Business

3 Ways to Market your Online Shop – Offline

I work directly with a lot of makers, and often they are struggling to get their online shop found. They make Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, start blogs, and even join eleventy million groups for entrepreneurs, buying and selling, and all things crafty – but they still struggle to drive traffic to their online store.

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Some of the most impactful things I have done to grow Lu & Ed online has nothing to do with wi-fi, computers, or social media. Those things were done outside of my home, away from my laptop & face to face with other humans – and I want to share some ways you can leverage offline marketing to grow your online shop, too!

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Vendor Events

Craft shows, exhibitor events, markets, pop up shops, even weekly farmer’s markets – setting up shop for local in-person sales is a HUGE way to grow your brand in an affordable way while generating revenue.

There is typically a cost involved with setting up – the booth fee or vendor fee. Keep in mind, the higher the price, while intimidating, typically means the event is better promoted, in a good venue with lots of traffic, and brings in higher quality wares which means established sellers with wide audiences are most likely the vendors. The better the vendors, the better the event, so a higher cost is typically a really good thing and should not deter you from trying an event.

In order for in-person events to be successful, you need to have a visually appealing display, which can also involve costs to get props to properly display your wares, but these are tax deductible and you will use them for DOZENS of events so the ROI is very high on them! But before you head to IKEA and whip out the check book, keep in mind: Most displays for craft shows can be found at thrift stores or garage sales for very cheap, often less than $10, and can be spiffied right up with a coat of paint that matches your brand colors & given a new life as your display. My entire display cost less than $30! My table cloths are colorful sheets I found for less than $1 each, my tables were gifts from family, the shutters and shelves and racks all cost less than $5 total. So I cannot recommend visiting various thrift shops locally to find pieces to tie into your displays!

Ready to learn more about events? Read my article 20 Tips for Craft Shows to get more info on what you can do to make an event a success, including scouting events, building your display and what to take with you on the day of the event!

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Get Involved in your Community

Join your local small business association, join a local moms group, teach a class at your local library or community center, join a yoga class, go to a weekly event a venue near you hosts. Get out of your house, get offline and go meet real people in your area.

I cannot stress enough the importance of being active locally to grow your online business. I’m in no way advocating telling everyone you meet about your business – please, don’t.

I’m advocating creating meaningful connections within your community. Get active. Meet people. Make authentic connections with other humans. Find people you relate to & get to know them – strike up conversations with people at the coffee house, volunteer at the animal shelter, join a class at your local college doing something you love, go to yoga in the park,. Find something you love to do, and connect with other people who love to do that as well.

For instance, I started a moms group here. I am also a member of a local home school group for my son. This has been an invaluable resource for me. Connecting with moms gives me a sense of belonging, helps me decompress when my online shop stuff stress me out – but also, spending time with people who happen to be my target audience has brought me numerous sales & even a wholesale opportunity from play date acquaintances and word of mouth! In any group setting the “what do you do” question comes up – and if you have perfected your elevator pitch, that is when you can create ties within the community that will revibrate points of contact back to you.

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The Spider Web Affect

Think of community involvement like a spiderweb. You are at the center of it, and every connection you make is a string that works to the outer circle. All of the connecting strings are people that they know, that knows someone else, that knows someone else. Every string you create, the bigger your web gets. Every time you pluck a string (initialize discussion about your online shop, products or what you do with a connection) the entire web connected to that string vibrates. It creates a ripple effect, with more and more people learning about your online shop & what you do through word of mouth and referrals.

Word of mouth is still considered one of the most valuable forms of marketing, and you can tap into that goldmine by becoming active in your local community & making authentic connections with other humans. This is not about telling people about your business. This is about creating a real connection, maybe even making friends, referring people to the connections you make, and strengthening community ties! A rising tide lifts all ships, and all that!

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Teach or Volunteer

One of the best ways to get your business out there is to share it! Here are some examples of how to use your trade skills to grow your online business while generating revenue or donating your time:

Jewelry makers: teach a simple workshop teaching Girl Scouts or home school children to make bracelets. Send the finished works home in bags with a coupon for your shop!

Potters: have a thumb print ornament making work shop. Have your other items out on display and let people know that they are available for purchase, or say maybe if they make a purchase they can make a second ornament for free. Get creative!

Toy makers: host an art hour for children at your local library. Put together goodie bags for the moms with your business info & a coupon, perhaps a small sample.

Artists: offer a wine & painting/creating session for women, and have an art print sale going during the event!

Fiber arts: offer basic skill classes at your local community center, and have finished products available for sale. In everyone’s kits, include promotional materials for your shops.

Clothing: put together a “party” at a local venue where people can shop your goods, try them on, and receive a swag bag with jewelry, gift cards, etc in it from local or other handmade businesses. Make it a fancy, exclusive event like those legging parties (you know the ones!) with food, fun & best of all, YOUR clothing! This would be a great way to collaborate with other local businesses to borrow their venue – maybe a jewelry boutique or a winery would be willing to let you host a party at their establishment and market it to their customer base.

Homework: set goals today!

Don’t put it off! Set some goals today – make a list of things you think you would like to do to grow your business offline. Then research ways to make those a reality, and start making some phone calls, turning in show applications or signing up for local events!

I would love to hear from you in the comments – how do you feel about growing your online business offline? Does it make your uncomfortable, or is it something that you are excited to try? If you already are active offline, share how in the comments, too!

life

Grinding through 2016

Hey guys. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve paid attention to my blog. Life has been consuming me lately, and honestly this just sort of got shoved to the back burner.

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True to my “one little word” for 2016, I’ve been “Grind-ing” away. Not just in the studio making lots and lots of monsters (sitting at monster #238 of my 500 monsters in 2016 goal, so just slightly behind on my yearly goal) but also in life. Since my divorce & moving half way across the country in November, some time to reflect, absorb and find myself was expected. I didn’t expect it to be so rough though – or to run into one financial crisis after another, either. Ugh.

But like I said, true to my word of the year, I’ve been grinding. Grinding away each day, chipping away at the rough bits, breaking a little by  little so that in the end, everything is smooth & soft. The first quarter of the year, when I was home sharing with my brother and sister in law who were gracious enough to open their home to me, I was pretty disappointed in myself, I won’t even lie. I went from home ownership and stability to a tiny bedroom shared with my son and dog. I ended up staying months longer than anticipated – and when I finally did move out into my own cute (but tiny, so tiny) home, I was hit with unexpected fees and deposits and ended up seriously strapped financially and no amount of hustle in the studio was equating to the amount of money I needed to make ends meet.

So the first half of this year was spent really getting to know myself, what this new life demands from me, how tough and dedicated I am, how much I value my independence and ability to provide for myself. After lots of self-pep talks, getting a room mate (which made our tiny house even more tiny but we’re making it work!), snagging some baby sitting jobs & lining up some clear goals and action plans for my little monster biz, I’m finally regaining my confidence and really appreciating how difficult it’s been to re-acclimate to life in WNC. I learned a lot about myself the past several months, and I am still so excited about all the amazing changes this year has had in store for me – even if the majority of them so far haven’t been easy, comfortable or even remotely anticipated.

All that aside though? This year is truly shaping up to exactly what I needed from it – rough discovery and soul exploration. Pushing me to my limits, breaking all the rough edges off and revealing the beauty beneath.

And while May was a hugely disappointing month sales wise for me, I know without a doubt June will be the best month yet this year! #optimistprime  Mostly because I have tons of shows lined up (East West Market and West Asheville Art Walk in June, Big Crafty in July!) that will be helping me to get established as a maker here and spread the word about Lu & Ed, while also helping me make some awesome connections and get re-familiarized with the area again! 🙂 So if you are local, mark your calendars and come say hi – I’d love to meet you!

So yeah. That’s my mini update about my radio silence here on the blog and what’s been going on, as well as what I have coming up. I hope to get back to regular posting this month, I have tons of drafts saved on lots of businessy topics, but I also have some cool gift guides I’m working on and other goodness for the blog – stay tuned!

 

Business

3 craft show tips for toy makers (& a free printable!)

I have attended close to 50 shows as a vendor and sell out at almost every show I vend at. With spring time shows just around the bend, I  wanted to share some of lessons I’ve learned as a toy maker in the craft show circuit with YOU to make the busy show season the best it can be for you!

Create an inviting display. 

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As a toy maker it is so important to have a display that invites both parents & children to touch, hug & play with my monsters. People are more likely to purchase an item they interact with so by having a display with child height shelves & openly inviting people to play with & enjoy your products you are increasing the odds of purchases.

When I catch a kiddo eyeing my display I get down to their level & ask them which monster is their favorite, or what their favorite color is. This leads to them pointing to or picking up a monster they like. That magic moment when a child finds “their” monster makes my heart burst with joy! Parents love it too, and get involved in the fun of picking out monsters & comparing hair styles and numbers of eyes or teeth. Make sure you are approaching & engaging not just the adults but the children at the events. Don’t be afraid to get on their level & talk to them – you’re a toy maker! This is what you DO – unite kids with toys they will love!

Bring baby wipes

Sometimes, kids (or adults!) can have dirty fingers, especially if there is food trucks at the event! Greasy, powdery, funnel cake trucks. Or hot dog trucks, with mustard & ketchup & all kinds relishes. All kinds of things that can potentially stain & ruin products! My advice:

If there is going to be food at the event, set up a display with a sign encouraging people to take a wet wipe (diaper wipes are perfect for this!) for their hands & have a waste basket for easy disposal. If you see kids with food, feel free to offer the parents a wipe – it’s not rude, believe me, they will appreciate it! – before the kids touch your displays/products. This protects your products, and opens up a line of communication with browsers. I’ve only ever had browsers express gratitude when I’ve offered them a napkin at shows, even though I’m primarily doing it to protect my products.

Offer stickers or an activity

Kids love stickers! I always keep some in my apron pocket at events and as kiddos pass by I ask them if they would like a sticker – this results with families pausing at my booth, kids getting excited about my products & often, purchases! Starting conversations with kids & parents is key in selling toys at craft shows.

You can download these free sticker templates designed by Kenzie of Bewhiskered Blankets here or purchase the full color set with 25 designs for just $1.50 here! They are sized to print on standard address label paper, so you can print them from home!

I also sometimes have a coloring table set up with pages of Mon-stors to color and buckets of crayons. ALWAYS a huge hit with small children & again, it gives families a reason to pause at your booth. I can only do this at shows with 10×10 booths though, so it’s not a show time staple but always results in happy families & lots of interaction and purchases at my booth! Try to think of small, free activities you could offer to young craft show patrons – maybe if you sell children’s clothes, a dress up trunk & mirror? Think outside the box & get creative with freebies & activities you can do to get people excited about your booth at events!

Do you make & sell toys or items for kids at craft shows? Let’s continue the conversation in the comments! What craft show advice would you offer other toy makers before their first show of the season? 

Business

20 tips for craft shows

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With 9 years and hundreds of craft shows behind me as of 2018, I want to share my top twenty tips for a successful show with others who may just be starting out or are looking for ways to improve their experience as vendors at events.

  1. Before you can be successful at any event, make sure the event is worth your time. Ask yourself (and the person hosting this event!) Is it the right venue for you? For instance, will you be the only hand-crafter among commercial vendors? Will there be multiple vendors selling the same or similar items as yours? Does their advertising bring in the clientele that would purchase your products? For that matter, how well is the show being advertised? Establishing if this event is worth your time and effort the first and MOST IMPORTANT step to having a successful show.
  1. Don’t make a huge investment on your first show. It’s tempting to go out, buy a fancy canopy, new folding tables, have signs printed – just slow your roll. If you don’t already have what you need, consider borrowing it from someone that does first so you can make an informed decision when purchasing supplies for your display after you figure out what works for you.
  1. It may be tempting to line up craft shows left and right (they are pretty addictive!) but while you have plenty of time to build a large supply of inventory before your first show, you need allow time between shows to replenish what you may sell to avoid the stress of working frantically before your next show to restock.
  1. Broaden your horizons – make various items in various color combos, in various sizes if applicable. You want to be able to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible by offering lots of ready to purchase color combos and a variety products. Also be sure to bring order forms, if you accept custom orders, and a book with pictures of other products you make if you don’t have an example available in the booth with you. Another really neat thing to have available is a book of fan photos and testimonials showcasing your products in action!
  1. Display, display, display. Now that you have selected a good venue and built up a sizable inventory that can appeal to the masses – practice setting up your display. It is very important to do this at least the night before the show so you can get an idea of how you want your items displayed. It saves a headache when setting up your booth the next day. Do a few mock ups of your booth arranged different ways, with different elements, and draw up a diagram to assist you in set up the the day of the show.
  1. A solid color table cloth is always a good choice (black or white is good, or chose a color you use in other areas of your branding. You want everything to remain cohesive to your brand and easy on the eyes) and when laid at an angle over a vibrant printed cloth makes a big impact and draw people in. Make sure your table cloth is long enough to hide any unsightly totes or supplies you have stored under the table, but not so long that people will trip over it.
  1. Get creative with you display! Consider placing books or turned-over pots on your table to display your products at varying heights to add visual interest. You can also achieve this look with hat boxes, milk crates, or vases with a platter secured on top.
  1. Think up. Don’t just limit your display to a table top. Shelving racks are affordable and give a booth a nice store-front feel. Check thrift stores, and give your booth a fun twist by painting several and lining them up to create walls around your booth.
  1. Signage. It helps your business stand out. You don’t need to go all out with a costly printed sign – some low cost DIY ideas: grab a cork board, wooden letters, paint, and some thumbtacks. Everything you need to make portable, affordable signage for your display, and it’s 100% unique; Or paint each letter of your business name on canvases and put them on mini easels. You can also paint or sew your logo on a fabric banner and pin it to the top of your canopy.
  1. It is very important to price and label your items clearly, but in a pretty manner – consider hand making tags using cardstock, colorful markers, ribbon and a hole puncher. You can also tag products with your business card. If you have several smaller items all the same price, you can group them in a basket with a cute framed piece guide leaning against the basket.
  1. If your event is outside, a canopy is pretty much a must, as well as folding chairs, a cooler full of water in the hot weather, hand fans, sunscreen, and bug repellent. Basically, plan like you’re spending the day at the beach. Canopies can be pricey, so ask around and see if your friends have one you can borrow for your events.
  1. Another VERY important tip for outdoor craft shows – It’s pretty embarrassing when your canopy or products flies across the venue (yes, this happened to me!). Make sure to tether and weigh down  your canopy, tables and products thoroughly. Some double sided sticky tape won’t damage most products and will prevent them from blowing away. For your canopy, sand bags, or pretty buckets filled with sand or small stones with bouquets of fake flowers in them to make them more pretty.
  1. Have business cards – lots of them! – at the ready to pass out (keep them in your apron or jacket pocket so you can whip them out casually instead of having to reach for them), and in several locations in your booth! Another great way to get your name out there is pens or magnets with your business name and web address on them to pass out to shoppers walking by or to put in with each purchase from your booth.
  1. Bring a friend along for the craft show, or at least, work it out for someone to stop by to bring you lunch or for a bathroom break! Make sure to use this time to walk around and visit your fellow vendors at the event, and pass out your cards to them. 🙂 Having a friend at your booth can be a lifesaver if multiple people are browsing at the same time. You won’t have to worry about missing a sale because you were busy talking to someone else.
  1. Don’t forget to bring a sales book (with carbon receipts, or a separate receipt book to write up receipts for customers), extra price tags, several pens, super glue, scissors, a calculator, a change of clothes (after getting soaked and muddy in a rain storm and once having my son spill a red slush on my jeans during a fair, I learned to always keep a change of clothes in the car at craft shows!) and Tylenol for the possibility of a headache. Plan like a boy scout for every possible scenario!
  1. Decide before your craft show if you will accept checks or cash only, and bring an ample supply of change (ones and fives, possibly some tens), as well as extra cash for YOU to shop or buy snacks with, and also decide if you are going to figure in tax on each transaction, or if you will just deduct it from your profits (much easier I think). Also, if you have a smart phone, definitely get Square so that you can process credit card payments on the spot!
  1. Consider rounding your prices to the nearest dollars instead of having products priced at, say, $9.95 or $4.50. Who really brings spare change to a craft show? And do you really want to carry all those coins around?
  1. Build your booth to draw people in, not keep them out – put the table at the back, with displays on each side to funnel buyers into your booth. Don’t sit behind the table in the back, but beside a display where you can easily stand up and greet consumers face to face rather than forcing a divide between you and them with a table. How would you feel if every time you had a questions for a worker at a grocery store they stood behind a table full of products and looked at you, rather than standing by you and listening attentively?
  1. Don’t just sit there in your booth waiting for customers – get up and interact with people as they walk by your booth. Say hi. Ask them how their doing. Make conversation – “Hey, I have a purse that matches that outfit over here!”. Don’t be shy, draw the crowd in! You don’t have to be a pushy sales person. I stand at the front of my booth, and smile and greet every single person that walks by, ask them how they’re doing – and this simple task alone gives them a reason to pause at my booth, and almost every person will at least take a peek before walking on to the next booth.
  1. Bring the bargains. Consider having a deal like: $7 each or two for $12. Or buy two get one free. Buyers love deals – but they don’t bring hundreds of dollars to craft shows! Price it right, and offer deals. If someone looks interest but shies away from the price tag, offer a discount. Craft shows are a good place to play with your prices and see what prices draw people in the most – you may find out lowering your price by $2-$3 draws in more buyers than your current prices!

Bonus tip!

This last tip is a fun one, and my favorite. Free candy. It draws the crowds in. See a person walk by with a kid? Offer the kid some candy. It may seem sneaky… but it works! Even adults have a hard time turning down free candy! You can even attach a business card to each piece. Make sure to get peanut free candy that is not produced in a factory with peanuts – stick with suckers or gummy candies because aren’t as messy as chocolates. You could also have stickers, coloring sheets, or balloons to pass out to children instead of candy.

Have any other great advice for newbs to the craft show circuit? Leave your tips in the comment section!