A few days ago, I made a checklist of things I need to do to make a transition to doing bridal shows with my jewelry. The last item on my list is the need to update my display.
My current booth display is great for craft shows, where customers "cash and carry" their purchases, but it's not really a very "boutique" style display. For one, we need to do something that varies the heights of the displayed items -- right now, there is some variance, but everything falls within the same 2 feet -- I'd like to go beyond that (see the photo on May 22, 2009). I think I need to add some busts to show off my necklaces -- right now I only use 2.
I need to decide on a color scheme -- right now, my displays are all white (with deep green table skirts) -- do I want to stay with white? Or would the jewelry be more striking on black? Or some other color?
I probably need to decide which pieces and colors of jewelry I'll show and whether or not customers will be able to purchase on the spot or if I will only accept orders.
My current show displays are also great because we can set up and take down quickly -- an important factor in craft shows, but probably not so important in bridal shows.
We need good lighting systems and a nice little music system might be nice.
My current setup is quite flexible and will accommodate a variety of booth sizes. I'm thinking that we're going to tape off the floor with several different booth sizes and use cardboard templates to plan the spaces.
I have some ideas to utilize some of what I already have (a budget concern) as well as develop a more "boutique" look -- and fortunately, I'm married to a wonderful woodworker who can do cabinetry work -- we'll be utilizing his skills! More thoughts later ....
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
A few days ago, I made a checklist of things I need to do to make a transition to doing bridal shows with my jewelry. The last item on my list is the need to update my display.
Friday, November 20, 2009
My husband is such a sweetie! And he's very encouraging about my jewelry business, especially about taking it in the direction of marketing to brides. Doing craft shows has been good but we get a lot of feedback from people indicating that my style is really perfect for weddings. Keith has researched a bit and found a number of Bridal Shows coming up in our area and figures we should attend a couple of them to see how they're run, what kinds of setups vendors are using, what kind of traffic there is, etc.
I've already done a bit of research myself to find out booth sizes and fees -- needed to start somewhere. Found that "bigger" shows are pricey .. at least, compared to what I've been paying for craft shows. Most of my craft shows fall between $50-100 for a booth of 10x10 to 12x12. The bridal shows I've found run closer to $800 for an 8x10 or 10x10 space. I'll be continuing to look! And I'm developing a checklist of things I think need to be done before I dive headlong into doing Bridal Shows:
1- continue show research to find out which shows are the best attended, as well as requirements, space available, booth fees, contacts, set up and take down arrangements
2- focus new product development on bride's accessory needs (bracelets, hair and veil accessories)
3- develop a catalog/brochure
4- develop a procedure for taking orders, including a policy for quantity discounts, special requests, and financial arrangements (deposits, cancellations, returns, payment terms)
5- develop displays, pricing and policies for consignment sales through bridal shops (shows will put me in contact with bridal shops as well as with brides and there may be consignment opportunities)
6- packaging -- right now, it's simple tags and bags -- may need to spruce that up
7- upgrade my booth display
There's a lot involved with this ... we'll save it for the next post.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday coming up, I'm not sure how far I'll get with my list but this should be an interesting journey! From time to time, I may need to ask for input too. Wanna ride?
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I was in a rush earlier .. so here's a little more explanation for my last post.
In August, I did something (a mystery) to my knee -- got a small tear in the meniscus and did some damage to tendons and ligaments. A doctor friend advised me how to take care of it .. the meniscus is doing much better, the tendons are going to take some more time. Better all around ... just getting there really slowly.
And it's interfered with my life some. It's been very uncomfortable to travel so all those miles have been rough. If you don't know me very well, my husband and I are missionaries (build church buildings) and our income comes from churches and individuals who support our ministry. Several months ago, we thought we would have some open time this fall and scheduled visits with several churches to update them on what we've been doing. As it happens, we have had some project delays and are still in WI -- the churches have been in other states -- so we've been on the road a lot. We also helped our youngest daughter move from MI to CO.
The discomfort makes me tired ... I sleep alot when I'm home. I've had to limit my physical activity ... REALLY limit. Everything I've done over the past few months has been critical... nothing that wasn't essential. It's actually produced a sense of pressure ... I can't drop the ball and everything I do HAS to be done. And I'm always wishing I could do more ... it's been frustrating to deal with the limitations.
So when I say that I did some work outside today ... it takes on a whole new meaning!!
I'm trying to work smarter, not harder. I've done several craft shows -- they've gone really well. I was very excited last week to get the order for all the jewelry for a wedding!! And at that particular craft show, there were several inquiries about other weddings.
SO I'm in the wee beginnings of checking out wedding shows and how to market to brides ... if anyone has tips, they would be most appreciated!! Undoubtedly, I'll be posting about my research and decisions ... I'm excited at the prospect!
... to catch up! In the past couple months, we've put close to 15000 miles on and my bum feels every one! I'm also working on a couple new design ideas for my jewelry business and I'm getting ready for my last craft show of the year this weekend.
I've actually been avoiding Etsy a bit. I've had some ideas for new designs working around my head but I didn't want to be influence by anyone else's work. I don't know that the designs will be really novel -- you can only do so many things with a particular combination of materials -- but they will be as individual as I can make them.
I've done several craft shows this fall -- some have been wonderful, others not so much. Last weekend was a bit of a disappointment except for one thing --I sold a whole wedding! I've made jewelry for brides before or made earrings for a wedding party but haven't done a whole wedding -- so I'm EXCITED about it!
And this week, I'm trying to get some loose ends tied up -- our weather has been way too nice but it won't last much longer. So I'm trying to do some of the outdoor things I've been putting off. Also starting to think about Thanksgiving -- I'm doing a lot of cooking next week -- just thinking about it is making my mouth water! I'll post more about our menu and even a recipe or two later this week.
Posted by gentle adornments at 1:34 PM
Monday, September 21, 2009
It's been awhile since I've been here ... my summer was absolutely crazy! And fall is looking mighty busy!
I've had a garden this summer. I don't always live in a place where I can have one so it's been awesome! I grew green beans, corn, cantaloupe, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, peas, kale, peppers and potatoes -- some things in multiple varieties. I've had the best corn crop ever and everything has been growing like crazy! But it's also been a bit of a battle with the weeds .. and more than once, I've felt like the weeds won. But it's been worth it! Almost every afternoon, I walk out to the garden and pick something yummy and take it back to my kitchen to make it for dinner. Throw a couple chicken legs on the grill, and it's been all good!
Several of my Saturdays have been spent selling jewelry at the local farm market -- that's been a great experience! The other vendors have been so nice and I've had some nice sales. I've been busy with business during the week too ... I've had a few sales on Etsy and done several pieces of custom work. I have some ideas for new designs and have been working on developing them.
Our building crew changes from project to project and on this build, it's changed during the project! This summer, we've had 5 groups in for a week at a time to help with the building and our crew has been a pretty social bunch.
I hope to pop back in a little more often this fall ... have some ideas for topics I'd like to chat about. See ya soon!!
Posted by gentle adornments at 4:41 PM
Friday, June 26, 2009
Business has been rolling along ok ... not fabulous but ok. I started doing some research on marketing (because I was a serious rookie about this stuff) and I began paying close attention to what people were telling me at craft shows. I came to the realization that my business name, B-Jeweled By Susan, might not have been the best choice.
When I first named my business, I was only thinking of doing craft shows and my contact with customers would be live. “B-Jeweled By Susan” was fine in print (on business cards and flyers) and substituting the “e” with a hyphen looked kinda clever.
But then I got an email address. And I was introduced to Etsy. Neither wanted to take my hyphen or my spaces ... so my online name became “bjeweledbysusan”. It’s not a bad name .... but no one can find it. When you’re in business, that sorta defeats the purpose! Even my friends say they have a hard time remembering the unusual spelling so they got frustrated trying to get through on my email or find me at Etsy. If my friends are having this problem, nobody else is finding me either!
And there was another problem -- to those who haven’t seen my name in print, it looks like I don’t know how to spell .... because the “bjeweled” without the “e” really doesn’t make much sense without the hyphen (b-jeweled).
And, to be honest, when I first started at Etsy, I made some mistakes. Nothing glaring or terrible. Just didn’t get off to a great start. I'm thinking that a fresh start might be a good thing.
So, before I get too much more invested in my name and image and marketing, I want to change my business name. That has turned out to be a bigger project than I expected ... but it’s all working out. On Etsy, that means opening a new shop and it involved quite a bit of research. And choosing the new name? Well ...... more later.......
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Life has been crazy busy the past few weeks. Our daughter is dating a young man -- his brother was killed last week in a hit and run -- a tragic situation. We've had a couple volunteer groups helping here on the building project. I'm still TRYING to get some things organized in my life and get into some semblance of a routine. I'm working on some small changes in business ... at least, they seemed like small changes ... getting them made is taking a lot longer than I thought. I am particularly trying to change the way I display necklaces at craft shows -- I like my ovals on the jewelry displays, but I have a lot more necklaces available than that and need to figure out a better way to show them off.
This past Saturday, I did my first farm market show -- it was great! I really had no idea what to expect, so set a sales range with the thought that, if I sold in that range, I'd be happy -- I exceeded my range!!! The market is in Elkhart Lake, which I've been told is a cottage community for Chicago executives. When it was time to sign up for the farm market, I knew my schedule would not allow me to be there every week and I was a bit concerned about "saturating my market" to be there each time, so I carefully chose 4 Saturdays. It seemed to me that if there were a lot of cottages in the area, a lot of people would "go to the cottage" for Fathers Day -- and I had that pegged. What I didn't realize is that it was also a race weekend for Road America -- town was packed! I've also chosen July 4 -- I expect a lot of people at their cottages again. I picked 2 dates in August -- they are more random but should be when produce is really filling the market. We'll see if I made good choices -- so far, so good!
Today I have a "private show" -- I'll be setting up for some new friends who want to see my work. Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go!! Wish me luck!!! Oh, and Part 5 of my new business "adventure" series will be posted in the next day or so.
Friday, May 22, 2009
I didn’t have much capital to start a business and every penny made (and then some) has gone back into buying supplies and improving displays. While in Florida, I had purchased folding tables – the kind that are 2' x 4' and fold in the middle for storage (since my storage space is so extremely limited). They’ve worked out really well for me, too, because it seems that the booth size of every craft show is different. I have 3 tables, and can configure them in several different ways, depending on the size of my booth. I also acquired a canopy and got matching table cloths. My craft show set up was starting to look professional.
We also developed an idea for new jewelry displays. I needed displays that would be easy to transport, take minimal storage space, and assemble and dis-assemble quickly at craft shows. Because my jewelry is made with Swarovski crystals, the displays needed to allow plenty of light to show off the crystal’s sparkle and they needed to be as elegant as we could make them. I wanted them to be white so that no color would distort the color of the crystals -- but I didn’t want just any white -- I wanted the white of a grand piano. I wanted that deep, rich elegant white. And in our design, unfortunately, we also had to be able to have a good view of everything because some people just aren’t trustworthy. So after much research and thought, we came up with an idea: Keith would make some wooden boxes that would serve as a base. On the ends of each box, we have uprights that look a bit like stairsteps. In each step there’s a little notch where we place a steel bar, loaded with earring cards. Each box has 7 steps and each step holds 13 earring cards – so we can put 91 pairs of earrings on each display and 2 displays fit on each of my tables (they’re about 22" long).. But there’s more!
On the front of each display, there is a detachable shelf, sitting on a slope, with 4 ovals in a row – each oval is the perfect size to display a necklace, so we also have 4 necklaces on each display.
We finished in Florida last year in April and our next building project brought us to Wisconsin. I was able to participate in several craft shows in the fall (including my first juried shows) and I’m planning my 2009 show/market schedule now. Our show set up has been improved again with the addition of table skirts, which I designed and made (I sew too). Things are looking pretty good and I’m looking forward to the new selling season. Now, if only the economy doesn’t kill me .....
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Just as things were starting to pick up for my jewelry business, the church project we were building was done and it was time to move on. We had been in the north, but it was October, and we just don’t start new projects when snow is about to happen. There was a church in Port St Lucie, FL who needed to get their pre-construction work done in anticipation of building – prints have to be approved, sub-contractors and materials found and a lot of little details worked out. So we were off to Florida!
I didn’t know much yet about finding craft shows on the internet and we weren’t really sure how long we were going to be in Florida so planning was difficult. I also didn’t realize how many craft shows there are in FL in the winter – or that many of them are “professional” shows which are very strictly juried, have high entry fees, have very strict display requirement and do not benefit any local organizations. I knew I wasn’t prepared for that yet ... but what to do? I ended up selling at a flea market for a couple months. The flea market definitely was NOT my best venue – my handcrafted items in with a lot of foreign made bargain junk. I didn’t fit. And it was the beginning of the big hikes in gas prices -- fewer people were coming to Florida so there were fewer tourists in the flea market. But I was getting some exposure and learning more about the business part of a jewelry business. The creative part had come easy – the business part was a process ......... a long, slow process!! We were blessed to meet a couple other vendors who had years of experience in flea markets and craft shows – I learned SO much from them! Before we left Florida, I was also able to get into a couple local craft shows and a festival – they were good experience and I picked up a little more knowledge from them.
At my early craft shows, I’d gone alone, or sometimes took a friend. At the flea market, my husband was able to go along with me. With Keith there to keep the selling going (and yes, to keep an eye out for light fingers), I was able to concentrate on making jewelry “on demand” – if someone saw a style they liked, but wanted it in a different color or wanted it on a post instead of a French Hook, I could make it while they waited. That service now makes up about a 1/3 to 1/2 of my craft show sales.
Keith is a pretty handy guy and when I suggested that I still needed to do something different for my displays, he understood what I was needing and why. It became our Saturday ritual to go do the flea market in the morning and early afternoon, then pack up and stop at a restaurant to eat on the way home. At those dinners, we began working out the plans for new displays that would better meet our needs and suit my jewelry. I was up to about 40 designs of earrings and 5 designs of necklaces. And because I use Swarovski crystals, we needed something that would allow plenty of light to show off their sparkle. The next display would also have to be very portable, easy to assemble and take down, easy to store and be a more refined way of displaying my work. I had decided that I wanted white so that no color would reflect and distort the colors of the crystals. But not just any white – the kind of white finish on a white grand piano – that deep, rich elegant white. I had been looking at displays on the internet and we spent a couple Saturday evenings haunting Home Depot looking for ideas. We finally came up with a plan. More later....
Posted by gentle adornments at 8:59 AM
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I grew up on a farm, and I’ve always had a garden – so I have long understood the concepts of nurturing and patience. (They also came in handy as we raised our kids!) Once the seed was planted to start a jewelry business, things began to happen. I began to develop designs and started looking for supplies. I told the ladies at church about my interest and a couple of them started watching for ads for craft shows. I was a total rookie about this stuff – and somewhat like the gardener needs a little rain at just the right time, I was learning a little here and a little there – just when I needed to learn it.
I have to tell ya ... those first craft shows were a little rough. I only had about 7 styles of earrings. My “display” was a foam board covered with white lace, propped up with plate easels. Earrings were on homemade cards and the cards were tacked to the board with clear push pins. In each show, I had a board full of sterling earrings and a board of silver plated. As I look back now, it was NOT pretty. But it got me through my first few shows and in spite of the terrible presentation, people liked my work – and I made a little money.
Our youngest daughter went to work for a small Midwest chain of jewelry stores. Unfortunately, the stores failed and she was out of work. But when her store was closing, she was able to get some of the displays for me (for free!). So I graduated to spinners for my earrings, put my earrings on real earring cards and I had a couple busts to display a necklace or two. I felt like I was in the big time! As I made the transition to the new displays, I also decided to go exclusively with sterling silver and eliminate the cheap plated stuff – it was a good move. By this time, I was also up to 18 or 20 earrings designs. My craft shows were stepping up and business was improving.
At one of the craft shows, I met another vendor who was VERY sweet! She had a nice business card and had a web store on a site called “Etsy”. I’d never heard of it, but as she explained it, I found myself intrigued. Etsy is an online marketplace for artists and crafters to set up shops – kind of a web based craft show. This gal, who was selling children’s items, was enjoying quite a bit of success. I signed up! But there was a lot I didn’t understand about doing business online .... and I made quite a few mistakes. More to learn. (Sigh)
As I look back at taking those first baby steps, I’m amazed the baby learned to walk!! And like any baby, once they learn to walk, the next thing you know, they’re running! More later...
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
I’ve always been crafty – able to work with my hands, take some basic materials and make something pretty out of them. And I’ve used that ability in many settings, but particularly in making a home. Those years when “country style” was popular – well, they were MADE for me! And I’m one of those people who can pretty much just look at something and figure out how it’s made. The one exception was making baskets – I took a class to learn how to make them because, while I knew weaving, I didn’t know much about using reed or finishing a basket. If it involves fabric, I can usually figure it out in minutes and I think I have a natural eye for balance and color – I know that I have memory for color (which has come in handy on more than one occasion!).
A few years ago, I bought a new outfit that was very pretty, but the color was a complete deviation from the rest of my wardrobe. Now, I don’t really wear a lot of jewelry but this outfit was dressy and I knew I would want earrings to go with it (at least). I browsed several costume jewelry shops but found nothing that stood out. I went to visit my daughter, who had recently been to a jewelry making party/class – she showed me a couple basic techniques – and we were off to the craft store! I picked up a couple basic tools and a few jewelry supplies and we headed back to her house where I made my first necklace. I knew about “lead crystal” but I hadn’t heard of Swarovski – but I’d found some Swarovski crystals that looked like they might go with my outfit. They were the Padparadscha color and I mixed them with white pearls – it was a stunning match! And I was hooked!
Because of the travel involved in our ministry (and for a long list of other reasons) I homeschooled our 2 youngest children – over 15 years. For those who are unfamiliar with homeschooling, I can only say that it is a huge commitment of time for the teaching parent. When our youngest daughter graduated from high school, I felt a little at loose ends. I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. Because we are missionaries, and have never been fully supported, I began looking at a job to help financially. But because we also move so often, my options were very limited – employers don’t usually like to hire someone who is moving in a few months. And I didn’t want a job that would interfere with our ministry and the commitments I have there (these are my first priority). I’ve done home-based businesses and considered them, but they are most successful when you develop repeat customers and some require maintaining stock – neither of which suited our circumstances. I needed to do something with flexibility and mobility but requiring only a small space.
I’d gotten a lot of positive comments from the ladies at church about my jewelry – and they seemed impressed that I could make my own. Then a friend, who’s daughter was getting married, was complaining about how difficult it had been to find nice jewelry that was reasonably priced. Timing is everything! I began to consider a jewelry business – and B-Jeweled By Susan was born! More later....
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Have you ever felt like life was a roller coaster? That feeling that you're going WAY too fast? That you don't have much control? And you're hoping the hardware holds out?
That's been my last couple weeks!
Lets' see ... on Thursday, the 23rd, two days before the craft show, we were still in MI working on our daughter's house (they had a water problem in a house they're trying to sell and they've moved away). We had hoped to head for home in WI that morning .... but there were glitches (aren't there always?) and we didn't leave until after midnight. The 7-hour drive was a killer but actually, it was great driving through Chicago -- there was NO traffic at 3 am!! We got home in time to go to work Friday morning. My husband did all the driving but I was afraid he would fall asleep -- so I only got a couple 20 minute catnaps all night.
I was actually pretty amazed how well I did Friday -- hung in there pretty well without sleep -- until about 5 in the afternoon. Then I started really dragging. By the time my husband got home at 9 that night (he had to work out of town that day -- poor guy -- more travel for him!) I was done in. I told him we weren't going to do the craft show Saturday -- I didn't feel prepared and I was totally exhausted. The idea of getting up the next morning at 5 was just too overwhelming! So we went to bed -- nothing packed in the car. Originally, I figured we should leave for the show about 6:30 am to allow us plenty of time to get there and get set up --haven't done a show since December and knew we would be "rusty" about our set up.
So Saturday morning, at 6:20, I got up for a nature call ... felt a whole lot better .. so woke my poor hubby and said "let's go!!". He had been really disappointed that we weren't going so I didn't even have to ask twice -- he was out of bed like a shot. By 7, we were on the road. Given that we had to dress and pack up, that's amazing!
The show went ... ok. It wasn't great but it wasn't bad. We didn't know what to expect but we did expect more people to come. It was a rainy day -- I know that didn't help. And when the show organizers planned the date, they had checked on road construction -- they were told that the road would be resurfaced from June - August. Somebody's calendar was really screwed up because it was all torn up in April! And we expected that the economy would have some impact -- didn't know how much. This show last year had about 2000 attendees -- we figured there were only 700-800 this year.
The show itself was really pretty neat. Some fun vendors -- someone was selling decorated hula hoops -- their booth was really bopping!!-- the booth across from us were selling their own dip mixes (oh my goodness ... SOooooo good!!) and there were just some interesting things being sold. The guy a couple booths down from us was selling metal lawn sculptures -- they were amazing! One lady was selling hair pieces -- sort of for an instant updo. Another was selling bras -- she had her own little booth for trying on. There were some wonderful handmade soaps. Lots of jewelry, but none of it like mine. And the chocolatiers -- yes, there were choclatiers! and the samples? almost heaven!!!
I had a couple of fun sales -- both ladies wanted very custom made pieces. One lady was probably in her late 40's -- she picked a pair of earrings she liked, then pointed to a necklace and said she'd like something like that, only a little different. We talked about what she had in mind, then I made up a couple samples -- she loved one of them and bought it! Later, a younger gal came by -- mid 20's -- getting married in July. She had the jewelry picked out for her wedding party but hadn't been able to find anything she liked for herself. She chose a pair of earrings in white/clear but wondered what they would look like if one of the crystals was sapphire instead (the color of her wedding) -- I made it up for her -- and she LOVED it! But then she wanted a necklace -- I made one similar to a style I have but, like the earrings, substituted a sapphire crystal for a clear in part of the necklace. It came out perfect! It was so cool to do wedding jewelry -- it's an area I want to work in to -- and it was SO fun!!
As for the marketing mix, there were more young women at this show than at the typical craft show -- and I had a lot of attention from most of them. It confirmed that my work has a bit younger appeal than I've been thinking -- which should help with my marketing strategy.
And my shop is open -- it was pretty slow getting things listed and I have LOTS more listing to do -- but that's a story for another day. Come check me out:
So far, the feedback I'm getting is very positive. Most of my photos are pretty decent. No sales yet but I really didn't have enough listed until yesterday. It's really a relief to have it open and be able to list. I've been working on it for so long -- taken SO many pictures! And getting them edited and cropped. Woohoo!! This is me doing the happy dance!!!
Saturday, April 18, 2009
April 25 (next Saturday) is my first craft show of the 2009 season. I am particularly looking forward to this one – because it’s a different type of show from the normal.
There are many similarities in craft shows. Most of those who attend my craft shows are women, age 45+. They tend to either be crafty themselves or they are supporters of whatever organization/school is sponsoring the show. I’m not sure if I’m reading them correctly, but I often get the feeling that only a few are professional/career women. Most of the shows I'm involved in these days are juried and there is heavy emphasis on artwork and handmade crafts. The typical craft show appeals to a fairly specific market segment.
But this show is different. The theme is "What Women Want" and it is more of a business expo that includes local crafters (as in home-based businesses). Most of the well known home party companies will be represented as will a number of area merchants. I expect to see representation from local eateries, floral shops, boutiques and spas. Demonstrations are planned throughout the day. One of the highlights is the focus on the local Chocolatiers (yes, this show is sounding more and more decadent all the time!).
I plan to keep a close eye on the demographics – because although I’ve been doing craft shows for a several years, I’m not convinced that it reaches my best market segment. And, as with my new Etsy shop, I’ve tweaked a few things and made a few small changes. I’m hoping that the uniqueness of this show (and it’s broader appeal) will provide me with some very important market information .... we’ll see!!
Oh, and if you’re in the area, it’s at the Sunnyview Exposition Center, Oshkosh WI and the show runs from 10-4.
Love to see you there!!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I'm on countdown.
I'm planning to open a new shop on Etsy on April 24. I've taken hundreds of new photos and have been busily cropping to fit the spaces on Etsy. I've been doing a lot of marketing research over the last few months and will be trying some new (new to me) ideas. My newest earring design is going to be launched. I've ordered new graphics (which I hope will be done in time). I'm still trying to get a few things figured out (like what kinds of specials I'd like to offer in my Grand Opening). There's a lot to do, but a lot has been done (and I'll be blogging about it over the next few months). I'm almost ready.