Category: Crafting (page 1 of 1)

Are you having a FALL SALE?

I’m personally not a big fan of price promotions for handmade products, for various reasons.

Firstly, discounting sends out a certain message about your products: I’ve got left over stock, it’s piled high, it’s all about the new season, this isn’t “the thing” any more.

Secondly, it hacks away at your profit margin, which may be slimmer than you would like to start with.

Thirdly, it sets a dangerous precedent – we have all been conditioned by retailers, and in particular online retailers, to wait for the next price promotion: there will always be another 15% off and free delivery around the corner, so why buy today?

Fourthly, you are hopefully working hard to demonstrate to your customers why a handmade product is worth a premium.  We know you can’t compete on price with mass produced products, so you have to have a really strong added value proposition: your products are better, and therefore worth more, because of the detail, the quality, the uniqueness, and the heart and soul that you poured lovingly into their design and manufacture.  That is why they are worth a premium, and your real customers will appreciate that.

So, for those reasons, I don’t recommend you build discounting and MASSIVE SUMMER MADNESS sales into your business strategy.  (You weren’t going to, were you, I needn’t have worried.)

However, you are competing in the real world, against companies who do discount, in a market when it’s not easy to get people to part with their money, and you have a living to make.  So what to do?

If you have stock that is ageing, seasonal, or failing to move for another reason, you may have to consider putting it on sale.  Now might be a good time.  People do love a bargain, and there is no doubt that discounting does stimulate sales.  Stock that has been hanging around for months or even years is not good for your cash flow or your energy, so a cheeky discount may get things moving again.

On the subject of cash flow, this can be another good reason to hold a sale: if you can see funds starting to dry up, and are worrying where you will find the cash for the next month’s bills, emergency measures may be required.  You may have to park your pride and profit predictions for a short while and use a sale to avert a cash crisis.

Don’t just hold a sale because everyone else is doing it.  If you are happy with the level of business you are generating, then fine.  But if you do feel under pressure financially, you can still hold a sale without losing your dignity or damaging your brand. All in the best possible taste.

Avoid falling into furniture warehouse speak: “MUST END SOON” and “PRICES SLASHED” are probably not on-brand, so make sure you communicate your sale to your customers in your usual tone of voice.

Think of clever ways to promote your discounts – perhaps you only offer them to your top customers as a thank you, thereby keeping them exclusive and creating goodwill among your most valuable audience.  Rather than applying blanket discounts to everything, create some promotional bundles: three cushions for the price of two, or buy a necklace and get free earrings.   These offers add value for your customers without feeling cheap.

Consider partnering with a magazine or blog to create a reader offer.  Again, this gives an element of exclusivity, and can also promote your sale to a wider audience.

Finally, give people a clear timeframe for the offer.  They need to know it’s not open ended.  In other words: “MASSIVE SUMMER MADNESS MUST END SOON!”.

If you are running a sale, please feel free to post a link to your site in the comments box below.  We will be covering pricing and selling in more detail on the Create a Craft Business e-Workshop, which starts 8th September.

How to inject new life into your craft business | Maggie Mumford

It’s very likely that the energy you put into your business will ebb and flow over time, especially if it has been set up for the very purpose of providing balance, security and flexibility to your life.  Nothing compares to the heady start-up phase, where you fall dizzily in love with your new venture, and pour an unreasonable amount of passion and time into making your dreams a reality.

But what happens later on, when the honeymoon period is over and you find your personal circumstances have changed: perhaps a baby comes along, you suffer a divorce or illness, or find yourself relocating?  Luckily, by nature small, creative businesses are relatively easy to scale up or down (I know, I did it when my second baby came along and I was juggling two under 2s whilst trying to cope with health complications that left me feeling drained).

When your situation shifts again, as it will, and you find yourself ready to breathe new life into your work, how do you do this?

maggie mumford dog tiles

Dogs by Maggie Mumford

maggie mumfordI spoke with Maggie Mumford, a talented artist who specializes in creating bespoke tiles and ceramics that feature her appealing designs.  Maggie is facing this challenge right now, and has kindly shared her thoughts with us.

Maggie, you are refocusing on your business following a break – can you tell me a bit about that?

My business was pretty well established after 7 years, then I took some time out to be with my daughter, which turned out to be longer than I expected I would need. I was happy to take on work that came my way during this time, but without any proactive marketing, this obviously declined, and has left me feeling that I need to build things up all over again.

So what do you feel are the biggest challenges you are facing now?

Getting my name out there again; people forget so quickly!  Also, fitting everything in with reduced working hours; I can’t work the hours I did before, so I am going to have to brush up my time management considerably!

What can you do to address these challenges?  Do you know how and where to get help?

I have just taken somebody on part time to help me with PR, so she has been contacting the home magazines to get editorial again. I am also starting to do some advertising.

My daughter can spend some time in school clubs and day camps during the holidays, but I am also trying to keep the balance of spending time with her too.  A universal problem for working mothers I expect.

I try to have a clear structure to my day – first thing after drop off and dog walk I check my emails and Facebook and then go straight into the studio. I have to be really disciplined and get in there for Woman’s Hour or I lose valuable painting time. If I start looking at “new pins you may be interested in” I’m doomed.

maggie mumford love and kisses tiles

Love & Kisses by Maggie Mumford

Hopefully the advertising should not only attract new clients, but help you leverage editorial with those magazines too.  And yes, I don’t think there is a solution to the working mum’s dilemma, so I try not to waste too much time searching for one!  We all muddle through in the best way we can!

Have you set some goals for where would you like to be by the end of this year, and next year?

By the end of the year I would like to be somewhere near where I used to be with my workload but that may be a little ambitious. By the end of next year I definitely want that and more. I really miss juggling different projects and coming up with designs for bespoke clients, it feeds my creativity.

What are you most afraid of and is there anything you putting off doing?

I’m afraid that all of the above may not happen – I think I have lost a bit of confidence. I’m not putting off much – it’s all systems go!

Glad to hear you are feeling the fear and doing it anyway! Sounds like you are pretty fired up, which tells me this is the right time for you to be scaling things back up. What excites you most about the future of your business?

I’m excited about my new website – the designer was brilliant and I think he has done a great job. Also, I’m really enjoying the new designs that I have been working on. I have finally embraced Facebook and Pinterest and that has been a revelation, I’m surprised at how much I enjoy them.  I’m happy and optimistic about the future and looking forward to “achieving” again and having a healthy bank balance.

Finally, what one small thing could you do today to make a difference to your business?

I could (will!) chase up the emails that I sent out last week and haven’t had replies for. Not much, but 1% everyday…

I think that’s more than 1%! Thank you so much for sharing your honest thoughts which I’m sure many readers will relate to and feel inspired by. I have no doubt that you will see things gather momentum quicker than you are expecting!

maggie mumford mugs and jugsVisit Maggie’s Website and see her beautiful handmade tiles here:

Behind the scenes at the Liberty Open Call 2019

Thinking back to when I was running my own jewelry business, one of my happiest moments was peering into a heavy glass & polished wood display cabinet in the fashion accessories department of Liberty of London, and seeing my jewelry designs twinkling back at me.  It wasn’t easy getting it there: it took approximately 18 months of cold-calling the buyer (a challenge in itself, as her answer machine was perma-on and perma-full) until I got an appointment, and I often think how different things would have been if I had given up after 3 months? 6 months? A year? (A valuable lesson in perseverance).

That was back in 2007, but nowadays there is a way to get in front of a buyer at Liberty that requires less terrier-like-tenacity.  It’s called The Liberty Best of British Design Open Call and takes place every January.

It’s designed to discover and support new and emerging design talent, and having pre-registered, designers queue around the block to spend a few minutes presenting their products to some of the most influential buyers and industry experts in the UK.  The lucky few will go on to receive orders and see their products appear in store.

Kirsten HendrichJewelry designer Kirsten Hendrich was at the 2014 Open Call a few weeks ago, and has kindly agreed to share her experiences with us here.  If “selling to a department store” is on your list of things to do this year, I hope you will find her honest insights, clear sense of focus and enviable pragmatism as inspiring as I do.

Hi Kirsten, thanks for talking to me.  Can you tell me a bit about your work, and where you currently sell it?

Elodea Pendant

Elodea Pendant

I specialize in making handmade jewelry in silver, gold and platinum, inspired by natural forms such as pondweed, dandelions and tree bark.   At the moment I am focusing on selling at craft and trade shows such as Desire, which is based in Winchester, and also at RHS Wisley in Surrey. I also sell through my own website

Going forward, I would like develop my list of stockists and begin to really get my work out there in trusted galleries and shops over the course of 2014. I will be attending the British Craft Trade Fair in April, so I hope to meet potential stockists there.

So how did you hear about the Liberty Open Call and what made you decide to apply?

I heard about the Liberty Open Call event through Facebook. I had seen on Facebook and Twitter that a few other makers had attended the Open Call event in 2013, and decided that it was something worth pursuing.  It seemed accessible to all and although I was a bit intimidated, I felt it was worth attending. Liberty also announces Open Call events on their social media networks so you can easily find out when they are next scheduled.

I decided to take the leap and register for the Open Call event in January 2014, mainly because of the well renowned reputation of Liberty. I visit Liberty often and love to explore the jewelry section. They stock a lot of jewelers I admire such as Alex Monroe and Monica Vinader and I can only dream of one day seeing my own designs within the historic walls of Liberty.

While I had no expectation to be accepted within the Open Call process through to the next stage of selection, I thought if anything it would be a great opportunity to meet professional buyers. Their buying team travels the world meeting a wide range of designers, so I felt their experience and knowledge could lead to some very valuable advice, and that they might be able to give me a few pointers or suggest ways in which to develop my collections or brand. I have never met with buyers before, so I was attending for the experience – the concept of pitching, speaking to professional buyers, and presenting my work in a formal manner, it’s a great opportunity to practice!

What was the process before you went – did Liberty give you much information on how to prepare?

Liberty publishes a section on their website about the Open Call event each year. It allows you to register for the next event and provides a short paragraph about the event itself. There is also a video which gives you an insight into the process on the day. I had no idea how formal the event would be; how I should present my designs and even what to wear. I was nervous about entering such a prestigious establishment and coming across as a complete beginner and harming my brand image, but the video really helped calm my nerves and helped me prepare.

So, once you were calm (!) how did you prepare and what did you take with you?

Billowing Dandelion Seed Pendant

Billowing Dandelion Seed Pendant

Beforehand I Googled to see if other makers had been to the event and written about their experiences. I found a few designers had given an insight into what occurred on the day. I also received an email from Liberty after I registered, with a simple list of questions I might be asked (about pricing, delivery times, target customers and so on.)  I decided to have all the information ready in mind to answer any questions, but I steered away from a formal pitch. I prepared one of each of my designs and price sheets giving the retail and wholesale prices of each design ready to pass onto the buyers.

Did you have a clear idea what outcome were you hoping for?

Realistically I really wanted feedback and someone with professional buying knowledge to steer me in the right direction and give me some advice: Was there something missing? Did I have enough within each collection? Did my design have a commercial appeal? I generally went seeking feedback in which to work from.  I decided if I didn’t get in this year, I would simply return and try again.

All really useful stuff.  So what happened on the day?

On the day I arrived at 8.30am; I wanted to get a place in the queue early. The queue had already started to build up outside the store, but as the doors opened at the back we all moved through quite quickly. We were led up the back staircase to the top floor where shop space had been cleared.

Once the queue reached the top of the winding wooden staircase, makers were separated into two halves, fashion or homeware. I was lead to the fashion seating area. Each maker signs in with the most appropriate buyer with the help of Liberty staff to guide you.

Within the fashion area there was a wide range of designers waiting for their turn to pitch and show off their wares, from children’s clothes, jewellery, scarves, accessories, hats and fashion garments to beauty products; it was buzzing with creativity.

There was a lot of competition, but still the environment was so supportive. It was a great opportunity to meet others and everybody was wishing each other luck and calming each other’s nerves, it wasn’t cutthroat at all.

I waited for about an hour and a half until I was called through to the adjoining room ready to meet the buyers. The room was a hive of activity. I was quickly called to meet Isobel and Sarah at one of the tables. There were other makers busily pitching their designs to other buyers. It was by no means an intimidating Dragons Den type of environment.

The pitch seemed to go really fast, I unpacked my designs and gave an introduction about the business, the designs and the inspiration behind them and Sarah and Isobel asked a few questions about my target audience and price points.

Their feedback was positive. They felt my designs were well made, unique and interesting and could have a place at Liberty. They told me they would pass my details on to the head buyer. I was thrilled!

That’s fantastic, well done!  So how will you proceed from here?

I am really pleased with how the day went. Now I must chase up the head buyer to gain some feedback and hopefully arrange another meeting to show her my designs. If nothing comes of it, I will simply return next time and try again.

Thanks so much for speaking to me Kirsten, and you absolutely must let us know what happens next, we are all dying to hear how you get on.