First, I big thank you to Terri for being 'first'. I asked alot of questions, & Terri fired back answers to them all. I hope you all enjoy reading about her business as much as I did!
Just celebrated my 56th birthday and have been married to the love of my life for 37 years. We have 3 grown children and expecting our 2nd grandbaby in June….very exciting! Hubby is retired Air Force, so we have lived in many lovely cities. Our recent move to Asheville, NC was a difficult one but has turned out to be the most wonderful!
NV: Well, happy belated birthday!! And a big thank you to your hubby for serving!
So Terri, is this a hobby, or serious business for you? Do you work outside the home as well?
Sewing has been my hobby for many, many years but also an income with each new move. I knew I could always pick up sewing jobs until a full time job was available. At this stage in my life, I wanted to pursue my embroidery as a full time business. Here I am learning more about online sales than I ever thought possible! I also own TR Office Support Service and offer office support for Home Owner Association management companies, which I run from home.
During the unpacking from our move to Asheville, NC I set up my embroidery machine and realized how much I missed embroidery. Instead of going through the application process of another ground-floor job, I wanted to give the embroidery a faithful effort first.
Do you have a special dedicated area in your home set aside where you create? How does this affect the rest of the household/family life?
I have a nice size room for the embroidery machine and inventory, however … I have the final end of the production line on the dining room table. Since we are empty-nesters and usually eat in the living room….hey, we can do that now…it isn’t a problem unless we have company. Of course, I get the table cleaned off and back into the sewing room.
When you are busy creating, do you keep track of how much time you spend on each piece? If so, how do you factor this into the cost of your work?
I enter all receipts into QuickBooks, then I can export to an excel spreadsheet, if needed. In the cost of goods sold, I add shipping, something that is easily forgotten and can eat into your profits. Even though shipping is a different line item for taxes, it needs to be figured into the cost of your items for retail pricing. Although, how to figure my time is the most difficult task for me. I could use more coaching in this area!
NV: Are you talking about the cost of having raw materials shipped to you, or the cost of shipping the final items to the buyers?
Once you have all this beautiful work created, how do you handle keeping track of your inventory?
Another area I am not organized in and I know it is a MUST before attending craft shows this summer. Super basic would be to keep the Excel spreadsheet up to date!
For your online venues … Talk a little bit about how you handle photographing your work. How important do you feel quality pictures are to successful selling? What is the biggest mistake you made & what is the most important thing you learned?
I admire photographers and their creative abilities. I’m learning and have had many, many other crafters help me along the way. Taking photos outside is the best! Now to deal with the shadows, ugh! One of my next goals is to make a light box and have fun experimenting with camera settings and lighting. Photographs are critical to a sharp looking and inviting shop where buyers want to linger. The longer they stay in your shop the more likely they’ll find something to purchase.
Where do you sell? Online, shows, farmers markets, in a store?
Do you have a favorite venue?
I started out on Etsy and Artfire but didn’t have time to give my full attention to either one. I found myself socializing and buying more than I sold. The charge per item on Etsy just ate away at any profit I might have made and the bookkeeping was a nightmare. Plus I was new and overwhelmed with social media. I opened a Zibbet shop in Jan 2010 and loved the one price per month idea, plus they were offering a phenomenal deal…I was blessed to have received one of their lifetime free premium accounts! Response from and interaction with the owners of Zibbet is remarkable. They truly listen to their sellers and take our opinions into account while working to upgrade the site for all!
My favorite venue is Zibbet, if you couldn’t tell that already.
NV: How wonderful for you to have gotten the free lifetime account!
If you sell at places other than online …
Tell us about how you came up with the way you now display your work.
Do you sit or stand? Is it better to have a ‘walk up to’ display, or a ‘walk into’ display?
I’ve been a vendor at numerous craft shows over the years and in many different cities. Usually breaking even was the best I’ve done. This year will be different! I’m in a city that very openly promotes local businesses, artisans and crafters.
My first expo is March 12th and slightly different than typical craft shows. The birthnetwork.org national group has opened their Asheville expo to vendors. I’ll have one table in the Asheville Mall so I won’t have many display choices, other than table top items, such as two small racks for the key fobs and several stands for flyers and pricing pages, plus one doll bed for an extra touch! I like white tablecloths with black stands/fixtures as it displays well, plus you can bleach the tablecloth if needed. If you offer baby items or items for new Moms, please visit www.birthnetwork.org, to see if they have an expo in your city and if it is open to vendors.
I’ve applied to a juried show on May 1st with another Zibbeter, http://zibbet.com/raigecreations. We are both very excited about this one…take a peek at their site and you’ll see why! http://loveasheville.org/ Doesn’t get much better! We’ll find out the end of March about our entry, if accepted we’ll have a 10 x 10 canopy and a 3 table set up. We plan on arranging the tables to the outside edge (like a reverse U), as opposed to people walking into the tent area. It seems people will hesitate to walk into an area with a canopy unless it is super big. Guess it makes them feel trapped if they don’t want to buy.
NV: This year looks to be an exciting one for you! How wonderful! We will keep an eye out to hear how things go. I hear from others as well that coming into a space seems intimidating to some buyers. Good call!
How do you maintain your finances, for your business?
I do have a separate checking account and credit card.
Biggest/best tip you have for others? My number one rule is to pay off the card each month. If I can’t do that, I don’t buy! The credit card trap can be depressing and keep you from enjoying your craft business venture.
NV: Very good points Terri!
How do you plan to handle handle money & payment processing at your shows this year? This will be the first time to accept credit cards. I’ve opened a Square account, similar to PayPal. SquareUp.com offered a card reader that attaches to your iphone or android cell phone for free. The charge is 2.75% to swipe a card and slightly more for keyed in cards. It is new to me, so I’m hoping it works well and I’ll do a trial run before the first show! Here is their site if you are interested http://SquareUp.com
Any tips for others?
It is best to have another person with you to sell. Each person has a money belt, so the cash is always on your person. It just seems safer.
While we’re talking about money … how do you handle all the dreaded back end paperwork/book keeping stuff? Do you have any tips for others still searching for a best way?
I was a bookkeeper for a builder and used QuickBooks for 6 years, so that is what I am comfortable with. I think QuickBooks offers a free introductory version which might be great to start out on. However QuickBooks inventory is very confusing, so I use Excel spreadsheets and love the program.
Ok, money out of the way let’s talk about promoting/marketing a bit.
Can you share with us what you do to promote your business, & where? Are you a social networking junkie? Does that work? Do you pay for advertising? Any tips for others?
I rarely pay for advertising. When I bought ads on Etsy it was worthless, it brought views but no sales at all. Therefore I choose to showcase my products by asking others to test them for me. I give them a prototype, they test it out and give me feedback and they get to keep it. This works because I have a lower priced item with the mini key fobs. Each crafter has to decide what will work for their shop.
I’ve discovered blogging brings in lots of new people and shoots your online visibility up. I was recently invited to write for IndieSmiles and was honored! Writing is way outside my comfort zone but I am enjoying it. Now I need to stick to a schedule because my production time is way down. Ouch!
On Facebook, I enjoy Link Love and meeting so many other caring and sharing crafters. A lot of my sales have come from other crafters who appreciate the “labor of love” that goes into each of our crafts.
I also tweet but have a lot to learn about Twitter! Plus StumbleUpon and Flickr ... mmmmm ... am I becoming a networking junkie?!
NV: That’s some great advice there & I love your prototype idea. Clever!
With so many aspects of running a business, how do you keep yourself motivated to move forward? Do you have a good support system?
It is tough staying positive and energized! My hubby is my number one fan and encourages me day to day. My children are all supportive and I have many, many online friends that are positive and inspiring. I am blessed!
What do you feel is your least favorite thing about running a business? How do you overcome/deal with this?
Organizing my time, I tend to over-socialize and my production suffers. My number one goal is to organize the hours in my day.
NV: I think you nailed it there Terri. Many of us creative types struggle with being organized!
And finally, to end on a good positive note … share with us what you most attribute your business success to…
Maintain a positive attitude about my abilities to create an original, unique product that buyers will enjoy and buy. Even when sales are low, stay positive about yourself!
Teresa, POP Embroidery by PaperOnParade
NV: Thank you so much Terri, for taking the time out of your busy day to answer all these crazy questions I tossed at you! I’m sure our readers will all learn something from this!
In case you missed her links within the article find Teresa all over the web...