Category: small business

biz notes :: small business start ups

Pretty-Paper-Please-Melanie-KimmettMélanie from Pretty Paper Please is here today sharing her final installment on creating your own product line. In case you missed it, click here for her other posts: consignment vs. wholesale | approaching and the follow up | branding | creating a look book | line sheets + catalogues.

What I didn’t realize when I first imagined starting my own stationery line was the amount of time and work needed to create, produce and eventually market and sell my own pieces. And then there’s the business/financial side! If you’re like me – creative, but no real head for math – that part of running your own business can truly be scary! And if done wrong, could really get you into trouble!

A bookkeeper and/or an accountant can guide and help set you up with good working habits in terms of how to organize and separate all of your receipts. They’ll also help you understand which expenses and what percentages can be written off, as well as give you tips on how to save money month to month! In other words, hiring a business/number-minded person will help shape your business and force you to be responsible about your own finances. If your finances are in order, well, you’re on track for some real business growth.

I asked my bookkeeper if she could put together a list of things she’d encourage any new business to look into and these were her top recommendations:

Decide on whether you are going to Incorporate or be a Sole Proprietor
First understand what either classification means, then decide how either applies to your needs and what sort of business you see yourself being.

Register your business name with the Government
Every country has its own rules and process for Small Business, which is why it’s important to research your options wherever you happen to be. In Canada, you’re required to register your chosen business name (if its anything other than your own given name) with your Provincial Government.

Register your business number with the Government
In Canada, every business requires a business number. If you’re deemed a Small Supplier (your business is making less than $30K/year) you’re unlikely to need a GST number. Depending on which province you’re selling in, or the types of goods you’re selling you may also need to register for a PST number. Contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to understand where you fit in.

Find a good bookkeeper and tax accountant
Bookkeepers and/or accountants are a great source of information. Getting things set up and done correctly from the start will save you time and money in the long run.

Open a business bank account + Collect your business receipts
The idea here is to have a separate bank account for business transactions. Doing this will make your life easier when it comes to bookkeeping! There are countless items you can write off as a business expense, but it’s important to understand what those allowable purchases are. Always ensure to hold onto your receipts for your bookkeeping as well as for safekeeping. In the event you’re audited, having those receipts handy will save you from any additional stress.

Good luck! And happy making & selling!

Thanks so much to Mélanie for sharing her advice! Check out her links here: portfolio | shop

biz tip :: craft fair checklist


With summer and (the quickly approaching) holiday handmade markets, I have been busy gathering up all my supplies. Instead of opening and closing every single drawer and relying on memory as to what I need to bring, I decided to create a checklist that I can refer to before every show!

Things I need to bring:

  • Lighting
  • Extension cords
  • Power bar (the electricity kind!)
  • Phone charger
  • Tape
  • Thumb tacks
  • Pen + notebook
  • Scissors
  • Calculator (or use your phone)
  • Safety pins
  • Clothes pins
  • Mirror
  • Credit card slips (in case your reader breaksdown)
  • Credit card reader
  • Lint roller
  • Bags + Boxes + Other packaging material
  • Mobile phone + iPad
  • Mints (Tic Tacs are small + easy to chew, so you can keep talking to customers!)
  • Business cards
  • Signage
  • Snacks + Water
  • Cash float (I like to start with 1 roll of $1, 1 roll of $2, and $75 in $5 bills)
  • Sunscreen + hat (for outdoor events)
  • Table linen + Display materials

Extra supplies: Bandaids, packaging, price tags, glue and sewing kit, promotional material (giveaways or cards for upcoming events)

image via make something

biz notes :: MailChimp

mailchimp1We love using MailChimp’s simple and quick marketing system to create email newsletters for our upcoming events! Neither one of us come from technical / design backgrounds, so having templates guide us through the process of inserting text and images just makes the process that much more easy to understand.

5 tips when using MailChimp:

  1. Grow your mailing list and collect names with a customizeable signup form that can be integrated to you website or facebook page.
  2. Choose from dozens of pre-designed templates or build your own.
  3. Send an email campaign to your entire list or categorize your list into groups and segment by interest, location, or activity.
  4. Tracking! Free reports can tell you who’s opening and clicking your newsletters. Connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts to share your email campaign automatically and be able to track the activity by finding out who is tweeting and liking your email. Advanced stats are available via Google Analytics.
  5. MailChimp provides a link to each of your campaigns to make it easy for people who have HTML or images disabled. It’s also great to resend to those that said they never received your initial campaign.

Set up a free account (up to 2000 names) and create your own MailChimp campaign here!

This post has been sponsored by MailChimp, an electronic marketing system created to help you design, send, and share email newsletters. Be one of the first 50 at Got Craft? on Saturday, April 27th and Sunday, April 28th, 2013 at the Templeton Secondary School gym – 727 Templeton Drive, Vancouver to find a special MailChimp surprise in your swag bags!

biz notes :: line sheets + product catalogues

lotusevents_biznotes1After a teeny break, we are pleased to welcome Mélanie from Pretty Paper Please back to the blog today to talk about line sheets and product catalogues! You’ve got your finished product in hand. Your packaging is figured out. Your brand has been fine-tuned. You’ve built a cohesive brand story that exudes confidence and strongly represents you and your product. It might finally be time to reach out to the shops you’ve wanted to, for so long!

Not so fast! I’ve talked a lot about having a professional edge throughout this series thus far, and two imperative pieces to have at the ready are your line sheet and product catalogue. Both documents should be included in all introduction emails, as they provide shop owners with a comprehensive look at your product line, pricing, minimums and refund/exchange policies.

From her own experience as a previous shop owner, Rena Tom is an excellent resource for anyone starting a creative business. If you’re not already familiar with Rena, she’s worth following and will undoubtedly inspire. Thankfully she compiled and shared specific line sheet and catalogue requirements over on her blog a couple years ago. I referred to her list of must haves when it came time to create my own and would suggest you do the same.

It’s important both your line sheet and product catalogue fit within that brand you’ve worked so hard at establishing. You don’t have to get too precious with these – simplicity is key, as you want the information to shine here. When it comes to photography, it’s important that you capture each item properly. Don’t use flash photography and avoid any “busy” or distracting backgrounds. White or simple backgrounds are generally preferred.

I’ve created a mock line sheet and catalogue to help you visualize your own. Your line sheet will typically be an editable PDF, although I’ve known some people to create Excel spreadsheet versions. The catalogue can also be a PDF, but it’s a tiny bit easier to email a link around, so I host my catalogue on (a digital publishing platform). If you’re not comfortable setting these up on your own, reach out to a designer and work with them. It will simplify your life, I promise!

While we’re talking about line sheets I want to also briefly cover pricing. Generally, shops are looking to retail your items for double your wholesale price. This means you need to consider a few factors. First – the shop’s customer. What are they likely to spend on your item? Second – the shop itself. Is it a lucrative purchase for them? Third and possibly the most important – YOU! DO NOT EVER forget about yourself! You always want to consider your own material and labour costs, while also acknowledging some profit when calculating final wholesale costs.

Here’s a Wholesale Price Formula that is pretty tried and true, although sometimes it’s a bit of a balancing act to find that magic number for everyone: (cost of materials + cost of labour) x 150% markup = wholesale price


If the shop is interested in carrying your product line, they’ll typically ask about your “minimums”. What is a minimum, you ask? It is the minimum order the shop will need to place in order to receive your product line at wholesale price. Think about your material and labour costs and decide what minimum dollar amount is worth the wholesale discount.

The shop might also ask about your MSRP. What they’re looking for is your “Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price” for each product. It’s as simple as that.

Get out there and introduce yourself! You’re ready to sell! Good luck!

next post: The Business of Running your own Product Line.

biz tips :: creating a look book

MelanieKimmett_LookBook_July2012_3Mélanie from Pretty Paper Please is back today as part of our wholesale and consignment series to talk about the ins and outs of having a “lookbook”, how to create one, as well as weighing its importance. Catch part one, two, and three by clicking the links!To those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept of a lookbook, Wikipedia describes it as a “…collection of photographs compiled to show off a model, a photographer, a style, or a clothing line.”

If you’ve ever watched Tyra Banks’ Next Top Model series, you might remember the contestants were building their lookbooks with every new photoshoot, episode to episode.

In the fashion world, this particular lookbook is then brought around to meetings with potential clients, such as fashion labels, photographers or model agencies. These photos provide the model with a story or some context, helping the client imagine them in their clothing, future photoshoots or a new face at the agency.


No, there’s no disputing that the term “lookbook” is deeply rooted in the fashion world. But in the last several years many other industries have adopted its concept and applied it to their own needs. After all, we all have a story to tell. And in this crowded, advertised world we live in, it’s important those of us with our own product lines provide some context into what makes us special, and help us stand out amongst our competitors.

In any great story, the storyteller wants to create a feeling, a setting. They’ll have characters, scenes and some sort of dialogue. The storyteller may want to speak to their audience in a way that is relatable and real or maybe create a whole new dialogue instead – anything that demands attention and garners them an audience. Using the lookbook format to tell your story through pointed-visuals (and some text) invites your audience into a romanticized world that is unique to you and your product line.


I planned, styled, photographed and designed my own lookbook last year and I’m currently working on this year’s new book as well. I’ve also been using (a digital publishing platform) to host my lookbook online. It’s much easier to email a link around then having to worry about the size of the attachment and risk having your email fall into a junk folder.

If you don’t feel as capable of designing, photographing or organizing your own lookbook, I’d advise approaching designers and/or photographers to help you in this area. If you’re going to invest your time in the development of a lookbook, you should probably be open to investing your money as well. Believe me, people appreciate and notice the effort when you’ve done it right.

As I’ve previously mentioned, it’s not imperative everyone with a product line create a lookbook, but it will certainly give you a professional edge when you finally approach prospective shops.

Context is key when you’re trying to reach a desired audience. You want your audience (including prospective shops) to imagine themselves in your world, and hopefully if all goes well, they’ll eventually invite you into theirs.

next week: Create your own Line Sheets + Product Catalogue