Monday, December 20, 2010

For Those of You Who Are Still Considering Starting a Home-based Business

I'm really happy about my decision to join a group called African Cultural Vendors. This is a network of African-descendant artisans. ACV is a venue and resource for artisans and craftspeople to network, offer feedback on shows, recommend shows or suppliers, anything an artisan needs.

The list began in 2007 as a central resource for artisans and craftspeople to locate festivals and events to exhibit their products. Unable to find a online resource designed for African-American artisans, the Yahoo group was created to assist vendors in locating conferences, fairs, festivals, and other events for their products. Although focused primarily for African American artisans and events, the list is all inclusive. All crafters are welcome. Currently, events are listed at the Yahoo group African Cultural Vendors. Please subscribe to the list at Please be advised that all requests for membership require approval.

The following list was compiled by a fellow member of ACV. I couldn't have said these things any better or clearer than Sha has and instead of re-inventing the wheel, I decided to share her ideas with the readers of my blog. In addition to reading the info below, please visit her site for more tips on becoming a successful entrepreneur. Check back soon as I will post my responses to her tips. I will use her ideas as a checklist for my progressive journey as a successful businesswoman in 2011.

5 Important Do Not’s for Entrepreneurs 2011 Success. By ShaChena Gibbs

Do not start a business for the wrong reason.

Most people start a business just because it sounds good or because the potential financial benefits look good. Start a business that you love. Something you are passionate about. Your business should be your baby, a talent or skill you already process.

Do not form a business without your Tribe.

Begin to let your friends and family know about your new business. Attend networking events and speak up. Give away your product for testimonies. You must build a following before you begin to profit.

Do not skip out on your legal provider.

Starting a business consist of a lot of paper work like forms and documents. The documents need to be reviewed by a lawyer. Even your products and services. Consumers can really be rude and sue you for various reasons. Having your legal team can help you to avoid these problems before they become reality.

Do not do it all by yourself.

At the beginning it can be a bit tough getting friends and family to understand what you are doing and have them believe in your passion. However, we suggest you find at least 2 friends to assist you, even if it’s just with making phone calls, running errands, checking emails, and/or packing and shipping. Entrepreneurs tend to get burnt out during the first 5 years of building on their dream.

Do not forget about ‘CUSTOMER SERVICE’.

Your customers are the core of your business growth. Without them, you will not make no money. You might as well close your doors. Poor customer service can ruin you. Word of mouth marketing spreads faster than any email you can send out and it’s most effective. One poor comment about your company service can spread like cancer. Train your staff paid and /or volunteer to treat your customers like royalty. And remember to practice what you preach.

Keep Rising,

ShaChena Gibbs
Small Business Educator
Real Sisters Rising, LLC

For over 10 years, Real Sisters Rising, LLC founder and CEO ShaChena Gibbs has owned or managed small businesses. Expert in her field, Ms. Gibbs personally and professionally guide her clients/members to reach higher heights to achieve major success in their business endeavors. ShaChena Gibbs is passionate about helping women globally become outstanding role models now for our youth later. Ms. Gibbs is definitely “Helping Women find the Diamond in their Destiny". She has been featured in the Daily News and many other publications.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Tips to Motivate the Artist/Business Owner

"Men's best successes come after their disappointments."
- Henry Ward Beecher

I decided to share some tips that I’ve formulated for myself to help me figure out my direction and purpose in the next year and, hopefully, many years to come. I’ve shortened my long list as I found myself repeating some of the same statements or issues. If you have any to add, please feel free to do so in the comment box.

Tips to Motivate Myself the Artist as Business Owner:

1) Demonstrate that my customers and my products matter – Explain to myself my responsibilities as a business owner and artist. Understand how my work ethic, creativity, organization and punctuality contribute to my business’s success and my ability to meet deadlines and schedules.

2) Recognize good performance – Set a high production/quality standard for myself and then identify each of my efforts that exceeds my expectations or meets identified goals. Praise myself for a job well done. Discipline myself when my performance is not up to par.

3) Show confidence in myself and my work – Assign “stretch” goals that really challenge me to become a better artist by increasing the difficulty level for the next project. This will, also, build my confidence. Avoid the temptation to give up. Sometimes “muddling” through a task will motivate me to figure a problem out and then use real solutions.

As my first year as Kameli Shae and Ladyfingahs on Etsy comes to a close, I’ve begun to reflect and prepare for 2011. I must say that I came pretty darn close to meeting my goal of 50 sales for the year. That may sound like a small number to many, but when you have other responsibilities that are more important than a home-based business 50 sales can be a bunch. I need to add balance to the list. It can be really difficult at times trying to juggle all that my life entails. Through it all, I must say, I have a blast on this journey. It might be even more enjoyable if in the coming year, things get a little wilder... we'll see!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A few of My Favorite Things

1) Baking from Scratch - I took a break from my usual crafts to bake this bread from scratch. Everyone of us have an "un"hidden talent. Well, this is just one of mine...

This applesauce raisin nut bread was created using ingredients that were available in the kitchen that morning. In other words, I didn't fuss with going out to buy anything that wasn't on hand. I like to try to make do with my circumstances (a new lesson I've been trying lately.) I just kind of made my way through the cabinets and fridge to gather the items that went into my newly concocted recipe. A few of the items used were brown sugar, wheat flour, vanilla soy milk, raisins, apples that were peeled then boiled to the perfect consistency, cinnamon, nutmeg, walnuts and vegetable oil, again just to name a few. The next time I bake this I will try to remember to write down the recipe and instructions so that I can post it here on the blog. My breads usually only last a day or two in my house. Best of all, I enjoy letting the "dos chicas" help prepare and mix the ingredients. Baking time often turns into lesson time as we get to review colors, counting, opposites, sight words, alphabets, spelling and so much more...

How will You Shop this Holiday Season?

This was once available as a poll on this blog. Although the poll has been removed I still ponder this issue. I'm curious as to whether you've considered joining the handmade revolution or would you still rather run to Stuff-Mart the night before your chosen holiday to retrieve whatever remains on the shelves. Did you know that crafters have been preparing for this holiday season since mid-year; just like the major retailers? Have you considered supporting crafters who spend countless hours designing,constructing, selling, packaging, etc. their wares themselves. If you're not willing to support independent shop owners or local businesses (not chain stores) this year, consider adding it to your list of resolutions for 2011...

For those of you that are interested, I ask which will it be:

a) indie shops - buying handmade only
b) combo - indie shops and major retailers
c) not buying at all; making every item myself
d) not making anything myself; buying every item
e) not giving gifts at all this year

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gift Certificates...

are still a hit when it comes to finding the perfect gift. Somehow, though, I still feel that you need further convincing of this fact. First, here is a very important figure for you to ponder: 57% of Americans have this item at the top of their wish list (according to a survey conducted by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation.)

We all have folks on our recipient list who are hard to please. Why chance it that they will be unhappy with the item(s) that you've purchased? Not to mention, if you've purchased an item(s) that the recipient can't return or exchange. Inventory in both of my stores tend to change frequently. I, also, periodically offer deals such as discounts, bogo and/or free shipping.

Gift certificates for Kameli Shae and Ladyfingahs can be found in the right margin of this blog. Here are a few other perks for buying these items:
  • This is the best and most appreciated gift for holidays, showers, birthdays, graduations... any special or celebrated occasion. 
  • You choose the increments. A lot of retailers have set amounts for their certificates and/or gift cards.
  • My store's gift certificates will never expire. Furthermore, as a result of new guidelines under the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act. The law bans expiration dates within at least five years after the cards or certificates are purchased or loaded with funds.
  • I will not charge inactivity fees while shoppers take their time deciding which items they would like to purchase.
Gift certificates take the guesswork out of shopping. Make someone happier this year by ultimately giving them the freedom of choice... allow them to choose their own item!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hobby or Home-based Business? A Profitable Decision.

Many professional crafters started their businesses after being urged by friends and family. It took me many years of entering and exiting the craft market to realize that I needed to wholeheartedly become a craft professional. I, in fact, never knew that Etsy existed until the creative force behind Mamanyah Creates and Natty Rootz Wear  (both on Etsy) introduced us. Affirmations and encouragement is important to all of us no matter what task we decide to take on. I treasure important people in my life who sincerely praise and appreciate my skill. Yet, to proceed at becoming a professional crafter interested in making a serious profit, I had to understand the difference between "hobby" and "business". A lot of this stuff, the necessaries, I've learned along the way. Which means I'm still figuring out quite a bit, myself. If you're not naturally a risk-taker like myself, you might cringe at some of my horror stories. Tales of how I jumped head first into my idea of starting a company. Lots of lessons learned, but lots of money and time wasted along the way. I should get a tattoo that says "Just do it" because that's how I take on many new tasks.

Anyone who believes that just because they have a passion for their craft or collectible that that will substitute for real business skills is in for a rude awakening; a very quick one at that!  A knitter who opens a shop stocked with only their favorite brand of yarn and needles is taking on a risky, or perhaps, bad idea. While enthusiasm for your interest is important and perhaps the biggest aspect of all, it really takes business skills to turn a hobby into a profitable endeavor. I challenge you to ask yourself whether you could turn your hobby into a profitable opportunity.

Can you set aside your personal preferences in order to observe trends and money-makers objectively? I actually started out that way. My love for African/Ethnic prints quickly put me in a box. Truth is, a lot of people who say they love the fabric and the culture are rarely buying items constructed from the material. Instead, I turned that interest in the textiles into a supply store: And if someone sees something on that they want constructed of afro-prints, they just need to choose a fabric from the other site without being charged an extra fee. Before making any crucial moves, you have to honestly ask yourself whether you're willing to take time to learn business essentials. What are they? The list could vary depending on your industry, but for starters: basic book-keeping, permits/licenses, customer service, product info and the biggy... the IRS/tax filing.

Why continue giving away your creations when you can sell them? Go into business! Unlock that potential and turn your skills into cash. In closing, answer the following questions to help further define your status as a craft hobbyist or craft professional:
  • Have you researched your potential market?
  • Can your business make a profit?
  • Can you formulate an efficient book-keeping system? Paypal has some really good apps to help with this.
  • How will you keep track of your shop's inventory?
  • Can you afford the necessary licenses and/or permits?
  • Can you afford to advertise or promote your company and/or product?
  • Will you file the proper tax forms to show deductions?
  • Can you form a relationship with vendors and wholesalers? Do you know who they are? If not, do you know how to find them?
  • Can you afford studio space or an office in or outside your home?
  • How much time can you devote to your business every week, day, month?
  • How will you brand your company? Do you have a logo, mission statement, letterhead, business cards, etc.?
  • Can you attend (whether vending or just attending) craft fairs, bazaars, trade shows, etc.?
  • What is your backup plan... for any of the above questions that were answered negatively ?
 This could be you!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Buyer Beware

I used to think that buying shoes and clothing via the web was risky. Now that I consider myself a fabric connoisseur, I've been taking even bigger risks. Lots of textiles look pretty enticing on the web (especially if you have good resolution on your monitor), but many of them are not of a good quality. Truthfully, I'd rather see and feel what I am buying in person. You really can’t tell what a piece of fabric is like from a picture. I actually like to feel the weight of the fabric. I, also, like to check out the dye job. With the local choices that I have in fabric shops, I'm concluding that I don't have much of a choice, but to order via the web. Not to mention, since I've been vending at local events it has become more important that I sell items made of fabric that's not offered at the local shops. I've come to understand how important knowing that thread count is the number of threads per square inch in the fabric. It determines the quality and weight of the fabric. Threads are counted for both the length and width of the fabric. If they are the same number of threads in both directions, the fabric has an "even weave." Fabrics with an even weave are easier to work with as you sew, since the fabric will have the same amount of "give" in both directions.
The last event that I sold at there were only 4 of us who sold children's clothing and/or accessories. The other 3 booths had items made of the same textiles. In fact, I received lots of compliments on my fabric choices. Those compliments sparked some interesting conversations, as many times I was able to explain to buyers that I interpret my items through color first. A fabric has to speak to me, whether I'm buying in person or through the web. I've even started buying entire bolts from the local stores. Purchasing that way allows me to receive a discount and it prevents others from buying the same fabric. Just a note, Joann's rarely re-stocks their bolts, so if you think you may want to make multiple items from one print, buy it when you see it (if you can afford it). Also, you may not want to go fabric shopping if you can't afford to buy large quantities. I always come out with more bags than I intended.

Some other tidbits:           
  • when buying fabric through the web, you may want to look for descriptives such as quilting weight, 100% cotton, some other natural content, etc.
  • amazingly many designers, quilters, seamstresses don't know the long list of natural fibers. Everyone is familiar with cotton, but what about wool, ramie, jute, hemp, silk, linen, rayon, etc.
  • 68 x 68 threads per square inch is a good count, higher than average fabrics; a lower thread counts may be too lightweight for your project, a higher count may be difficult to work with... especially if you make wearables
  • if thread count info is not listed in the fabric description, email the seller. again, they should be familiar with their product, if their not... red flag!
  • allow yourself time to purchase swatches before buying yardage
  • look for sites that have examples of finished projects or customer testimonials
  • a lot of companies are run by people who actually use the fabric they sell, this is a great way to tell whether they trust  the fabric themselves
Now, because of trial and error, I only buy brands I’m familiar with. Or, I only purchase from reputable companies. Lately, I’ve been pleased with about 90% of my purchases, but I can always use the other 10% for lining and interfacing. And, I never buy fabric from companies with sketchy or non-existent return policies.  If you need a few suggestions for fabric sites, please email me...

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Darker the Berry...

... the sweeter the buy. The purpose of this treasury is to showcase the beauty of items from members of Team EAOC. Hopefully, you will find several gifts for the special people on your list.

This is a treasury that I created on Etsy. It features wonderful gift items from members of Team EAOC (etsy artists of color). Check it out, but mostly enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Random Acts of Affection...

My true story:  Yesterday, I texted the message "Love You" to several contacts in my phone. Many people didn't respond until later last night; many others not at all. One of my sisters even called to ask if I was just "testing" my phone's texting options. :) The most popular reason I heard for not responding right away was fear that I had done something harmful to myself and had texted as a final goodbye. My point is to encourage you to tell those you care about just how much they matter. Don't be surprised by the negative responses as many people are caught off guard by the words "love you", "miss you", "you're a valuable asset", etc.

Take a moment and think of the last time you told someone just how much you truly enjoy having them in your life. Sharing your true feelings should not be embarassing and, in fact, can be very refreshing. Random acts of affection... do it soon, before the opportunity never arises again or suddenly gets taken away. Come back to the blog and tell me how it went, what reactions did you receive, how did it feel, would you do it again?

“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.”

“Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself. To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.”   ~  Kahlil Gibran

Monday, October 25, 2010

I've generated a new offering at All fabric in stock is available as a fat quarter, as well as, still being sold by the yard. I realized that sometimes  buyers may want to work on a smaller project that will let you explore what can be done with smaller bits of fabric. Smaller quantities of a print are perfect for adding a splash of texture or color to home decor, as well.

Many blessings are given to the artists who specialize in making patchwork quilts, especially. I paid attention to the feedback of browsers, not buyers, who felt like a yard of one ethnic print was just a bit much for the projects they were attempting. Also, remember that new pieces are added just about every week. Actually, a f ew pieces will be added sometime this week.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ahhh, To Be a Kid Again

"You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
 Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth." 
 — William W. Purkey

My children do things that are so inspiring. As we were leaving a restaurant today the oldest decided to dance. I'm sure for no one in particular, but herself. This time several people who were on their way to their seats stopped to watch. She continued and seemed very unphased by her captivated audience. When she decided she was done she kindly said excuse me and scurried through the crowd towards the door. Her younger sister, her third biggest cheerleader, clapped her hands off. I remember apologizing for the hold up. An elderly lady said she enjoyed the show and that she didn't mind waiting. After buckling everyone in, but before cranking up the car I got to thinking in an emotional kind of way for several different reasons:
  •  kids can be so fearless - she did pliés, arabesques and twirls as if she was the only one in the room
  •  kids can be so nonjudgemental - she didn't care that one man impatiently broke through the crowd to get to his seat. In fact, she twirled out of his way. And she always speaks or acknowledges random people. Even if it's just to ask them how their day is going. The other day in the dentist's office she noticed a lady staring in our direction. After stating very loudly, "the lady is staring at us", she waved hello and broke the ice for us (two very grown parents). The lady and I chatted the rest of the time we were waiting to be seen.
  • kids can take a cue from no one, but themselves - nobody had to tell her when to begin dancing; she just did because she felt like it
  • kids sometimes can't control their emotions - she danced like the joy in her heart was overflowing and laughed the entire time
  • kids randomly say "I love you" - she did just that, as she does quite often... after I buckled her in. Then the youngest chimed in saying "no crying, Mommy"
When I finish growing up, I hope I'm like her in so many ways. I never thought that I would be so inspired by a 3 year old, but honestly I am. Take a moment to comment below on how a child has inspired or influenced you lately?

I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances but they're worth taking
Lovin' might be a mistake but it's worth making

I hope you dance, I hope you dance
- Lee Ann Womack

Disclaimer: Of course, no two children are alike. They all tend to have their own personality. Take notice of your child's spirit starting today.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Get on Board

What efforts have you made to support the handmade community, and promote the importance of buying handmade goods? Please provide a reason(s) why one should buy or sell handmade. Remember to number each response...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I think it's really over...

I guess this is another reason to truly believe that summer is really over. I know that it was a mere 50-something degrees when I got out of the house this morning (in Florida... N. Florida, but come on!). Honestly, I'm still not ready for the fall weather. It's beautiful outside this time of year, but I have a great dislike for temps below 70 degrees. To add to my sadness, I was in the yard for approximately an hour around midday and only saw one butterfly... how disappointing.

Proudly, we cultivated 51 okra since mid-August. That's alot! I didn't say we were trying to set up shop at the local farmer's market. It was a start; to say it was our first attempt. At least, every weekend we were able to have a side of okra for dinner. We'll do better next year. I, also, noticed that we have two bell peppers to pluck. We better get them before the morning frost does.

Zingiber Zerumbet!?

What is this interesting plant you ask? It's a pinecone ginger and it can grow to about 6-7 ft tall with long narrow leaves arranging oppositely along the stem. Ours tend to bloom starting mid to late summer, separate stalks grow out of the ground with green cone-shaped bracts that resemble pinecones. The cone turns red over a couple of weeks and then small creamy yellow flowers appear on the cone. From afar, the flowers actually look like tiny butterflies resting.
The Pinecone Ginger is an easy-to-grow pass-along plant that will make a large clump from a single rhizome in a couple of years. It grows easily, provided sufficient moisture and fertile soil. Just ask my neighbors. As a "hi, I just moved to the neighborhood gift" we gave lots of rhizomes away. Several years later, most of us now have too much of this stuff growing everywhere. I've been living here for 5 years (time sure does fly) and we have an abundance of Shampoo Ginger every year. One year my mom and I even threw a bucketful in the trash, but to no avail. Don't misunderstand me, it's not necessarily a nuisance. Just have a plan when you plant it. In other words, make sure that where you plant it is where you really want it to be... year after year or until you remove every rhizome in sight. For from one rhizome grows a bouquet of pinecones. Again, it makes an excellent fast-growing landscape plant for tropical effect, and the cone shaped flowers are long-lasting and useful for cut flower arrangements.

Last year, I realized that all along I have been growing a very essential plant.  It is a plant of many uses.  It really is used as a shampoo in Asia and Hawaii, and as an ingredient in several commercial shampoos sold around the world. Actually, chances are if the cosmetic product you're using has ginger listed as an ingredient, it's probably an extraction from the pinecone ginger. Traditionally, shampoo ginger was used as medicine for sprains, indigestion and other ailments. The root was ground with a stone mortar and pestle, and the pulp was placed in a cloth and loosely bound around the injured area. To ease a stomach ache, the ground and strained root material was mixed with water and drunk. For a toothache or a cavity, it was cooked, softened and pressed into the hollow and left for as long as was needed. These are all pics of my latest 'harvest' (actually, taken today). The last pic shows me actually squeezing a cone. I love to use this to wash my locs as its naturally sudsy and smells great, too. It, also, soothed my sunburn last summer and occasionally I tend to use it as a pre-body wash.

I had a ball...

I didn't think that I would have so much fun attending a baby shower. I believe the biggest reason I did was because it has been a while since I attended a function without the family. I not only enjoyed the opportunity to mingle with other adult ladies, but the food was great, too. Food that I didn't have to prepare, although I did offer my assistance as I was the first guest to arrive.

The purpose of the shower was to congratulate one of my former student's on the upcoming arrival of her first child. Of course, my gift was handmade by (myself) Kameli Shae. For some reason, I love making bib and burpee sets. I love functional items for children. BB sets can be used for as long as you think your child needs to be shielded from the constant mess they'll make when eating. Unless, they're like one of mine, who decided that from about nine months she was never going to wear a bib. That girl would constantly snatch it from around her neck. 

Well, They've already chosen a name for the baby boy, so this time I was able to personalize the sets with his initial ('e'). I love the animal print the best. It's a new fabric by David Miller called "Oh Boy! Zoo Animals". He has several new prints available this season. Lately, I've been more inspired to pursue another masters in Textile Design, but I'll save the details for another post. These are for sale at log on for more info.