more creative? As a professional, I use a set framework called a design process. It’s a set of milestones that gets projects moving, but more so gets your mind moving. As a whole it provides a framework to bring ideas to life.”

 

Christine Marcelino, What is your process?

 

 

Protoype, prototype, prototype.

Prototyping and iteration is key to transforming a so-so idea into a game-changing product. Rather than being discouraged by your “failures,” listen closely and learn from them. Then build a new prototype. Then do it again.

-10 Laws of Productivity

 



Tara Swiger  is our Community Concierge, a crafter of independence, and a Starship Captain. She’s right in the middle of a writing a book on Marketing your IndieBiz and she’d love to distract herself by hanging out with you on Twitter

 

by Tara Swiger

Online Promotions That’ll Have Customers Cheering

 

This is a guest post by Piper Toth. Piper happily traded the corporate world for the online world when she opened her online boutique, one sydney road. She authors the blog of the same name where she waxes poetic on the crazy roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship!

 

I don't know about you but I hate being "sold" to. Just about as much as I dislike having to "sell" to customers. I'm sure they go hand in hand but all I know is that I want to run screaming anytime I have to venture foot inside a car or phone dealership. It's such a hard sell - and let's be honest - not very pleasurable for the customer (ahem, me!)  Which gives marketing & selling a bad name...and causes us indie biz owners to want to avoid "selling" or "marketing" like the plague.

 

 

It doesn't have to be a hard sell.

 

That’s the beauty of owning your own business – you get to decide what feels right for you. In fact, it doesn't even have to feel like you're selling at all! (okay, yes, you are still "selling" but you can take the ickiness out of the word!) One of the best bits of advice that I received as I was starting my online boutique was this..."how are you helping your customers?"

 

Well, that certainly changes things, doesn't it? 

If we look at marketing as a way to help our customers, doesn't that take all the pressure off? (Not to mention, the icky factor?) 

 

 

To help you start thinking outside of the box when it comes to marketing, I'll share with you an event I did for my own online store over the holidays. I created an online event called "60 Days of Wanderlust" where the mission was to provide my customers a chance to "travel & find gifts from around the world all from the comfort of their own home". Sounds pretty cool, right?  Guess what though?  It’s marketing & selling!

 

I didn’t start with marketing and selling as my end goal.

 

I started with a simple question: “What would my customers like & find helpful during the holidays?”

 

A bit of brainstorming led me to a couple things... customers are stressed during the holidays and in need of help with finding unique gifts. Well, that I CAN HELP them with!

 

So I created a way to provide them with an escape during the frantic pace of the holidays (dreaming of far away places) and a solution to their gifting needs (unique items from artists around the world)

 

By getting bloggers & artists from 8 different cities around the world to participate by sharing their city with us through pictures and places they’d take us, not only did it create buzz from customers but the bloggers & artists got into the spirit of it as well! Buzz was generated through social media without me constantly prompting it. Customers loved seeing the new city guide each week and getting to know more about each artist.

 

 

Is it marketing & selling?  Sure, absolutely - but in a way that actually benefits your customers. You're just helping them (again back to that word "helping"!) find that gorgeous pillow from Cape Town that’s perfect for their Mom and giving them a much needed escape to that city as well!

 

So indie biz owners, I challenge you to start thinking outside the box when coming up with ideas for marketing. Don't think of it as "how am I going to market this bowl?"  Instead, think to yourself "How can I help my customer?" 

 

Feel free to share your “outside the box” thoughts & ideas below!

 

passport design: we heart paper

 

 

by Tara Swiger

Top 10 Articles for Design Business

 

 

You don’t have to have an MBA to run a smart, scalable design business.

 

What you need is a little simplicity. The smoothness of a big company’s supply chain, at a scale that works for you, your suppliers and your retailers. Less time managing orders, more time making  something great. Collaboration, co-creation, sustainable sourcing. These are your next growth points.

 

We’ve been writing this blog for one year (today’s our anniversary!) with that in mind, with you and your growing business at the center.

In the last year we’ve collected a range of advice to help you do just that. But with 5 posts a week, some of our best work has drifted deep into the archives. Today, let’s revisit the best.

 

Top 10 articles for your design business

 

1. Define Success

 

2. Scaling Production

 

3. Growing Past DIY: Part1, Part2

 

4. Three Steps to More Purposeful Online Marketing: Part1, Part2, Part3

 

5. Are You Self-Employed, or an Entrepreneur?

 

6. You Get What You Measure: What Metrics Should An Indie Business Track?

 

7. How to Write Your Own Press Release

 

8. Taking It To The Next Level: From Competition To Co-Creation

 

9. Break the bootstrapping cycle:: to make more money,quit cheapin’ out on your business

 

10. Sell Your Work To Boutiques: Free eBook

 

What have you learned in the last year?

Share it in the comments!

 

 

by Tara Swiger

How to get featured on blogs: 10 full surefire tips for your pitch

 

This is a guest post by Jen Wallace. She shares her indie life over at Indie Fixx where she writes about making, creating, cooking, learning, playing, loving, and pretty much anything else that strikes her fancy.

 

Every independent designer knows that a mention on a big name blog can be a make it moment, but how to get bloggers to notice your shop?

 

You could wait around for bloggers to come across your shop while they wade through the Internet, or you could reach out to them.

It's called the “pitch”, and the most important thing to remember is that pitching your shop is just like dating—you wouldn't go on a date in curlers, so don't pitch as if you were in curlers.

Here's a few ideas for how to send an email pitch to bloggers that will stand out from the cacophonous amount of submissions they receive.

 

Do keep it short

Bloggers are not going to read a long email. 2-3 short paragraphs tops.

 

Do get to the point quickly

Again bloggers are a fickle bunch and if you don't grab their attention in the first sentence or two, you will lose them.

 

Do offer suggestions on how bloggers can make a story out of you.

Do you have a unique story? Work as a chemist by day, but feel the call to letterpress by night? Do you use a  unique material or process? Did you study your craft at the hands of an Italian master? Share this!

 

Do make sure to include a link to your online shop.

 

Do include 1-2 small images of your goods with your pitch

Make sure the photography is stellar though. It does not matter how wonderful your products are in person, bloggers will not feature them without fantastic photos.

 

Do not send out a pitch to every blog in your feed reader.

Instead, do take the time to choose a handful of blogs that really fit the aesthetic of your products and approach those blogs only.

 

Do take the time to learn the blogger's name 

and make sure to show that you are familiar with their blog.

 

Do offer to share a guest post on the blog, if appropriate.

Many blogs feature guest bloggers and are looking for DIY and tutorial projects, studio tours as well as other posts. It does help if you have a blog to offer up as an example.

 

Do make sure to include an about page or bio section in your shop.

If a blogger decides to feature you based on your email pitch, they may need more info as filler. It's possible that they may decide they need this info at 3 in the morning for the next day's post. If you don't have additional info available, the blogger may move onto shop that does. Most blogs do have an editorial calendar, but you might be surprised at the number of posts that are written at the last minute.

 

Finally, do not get discouraged if you do not hear back from a blogger you have sent an email pitch to...they may be saving your shop for a rainy day.

 

 

Share your tips in the comments!

 

Image: mambol

 

 

why do so many product lines fail? Too many designers, indie retailers, & suppliers rely on creativity alone—and guesswork. This blog is all about taking the guesswork out of making what you love, so you can make a living. With tips! And checklists! Read more about our not-so-covert mission.

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