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by Sarah Von

Indie Boutique Guide: Twin Cities

 

The Twin Cities are stuffed to the gills with cute boutiques, tucked-away bars and fantastic music venues.  After all, Minnesota was named Americas most hipsterful state in 2010.  Here are five of Minneapolis/St. Paul’s sweetest little independent shops!


I Like You

 

Don’t you want to call them just to hear them answer the phone?  I Like You is stocked with jewelry, art and gifts handmade by local artists.  It’s also just a block from everyone’s favorite Greek bistro The Gardens of Salonica

 

I like You: A boutique in Twin Cities

 

 

Patina

 

Patina is a Twin Cities matron, with six locations in the metro area.  Since 1993 this perfectly curated gift shop has been selling books, linens, jewelry, fragrances and pretty much everything you’ve ever wanted for your birthday.

 

 

Patina: A boutique in the Twin Cities

 


Primp

 

Just a year and a half old, Primp offers a boutique experience at very reasonable prices.  Shoppers can check out sweet little party dresses, drapey tops and cool shoes - all priced at under $100.

 

 

Primp: A boutique in the Twin Cities

 

 

 

Karma


Don’t let Karma’s tiny space fool you - every single piece behind that neon pink door is drool-worthy.  Dresses in interesting prints, jewelry from all over the world and colorful purses are all nearly irresistible.

 

 

Karma: A Boutique in the Twin Cites

 

 

 

The Bibelot Shops

 

Another veteran of the Twin Cities boutique scene, Bibelot’s has four locations in the metro area.  If you need to buy a gift for your fancy aunt or a discerning colleague - look no further.

 

 

Bibelot: A boutique in the Twin Cities

 

 

Twin Cities - twice as much fantastic shopping!

 

What's your fav boutique? Share in the comments!

 


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

Indie Business 101 :: Prepare to Double

 

As the Community Concierge, I have the privilege of talking to each and every American designer that joins Vianza. After a few conversations, I realized that the biggest challenge a wholesaling designer faces is keeping up with orders.

 

You’d think it would be finding buyers, right? Everyone wants more buyers, more sales, more profit (don’t they?)!

 

But that’s just the thing: more buyers does not equal more profits, unless you’re prepared for it.

 

Unless you have streamlined production and have a system to seamlessly handle (accept, fulfill, and ship) orders*, more sales can deplete you, your team and even your bank account (ever had someone back out of a big order right before it shipped?).

 

Most solo (or small-team) design companies can’t take on more accounts until something changes. Until they’ve got the systems in place to double.

 

I was reminded of this when I read AnythingYouWant.

 

"No matter what business you’re in, it’s good to prepare for what would happen if business doubled.

Have ten clients now? How would it look if you had twenty at once? Serving eighty customers for lunch each day? What would happen if 160 showed up?

Notice that “more of the same” is never the answer. You’d have to do things in a new way to handle twice as much business".

-Derek Sivers

 

How would your business have to change to handle twice as many customers?

 

What can you do before it doubles, so that you’re ready?

 

As Derek says,

 

“Never be the typical tragic small business that gets frazzled and freaked out when business is doig well. It sends a repulsive “I can’t handle this!” message to everyone.

Instead, if your internal processes are always designed to handle twice your existing load, it sends an attractive “come in, we’ve got plenty of room” message to everyone.”

 

What can you do to be ready? Share in the comments!

 

*Hey, that’s what Vianza does!

 


This is the eleventh installment of our ongoing  IndieBusiness101 series. If you’ve missed one, find it here:

 

●        Getting started, legally

●        Using the tools of the trade

●        Streamlining production

●        Promoting your business (Marketing)

●        Finding your right people

●        Picking a tradeshow

●        Preparing for a tradeshow

●        Pricing your products

●        Successful and Sane

●        Retail vs Wholesale packaging

 


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

3 Steps to More Purposeful Online Marketing: Part 3

 

This is a guest post by Diane Gilleland, aka Sister Diane, of CraftyPod.com. Diane makes ebooks, podcasts, and videos about what it means to make things, and what happens when you turn making things into your vocation.

 

In this three-part series of posts, we’re looking at three important questions to help you do more effective online marketing. You can read the first post in the series here and the second one here.

 

In most old-school marketing books, you’ll see some coverage of the “call to action” concept. This term simply means that after you tell people about your product, you tell them to go get it – or in other words, ask for the sale. (You may have heard these common calls to action: “Call now!” “Visit your local retailer today!” “Click here!”)

 

When we market with online tools like blogs, Twitter and Facebook, we’re in effect having an ongoing conversation with our readers – so we may forget, in posting and conversing day after day, to point out that we want, after all, to be doing busines with these folks.

 

This brings us to our last important question:

 

What, specifically, do you need people to do after reading your posts?

 

Before you can formulate a good online call to action, you need to be clear on exactly what action you want. Do you want people to click over to your online store and buy something? Which item do you want them to buy? Do you want them to email you and offer you some freelance work? Do you want them to sign up for your next knitting class?

 

Next, it’s time to get out that online editorial calendar we were working on in last week’s post, and schedule in some calls to action. Blend these more direct posts with the kinds of posts we discussed last week – those that communicate what skills and expertise you have that make your product high in value.

 

 

What does a call to action look like, then? Let’s go back to our pearl earring example from our previous post. You might want to market a specific hoop design you’ve come up with for your Spring line. So, you’ll spend several days posting in your online spaces about the skills and expertise you bring to the design: how you arrived at the perfect hoop size, why you chose the size and color of pearls you chose, why you decided to hammer the hoops a little so they’d have texture. And after these days of storytelling, you’d share the fact that these earrings are now available for orders – go take a look! Or you might announce that the first ten orders will get a bonus polishing cloth, so hurry!

 

In other words, the idea is to grow your customers’ interest in something specific, and then invite them to act on this interest. It’s a storytelling cycle you’ll repeat over and over.

 

 

Image by: Agnes L. Reynes-Williams, via Flickr Creative Commons

 

by Sarah Von

Snapshot:: Audrey Sterk

 

After earning a degree in Art and Design, Audrey Sterk moved to Nantucket, lived on a boat for four years and started a decorative painting business.  As if that’s not envy-inducing enough, her work has been featured in the likes of Architectural Digest and HG TV.  You can befriend her on Facebook.


 

What is your more prized creation - the coolest thing you've ever made, with your own nimble hands?

That is a difficult question to nail down to one thing. I think there are small surprises often, as we are creating a larger decorative design business (Audrey Home Collection) from a one at a time hand painted project business. When we first started I was the one person production facility trying to make our products easy for a manufacturing business to reproduce, while keeping the integrity of our quality hand painted business as the role model. It was an eyeopening experience and I felt like the first table we covered successfully with our printed designs that looked as if we hand painted it was a grand feat!

 

 

What is the worst piece of business advice you've ever been given?

I am a believer in trusting your intuition. I don't think I have been given bad business advice as much as I have had moment of getting tossed in the turbulence of too much advice. It is not fun to feel confused, but at the same time you need to ask people who have succeeded so you know the proper steps to take, then tailor it to your personal direction and take some risks. There is nothing better than reinforcing the choices you have made.

 

What was the biggest entrepreneurial epiphany of your career?

That there are other talented, creative people out there that might have similar concepts to yours. If you are thinking about an idea and want to try it, do some research but don't be afraid to go for it even of there is another company out there doing something similar. Chances are there will be a lot of unique differences and most likely you will develop a growing relationship together.

 

 

What's your best tip for strengthening your relationship with your retailers?

Reaching out and making an effort to stay connected is important. A personal email is always positive and some free little gift from your line is a nice touch. Something tailored to their style says that you appreciate them and you are aware of what they like.

 

 

If you could offer one sage snippet of wisdom to aspiring designers, crafters & artisans, what would it be?

This is your chance to take a leap and go for it. It is an amazing feeling to trust yourself, make a decision and see it blossom!

 


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: Style Your Boutique

 

This week the lovely Catherine of Hubshop wrote a great post for indie retailers on How To Make Your Shop Pop. Inspired by her tips, I went hunting for some more tips and tricks for indie boutiques.

 

Rena Tom collected inspiring and surprising images of retail shelving. 

 

image from Decor8

 

If you want to (virtually) stroll through a retail space, don’t miss Decor8’s Store Tours (there are dozens!) and our guide to indie boutiques in Encinitas.

 

 

Miss Birdie, shop stylist extraordinaire, guides you to more white space and tiny dishes.

 

Got a favorite trick to tricking out your shop?

Share it in the comments! 

by Tara Swiger

Indie Boutique Guide: Encinitas

 

 

If you’re going to Encinitas, CA, get off the 5 as soon as possible and get on the 101. It’s called the Coast Highway for a reason, and the drive is gorgeous (especially if you’re driving south). You’ll pass through tiny towns and thriving tourist traps.

 

 

As you drive under the Encinitas sign, pull over anywhere and park right on the street (free, easy, and within walking distance of everything I talk about here). As you walk, look down and enjoy the art at your feet.

 

 

 

If you’re near the Encinitas sign, you’re just a block from Gardenology.

 

 

 

 

Gardenology carries sumptuous bedding, home decor and yep, even a few things for the garden.

 

 

 

 

The shop was entirely black and white and gray when I visited, with bits of weathered wood and shiny marble.

 

 

 

For the full SoCal experience, grab a burger at Angelos.

 

Walk just another block south and you’ll see, ArtNSoul101a sweet boutique/co-op/charity. Check out their amazing mission in this video:

 

 

 

When I was there, there was an artist working!

 

 

 

 

Once you get your fill of happy, bright art, stroll back out to the 101, walk past a great big Whole Foods, curve around the restaurant to the left and you’ll find the delightful Bliss101.

 

 

 

 

It’s back from the sidewalk a bit, but don’t stop looking because it is wondrous. They carry art, furniture and clothing, all from indie designers.

 

 

 

 

I fell in love with the furniture made from old fishing boats, like this seat:

 

 

 

And, if Bliss101 doesn’t bliss you so far out, keep walking south! Grounded is a few more blocks (if you’re too tired, jump in your car and drive down...but I suggest walking in the warm sunshine, with the beach just a block away).

 

 

 

Grounded is full of handmade jewelry

 

 

 

stationary

 

 

 

linens

 

and contemporary modern furniture.

 

And that’s a tour of the indie boutiques in Encinitas!

 

Do you have a great indie boutique (or 3) in your town? Tell us all about it on Twitter or Facebook!

 


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 for IndieBiz’s for Cooperative Press and she’d love to distract herself by hanging out with you onTwitter.

 

 

by Sarah Von

How To Make Your Shop Pop

 

Charlotte learned all about retail world when she relocated from Australia to Holland and opened a boutique called Hubshop with her boyfriend.  Here are her best tips and tricks to making your space stand out!  Follow their adventures on their blog or on Twitter.


Last year I was thrilled to take over an existing store together with my boyfriend. Between us we have a decent chunk of experience in both the retail  and creative worlds and this was a much-anticipated opportunity to realise our combined dream of creating our dream shop. We’re now the proud owners of Hubshop, a collaborative boutique in Rotterdam, Holland. It’s like a design store with a twist – we’re a platform for supporting and promoting small-scale designers & entrepreneurs. Every day in our new shop is an adventure & a learning curve.

Owning and operating your own boutique is extraordinarily rewarding. If you’re new to running a business, it’s equal parts terrifying and elating. It requires your full time attention; not to mention a whole lot of dedication and  passion.  
 

Here are a few ways we make sure our shop is un-pass-able:

 

Create attention grabbing window displays

I can’t emphasise enough the importance of your shop window display. It’s your constant, 3D advertisement; and if done well, will contribute greatly to the success of your shop.  Your window display is the sphere of interaction between the shop and prospective customers. You only have a few seconds to attract the attention of passers-by and so it’s essential to create an eye-catching display that will pique peoples’ curiosity. Luckily, I adore dreaming up new ideas for our shop window and seeing them come to life – it’s an instantly rewarding creative outlet.

 

Create a story with your merchandising

This can be as simple as grouping similar products together - think of it as a serving suggestion! This scarf and blouse with that purse. This vintage armoire with those imported Moroccan table runners. You want to showcase your most exciting products in the most flattering way. I’m kind of madly in love with everything in our shop, so this is a constant source of inspiration and creativity.

 

Balance your design elements

As with all visual merchandising, a combination of basic elements comes into play: colour, visual balance and a focal point. Take into consideration the size of your shop window, the products you want to display and your budget; and be as creative as your imagination allows.


Update your window displays for special occasions

Be sure to update your window display to include special occasions and holidays (Easter, Christmas, etc). Most importantly, creating your window display should be fun! Don’t rush the process: take time to think and plan what you want the window display to communicate. Don’t be afraid to play and tweak until you get it just right. Personally, I keep a little sketchbook to scribble down any ideas I have for window displays, or to put photos of other displays I find beautiful.

 

Continue the merchandising from the window into the actual store

Of course, divine visual merchandising shouldn't end with the front window. It’s essential to create the perfect shopping environment – this is usually a work in progress! Once customers step foot in your shop, you want them to feel at ease. Work to create great displays inside your shop too; and update them often. Customers DO notice repetitive displays or old, lingering stock. Boring! Depending on your space and store layout, this may be a series of small, cosy areas telling different stories; or perhaps a more airy, open-plan design is more appropriate.

 

Make the space cosy and comfortable

Consider physical factors like lighting and heating and cooling. Regardless of the season, it should be a pleasant experience entering the shop from outdoors. Invest in good quality, lively lighting – and avoid fluorescent lighting like the plague! Nothing is worse than customers having to squint or question if a shop is open because of poor lighting.


Offer amazing customer service

As you might expect, great customer service is key to making a positive first impression. Find the sweet spot of friendly, approachable and knowledgeable service. There’s a wealth of information available on perfecting customer service – always be open to making improvements.

Take time to build a really great team of staff – they are your greatest asset. Whether this team consists of 2 people or 10, ensure everyone is on the same page as far as customer service & representing your shop to its fullest potential.

Of course, every aspect of your brick & mortar shop will be a work in progress. Be persistent in your desire to make your shop better and brighter; be prepared to give it your constant focus and energy. Most importantly, be sure to enjoy every part of the process!

 


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

3 Steps to More Purposeful Online Marketing : Part 2

 

This is a guest post by Diane Gilleland, aka Sister Diane, of CraftyPod.com. Diane makes ebooks, podcasts, and videos about what it means to make things, and what happens when you turn making things into your vocation.

 

In this three-part series of posts, we’re looking at three important questions to help you do more effective online marketing. You can read the first post in the series here.

 

Consider this: in the online landscape, we are all inundated with information. Most of us have more blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates to read than we’ll ever realistically have time for. Not only that, as we mentioned last week, the internet is teeming with people trying to sell things.

 

In a crowded online environment, it’s not effective to simply mention your product or service over and over – it’s too easy for people to tune you out. Instead, with each post you’re painting a portrait of sorts – a portrait of what you’re great at and why you’re a valuable person to do business with.

 

In order to get at this portrait, we’ll want to examine this question:

 

 

What exactly do you need people to know about you?

 

Get a notebook and a pen (or, sit down at your computer) and make a list of every product or service you currently offer. For each one of these, you’ve had to develop particular skills and expertise so you could offer them to the world professionally, right?

 

If you make pearl earrings, for example, then you’ve had to get good at working with metal and precious stones. You’ve had to learn to tell the difference between high-quality and low-quality components. You’ve had to develop an eye for jewelry design, and you’ve had to practice making pieces until you could make them consistently beautiful.

 

These skills and abilities are the things you need people to know about you – the more your potential customers can understand how skilled and knowledgeable you are, the more likely they are to become interested in your product.

 

 

How does this translate to online marketing?

 

Once you’ve identified the skills and abilities behind what you sell, it’s time to develop a little online editorial calendar for yourself. What blog posts, tweets, or Facebook posts can you develop that share these skills and abilities?

 

If we stick with our pearl earring example, here are a few ideas:

 

- You could write a blog post about what qualities you look for when you choose the pearls for your pieces.

 

- You could share pictures of jewelry in progress on Twitter and Facebook, and talk about how you solved a challenging design problem.

 

- You might blog the story of how you first learned to make wire loops, and how long you had to practice before you could do them perfectly.

 

- You could share sketches from your notebook on Facebook and Twitter, and ask your online customers for input as you design new pieces.

 

 

Do you see how much more interesting and engaging these stories are than simply mentioning your product over and over? Make yourself a schedule of these stories, so you remember to inject them regularly into your online postings.

 

 

In the last post in this series, we’ll talk about how to gently guide your online readers to make those purchases or hire you.

 

Image Credits: Martin Marcinski, via Flickr Creative Commons


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

by Sarah Von

Snapshot :: Melanie Grace Designs

 

Since 2003, Melanie Grace Designs has been designing one-of-a-kind or limited edition originals.  Inspired by her international travels and the punk rock/couture fashion aesthetic of her hometown, Melanie’s designs are comfortable, unique and totally, totally wearable.  You can befriend her on Facebook or follow her adventures on her blog.

 

What is your more prized creation - the coolest thing you've ever made, with your own nimble hands?


Their were actually four hands involved! My husband and I built our house, from drawings to toilet installation, hammer and nail. It was one of the most difficult and rewarding things I've ever done and of course nine years later, it's still a work in progress.


 

What is the worst piece of business advice you've ever been given?


Lower your prices. There is a pervasive thought in our culture that you have to undersell someone else in order to succeed. It's already hard to place a value on your work when you're just starting out and that message was hard to overcome. I think most burgeoning artists, myself included, don't value our time highly enough partially because we are doing what we love. But also because we forget to take into consideration all the time that it takes to source materials, market, ship, package, etc., which adds up to a whole lot more time than the creation alone.
 

 

What was the biggest entrepreneurial epiphany of your career?


For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to travel the world but also got the message that you could only do that if you had loads of money. When I was working as a teacher my husband and I decided to make a move and thought we would take part of the summer break to explore France. Once we started saving and researching for our trip it just kept growing. There were so many palces we had to see and we also realized that it's really easy to travel on the cheap. We ended up spending a year and traveled through Europe, the middle east and India.

 

That year completely changed my perspective on what I could achieve. I had always wanted to be an artist but didn't believe in myself enough to pursue it as anything other than a hobby. After we returned I started my business and we started building our house. Crazy but worth it!

 


Give us your top 3 indie artisans/designers to watch.


Leigh Young, Rebecca Bashara and Scott Macdonald and  Christy Aloysi and Scott Graham.
 

What's your best tip for strengthening your relationship with your retailers?


Don't over commit and live up to your promises.

 

If you could offer one sage snippet of wisdom to aspiring designers, crafters & artisans, what would it be?


First you must believe in what you have to offer and the rest will follow.

 

Thanks for sharing, Melanie!

 

Image Credits :: Melanie Grace Designs


 

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 :: Build Slow

 

This week we've been working away at our redesign (getting ready for the launch of beta) and so I've found myself drawn to posts about building, launching, and refining.

 

 

My favorite find of the week is the free In Treehouses manifesto. In it, Thom Chambers shares his inspiration for creating a lifestyle business. By that, he means a business that supports your life.

 

And Isn't that what you'd love your independent business to do: support a real life (one where you're not trapped in your studio)?

 


In the manifesto, Thom links to this classic post by Seth Godin: First, Ten. Seth encourages you to,


"Find ten people. Ten people who trust you/respect you/need you/listen to you..."

 


Those ten people need what you have to sell, or want it. And if they love it, you win. If they love it, they'll each find you ten more people (or a hundred or a thousand or, perhaps, just three). Repeat.


If they don't love it, you need a new product. Start over."

 

 

What would your design and prototyping process look like if you did this with EVERY new product?

 

What would your marketing look like if you already knew shoppers and shops desired every product on this season's line?

 

 

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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