Advice from Handmade Advocate IAMTHELAB

I asked Brett from IAMTHELAB to share a bit about his efforts and ideas for handmade and creative sellers online.

What is the goal/mission of IAMTHELAB?

My goal is to showcase and support the new and emerging makers from around the world. I love finding new artists to feature on the LAB. The handmade community is big and diverse, with so many great creations. I tend to focus on modern and contemporary designs. I want to help makers embrace social media, blogging and branding as they grow their business.

For the shop owners and entrepreneurs out there can you share some advice on how they could spread the word about their stores?

One is by regularly blogging. It doesn’t have to be everyday, perhaps a few times a week or so. Also, don’t just look as social media as a way to gain popularity. Use it to connect with other makers and supporters. Tell your story via great images. Reach out to blogs that share you style aesthetic. Don’t forget your local brick and mortar indie shops as well.

How can a brand best differentiate themselves so they stand out from competitors and other stores in popular marketplaces?

One is to know who you are. What’s your story? Why do you create? Tell that story and be as open as you can about your process of making. Good branding helps. I know some fantastic artists that still don’t have a well developed brand story. You need it so that your creations ‘stick’ in the minds of those who discover you.

Any thing else you wanted to share?

It’s important to make sure that your online shop is well conceived. Use the best images possible. If you can’t take great shots yourself (like I can’t), hire someone. It’s worth the investment for a number of reasons. One of them is that the web is extremely visual these days, i.e. Pinterest. Another is that blogger like me love great pictures to showcase your work on our blogs.

 

You don’t need a new website design!

I find myself wanting to change the look of my website and client websites at different times throughout the year. Usually I have seen some shiny new website that makes my website look less interesting to me.

Ever had that happen? You are perfectly content with what you have until you see an ad for some new product or your friend gets a new phone? Worse what if your competitor upgrades his website with the latest technology, new images and a responsive design?

I am here to remind myself and you that you don’t need a new website design. You don’t need to spend $1000 for a graphic designer to come up with some fancy new ideas. You don’t even need to spend $50 on some stock graphics or photography.

What you really need is to reach out to your existing and potential customers and forge relationships. The best business I get is not because my website is the latest and greatest thing but its because I help people and they refer new clients to me.

If you sell something worth buying and you treat people like you want to be treated, that is a great step in building your business without having to spend your marketing budget on a brand new website. Save yourself some money and wait to redesign your websites until you have better relationship with your customers.

And then you still can just add better content to your site before having to redesign the whole thing.

Now…if you don’t have a website at all then take an hour this week and buy a domain name as an investment in your future. If you aren’t sure on how to do that or what to do next, feel free to email me any time.

Temptation Threads Shop

JJ DeCaro joins us today to share about his company and t-shirt brand. Temptation Threads is an example how a hobby can turn into a business and how a business can give back to the community.

Do what it takes to make them happy!

Temptation Threads is a company that I started in August 2011 with three employees. We started off designing shirts and apparel that we wanted to wear.  We found that there was not a large collection of quality men’s t-shirts that we found fashionable around the surrounding New Orleans area. As we began to wear our own apparel in public, a small demand began to grow.  People would ask where could they purchase the shirts or get one for their significant other.  This is how Temptation Threads was born. The business is based off our city of celebration, revelry, wild nights, and temptation. Our mission is to provide men’s fashion and design to the individual seeking a unique look. Not only supplying apparel, but also supporting and advocating for individuals and groups within our community. We decided to open an online store, and the rest is history.

temptation threads

The most important elements when establishing and maintaining our online business is to remain close and loyal to our customers. The use of social networking such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed us to stay in contact with our customers on a daily basis and provide the best customer service possible.  We believe that fast shipping, communication, and follow up with our customers have made the greatest impact. Giveaways and contests have also been useful in promoting our business. Keep it fun!  Your customers are your bloodline, do what it takes to make them happy!

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image14593510

The use of a Tonka Park theme was one of the best investments that we have made.  A little customization of an already well designed theme has been beneficial.  A lot of time was taken in picking colors and designing a website that was extremely easy to navigate during your shopping experience.  We wanted the customer to be able to move efficiently through our site with the least amount of headache as possible.  I believe simplicity is the key.

Giving back a portion of your sales

The greatest thing that we have done through our business is the donation of net sales to help people and charities.  In July 2012, we donated 40% of our net sales to Amber’s Prayer Team which helped a pregnant mother with a brain aneurysm, recover and get the care she needed to be re-united with her child.  We have also looked to raise money for Children’s Hospital in New Orleans, and within the next couple of months we will be connecting with others charities and individuals who need assistance.

Putting it all together

Putting all of these elements together, we have created a business that is doing well, but has a long way to go.  The biggest piece of advice that I would give to someone starting out is to be patient.  This thing will not happen overnight.  When building a brand, it is going to take many hours, days, and even years to get your name out there and network with people in the business. Your business is a constantly evolving entity that requires a great deal of adaptation to succeed.  If you are passionate and love what you are doing you cannot fail.  Temptation Threads will continue to provide quality tees and do everything possible to make sure our customers remain happy with our product.

temptation_threads3

Don’t forget to checkout Temptation Threads online:

https://www.facebook.com/temptationthreads

https://twitter.com/TemptationThrds

http://temptationbrand.tumblr.com/

It took 3 years to find the right manufacturer

Today I get to share with you about a shop that is producing their own casual and urban clothing. They have been hustling for 3+ years and have a great shop to show for it.

Tell us about your Big Cartel store

Genuine By Anthony is a casual & urban wear online store based in Houston Texas. From the time we started back in 2011, we went through many issues starting an online business with certain programs & software but when we came across Big Cartel it changed everything. We first started selling t-shirts, beanies, snap backs, sweaters and jackets but were now focusing more on cut & sew. At the moment there’s only two people involved but were looking to expand soon. We are currently attracting customers through instagram, facebook, tumblr, twitter and email marketing.

genuine by anthony

 

What kind of insight can you share with the operations of your business?

It took us about 3 years to really find the right manufacture to develop our products. 

As for sourcing were currently having everything made overseas and in the U.S. It took us about 3 years to really find the right manufacturer to develop our products. Managing shipping & packing became pretty simple because of Big Cartel. Years ago we would do everything manually, you can imagine the problems we were facing. As for tricks to shipping products always treat your clothing as if your receiving the product. When shipping always send a unique package that’s wrapped with stickers and flyers. Remember that people are interested in your product but quality and presentation goes along way.

genuine by anthony products

Thanks to GBA

Hope this featured shop post continues to encourage you in building and running your shop online. Things don’t happen overnight but some hard work will help you increase your probability of success.

How to Copy Big Cartel Products to Storenvy

 

Storenvy Importer

 

I have offered the Storenvy Importer for a year now and today I launched a new feature. You can now copy products from Big Cartel and add them to your Storenvy account.

The importer has been tried and used by thousands of sellers on Storenvy. I believe it is the only way to get started moving your products to Storenvy from another online location. You can upload 100′s of product images via CSV in minutes. If you were to manually create 50 products with 2 images each you have to upload all 100 images direct to storenvy manually or you can use the importer and it will download them from Etsy, Big Cartel or the urls you put in the CSV file.

Try it today for FREE! There is a free level of use and then a low one time fee of $20 for unlimited use.

 

Mom, shop owner, and published author shares her secrets

Looking to find encouragement from another shop owner running a business part time and raising a family full time? Ashley from neauveau fiber art is joining us on the blog today to share about her experience running a Big Cartel shop and a blog and raising her son.

neauveau blog

Tell us about yourself and shop

My name is Ashley Martineau and I’m a stay at home mom and fiber artist. I used to run my business full time, but have recently started running it part time as my son Sam requires my full time attention. I enjoy spinning yarn, dyeing fiber, and marketing – so playing with these hobbies during his naptimes helps me feel balanced. I don’t have any employees, just myself, and I currently sell fiber for other artists to spin into yarns, knitting patterns, and video tutorials.

You wrote a book about Spinning and Dyeing Yarn?

neauveau book

Writing a book was certainly an adventure! I started planning the outline when my husband was unemployed, started writing it a week after I found out we were pregnant, photographed the tutorials during my second trimester, and was wrapping up the final edits as I was in the hospital being hooked up to pitocin. It was exciting, stressful, exhilarating, and frustrating. I still have a hard time believing I’m a published author. I’ve gotten such a great response from the book, and I’m so pleased that it is helping other budding artisans explore a hobby that I love. I pre-ordered 100 books and sold them on Big Cartel. When I sold out I simply linked the book to the Amazon listing. Although I was paid to write the book, selling copies ended up not being very profitable (after I paid for the copy, plus shipping to me, plus taxes…I didn’t make that much) so it was fun to ship out 100 autographed copies – but from now on I’ll let Amazon do all that work.

How are you managing to marketing and attract customers?

I do a lot of marketing on Facebook. I also run a blog www.handspunartyarn.com where I post free patterns and tutorials to help educate the fiber community about different ideas I come up with for using art yarns. Right now I stay busy working on patterns and brainstorming new video tutorials. I have a YouTube channel where I upload my videos, and that is where most of my traffic comes from. I also have an ETSY shop where I sell just patterns and tutorials.

neauveau fiber art

Running a business and a family, how do you manage your time and do you have any tips to share?

Setting goals is huge. If you’re thinking of starting a business you really should consider how much time you have to dedicate to it. It will take twice the time you think it will, and you’ll get paid half as much as you hope to get paid. But it’s very rewarding and fun and for a stay at home mom it can help you maintain part of your own identity. Network with other businesses that you enjoy, share as much information for free as possible. Blog about your tips and tricks. Share your creative story, and what you’re working on every week. I’m all about giving back to the creative community that inspires me so much. Don’t be greedy, and don’t consider any idea as your own original idea. The more you try to keep everything a trade secret, the more paranoid you will get and the less joy you will have. Make videos on how you craft, share videos that other people have made that you found helpful. Give stuff away. Be generous, teach others how to do what you do, and enjoy the thrill they get from creating. When you find yourself beginning to lose joy, give yourself a break and reorganize your thoughts.

Here is a very simple checklist for you to think about every week as you find a minute here or a naptime there to get stuff done:

- Share a helpful video tutorial or link on Facebook
- Make something for your shop
- List something in your shop
- Blog about something you’ve made
- Create an album of nature or fashion photos that inspire you
- Pinterest creative ideas to photograph or market your product
- Have a cup of coffee
- Look at other products like yours and see how people are marketing them
- Watch HSN or QVC. Seriously, those people can sell anything.
- Make a list of everything you would like to learn, and work on learning it this year
- Make a list of the projects you are working on and tackle each one at a time
- Simplify, don’t spread yourself too thin.
- Make a “Quit List” of things that are clogging up your creativity and quit them.
- Do what you love today
- Have a cupcake

Wrapping up…

Make sure to checkout Ashley’s shop and blog. If you found encouragement from this post please let us know in the comments below. And if you want to be featured on the blog in the future just let me know.