Vianza Blog

Exclusively For Wholesale Brands And Retailers


profitable tips for designers + indie retailers

by Sarah Von

Snapshot:: Mary Jurek Designs, Inc


Mary Jurek established Mary Jurek Design Inc. in 1998 after being presented with four international awards and working several years as a jewelry and watch artist designing for notable brands like Tiffany & Co. and Gubelin of Switzerland. You can befriend her on Facebook or catch up on her blog.



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


My entire life has been spent making things by hand so it would be difficult to answer your question.  I think everything has always been really special and fantastic.  Sculpture still is a favorite art medium of mine, so I’d have to say the most prized possession was a large figurative head of a woman that I sculpted out of terracotta in art school.  It’s so stunning that my parents kept it in their home for many years.  Now it’s in mine and still looks amazing!



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


Everyone has some ideas about running a business but I never listened to any of it.  Being an artist was most important to me and I concentrated on the creative process first.  Anyone who says running a business is easy - that’s the worst advice someone could give.



What was the biggest entrepreneurial epiphany of your career?


It took many years of working for other companies to feel ready to go out on my own.  My biggest entrepreneurial epiphany is that my skills were ready and that there is great merit in learning business while doing business.



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


Glass art fascinates me because it takes so much mastery to create the objects quickly.  I like the work of Devin BurgessApril Wagner and Ross Richmond.  There are so many talented designers and little time to see their work.



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


Good customer service along with good design is a winning combination.



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


Never give up on your dream.  The creative process is a personal journey and always has unexpected surprises for you.  The thrill of making something of beauty is the greatest joy in life.


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:: Do it YOUR way in 2012


Just as important as defining what success is for yourself, is figuring out how you’re going to get there. I found 3 posts about planning your business in 2012 that focus on just that:


“Make your own rules and challenge the “best practices.”  Remember it’s your business, your blog, your organization and you have to live with the results. No one ever made a difference by selling themselves short or preaching from the middle of the pack.”

-31 Pro Tips for a Successful, Satisfying, and Insanely Profitable 2012, on Copyblogger



“When it comes to running your business, there are no rules. (There are some laws, but there are no rules.) What works for someone else’s business may not work for yours.”

-4 steps to your business year, on Designing an MBA



“It’s an (annoying!) fact of life that things change. We may have to add, drop or alter projects as new realities emerge.”

-Planning a blue print for the year, on Design Sponge



What’s an ideal 2012 look like for your business? And how are you planning to get it there?




by Tara Swiger

I LOVE :: Old Tom Foolery



Between their clever, snarky cards,



their typographical ode to mustaches,



and their Shakespearan To Do Lists,
 can you NOT love them?


Best yet, the couple (Joel + Lauren) behind Old Tom Foolery are truly just as fun + clever as their cards would have you believe. No foolin’.


And retailers, if you’d like to carry Old Tom Foolery, you can find their wholesale catalog on Vianza.


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 your IndieBiz for Cooperative Press and she’d love to distract herself by hanging out with you on Twitter.



by Tara Swiger

Indie Business 101 :: Define Success


So far in the Indie Business 101 series, we’ve been talking about the practical steps you take to start  (and grow) your design business. While these  steps are important (and often urgent), just doing what you should do won’t be enough.  It’s easy, once you get in the habit, of getting up every day and setting to work at the tasks in front of you.


Creating products, streamlining production, filling orders, marketing, going to trade shows.

Once you know the basics of setting up your business and getting it going, it’s easy to get swept into the doing.


But what are you being swept to?

What kind of business are you building?
Is it the kind of business you really want to work in and on?


If you’re not sure, that’s ok. Before you know if you’re building the business you want, you first need to define what a successful design business means to you.


Other Definitions


The design world has many examples of success: from the packed trade show booth to landing Anthropologie, to showing up on Martha Stewart.

It’s easy to get caught up in those big dreams, in those outward signs of success.

To think: that’s what I should be moving towards.


But the question remains:


Is that the success YOU want?


If you were in an internet-less bubble, and couldn’t see what all the other designers around you were doing…what would you want from your biz?

It’s very easy (so easy!) to think that what other people are doing is what you should be doing. What they have is what you should want to have.


But would you enjoy spending your time in it?


If not, get real:


Right now, in your journal, or in the comments, or on Twitter - spill it:


What does your dream business look like?
Where do you go (or not go)?
Where are your goods sold?
Where do you spend your time? And on what activities?


Tara Swiger is our Community Wrangler, a crafter of independence, and a Starship Captain. if you wanna define your own success and then work towards it, she’s got a Map-Making Guide to help you do just that.

by Sarah Von

The Wonderful World of Wholesale Pricing


This is a guest post by AmyTangerine. She has been working in style and design for 10 years.  Recently she combined her powers with crafting company extraordinaire American Crafts to create a gorgeous line of scrapbooking goods.  Here she talks about how she navigated the world of wholesale pricing while staying true to herself and her vision.  Want to read more of her story?  Check out her blog or say hi on Twitter

Over a decade ago, I began hand crocheting arm warmers so I could wear them on outdoor photo shoots. At the time, I was working as a freelance fashion stylist in Atlanta. I happen to wear them into a boutique opening party, and the owners fell in love with them. They were interested in placing an order, and as soon as I got over the giddiness of possibly selling these, I had to figure out a few things. What would people pay for these unusual accessories and what amount did I need to charge to make sure I was covering my costs?


Welcome to the wonderful world of wholesale pricing.


To help determine what I was going to charge for the arm warmers, I asked a few people in the business for some advice. Ideally, the basic formula consists of adding your cost of materials to your labor costs and then doubling that number to arrive at your wholesale price.  For example, a pair of arm warmers cost $2.00 in yarn and took 2 hours to make. If I were to find someone who would be able to make it for $8-$10 an hour, then the cost would be $18-$22. So after doubling, the wholesale price would be $36-$44. At first I thought this was just too much, but couldn’t figure out a way to get around this, as it was a hand-made item. Reassured by a couple mentors, I decided on a wholesale price of $37. Retailers typically do between a 2-3 times mark up.

Upon delivery, I told the store that the price, and they didn’t flinch. They sold them at $78 a pair, and while that seemed a bit outrageous to me, the moment I delivered them, a pair was sold right out of the bag.


Some things to keep in mind:


* Covering your costs is important, and since this is a business, so is making money.


* It’s okay to reduce or raise your price a little bit, so long as you are comfortable with the number.

It’s important to not price yourself out of the competition, but not covering your costs would be counterproductive.


* Be realistic and avoid getting too attached to what you are trying to sell.

While it’s important to be proud of your product, ultimately the focus should be on making it a viable sale. I don’t think I could have commanded a $78 price for my arm warmers on my own, the fancy boutique felt confident in doing so and were covering their costs and making profit as well.


In the spring, it was time to make a different product. I decided to take tank tops and add hand-embroidered flowers to them. They were all one-of-a-kind and took 3 hours to make. While selling them to a handful of boutiques was nice, the way to get more reach would be to attend a tradeshow. I kept this in the back of my mind while still pursuing styling jobs. When a call came in from a store buyer telling me that Cindy Crawford was in Glamour Magazine wearing one of the tanks, I knew it was time to take it to the next level.


After some research, I submitted an application to a juried tradeshow called Workshop NY. It was a smaller show held at Chelsea Market that focused on international emerging designers. Thankfully I was chosen and I immediately had to scramble to start planning for it.  I didn’t know I was ready, but I had to jump at the opportunity.



Don’t do as I did and scramble at the last minute. Instead, try these tips:


* Start planning early.


* Know all your costs involved early and make decisions based on a reasonable budget.

If you know you might go, book the hotel ASAP. You can usually cancel up to 24 hours prior.


* Make a lot of lists to stay organized.


* Take your time to do things right.

Rushing often leads to little careless mistakes that can add up and affect your bottom line.


* Make your samples as best as you can.


* Be armed with plenty of marketing material.

Even if you are on a tight budget, it is really important to have proper business cards and order forms. Make the duplicate or triplicate order forms and bring lots of clipboards and pens.


* Spend a little time and money planning your booth space, but ultimately the most important thing is your product.

Make it visible and make the buyers want to place their orders right there at the show.


* Be prepared to work hard, have fun, and smile!



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 Sarah Von

Snapshot:: JHill Design


Jennifer Hill’s gorgeous designs chronicle ‘Places I Have Never Been’ appealing to the armchair tourist in all of us. When not designing prints of far-flung locales she enjoys tacos, patterns and her wee son Charley Arcade. You can befriend her on Twitter or Facebook.


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


 "Go with your gut." I think you should take your gut into consideration but always make sure you pair it with what your head. I've done things based on what my gut was telling me, but if I had looked at the numbers and thought about it a bit more I probably would have made a better decision.



What was the biggest entrepreneurial epiphany of your career?


Once I realized that both your life and career are long, I stopped being in such a rush to accomplish everything immediately. I became more settled and started enjoying the process of building a business more.


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


I think being accommodating and working with retailers is a great thing.  Being a small business I can do that relatively easily. If someone wants a smaller order, a specialized order, or something right away we try to always make it happen.



What’s your best advice for making the leap to selling wholesale?

You want to make sure that the store has the right audience, neither you nor the store owner wants your goods languishing on the shelves. Talk to the store owner and find out what their customers are looking for and how your line can fit in best.



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


Don't build a mansion when all you need is a house. Start small, test ideas, and build as you go. Your downfalls and mistakes will hurt less and they will lead to better overall results in the future.


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 :: Year End Edition


In this, the last post, and the last Masterlist of 2011 (Vianza's first year!), I want to round-up EVERYTHING awesome from the last year. Most Masterlists link to our favorite posts on other sites, and while we've got some of that, I also wanted to remember our own hits from this year.


And if you want to review your own 2011, we've got links to our favorite year-end-review guides.


Business Help for Designers


How to Sell Your Work To Designers – in this free book, we collected the best posts from Abby Kerr, former indie retailer, as she shared her secrets to getting your work into indie retailers.

Growing past DIY

IndieBiz 101 series


Business Advice for Indie Retailers


More White Space: How to Style your Boutique

The trifecta of retail greatness

Your retail concept


Your favorites (as evidenced by Twitter)


Working for yourself without going broke or crazy

Masterlist :: Get out of the sweatshop

How to make your website look like a million bucks



Review your own year


- Vianza's Year End Review for your Indie Business, part 1 and part 2

- Susannah Conway’s free guide to Unravelling the Year.

- Chris Guillebeau's Annual Review



Wishing you a Happy New Year!


by Tara Swiger

I LOVE :: Luminology Candles


I’m completely smitten with Luminology candles. I particularly like that I can choose from their 15 glazes (I like Shore)  and any of their delicious scents (I’m a fan of Garden + Orchard).




Not only are they completely lovely, but they’re long-lasting. Yeah, the candles will burn forever...but even after you’ve completely burned ‘em up, you’ve got one gorgeous, porcelain, glazed dish!



Another reason to love them? Luminology’s wax is 100% renewable, sustainable soy sourced from soybean farmers in the USA. Each vessel is crafted locally by porcelain artisans in a waste-free studio, and their high-quality fragrances are phthalate-free.


And retailers, if you’d like to carry Luminology, you can find their wholesale catalog on Vianza.



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 Mita Patnaik

Celebrate In Style


To welcome in the new year and prepare for this week of parties, we've collected our fave accessories and home goods that are luxurious, earthy, handmade and sustainable – and celebrates the spirit of celebration!



1.Agate Stone Necklace: Stunning natural flat-cut agates set in gold-plated metal makes a statement from Meera Mittal.

2.Wisteria Necklace: Handcrafted sculptural piece in stainless steel linked with titanium adds a touch of elegance from Wraptillion.





3. Rose Choker Necklace: Hand crochet choker necklace adds the right amount of glitter with the metallic zari thread from Samoolam Crafts.


4. Lotus Necklace: Reminiscent of a lotus flower and laser cut from acrylic, this elegant expression of beauty in orange provides a pop of color to a neutral outfit from Polymath Design Lab.




5. Peacock Cuff: Bring on the bling with this 18K gold plated silver bracelet studded with crystals and enamel painted peacocks from Agastya.


6. Red Agate Earrings: Shimmery round earrings with red agate, clear stone and faux pearl beads have an antique finish. The metal is brass plated with 18K gold from Agastya.





9. Hand Woven Merino Stole: Herringbone patterned black and white hand woven merino wool stole is embellished with zardozi embroidery. The yarn is hand spun and hand dyed using natural colors. The stoles are woven in small batches in artisanal coops from Leela Design Studio.

8. Wool Shibori Shawl: Hand woven, natural dye and Shibori. You couldn’t have asked for more from this lusciously hued extremely soft and lightweight wrap. The Japanese tie and dye technique (shibori) is both intricate and visually mesmerizing and provides employment to hundreds of village women who have perfected this art from Mura Collective.




9. Soy Candles: 6oz hand poured artisanal soy candles with wooden wicks in glazed porcelain pots are perfect hostess gifts. Available both scented and unscented from Luminology.


10. Floral Pillow: Bright Fuschia medallion screen printed on silky satin fabric makes a colourful accent from Ritika Designs.


Retailers! Request an invitation on Vianza (or login) to shop these goodies and more!!



by Tara Swiger

Review the Year in Your Indie Business, Part 2


Yesterday we started a year-end review for your business, by gathering all the information you need. Today we're going to finish it up by making connections and using what you've learned.


Make Connections

Now that you’ve got everything listed, it’s easier to see the connections.
What happened in one month that led to the sales figures in the next month?
What marketing efforts paid off? And how long did it take to pay off?

Take time to dig into the deeper aspects of this - what was fun? What was hard? What month left you exhausted? What month had you floating?
What was the most thrilling to happen all year?
The worst?
And how do those best and worst things look now that some time has past?
And best of all - what lessons have you learned?


Use what you’ve learned

It’s one thing to think through the connections, but now it’s time to actually write them down. Pull out your journal, your laptop + Evernote, or whatever it is that you'll remember to come back to.

Write down the answers to the above questions that most struck you.


Be sure to include ::

The best 3 things I did for my business this year.

Things I will NOT do again in the new year

The highlight of the year, in my business was _________


Now, to put it into action, answer the following questions::

What lessons did the 3 best things teach me? What can I do to apply those lessons?

What can I change so that I can stop doing the stuff I want to stop doing?

What is working so well that I want to keep it (and maybe amplify it)?


What are the qualities of the highlight of my year? (did it involve multiple people? Was it a physical or emotional success? What did I love about it?)

How can I bring more of those qualities into my everyday business?


And finally – What do I want my business to look like at the end of 2012?


And that, my dear friends, is how you can take a fairly simple review of the year and turn it into a guiding light on your path to a fabulous 2012.


Happy New Year!


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.


Image by:: geo3pea



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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