Monday, February 23, 2015

How to Make a Million Dollars Selling On Etsy

The internet was all a-buzz last week with the story of the California Mom who makes a million dollars a year from her Etsy shop.  I've been aware of her shop, Three Bird Nest, for quite some time, because, did you know you can search for the top Etsy sellers on this site called Craftcount?  Well you can, and it's worth a look.  I remember the first time I browsed Craftcount.  I was, on the one hand fascinated, and on the other hand discouraged.  I was discouraged because the "top sellers" on Etsy sell supplies.  The top "handmade" sellers sell downloads, patterns, and/or t-shirts, mugs and buttons with cheesy sayings on them.  In my opinion the top sellers on Etsy do not really sell anything handmade (in general).

That brings us to Three Bird Nest.  Beautiful photos, cohesive styling, and modern products make it easy to see why people are drawn to the shop.  As I'm sure you know, if you have been reading my blog, shops like these are something to be analysed.  My method of analyzing the competition is a little different than how some on the Internet choose to investigate *ah hem* I mean analyze.

As with any success story there are those who will come out in droves to poo poo the good fortune of others, and that is where the drama begins...

The first article that I saw pop up in my Facebook was this one titled "The Myth of Three Bird Nest" or "How One Woman Makes Almost $1 Million a Year on Etsy".  Ooooh I thought.  What is the myth?  She doesn't really make that much money?  No my friends, that is not the myth the article speaks of, because in fact it would seem the owner of Three Bird Nest does earn that much from her Etsy shop.  No the myth was that her stuff is not handmade.  Gasp!  Cough!  Blasphemy!  Crafters of the world are crossing their knitting needles and kneeling at their sewing machines.

Ok people are upset.  Etsy is a site to sell handmade items (and supplies and vintage).  It would appear that Three Bird Nest is buying socks made in China and selling them as handmade on Etsy.  They have been reported as adding the lace and/or buttons, but most believe that isn't sufficient or even entirely true.  You decide.

So why are people mad?  People are mad because they are jealous.  Ok I said it, and you can disagree with me, but let me tell you why.

1.  It isn't fair!

The first argument that comes up is that Etsy is a site for handmade items, and because this woman is selling items that are not handmade, then it is not fair.  Life isn't fair, I'm sure you've heard that.  Well it's true, it isn't fair.  It's Etsy's site and Etsy can do what they want with it.  You can bang your head against the wall trying to change it but what's the point?  It's a waste of time, and being all hurt that Etsy isn't your best crafty friend anymore won't bring back the relationship you thought you had with them.

2.  Shops like Three Bird Nest devalue my work!

I read articles all the time about the problem with sellers underpricing their work and how that effects others who charge a fair price for similar work.  Let's imagine you make knitted socks.  I did a quick search and found this shop GrietaKnits, who appears to make beautiful handmade knit socks.  From my search I determined that her price ($50-$100) was reasonable, although most knitted socks on the first page were more around $35 (but not nearly as pretty).  However I would NEVER pay that much for one pair socks.  They are beautiful, and honestly I would love to have a pair, but it doesn't matter how much I like them, I am not in the position to spend that much on a pair of socks.  I could however, maybe afford a pair from Three Bird Nest at around $28.  

The conclusion by most crafters is that because Three Bird Nest has provided me a similar pair of socks at a lower price, then GrietaKnits has lost business, but that is not the case at all.  I would NEVER buy a pair of socks for $50 even if all the socks in the world cost $50.

If you are running a business, then you should set your prices fairly, not for other crafters, but because it makes good business sense.  What the rest of the world is selling similar items for shouldn't matter in your pricing structure, because it will always be a problem for you to overcome.  Your customers will buy your items if they want to, or can afford it, whether or not another seller or Walmart for that matter, sells a cheaper version of it.  I've been convinced in the past to buy a $500 doll, but I'll keep buying my socks at Walmart no matter what you do, because that is what I value.  It's difficult to change the shopping values of people.  You might think $500 is too much for a doll and I think $50 is too much for socks.

3.  I have to wade through pages of crap to find what I want!    

Really?  And you blame this on stuff made in China?  I generally have to wade through handmade crap to find anything good, let alone China.  I never thought Etsy's search feature was very good at finding anything.  I even thought maybe their site should be juried like IndieCart a different site for selling handmade items.  I generally find all my favorite shops via Facebook, craft shows, and/or friends.  I don't think you are wading through China crap.  I think you are just wading through crap.  I would rather look at Three Bird Nest's beautiful photos then 90% of the other stuff on Etsy.

Of course there were many other comments and discussions about this, but most were too ridiculous to mention (and basically would fit under the "it's not fair" category).  So what is the point?  If you can't be outraged about it (or if you still are outraged about it) what can you do?  Well I believe this article on Wired called "How Etsy Alienated Its Crafters and Lost Its Soul" can help you out.  While I don't agree with some of the article, I do agree with the part titled "Successful Businesses Leave Etsy".  It's been on my mind for a while since I've been having more sales off of Etsy, via my Facebook page.  

The bottom line is that if your craft is a business then you want to make money, probably a lot of money.  Don't be sour because it's difficult.  Don't blame others because you aren't there yet.  Those are excuses that are holding you back.  If you want to make it big, you will eventually be outsourcing your work.  Let's face it there is no way to make it rich, or even a decent living in the handmade world, as a one man/woman show.  It is not possible.  You have to produce on a large scale.  You have to keep your prices low and your margins high.  Hopefully that doesn't mean undervaluing your work or undermining your ethics, but focus on how you can be successful within your company's limitations.

And finally, the advice I keep giving over and over: You should not be relying on Etsy to find your customers.  I have always seen my Etsy shop as a service to process transactions and display my work.  The few customers that come about through Etsy's search engine are lovely, but few.  If you want to sell your work you have to bring the customers to your shop plain and simple.  As soon as you stop relying on Etsy, and start working on your marketing, you will see that you never needed Etsy in the first place.  At that point all this hoopla about what other people are doing will disappear.

*Other article referenced but not directly.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Simplicity and the Complexity of Thalita Dol Dolls

If you are skeptical about using Facebook to advertise your dolls now is the time to stop being skeptical and start using Facebook.  I believe that right now in the world of marketing Facebook is number one.  If you have to forget all those other sites you love to network on, just make sure you are using Facebook.  I hope to write more in the future about how I use Facebook to sell my work, but for now I mention it because generally I find all the artists I feature on my blog via Facebook.  I will just be minding my business, browsing along all the news updates, and then wow, a stunning doll will pop up on my feed.  That's exactly what happened with Thalita Dol, and I immediately had to see more.

Located in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Thalita Dol makes Waldorf inspired cloth dolls.  I'm not sure what drew them to me at first, they looked so simple, but there was something so soft, so innocent under the surface.  I do like Waldorf dolls in general, but sometimes they begin to all look the same to me.  Thalita Dol really stood out in a big way.

As I did a little more research, as well as contacted Thalita to learn more, I found that these "simple" dolls were not so simple.  Underneath the surface was a complex sculpting system.  I was intrigued even more, and couldn't wait to learn more about this incredible doll artist.  I hope you will stick around to see what she had to say about her sweet babies.

This was the first picture that truly had me over the moon with Thalita Dol.

1. When did you begin making cloth dolls? 

I began making dolls when my oldest was little and I wanted special dolls for her.  I always loved sewing and used to make clothes for her, as well as some stuffed animals, so sewing dolls seamed a lot of fun!

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

My first attempt was a rag dolls from a Wee Wonderfuls pattern I had bought.  Than I tried making my own patterns with the details I wished.  Soon enough I found out the Waldorf dolls and totally fell in love with the Waldorf inspired universe.

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

I'm self taught.  I started sewing doll clothes (always had some dolls of mine even before I had kids) and stuffed toys out of felt.  I used to make them by hand.  Than I got married and my husband got me a sewing machine as a gift for our first Christmas together.  I soon got pregnant, and started making baby clothes.  Mama sewing blogs helped me a lot in the beginning.  Soon I started drafting my own patterns.  I really love all of the process, from imagining, to creating patterns, than sewing and than admiring the magic of having in your hands something that was only in your mind before.

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

My advice is be yourself, don't be afraid of the process of trial and error, be unique and true to what you love.

Inside Thalita Dol there is a complex sculpting system.  Just amazing.

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

No, but my cats like to steal my embroidery lines and my kids like to stay nearby while I sew =)

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

Well, a little of both.  I enjoy it so much that it can be considered a hobby.  I take it really serious, so it can be considered a business.  But as a stay at home mom, I don't have much time on my hands, and because of that production is slow.

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

Oh, too many!  I love chatting to other doll makers!  Actually I first heard of doll making groups here on your blog, from the owner of Lali Dolls interview. Since than I have searched for those groups online and I'm much pleased to be able to do some dolly chatting.

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

I sell them on Etsy and on a Brazilian shop called Tanlup.  I also have a Facebook page where I talk about the dolls and post WIP pictures.

9. Do you collect dolls yourself? 

Yes I do!  I don't have many, but my collection is growing.  My most recent buy was a Mariengold baby, and she is so sweet!

10. Who are your favorite doll artists? 

I really admire Lalinda's work.  Also Mon Petit Frere, North Cost Dolls, Sweet Dimplicity, Lali Doll, Iva Dolls, and Bebe Babies of course.  The list could go on and on.  So many talented doll makers out there!

Hair detail

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

Doll making is about love.  I think everyone who is inside the "doll universe" will agree.  Each doll is created with so much love and care.  They start as an imagination spark and come to life in our hands little by little, by thread and needle, and cloth and wool.  A little piece of the doll maker's heart goes inside every little dolly.  It's magical, joyful, and I'm so grateful to be able to experience this amazing process.

I hope you enjoyed learning about Thalita doll (as well as all the other doll artists she mentioned.  I had so much fun looking at those as well).  You can find her on the web in these places; Facebook, blog,  and Etsy.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Customer Isn't Always Right and Why Paypal Sucks

When you want to explode at a customer remember to breathe.

That's my mantra right now.  Breathe in, breathe out.  You don't want to say anything inappropriate.

Ok you want to say something inappropriate but it's not the best course of action in business.  Very very hard not to do sometimes.

Here's the situation:

Recently we sold the first item made by my boyfriend's Mom.  We were all so excited because she has been working so so hard, and finally she was earning a little money.  I sent the scarf off, paid her, and everyone was so happy and excited.

Now, I'd had reservations about paying her before the item arrived safe and sound.  I just had this gut feeling that I should wait until the transaction was completely complete.  But I went ahead and paid, because it was so exciting for her.

As some of you know, shipping from Mexico is taking 2-4 weeks at this time via the regular post office.  I realize that's long, and it stinks, but it's the situation, and I can't change it.  (I am working on solutions for the BeBe Baby shop at this moment but the Mexican Fabric shop will have to wait).

So anyway, 8 days after shipping the scarf I receive a notice from Paypal that a dispute has been opened and that my funds have been withheld.  The woman who bought the scarf started an "item not received" dispute.  She never contacted me on Etsy, or in another manner, to inquire about the scarf.

It's a long story, with a lot of back and forth, but yesterday the scarf was attempted to be delivered and the customer wasn't there.  She tells me today she will try to pick it up tomorrow and "cancel the dispute in the next day or two".  In the meantime Paypal has withheld my money now for about 2 weeks.

I am angry number 1 because the customer opened a dispute without reading our shop policies or contacting me, but I am even more upset with Paypal.  I have been a Paypal customer for over 10 years.  I have NEVER had a dispute filed against me.  Paypal is a company that makes their money from SELLERS and when a dispute is filed they automatically take the money from the seller?  I can understand allowing the dispute to be opened, but to withhold the funds without any type of information?  Now I could open a claim myself, and get Paypal involved, but why should I have to?  I have done everything right in this situation and this customer is overreacting.  She also mentioned that if she closes the dispute she can't open it again, which leads me to believe she has done this before.  I on the other hand wasn't even familiar with this process until now.

I knew that Ebay bought Paypal, and I left Ebay for the same reasons I am now thinking about alternative payment options.  These companies really need to realize that their paying customers deserve more respect than this.  I know there are bad sellers, but there an equal amount of bad buyers, and creating policies that side heavily with one group over the other is bad business in my opinion.

I encourage you to use direct pay through Etsy when buying BeBe Baby products.  Etsy has much friendlier seller policies and I would love to someday get away from Paypal all together.  In the meantime I won't be using Paypal for my own purchases, and will start using my credit card more often.  As for the customer, I wanted to slam her when I read her last message about how she'll release my funds in a day or two.  What person believes they can receive their item before paying for it?  Instead I wrote, "I would appreciate it".  We will see if she is just a nervous nelly or a real scammer when the scarf is in her possession.

The consolation I suppose, is that in over 10 years this is the first real bad egg I've had.  It's just extra rotten because my boyfriend's Mom won't be able to pay me back for the loss, and I don't want her to.  This stinky customer ruined the excitement of a first sale, and I don't want to take that from his Mom, so I haven't even told her this happened.

I'll keep you posted on the outcome.  The moral of the story is that these things happen to the best of us.  It really sucks when it happens but as a business you must take it in stride, no matter how much you rage inside.

Update: The customer received the scarf, cancelled the dispute and even sent a thank you message about how much she loved it as well as the packaging presentation.  I still don't believe I would like to have her as a future customer but I am thankful everything ended well.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Traditional Mexican Textile Pillow Project

There are a lot of changes going on around here at BeBe Babies, and because of that, I just haven't found the time to sit down and write.  I am hoping as things are settling down, to be able to start writing again more regularly.  But before I can go into all that, I need to get a few more things in order.  So today I would like to share with you a project I am finally getting around to starting.

As you know I have another shop on Etsy called Mexican Fabric and Fashion.  It is really starting to pick up speed and I'm hopeful that the original vision for the shop will be reality very soon.  However, I'm still finding it challenging to manage two completely different shops.  I don't make anything really for the fabric shop, so the issue really isn't finding time to make things, but I do do all the advertising and internet "stuff".  I have tried to teach my boyfriend how to do some of this but what I've realized is that the knowledge I have acquired over the last 10 or so years is not something you can teach overnight.  So for now the advertising is left up to me.

This week I finished up a couple big BeBe Baby wholesale orders and decided it was time to work on a project I that has been sidelined for quite some time.

Mexico is a vibrant place full of colors and textiles that will delight any fabric lover or crafter.  I adore vibrant colors and absolutely love the textiles here (which is why Mexican Fabric and Fashion was born in the first place).  Recently, while searching for supplies for the fabric shop, I found a couple pieces that I wanted to keep for myself to make pillows out of.

The one on the left is a traditional embroidered textile by the native people in the state of Oaxaca.  I was able to find it in a little market closer to where I live.  I hope to someday soon make a trip to Oaxaca to buy more of these for the shop.  I just love them.

The one on the right was made by a native lady in my town.  I love the bright colors, they are almost neon.  I bought coordinating colors of Cambaya fabric, like those we sell in our shop, to be the backs.

Now the first thing you need to know about Cambaya is that it is a woven fabric, and it frays very easily.  The first pillows I ever made were coming apart after very little use.  Here is one of them.

You must use an iron-on fusible backing in order to protect the fabric from fraying.  The type that I use here in Mexico is sold by the meter.  There is a rough side of the fabric and a smooth side.  The rough side is the "glue" side.  You put that against the fabric and iron the smooth side.  The glue adheres to all the fibers making the fabric permanently fused together.  Since using this method all my projects with Cambaya haven't shown any fraying even with vigorous use.

Here is how my fabric looks after ironing on the fusible fabric.

I decided to start with the piece from Oaxaca because I like it so much.  Now, because these pieces are handmade, they are not always perfectly square.  Because of this I decided to sew the piece to the Cambaya to form a perfectly square border.

Here the Cambaya has been trimmed into a straight border.

Now you just have to sew it to another piece of Cambaya that has also been backed with the fusible lining.  Don't worry about the wrikles, they won't effect the final product.

I use about a half inch seam allowance.

Leave an opening for stuffing that is big enough to get your hand in, because it makes life so much easier.  Then turn and stuff your pillow!

Close with a ladder stitch.

And you're done!  You can always make these into pillow covers as well.  I don't think it's necessary for throw pillows, so I do it this way because it's faster.  Just remember to gently spot clean with a mild detergent.

Now I will be doing the other one!  I'll be sure to show you how that one comes out too.  If you are interested in making your own pillows from our textiles, visit our Etsy shop.  We have a few similar pieces available and more coming soon.  Or you can even buy them as finished cushion covers which were made by my boyfriend's Mom.  Check them out!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry BeBe Christmas! The Winners Are....

The photo contest winner is #2 BeBe in a Manger.  Congratulations to the winner!  She will receive a free BeBe of my choosing or 50% off her next BeBe Etsy order.

The winner of the other drawing (for BeBe fans who do not have a BeBe yet) is Michele Traugutt!  She will win a free BeBe Baby of my choice.

As always if you want to get in on the fun please join the BeBe Baby fan club here.  Or "like" BeBe Babies on Facebook to stay up-to-date on new dolls, contests and giveaways!  Thank you everyone.  Have a very Merry Christmas!

I am off to contact the winners...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

BeBe Babies and Friends Christmas Photo Contest

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas everyone!  This year got so busy with Etsy wholesale that I was unable to complete a Christmas series, so I decided to do another fan photo contest in order to have some holiday BeBe fun.  As always if you want to participate in these fun events and contests you can join the BeBe Baby fan club here.  Or like BeBe Babies and Friends on Facebook here.

The winner of the photo contest will win a free BeBe Baby or 50% off their next order!

Now how to vote...  Choose the photo that you like the best and please email me at with your vote.  Tell me the number and title of the photo.  This will prevent possible confusions which have happened in the past.  OR comment on this post with your vote.  You can vote once a day until Christmas December 25.

Also this contest is still open for BeBe fans who have not adopted their first BeBe Baby yet.  I will be holding a separate drawing for a free BeBe Baby of my choice.  Please email me your name to participate in that drawing.  But remember it is only open to fans without BeBes.

Be sure to share this post with your friends and family!

Now on to the photos...

#1 BeBe Santa

#2-  BeBe in a manger

#3- Waiting for presents

#4- Visions of BeBes danced in their heads

#5- Nathan waiting for Santa

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  Until next time!