Monday, December 15, 2014

Sometimes It Just Ain't Fair: Snooki's Etsy Shop



When I saw on the front page of Yahoo that Snooki opened an Etsy shop I had to see exactly what she might be making.  Now I've never watched the Jersey Shore, or any of Snooki's other exploits, but I'm aware of who she is.  When I saw that she immediately sold out of everything in her shop I wasn't surprised.  I also wasn't surprised to find that the items she is making and selling are nothing special.  I was more excited to read the comments because I knew exactly what everyone would be saying.

The comments would range from fair:

"Looks like something an elementary school kids would make for Mother's day."

"Not someone I would ever want, but I applaud her entrepreneurial efforts."

"Really? You took a #$%$ sharpie and wrote on a mug. Congratulations on passing preschool art class."

"Well, as a fellow Etsy seller, at least it's drawing more attention to the site, and possibly to other people's shops. I may not be a fan of hers, but maybe more people will know about Etsy, and all the other wonderful shops it has to offer."

To angry:

"Only an idiot would by this BS ! Reality TV is not real TV and these so-called TV stars are nothing but low-life televised idiots!"

"More useless, tasteless #$%$ from the high queen of famous for nothing. Congratulations, you idiots continue to make her filthy rich for doing nothing."

"No home is complete without an illiterate slogan written by this ignorant hosebag on your coffee mug. How stupid must one be to buy this #$%$?"

This one really took the cake on anger:

"these worthless #$%$ should be beaten until they are a blood pile of worthless fake #$%$ guts and bones they get everything handed to the for being a drunk whore on tv and now get to make even more money selling ccraptastic pieces of #$%$ on the web while real people get nothing they tell the poor and homeless work harder dont be lazy but when we put items up for sale no one even sees them because we cant afford the advertizing this system is so #$%$ stupid its beyond bearable death to all this #$%$ from the bottom of my heart"

But my favorite part was the conflict between these two comments:

"Snooker is a genius... The public is stupid for making her popular"

"It is confirmed that she is indeed an idiot."

So is she an idiot or a genius?  I suppose both might be true.  What can you learn from this?

1.  Look on the bright side
As the commenter above mentioned, when celebrities bring attention to a site like Etsy we all win.  Now maybe you've been in the Etsy game for a while and you can't imagine that someone doesn't know about Etsy, but let me give you an example.  Nearly all of my Mexican students know what Ebay is but almost none of them even know what Amazon is, let alone Etsy.  Maybe Mexico isn't your market, but I remember similar reactions in the US only a couple years ago.  There are still many many potential customers around the world that still don't know about Etsy.

2.  Use what you have
Snooki is not waiting for fancy equipment to begin making her stuff.  Yeah maybe it's just a Sharpie and some ready-made blank mugs, but that's ok.  She is using what she has, including catch phrases that are unique or representative of her personality.  She obviously has fans and she's giving them what they want.  

3.  Start!
Now I agree that the stuff Snooki is making isn't that great, however we all started somewhere.  She's getting a lot of crap for her crap because she's famous, but who knows, maybe in a year or two she will be making something amazing.  I have to give props to her for going ahead and starting.  Many people hold back because they are afraid to put something out there that is not perfect.  If we all did that we would never begin.  When I think of the first dolls I sold I laugh.  They were so simple and rudimentary.  But I have sold every single doll I have ever made and have continued to improve over the years.  So take a cue here and if you are someone who hasn't even started a shop yet, do it!

I know it can be frustrating when a celebrity or other person comes onto the scene and has seemingly overnight success.  Of course it strikes at the heart of those of us that have worked tirelessly for years to build our businesses.  However there is no reason to let it get you down.  You can't measure their success against yours.  Just keep working hard and laugh at all the nonsense!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Consequences of Freedom Of Speech on Your Business

I have remained quiet on the Ferguson issue for a couple of reasons.  The main reason is because I refuse to judge either side as I was not there and did not see what occurred with my own two eyes.  However I realize that this issue isn't only about the events of that day.  And a young boy is dead.  There is now arguing with that.  Also there are some scary things going on in the US which I believe are highlighted in this video.

I also read this article which I found to express some of the reasons I'm not commenting on Ferguson but on other points it missed the mark for me personally.  This is exactly why I reserve judgement.  I don't believe either side, in any story, is completely true and without fault.  I believe every one's experience on this planet is different and unique.  What is right for you may not be right for me.  This article highlights my point.  People struggle no matter what color they are and when we start making it a black or white issue people want to defend their own experience.

Amongst the arguments and comments I've seen a lot of interesting, disturbing, and sometimes moving posts and articles on Facebook.  However where I draw the line in the dialog came a few days ago, and because it related to business, I thought I would comment.

Some years ago in my state of Oregon there was a news story about how a bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple because it was against the owner's religious beliefs.  They might have felt they were standing up for their values, and while they received a lot of support from their side, the ultimate result was they lost their business.  Whether you agree or not that was the final result.

A person in my Facebook friends made a post that bothered me so much I was forced to take an action.  Now this person is not someone that I know personally.  In fact I don't recognize her at all, except that she has a handmade teddy bear as her profile picture, so I assume she is an artisan.  I don't know if I friended her or she friended me, and I also don't know if she is a customer of mine.

I had noticed her posting articles that were heavily leaning on the side of the police officer who killed Michael Brown.  I have no problem with opinions, because like I said, I don't know what happened, and I don't think any of us really do, except those who were involved.  And I won't call myself open-minded while also refusing to listen to both sides.  I decided to click on the comments of one of her posts and was blown away by the argument going on between her and one of her friends.  She made comments like "They (black people) need to get over it.  It has been 200 years since slavery", "The first slave owner was black", and "if they (black people) don't like it they should go back to Africa".

I can't tell you how disgusting and irrelevant I find these arguments.  I'm sure someone can respond intelligently to this nonsense, but I prefer not to argue with people who use unintelligent comments to inflame a situation.  If you find yourself in the same situation read this article.  It expresses my point perfectly.

Well before I get off track, and do exactly what I'm warning you against, let me tell you how this relates to business:  I deleted her immediately.  My personal Facebook page is not a place I want to be confronted with this garbage.  It's not a place I want to see videos of child abuse either (which incidentally I also found on her page when I was trying to see who she was).  Now, she is welcome to like my business page, but my personal page is in my control, and I chose to keep this type of thing out of my personal space as much as I possibly can.

This brings me back to the reason for my silence on most issues I see posted to Facebook.  I normally refuse to comment on religion, politics or other hot-button issues because I am not going to try to alienate or provoke my customers.  Remember, everyone on your personal page and business page is a potential customer.  Let's face it, my personal Facebook page should be a place to express myself, but we all need to get real and realize it is absolutely not.  If you feel the self-righteous need to post controversial topics that you know will potentially upset people, then you must realize that the consequences could be a loss of business.  Maybe you don't care.  Maybe you tell yourself that you are standing up for what's right, or what you believe, and that might be true, but realize that broadcasting your personal opinion affects your business.

You need to decide if what you have to say is worth the loss of business.  In my opinion it is not.  Keep your personal life and your business life separate.  Most businesses are just not a platform for this type of commentary.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why Marketing is Most Important During the Holidays

Whether you have a lot of sales during the Christmas holidays or none at all, marketing during the holidays might be the most important time of the year for you to advertise your business.  I know I'm a little late getting this post up, but I would like to give you some holiday marketing tips that you can apply this year, or save for next year.

Marketing during the holidays is important because the amount of people shopping and browsing during this time is significantly higher than other times of the year.   However it isn't only the Christmas holiday that is important.  Depending on your business, other holidays might be even more important, for example; Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Halloween, etc.  Identify which holidays bring in the most customers for you and target your marketing for that time.  Just remember to prepare your strategy 3-4 months before the holiday to ensure the maximum benefit.

As I said, whether you have sales or not, it is very important to have a marketing plan for the holidays because your potential views are much higher.  Someone might be browsing for a gift and ultimately decide not to purchase yours, but they might save your shop and make a future purchase.  Because of that it is very important to be visible.

For me I receive most of my sales for the year during Christmas so here are some of the things I do around this time to advertise BeBe Babies.

1.  Plan Ahead

The number one, most important thing for holiday marketing is planning ahead.  Make a list of all the holidays throughout the year and make notes on how you will market during that time, what you plan to make, what discounts you will offer, and important dates/deadlines.  I have to admit I'm not the best at this.  I usually make a plan for the year and then get so busy I have to improvise and just do what I can.  That's ok too, but having a plan will help you maximize your success.

2.  Cyber Monday

Black Friday is for shopping in brick and mortar shops, and Cyber Monday is for on-line shopping.  Many on-line shops participate in Cyber Monday by offering discounts or free shipping.  This year Cyber Monday is tomorrow and I will be offering free shipping in my shop all day.  Be sure to add an announcement in your shop and create a coupon code on Etsy.  Then spread the word through social media, newsletters and your blog.

My announcement looks like this: ****Cyber Monday is December 1 and BeBe Babies is offering FREE worldwide shipping on everything in the shop!!!  Use coupon code CYBERMONDAY2014 to receive free shipping via the regular post office.  Ask about the price to upgrade to Fedex in order to receive you order by Christmas.  (Discount is not available on custom orders).****

Also add the tag "cyber monday" to your listings so that customers searching for Cyber Monday deals will find your shop.

3.  Gift Guides

Many blogs and websites offer holiday gift guides for their shoppers/readers.  Most well-known gift guides charge you a fee to participate but it's usually not a very large expense, and well worth it.  This year I'm not participating in any but you can search "holiday gift guide" or "handmade holiday gift guide" on Google to find possibilities.  However you usually need to do this 3-4 months before the holiday in order to participate.

4.  Stock your Shop

Make sure you have a wide array of items in your shop well before the holiday rush.  Having a large selection will give you more content to share on social media sites as well as provide a great selection for those browsing for gifts.  Remember to stock items of varying prices and sizes.  Someone looking for a stocking stuffer will need something small like my Bundle BeBes while someone looking for a larger toy will like my Soft Heart BeBes.



5.  Tags

Make sure you are using holiday related tags on your listings.  Here are some examples; cyber Monday, Christmas, gift, stocking stuffer, holiday, etc.  Tags are very important because they are used to direct people to the item they are looking for.  If you are using Etsy make sure to use all 13 tags.  If you are having a hard time thinking of 13 tags, look for items similar to yours and see what tags they are using to get ideas.  Remember to tag colors as many people actually search for specific colors.

Now I would love to tell you I'm going to have an awesome holiday series this year but unfortunately I'm swamped with wholesale orders and all my plans have flown out the window.  So the last thing I would like to remind you is that you can only do as much as you can do.  Sometimes you just have to let go of the plans and do what you can.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Etsy Wholesale Review


Remember my post about applying for Etsy Wholesale?  Well I wanted to give you a little update and review of the program now that I've been in it for almost a month.

When I was doing research about Etsy Wholesale I couldn't find much information about how it was working for people.  I found a lot of articles talking about how it functioned, and it's potential, but not a lot of reviews of actual people using it (and I don't count the ones on Etsy's own site because you have no idea if those are "real people" if you know what I mean).  On the Etsy blog for wholesale sellers, there also didn't seem to be much information about success.  It appeared people were making sales, but I really had no idea how BeBe Babies would do.  I'm hoping that this post will help others who are considering taking the leap and applying.

Let me first say that the reason I have been slow writing blog posts, and haven't been sharing much on Facebook lately, is because Etsy Wholesale has been what I consider a giant success for me.  Since starting about a month ago I have completed 4 wholesale orders.  I am averaging about one a week.  This is huge for me because as you know I have been searching high and low for wholesale accounts and have had 0 success until Etsy Wholesale.

I also mentioned that I was going to try to start doing trade shows, but due to the success I am having on Etsy, I have decided to hold off on that.  Trade shows are very expensive and a nightmare logistically for me, so I am really hoping the success I'm having on Etsy Wholesale continues.  I really believe this is the future for small businesses who are not ready to put down the money to attend a trade show.  I believe that Etsy Wholesale is a great stepping stone to a larger market.  I really think shows will be a thing of the past as more people use the convenience of online buying.  I'm happy to be a part of the movement.

A typical trade show can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 or more to attend when you calculate travel expenses, etc.  Etsy Wholesale costs $100 to join and an additional 3.5% transaction fee on the order.  The $100 is a one time charge and when you really compare the cost to doing a trade show it is more than worth the price.  In one sale I paid for the cost to join.  Also one thing I didn't know before signing up is that listing products in your Etsy Wholesale line sheet doesn't cost anything.  This makes it possible to list all of my dolls and color combinations without paying more.  You also can list things on your line sheet that are not listed in your Etsy shop, which helps to make it look fuller and more exciting.

I am anxious to see if these sales continue, decrease, or increase after the holidays.  My guess is that it will be slower after December but I really have no idea.  Brick and mortar stores need products all year round so my prediction might be completely wrong, and my wholesale business will continue to grow.  I'm also excited to see how my current wholesale orders are received by the store owners and their customers.  All of it makes me very anxious.

At the moment I'm focusing on improving the look of my wholesale shop by listing every doll option I have available, getting my sewing studio better organized for photos, and building my fabric stock.  The first snag I fell into was not having enough of the fabric on hand to fulfill the order.  For instance, one store ordered 4 Blankie BeBes in pink but I only had enough fabric here to make 2 of them.  It is a good thing that it is winter in Mexico and the fabric stores here are stocked with that type of fabric.  It will probably take me a while to know what, and how much, of each doll style I need to have on hand in order to offer them at wholesale.

Now I have Blankie BeBes in this pink color.


Another problem I'm encountering is having enough time to do everything and complete these orders.  I am completing the orders in a timely manner, but am finding that means I am not working on anything for my retail shop, not writing blog posts, not working on videos, not doing contests, not working on holiday series, not resting, etc.  Obviously I don't see this as a major problem as it means I am making money and growing my business, but I won't be able to sustain it long without help.  Which means I will be taking the plunge into hiring sewing help very soon or going part-time at my day job.  This makes me very very anxious but that's a whole 'nother blog post.

This is definitely a learning process for me, but it's an exciting one I hope to share with you all as you work to grow your businesses as well.  Look for updates as I continue on this journey and feel free to comment or email me with questions.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Leather Monsters my Lisa Lee

The name of Lisa's shop "Leather Monsters" pretty much sums up what her creations are all about; they are made of leather, and they are monsters.  She does however make some bears and other animals too.  I was immediately drawn to her creations the minute I saw them on Facebook.  I am drawn to the simple lines and shapes as well as the interesting backgrounds in her photos.  Of course I was also hooked when I saw the sloth.  I adore sloths!

Attis the Sloth

"Found at the foot of an almond tree, 9.5 inches tall. He was raised by a he-goat. He has an interest in drafting, hopes to design the perfect inside space for goats, sloths and almond trees. He is rugged, safety nose and press set eyes, he provides safe and interesting company for all ages. He is made from all new leather, and stuffed firmly with new polyfil stuffing. He has a gracious attitude."

It is time to do another artist feature and I thought it would be fun to do one with an artist that is a bit different than my normal features.  Turns out Lisa is super interesting to talk to as well.  I especially adore any artist who takes the time to write stories about their dolls, like the one above about Attis.  I have thought about writing stories for my dolls in the past but I don't ever seem to get around to it.  This might be on my to-do list in the near future since I know how much I love reading the stories of other artists.

I asked Lisa the same questions I normally ask in these features and I had a lot of fun reading her answers.  I hope you will too.

Daedalus the Curious

1.  When did you begin making your leather creations?

I began making Leather Monsters in 2012 after I began dating a Leathersmith who worked with only veggie tanned leather at the time.  Imagine the hard leathers of a belt or saddle, that is his expertise. 

2.  Have you always worked in leather or have you made other types of dolls?

I wanted to bring my sock monsters to the studio to work on, and this was met with some resistance as “this is a leather studio”.   I said “fine I will get some soft leather and make them out of that”.  He scoffed, explaining to me that leather was very expensive per square foot so it was not a viable option.  He learned a few things about me quickly,  -I am determined, resourceful, and strong willed.  Within days I had contacted leather distributers and had sourced high-end new scraps and sample swatches for free and close to free. 

Scar Bear

3.  How did you learn to sew and make dolls?

I had made sock monsters in the past, sewn since I was a child, and was frustrated by the rigidity of the upholstery leather I had sourced.  The simple shapes of the Leather Monsters I created showed my inability to bend it to my will.  They were all incredibly well received and many of the first 50 I made were difficult for me to part with.   I then moved to glove leathers imagining this would closer resemble my experience with fabric sewing.  The work was abysmal, when filled they were lumpy, and bulged in some areas, while resisting in others.  I then found garment leathers used in making motorcycle jackets and chaps.  This was a fit, and Leather Monsters had found their medium. 

I have made close to 300 now and would say I am self taught, drafting my own patterns through tweaking has taught me a lot about doll making.

4.  Do you have any advice for new doll makers?

-If you are new to making, keep making.  I once read that if you don't like what your making that’s okay, it means you have taste.  Keep making, you will get better, make more.  

-Listen smilingly to all the “advice” non makers give you, then do what you want.  Listen to all the advice other makers give you, write it down, reflect upon it,  and see if you can apply any of it to what you are doing.  

-Make maker friends, have them over.  Keep making.  

-Aspire beyond your skill level, constantly.  Push your own boundaries in what you are capable of as fast as you master an area you previously wished to improve.  Take all the things you know are great into a doll you are making and try to improve one feature.  

-Have fun, keep enjoying your creations.  

-Share them on Facebook, instagram, pinterest and make a website for your makings. 


5.  Does anyone help you with your creations?

I get help form my partner Colin who is the Leathersmith.  He has been invaluable for tweaking, designs and even making monsters with me.  He also keeps informed about what customs I have on deck and keeps me on task.  He attended art school and is an exceptional illustrator and designer. Without his creative mind many monsters would not even exist.

6.  Is making dolls just a hobby for your or a serious business?

Making sock monsters was a hobby, making Leather Monsters is a business.  It’s counterintuitive to make a one off, stuffed doll out of an expensive material for children with a historically short attention span that will last 40+ years.  Just unique and odd enough to work.

7.  Do you belong to any doll clubs/groups/forums?

I have only recently joined Facebook groups to meet with other handmade one of a kind makers of dolls.  I have joined every one I could find (over a dozen).  I do not have a favorite I contribute regularly to yet, but I will continue to participate where ever I can.  Some of the groups have collectors who snap up dolls as fast as I post them.  They are a good resource for not only making, but selling too.

8.  Where do you sell your dolls?  Where can people buy them?

I sell through my website Leather Monsters.  More people see my work and ask “where can I buy this!!” on Instagram than anywhere else.  Leather Monsters are one of a kind.


9.  Do you collect dolls yourself?

I do not collect dolls.  According to my partner Colin, when I repeated this question, he said I collect nothing.  We live in what could only be described in vancouver as a gigantic “micro suite”.  It does not lend itself well to numerous possessions of any variety.  Earlier today I looked at my 9 sweaters accusingly due to their bulk.  I currently have, as prized possessions; 10 animal skulls, a jackalope, an 18 inch porcelain penguin, 2 immortal houseplants, and Francis my electronic espresso machine.

10.  Who are your favorite doll artists?

I have so many favorite doll artists.  I follow everything from super new makers to idols in the one of a kind maker field.  Here is a smattering of both for you to check out; Nicole WattJackie AshleySteve Ferrera, and Inga Lena.  The above are just who I follow that have posted in the last 8 hours on Instagram.  I follow 100’s of artists in many mediums, and it has been wonderful.  I have found the community on Instagram to be supportive and interactive so much more than I could have even imagined.

11.  Anything else you want to share about your work?

When someone buys a monster, and I get the address for where it is going to be shipped, I bring the monster home from the studio and set it on my table.  I take one of the photos on my iPad and reduce it to black line work.  I drop it into a photoshop file, write his name at the top, and then I write his story.  I tell of his past, his current hobbies and loves, and his or her aspirations for the future.  Put some heart into all you make and it will be seen.  Thank you for giving me this chance to share a bit of my story of my monsters.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Lisa and her creations!  As always if you are interested in being featured on my blog please contact me at bebebabiescom@yahoo.com  Until next time!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Key to Owning Your Own Business is Perseverance


Well I finally got some good news...but it didn't start out that way...

As you know I'm gearing up to enter the trade show market.  Recently I became aware of Etsy's new Wholesale platform.  I had been researching it for a while but didn't know, or find anyone, who had any experience with it.  Also I must admit I was afraid to take the plunge and apply.  I was afraid of the possible rejection.  But, because I am going to try to enter the wholesale market again, I just decided to do it last week.

Well low-and-behold a couple days after I applied I received the dreaded rejection email.  I was rejected because in the application process you have to list your current wholesale accounts.  I didn't list anything because I don't actually have any wholesale accounts at the moment.  I had some in the past, but when I moved to Mexico I had to put them on hold until I could get production set up here.  I have written to those stores to try to re-establish our partnership but found that three of them closed and the four others haven't responded to my emails.

When I received the rejection I was really upset for two reasons.  1.  How does Etsy expect people to obtain experience if they don't give them a chance to connect with buyers? and 2.  My paranoid side was certain that "experience" was just a front, and that they were really rejecting me for some other reason.  Some of you might not know but dolls are not exactly seen as hip and cool.

Here's my advice when you are rejected and you start to feel the hair on your back stand on end,   think about it for a day.  Talk to your friends and family for advice.  I was immediately in a bad mood after receiving the rejection and proceeded to tell everyone in ear-shot.  More than one person told me to see if I could write back and explain the situation: that I have experience, but nothing currently, because I moved to Mexico.

The next day when I was clear headed and calm I did exactly that.  I responded to the rejection email explaining my situation.  I went back and found all my contacts for my old wholesale accounts and included them in the email.  At first I heard nothing and assumed it was a lost cause but then...then...yesterday, I received an email, and it said "we have reviewed this additional information and would like to welcome you to Etsy wholesale!"

Well as I'm sure you can tell I was over the moon excited!  I have since set up my wholesale account on Etsy and am working on a to-do list of things to improve the overall look of my shop.

First order of business is to get a new photography set up.  Currently I am taking photos in my closet and some days they come out ok and others they come out dark no matter what I do.  Second order of business is to create a better working environment.  My work room is bare bones as I haven't done much decorating since I moved to Mexico.  Etsy wholesale requires you to post photos of your work space and really I'm not ready to share the ugly space I work in.  This weekend I'm hoping to remedy that with a new table for photography as well as some shelves, curtains, and art to make the space more visually appealing.  

Stay tuned as I will be sharing my experience on Etsy wholesale with you.  I have no idea at this point if I am going to even receive any business but I sure hope so.  If you are interested in wholesale for your business, but don't know much about it, check out this article as well as this guide on the Etsy blog.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Be Authentic to Increase your Online Sales



I've posted a lot about this topic in an effort to help other sellers.  I received this message recently:

"I want to give you a BIG thank you! I am slowly trying to use the hints you have given me and this week I sold THREE dolls! Thank you so much."

This message made me really happy because I'm happy to know I'm helping someone with all this writing and also because it is great to know that there are people who really are serious about taking my hard earned advice.

I wanted to write another post about increasing your Etsy sales and it was inspired by a Facebook post I saw this morning on the Facebook group "Etsy Sellers".  The poster said this:


"what's this junk about trading hearts, or trading likes? whatever happened to earning what you get? if you create magic, i'll like you. if you have a simple bead necklace that anyone can make in 5 minutes, after a trip to the local hobby shop, and you're selling it for $25, i'm not going to pay you a like, because of some kinda simple deal for myself to gain a like from you. if you want to show off your talent, and ask for people to be so kind to like your shop if they indeed DO like it, that's one thing. but you can't just post on here, begging for likes, as if you'll get promoted to the next level of artistic fame. at that point, people are like, "oh wow, they have 10,000 likes, but why? look at this junk that they make? welp, now i guess i'm just left to despise etsy completely!..." EARN YOUR KEEP! if you want to get noticed, do something noticeable other than gaining a round of thumbs-up from people who could care less about what you've made. you're screwing up the algorithm for people who deserve that spot. yes, you should feel lame. you've earned that."

Ok so maybe it's a little harsh but I understand his feelings.  As I said above my advice is hard earned.  Sellers who have worked many years to get to where we are are slighted when people ask for advice and don't listen.  We are even more frustrated by new sellers who expect to reach a high status without putting in the hours we have.  You want long-time sellers on your side, trust me.

Many times I receive messages from people saying "I liked your shop, hearted, shared, etc etc, can you do the same for me?"  Then I go to their shop and I don't like their product or I don't think the quality is something I want to represent.  I've said it before, if you don't like it you shouldn't be sharing it.  It doesn't give a genuine impression which devalues your opinion as well as the product.  I'm still trying to work out a way to respond to these messages without hurting any feelings.  At present I don't respond.  

There are other reasons you shouldn't be "begging" for likes and hearts from other Etsy artists (or anyone for that matter).  I recently read this article "How to Increase Sales Online" by Matthew Deal.  Much of the advice in the article is similar to some of my past articles, but I liked a couple of things he said, specifically these:

"There are activities that are a waste of your time. Case in point is self-posting promotional items in a forum filled with other sellers who are doing the exact same thing."

"The point is that other sellers are not your consumers; especially not in a place where all the other sellers are just there to promote their own products."

Now to a point he's right.  I don't think he is 100% right though.  I'm an Etsy seller but I'm also an Etsy customer.  It's not completely wrong to advertise to other Etsy sellers, however, in general, it isn't the best use of your time.  In addition it's really a waste of time to spend your day trading likes and hearts with other sellers in an effort to promote one another when you don't even like their product.  Read the rest of his article for some great advice, as well as a check-list of much better marketing activities for you to spend your time on.

These two are connected because while I don't think sharing your products in forums where other sellers are sharing their products is bad, the tone in which many people share their work rubs some people the wrong way.  If you are writing a post that says something like "give me a like/heart/share and I will do the same for you!  Let's help promote each other!" then you are probably not giving the impression you would like, and instead are actually annoying people.  

As the Facebook poster above said, if you want to increase awareness of your product/brand post it and let it speak for itself.  If you don't get any likes then take a look at your product.  Chances are either you have an undesirable product or there is something wrong with your presentation (photos, description, pricing, etc).  If it's not your product try to figure out how to correct the problems with your presentation.  I have a ton of past articles on all of these topics and there are many more to be found on the Etsy blog as well as other blogs.

Keep reading, keep trying things, and keep listening to those who have been there and are doing it big!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Calling all BeBe Baby Mommies!

I have spent several months saving my money in order to return to the US, move to a different state, teach in another country, go on vacation and numerous other ideas.  My friends and family have become exasperated with my indecision.  The problem has been that nothing has felt "right".  Then the other day I was returning from a class outside the city and on the car ride I had an epiphany.

As I've said many times I've been working very hard to turn BeBe Babies into a company that can sustain me full-time.  The only way I can see this happening is if I manufacture them.  The only way I can manufacture them is to get them into retail stores.  I need large enough orders to hire someone to help me sew large quantities.  I've searched the Internet high and low for stores that might be interested in carrying my dolls but haven't had much luck.

While researching other companies who started out like me, or sell a similar product as mine, I discovered that many of them do trade shows.  Now, I've thought about trade shows in the past, but have never done one for two reasons: 1.  They are very expensive and 2. the logistics and level of professionalism is intimidating.

The show that I have been investigating is called NY Now or the New York International Gift Fair.  The price of attending isn't even listed on their site as far as I can see, but I assume it is at least $1000 to attend, not including travel expenses.  Then I watched this video on their site and I was even more discouraged.  The booths are beautiful and extensive.  How am I ready to compete at this level?


Well I continued to research and I found this article "10 Lessons from a First-Time Trade Show Exhibitor".  What I realized is that maybe trying to do my first show in such a large venue is a little too ambitious.  So then I found a trade show database and realized that there are many smaller trade shows all over the country, including Portland Oregon, my home state.  Maybe it would be better if I tried a show that is much easier for me to manage just to get my feet wet and see what works and what doesn't.

The next Portland show is in March.  I'm not sure I can get it together by then but I've put a plan into action, which brings me to the topic of this post.  I have been working to put together a new video that will hopefully be like a commercial for BeBe Babies.  I'm hoping to use it for promotional purposes as well as for my future trade show booth.

This is where you come in.  If you have purchased a BeBe Baby from me for your kiddo(s), I need you to make me a video that is a few seconds to a minute long of your kid talking about what they like about their BeBe Baby.  Every participant will receive a little thank you gift from me, but please note the gifts won't be sent out until after the video is complete, which might be a couple months.



I have received a couple videos already and you can see an example here on Youtube.  Or watch this one below:

video


If you would like to participate please email me your videos or questions at bebebabiescom@yahoo.com  Thanks everyone for your help in making BeBe Babies grow!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Video New Design

Just a quick pop-in to share with you a new design I'm working on.  A customer asked if I could turn one of my new Blankie BeBes into a puppet.  I have wanted to make a puppet for a long time so I decided it was the right moment to try it.  I have to say it was easier than I expected but the prototype needs some adjusting.


The finger holes are a little too small and the arms are a little too high to wear comfortably.  I think I'm on the right track though and plan to start again with some adjustments.  Sometimes I love the design process and sometimes I detest starting again.  But that is the life of a designer!

I made a little video of this doll so you can see a little bit how she moves.  You can find it on Youtube here or watch below.



Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Voice you are Presenting to your Customers



This post is inspired by Facebook.  It took me a while to write this post because I don't want to talk about anyone personally.  I've just noticed several people, and one in particular, who seem to post very melancholy status updates on Facebook, many times complaining about not being successful in business.  Every so often I think, "wow I wouldn't hire you because you sound like a real downer."  It got me thinking about the voice we present to our potential customers.

Authenticity

I want to be authentic.  If I'm having a bad day I don't want to say "every thing's peachy!" because it makes me feel dishonest.  But what happens if I'm going through more than a rough day?  Maybe I'm having a bad year.  My advice, tell your friends and family offline.  Customers don't want to hear about how horrible your personal life is, and I doubt most of your Facebook friends want to hear it either unless they are a close friend in real life.  In that case they probably already know what's happening in your life.  Constantly whining, particularly about your business, is much much worse.  I realize it takes self control and I've been guilty of it myself, but it really solves nothing, and can potentially alienate your customers.

Turn it Around

For example, when I feel like the activity on my Facebook or in my Etsy shop is waning I offer a giveaway or a fun challenge for my fans.  It's a way to engage your customers in a positive way and help you work on building more likes, views and hopefully sales.  There are many other things you can do too.  Instead of spending your time complaining, do research.  Read the Etsy blog, search for articles on running a small business, or ask other successful artists you admire how they do it.  Other people have a wealth of advice and experience and most are more than willing to share.  

If you must post about a personal problem it is much better to ask a question.  For example, you hate your dead-end job.  Instead of complaining about it maybe you can ask your Facebook network if they know of any jobs in your industry, or if anyone has experienced a similar problem as yours.  Start a conversation that has the potential to lead you to a solution, not just a bitch fest.  We all need to bitch sometimes, but the venue for that is much better with some beers at a friend's house or a comfortable bar.

Analyze

One thing to consider when you have your own small business is what type of voice you want to represent your business.  This article points out that people who post very negative comments have low-self esteem in general.  This article was slightly disturbing although I do believe the research concluded something very valuable.  I find the article disturbing because it doesn't make me feel good  to know that Facebook is conducting research that can potentially effect our emotional lives without our consent.  However the results showed that constantly seeing negative posts will actually make you feel more negative.  Just like in real life when you surround yourself with negative people you find yourself being more negative.  That is certainly not something you want to pass on to your customers.

People shop for many different reasons.  It's very important to know who your customer is and why they buy your product.  I make dolls for collectors and children.  In general I am marketing to the indulgence crowd (buying a doll is purely for fun or a gift).  When people are shopping for a gift for themselves or someone else, they want the experience to be easy, convenient, and fun.  Therefore I want my posts to always convey this attitude.  Be sure to analyze your product and target market in the same way.  You don't have to not be genuine in an attempt to connect with your customers, but you must find your own unique voice which will be in line with what your customers expect to hear when they buy your product or hire your services.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Trick or Treat Auction!!



Hi everyone!  I have been working very hard for the last month or so to release a very special series.  There has been so much interest in these guys that I have decided to try something new.  In the past I have used Ebay but I don't like how much they charge sellers, and I also don't want to open a new account here in Mexico.  It doesn't seem that Ebay allows you to change countries and retain the same account, and unless I change it the shipping and location information will not be correct.  So I have decided to try running my own auction for this series.  If it goes well I might do it again in the future.

Here's how the auction will work:

1.  Below will be photos and information about each doll.  The starting bid is $150 each.
2.  If you would like to adopt one of them please email me at bebebabiescom@yahoo.com with your maximum bid.
3.  The auction will run for 3 days, ending on Saturday October 4 at midnight.  Any emails received after that time will not be counted.  Any dolls not adopted will be listed in my Etsy shop.
4.  I will be updating my blog showing the current bid but I will not be putting the name of the highest bidder.  This will be a private auction.
5.  If you are the auction winner the doll must be paid for within 2 days of the auction end date or the doll will be offered to the second highest bidder.  Payment plans are available but MUST be arranged BEFORE bidding.  So just let me know in your email if you require one.
6.  I will not be taking orders for these dolls, or doing any more in this series this year.  They are all truly one of a kind!
7.  Shipping will be $15 worldwide in a padded envelope or $22 in a box.  I highly recommend choosing the box to avoid any damage but I'm giving the buyer the option.
8.  Bidding increments will be $5.
***9.***SPECIAL!!  All BeBe Babies fan club members will receive $25 off their final bid.  If you are not already a fan club member join here.

Now on to information about the dolls!  Each doll has been meticulously created.  I have never spent so much time working on the details of a doll series, and I have never completely sewn their entire outfits!  Each one has completely removable costumes (although I wouldn't recommend removing their shirts as some of them are a bit tight).  Each doll is completely wired in the arms, legs and body.  Their heads are jointed and can turn side to side.  They are each about 9 inches (22.86 cm) tall.  These dolls are not intended for children and are all OOAK.  Below is specific information about each one.


Katie
This is Katie!  She is dressed as a little pumpkin and she is as sweet as can be.  She has blue eyes and strawberry hair.  She also has adorable little freckles and cute little pigtail-braids.

Starting bid: $150
Current bid:

$150- bidder #1
$155- bidder #2
$160- bidder #3
$205- bidder #1
$210- bidder #3







Rafael
This is fun little Rafael!  He is dressed as Frankenstein.  His face is painted permanently with green fabric paint and his little bolts are glued to his head and not removable.  He also has two tiny teeth peeking out of his mouth.  His skin color is ethnic and he has a black mohair wig and brown eyes.

Starting bid: $150
Current bid: 

$150- bidder #1






Marley
Marley is a sweet little tomboy who wanted to be a robot!  Marley has a blond mohair wig and green eyes.  Her helmet is removable along with the rest of her outfit.

Starting bid: $150
Current bid:

$150- bidder #1
$155- bidder #2
$205- bidder #1
$210- bidder #2








Constance
This is happy little Constance!  She is dressed as a witch.  She has red-orange tibetan mohair and smiling eyes.  Her face is permanently painted green and she has a witch nose that is permanently attached.

Starting bid: $150
Current bid: 

$150-bidder #1



Please let me know if you have any questions.  I am hoping that I am not forgetting anything, but please be patient with me if I have.  This is my first time trying anything like this so I have no idea if it will work well.  Good luck to all the bidders and good luck to the BeBes!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Play Day

Today I had a little fun playing with my own dolls.  Last year Sharon of Kerria Rosette sent me my very own Blythe as a model for my miniatures.  It has taken me a year to really play with her and I decided to make her her very own BeBe miniature.  I envisioned a rag-doll style doll to go with her sweet and innocent look.


The little doll was very difficult to make, because she was so so tiny, but I'm really happy with how she came out.  I'm hoping to make more in this style and list them in my shop soon.  For now I just wanted to share my beautiful Blythe and new mini with you. 



Saturday, September 6, 2014

And the Winner issss...


Congrats to Angelica and a big BIG thank you to everyone who entered my contest by sharing BeBe Babies on Facebook.  Let's take a look at the results.  The goal was to reach 2,000 likes and we didn't even come close.  :(  However that was a gigantic goal and I'm not too disappointed because it was unrealistic.  Here's what we did do (watch out I'm about to do math, and if you see an error don't tell me ha ha):

When the contest started on August 29 I had 1108 likes.  When the contest ended yesterday I had 1146 likes.  That's an increase of 38 likes in one week.  That might not seem like a lot in comparasion to my goal, but really it is.  Remember I said I have been averaging 85.5 likes per month.  That's approximately 21 likes per week.  Receiving 38 likes is a 80% increase in my weekly total.  Now of course that probably won't continue now that the contest is over but to me it's significant.

I really liked this contest.  I especially liked watching the numbers and seeing what would happen.  For now I'm ready to get some sewing done as I have been sick for several days with parasites.  Yuck I know, but it's a part of life here in Mexico.  It's really horrible.

Friday, August 29, 2014

How to Get More Likes on Facebook GIVEAWAY

Last night I was watching the movie Chef, and I was thinking a lot about social networking afterwards.  I didn't particularly like the movie much, but it basically shows how social networking can open many many doors that aren't available through regular advertising.  However the key to social networking is participation.

I've never been much of a participator.  I'm more of a fly on the wall and less of a social butterfly.  This doesn't work so well when trying to sell a product which I found out when I was 19 and tried selling Mary Kay.  The Internet makes it slightly easier because you don't actually have to face anyone in real life (for the most part).

My likes on Facebook have been rising dramatically in the last few months.  It started out when a Portuguese (or Brazilian, I'm not sure) web page featured my dolls on their Facebook page.  Within a day I had a hundred more likes.  Since then my likes haven't increased quite so dramatically, but compared to a year ago they are increasing significantly every day.  When that happened I thought "wow I only need a couple sites to do that for me and my likes will be huge!"

My boyfriend made the comment once "who cares about likes if people don't actually buy anything".  This might be your attitude too and I completely understand.  When I see a jump in my likes I eagerly run to check my email hoping to see Paypal notifications alerting me that someone has paid me $.  Most days I hear crickets in my inbox.

What you have to remember is; likes equal visibility.  The more a person sees a product, the more likely they are to buy it in the future.  Sales generally tend to come later in the form of direct sales or partnerships with stores.  This is why it is important to keep your page active and vibrant.  I've talked about this before but want to remind you, don't over do it.  If you are posting something more than once a day you risk irritating your fans to the point they will unfollow, unlike and/or block your posts.  I was noticing recently that I every now and then have an "unlike".  I always wonder why, but I don't think it's possible to know.  It's something to contemplate though.

Here's a secret I recently realized.  Likes are not as important as shares.  And shares are much harder to get.  It's easy for someone to click like and move on.  Sometimes people don't want to share things they like for fear of how their friends might respond to it.  For example I see political, religious, sensitive things I like all the time on Facebook, but I don't share them because I don't want to start an argument on the Internet.  I will admit this is the problem with making dolls.  Some people think they are creepy and they don't want flack from their friends for "liking" them.  Ba-humbug I say to that.

Sometimes when I sit staring at my Facebook page contemplating how to reach more potential customers I wish that more people would share my page instead of just clicking like.  My potential customers are nearly everyone because I sell toys for children.  Everyone (almost) knows a child that needs a birthday gift, shower gift, Christmas gift, etc.  Recently I did an experiment and asked my friends on Facebook to please share my other Facebook page Mexican Fabric and Fashion.  Only one friend did, and my likes on that page went up by 7.  That's not dramatic but it's pretty good for 1 share.  Imagine if all 404 of my friends shared it.  

Now I'm not asking anyone to share anything they don't actually like.  If you don't like the product, don't share it, in my opinion.  There are so many groups on Etsy, created for the sole purpose of promoting each other's products indiscriminately.  I don't think this is a good practice, and I surely don't want to be asked to share something I don't particularly like.  To me this only breeds insincerity which in turn cheapens the product or brand.

However, if you like something, if you want to help your friend grow their business, then remember to share.  I didn't even think about it much until I had my own business.  Now I share what my friends make because I know how much it helps me when others share mine.

Recently someone posted this article on Facebook and when I saw it I cringed.  I can understand her premise but the view is very narrow.  Those of us that make something, or have our own business, rely on people liking and sharing our posts.  Without them it is very hard for us to spread the word about our business.  One thing that she points out in the article though is that instead of clicking like she makes a comment.  I think that is great too.

So why am I talking about all this?  Because I'm starting a sharing campaign today in the form of a giveaway!  Before I left for New York I had a custom request but I needed to buy the right color fabric in the US.  I also needed to make a prototype in order to get the pattern size right.  The custom order was for a tiny bunny in fleece with a floppy ear and his hands up by his mouth.  This is the completed custom that was sent to the customer.


But now I have the prototype here.  He's not a bunny but a little 3.5 inch bear.  I thought he would make a great little giveaway prize.  I'm hoping to make more of these little guys for my shop in the near future.  Here he is:


If you would like to win him here is how you can enter.  This is a Facebook sharing campaign so therefore you must share BeBe Babies and Friends on your personal or business Facebook page.  It is totally up to you what you share.  

You can share:
 -my Flickr

The rules are:
 1.  You can only share on your page once, HOWEVER, for every friend of yours that shares BeBe Babies as well, you will receive an additional entry.  So tell your friends to share the post to get their own entry as well as give you an additional one!  Make sure they tag you and me in the post so I can find it easily.

2.  In order to verify your share, you must tag BeBe Babies and Friends, or me Casie Brabham, in your post.  

3.  This campaign starts now and will last one week, closing on September 5th.  I will announce the winner on Saturday September 6th.

Here are some stats for you.  In 2013 I had an increase of 224 likes in the entire year.  Currently I have had an increase of 429 likes in 2014 alone.  At the beginning of 2014 I was averaging 22.4 likes per month.  At this time I'm averaging 85.5 likes per month. What can we do in one week?  I'm not sure, but the goal is to reach 2,000 likes by the end of the week.  That means I need 902 likes in only one week.  I need an average of 128 likes every day.   Yikes I don't think it's possible but let's see what happens.  Will you help me?

If you have any questions let me know!  Thanks in advance for your efforts and good luck!   

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Blankie BeBe Has Launched!

I have finally been able to get my new design finished and launched.  I wanted to wait until I could have several colors available.  I purchased three different colors of ultra-soft plush material when I was in the US.  I really like this design with their sweet faces and their ultra plush blankie part.


Get your own Blankie BeBe here.

It has been several years since I launched a new design and this time I wanted to think about it very thoughtfully.  As you know I have been trying for some time to get my BeBes into retail stores.  So far it has not been very successful.  I have one store that used to carry my dolls that is interested but recently I was reading a lot about Etsy wholesale and I realized there are some things I need to polish up before I'm ready for stores.  However, I also feel like I need to just do it and stop waiting for everything to be perfect, so here's a list of what I want to complete first.



1.  Pricing

It's not new to me that wholesale pricing is generally 50% or more of the retail price.  I have always been pretty comfortable with my pricing as I feel even though I might not make much on my Bundle BeBe design, I will make up for it by selling a OOAK doll.  However when thinking about Etsy wholesale, and looking around at their information, I started feeling a little insecure about my pricing.  I'm not sure I can compete.  Either I need to raise my prices or not offer every design at wholesale.  That is why the Blankie BeBe has been priced at $35.  I feel comfortable with this price at wholesale and retail.

The other dilemma I am feeling on my pricing is that for the amount of work I do on my dolls I am barely earning anything.  I balance my books every month and when I look at the "net profit" column I feel discouraged nearly every month.  I keep feeling like I'm just not selling enough, and that might be the case, but in general I'm always working, and dolls are going out.  I'm not ready to raise the prices on my dolls across the board yet though, so I'm going to give it some more time, and continue advertising to see if my amount of sales increase.



2.  Photos

Gahhhhhhhhhhhh!!  Why do I struggle so badly with photos!?  I don't know maybe if you look at my photos you think they aren't so bad.  And I know they aren't HORRible.  I just can't find the right balance.  Sometimes I think the photo is perfect.  Other times I see the background darker, grey-ish, tinted, etc.  I don't understand how when I set up photos and the lighting/background are exactly the same, how the photos can come out so differently.  Then my camera battery died right in the middle.  So I will probably be trying other scenarios and re-doing the pictures in the next few days.  I want them to be perfect before contacting retailers.



3.  Packaging

When I was in New York I paid special attention to any stores I saw carrying less mainstream toys just to see how they do their packaging.  I have always put these tags on my dolls:



I thought at the time they would be a cute way to show other designs I make but now I think they aren't quite advertising my brand blatantly enough.  It might be hard to find the name of my dolls with these tags.  Therefore I am going to design some new ones to be attached to any dolls that might be going to shops.

I also need to think more carefully about the packaging of the entire doll.  I cannot afford to buy personalized boxes right now, and normally I send my dolls in little cellophane bags when I ship them, but I don't know if it's appropriate for stores.  I had a nightmare last night that my dolls were in a store and all these kids were drooling on them and the store wouldn't cover the damage.  You know you're losing it when you are dreaming about packaging your product, ha ha.

The reason I am saying all of this is because Etsy wholesale stresses heavily that your entire branding, packaging and look of your product should be cohesive and professional.  I am a little too scared to apply before I have a few of these things worked out.


Overall I'm very excited to release this design.  I hope it's a fast hit!