Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Starbucks Business Model

I keep finding Starbucks referenced on top business blogs as the model of how to turn a small business into an international mega-company.  I think it's important to take some time away from creating to read, and become inspired, by other companies that are apparently getting it "right".

Starbucks began in Seattle Washington in 1971 and currently is a multi-billion dollar company with cafes in 64 different countries.  In fact, there is one right down the street from me here in Mexico.  How did they do it?  I have been able to narrow down through my research two key points that aided Starbucks in their massive success, and the reasons might surprise you.

This is the Starbucks near my apartment in Mexico.

1.  Mission and values
Starbucks mission statement is "to inspire and nurture the human spirit- one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time."  Sometimes you see statements like this and you think it's a load of crap but Starbucks puts their money where their mouth is according to Jackie Huba.  Starbucks doesn't only take care of their customers, they take care of their employees as well.  So the question is, do you want to be a Starbucks or a Walmart?

Starbucks takes a stand on issues, even extremely controversial ones like marriage equality, and they don't back down, even for investors.

Starbucks has made the list of the world's most ethical companies for 7 years straight.

I think we become so cynical when we see large, multi-billion dollar companies.  We believe they are only where they are due to corruption, greed, and ruthlessness.  It's comforting to know that a company at the top has ethical values and stands by them.  The lesson here is that it is possible to build a hugely successful business while still retaining the positive values you wish to impart on the world.

2.  Starbucks knows their brand
I'm not positive where I read this, it might be in one of the articles I already mentioned, but the story stuck in my mind.  Apparently when Starbucks began selling breakfast sandwiches they found that heating up the sandwiches smelled up the cafe.  Instead of smelling like coffee, the cafes began to smell like ham, cheese and eggs.  Immediately they decided to stop heating the sandwiches until they could find an alternative heating method.  Why?  Because the sandwiches stopped the cafes from smelling like coffee, and Starbucks wants their customers to only smell coffee when they walk inside.  Coffee is their focus, and they want it to remain the focus.

Starbucks knows how to get you to shell out more money for coffee.  By all accounts Starbucks coffee is expensive, and yet their success is proof that people are willing to pay the price.  How do they do that?  Atmosphere.  They sell you an experience.  Read more about creating an atmosphere, as well as selling an expensive product, like Starbucks, on

What can we do with this information?  How can you apply it to your business?  Well for me, I need a mission statement.  I'm struggling with it though.  I think I have heard so many false business statements over the years it is hard for me to write something that is both honest and also vague enough to encompass all my future plans should they come to fruition.

For example, originally I wanted my mission statement to say something about handmade, but then I realized if I start manufacturing my dolls I won't be able to boast handmade.  At this point I'm still not sure how I plan to go about manufacturing my dolls, but I don't want to close any doors before they are opened.  The statement can't be too vague either otherwise it isn't really taking the definitive stand you want to express.

About point two, knowing the brand, I think I do a pretty good job of keeping my shop cohesive and focused on the look of my BeBes.  However, when it comes to convincing potential customers to spend a little more on a BeBe than a plastic doll from China, I think I could use some work.  It's no secret that sellers of handmade products struggle to pay themselves a fair wage and still compete with mass produced products sold at stores like Walmart.  Some of this is a cultural problem, but there are things we can do as handmade sellers.  So what can you do?  Tell your customers in your packaging, Esty story/about page, product descriptions or anywhere else your customers read about you.

Here is what I wrote on my Etsy "about" page:
"Why should you buy BeBe Babies?  Here at BeBe Babies I know you are looking for something unique for yourself or your child.  I know quality is also important to you.  BeBe Babies are special because they are made with love and attention.  You could buy mass-produced dolls but the personal feeling you get from BeBe Babies makes all the difference!  Your BeBe Baby will be treasured for a lifetime and many generations.

I love my customers, especially the happy children. I see myself in their little faces and I experience the joy I felt as a little girl all over again. Experience the joy for yourself and adopt a BeBe baby today!"

 My goal this week is to finish a mission statement.  What's yours?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Other Passion and Life in Mexico

I wanted to take a little break from BeBe Baby business to share with you my other passion.  When I first entered a Mexican fabric store I was both disappointed as well as delighted.  I was disappointed because the fabrics I had come to expect were not available.  For example, they only carry fleece here in the winter and even then it is only like 5 colors and of a very low quality.  There is rarely any flannel, and hardly any choices for children's prints.  However they do have a huge variety, and beautiful selection, of Mexican style fabrics.  These fabrics are woven and vibrant.  They are a pleasure just to look at.


Even though I primarily purchase fabric for dolls, before I moved to Mexico I had a very large collection of fabrics I had hoarded through the years.  If I saw a beautiful, unique, vintage or cute fabric I bought it with the intention of some day making something with it.  Most of the time I never used it, which is why I had so much fabric to get rid of when I moved.

So when I first saw traditional Mexican fabric, called Cambaya, I immediately wanted to buy all of it.  I resisted until I moved into my first apartment here and realized that I could use the bright fabrics to make things for my home.  The problem was, I liked buying it more than I had time to use it.  There were two factors that went into the creation of my other shop Mexican Fabric and Fashion.

First I wanted to take a break from dolls every now and then to create other sewing projects.  I started making dresses for myself, scarves, and pillows.  I wanted a shop where I could share these creations with others.  I never intended to be the model for the shop, and in fact it embarrasses me regularly, but with no money to hire a model or photographer, we have made do with what we have.

Second working in Mexico is hard.  The salaries are staggeringly low and the hours long.  With no university degree it is even more difficult to support yourself even by a minimalist's standards.  This is the situation for my boyfriend.  I was shocked to discover that the best job he could find required him to work 8-10 hours a day (with an additional hour of bus travel each way), 6 days a week, for about the equivalent of $600 a month.  It became blindingly obvious that if we ever wanted to have a family, a car, or even furniture he would have to do something drastically different.

With my knowledge of Internet sales and his willingness to work hard at something that might give him (and myself) a real future we decided to start or fabric shop.  We decided on the name Mexican Fabric and Fashion because we wanted to sell fabric as well as creations I make from the same fabric.  There is a lot of work to do, and many ideas for this shop, but as you know I already work as a teacher and run my doll business.  I'm squeezing in time where I can to work on items for this shop, as well as teach my boyfriend everything I know about running a successful Etsy shop.  I want this to be our business, but more than that I want to give him the chance to have a profitable career with reasonable hours.

The biggest challenge has been our relationship.  We have a lot of relationship issues that stem from our personalities as well as cultural differences.  We have a strong love but as we are learning, that isn't always enough.  I'll tell you more about the personal side of it later in future posts.  For now, we are both very committed to this business and continue to rise every day so that we may some day be able to have all the things we want in life.

Check out our shop and if you like it please share it.  We would be so thankful for any help and support for this shop's success.  Our future depends on it.

Find us all over the internets, Pinterest, Flickr and Facebook.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

And the Winner is...

First, I have to tell you all that I am not happy with Survey Monkey where I hosted the contest survey.  I didn't realize with the basic (free) account you could only receive up to 100 votes before you have to upgrade and pay.  I'm not against paying for services but the next level up from basic costs $24 a month!  I think that is a little much for a survey site.  And they held my responses hostage until I paid (ok hostage is a harsh word, but in order to see all 410 votes I had to pay the upgrade).  I had a feeling I knew which photo was the winner but I didn't feel comfortable not confirming for sure.  I will be canceling the service now because I'm not going to pay $24 a month for a survey site.  Hopefully for the next challenge or vote I can find on that is truly free or at least cheaper.

Ok on to the fun part.  Drum roll please....  And the winner is PHOTO 3!!!!  Tonya and her daughter blew the competition out of the water with their Easter photo receiving over 80% of the votes.  Congratulations to Tonya!  I will be emailing you about your prize.  :)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Something Different

Sometimes when am trying to fall asleep at night I think about my dolls and about new designs I would like to try.  For a long time I have been thinking about working on dolls that are a bit more realistic.  In the past I made reborn dolls but tired of them because there were so many people making them.  I didn't really feel that I was good enough to compete either.  I started making cloth dolls because I was always interested in sewing and I loved the idea of creating a doll from my own patterns and imagination.

I like the style of my dolls.  I like their simplicity.  Sometimes I think I over complicate things, when simple is sometimes interesting in itself.  If not there would be such a love of Waldorf dolls.  However it's always fun to try something new too.  After a lot of trial and error I finally completed Sadie, my new realistic preemie BeBe.  She has a lot of features I have never included in my dolls, such as realistic/sewn on ears, fingernails, etc.

I'm really happy with how she turned out but there are still things I want to improve.  For example, I cannot figure out lips.  I can do fine with the lip is tucked under but I can't seem to make natural looking full lips.  I think it is because my painting abilities are lacking.  If anyone has any tips for lips please email me or post in the comments.

I also can't seem to do realistic looking open eyes but I'm going to try that again.  I'm hoping to make a lot more of these little babies because honestly if I was collecting I would want one of these little ones really bad.  In fact, it might be hard to give this one up.  :)

Read more about Sadie here on Etsy.

Monday, April 14, 2014

April/Easter Contest at BeBe Babies

Ok everyone the entries are in and it is time to vote!  I have created a survey through Survey Monkey where you can record your vote/favorite photo.  Voting is open until April 19 and the winner will be announced at that time.  Good luck and thank you to all my wonderful friends and customers who entered.  If you missed out this month make sure to join the BeBe Babies fan club to participate in future contests.  Please post and share this contest with your Facebook dolly friends, or other social networking sites, to support your friends who have entered.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Photo 1 

Photo 2

Photo 3

Photo 4

Photo 5

Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Sell Products Online

Recently Sandra of Mother Goose Dolls posted on a Facebook doll group asking for some honest feedback on her doll(s).  Her dilemma is so common, and I get asked this question so often, that I thought I would address it here on my blog for Sandra and others who might find the advice useful.  Sandra's question was essentially "What is wrong with my doll/product?  I sell well at craft shows but cannot seem to make many sales online".  I have some good and bad news.

The good news is that the problem is not with Sandra's product.  Her doll is cute, looks to be well made and the photo is clear and bright.  If the problem is not with the product, then the problem is with marketing.  You can have a wonderful product and a beautiful shop, but you HAVE to bring the customers to you.  The online world is huge.  Customers have many options for almost every product available.  You can not rely on Etsy or Google search engines to bring customers to your shop.  You have to go out and get them yourself.

This is where the bad news comes in (well bad news if you don't like marketing).  I personally enjoy the marketing side of my doll business, but I do find myself stressed sometimes trying to keep up with it, because to increase sales you must find time to market.  Every.  Single.  Day.  I find that I have a constant list of marketing ideas that I haven't even tapped into yet.  Let me give you some ideas of what has worked for me and others I'm hoping to have time for very soon.  (This list will be somewhat specifically for doll sales but you can adapt the ideas for any product.)

1.  Social Networking
There are two things to consider when using social networking sites; groups and business pages.

Most social networking sites have groups you can join that are relevant to your doll or product.  The two sites I use currently for this are Flickr and Facebook.  On both sites you can search groups and once you join, you can add your photos to the group pool.  The only thing to be careful with here is that you read the group description carefully and make sure you are posting appropriate pictures according to the group guidelines.  You don't want to step on any toes in your marketing quest.

Another thing to remember when searching for groups is to be creative in finding a variety of relevant ones.  Don't just search for doll groups.  Think about other groups that might contain potential customers for you.  For example, with dolls you might be able to join Mom groups (if your dolls are appropriate for children), or baby supply groups.  Also there are many Etsy seller groups on Facebook and Flickr.

Business Pages
I highly recommend opening a Facebook page for your product.  Here's mine.  One thing about business pages to keep in mind though, is that you need to post something frequently.  Now, you don't want to over post, because you don't want anyone hiding your posts because you filled up their feed.  I would say once a day is the maximum and you shouldn't let more than 2-3 days go by between posting.  The benefit of this practice is that you will motivate yourself to create content often so that you have something to post.  It's a good motivator.

A few things I like to post of Facebook are new products in my shop, Etsy treasuries that include my dolls, works-in-progress, blog posts, custom orders, news, etc.

2.  Forums
I only advertise on one doll forum: doll-fan but there are many forums out there for many topics.  Etsy also has their own forums where you can find a wealth of information and tips for improving your online sales.  This is one part of marketing a lot of sellers don't have time for, including me.  One way to make forums work for you is to post regularly and get involved in the lives of other members.  Forming friendships can be very beneficial to your business but it takes time to cultivate.  Read this post I wrote about being friends with your customers.  For this reason you might want to take it slow when joining forums.  Give yourself time to get to know the lay of the land.  If you join all the doll forums you can find you will come across as very artificial and you don't want to alienate people.

How do you find good forums?  Ask some of the groups you join if there are any forums they are members of, or just Google it.  I highly recommend doll-fan where I have been a member for over 10 years.

3.  Blogging
Blogging is a two prong approach; your own blog, and advertising on other blogs.  Read this post I wrote about advertising on blogs for that side of it.

As far as writing your own blog, doing so can open many many doors.  However, be forewarned, it takes A LOT of time and work.  When I decided that I really needed to work on making my blog successful I knew it was going to be hard work, and it is.  I don't recommend a blog unless you are prepared to work on it nearly every day.  You need time for planning, writing, thinking, etc.

But!  If you do decide to have a blog you will find that it brings you rewards in many unexpected ways.  For example, this blog post is inspired by Sandra.  I never would have met Sandra if it wasn't for my blog.  Recently I wrote a post about a dear fellow doll maker and she in turn shared my blog on the post Sandra wrote on Facebook.  Now I'm not sure this will translate into sales, or if there is any way to track these things at this point, but the fact is the more people seeing your work, the more opportunities you have to reach new customers.

I will need to write an entire other post about blogging to give you all the ways you can utilize a blog, but I will save that for next time.

4.  Linking
On my old website I had a place for links.  You might see a "links" page on other websites you frequent.  I am hoping to get this section back up on my new website in the near future.  If you don't know about linking here's what I know about it.  The more links a website has, the higher their SEO standing on the search engines like Google.  This means your website will come up sooner in relevant Google searches.  Of course, this really doesn't apply to you if you don't have a website.

However, you might be able to get your shop or website link listed on different shop directories or websites.  For example, during the holidays many websites have holiday shopping gift guides.  Some times you have to pay to be included and sometimes you don't.  You can find these through blogs, other artist websites, forums, Google, etc.

There is by far many more ways to market on the Internet but these are the ones that I am using currently and have been working for me so far.  My last advice is that you read, read, read.  Becoming a good marketer takes time and trial and error.  There is no quick fix but if you are devoted to increasing your sales and spend time every day working on it, it's possible.  You can do it!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Easter Contest

Wow it's already April 1.  That means I am sending out my newsletter and a lot goes on around here on newsletter day.  If you have not signed up for my newsletter, and would like to, please send an email to or comment on this post with your email address and I will add you.  I only send one email a month, on the first day of the month, so don't worry about spam.  The email is just to inform you of BeBe Babies news and special offers.

There's a couple of things I do when I'm preparing to send my newsletter.  First I like to have new BeBes in the shop so usually I am frantically getting dolls photographed and listed on newsletter day.  Today was no exception.

Second I try to get any big news or announcements ready so they can be included in the newsletter.  Today's big announcement is that this month will be the first contest I am hosting on my new fan club.  If you still haven't heard about the fan club you can find it here.  I would like to offer these contests and giveaways exclusively to my fan club members, but as I said the fan club is starting a bit slow.  So!  I'm going to announce this month's contest here and invite all my customers to join in on the fun.


Contest Rules:

Post a photo of your BeBe Baby ready for Easter (dressed in Easter clothing, on display with Easter decorations, etc). You have until April 13th to post your photo to the fan club or email it to me. On the 14th i will post the photos on this blog and the voting will begin.

Now for the best part. The winner will receive their choice of:

-50% off their next BeBe Baby purchase (no restriction on the amount purchased). That's huge!


-a special surprise dolly.

I think it's a pretty sweet deal and I hope you will all participate!