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!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jamie's Dolls in all Their Ghostie Ghoulie Glory!

I was immediately smitten by Jamie's dolls when they popped up in my Facebook feed.  A little bit creepy and a lot cute, her dolls are so original as well as irresistible!  Of course I had to contact her right away to find out more about them.  Turns out she is a super nice lady too and a lot of fun to chat with.

What I was most drawn to are her doll's eyes.  I have never really liked 3D eyes on cloth dolls because, well, usually they look creepy in my opinion.  I think that is why they work so well with Jamie's dolls, because they are not trying to be realistic.  I also love her use of different colored fabrics.  She has made dolls in a rainbow of colors including green, blue, red, purple and more.  The green ones tend to be some of my favorites.  Check out her Flickr page for more photos.



They are just fantastic and I hope you think so too.  Jamie was kind enough to sit down and write a bit about herself so I can share with you.  She mostly sells her dolls on her Facebook page which you can find here.

1. When did you begin making cloth dolls? 

I started making dolls in the late 80's. Pattern dolls and playing with rag dolls. I then turned to bears and animals and started back seriously in 2009 when I lost my job do to downsizing.  



I did the bear and animals for several years until a friend talked me in to trying a soft sculpture doll. I started by drawing a round head..sewing it out of knit (after I finally got my machine to accept knit material) and practiced making a nose. I never once looked at how to do it as I feared I wouldn't be able to do it then. I can talk myself out of things if it looks difficult so I try how I think it should be. I played and played until I'm at this point now...almost a year later. Dolls are a passion of mine and I have collected them all my life...I'm in love with them!!

 2. Have you always made cloth dolls or have you made other types of dolls? 

Mostly cloth..I work with fur as well..which is crazy messy. The dolls are simple and fun! I can take them anywhere with me.


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

I taught myself, but as I say this I have taken classes to teach me to sew. I have sewn all my life. I have to create..if it's not by machine I'm sewing by hand or crocheting. I have to have something in my hands all the time. I look at something and then start messing until I create something out of it. My mother is incredibly creative and my older sister encouraged us to sew all the time. I grew up in a very artistic family. It was a big part of my life to create and design.




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

Never give up! Think of the project done instead of the process you have to go through to make it. It's overwhelming, and you can talk yourself right out of doing something if it seems daunting. Always think of the end project! Never be discouraged when it looks nothing like what you wanted..some of my best disasters have went on to be fabulous creations. I rarely get something like I envisioned...but I'm getting better all the time. Practice..and patience...and have a Peter Pan mentality. I tend to turn on cartoons when I work...there is joy in cartoons. My heart is joyful and happy watching cartoons..Disney movies...anything that is colorful and joyful!



5. Does anyone help you in the creation of your dolls? 

My life love Jackson. He leaves me alone and lets me do my thing..never complains of the mess in the living room. It's hard to live with a creative person..forgotten dishes and dinners half done while an idea hits me...but he just goes with the flow.

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

It's a serious business. I live and eat from dolls. When you have to be creative to live it's a hard road at times. There is no time for sickness or being fed up with work..it's work and work alone most weeks. I do love it...what other job can you do while watching cartoons and sitting in your pj's?



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


I'm a huge fan of all types of dolls. I keep a low profile as much as I can in other artists forums. I do collect Jan Shackelford dolls as well as have a passion for antique and vintage Asian (Chinese) dolls. I love vintage African American dolls as well. Vintage stuffed animals and old doll furniture...suitcases and primitive furniture. I love metal toys and old pull toys.

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

I sell from my Facebook page usually. I just make them and say they're available. I offer layaway and holds for my good customers, so they know they can contact me. I love interactive views from collectors. I don't copy what others do, and get a tad irritated when requested of such, but I love creative ideas from folks. A girl once said she had a old Halloween wig, a Frankenstein wig, and sent it to me. That was an opening to a fab new bunch of great dolls with fab wigs! I customize and let people decide how they want the doll to be..and if I do something and they don't like it, they are not obligated to the doll. I don't want someone unhappy with a doll and forced to pay. I take naked pics of each doll so everyone can join in on the fun of the creation. Playing dolls..even via the computer..is still fun!

 9. Do you collect dolls yourself?  

Oh heavens do I have dolls. If I like it and can afford it..I collect it. I like the damaged dolls that no one wants. Perfection is imperfection in my eyes. 

10. Who are your favorite doll artists? 

Yikes I love them all. I'm a huge fan of baby types or very gothic monster types. The lost soul thing really gets to me. Rag dolls mostly. I had Raggedy Anne growing up and it was one of my favorites.


11. What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas/designs?

Tim Burton is a huge inspiration. He takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. I find I want to walk in the world he creates. I appreciate beauty..but love old musty rooms full of inspiring objects. Cracked paint...faded materials...ripped lace...that's what makes me tick. 

 12. Anything else you want to share about your dolls?

They were all designed and created by me. I borrowed a pattern from the net to learn to make a 3D head..but changed it because I like BIG CHEEKS! Even if I was forced to return to a 9 to 5 job I can't express what creating has brought to me in the past few years. I have met the most wonderful supportive people and made life long friends. It's a incredible community full of wonderful people. I'm grateful to be included in such a creative world.


Thanks for reading and getting to know my pal Jamie.  If you are a doll or soft toy maker and would like to be included in one of my blog features please email me at bebebabiescom@yahoo.com.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Vacation

I'm back from vacation and have a lot of planned upcoming blog posts, but for now I would like to share a little of my vacation with you, and the changes happening in my life.  In my last post I talked a little bit about burnout and how this vacation was an attempt to refresh myself.  However what I learned on this trip was that I'm not happy in Mexico.  It isn't exactly Mexico, it is our situation, and no vacation is going to fix it.  I mentioned in previous posts that work for my boyfriend is hard here because he doesn't have a degree.  It's hard for me too because while English schools are paid well, they don't pay their teachers well.  My boyfriend and I will celebrate our two year anniversary in October, and we have never gone anywhere together.  We've never vacationed anywhere, and we've only taken one day trip in all of these two years.  Because of our schedules we rarely see each other and when we do we are sleeping or exhausted.  We don't eat dinner together at night.  We don't have breakfast in the mornings.  We don't go to movies on Sunday, or dinners on Fridays.  We don't even get to do these basic things.  It's depressing, and we both are depressed, and we both feel hopeless.

But this trip gave us both hope, and before I explain why, let me tell you about the first part of my trip.

I missed my flight out of Mexico because there was a protest in Mexico City and all highways into the city were blocked by protesters.  The bus came to a stop about 20 minutes from the airport and didn't move for 3 hours.  It was a little unnerving, and upsetting, but luckily I met a very nice guy who let me use his phone to contact my boyfriend.  My boyfriend contacted my Mom and she rescheduled my flight.   She was a lifesaver because originally they wanted $800 to reschedule but my Mom cried and they gave in (ha ha go Mom!).  The airline would not honor my bus ticket showing it was not my fault, so it was very good she called.  I was desperate that my vacation would be over before it even started.


No body's going anywhere.

I was flying first to New York city to see one of my oldest friends.  I met her when I was 10 years old and we were inseparable for many many years.  She will always be like family to me and I hadn't seen her since she moved to New York three years ago.  The most disappointing thing about the trip was that because I missed my flight I missed an entire day with her that she had taken off work.  She is the head chef at St. Anselm, a really trendy restaurant in New York, and could not take much time off.  I made the best of it though and we ate some great food and I did a lot of shopping.


Gelato might be my favorite thing.  Lavender gelato tops them all.

I did the tourist-y thing alone and trekked to the Statue of Liberty because it was the only thing my boyfriend was sad not to get to see.  I did it for him.  And really all it was was standing in a million long lines alone without anyone to talk to.  I will never do it again ha ha.


I will admit she's pretty and impressive.

Next I took the bus up to Boston where my dear friends Sarah and Adam were picking me up.  They live in Portland, Maine where they have just started their own video game company, Chickadee Games.  Check them out, and play their games, and give them money so they can continue to always be awesome.  


Adam and I making breakfast.  (Well he was making breakfast.  I was drinking mimosas, eating doughnuts, and snapping photos).

Let me explain something about Sarah and Adam.  I met them many many years ago when they were living in Eugene.  They moved back to Maine about 3 years ago and that was the last time I saw them.  When they lived in Eugene it was the happiest I ever was.  We did all kinds of things together.  Friday nights our entire group of friends got together at a local bar and then we would all walk over to a friend's house and play rock band.  I did this with them every Friday for several years.  We BBQ'd, crafted and cooked together.  When they returned to Maine the group kind of broke up.  They really held everyone together.  So it's no surprise that in the last year two pairs of couples from our group of friends have moved to Portland, Maine.  Adam and Sarah are worth moving across the country for.    

I visited Maine several years ago when I was in their wedding but never got a chance to really see it, and this time I fell in love.  I realized very quickly what has been missing in my life for the last year.  Laughter.  I laughed so hard with all my friends in Maine that my face hurt.  I realized that it had been a long, long time since I felt that happy and laughed that hard.  It became clear that I can't go on like I am here in Mexico.


Delicious ramen right around the corner from their apartment.

Here's the big news!  My boyfriend and I are planning to move to Portland Maine within the next year.  Just writing it makes me feel like it's impossible, but once I know what I want I always find a way to do it.  Did I mention that my boyfriend is an amazing artist?  No?  Well he is.  Just look at some of my favorites.





When I showed his work to Adam he was super excited to get my boyfriend enrolled in Maine college of art where he is a professor.  I am my boyfriend Adrian's biggest fan, and have told him for years he should be doing something with his art instead of working such long hours at boring, meaningless jobs.  When Adrian heard Adam's opinion it lit a fire of hope within him that I have never seen before.  So in the next month or two I will be moving back into Adrian's mom's house in order to save money for this new adventure we have planned.  In the meantime Adrian needs to create a portfolio and began looking at ways to finance his education and expenses.  If anyone has any ideas or knowledge of studying abroad in the US, specifically a Mexican, please let me know.
  
Stay tuned...big things are coming.  For now, never underestimate the power of laughter.  Never underestimate the dear friends you make in life.  Sometimes you have to not only follow love to the ends of the Earth, but also friendship, because true love and true friendships are rare indeed.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to Handle Burnout

My boyfriend calls me a bunny rabbit because I hop from here to there and can never remain still.  Actually that's one of the reasons I make BeBe Babies.  For example, I can't just watch a movie.  I need to be working on something otherwise I feel like I'm wasting time.  So I stuff doll heads or tie knots on scarves while I watch the movie.  I generally only slow down when I'm sick because I literally can't to do anything.  Lately I have been sick a lot but have been keeping mostly the same pace.  I think it's starting to catch up with me, because I realized today that I really really need to start finding a balance in my life.

I feel this enormous pressure to work on my dolls.  I've mentioned many times that I am desperate to turn my two online businesses into a full time job.  Currently I work full-time teaching English as well as managing two Etsy shops.  There is never enough time to accomplish all I want to accomplish in a day.  Running a successful online shop requires so much work on many different fronts.  From blogging, to videos, advertising and also time to create, it's sometimes overwhelming.

I find that I don't take time to enjoy the moment.  I don't take time to nurture friendships, fun and relaxation.  These things are vital to avoid burnout.  And I'll tell you what I'm burnt out.

Next week I'm going to New York.  I'm going to visit my oldest friend who I haven't seen in several years.  I'm very excited, but that nagging need to always be working is pulling at me.  I've reached a point where I realize I can't have it all (at least not right now), and I'm thinking about big changes in the future.  Things that will free me up from this extreme pressure.  I know I can't work at this pace for much longer before my health is going to be seriously affected.

Today instead of sewing I decided to catch up on some online work.  I finished a new Youtube video, added a page to my website, and I'm writing this blog post.  I have found the best way for me to avoid burnout is to not necessarily stop working, but just to work on something different.  So when you find yourself feeling this way my advice is to work on a completely different project.  You will come back to your work refreshed and ready to start again.

Here is the Youtube video I made today.  I wanted to give you a taste of what it is like for me here in Mexico.  I hope you enjoy it.


What do you do to combat burnout? 

Friday, July 18, 2014

How to Increase your Online Sales

Remember my post a while back about finding creative ways to get help for services that you can't afford?  Personally I was looking for help with my photography because 1.  I don't like spending the time on photos and 2.  the photos I take of my miniatures aren't very good.  Several months ago I contacted a Blythe artist on Ebay who makes beautiful dolls which sell for thousands of dollars .  I asked her if she would be willing to include one of my miniatures in one of her listings.  I was really hoping to gain some exposure from a top artist featuring one of my dolls in her auction.  She chose a custom miniature and I sent it out.

For weeks I heard nothing.  Finally I messaged her to see if she had received the doll.  She said that she had, but had been too busy to open it.  I thought it was strange because when someone offers me something for trade I'm generally so excited to get it, I rip it open the second I see it.  But I thought ok, she must be busy.

Another month went by and I still heard nothing.  I messaged again and she said that yes she opened it, and liked it, but hadn't had time to do any photos.  I again gave her the benefit of the doubt.  However, now another month or so has gone by.  At this point I assume that this artist is either kind of a jerk, or just doesn't like the doll.  Either way it was not a good experience.  My advice to anyone who accepts a trade is to follow through on your end or don't accept it.  If I would have known that she would not be able to take any photos for 3 months (or ever), I would have contacted a different artist to work with.  Now, I could ask for the doll back, or message again, but I have decided to consider it a loss and move on.

It took a while for me to feel the desire to work with someone again because of this experience, but I decided that the doll community is overall a very warm and friendly place.  I didn't want one sour experience to ruin my joy.  So when I saw a woman on Facebook who takes beautiful photos of her Blythe dolls I decided to try again.  She turned out to be one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met!

I sent two miniatures to Lindy of Dolldreams, and yesterday she was able to take the first photographs of the monster.  I was thrilled with them!


She even wrote this cute little story: "*~* One never has to fear if they have their own little monster as a friend. Heaven loves her new monster. With the striped ears, Monster can hear even the tiniest whisper. With Monster's tiny nose, Monster can smell things miles away. With Monster's smile, Heaven cannot help but feel safe and very happy. All Monster is, is LOVE. Heaven is one happy little girl to own her very own monster! ♥*~*"


And what were the results?  In only a couple of hours I had 4 sales from these photographs and Lindy's post on Facebook.  I was beyond thrilled as you can imagine!


The other person I contacted about photos was my dear customer and friend Lee of Lee Sutton Photography.  She is a professional photographer and also has a super cute daughter.  I was hoping to get some photos of my play dolls in their "natural environment" (in a child's bedroom, or with her sweet daughter).  I have a new design called the Blankie BeBe that will be released soon and I especially wanted photos of it for promotional purposes.  

Blankie BeBe

So I sent it off to Lee, along with a BeBe pet bear, and she has been taking the most amazing photos for me.  I almost died when I saw her photos.  They exceeded my expectations a million fold!  Here are a couple of my favorites.  Look for these photos soon in BeBe Baby advertising and on my promotional items.





I hope the success of my photography campaign motivates you to also think creatively when advertising your products.