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.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lizzie Gibson's Sugary Sweet Babies

I was first attracted to Lizzie's dolls because I really admired the mouths on her babies.  She inspired me to do more detailed work on some of my own dolls, including the new mouths I have been working on.  The other thing I admire about Lizzie is her dedication to her work.  After becoming aware of her dolls, I started seeing her pop up all over the internet.  She also has personally sent me messages asking for my advice.  This tells me that Lizzie is someone who knows how to market her work, and when she doesn't, she is the first to put herself out there and ask questions.  I admire that because I'm somewhat similar, as you know.  I hope you will take a minute to get to know her and her babies!  Notes in italics are my comments.

Gummy Baby

1.  When did you begin making cloth dolls?

My love of baby making started back in 2007 when I needed a special birthday gift for my youngest daughter. I had an old doll bed that I painted and made all the bedding for. Then I tackled making a doll. I found a pattern in an old magazine I had. I had never made a soft sculptured doll before. The doll was about the ugliest thing I'd ever seen after I'd finished, but my daughter loved it (she still has it and wouldn't take anything in the world for it.)



Lizzie's first doll


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

I have always made cloth dolls. I do appreciate other forms of doll making like reborning and vinyl just to name a couple, but I love cloth. I love the way I can manipulate fabric with a needle and thread to make features and creases.

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

I learned to sew from my mother and grandmother as a child. Later, in high school, I did take a sewing class. One of the projects we had was making a rag style doll that was about 8 inches tall.


Tootsie Roll Babies

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

Most people think you can just make the perfect doll on your first try. That's not the case at all. Doll making is a learning experience. You are learning with each doll you complete. Even the most experienced and talented doll artists are still learning new techniques. I would advise anyone to not give up. It's practice practice practice.

(I concur with Lizzie here. I am always learning and perfecting my skills, which is what I think is part of the fun.)

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

My sewing studio is my domain. I am a one woman show. I do everything myself from start to finish.

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

My Lollipops are a serious business for me. Just about everything I do or say revolves around them. I promote my babies every chance I get. No matter if I'm in the dollar store, the post office, grocery store or wherever, I hand out business cards and tell people about my babies.

(What a great idea! I'm a little too shy to talk about my babies but I think we can learn something from Lizzie's outgoing strategy.)


Goo Goo Cluster Baby


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

I belong to a number of groups and doll pages on facebook and also on flickr and etsy. Check out Cloth Doll Creations, a group that Lizzie administers, Spam a Doll, Handmade Dolls Addicts Anonymous, and OOAK Artists and Collectors.

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

I mostly sell my babies off of facebook and etsy. I also have a website. I recently was invited to share a booth in our local flea market in which I did fairly well, so I will most likely in the near future rent a booth to show my dolls locally on the weekends.

9.  Do you collect dolls yourself?

I'm not a collector, but I am a big admirer of other artist work.

10.  Who are your favorite doll artists?

There is so many doll artists from yesteryear and today that have so much talent. It's really hard to just name one. I love all doll types and each style of doll making.


Cotton Candy Baby


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

I have been doing this for so long, I can't even remember how I came up with a name of Lollipop Babies. But since then, I have created different sets of babies and each set had to have its own unique name. Each set is mostly named after a sweet; like BubbleGum Babies, TootsieRoll Babies, Biscuit Babies, CottonCandy Babies and so on and so forth. I love creating new lines, and the more sets I have, the more variety I have to offer my followers and customers.


Lizzie with a Cotton Candy Baby

As always if you are interested in being included on my blog please send me a message. Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 11, 2014

And the Winner is....

This was a very close race between two different photos but the winner by only 2 votes is......  #2!!!  Congrats to Danielle for her super cute photo and thank you to everyone who participated.  As promised the next contest will invite all BeBe fans to join in, even those who have not adopted their first BeBe yet.  I haven't planned the contest yet but it will be coming up soon so be sure to "like" BeBe Babies on Facebook or join the fan club to be updated on all the goings on here at BeBe Babies.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th of July BeBe Baby Photo Contest

Hi everyone!  Happy 4th of July to you and your family.  4th of July doesn't mean much around here in Mexico so it just seems like another day to me, but I'm still dreaming of BBQs and fireworks.  I decided to do a 4th of July contest on the fan club and I must say that the entries are awesome!

Voting is going to work a little different this time.  For the Easter contest I used a free account on Survey Monkey to calculate the votes.  However when the votes reached over a hundred Survey Monkey required me to pay for an account to get the results.  Now, I wouldn't ordinarily mind but it was over $20, and that was the charge PER month for their services.  Well I don't need their services every month and it's really not even worth the one time charge.  Soooo I'm going to try something different and we will see how it goes.  Each photo has a number.  Choose your favorite photo and then email me at bebebabiescom@yahoo.com with your vote OR comment with your vote on this post.  You can vote one time per day so help your friends win!  Voting is open until July 11.

The winner will receive 50% off their BeBe order from my Etsy shop OR a free BeBe of my choice.  If you would like to receive special discounts on BeBe Babies please join the fan club or "like" BeBe Babies on Facebook.  I had a sweet email from a lady this morning who wanted to enter, but hasn't adopted her first BeBe Baby yet.  Therefore my next contest will be for my customers AND fans who might not have a BeBe yet.  So please keep in touch!  Now on to the entries...

#1




#2



#3



#4



#5


Good luck to all!!!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Making Videos for Youtube and Life in Mexico

Well I am home sick today and it really stinks.  I haven't shared a lot about what is going on with my health but it isn't good.  Let me give you the short story.  A little over a year ago I had a urinary tract infection.  There are doctors here in Mexico that are free and sit in little offices alongside the pharmacy.  They don't do much except listen to your symptoms and prescribe you medicine.  Last year I went there for the first infection but after the it returned a month later I made an appointment with a "real" doctor, as we say here.  It was expensive (not as expensive as the US, but for the amount of money I make, it was a hardship).  After a bunch of labs I was diagnosed with anemia and an e.coli infection.  I was loaded up with antibiotics and iron pills.  After checking the labs a month later I seemed to be cured.


However this infection has continued to rear it's ugly head every 2-3 months for the last year.  To avoid paying for the doctor, I went back to seeing the free doctors and taking the same antibiotic every 2-3 months.  Well about two weeks ago the infection was back.  I went to the free doctor like usual, and she prescribed a medicine I had never taken.  I knew right away that it wasn't working.  I took the medicine 4 days as prescribed, and while I felt better (e.i. I wasn't in excruciating pain) I knew the infection wasn't gone.

I decided to see another "real" doctor but this time my friend pointed me to her doctor, who is English.  It is very difficult to see a Mexican doctor even if they speak English.  There is always something lost in translation I feel.  This new doctor was much cheaper than the first, and he has re-ordered lab tests.  He believes I have never fully recovered from the first infection or that I have some sort of malfunction with my bladder/urinary system.  I was hoping I could hold off the infection until the labs came back so I wouldn't have to miss work, but of course it struck again in the middle of last night.



I'm having a lot of new symptoms that I wasn't having last year and this has me very concerned.  I'm also very worried about my job as it isn't the most convenient place to call in sick at, and besides I don't like being an inconvenience to my employer.  I have resigned to realizing it is what it is, and it will be what it will be, although my anxiety about it flares up periodically.

Because I have been stuck home in bed I decided it might be a good time to work on a Youtube channel.  I have a Youtube account but I only used it in the past for personal reasons.  Recently a customer of mine suggested I start making videos of my dolls and I thought that was a pretty clever idea.  So I made a video of my newest BeBe Rebekah and I set out to edit the video.



This is where I nearly gave up.  I have a Mac which has a program called imovie.  In my opinion it is not very user friendly, but after 5 hours of watching Youtube videos about imovie, as well as trial and error, I have finally finished my first practice video.



The next task is to get all my BeBe graphics and things uploaded on Youtube.  This is causing me the next big headache.  All of my BeBe graphics are always designed for certain sites like Etsy or my website.  Of course this means every time I try to use them on another site they aren't the right size.  I hate photo editing.  I don't think there is anything I hate more, so it is driving me batty trying to figure out how to create "channel art" as Youtube calls it.  If anyone has any ideas or wants to help me let me know.  For now I'm too exhausted, and in too much pain to continue trying to figure it out.

I wanted this post to be empowering.  I wanted it to be about learning to do things yourself.  But I get it, it sucks.  It sucks trying to keep up with all these new social media outlets.  It sucks spending one whole day trying to make a video that isn't even all that good.  I know though that if I keep up with practicing at making videos, I will get very fast and look back and think it was not so hard.  So that's my motivation for you today.  It's hard for all of us but we have to all keep trying and learning.  As Dory says, "Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Series: My First Doll

As you know I have been working hard to come up with a variety of content for my blog, as well as my Facebook page.  I had an idea!  I thought it would be fun to share some personal stories about first dolls.  If you would like to be included in this series please email me at bebebabiescom@yahoo.com.  I will let you know what I need you to send me.  To get the ball rolling, I am going to share with you my first doll.  I must admit to you this one was hard for me to write without tears...

As soon as I was able to choose my own toys, I was immediately smitten by Cabbage Patch Kids.  I remember being around 5 or 6 when my Mom put the Toys R' Us Christmas catalog into my hands and instructed me to look for Christmas ideas.  I surveyed the Cabbage Patch dolls carefully.  There was one that I thought was the cutest doll of the bunch.  Her name was Nessy.


One time my ex-boyfriend's Mom told me that my ex had a Cabbage Patch Doll when he was a little boy that looked like him.  I said my first doll was also a Cabbage Patch Kid.  She then asked "oh did your doll look like you?".  "No," I said.  "She was black."  

I remember people making comments about my doll when I was a kid.  I remember not really understanding what they were saying when I was a little girl, but I was aware enough to know that it wasn't nice.  As an adult I know exactly what they were saying.  I think it was pretty cool that my parents let me choose my own doll, as well as stand the negative comments and looks.  But there was probably another reason I chose the doll.

My first memories are of a sweet round face that looked down on me with the light of an angel.  Her name was Miss Vicky.  She had a small daycare in Anchorage, Alaska where my family lived at the time.  She lived simply, without any luxuries.  She poured her love into children, who often she cared for with no payment because their families couldn't pay.  She never turned any child away.  Once she told my Mom that if we did not pay her, she could not pay her rent or eat.  When we moved back to Oregon my Mom left her nearly everything we owned including our bed pillows.  

I could tell you so many stories about the things she taught me.  All of my earliest memories are of her, and I remember so much about her, especially her smile.  I think there are true saints that walk among us and that she was one of them.  A few years after we returned to Oregon one of my cousins moved to Anchorage and was also put in her care.  My cousin was touched in much the same way we were.

My brother and I with Miss Vicky approx. 1987.
  
Once back in Oregon, Miss Vicky would send us packages every year on our birthdays and Christmas.  The last package she sent me was a graduation present when I graduated high school.  It was a special edition Barbie dressed for graduation.  Miss Vicky died shortly after that.  I never had the chance to see her again.  It's something I will always regret.  Some day I want to visit Anchorage, find her grave, and bring her some beautiful poppies that she loved so much.  I want to thank her for everything she did for me.  I want to thank her for influencing my life in the beautiful way that she did.

Children are taught to hate or they are taught to love.  Children don't see color, they see kindness.

Nessy and I

I imagine my 5-year-old self being asked the same question "does your doll look like you?" to which I would answer "yes she does".

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Why Sell on Etsy

I have been an Etsy seller since 2007 when I began selling my BeBe Babies.  Before that I used Ebay, as it was the main online marketplace for art dolls.  I had become wary of Ebay for some time because their site's look was ugly in my opinion, and their fees were high.  However I remember feeling very nervous about switching to Etsy because I worried that no one would find my shop and my sales would decline.  Now 7 years later I highly recommend having your shop on Etsy and here's why.

Truly some of the first BeBes ever made.  This was the first doll show I did with the BeBes back in 2006.  I had just started making larger dolls.

The number one reason I recommend using Etsy is because of all the information they offer to help you become a better seller- FOR FREE.  There is a wealth of information for everyone, whether you are just starting out on Etsy, or are a long time member, and it is all free.  There are many people who sell this advice on Etsy.  A lot of new and old sellers fall into the trap of shelling out money for information that they can get for free.  I am highly against paying for information.  The internet is full of free resources and you should never have to pay for advice in my opinion.  This is one reason I changed the direction of my blog.  I want to offer everyone the information I have learned over the years from practice and a ton of reading.  It might take a little longer to find the resources but it will save you a lot of money in the long run.

These are some of the first BeBe Babies ever made!  I believe this is from Halloween 2007.  

The Esty newsletter has been the most valuable for me.  You can subscribe to it here.  The other day I received one of their emails and it contained a seller seminar.  This seminar is geared towards advanced sellers, but I would still recommend it for beginners, as it might get you ahead of the game faster.  You can find the seminar here.  Now, because I have been a long time seller there were many things that were not of use to me in the packet, but there were many other things that were.  Remember, not everything will be of value to you, but it's important to find the pieces that are, and apply them to your business.  I added about 5 new things to my to-do list from this seminar and that is what I want to talk about.  

There are three things I am focusing on right now in my business; photos, social networking and pitching to companies.  From the seminar I got these ideas:

1.  Take photos of your items in their natural habitat.  I never really thought about this but it makes sense.  I would love to have some professional pictures of my play dolls in a child's bedroom or in the arms of a child.  I have a lot of fan photos but I need some professional quality ones for promotional purposes.  Think magazine editorials.

If you are like me you are thinking "I can't afford to hire a professional photographer".  This is where you need to get creative.  I have a friend and customer, who has an adorable daughter and also happens to be a beautiful photographer.  I have sent her an email asking if she could do some photos for me in exchange for a couple free BeBes.  If you are a seller without the funds to invest much in your business you have to get creative.  Start thinking how you can get services free or at a discount by offering your work or something in exchange.  Now maybe my friend will decline, and if that happens I will offer the same pitch to other photographers until I can find one who says yes.

I have also been struggling with the sales of my miniatures, mainly because I haven't sold any lol.  Ok that's not true, I have sold about 20, but all to the same customer.  The problem is mainly that I don't have the time to photograph them in a very professional way with my Blythe doll.  So I have reached out to some Blythe collectors who take beautiful photographs.  I am offering them a free mini in exchange for photographs with their Blythe dolls.  I am excited to be working with someone at this time and will be making her miniatures this weekend.  I can't wait to see her photos and share them with you.  I am hoping this will create more sales for my minis.

This photo is by my dear customer Lane of Reallusion Photography.  Mini pig BeBe available to order here.

2.  Social networking is difficult.  It takes a lot of time and planning.  Don't think social networking is just about posting all willy nilly.  You must strike a balance in order to not alienate your followers, but you must also keep them engaged.  When I first started my BeBe Babies Facebook page I really didn't use it much.  Now that I have been using it significantly more I'm mad at myself for not doing it sooner.  After reading page 20 of the Etsy seminar I have a clearer understanding of the mistakes I am making.  If you don't read any other parts of the seminar, read the social networking part starting on page 18.

New design that I am working on and very excited about!

They give you an exercise to do which is to analyze your Facebook posts to see which ones are getting the most likes and shares.  This will help you determine what your audience is responding to.  What I realized from the exercise is that I am posting way too much about new listings in my shop.  The seminar advises creating a posting schedule that includes new items (product features), a behind the scenes look at your work (backstage pass), and expertise/inspiration you possess (be an expert or inspire).  So get ready because I am going to start posting photos of BeBe Babies in progress as well as other things I find inspirational or beneficial.

Special project coming soon.

3.  As you know I have been complaining, I mean working, really hard at trying to get my dolls into stores so I can eventually do BeBe Babies full time.  I've been writing a lot of emails to stores and online publications and I am still hearing crickets in my inbox.  I have began to wonder if my emails are not looking or sounding professional enough.  There is so much advice out there about pitching to companies it's hard to know whose advice to follow.  This article on Etsy is the advice I have been following except I was forgetting one little thing.  I have not been embedding small photos into the email.  Actually the more I look at the article there are a few little things I haven't been doing; like following up or expressing why BeBe Babies are so special.  I am going to polish my email pitching and try again with more shops and blogs.  Hopefully when I get some professional photos I can make the emails look even better.  

For more information head over to the Etsy blog and/or the Etsy Seller Handbook.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Debbie Aponte's Soft Sculptured Dolls

Well after my last post I decided to take my own advice and do something fun.  So why not a post about another doll artist?  Debbie is a customer of mine who is becoming a fast friend.  She has several BeBe Babies and takes the cutest pictures of them.  I noticed in her pictures that she was posing her BeBes with some adorable soft sculpture dolls.  I had no idea she made them!  Debbie is just starting out making her own dolls and I wanted to share them with my readers because I love them and think you will too.  Her shop is under the name Debbie's Dolly Fashions and Reborns so check it out.

BeBe Baby Alma with one of Debbie's kitty dolls.

1.  When did you begin making cloth dolls?

Just recently I started making full body cloth dolls. I used to make dolls, but they only consisted of the cloth head with blankets for the bodies. Something cute to cuddle with. I wanted to make something different so about 3 week's ago, I decided to have a try at making full body cloth dolls. Each time I made one, I would compare it to the last one I made to see what I needed to perfect or change. So far, so good.



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

No...at first, I taught myself how to sew dresses and gowns for my dolls. Then when I discovered Reborns, I taught myself how to sew baby blankets w/ matching pillows. I also taught myself how to crochet clothes, toys, dolls and more.

3.  Do you have a background in art?

I do have a background in art. Not professionally, but self taught. As a young girl I loved to draw and sketch people. I also love to oil paint as well.

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

I picked up my first sewing needle back in 2005. It was the same time I taught myself how to use a sewing machine. I never took classes but I do remember watching my mom sew...how she used the bobbin, how she threaded the needle, etc. She would always try to get me to help her and show me how to sew but I would refuse and always sat there and watched her work. After she passed away in 2005, I brought her sewing machine home with me with all of her supplies and taught myself how to sew. It was stressful and aggravating at first, trying to remember everything my mom used to do. But I was determined to learn because I wanted my mom to be proud of me. 



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

Yes....for new doll makers, please be sure to do your research. The Internet is a great place to search for techniques, advise, etc. when it comes to making dolls. 

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

I design and make my dolls by myself. I have no assistance at this time.

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

I belong to a doll forum called Doll-Fan. It's a great place to share your stories about your doll collections and dolls that you make. The ladies there are so helpful and supportive.

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

I sell my creations on Doll-Fan and Etsy.



9.  Do you collect dolls yourself?

Oh yes....I only collect Bebe Babies. I am addicted to those cute little faces. 

10.  Who are your favorite doll artists?

LOL...Casie of course! I used to collect Fayzah Spanos dolls as well as Sheila Michael dolls. Now I collect Bebe Babies.

11.  Do you have a day job?  What do you do?

Yes....I work full time as an Assistant Project Manager at an accounts receivable company for medical/ hospital accounts.



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

I have to say, I find myself in a different place when I am creating. It's calming and so satisfying to have an idea come to life. Almost therapeutic.

I agree Debbie!


Thanks for reading everyone!  And as always if you are a doll or soft sculpture artist and would like to be featured on the BeBe Babies blog please send me a message.  

Friday, June 13, 2014

Testing Testing is This Thing On?

I'm feeling discouraged.  I tried to do some Google research about discouragement and all I could immediately find were links to religious pages.  I'm not religious, so reading an article concluding that putting my faith in God is a logical solution does not help me to feel less discouraged.  I never knew God had the monopoly on discouragement.  I want studies.  I want methods.  I want concrete solutions.

I also realized that I am in an incredibly bad mood.  I have started and stopped writing this post so many times that I'm irritating myself.  Mostly I just want to spew obscenities.  I want to punch the wall and I want to hide from everyone.  Ok, so we all have these kinds of days, but like the methodical person I am, I am going to sit down and write out the reasons and try to find some solutions.

Lately I feel that every decision I have made in my life has been wrong.  I question everything.  I set goals for myself and when I achieve them they are not what I thought.  They don't make me happy.  I feel like George Costanza today.


When I took a look at the reasons I am discouraged I realized I'm caught in a catch-22.  I want to be able to do dolls full time and make it into a real business because I don't like working for other people making pennies (or pesos as it is).  The way to do this is simple; I need to be selling enough dolls to provide myself with a sustainable income.

It's so frustrating that the solution is simple but the application is so difficult.  I have spent countless hours researching and have sent about 20 emails so far to children's stores, toy stores, etc asking if they might be interested in carrying BeBe Babies.  I have received 0 responses.  It leads me to wonder if my emails are going through.  I must assume they are.  I think the emails are just arriving to uninterested parties.  Now that's ok, I'm not emotionally crushed by rejection.  It's not the rejection that is making me upset.

I'm upset because I want this so bad, and I want it now.  I cannot move forward in any way without orders from stores.  For example, I want to order special packaging for my dolls so that when they go to stores they are secure and professional.  Most suppliers require you to buy 1000-3000 units minimum.  I can't do that until I have orders.  I want to hire someone to help me sew and make my dolls.  I can't do that until I have the orders.  I want to hire someone to really give my website and branding a more professional appearance.  I can't do that until I have orders.  I want to hire legal services and testing services to take my BeBes to another level and I can't do that until I have orders.

I told you in the past I was thinking about looking into factory manufacturing and an agent to help me.  I cannot figure out how to find an agent.  A Google search results in representation that looks gimmicky and fake.  I'm afraid to go that route but I believe a professional could help me so much more with my goals.  I just don't know how to find them.

Many people have told me that stores and/or agents always come to them.  But those same people who gave me that information, are tight-lipped about their sources.  I have been surprised at the brick wall I have encountered when asking the Etsy community and other small artists for information.  This community always came off to me as a place to share and help one another.  How quickly that changes when people hit the big time.

So what is the solution when you lose your patience?  I believe it is to take a break.  Work on something fun and come back with the energy to continue plowing through...  And besides what choice do I have?  The alternative is even more discouraging...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Happenings

I am working on some new projects as well as a tutorial but I have been experiencing a new bout of tiredness.  Not sure if it is the anemia coming back or if I'm getting sick because I am experiencing a bit of a sore throat and headache.  Because of this I don't have any business advice for you today.  Instead I thought I would share a little bit about what I'm up to.

Another supply box from my Mom arrived today.  This time I took a taxi home from the post office instead of trying to carry the box on the bus like the near disaster that happened last time.  It was full of doll clothes, wigs, fabric and other supplies.  One big thing I was excited to receive was new business cards and hang tags.  I order my cards from Moo.com.  I really like Moo.  I like that I am able to basically design my cards myself.  They always come out so nice and I love the feel of them.  I think maybe they are a little expensive but I think they are worth it.


I think I mentioned at some point that I used to always send little gift packs along with my dolls.  I would include stickers, cards, pencils, pins, magnets, things like that.  You can see a customer review video with my packaging on Youtube here.  I've been feeling so insecure and bad about my packaging lately so I couldn't wait to order some gifts and things so I can start packaging my dolls the way I used to.  Recently I changed my website from bebe-babies.com to bebebabies.com so I needed to change the graphic for my buttons.  Unfortunately the lady I used to order from closed her shop so I was hesitant to find someone new.  I decided to give Rockerbye Buttons a try.  I was very very happy with their service so I highly recommend them.  They helped me change my graphic in a timely manner and didn't charge me extra.  


The other thing I have needed to get sorted out is tags.  I have always made my own tags for my dolls.  I print out the graphic onto iron on paper and then my Mom would iron them onto white bias tape.  I am now out of tags for my dolls but I have purchased a printer and am hoping to get some BeBe Babies tags made up soon.  

However I needed tags for the items I have been making for my other shop, Mexican Fabric and Fashion.  I decided to order these from Tagtopia.  I picked a special font and the proof I was sent looked good.  Now that I received the tags I don't know that I will order them again.  It's not because anything is wrong with them, or that they are totally not what I expected.  I just feel that I could make them myself.  I also don't like how the font turned out.  I wanted the letters to look a little rugged or damaged and they really just look like any regular bold font.  I don't think they have much character.  I also think they might not be heavy duty enough for clothing.  I think I would rather have woven tags.  I will give them a try though and see how they look on the items.



Recently I saw a post on the Etsy forum about packaging.  The woman was saying how she does not appreciate when she purchases something on Etsy and it comes packaged all pretty.  She doesn't like it because she feels like she is paying extra for packaging and the item and/or shipping would cost less without all the goodies.  Commenters were going back and forth.  Some were saying they like receiving items which are packaged up pretty, it's like receiving a present.  Others agreed with the poster that it is a waste of money.  I think it's an important argument because while I don't agree with the poster (I like pretty packages) I think her concern is valid.  

I think I will be adding to my shipping policies that my shipping prices include only the cost of shipping plus basic packaging materials (tape, box/envelope, and the cellophane bags).  Any extra goodies come out of my pocket and are just little gifts to make receiving a BeBe Baby and extra special experience.  How do you feel?  Do you like pretty packages with extra goodies?  

Saturday, May 31, 2014

How to Think Like a Marketer



Ok guys I made a mistake.  Well not a big mistake but I learned a lesson that I want to share with you.  In my last post I told you about a situation I was having on Facebook with commenters.  Well this week at work I had my private student who is a marketing manager for Michelin tires in Mexico.  He is one of my favorite students because we always have great conversations.  I was telling him about the comments on Facebook and my reaction to them.  He gave me a little insight, and advice, about how large companies handle these situations.  It's a good lesson: sometimes we have to step outside ourselves and seek advice from professionals.

At Michelin their Facebook page is monitored by an outside company.  The company answers the Facebook comments and messages that they can, and directs more difficult questions to customer service at Michelin.  They rate the comments on three levels.  Level one is for comments that are spam, or are hateful and purely inappropriate.  Those messages are deleted.  However as my student informed me, they rarely delete messages even when they are negative or inflammatory.  He told me that the reason they don't delete messages is because it gives the impression that the company is trying to hide something, and this in fact enrages commenters and/or customers more than anything.

This was his suggestion for me based on his experience at Michelin.  He suggested that I actually respond to these messages with a question.  For example, to the person who said my dolls scare her, he suggested that I ask her what scares her.  Furthermore he recommended asking specific questions like, how could the eyes, mouth, hair be improved/changed as to not look so scary?  Now when he was telling me this I wanted to argue with him.  And I did argue, "No!  These people are just being mean.  They just think dolls are scary and no amount of changing the doll will make them like dolls!"  To which he replied, "yeah maybe, but when you respond this way the person will have one of two reactions.  First, if they are a meanie your cordial response will probably shut them up.  Otherwise second they might actually offer you constructive feedback and/or because of your pleasant response, they will soften to the idea of your work and who knows, become a customer.

I think as artisans it is easy to be very protective of our work.  What this conversation taught me is that turning your craft into a serious business requires you to step back and see your business as a business.  You have to be able to think like a professional salesman, marketer, financial officer, etc.  To do this might require speaking to others who are professionals in these areas.  Ask questions whenever you have the opportunity to talk with a professional in the business world.  When I decided to try and turn BeBe Babies into a business which can sustain me financially, I began writing more seriously on my blog.  The reason is because I want to share my journey with you, even all the mistakes and setbacks.  Hopefully I can prevent others from making my same mistakes.  That is all.  :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

How to Stop Bullies


In middle school I was in the vice Principal's office a lot.  I also was sent to the counselor's office on a semi-regular basis.  One particular time it was because I was supposed to correct a girl's paper and I wrote the lyrics to Green Day's Dominated Love Slave on her paper and then erased it enough so that I could say I erased it but also so that she could still read the lyrics.  The girl had been home schooled until that year and I don't think she had ever encountered a kid like me.  I dressed like a boy.  I was loud.  Really I was like an older Dennis the Menace, but a girl.  I never considered myself a bully because I never did anything to maliciously hurt anyone.  I just thought I was funny and I liked shocking people.  I saw that girl later in college and she didn't seem to have any hard feelings.  I imagine she had seen worse than me by then.


I also was "bullied" if you can call it that.  Boys at school called my friend and I lesbians, and threw rocks at us, but really I never cared.  I guess I would say people tried to bully me but I always thought I was a lot cooler and more interesting than the whole lot of them.  I found people quite boring, as I do now as an adult.  In middle school I was going to punk shows, learning to play guitar and publishing a magazine (yes I actually wrote my own magazine in middle school which I sold around town and traded through the mail).

For some reason this week my BeBe Babies Facebook page has been getting a lot of action, lots of new likes and comments.  Early last week there was a comment in Spanish that said something like "this doll doesn't look like your others and I don't like it."  Ok fair enough.  Then yesterday I got another comment also in Spanish that said "these dolls scare me."  Again fair enough.  After that a man commented "noooooooo..."  I wasn't sure what that was supposed to mean so I left it.  But then he returned to comment much later saying "these are just wrong."  Maybe I was feeling a little touchy last night, because I'm going through a break up and am about to get my period, but the comments just rubbed me the wrong way.  

Now I'm not saying these people are bullies, but I think it's in the same realm and here's why.  Both of the commenters from yesterday came back to comment a second time.  Now I know what normal people do when they don't like something, they stay away from it.  These types of people are fishing for conflict on the Internet.  There is absolutely no other reason to post these types of comments.  Certain types of people troll the Internet leaving comments on Facebook, news stories, Youtube, forums, anywhere they can stir up some emotional drama.  I've seen it many times in many places.      

And how did I feel about these comments?  Well they don't make me feel one bit bad about my dolls.  Opinions are like assholes and all that.  What bothers me about people like this is that they want me to feel bad.  They want to manipulate me into a confrontation by playing on my emotions.  I imagine them sitting at their computer, while life goes on around them, waiting for their little red notifications to light up.  Really how incredibly boring some human beings can be.

So how can you stop bullies?  You can't.  It's as simple as that.  Stop trying to stop people from being mean.  Just remember they are boring and you don't have to be.  You don't have to react like they want you to.  I know this issue is more complicated in the schools, but really why is everyone trying to expel the bullies?  Young bullies grow up to be adult bullies who harass people on the Internet or at work.  You cannot expel all the meanies in life.

As for my Facebook commenters I deleted their comments and banned them.  I deleted them not because they were particularly offensive, but because that is my business page and I don't need anyone putting off any potential customers.  And it's my page therefore I have the right to control the content on it.  I did write this comment on the post "I'm not sure what's going on with the people writing negative comments on my posts. If you don't like my dolls please don't look at them, and definitely do not post that you don't like them, because I really don't care what you think. My dolls are a positive place for me and anyone writing negative comments will be banned and deleted."  to which one of the original commenters responded with the typical "it was just a comment calm down". Ha ha ok!

On a positive note I'm slowly organizing my life little by little.  My friend moved back the US this weekend and gave me a much better phone than the one I was using.  Plus she gave me some cute baskets to organize with.  

I also finally went to Home Depot to get nails for concrete walls.  After a year I have finally put up some of my art.  Emotionally it's the little things that are helping me, the big things still look very far away. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How to Write a Successful Blog

Last week at the school our advanced students were studying topics related to success.  We discussed how the definition of success is objective.  Some measure success by the amount of money they make.  Others measure success by their health and/or relationships.  I mention this because I am going to talk about what makes a successful blog, in my opinion.  Lots of people probably won't agree but it depends on what your goal is with your blog.  It's important to understand your purpose in blogging so that you don't lose your way.  My purpose in blogging is to reach more customers, have an outlet to write about my personal life, and offer a resource for my friends in the doll community.

I read many blogs for many different reasons.  For humor I go to Hyperbole and a Half, Badder Homes and Gardens or Awkward Family Photos.  For craft and design I go to Apartment Therapy, Design Sponge and A Beautiful Mess.  For food I like Skinny Taste, Everybody Likes Sandwiches and my friend Morgan's blog Fo Reals Life.

One of my favorite lines from Hyperbole and a Half.

I have been reading a lot of business blogs lately which sparked a lot of ideas for my own blog posts.  However recently I have become disillusioned by them.  I used to be very excited to see new posts and I was enthralled by the advice and inspiration.  I gave it some thought and I think I know what bothers me about "business blogs".  Once you read the same blog for a while the author begins to repeat topics and themes.  It starts to feel as if they are only writing for new readers and have no concern for retaining long time readers.  They repeat the same stories and advice every couple months or so.  This does not give the impression of evolution.  It makes me feel as if the purpose of their blog is to grab new readers who will be so impressed or shocked they immediately buy the author's book or seminar, which is fine if that is the purpose of their blog, but honestly I think that makes a bad long-term blog.

One of the best blogs I have ever read was written by a fairly wealthy Mom living in silicone valley.  The blog was called Sweet Sweet Life and was generally a lifestyle blog.  Mostly she shared beautiful and interesting things she found on the Internet.  I liked her style and loved her choices.  Well then her husband lost his job and the blog slowly turned into a heart wrenching story about a family who lost their affluence in the blink of an eye.  As the money and job opportunities dried up they eventually moved across the country, taken in by family.  I don't believe she writes her blog any longer but the reason it stands out in my mind is because it was a great story.  The blog evolved and was interesting and well written at all stages of her life.

Originally I was very into Penelope Trunk's blog but as I said above I've lost interest.  Mostly it's because I've noticed a theme in these types of personal business blogs.  The theme of how poor they were at some point in their life continues to come up.  It's like telling us how they had no food and slept on the floor will hook us.  Here's another example on James Altucher's recent post.  I just want to shout, it's not shocking anymore!  It feels like such a disingenuous sales pitch.  The theme of rising from the ashes is so over played.  It screams to me "buy my book/seminar and you too can get off your living room floor and stop eating expired cans of tuna!"  I suppose it works, but after hearing it so many times on the same blog it becomes tiring for a long time reader.

Here's what I mean about your definition of success.  By all means James and Penelope have successful blogs for their purpose.  I still recommend reading them.  But if your definition of a successful blog is one in which you build a readership invested in the story of your life, then I believe Amy's blog Sweet Sweet Life was much more successful.  There's evidence of this on Penelope's own blog as the most popular posts are about the violence in her relationship and even the relationship itself.  So whether you're rising from the pit of poverty or slowly sinking into it, let your blog evolve to keep it fresh.  In my opinion in the long run you will receive a lot more personal and financial gain from this strategy.  What do you think?  What are your favorite blogs and why?

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to Make Leggings

A while back I was smitten by some beautiful fabrics at the fabric store here in Mexico.  Every trip I find myself drawn to this one display.  All the fabrics are so vibrant and beautiful.  I love running my hand through them.  I wanted to buy them, all of them, but I wasn't sure what to do with them.  Originally my Mexican fabric shop was only carrying a traditional Mexican fabric called Cambaya.  The original idea for the shop was to only carry exclusively Mexican fabrics.  After some investigation I found that this other fabric I love so much is also made in Mexico.  It occurred to me that my fabric shop should carry more than Cambaya.  I decided to buy some of the fabric I had adored so long.


The fabric is a polyester lycra from what I can tell.  It is light weight and very soft.  I need to return to the fabric store to get better information about this fabric, but it's hard with everything being in Spanish.  Also many of the cards on the fabric are not completed with all the information.  I find the fabric store employees to be also very unhelpful and uninformative.


I imagined this fabric would be awesome for leggings, however with my anemia and doll work I only got around to trying my hand at a pair yesterday.  I used this video as a guide.  I was so so pleased with how they came out.  The first pair was too short at the waist but I added 5 inches and the second pair came out perfect size-wise.  I did decide though, that if I am actually going to make some leggings for sale I would like to improve on this pattern a bit first.  The first thing I would like to do is buy a serger/overlock sewing machine.  I mean these look great for me but to really give them a professional finish they need to be serged.  I also think these pants might need to be lined, especially in the crotch.  I'm going to wear my pair around for a while and see how they hold up.  Overall I am really excited about them.


The funniest part about this project was that the woman in the instructional video used a solid white material.  Leave it to me to use a material with so many lines that needed to be matched up perfectly.  I'm getting much better at pinning!  (This is a little inside joke.  I took a quilting class once and the older woman instructor was appalled by my refusal to pin anything.  She tried to tell me over and over it was necessary but still I refused.  She became exasperated when all my lines came out perfect with no pinning.  She stopped hassling me after that!)  Ha ha!

Next step will to get these sewn up professionally with a serger and then get them on some models!

Or make your own!  Find this fabric for sale in my Mexican Fabric and Fashion shop here.