Category Archives: Entrepreneurial Inspiration

Taking Flight With Lu & Ed, a MON-STOROUSLY Cool Company

We are thrilled to introduce you to Cody, the human behind a mon-storously successful small business that is environmentally responsible and gives back to the community.  IMG_2664

Q:  Can you tell us a little about yourself and how Lu & Ed was started?
A:  I’m Cody, a monster making mom living in the Midwest, and owner of Lu & Ed! I moved my small family to Kansas City from the East Coast in 2009 and downsized majorly – into my mother-in-law’s basement. Desperate for some storage that wouldn’t take up much of our precious floor space, I dreamed up toy storage for my son that we could hang on the back of the doors for him to put his toys in, in the form of a monster he could “feed”. The next day, I drafted the pattern and with the help of my mother-in-law, learned to use a sewing machine, and several hours and many laughs later, the very first Mon-stor ever was born.
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Q: Where can we purchase your Monster?
A:  I opened my Storenvy shop (http://luanded.com) in 2009 and have been selling there exclusively ever since! It is a free to list, use and sell platform and the people behind it are super passionate and always readily available to answer questions and help their sellers succeed! They have really helped me shape my brand & products into what they are today. ♥
Q:  What are you most proud of in your business?
A: As Mon-stors have evolved over the years, so have my efforts to run a green business. I think it’s important to do good where you can, and I knew I could make a positive ecological impact with products and business practices. In 2011, I switched from purchasing new fabrics to purchasing post-production fabrics from thrift stores and textile discards from factories. When people learned about my eco-efforts they started donating fabric, bedding, and clothing to me to turn into Mon-stors. It takes a bit more effort, but I am proud to say now all Mon-stors are made from 100% upcycled and recycled fabrics. I package and ship all of my products in recycled food boxes and use biodegradable tape. Even my business cards are eco-friendly now, printed on recycled paper that is biodegradable. Saving the world – one monster at a time!
Q: Can you please tell us a little about your social media schedule and how it impacts your sales?
A:  Community is so important when you are an entrepreneur.  I have built a cozy & happy tribe of monster lovers on the internet and I am so thankful for the communities that I am a part of that helped me get where I am. I think when a  lot of people think of social media, they think “marketing”. When I think of social media I think “community”. I don’t use social media solely to sell my stuff – I view each person I interact with as a friend, and that helps me build lasting connections and opens the doors for so many more opportunities and partnerships and conversations!
Q:  What is your advice for someone considering launching a business in the handmade marketplace?
A:  My biggest advice for someone just starting out in the indie world is this: Success does not happen overnight. It doesn’t even happen in a few weeks, and most likely not even in a few months. It can take YEARS before you “make it”. Go into to this prepared for a long, hard road. Join communities and build organic friendships in the industry. Be kind to everyone, even the naysayers and bullies, and always be positive. Don’t complain about how slow the road is or how hard it is because perspective is 90% of your success – if you are excited and positive about your business and efforts, that is contagious. Others will be too!
And the big one? Always keep learning, from the pros. I read Inc.com and Entrepreneur.com all the time, even if it isn’t geared towards the handmade niche it is invaluable information from marketing and small business professionals. Try to only take advice from writers that can quote the source of their information and statistics and have the experience to back their content. You can never learn enough, because things evolve and change quickly, so make sure you are consuming good information while it’s fresh off the press and apply it in any way possible to help your business grow!
Q:  How do you give back to your community?
A:  As Lu & Ed has grown so has my desire to contribute to my local community of children in need. I reached out to artists I admire & collaborated with them to create a program I call Team Team Lu & Ed that proudly supports Drumm Farm with as much as 100% from Team Lu & Ed products going to the group  home environment for children in the Missouri foster care system, helping make the lives of the children who reside there a little more wonderful!
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Check out Cody’s Mon-sters – how could they NOT bring joy to all children – young & old?  Lu & Ed (www.luanded.com) is also a part of the Made In Kansas City Initiative.  Check out this amazing group of local talent at www.handmadeinkc.com.

Taking Flight: Financial Management Discussion

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We thought this post from Pinterest was appropriate for this time of year.  The dreaded tax-time.  Being an entrepreneur means that you get to do what you love but there’s always the back end of the business that needs to taken care of too.  That end of the business can eat up hours and hours of non-revenue producing time and be frustration inducing.

Our accountant recently brought it to our attention that we need to keep more detailed records of what supplies have been purchased, how they’ve been used and what inventory has sold and what is currently on hand.  We currently track all expenses and have detailed spreadsheets of inventory and where the jewelry is (ie. consignment in stores vs. what we have in stock for shows), what has sold, etc.  To our dismay, apparently our current system needs to be improved.

On the advice of our friend Nicole from Ni-Chern Designs, Kristi is exploring the inventory management system called Crafty Base.  Keeping track of supplies, inventory and sales is an extremely complicated matter.  We would love to hear what do you do to keep the financial end of your business running smoothly.  Please share your tips and tricks in the comments section of this post so that we can learn from each others mistakes and best practices.  One of the perks of being an entrepreneur is having an amazing community that shares isn’t it?

Taking Flight with Nicole from Ni-Chern Designs

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When planning this blog series on the entrepreneurial journey of small business owners we immediately knew that we wanted to feature Nicole from Ni-Chern Designs.  Nicole is smart, collaborative and giving…everything that a successful entrepreneur needs to be.  She understands the need for community in the handmade entrepreneurial world and when she couldn’t find a community that fit her she created her own!  How is that for initiative?  Check out this community of talented artists (including Hang Ups in KC) at:  http://handmadeinkc.wix.com/home.

If you are wondering what her company name means, Ni-Chern (Nee-Churn) is Nicole’s Chinese name, meaning little girl.  Nicole does some of the finest work we’ve seen and has an eye for fun, vibrant fabrics.  Her creations have been featured several magazines including This is KC, The Pitch, Vintage KC Magazine and the Better Homes and Gardens Do It Yourself Magazine.

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Check out Ni-Chern’s website at www.nicherndesigns.com.  Here is a peek at a few of her creations:

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Ni-Chern Designs is a part of the Made In Kansas City Initiative (www.localstart.org) and donates 10% of her profits to the non-profit organization Kids TLC (www.kidstlc.org).  We could go on and on about this dynamo handmade entrepreneur but thought it would be more fun quiz her about how she got started, what drives her and what celebrity she would love to see using her products.

Q:  When did you start your sewing business and why?

A:  I started my business back in 2005. At first it was the lack of handmade items out there and I needed to pay off my student loans. As we all know when we starting out with handmade business, there is no income in any of this!  So I refocused and went with my desire to help out by donating 10% of my proceeds to preventcancer.org for the first few years.

Q:  What has been the single best thing you’ve done for your business?

A:  Connecting with fellow handmakers. I think a lot of times when we start out, all we can think about is how to make money, but the best thing that I’ve done for my business is to make friends and connect with other people. There is a difference between connecting professionally and just making friends. I always hope that the connections made will turn into a lasting friendships!

Q:  What is your favorite business book or blog that inspires you?

A:  The business blog that has caught my eye recently is Create and Thrive.

Q:  If you could have a celebrity use your products who would it be?

A:  Oh man, I really like Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, and Rachel McAdams. So, I guess any of those ladies would be great!

We would like to thank Nicole for participating in this blog series and for including us in her circle of handmade friend-preneurs!  Find Ni-Chern Designs on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nicherndesigns, follow her on Twitter @nicherndesigns and on Instagram at www.instagram.com/ni_chern.

We are always looking for tips, tricks and feedback.  If you have a fabulous entrepreneurial story please share it with us in the comments section!

Best wishes to all of you!

Kristi & Carolyn

Top 5 Ways to Take Your Handmade Business to the Next Level

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We thought that featuring a Q&A with ourselves as part of our Taking Flight series might be a little odd so we’ve assembled a list of our advice on the Top 5 Ways to Take Your Handmade Business to the Next Level.  None of these tips require significant financial commitment.  What they do require is courage and initiative – something all entrepreneurs have whether we know it or not.

1.  Read books written by the Guru’s of the Handmade World.  Our favorite author is Kari Chapin-Nixon.  Her books The Handmade Marketplace and Grow Your Handmade Business are available at www.karichapin.com or www.storey.com.  They helped us immensely in our early days and still act as an excellent reference guide as we continue our journey.

2.  Create an online presence.  Ideally this would be in the form of a website but if you aren’t there yet open an Etsy Shop.  Opening an Etsy Shop is quick, simple and VERY cost effective.  You need a place to display your goods and refer people to when you aren’t out on the Arts & Craft Show circuit.  Think of your Etsy store or website as your portfolio.  Check out our Etsy Shop at www.hangupsinkc.etsy.com for ideas on store policies, shipping costs, etc.   With the help of Kristi’s very computer savvy husband Matt, we were able to build our own website (www.hangupsinkc.com) on the OpenCart platform.  We’ve been live for 6 months now and are thrilled with our increase in visibility and sales.

3.  Start a blog.  This was advice that we received last year at the Craftcation Conference (see point #4) and we grudgingly took the plunge.  We were nervous and had no idea where to start so we asked an expert – Kari Chapin-Nixon (see point #1).  She recommended the book Blogging For Creatives by Robin Houghten (find it on amazon.com).   The book changed our whole outlook on blogging and made the process much less intimidating.  Within a month or so of the conference we launched our brand new blog using the WordPress platform and have worked hard to publish blogs consistently since then.  Here’s the surprising thing – it’s kind of fun.  You should try it!   It has been proven that blogs build traffic to your business and increase the credibility of your expertise and your business.

4.  Network with other Creatives who are willing to share and learn with you.  We attended a conference called Craftcation (www.craftcationconference.com) in Ventura California last April that literally rocked our small business.  We spent 3 intense days attending seminars on how to grow our business.  We networked, took notes, exchanged ideas and then created our plan of action for 2013.  Since Craftcation we have created our blog, our website, newsletter, created Instagram & Twitter accounts, moved into more stores, joined the Made in Kansas City Initiative (www.localstart.org)  and created a wonderful partnership with Literacy Kansas City.   With all of this growth came an increase in credibility and visibility which led to our One Million Cups (www.1millioncups.com) presentation in January.  Craftcation 2014 is less than 6 weeks away – we can’t wait!  If you can’t attend a conference how about checking into local networking groups such as local Etsy teams?

5.  Get organized!  Create an inventory system.  There are systems that you can purchase but Kristi and I find that our system using a shared Excel spreadsheet works for us.  Each piece of jewelry that we make is logged on this spreadsheet and given an identifying number.  The number is written on the price tag and store inventory lists.  We have several hundred pieces of jewelry active at any given time so we need to be able to easily track the price, who made it and where it is located at any given time.  All small business owners should also be tracking expenses in order to effectively manage their business.  We use Quicken but QuickBooks is also a great system.  Finally, one of the greatest tools we used to increase sales this year was to sign up for Intuit’s GoPayment Program (www.intuit.com).  Accepting credit cards while at Arts & Craft Shows or other events dramatically increases sales.  Trust us on this one.  It costs only a small percentage per transaction and it is totally worth it!

Please share this list with anyone who you think will find it helpful.  Having a successful handmade business dependent on being open to new ideas and sharing information.  We wish all handmade businesses the best of luck in 2014!

Kristi & Carolyn (www.hangupsinkc.com)

 

The True Entrepreneur is a Doer, Not a Dreamer

Isn’t this the truth?  Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart.  Kristi & I are getting ready to make another exciting announcement but first comes the hard work!  Stay tuned for the announcement coming in a few weeks….

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Yes, we caught the spelling mistake on this post but it struck a cord with us so we posted anyway.   Have a great week Friends!

Taking Flight with Jenny & Skip from Ugly Glass & Company

Kristi and I are very excited to launch our Taking Flight series by introducing Jenny & Skip, owners of a gorgeous store called Ugly Glass & Company located in Independence Missouri.  This series will focus on the entrepreneurial journey of several small business owners.  If you are thinking about starting your own “handmade” business or own a small business we invite you to become an active participant in this blog series.

That is Jenny (below), we are pretty sure she was excited because we’d just dropped off (check the counter below her) a brand new batch of Hang Ups in KC creations.  Or maybe she was just happy to see us?

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Q.  How long have you been in business?

A. Skip and I started creating jewelry in 2002 and opened our store front in 2012.  We created our store front as way to showcase our work and the works of other creative souls from the USA.  Currently we have over 70 artists and fine crafters on 2 floors from all over the USA, a lot from the Kansas City metro area.  We are much like an eclectic gift show! 

Q. What made you want to start your own business?

A.  I found a love of beads while creating stretchy bracelets with my friend Amie for Family Literacy Centers; “Bracelets for Literacy”.  It was a fundraising project.  After that I was addicted and started making for others.  Amie got me started on doing craft shows too…so it is all Amie’s fault I guess!!!! I think opening our store front came from a need to have a year round selling venue, instead lugging our things from craft show to craft show on the weekends.  We wanted to give that opportunity to other artists and crafters too.

Q. What is a mistake that you’ve made that you would like to share to help others avoid it?

A.  Save lots of money!  We had been looking off and on for an amazing store front for 5 or 6 years, but had not saved a penny. So everything we had on hand when the “right” space became available went into the space and it was used very quickly!  I suggest having enough saved up at home too.  If you are quitting your day job to start your business, you need bill money for a couple of years, because it might take that long or longer before you are making a profit on your business.

Q.  What is the best thing you’ve ever done for your business?

A.  I started it…I dove in and started it.  I am shy so it took a lot to put myself out there and just do it.  If I let my shyness run my life, I would not have started my business nor opened a store front.

Q.   Advice for anyone thinking of starting their own business.

A.  Network…networking is hard for a shy person.  But don’t be shy about sharing with the world that you have a business.  Always have business cards on hand to give to someone as you are telling them about your amazing business!  Create that Facebook page too!  I cannot believe how many come into the shop because they found us on Facebook!  Social media is very important now.

Q.  What is your favorite business book or blog? If you don’t have one – what inspires you?

A.  I don’t read – I like pictures!!!  Many times we are creating what we have been challenged to create.  If a customer says “hey can you make a starfish?”  we shrug and say “we can give it a go.”  Sometimes it is amazing and sometimes it is just plain ugly.  We wake up thinking about color combinations and designs. Our materials inspire us as well. We have huge amounts of beads and glass.  We just start pulling things out and putting things together, sometimes it is everything we dreamed of, others aren’t.  Ya win some and ya lose some!

You can visit Ugly Glass & Company at 206 N Liberty St, Independence, MO.  They are located right on the square in the heart of historic Independence, Missouri.  If you visit Wednesdays between 11am-4pm you can see Skip going live glass demonstrations. You can find Ugly Glass & Company online at www.uglyglass.com or on their facebook page at www.facebook.com/UglyGlassCo.

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If you have any questions for Jenny & Skip or for us you can comment on this blog post and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Thank you Jenny & Skip for sharing your story with us!

 

 

Taking Flight – A “Handmade” Entrepreneurial Advice Series

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Kristi & I are very excited to announce our new blog series – Taking Flight.  This series will focus on the entrepreneurial journey of several small business owners.  If you are thinking about starting your own “handmade” business or own a small business we invite you to become an active participant in this blog series.

Here is our call to action:  send us your questions, your fears and any advice you have to Carolyn@hangupsinkc.com.  If you want us to keep your questions/ feedback anonymous just let us know.

Our goal is to share knowledge and strength as well as to inspire small business owners and people who are thinking about starting their own business.  It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, geographically, as entrepreneurs we are all travelling a similar path.

Starting next week and continuing for the next several weeks we will feature a small business owner on a weekly basis.  Send us your questions and we will ask our entrepreneurial friends to share their wisdom.

 “Breathe in inspiration and trust yourself.  The answer is YES you can.”