Any small business owners out there?

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Any small business owners out there?

Post  HeelerLady on Fri Apr 09, 2010 9:47 am

Alright, I bit the bullet and am taking the plunge. I do beaded jewelery and other beaded objects as well as make dog toys and leashes from my home. Something I can do even with the worst M (rather relaxing braiding things).

Any way...I submitted for my first craft fair in May. It was a juried fair (meaning they want to see your work before hand and are selective based on what you submit) and was accepted.

I don't have a lot of money to invest in the "extras" right now and am wondering if anyone has thoughts on ways to go? I know I need packaging materials and a few display items but am wondering about business cards. I designed a full business card, but also did a half card that I am going to attach to items. Should I do both, or just one? There's also a book on how to make the jewelery part go from someone who started up their own business. Are books something I should invest in?

Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated.
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  Almostangela on Fri Apr 09, 2010 10:16 am

Hi Heelerlady

A couple of peices of advise for your new endeavor. First. CONGRADULATIONS! Well earned to get to this point. Before your spend any money ask the question, is what I am spending now, going to add value to make money? Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer. Will that business card get tossed in the garbage as you walk out the door. The purchase happens at the moment or not at all. However, you should have a few cards for those investor moments. Stand back at your display and ask what would draw you forward into your space. It could be as simple as elevation or a bit of color.

Invest in books? - absolutely not - the library is full of them and unless the book store kicks you out, stand and browse until your heart is content.

Your capital at this point is so precious and there is so much to learn. Go to this first fair and learn all you can from the others who have been doing this before you. Enjoy the experience and network and above all, be yourself. It is the uniqueness that rises above.

All the best to you and keep us posted. I'm very excited for you.

Angela
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  Anna's Mom on Fri Apr 09, 2010 10:16 am

Congratulations, Becky! That is very cool Smile

Is the craft fair indoors?

I don't know much about selling arts/crafts, but I sure enjoy going to fairs when I can! They are very big in Minnesota.

Cheryl
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  estre004 on Fri Apr 09, 2010 10:33 am

I've bought jewelry at Art fairs. What catches my attention is just a few items beautifully displayed. Invest in a fake neck (possible black velvet) for necklaces and a fake wrist/hand for bracelets/rings. When there are numerous pieces especially in little plastic bags, I tend to walk by. When people stop to look you can show them other pieces if they seem interested. Cards would be nice but only if asked for. Usually if I'm given one automatically it gets tossed.

It is all in the display!

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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  milo on Fri Apr 09, 2010 10:39 am

Finally, a topic I can add some real info to!!!!!!

Check out etsy.com

On etsy, anyone who makes handmade items can list for a very small fee. You can make your website and your entire online store for free. Listings are very, very inexpensive. I believe it's 20 cents a listing.

They make their money off the top, so they take a percentage when you make a sale.

They are fully set up with paypal and other payment methods.

Research your shipping cost well and make sure you open up to international orders because many Canadians (and other countries) use etsy as well.

As for business cards, vistaprint often has "free" sales where you can get business cards for free or really cheap. They are good quality, some of the better ones I have bought.

You can either use their formats or upload your own design.

I have been quite successful on etsy and have several friends who quit their day jobs to sell their art.

Good luck and feel free to ask me anything!
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Post  Guest on Fri Apr 09, 2010 10:59 am

Heeler,

I like both of your ideas for business cards and a half card to attach your jewelry to. You can design your own, throw it on a CD and get some made a OfficeMax/CopyMax really cheap.

For info, try google! Take a look at what's out there.

Packaging can be cheap to. Depends on what you need, take a look at office suppy stores. For shipping, check out FedEx or the post office.

You can do a lot on your own.

Check on federal/state/local regs regarding tax collection and an EIN number. You'll need this to do business.

My mom used to make crafts, and the IRS actually would hit craft shows to make sure people had an EIN (employer identification number). If this is more than a hobby, you might need to set up officially with your state's Department of State/Commerce.

You can do the research, check local small biz association to set this up, or an attorney.

A little investment up front goes a long way.

Well done....just because our brains hurt does not mean that we can't use them for new ideas and do things.

-mgb

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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  HeelerLady on Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:08 am

Thanks for all the input ladies.

This is exciting and overwhelming as I'm trying to build inventory and figure out what I need. I know I've been to craft fairs and the more professional the booth looks, the more likely I am to stop and look at things. I also will be getting a few display busts for items - I need to have a way to catch someone's eye.

I have a ton of earrings and what I've decided upon to do for earring cards is to create a half business card (that will fit on display racks), attach a hook on the back and punch holes in the bottom for the earrings themselves. That way there is a bit of contact information on it...I just didn't like the way the standard cards came (rather ugly in my opinion). I also found vistaprint and will be ordering cards from them as they are rather cheap and just invest in a paper cutter to cut the cards apart.

This fair is outdoor...the only thing I need to get is a _____ (looks sort of like a tent but has no sides, can't think of the name) but I have tables, chairs, etc.

Milo - I have heard of etsy. I haven't yet explored that route yet but I've also heard of Zibbet.com. It haven't looked at either one very closely yet but am not sure about putting things out there yet. I guess I'm trying to start small and see where this goes before investing more. I would love for this to completely take off but not sure that's realistic as I was just looking at it to supplement my income a bit.
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  milo on Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:08 am

I really like the half card idea as well. You can even do a quarter card, punch a small hole in one corner and it works as a charm on your product. They always look better when they are heavy card stock. (You could buy moo cards, but they are very expensive)

You can easily make handmade ones that look really cool. You can "upcycle" used palying cards or other things like that and end up making really great cards and product lables.

On etsy you can also buy material tags that really, really make a sewn craft into a product.

I'm very excited for you.
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Post  HeelerLady on Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:16 am

Marc,

Thanks for the reminder. I actually do have an EIN and I am registered with the state of WI, have a seller's permit, tax account with the state, and business money account. That's what took the longest was to figure out what I needed to do and to get everything set up.

I figured if I was going to try this out, get all this stuff set up and if it goes nowhere, it was a very small investment and I'd know how to go about it again.

I have found places for packaging and display that are fairly reasonable. Also looking at buying things wholesale...just a matter of getting the accounts set up there.

The bookkeeping side...little concerned but just have to keep track of records and have it organized. Perfect for the logical side of my brain.

The creative side - I have such a technical head that this is so enjoyable. It takes little brain power to be creative and doesn't hurt to think with this. Smile

Thanks for the encouragement,

Becky
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  milo on Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:19 am

One thing you may want to consider is separating your products. Splitting your table in two as if it were two different businesses? Jewelery and pet items are vastly different, unless you have somehow made them similar.

I find at fairs that the tables with one type of product tend to be taken more seriously then ones with a varied amount of products.

I swear, fairs are about 90% presentation, so do your research on how you want your table to look. The small details make a huge difference. You don't have to spend much, or anything depending on what kind of things you have in your home.

You can easily make display boards and bins with simple, easy to find items. I find the less flash the better, or just aiming for one or two flashy things, as your items should be the thing to stand out.
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  newtothis on Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:25 am

Are you thinking of an easy up? They're great for events and they can come with sides too in case you need/want to put 3 sides up due to weather or something. We use them at events. My dad does fries, chicken tenders, shrimp and hot dogs at a lot of local events.

Make sure you have at least one mirror is the only thing I can think of at the moment and if you have jewelry "sets" that match group them together so customers will purchase the entire set!

Good luck to you!
Debbie
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  Brent on Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:32 am

I have run a home based business for 25 years. Since you will be shipping get a USPS acct set up so you can print postage and ship out of your home mailbox. The flat rate boxes have worked out great for me. Fast shipping always impresses customers. If you use Priority Mail they will have it before you start getting the "Where's my order"? "When did you ship it"? etc, etc. questions. They take up way too much of your time.

Have a back up PC available. Poop always happens when you have the most orders to fill. In business "Murphy's Law" is alive and operating 24/7.

Have an easy to navigate website with a search box and contact link right at the top. Don't make your potential customers search for a contact box.

Get a good camera and light box to take pro quality pics. Learn photo editing to touch up your photos and add text boxes inside. I use Microsoft Picture It. I paid $16 for the software and it's still more then I use.

FaceBook is a free platform to start networking with your friends and their friends.

Most importantly, get a PayPal acct. so you don't have to deal with setting up a merchant acct for credit cards. It's a total pain in the a$$. PayPal for a small business is mega blessing when it comes to ease of use.

Always keep on eye on your competition and what they are doing. You can get great tips just by visiting their website.

BTW, my daughter beads and I have made a lot of exotic beads for her on my lathe. I have made some specialty lathe cutters for different types of beads. Last summer I cut some beads out of Ancient Kauri wood. It's ove 50,000 years old and makes for some unique beads. I also made some woolly mammoth beads out of some scraps I bought.

Here are a few bead projects I have made for gifts. I need to take break from knife making sometimes and stretch my comfort zone.

Mokume, the Japanese art of heat fusing non ferrous metals together then exposing the erratic layers.

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Ice Age Necklace I made for my wife for an anniversary gift. It has ancient kauri wood, woolly Mammoth and obsidian beads. The arrow head is a neolithic 12,000 y/o from the Michael Cottingham collection. It's secure with a piece of deer antler to look like a mini neanderthal knife.
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I made this one from a slice of the Gibeon meteorite acid etched to show the pattern. The eye is 24kt gold and I set a 1/10 k black diamond in it.
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I carved both of these froma slice of moose antler and made all the beads. One was for my daughter and one for her friend.
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Ebay will give you 1000's of ideas. Not to copy but to spark some ideas and get the creative juices flowing.


Last edited by Brent on Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:55 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  Brent on Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:44 am

One more tip from my experience. Don't put your home phone number on your website (if you have one). Otherwise someone from Spain will call you at 3:00 AM. Or someone 3-4 times zones ahead of you will call not realizing it's only 6:00 AM where you are at. Very few people check or aware of time zones when they call long distance.

Cell phones are another cheap easy blessing to small home based businesses. You can have a business only number that you can turn off and have a recording.

FWIW, while typing this post I had several very big deep sighs. A home business can consume you and make your home less of a refuge and more of a stress generator. You hate the slow periods and dread the busy periods. Success is just a nice word for stress, long hours and a disappearing social life. My home base business got so busy I sold it. And I then found out I had a wife and a daughter. That slipped my mind for about five years.

Much of the profits I invested in some domestic oil companies. It got to where the monthly stock dividends were exceeding the business profits. That was my hint to pack it up and get the hell out of Dodge.
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  HeelerLady on Fri Apr 09, 2010 12:02 pm

Oh my....so grateful for everyone. You guys have no idea how much this means to me. While a lot of this I'm not quite ready for, I will flag and keep in mind for when things do take off or I'm ready to take the next step.

Debbie - thank you. Easy up, was what I was searching for. Something to protect from the weather, since it could be very nice the middle of May or it could be nasty...typical WI weather. And I'll use it again for camping flyball tournaments.

Milo - I had a feeling a lot of it would be in the presentation and yes I did plan to separate them. Right now, complete polar opposites - the only thing they have in common is that they are hand made. I also have ideas for display from items I already own - especially the dog items. I'm trying to minimize costs where I can and use items I have.

This may change in the future as I have a bunch of other product ideas swirling through my head but want to start with this and add to it as I can. Thinking start small even though you have a bazillion ideas. The other line I'm thinking would involve buying sides of leather and creating items - dog and perhaps person and I just don't have the money to start that now. My dad does leather items and I have the know-how it's just the tool investment (eep!).

Brent - I am so impressed. Thank you for all the suggestions. I will get a USPS account set up. While I may not be ready to do a website, I do plan to take custom orders and will need to have a way to ship it. Didn't think about it - duh.

I guess I haven't been really concerned with competition. I do what I do and I don't copy anyone and am really not influenced by anyone's work. I may look at a piece and get inspired but it usually goes some other place than I intended. And sometimes I make sets, sometimes I don't, just depends on the mood I'm in. And experimenting with a few techniques - so far coming out pretty good. Smile
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  HeelerLady on Fri Apr 09, 2010 12:09 pm

Brent wrote:Don't put your home phone number on your website (if you have one). Cell phones are another cheap easy blessing to small home based businesses. You can have a business only number that you can turn off and have a recording.

Much of the profits I invested in some domestic oil companies. It got to where the monthly stock dividends were exceeding the business profits. That was my hint to pack it up and get the hell out of Dodge.

Yeah, I wasn't about to put my home number on anything. Since I don't have a store, I'm not putting my address on it either. Don't want random strangers just to show up. I put my cell phone number on cards, but I could change that eventually and can turn that darned thing off. I set up an email account for the business as well.

I can only hope my business would take off like yours did. Smart to invest the way you did. I think that is what every person starting a business hopes for...to make the big bucks and be set for life. Very Happy
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  Brent on Fri Apr 09, 2010 12:11 pm

It's a journey and don't get overwhelmed. Just start out small and adapt as needed. It's easier now then ever before to have a home business.

A website is vital. You can do shows/fairs but they are usually not worth the hassle. The promoters are usually the only ones to make any money. That whole concept worked OK until the internet took off.

I make custom knives and specialty tooling and have never gone to a show yet. More and more knife makers are abandoning shows. They are just too expensive when you factor in all the expenses and time.

Donations to fundraisers are also a very cheap way to get exposure. Every time I have donated a project to my daughters school auction I have got 2-3 high end orders. My intent is to make extra money for the school but the "fall out" never hurts.
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  Brent on Fri Apr 09, 2010 12:13 pm

HeelerLady wrote:

I can only hope my business would take off like yours did. Smart to invest the way you did. I think that is what every person starting a business hopes for...to make the big bucks and be set for life. Very Happy

.......And try not to lose your mind in the process.
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  milo on Fri Apr 09, 2010 2:40 pm

I agree with Brent (LOVE your stuff btw)...don't let it consume you.

You are inviting your business into your home and it can take over.

I also agree that craft shows and fairs can be a total waste of money. The internet is cheap and easy to use. Etsy requires maybe 10-15 bucks to set up a shop...that would be listing 50-75 items. That is huge. (many of the shops have 20-40 items only)

Price point is one of the most important things. Etsy sellers tend to undersell...don't do it. Decide what your time, effort and product is worth and ask for it. Look and see what others are charging, but don't let that be the main determinant.

Your photos are also very, very important online...makes the difference from a professional online store to "a crafty person selling their items".

Research etsy and other online places...look up their top sellers and compare their stores.

Paypal is also very, very important. Brent really knows his stuff! Paypal makes it possible for anyone from anywhere to buy your stuff. Get it set up now so you don't have to go through the lengthy hassle later. I hear the USPS is fabulous and I wish we had the same here in Canada.

Warn international customers that you do not have control over custom wait times.

Think about your return policy BEFORE you have any complaints.

Think hard about your business name, as it says a lot about you and your product.

You don't have to pay to advertise, you need to market yourself. Brent is dead right about fundraisers....gets sales every time.

Talking about your stuff, wearing it, keeping pics on facebook, blogging, chat rooms on crafting sites...these all bring attention to your stuff...it's free adverts.
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  Paradox on Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:04 pm

Hey Heeler Lady,

The only advice I have is not as a business owner, but from someone who loves to do flea markets, craft sales, antique malls and resale shops (anything but clothing stores!). Don't have the table too cluttered. If a seller has to much out, I can't focus and nothing catches my eye. I'll walk right by a booth that is jammed packed with stuff.

And yes, take the time to make the presentation appealling. So many people just throw the stuff out on a sheet. I linger at the booths that have taken the time to spruce up their own little corner of the world.

Oh, and if you have a cute little dog that is well behaved and can sit by your side? Always gets me in the booth, gets me talking to the seller and then I WANT to buy something from my new friend. Rolling Eyes

Good luck and congrats!
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  HeelerLady on Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:08 pm

Well this will be my project for the weekend. Comparing sites and figuring out how to go about this part. You've convinced me that this is probably a vital component and with the added capability of Paypal. I was toying with accepting credit cards but I know that can be price prohibitive. The USPS account is a definite and most of this I can accomplish at home this weekend.

I don't intend to do craft fairs very often. I don't know how practical that is with the M monster (leaving the house with one can be a challenge most days). We have 3 fairly large annual ones in my town and I think that would be the extent of it. This first one will give me a sense of how future ones will go as this is the biggest of the three.

I also sort of knew about the marketing and I wear one of my creations almost everyday (this is why I decided to take the plunge - so many compliments) but will get more on this.

Thank you again for your input. Smile
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  lesherb on Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:20 pm

Someone mentioned having your dog there in your booth. If there is a dog in a booth when I go to the flea market, I am always eager to stop and pet him. It doesn't make me buy anything but it does make me stop!

You have the added benefit of having your dog wear your wares!
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  tecky on Sat Apr 10, 2010 7:48 am

Although I haven't been able to go to any craft sales/flea markets the past few years (crowds really escalate a migraine), I agree with Charlotte and Leslie. If there is a dog at a booth, I'm sure to stop.

I know your dogs are well-behaved and well-trained, Becky, so I think they would be a very big advantage in your booth. Your agility work with them will be of interest to many--maybe you could include a small photo album (portfolio) of your dogs modeling several styles of the dog items while they're going through their paces.

Good luck. I'm eagerly awaiting when you have your items online. cheers I'd be interested in them.

My grandpa used to make some leather horse tack--halters, braided reins, breast collars, driving harness. He didn't really market them, but once people saw mine or grandpa's, they would ask him to make some for them.

Becky flower
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  HeelerLady on Sat Apr 10, 2010 8:18 am

Thanks ladies. I hadn't thought about having the dogs with me, but this is a 2 day event and maybe one dog each day. Lou is very well behaved around people (not so good around other dogs). Abby loves people but tends to jump (haven't figured out how to break her of it yet) and to have them as a spokesmodel might be good. As well as a few photos. Smile

Well, I'm doing all the looking and figuring out what I need to do for the on-line aspect. And will post links when I get that far. Also have to work out how I'd do custom work...but I'm getting ahead of myself here - one step at a time.

My dad is a horse-gear maker. He has made saddles, bridles, reins, headstalls, halters, chaps, holsters and various other items related to horses. He has his own website but I don't know that I want to go the horse route - inventory requirements are expensive. http://waynescustomleather.com/

But Becky, I know what you mean. Word of mouth can carry you a long way and seeing things in action is a good way to sell something.
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Re: Any small business owners out there?

Post  tecky on Sat Apr 10, 2010 5:53 pm

Well, Becky, Alden, IA, isn't very far from my son and daughter-in-law in Cedar Rapids. We must pass nearby it when we drive down.

Your dad's ranch looks interesting and diverse. Cool! Thanks for sharing the web site.

Becky bounce flower
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Post  HeelerLady on Sat Apr 10, 2010 7:27 pm

Yeah, that's as much contact as I have with him. He walked out of my life 6 years ago - called me on my 23rd birthday and told me, he and his fiance were moving to IA and if my brother and I wanted anything from the house to come get it otherwise it would be trashed. Haven't heard from him since.

He did teach me the leather working skills which I may employ later but not to the level that he does things. I have my own ideas. Smile
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