Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Part 2...Been There, Done That, Will I do it Again?

I'm back for part 2...glad you are too!

I'll get right to the point without any intro since this is the second part in the series...this part includes more details of my experiences...I needed to use the stories to remind myself why I've made my decisions for the upcoming year. I can be wishy washy at times!

Occasional Sales
We started our junk business out by having an occasional sale as our Grand Opening. I sent invitations, posted like crazy to our Facebook page and blogged about the upcoming event for months and months. It was exciting and we had people show up that I'd never met that were friends of friends. The first one was really great and we felt like we had something to build on.

I have read all over the place about the positive side to occasional sales versus keeping shop. The benefits are that you can do as much business in a long weekend as you would in several months of staying in a shop day in and day out. Sounds wonderful.

The next few sales were also good but we were not growing. For the most part, the only people showing up were the ones that I would mail out invitations to. I still used my social networks, but were only having maybe one or two new "fans" per sale. I began to wonder what I was doing wrong.

After talking with others that do this same thing I got the "real skinny" on the matter of attendance and found out that my sales were average for a country sale. If we were in an antiques/artsy district in town where people are already out and about we would most likely be having the attendance numbers that I'd read about. 

It's a lot of work to put a sale together, and a great majority of it is the marketing. Personally, I feel like I look desperate for business when I ask people to's a phobia of sorts I suppose. I know I will have to get past that if I'm going to continue having these sales.

Will I have another sale? For now there isn't another one scheduled but I'm not ruling them out for the future. I still feel like it's okay to test the waters and find out what's going to work best for our family and our schedules.

I say, Maybe for Occasional Sales. Since it will be in addition to what I'm already doing and not my sole venue for sales I can look at the option differently this year. I would love to maybe do a small vendor sale in the yard as well to offer more variety and bring in friends of friends of friends.

Keeping Shop Hours
As you know, we started out doing occasional sales, but were also open by appointment. Because it was few, and far between appointments during our first winter, I decided to keep regular hours 3 days a week. This worked for a while until I realized that I couldn't shop auctions or estate sales on the weekends so I quickly went back to plan A when summer rolled appointment only. By this time, more people knew about us and this was working much better, especially for those that had become regular candle customers and those needing a unique gift item.

I love having a shop...or storefront as I call it now. It's my pride and joy and everything I've always wanted but I've downsized here in order to grow my business as you will read under Getting an Antique Booth. I took back some of my display space as work space and I'm really glad I did that. I'm able to be more productive and it's good to let people see what I'm working on.  I'm only open here at the shop now by appointment. That may or may not be a good thing for others but it's good for me.

I truly love being a shopkeeper, but I hate being tied to it. I love merchandising but hate marketing. I love people but hate waiting on them to show what's a girl to do?

Yes! to keeping shop but doing it on my own terms.

Getting an Antique Booth
At our last occasional sale I realized that I had too much inventory and my shop was crowded to the point that it was hard to see and appreciate what was in there. I wasn't selling as fast as I was buying and I felt overwhelmed at the thought of listing at least half of it on ebay or etsy...even though that was in my business plan. 

Getting a booth has been a good decision for us. It allows me to continue to buy, merchandise and sell my goods while someone else keeps long hours, advertises and collects the money. It gives me the freedom to shop or work in the studio. I couldn't hire someone to work in our shop seven days a week for what we pay in booth rent and commission. Yes, there is a lot of competition at the mall but we are finding that we have our own customers now that are repeat shoppers.

Yes! to an antique booth in a great antique mall. I am fortunate to have found one that is not only busy, but also with the most creative and inspiring booths I've seen! 

Selling through Etsy or Ebay
I use them both but only for smalls and items that I'm not comfortable leaving in my booth unattended. It takes time to photograph and list but worth the effort. I've opened new accounts for my new business so essentially I'm starting over and building a new brand. That has slowed sales I think since my many years of positive feedback is still with my old accounts. Lots of good feedback is key for good sales. Personally, I won't buy from someone without a good record.

I've learned the hard way to always ship with a tracking number and to always use priority services... and also that Paypal can and will freeze your account if someone gets antsy about a slow order and files a complaint...and they will!  

Yes! to Etsy and Ebay! Yes, to speedy delivery, careful packaging and insurance. (Did you catch the news footage around Christmas time where FedEx deliveries were thrown over fences and onto driveways and porches? CRAZY!) Yes to keeping a good inventory and a good selection of items to bring in buyers. This is a goal for me in 2012...a steady amount of inventory in both online venues. 

 Having a Plan
I had a vision when I opened the art gallery in 2004. It evolved wildly into something that paid the bills but looked nothing like what I had envisioned by the time we closed the doors and moved back into my studio at home. The classes at the gallery grew to the point that it was all I had time for...and it was NOT what I wanted to do full time. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't ungrateful for the business and I loved my students dearly!

I burned out from doing too much of one thing by myself...and I was so burned out that I couldn't think clearly enough to figure out what to do to get back on track there. I did the only thing that made sense at the time and took my students home with me where I could have the income and at the same time more control of my schedule. That worked for several years, especially while we homeschooled, but I missed my beautiful gallery and I missed being a shop owner. What I didn't miss was the expensive lease or the daily drive to another town. 

The junk business as we call it, started also with a vision, but this time we had a plan and goals and deadlines for meeting those goals. It also has evolved and taken on its own life as it has grown. We are positive in our thinking, speaking and actions. We have good days and bad but despite all we are doing it. 

I claim to fly by the seat of my pants daily, but really I have a routine and I couldn't function without one. 

YES! to having a plan. It can change and it's okay. As we learn we can always do things better, but we should always have a plan!

Riding Your Own Horse
This is a phrase I used to use with my children a lot, that originated at my daughter's riding lesson one day. There were several little girls in this class and one in particular would spend more time criticizing her class mates than paying attention to her own equitation. One afternoon the instructor had had enough and politely yelled across the arena to this little girl..."just ride your own horse please!"

This is a good metaphor that can be applied to many situations and I am going to use it this year in my own business.

In Part 1, I mentioned a little about what I learned from the antique vendor who sells tools and bottles. I think of our conversation often and I've thought of his success. I believe he rides his own horse and is focused on doing it to the best of his ability. He doesn't seem to compare himself to others. I like that about him. I admire his self confidence. I admire his enthusiasm without apologies. I tend to try to hide my enthusiasm sometimes because I feel like it's boastful...another of my phobias!

I'm inspired to ride my own horse. This year, instead of comparing myself and my business to others, I'm just going to do things the way I do them and be content and confident that it's my best. That's good enough.

I'm not going to recap this time...for the sake of time...but I wanted to add before I close that I believe if we really love what we are doing and focus on that instead of just making money that we will be far more successful.

What do you think?

The last part of the series will be about getting into the studio and being creative. I struggle with this. I either spend too much time creating or too much marketing. I was more balanced when I first started out 23 years ago when I had a new baby at I'm going back in time to try to figure out how I was a smarter artist at 28 than I am at 51.

Part 1

Monday, January 16, 2012

Part 1...Been There, Done That...Will I do it Again?

I'm going to attempt to teach you everything I've learned over the last 23 years in business...haahahahaha.

I thought I could whip out this post quickly because I've been thinking about it for weeks and weeks...but in actuality I've edited it for days and days and cut out a lot because you just don't need to hear all of my personal experiences with each issue...really, you don' I've pared it down to just the meat without the potatoes....

I've read all the books...from art marketing to Etsy and Ebay marketing. I've done trade shows, and high end juried art shows in both local and national markets. There have been good years and most definitely lean years...and years I just couldn't muster up my creativity.

Before I was in this business I designed and painted  floorcloths for 20 something years. I've always been interested in marketing my own goods. Over the last 10 years things have changed almost over night. The options to "get the word out" are endless! I will say here and now that I have made the mistake of putting too much emphasis on marketing because I have tried to do it ALL.

Print Advertising
Expensive! No matter if it's the local newspaper or a national magazine. I've done both and I've never been happy enough with the results. 

Press releases have gotten me more work...they seem to carry more weight with readers. They are more personal. People like stories.

No to paid ads for me. Yes to press releases when I do something new and wonderful!

Years ago, everyone needed a website. A presence online meant you would be found by millions and sell goods all over the world...hahaha! I have a website that is second to my blog. It is information and just another place for someone to land when they google the junk ranch. I like that I maintain it and can keep my information up to date, and that my email is attached to it.

So, YES to a website...or your own domain name as a blog....

First off, if you've read my blog from the beginning, you know that I started a blog almost the day I decided I was going to start this new chapter in my life. I was excited, I had lots to say and must have had way more time than I do posts were often and more interesting than as of late for sure!

The goal with a blog is to build relationships and with relationships comes information you all share for the betterment of the community. Blogging is a community, a support group in a sense, and a sales tool second.

I am planning to do a better job with my blog this year. I enjoy writing and taking pictures. If nothing else, it's another nice creative outlet and I enjoy going back through my own posts and seeing any progress I've made or changes I can make.

So YES to the blog.

Social Networks 
Some people swear by them. They say they can contribute much success to social networks. I am not good at it. It's a chore and it shows. I make a small attempt to keep a Facebook account and a Twitter account...a small attempt.

In my own opinion, and experience, most but not all, social network contacts are curious about what you are doing. Even though they may think what you are doing is interesting and they intend to support you, if it's not really their "thing" they won't. And on another note, some friends/followers are just lurkers or are only looking for inspiration...and not truly a networking relationship.

I will say Yes and No to social networking. If you enjoy it Yes. It's information and it's building relationships and that's good. No, to social networking as a form of advertising products. Instead, create a SOLD gallery and a  NEW ITEMS album. Then if interested, people will look and not feel like you are always trying to sell them something...even though you'd really like to!

And Now We Have Pintrest
The newest thing to me to take up precious creative time...I am overwhelmed by this. I've pinned only a few photos so far.

The jury is out on Pintrest...It looks fun but I think it's addictive and it's another time stealer. Houzz is a similar site. I do have a private account there for my eyes only where I keep idea files for my home. I only look at it about once a week and I'm good. If you can use it to store ideas you find online as it's intended and not spend hours looking at other's boards it's probably a good thing.

If someone pins your work, say, from your Etsy shop, it can be a very good thing for you...and you wouldn't even have to have a Pintrest account for that to happen. Pintrest is not a sales tool, but more of an idea file or inspiration board.

I will have to say Maybe for now on Pintrest.

Friends and Family Support
This is touchy but it has to be said. Friends and family may not support you. Period. This one I probably should edit out for the sake of not stepping on toes, but it's important to understand from a business point of view.

This is our second retail business. The first one was an art gallery. I have both family members and friends that never darkened the door until we closed and moved out. The space became a pocketbook and jewelry store and then a coffee shop. Many times I've been asked in conversation by several of them (friends and family that never came to see me there) if I'd ever been in either of those shops. Good grief!

Our storefront here at home has been open for over a year. I have friends that live within a couple of miles from here that say every time I run into them that they are going to stop they say they can't wait to visit our booth in Concord. Wait! You mean they'd drive an hour to see what's in our booth when they won't take 2 minutes to swing by here and see everything before we take it to the booth? Good grief again! 

Don't get me wrong. I have lots of support from the friends and relatives that want the things I make or sell...but like I said earlier...if it's not their "thing" they won't support you and they honestly don't know that you would even look for them to actually show up. Don't take it personally. We all do it on some level!

So, NO to counting on 100% Friend and Family Support of your business. YES, to staying positive and understanding that people usually have the best of intentions, but at the same time tend to keep their own agenda.

Well, this is enough for recap...and add one more tidbit I forgot to mention....

No to giving away my hard earned money for little to no results to advertise.

Yes to informative websites and blogs...People want to know details.

Yes to my own domain name and email with my domain's information they can track me down by.

Yes to blogging and creating relationships with like minded people. It's nice to know others do what I do and feel the same feelings and emotions. We are real people, not just businesses.

Yes to social networking if one enjoys it. It can't hurt, unless we are spammy! One post a day isn't that hard and photos of new or sold items is easy.

No to social networking if it's not one's thing. It's really okay not to do it.

Maybe on Pintrest...only for pinning and not much looking.

No to expecting too much from friends and family.

...and most importantly and probably the best thing I've learned in years...YES to just doing it! I recently met another vendor at the antique mall where we have our booth. He stopped by my booth one day when I was restocking and struck up a conversation about some old bottles I had in there. It was most inspiring to say the least. He was walking around the mall doing some price comparisons. During our talk I learned that he decided to sell his 40+ year collection of old bottles and tools. He was doing extremely well by my standards and by that I mean anywhere from $900 to $1900 a month and it wasn't the busy season yet...I'd be curious myself to know how he did in November and December!

Before leaving the mall that day I swung by his booth to see what he was doing that I wasn't...what I found was a booth lined with home made wooden shelves loaded with his all looked like a well organized garage. He wasn't doing anything but what he knew how to do...and he obviously did it well! He didn't have a social network or a blog, website or online idea file that I know of. He had a booth full of cool stuff that was clean, easy to see and touch without being overly merchandised and most importantly, priced to sell. He was focused on what he wanted to sell and did it in a modest way no less. I was impressed. I will talk more in the next post about what else I gleaned from talking with this man.

So, to sum this up for today I will say YES! to focus. This year I'm going to focus on my objective and not so much on finding new ways to get distracted from actually doing what I really want to do...which is to have a successful handmade and vintage goods business.

In Part 2 I'll go into more about selling and Part 3, the best part, creating.

Until then,


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Happy New Year

...yeah, I know I'm a little late...but at least we are still in January as I write this.

It's a rainy Wednesday here and I've decide to have a second cup of coffee and sit still for a few. I don't know about you, but I'm not focused so far this year. We've been on such a busy schedule for so long that now that I can actually slow down, I don't know where to start.

Sometimes, I believe it's okay to take some time to do nothing...but, that's hard for me. When I can't focus I know I need to sit and write, probably in my private journal, but here again, it's hard not to be productive so I'm filling the need here on the blog.

First off I want to say thank you to all that shopped with us during the holiday season. It was exciting to see things sell so quickly from our booths at The Depot and I'm always flattered when I have return "candle customers"  at my shop here at the ranch. We even had some online sales although I totally neglected the Etsy shop for lack of time. Thank you all so much!

Ranch Dressing Handmade and Vintage Booth in the Cotton Room at  The Depot at Gibson Mill
My only complaint is the shoplifting. UGH! Someone even took a jewelry display piece out of our new booth. Hopefully the things were just left in other booths when someone changed their mind about the purchase, but so far nothing has turned up. Boo! and Hiss! 

Has anyone seen my jewelry mannequin?
On a sad note, we lost our little Ada exactly one week before Christmas. She's in several of my shop photos because she loved to nap on the porch or come inside while I worked...and that's were she spent her last days...on my studio floor on a quilt. I won't go into much detail but we decided to let her die a natural death here at home since she didn't appear to be suffering or in pain. It was very peaceful and I'm glad I was with her.

Ada's spot behind my chair

Ada's spot on the studio porch

Ada's spot in the sun

It's been hard for the last few weeks to go in the studio. I can't bear to put her quilt away and I catch myself looking for her. I think my grief is probably why my focus is off. Time will help and I know she's here with me in spirit.

I will say too, that while I waited with Ada her last 24 hours, I was able to put things into perspective. Death will do that. I mulled over my regrets of being busy and not spending as much time with her this past year, and thinking how unimportant work will be when it's my time to leave this world. I guess that's what we are here learn...but it sure hurts sometimes when it's the hard way!

I learned much last year and have put some serious thought into what I will do differently and what I will do exactly the same in the coming year as far as business goes. I plan to share some of that with you since I know from recent emails that some of you are wanting to get started in the same type business.

I do have a plan for this year and will talk more about that in my next post...which will be up soon...not two months from now I promise.

Until then,