I apologize for being a day late... a few unforeseen stumbling blocks, but here we are! This week we meet Julie. She is new to Zibbet but not to creating & selling her wares. Come join me as we get to look into the business of making kitchen must-haves & handling the business side of it all.
Let’s start with a quick intro. Tell us about you.
I'm Julie Newberry. My shop is http://zibbet.com/newberry. Locally, our business is Newberry Furniture & Kitchen Accessories; it is roughly an hour from the geographical center of the lower 48.
We are designers, a team & a married couple. Our creative venn diagram intersects at times. Bill works on furniture building while I design and create kitchen tools. We started our business & our marriage the same year & since we work with power tools we never fight! Harmony is a necessity & not hard to achieve.
Is this a hobby, or serious business for you? Do you work outside the home as well?
This is our full time job -- 14 years and we love it.
How did you decide to go from hobby, to real business?
I wanted a job that I loved. I am so glad that my husband has the same feeling about his work. We walk 34 steps to work.
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?
Our entire basement is a wood shop. We have a room on the first floor for receiving clients, storing & displaying inventory and our "gift shop". Sometimes our business creeps into the dining room or kitchen, & threatens an overthrow which drives me nuts so I have to be Darth Vader & squash the rebellion.
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?
We attempt production approach, so we glue batches & work that way too. When we get wholesale gigs, we don't offer some of our more complex pieces like a pizza peel, or a round board (seen at left), because of the extra labor. Our prices do reflect the extra steps involved.
Once you have all this beautiful work created, how do you handle keeping track of your inventory?
We are usually creating for an event or wholesale order thus our inventory ebbs & flows. In the period preceding Christmas season our product output grows to anticipate the burst in sales at the end of the year & in that period of the year we plug into shows. We use a spreadsheet & manually enter the data. Basically we determine our goals by the previous year plus 10% growth and then keep production going until we reach it. I used to keep a production list going all the time but that was additional recording keeping I just let go of. For our product it's important at certain times of the year. I set aside our online shop items so that the pictures match what we send out. I have had to hustle to make a random spreader or chopsticks because I thought we had them & then when it was time to mail, I had to make it & delay a day. It's not a crisis but not as smooth as it could be. I try to keep a close eye on that though to avoid unpredictable
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 bought a 15% grey backdrop & take the pictures in a room with a lot of natural light. I do a little correction & usually it's just brightening, contrast & increasing and compelling cropping. When it's sunny the backdrop turns light blue, if it's late in the day or year, I get severe shadows, & limit how many of those I do. I don't worry about consistency from picture to picture because they stand alone. It's not a jurying situation. I went through a period where I took pictures in situ. But I'm not sure the food stylizing helped. I returned to the simple way. For Etsy & the treasury aspects, I try to get some dramatic items or pictures because those seem to get featured thus giving my shop increase exposure. I have taken over 1000 pictures in the last year.
Where do you sell? Online, shows, farmers markets, in a store? Do you have a favorite venue?
Variety is nice, it's fun to meet people, and yet it's fun to communicate via email and less work than setting up a temporary shop for the weekend at a show.
Etsy Art Sale and Holiday Open House at the Contemporary Art Museum
Obviously, 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? Why?
Our idea was to have a culinary store display, so you walk in & things are hanging up and on shelves. We have 70 or so various items: charcuterie boards, olive trays, bamboo plates, serving pieces, humus spreader, tapas boards, chopsticks, sushi tables, chopstick rests, soy sauce dipping bowls, utensil holders, rolling pins, toast tongs, wood conditioning oil, butcher blocks, chef boards, cheese domes, French bread boards and the list goes on. We try to make 12 new things a year. It keeps our shop fresh & also a certain amount of items are retired due to wood availability or interest or difficulty in making the item.
How do you maintain your finances, for your business? Does it involve having a business or merchant account? Biggest/best tip you have for others?
Quickbooks, business account, & an accountant
For your real-world marketplaces, how do you handle money & payment processing?
PayPal, cash and check
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 like to feel organized but I still procrastinate. I need an app for that!
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?
Locally, we have broken into the broadcasting environments, editorial and gift guides, 20 times in the last few years & all for free. I find getting attention from one news source leads to another. These opportunities are hard to measure but the investment is great. These opportunities create content for websites and exposure. I think it's the green aspects of our business that makes for newsworthiness. Find what makes you newsworthy and exploit it.
Social Networking I do find fascinating. As a newcomer to the game, I am still learning how to make it work. I have been on Facebook for 14 months, Etsy 12 months, Twitter 1 month & Zibbet for since April 1. Just as in person it's about the sizzle as well as the steak we are selling. The product has to intrigue, look great and then satisfy. What make the experience worth it is the appealing stories and interacting. Whether in person or online it seems to be the same goal: develop & maintain relationships! That means good service, personal interacting & charm all help.
With so many aspects of running a business, how do you keep yourself motivated to move forward? Do you have a good support system?
I am an über list maker but that strength becomes a weakness when I overwhelm myself. Creating a structure like annual goals, with a breakdown of quarterly goals helps. Using the framework, I can evaluate the accomplishment of those goals with my ongoing activities. My goal with Etsy was put it in place in March so that by Christmas it would be humming with sales. It exceeded my expectations. This year I decided to add Zibbet to do the same thing. This is the phase of it to figure out how Zibbetworks & to get it to work for my products. I'm interested in hearing what works for other shop owners.
Our family is very supportive, prayers welcomed, our clients are often repeat customers & extroverted people are wonderful assets for promoting our business. It's such a wonderful encouragement.
What do you feel is your least favorite thing about running a business? How do you overcome/deal with this?
Feeling disorganized or overwhelmed, the answer is really proactive scheduling & that means goal setting. Life means boundaries & cutting out activities that don't work. When that's achieved the occasional schedule up-setter doesn't have as much impact & I can face it with grace.
And finally, to end on a good positive note … share with us what you most attribute your business success to…
My memory for faces and names combined with Bill exceptional capacity to remember the interesting characteristics about wood species & where we got the wood. He's always saying I got this wood from that barn that one time when your dad's friend needed to dismantle & move the lumber. Bill keeps woodworking interesting for me. Also interest in good design meeting the needs of daily life in an enduring & beautiful product development was required & is what I try to achieve.
Thanks so much for opening up a little & sharing with us today!
Here is where you can find Julie online...