Tag Archives: creative

10 Things We’ve Learned From Our Creative Business

Keeping a sense of humor through the highs and lows didn't make the list but is very important. We think we excel in this area as you can see by this photo.

Keeping a sense of humor through the highs and lows didn’t make the list but is very important. We think we excel in this area as you can see by this photo.

  1. We’ve learned that our time is valuable.  Remember when you started our and thought that you could only sell items if your pricing was dirt cheap?  Over the years we’ve learned that our pricing must include a fair hourly wage for us.  Otherwise we are giving our products away for free which makes what we do a hobby not a business.
  2. We’ve learned that our business cannot afford to give discounts.  We price our merchandise carefully using a very accurate formula.  Our profit margin is not overblown on any item so therefore we cannot give discounts and still make a profit and donate to our non profit partners.  When we hear rude people comment about our pricing or try to buy our merchandise for a discount we politely refuse and remind them that a generous chunk of our proceeds to go our local non-profit partners.
  3. It is very important to find your tribe. These are people in the same boat as you who get your daily questions, struggles and celebrate successes with you.  Creative businesses can often be lonely to run.  Our tribe of link minded creatives is called Handmade in Kansas City.
  4. It’s extremely important to have all of your government paperwork in place if you truly want to have a successful business vs. a hobby.  Register your business, incorporate (or if you are like us form a legal LLP), charge taxes and pay taxes.  It seems daunting but a CPA can help you with all of this.
  5. Attending a maker conference will change everything.  There’s nothing like it to really light your fire.  We’ve tried a few but our absolute favorite hands-down is Craftcation Conference in Ventura California.  We’ve attended 3 times and every time we’ve come back and implemented what we learned and our business grew in leaps and bounds.  This is also a great way to find your tribe.
  6. It’s incredibly important to be open to change.  We make a point of stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zone frequently.  When someone offers you advice about your business don’t blow it off, listen and REALLY consider it even if it sounds outlandish.  Some of our best changes and growth ideas have come from Mike Meyer of Meyer Music.  His ideas usually scare us a little at first but the fact that he has such a strong belief in us and what we do makes a huge difference to us.
  7. Taking a class to upgrade skills is creativity rejuvenating.  This will not only help widen your offerings and expand your business but it’ll keep your creative juices flowing.  It’ll also make you happy.  Happy shows through in your work.  You can often find classes at your local craft store.  If you’d rather take a class online we highly recommend Creative Live.
  8. It’s important to be the face of your business.  This is what Mike Meyer told us last spring.  We aren’t shy about sharing our products but never felt like we were interesting enough to share our faces and story.  Apparently we were wrong.  People want to see your face and know your story.  We will be launching a new website very soon and you will see much more of our faces and story on it.
  9. Customer service will make or break your business.  It doesn’t matter how beautiful your product is, if you don’t provide excellent customer service and back the quality of your product, your business will not flourish.  When you are working a show be welcoming and friendly to people who walk into your booth.  We’ve watched many makers over the years who read or play on their phones instead of standing up and greeting the customer like they are grateful they are there.  Worst customer service we’ve ever seen?  A maker ranting about politics while people came and went from the tent.  Oh and how about the lady who wouldn’t let people stand in her tent during a rainstorm unless they were going to buy something?  Greeting customers by speaking to them and looking them in the eye also reduces theft.  It’s win-win.  Online service is just as important.  Send your product out right away when it is ordered.  If the order is large or wholesale, follow up with the customer afterwards.  If the customer has feedback you do not like do not be defensive.  Believe it or not your packaging and customer service are as important as the product itself.  We send each product our in a branded muslin bag with a business card (not a stack), a handwritten thank you note and a receipt.
  10. It’s important to regularly acknowledge and celebrate how far you’ve come.  Don’t get so caught up in working on the future that you forget to celebrate your past.  We celebrate regularly.  If you know us well then you know that it’s usually with food.  That’s just how we roll.

We hope that what we’ve learned can help you out a little.  If you have any questions please feel free to comment on this blog and we’ll get back to you right away.  We love sharing information and contacts so go ahead and ask away!

A Behind the Scenes Peek at Kristi’s Creative Space

Two weeks ago we gave you a behind the scenes peek of our process of making.  We showed you the kinds of tools we use when we cut and shape a retired drum cymbal into a pair of earrings.  If you missed it you can find it here.

This week we want to share a behind the scenes peek at Kristi’s workspace.  We have separate workshops/ studios in our respective homes.  Both of our workshops have cool tools and generally a big mess of metal & wood shavings but Kristi’s workspace is definitely the prettiest of the two.

Welcome to Kristi's studio!

Welcome to Kristi’s studio!

There are a LOT of supplies involved in making jewelry from beads to metal findings and last but not least the focal pieces which for us are musical instruments or antiques.  If you look at the bottom left hand corner of this photo you will see Kristi’s custom stamping bench that she uses when adding quotes or words to antique silverware.  On the middle left side, several boxes of beads.  Center, hanging beads. Want to know a secret about Kristi?  She’s a button and bead hoarder.  Those beads you see in this photo?  They are just the tip of the iceberg.

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Kristi likes sparkly beads and has a talent for mixing colors.

 

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Can you see the sign that says “Of course I talk to myself! Sometimes I need expert advice.”?

Another secret about Kristi?  She talks to herself.  A lot.  One of side effects of working alone most of the time.  We all do it.  Right?  If you look in the top right hand corner of the photo above you’ll see a framed book page featuring an image from one of Kristi’s hand-carved stamps.  You can see more evidence of Kristi’s talent at hand-carving rubber stamps on the note cards displayed down the right hand side of the photo.  Kristi’s work space is full of fun and beautiful items, collected over the years, that inspire her.  We both love to fill our work areas with handmade items that we love.  Hey look, there are more beads on the top right-hand corner of her work bench!

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Can you guess what each of these tools is used for?

One of my favorite things about Kristi’s workspace is that it’s filled with customized organization solutions like the magnetic strip she uses to keep her pliers, screw drivers and other tools organized.

If you’d like to see our creations please visit us at hangupsinkc.com.

Thanks for joining us for this behind the scenes peek at Kristi’s studio.  We would love to see your work area, pretty or not.  Post a picture in the comments section and we can share tips on functionality and organization.

Have a great week!

 

 

A Behind the Scenes Peek at the Making of Drum Cymbal Earrings

Kristi & I rarely make jewelry for ourselves.  I guess it’s a hazard of any “maker” occupation.  We are so busy creating for others that we forget to make ourselves new jewelry.   I made Kristi drum cymbal earrings a few weeks ago and admire how pretty they look every time she wears them.  Today I decided that I need a pair of earrings for myself.

Welcome to my workshop.  It’s not fancy but it’s bright and functional.  It’s my favorite place to spend my days.

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After some experimentation I’ve found that my Dremel is the best tool to use when cutting the cymbal.

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Sanding pieces of metal this small is tricky. I can’t wear gloves because the piece of cymbal is too small to grip. It gets VERY hot so patience is required.

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I love my drill press so much. For projects like this it is so fast & easy!

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I decided against beads so I just needed to add the ear wires.

Ta-da!

What do you think?

What do you think?

Stay tuned – next week we’ll give you a behind the scenes look at Kristi’s workspace.

Have a great week friends!

 

 

Hang Ups Summer Fun Contest

It’s the beginning of June and that means we are ready for some summer fun!   Follow us on social media and you could win this beautiful book!

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Entering the contest is simple!  Either go to the Rafflecopter icon over on the top right of this page OR click the “Giveaway” button on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/hangupsinkc).  Use your email address or Facebook Account to sign into Rafflecopter.  Then all you have to do is follow the directions to use Rafflecopter to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter.  If you are only on one of these social media sites that’s OK – each follow represents one entry in the contest.  RaffleCopter keeps track of the entries and will automatically choose a winner when the contest closes on Sunday June 15th at midnight.

We will announce the winner on June 16th!

Thanks in advance for the follows!

Have a wonderful June!

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 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)

 

What is Creativity?

Sometimes snowy days are the best days for creativity.  For our friends in the Mid-West, we hope that you are keeping warm and staying off the roads.  For our friends in Eastern Canada, our snow is coming your way!  Enjoy by taking a little time to be creative.

 

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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.”

DIY Christmas Ornament From Repurposed Measuring Stick

I love old wood yard & meter sticks.  They used to be given away free as marketing materials and now they average around $8 each at antique stores.  I decided to make a Christmas ornament out of one of the old folded measuring sticks that has been hanging around my workshop for a while.  You could make this ornament using an old ruler you have hanging around as well.

Before we get started we’d like to thank Tracy Spisak, photographer extraordinaire from Gallery Portaiture (www.galleryportraitureinc.com) for photographing this DIY project!

This is what you’ll need:

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  • Measuring stick or ruler cut to the size you’d like
  • Letters from your local craft store
  • Jump rings
  • Ribbon
  • 2 pairs of pliers
  • E6000 or Tacky Glue
  • Seasonal buttons or decoration

1.  Choose the festive word that you’d like to spell and drill corresponding holes in the bottom of the measuring stick to hang the letters from.  Then drill a hole in the top left hand and right hand corners to string the ribbon through.

2.  Run the jump ring through the hole in the top of the letter and the hole in your measuring stick.  To open and close your jump ring grasp it with a pair of pliers on each side of the split.  Then twist in opposite directions – basically one hand should be going towards you and the other away.  Never pry the jump ring directly apart horizontally.  Attach all of your letters.

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3.  Cut a piece of ribbon about a foot long.  Run one end of the ribbon through the right upper hole and one through the left upper hole on your measuring stick.  Knot the ends of the ribbon and trim the ends.

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4.  I added a silver glittery button to the ornament to give it some sparkle.  You could add anything that catches your eye.  I also tied a knot in the upper part of the ribbon for a little extra flair.

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5.  Show off your crafty skills all your friends!

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If you aren’t up to making your own ornament check out our website (www.hangupsinkc.com) to check out what our creations.  They make great teachers and hostess gifts!

Happy Thanksgiving!