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)