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!