Thursday afternoon I attended a workshop put on by Cynthia Deis, the owner of two jewelry supply shops in Raleigh, NC. Cynthia was well qualified to teach this workshop because she has sold retail, wholesale both locally and nationally, and of course, now owns these two very successful shops. Cynthia had lots of good advice and has a wonderful way of explaining things like the difference between wholesale and retail and the advantages of each. I am not going to reiterate the entire workshop but I am going to list here the pieces of advice that meant the most to me.
Cynthia highly recommended that each of us identify a friend who is well connected socially--knows tons of people, etc., and ask that friend to host a home jewelry show for us before June. This is a great idea for several reasons. There is no booth rental. It is a relaxed atmosphere and fun--it is a party, after all. The timing is perfect because it can be before weddings and graduations which are both gift giving occasions and jewelry occasions. It is a party, alcohol can be served and girlfriends will ask each other how they look and which piece they should get. Reward your hostess with her choice of jewelry or a discount, etc. Bring food. Relieve your hostess of the onerous task of writing the invitations and mailing them with the promise not to copy her gift list for your own purposes. She will have enough to do getting ready for the party.
Two weeks before a party or a show--cut out all the distractions, close your Etsy shop, log out of Facebook, etc. and concentrate just on getting your inventory ready and your presentation. Be totally ready for the event.
About selling online--you should have some type of online presence and it doesn't have to be much but it gives people an instant way to see your merchandise.
Business card idea--have a card with a detail of one of your pieces on one side and your contact info on the other side. This makes a lot of sense to me, since my current business card seems to have print too small for people to read. I have had two customers ask me for my address and it is printed on the card. I believe my next set of cards will be front and back for this very reason.
Be careful about legalities. If you live in a condo, etc. are you allowed to run a business out of your home? Some people have had to move because of this. If you are going to sell retail and sell at shows a lot of them require you to have a sales tax number. If you are going to sell in other states, you will need one for those localities and can sometimes get an itinerant sales tax number that only lasts a certain number of months. In order to make things simple at tax time, it is better to open up a separate bank account for your business. It can still be in your name if you like--it just helps to keep the money separate so that you can tell if you are making any and so that you can easily separate your transactions for tax purposes.
More tips: If you decide to sell your crafts to local boutiques, do it right. Call ahead of time for an appointment. Bring samples. Make sure that the boutique you are selling to is compatible with your style.
Earrings are higher volume sellers than any other jewelry. If you are selling to men for their wives and you expect them to buy a necklace, you had better have matching earrings. I should know this already since the necklaces I sold several years ago to custom customers all elicited requests for matching earrings. It is finally sinking in. Cynthia says that people will buy earrings when they won't buy anything else. Good to know!
Cynthia also had great advice about pricing your crafts for wholesale and retail. Retail is basically wholesale x 2. She also gave us a formula for pricing wholesale which included cost of goods, your time, and an additional multiplier which takes into account your design time, the uniqueness of the item, etc.
Another great piece of advice--know your craft and have it down pat before you start selling. You don't want your item falling apart, etc. After all, you can only make a first impression once and you want it to be a good one. Also , it is difficult to price your work until you know how long it takes to make an item once you are experienced at making it. It will also help you to justify your pricing when you go to shows.
You need to ask yourself why you want to sell your crafts. What is your goal? Also ask yourself if you are cut out for selling your crafts. If you are too emotionally tied to your creations, it may be difficult for you to sell them yourself because once you start going to shows, there will be all kinds of comments from all kinds of people and this may not be your cup of tea. Some people prefer selling wholesale for this reason--they have less people and buyers to deal with.
Cynthia also had an interesting insight into juried shows. She advised us not to get discouraged if we are turned down by some shows because it might not have anything to do with the quality of our items. It may just be because our items do not fit in with the culture of that particular show, there may be a quota of how many of that type of item can be in the show, etc. In other words, being rejected by a jury might save you from a boring day with no sales if the show isn't an appropriate one for your craft. I appreciated this insight and valuable advice, especially since I just applied for a juried show for this spring.
On trade shows--Cynthia recommended that we visit a show first as a potential buyer (which you can do if you have a sales tax number) and go on the third day and ask someone who sells clothing that is compatible with your jewelry style how they like the show and if they will do it again, etc. before committing yourself to a show, because most of the wholesale shows are very costly and booths run into the thousands, not counting your lodging, food and transportation.
Cynthia also advised us that if we make jewelry, we should never leave the house without wearing some of it. Also, when we visit stores from now on, we should be looking at merchandising, pricing, etc. When someone asks you about your jewelry, take it off and put it in their hands so that they can see it better and take possession of it. I already do this and wondered if I was being a little forward, so I was glad to know that this is ok.
I will write a longer blog on this topic later but just wanted to share some of the very useful information that I brought away from the workshop. Cynthia made the workshop fun and worthwhile and I came away with a lot of great insights and advice. I have just bought the book written by Wendy Rosen, "Crafting as a Business" and will write more on this subject in the next few days and weeks.
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