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profitable tips for designers + indie retailers

by Piper Toth

Retailers: Collaborate and Create

 

Do you ever find yourself saying “Oh, I’m not an artist, but I sell other people’s work”?  As retail store owners, we may not actually be artists but we certainly have an eye for design and a talent for finding what our customers love.  So why not expand on that and work with your artists to create something special and unique for your customers?

 

At the end of the day, you know your customer best!

 

 

Collaborating can be as simple as asking the designer or artist if a particular item can be made in a different color or as complex as creating an item together.  Not only do you get to flex your creative muscles, but you’ll also create something exclusive to your store.  If your customers are anything like mine, than they love knowing that what they’re buying is something unique and can’t be found anywhere else.  If you think about it, that’s why our customers shop indie stores or shop local.  They’re looking for those special items. 

 

And what’s more special than something you helped create just for them!

 

 

To give you an example, here’s what I did over the holidays.  I had been looking for stocking stuffer gifts for the store and wasn’t having much luck finding “the one”.  I knew I wanted to carry sachets and small cosmetic bags - but I couldn’t find that special design. I decided to email one of my favorite artists to see if she would be able to create something for me.  Lo and behold, she was more than willing to do so and with a little direction from me as to color and pattern, she created these striped sachets & bags for my store.  They fit the store perfectly (after all, they were created with my store colors in mind - even I couldn’t resist them - I ended up keeping some for myself!)

 

The best way to start collaborating is by having a conversation with your artists.  Start by asking if they would be willing to create an exclusive product.  Once you know they’re open to the idea, you can start tossing around thoughts and ideas as to what to create. 

 

Don’t be afraid to let your inner artist come out to play!

 

 

Have you considered collaborating with your artists?  What would you create?

 

 

 

Images:  1. Collaboration between Pigeon Toe Ceramics and Shanna Murray

2. Collaboration between Yorktown Road and one sydney road


 

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 Tara Swiger

5 Things Designers Can Do To Sell Quickly and Easily

 

Today’s guest post is by Jane Hamill, founder of Fashion Brain Academy. Jane teaches apparel and accessories designers how to start and grow a profitable business - even if they flunked math and hate selling.  Get her FREE report "How to Find Fabrics in Small Quantities and NOT Get Ripped Off in the Process" at www.fashionbrainacademy.com.

 

 

1. Know what payments to accept when.

If you’re selling online to consumers, it’s OK to use PayPal. If you’re selling wholesale, you will need a credit card processor.  You cannot expect boutiques to use PayPal - and it looks unprofessional.  To accept credit cards, I recommend you check out Square. It’s the coolest invention that you can use with your smart phone so you can accept payments easily and simply. My clients swear by it.

 

2. Create an elevator pitch.

Sum up what your line is about and how it BENEFITS the consumer in a simple speech – 30 seconds or so.  Practice it again and again until it is refined and you are truly comfortable with it. Remember to focus on them and how you can help, rather than just talk about you and what you do. If you can’t sum up what you do in one compelling sentence, you haven’t worked hard enough to get to the nugget of truth. Keep working

 

3. When you sell wholesale, get the boutique’s credit card information

 when they place the order.  DO NOT just automatically give them Net 30 terms (which means they get 30 days to pay).  When you’re ready to ship their order, call the store to confirm the amount, then charge their card BEFORE you ship the box.  If you can’t confirm the credit card, don’t ship the goods. You may have to keep after them to get approval but it’s worth it.

 

4. Don’t spend all your time trying to get new customers.

I realize this sounds strange. What I mean is this…Focus on selling your current customers more, rather than getting new ones.

It costs more to make the first sale, right?  It costs you in time, energy, money, and just hustle. But once you have a customer who likes and trusts you, the sales come easier.

 

5.  Make a terrific first impression.

When you ship the FIRST order to a boutique, include a double of one item that they ordered as a little bonus (easier to do with accessories). 

This has 2 benefits:

(1) the owner thinks “Wow, what a nice company to work with” and they won’t forget you, and

(2) you now have the store owner wearing your product – other people will see it, ask about it, and you’ll sell more.

I owned a boutique for over 14 years and I can count on one hand the number of vendors (OK, besides my own line) who gave me something free! And you know what? I’ll always remember their names and appreciate the hook-up. 

 

Do you have questions about selling to boutiques? 
Ask in the comments!

by Sarah Von

Indie City Guide:: Columbus Ohio

 

Kerry Winfrey lives in Columbus, Ohio, where she bakes, crafts, and reads too much. She writes about young adult books for Hello Giggles and blogs at Welcome to Ladyville.



While Columbus, Ohio might be best known for its rabid football fans, it's also home to a vibrant artsy, crafty, independent community. Some of the best shops in town embody that spirit.

 

Thread on Grandivew

Run by two sisters, this “bohemian chic” boutique offers designer denim, lovely dresses, and chunky jewelry. Check it out if you’re looking for designers you can’t find anywhere else in Ohio.

 

 

Wholly Craft!

Wholly Craft! is the go-to Columbus destination for handmade jewelry, clothing, art prints, zines, and more. Whether you’re looking for a tote bag to show off your Ohio pride or some unique stationery, you’ll find it at Wholly Craft! They even offer classes in knitting, crochet, and yarn-spinning.

 

 

Sew to Speak

This teeny-tiny store is packed full of the prettiest fabric, patterns, books and notions in town. Sew to Speak carries organic cotton, Japanese imports, and of-the-moment designers like Denyse Schmidt and Lotta Jansdotter.

 

 

Tigertree

Josh and Niki Quinn stock their store with clothing from designers like Dear Creatures and Fred Perry, as well as eye-catching home décor items, adorable greeting cards, and delicate jewelry.

 

 

The Attic

Reasonable prices on carefully curated vintage furniture, jewelry, and clothing. You’ll find t-shirts for under $10, flasks, cowboy boots and soy candles all under one roof.

 

 

 


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 Jen Wallace

Indie Boutique Guide: Get Customers in Your Shop


Can your brick and mortar shop be described as the best kept secret in your town/city? Would you rather be described as the most well-known shop? Of course you would, but how to go about getting that moniker? Think about your shop as more than a place to buy stuff, but more as a destination by throwing events to draw the public in.
 

Here are some suggestions for new approaches to bringing customers into your shops.

 
Organize trunk shows with local designers who will set up for an evening in your shop. Your shop will get a portion of the sales (usually 50%) and as a bonus you can require that the designers send out a notice to their own mailing list.
 
Think about having weekend musical entertainment, along with some wine and nibbles, of course. Obviously you'd want to choose something that would be a good fit with your clientele, but some ideas include: a jazz guitarist, singer/songwriters, an acoustic indie band or a classical trio. Aspiring musicians are always looking for places to play. A good place to start looking would be the local university.
 
 

Beauty is Pain Party

Image Credit: Sireneflux

 
Also, consider having events like a fashion show, “girls night out”, poetry night or open-mic night.
Host off beat entertainers like a sketch artist, palm readers, burlesque dancers, belly dancers, etc.
 
Put together how-to events where some of your local artists/crafters/designers come in and offer a basic tutorial on their area of expertise.
 

Image Credit: craftivist collective

 
By the same token, organize demonstration nights where your artists come in and demonstrate how they make their work.
Partner with local sororities, roller derby groups, dance troupes, theater groups, and craft mafias for fund-raising nights.
 
Organize planned shopping nights with other local businesses for holidays and other special occasions, e.g. Valentine's Day shopping night or a Twelve Days of Holiday shopping. Each business can offer a discount or other promotion and include entertainment, door busters, promotion gift bags and more.
 

Image Credit: StyleLine Magazine

 
In the same vein, plan sidewalk sales on those big event weekends in your town/city.
Or consider setting up a booth at those larger community events...like, community days, founders' day or homecoming events.
Think of your shop as an art gallery and plan “openings” for special new lines that you add.
 

If you are going to be planning any of these or other events, you will want to get a e-mail list together. Every time customers come into your store, give them an opportunity to sign up. Constant Contact and iContact are two services I've used in the past to manage my e-mail marketing lists.

 
 

Feature image credit: LIFE BY TAVIN


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

by Tara Swiger

MasterList:: Move That Product

 

If you're a retailer, either online or bricks and mortar (or both!), no matter how well you plan and manage your inventory, you're going to have a problem.  You will, undoubtedly, discover one product that just doesn't move.
 
Instead of slashing prices and cursing the loss, try some of these tips:


“- Feature the item on your website’s home page.
- Pitch the item to magazines, blogs and local media.  Be creative and offer suggestions for the item.  Is there a holiday coming up that this item would make a great gift for?  Pitch it!
- Create a newsletter showing all the ways you can use the item.”
 

-Piper Toth
 

“Try changing the location of the items in your display first to see if that will help spur some interest.”
-Carol Shroeder, in Made You Look!


 
 
The psychology of pricing is fascinating. Did you know that studies have shown that “when the prices were listed with the dollar sign, customers spent less. Conversely, when the dollar sign was absent, they tended to spend more.”

If you are going to lower those prices, do it slow, because:


 
“According to a study conducted by Kenneth J. Wisniewski from the University of Chicago, when the price of margarine dropped from 89 cents to 71 cents at a local grocery chain, sales improved by 65%. But when the price fell two cents more to 69 cents, sales jumped by an astounding 222%! Two pennies are worth a lot.”
-Psychology Behind the Sweet Spot in Pricing, Fast Co.
 
 

What do you do with a product that’s just not selling well? 

 

by Piper Toth

Inventory Part 3 - When Merchandise Doesn’t Sell

 

This is a three-part series of posts looking at the nuts & bolts of inventory.  You can read Part 1 here & Part 2 here.

 

We’ve talked about the ins and outs of buying inventory in Part1(in a nutshell, be conservative & don’t overbuy.)  We then discussed the importance of keep track of your inventory in Part2.  But what happens when, even though you’ve been careful not to load up on inventory, you still aren’t able to sell an item?

 

You’ve done the research, you have a feeling that your right people would just adore this item as much as you do.  And, okay, maybe you’ve fallen in love with this item.  With excitement, you list them online and then...nothing.  They just won’t move.  Has this happened to you before?

 

Before feeling that pinch of anxiety, know that there are things you can do. 

 

The first thing is to realize that you have some important data now on what will or won’t sell.  Analyze it...is the item something that customers want to be able to see & touch?  Is the item heavy and shipping is now too expensive?  Is the item itself not in the price range that is typical for your customer?  Keep in mind that this will help you make future buying decisions and that’s always a good thing! 

 

The next thing to do is to get creative - brainstorm all the ways in which you can move this item.  From the easy (put it on sale) to the more intricate (pop up shop), there are lots of ways to generate interest in a particular item. 

 

To give you an example, one of the things I was excited to sell were candles - let’s just say that I am a candle fanatic!  Well, wouldn’t you know it - they were a slow mover.  But who doesn’t love a candle, right?  Once I got over the emotion, I really thought about it.  I looked at the questions I would get from customers and they all seemed to fit under one sentiment...”what does it smell like?”  Even though I had a description on the product page, customers still wanted that up close experience.  Perhaps it’s a matter of describing the scent in a different way - through images or memories.  Or maybe trial sizes are needed so that customers can get samples to test.

 

Remember - be creative.  And realize that at the end of the day, you may have to make that decision to get rid of that item.  You may love it but if it’s not selling, it’s not selling. 

 

Some ideas to get you started on moving merchandise:

 

- Feature the item on your website’s home page.

- Pitch the item to magazines, blogs and local media.  Be creative and offer suggestions for the item.  Is there a holiday coming up that this item would make a great gift for?  Pitch it!

- Put it on sale

- Hold a pop up shop with a local store so that customers can see the item in person.

- Create a newsletter showing all the ways you can use the item.  Customers love that!

- Get testimonials from people who have bought and love the item and post these quotes on the product page.

 

How do you move products? 

Tell us in the comments!

 

Image via Creature Comforts 

 


 

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 Tara Swiger

A 3 part plan for building a business that supports a family

 

This is a Guest Post by Kate Gatski. She and her husband have been full time artists for nearly 10 years. Kate was raised by a full time crafter of 30 years. She is sharing her secrets in a project called, “All Craft. Real Income; Recipe for Making your Art Pay.”

 

It’s 7am. You wake up and get the coffee rolling. Your grab a mug and sip. About 12 minutes later, you settle in at your desk. There’s a timer there and you set it for 30 minutes.

 

You write a thank you note, scan your email (reply to anything that takes 3 minutes or less) and do a quick “like, like, like” on facebook.  Ding!  Write down any lingering thoughts (figure out a price for that custom life sized antelope head). Move on. Make something.

 

What does it take to support a family of five for 10 years with art & craft?

 

What does it take for craft to pay all its own business expenses, all living expenses including insurance and retirement, fund business growth and make a profit for future business (and fun) opportunities? It takes about 1 hour every day. 

 

It takes letting go of archaic ideas and a full embrace of three things

1. Planning

2. Seeking opportunities and

3. Relating to your people.

 

There is a recipe. It is about developing a daily practice. It is less about specific actions (in the beginning) and more about your effort. Eventually your actions will flow perfectly in sync with your plan.

 

How does it work?

 

Take a specific amount of time, I recommend 30 minutes to 1 hour each day. You will write a plan (if you do not have one already). You will ask yourself questions like, “What do I want my craft to pay for (retirement, new house, travel)? How much do I think it will take? Do I enjoy being around people? What motivates me- creative challenges, recognition or independence?”  Your plan will detail your dreams and include lists of possible actions.

 

Having a plan is not a revelation to you.
Make one.
Keep it nearby.

 

Now, connect with your people. In the beginning, we used good old-fashioned mail – a postcard, a newsletter, a catalog. These days, we’re going digital. No matter the method, reach out and relate. Think about what is it about you, work or your life that would be useful to someone else? Offer tips, inspiration and bits of humor. Make a small effort towards this end every day.

 

Now, seek a new opportunity.


This is a practice. It might be a simple as doing a google search.  Instead of waiting for things to happen to you; you are making them happen for you. You will soon be able to evaluate a new opportunity it in about 60 seconds. Does it fit your plan? Does it have future potential? How much time will it take?

A steadfast commitment to these three things (planning, opportunities and relating to people) will pay.

 

There will be up and down days. Some projects will take many days. Refer to your plan, remain diligent and when the timer ding’s – Move on! Make something.

 

 

Image credits: Kate Gatski

 

 

by Jen Wallace

Photography Tips That Will Get You More Product Views from Customers

 

You've got the products, you've got the website and you've got the traffic, but still customers aren't biting...and you're not sure why!?

 

 Have you considered the quality of your product images? It doesn't matter how awesome a product is in person, if you can't represent that to customers, they just aren't going to shop.

As a blogger, time and time again I am contacted by shops pitching their products to me, and too many times I'm disappointed by the quality of the photography in those pitches. It's downright frustrating. And, I've felt this disappointment as a customer too. I know we all have.

 

 

So, how can you make sure that your photography is showing your products in their best light?

 

Here are some DOs and DON'Ts and examples of the best practices below each tip.

First of all, I cannot stress the importance of lighting. Natural light is better and so too is avoiding harsh shadows.

 

image credit: Makool Loves You

 

Show products in use to give customers in use.

 

Most importantly, it makes it easier for customers to imagine adding your product to their lives. It can also add some context for the item, especially for things that it may be difficult to tell what it is, e.g. is it a bracelet or a necklace? Photograph clothing on a model, a tea set on a table with tea and crumpets and letterpress stationery on a desk with a pen.

 

 

image credit: YOKOO

 

Get creative with your angles. Don't just shoot your product head on. You want to offer as much detail as possible for customers to fall in love with.

 

image credit: Kristiana Parn

 

 

Include a variety of photos for customers to look—an in-use photo, a close-up and several showing different angles or to show special features.

 

image credit: Ferntree Studio

 

 

Use a macro setting to show more detail.

 

image credit: nestdecorating

 

 

Consider staging your photographs and including props for visual interest.

 

image credit: Three Potato Four Shop

 

If shooting products in a traditional studio setting, use consistent backgrounds or make them artfully different, e.g. all white or all patterned fabric.

 

image credit: rubygirl jewelry

 

Above all else, do not use dark or blurry photos or photos where clearly the color is off. If your photos did not turn out, try again another day. It will make a difference.

 

 

image credit: vadjutka

 

Finally, if you aren't a good photographer, consider hiring a pro or get a talented friend to help you out. Or investigate working with a student or new photographer who wants to build up their portfolio. Also, bartering goods and services for photography services is always a good option.

 

Feature Image Credit:  Ink & Spind


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

 

 

 

by Sarah Von

Indie Boutique Guide: LA

 

Rachel Andersson is an LA fashion and branding consultant.  She’s also knows her way around an indie boutique like nobody’s business.  You can befriend her on Twitter.

 

A+R

A plus R equals L.A.’s most captivating independent home decor shop (and visual nerd’s paradise). Design and culture junkies Andy and Rose are not only L.A. style icons, but also curate a flawless mix of modern and retro-modern pieces; in their words, “from clocks to carafes, slippers to stuffed toys, and baubles to bright lights, the constant is design that charms, functions and inspires.” A+R’s selection of Pantone homewares, DIY cardboard animals, mod glassware and impossibly cool speaker systems brings big and small names from all over the design world to the Venice storefront (not to mention their popular webstore).

 

An Indie Boutique in Los Angeles, CA

 

 

E.P.I.C.

E.P.I.C., or the Echo Park Independent Co-op for long, is an eclectic, contemporary boutique on the ground floor of Echo Park’s historic Jensen’s Rec Center. It features solely independent designers living and working in L.A., as well as focusing on eco-friendly & ethically made items, and its selection of women’s and men’s clothing and accessories is perhaps the most avant-garde and fashion-forward available to L.A.-philes. E.P.I.C. gets points for promoting local bands and artists too, and the store itself is an oasis of minimal cool that eastsiders treasure – plus, their logo is two bunnies high-fiving.

 

An Indie Boutique in Los Angeles, CA

 

 

Lake

A lovely Silverlake boutique specializing in hand-selected clothing, apothecary, and home decor. Shopping here makes you into one of those chicly unreal women who wears small French labels and local artisan jewelry, and has collections of quaint things like old keys artfully arranged next to pussywillows in a handmade vase in her 1920s apartment that smells of organic candles.

 

An Indie Boutique in Los Angeles, CA

 

 

Urbanic

The best little paperhouse in Venice! Urbanic Paper Boutique is where all the event planners, wedding gurus and paper junkies go for their darling letterpress cards, stylish paper goods, sweet crafty gifts, gift wrap for days, hip desk accessories and custom stationery. Somehow manages to straddle that elegant/charming line with grace (and an abundance of ways to say “Happy Birthday” in print).

 

An Indie Boutique in Los Angeles, CA

 

 

Yolk

Yolk’s motto is “Free Range Design,” and it’s not just punny, it’s true – this gem of a shop goes to the ends of the earth to offer all things charming for the home (the owner is Swedish, so there’s a focus on Sweden’s iconic designs, but you’ll see pieces sourced from Portugal, India, New Zealand… and even L.A.). After you fuel up with a latte from nearby coffee haven LAMILL, the Yolk folk will help you find a handmade wallet for the man who has everything, a Milanese beaded necklace for your mother, adorable wall art for the new baby, and those robin’s-egg-blue dishes you’ve been eyeing. The ultimate one-stop gift shop!

 

An Indie Boutique in Los Angeles, CA

 



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:: Stay Fresh Stay Inspired

 

In the middle of running your indie business - filling orders, shipping, answering emails - it can be hard to stay inspired and stay fresh, let alone gather enough inspiration to create a new product or a new line.

 

In preparation for this weekend, here’s the best of the web on staying inspired:

 

“Take a walk with your camera. Whether walking in the woods, down Main St., or along the streets of NYC you are bound to find something that inspires you while looking trough the photographer's lens. “

-Jen Wallace

 

(also inspiring - your Instagram stream of everyone else’s walks!)

 

“If you’re a creative type – artist, writer, maker of awesome things – you probably have a hard time squashing your creative instincts to focus on business. Who wants to worry about crunching numbers, answering email or marketing when there are beautiful things to create? Luckily, you can carve out the willpower to take care of all the aspects of your business without losing your creative spirit! “

-Justine Smith, for Outright

 

It takes a while before we truly, deeply learn that available time (by itself) is one of the worst gauges for our capacity. We have more time in the day than we have energy and attention, and this truth bears out substantially with the “just one more project” mentality.”

-Charlie Gilkey

 

 

How do you balance creativity and business? 

 

 

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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