Category: small business

biz tips :: approaching shops + the follow up

prettypaperplease3Mélanie Kimmett from Pretty Paper Please is back to talk about how to approach prospective shops and the follow up. If you missed part one, find it here! – Andrea

Given that we live in such a digital world, you can really get to know a shop, their lifestyle and their customers from their online presence these days. Most have their own Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram accounts. Make a strong effort in getting to know these shops and their community through their social media touch-points. I say this because I believe it makes a significant difference when you finally approach them. It’s been important to me that I develop a relationship with every shop that carries my stationery line, so I make sure to personalize each and every email. There is a clear difference between being truly genuine, trying too hard or sounding too general as though you’ve sent a mass email. Keep things short and to the point, but make sure to charm them with what makes you and your product special.

Main points you should cover in that initial email is a brief introduction, link to your online shop (if you have one), mention real life stats on what has sold well for you, or if you’ve been featured on a prominent blog with the feature’s link. Some shop owners are specific about wanting to see photos of your product and in that case you should certainly attach one or a few. You’re ultimately selling your personal image and product in any of these communications, so it’s important that you’re as polished and professional as possible.

You should also include a line sheet and product catalogue in that initial email. The line sheet is typically your order sheet and the catalogue’s main purpose is to showcase all available products, as well as provide the shop with your wholesale price points. I’ll talk about how to best set those up in my ‘Create your own Line Sheets + Product Catalogue’ blog post in the next couple weeks.

I’ve been advised shops don’t really like being approached in person and I’ve noticed this to be true in some cases, but I’ve found when I’m traveling that it does help establish some sort of relationship that you can then follow up on later. Another option, if you can afford to do it, is to choose a few shops from outside your area every few months and mail them samples of your product. Same advice as above – write them a short note explaining who you are, and your product and why you chose to reach out to them.

prettypaperplease4

The Follow-Up
Eep. What to do with the dreaded follow-up email… Why haven’t you heard from them? How much time should you wait before emailing again? What should you say?

There are always several reasons why you may not have heard back from the shops you’ve reached out to. Shop owners are typically very busy people and can’t always respond in a timely manner. It’s important that you not take their silence personally though, as you’re likely NOT to be the only person emailing about your product, or they may have other shop-related priorities to handle first.

There’s no harm in a follow-up email if you haven’t heard from them after a couple of weeks. Please be cautioned to NEVER harass a prospective shop though, as you will likely alienate and create a strained relationship. Ultimately, shop owners know what’s best for their own stores, and it’s quite possible you’re just not the right fit for them. If you still haven’t heard from them after your follow-up email, maybe choose to move on for the time being. Try them again when you’ve got a new product to introduce.

next week’s topic :: How to Brand and Package Yourself

biz tips :: consignment vs. wholesale

prettypaperplease1prettypaperplease2
I am thrilled to introduce Mélanie Kimmett from Pretty Paper Please to the blog to talk to us about her experience with consignment / wholesale and creating your own product line. Mélanie has been a great help while I put together a catalogue and as I prepare to expand my own line of handmade goods to retail shops. She’ll be covering a lot of information, so make sure to follow along! – Andrea

When I first explored the idea of developing my own stationery line, I found most information about how to approach wholesale opportunities strangely allusive. Over these next several posts I’ll cover all relevant topics I wish I had been privy to before venturing into the world of consignment and wholesale myself.

Now, I also want to preface this by saying I’m really not an expert, but I’ve certainly gained some real life insight from my own trial and error ways. Hopefully you can all benefit from those lessons. Feel free to add your own points or comments in the comment section below. I’d love to treat this as an ongoing conversation!

Here’s the outline of what I’d like to touch on over the next coming weeks:

1. Consignment or Wholesale?
2. How to Brand and Package Yourself
3. Create your own Line Sheets + Product Catalogue
4. The Business of Running your own Product Line

First things first, let’s understand the top-level difference between selling goods on consignment vs. wholesale. Here are the dictionary’s definitions for selling on consignment or wholesale.

Consignment – With the provision that payment is expected ONLY on completed sales and that unsold items may be returned to the one consigning.

Wholesale – The sale of goods in large quantities, as for resale by a retailer.

In simpler terms, one option provides you with monetary compensation now (wholesale) vs. later (consignment). Either way you look at it, someone (whether it’s you or the retailer) is taking a gamble on your product, especially if you’re just starting out and haven’t made much of a name for yourself yet.

Where wholesale seems like the favourable choice when you’re first starting out, I’d like to mention that consignment is often times easier to come by, but it should also be recognized as a personal investment in yourself and product line. While it exposes your product to the marketplace, it also provides a testing ground for items you were maybe questioning and could help you streamline things in the future. Another strong point is that you sometimes profit more (per item) from selling on consignment. Most consignment shops offer you a 60/40 split on all goods sold, whereas in wholesale you have to find that magic wholesale price point that works for both you AND the retailer, which can get tricky. I’ll delve deeper into that in my ‘Create your own Line Sheets + Product Catalogue’ blog post in the next coming weeks.

Most shops make a clear distinction on whether they are consignment or wholesale-based, but some will entertain both options. Some wholesale-based shops may want to try you on a consignment basis to minimize some risk on their end. Be open to this as an option, as this flexibility can strengthen your work relationship with the shop owners. If after a trial period of a few months on consignment you’ve proven to be a good fit and your product is selling well, you should then think about approaching the shop about wholesaling with them.

Check back as we cover topics such as ‘How to Approach Prospective Shops’ and ‘the Follow Up’!

biz tip :: craft fair applications

roxypop_02

As makers, a part of our income comes from craft fairs and to do that, you will need to put together a top notch application to shine above the rest and show us why you are Got Craft? (or any event) material!

tip one: Submit a well rounded application with better photography

“The first thing I look at when reviewing applications are the images. If they don’t catch my eye, I’m hesitant to read the rest of the application no matter how good it may be.”

Got Craft? requests that you submit 3 images that best represent your handmade products.  Take a few moments to clean up your photos, invest in a professional photographer to shoot your work, or take a photography class. You don’t need a fancy camera or mad photography skills, but make sure you show your work properly.

  • Find a spot with natural light and play around with it to avoid shadows. No flash please!
  • A little styling will go along way, but too much will distract away from your products. Be aware of your background and remove any clutter.
  • Avoid using the camera on your phone and editing them with a filter.
  • Show your range of products by creating a collage.
  • Make sure your photos are low res unless otherwise requested.
  • Don’t have photoshop? I use PicMonkey, a free online photo editing website.

tip two: Check it twice!

We are all guilty of a misplaced word, but do your best to proof read your application before hitting submit! Make sure you answer the question asked. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a question in the “Please describe your product here. If accepted, this description will be used on the website”. Have you participated at Got Craft before? Tell us what new items you are working on!

tip three: Update your website and online links.

“It’s always disappointing when people submit a dead link or a link to a blog that hasn’t been updated since 2009″.

We don’t expect you to be a social media queen or king, but if you submit a link to your etsy shop, please make sure that your shop has at least a few products listed! If you don’t blog anymore, just let us know. Love facebook and twitter!? Share your updates with us! Your online presence shows us how active you are and in turn, how much you will help spread the word.

****************

Online applications to the Got Craft? 2013 Spring Edition on Saturday, April 27th and Sunday, April 28th at the Maritime Labour Centre are now open. Click here for details!

image via sassy contessa

square

For those in the craft fair circuit, we are super excited to announce that Square, a mobile payment system for small businesses, has officially launched in Canada! The small square shaped device attaches to the top of your smart phone / iPad (iOS + Android) transforming it into a POS (point of sale) system.

  1. no application fees
  2. no monthly minimums
  3. no set contract

If you haven’t already signed up, check out their website here for more details including information on how to get a free card reader shipped to you!

Come meet the folks from Square at Got Craft? on Saturday, December 8th and Sunday, December 9th, 2012 at the Croatian Cultural Centre from 10-5pm. Three lucky winners each day will also win 3 gift certificates with a combined valued up to $300.00* in their swag bags courtesy of Square!

* one $75, one $50, and one $25 gift certificate to be used at Got Craft? will be randomly placed in three swag bags each day. first 50 people through the doors each day will receive a swag bag filled with goodies from our vendors and sponsors.