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

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