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: ladyfingahs.etsy.com. And if someone sees something on kamelishae.etsy.com 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!