Hand Painted Art Fabric, Tree of Life, Sunny Day by Quiltartfabric
Nearly two years into my jewelry business endeavor, I find it hard to believe sometimes that I’m still going through so many growing pains. In the beginning, the challenges were focused on design, product and pricing. Then, the attention turned to marketing challenges – figuring out blogging, facebook, Etsy, events and more. Recently, I find the challenges shifting to figure out if this “hobby” could become a “business” and if so, just how do I figure out how to make it scale. I’ve decided that the business savvy nature of successful artisans is truly underrated!
By sharing some of what I’ve learned (good and bad) in the past few months, I’m hoping I might pass some hints to those of you going through similar growing pains. In turn, I’m hoping this post generates some good conversation and possibly some ideas for topics you would like us to research and dive into in future Business Tips posts.
While I’ve had a long list of challenges, I find these to be my “Top 4”:
- Making strategic decision – retail vs. wholesale vs. both, online vs. events, pricing structures
- Managing Inventory – From supplies, to produced pieces, to photography and listing
- Logistics – Packaging, shipping, tags, follow-up process
- Not enough of “me” to get it all done
What I’ve realized is that most of the challenges end up taking time – time to make good decisions, time to learn new systems and processes, and time to create. I think I’ve learned that the only way I have a shot at growing is to continue to spend less time managing the business and more time creating my work and expanding my customer base. I’ve come up with five insights along the way that are continuing to guide me and give me confidence that I can take this business to the next level.
Insight #1 – CREATE FOCUS
The tighter my focus, the less decisions I need to make, and the more efficient I become. I find it easy to go for “more” – more product designs, more target customer groups, more marketing channels, etc. While more can occasionally be good, more often that not it means you are doing OK at everything, but you aren’t exceptional at anything. We should all strive to be exceptional. Here are a couple examples of how I’m continuing to try and tighten my focus:
- I decided to have a mix of retail and wholesale as my customer “target”. However, I would like to stay away from consignment. I’ve realized the logistics of that process are too complex for me. Consignment might be the perfect fit for others and that is great, for me it’s just not a good fit.
- Supplies – I’m always on the hunt for “found” beads to include in my designs. That causes my supply inventory to have large fluctuations. So, I’ve decided to focus on recycled glass and magazine beads as my “staple” inventory and look to the found items as awesome accent pieces.
Insight #2 – SEEK OUT SIMPLICITY
Once I started to narrow my focus, I shifted attention to simplicity – looking for ways to simplify everything. Similar to focus, simplicity is helping me to identify efficiency and again save time. Here are some examples of where I have found simplicity streamlines my process.
- Customer Choice – I started offering pendants that could be put on 3 different types of necklaces allowing customers to choose the necklace that was best for them. I’ve realized this choice is causing a great deal of extra work/time on my end. So, I’ve made the decision to provide a simple chain with all the designs. That way, customers can focus on the right pendant for them (my actual design) rather than spending time on a necklace choice.
- Batching my work – From creating new jewelry, to paying bills and checking e-mail, I’ve started to create chunks of time for each task. This way I’m not skipping back and forth distracted all the time. The simplicity of “single-tasking” is making a big difference for me.
Insight #3 – LEVERAGE TOOLS
The technologies out there to help artisans and small business owners are phenomenal. I stayed away from some of these tools for a long time because I didn’t believe that I had the time to learn a new system or process. Yet, as I’ve started to dive in and figure some of them out I’ve realized how much more efficient I can be.
For accounting, QuickBooks has been a lifesaver. I’ve also heard from many that it is a great tool for tracking sales and produced inventory. That is one of the next things I want to learn to use.
Insight #4 – EMBRACE SUPPORT
I’m no longer shy about asking for advice from others who are more experienced than me – in particular, the EcoEtsy team is always there providing incredible tips and hints when I have questions. In my community, I have connected with other small business owners and we are always sharing what we are learning to make our businesses run more smoothly.
I do my best not to lean to heavily on close family and friends for support. While I know they are always there for me, I want to ensure my business – challenges and successes – are not always the topic of our conversations.
My latest step in my journey to embrace support happened just over a week ago. I hired an intern for the summer. While I know I cannot leverage her talents to help produce products (that would violate the Etsy contract), she is already making great strides in other parts of the business. She is researching and posting green living topics for my blog and facebook posts, prepping photography for posting on Etsy, writing descriptions for pieces and more. As I considered adding an employee, I put it off for a long time. The expense, giving up some control, finding the right person, needing to figure out payroll, were all reasons I kept putting it off. Now, just over a week in, I’m already realizing the time that is quickly freeing up for me to focus on other priorities.
Insight #5 – HAVE FUN
I think the biggest insight I’ve gained is that I need to have fun. I will try a lot of things with this business. Some will work, some will not. I can’t beat myself up over the stuff that looks like a bad decision after the fact. I’m slowly discovering that running your own business is it’s own creative “work in progress”. The challenges will be never ending. However, I believe with a positive attitude and the ability to have fun along the way this little “hobby” of mine will continue to have the potential to become the full time business of my dreams.
Let me know the challenges you have faced and the insights you have gained as you chase your creative dream!
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