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Topic: Crafty Business Interview #6 - Grace Dobush, Author of Crafty Superstar  (Read 9988 times)
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« on: July 07, 2010 01:50:10 PM »

Grace Dobush is the author of Crafty Superstar: Make Crafts on the Side, Earn Extra Cash and Basically Have it All (North Light Books, 2009).  This amazing book directed toward part-time crafty sellers is a must have for anyone thinking of stepping into the crafty business world. Besides writing such a great book, she is also an etsy shop owner and co-organizer of Cincinnati's Crafty Supermarket, on top of her full time job as an editor!

As the crafty guru for part time sellers, Im sure youve heard the question, But what should I sell?  What is your advice to people who arent even sure what kind of product to sell? Do you think its better to have seasonal or season specific items or items that are relevant year round?

The absolute most important thing is to sell things that you like to make. That sounds simple, but I think a lot of crafters overlook the fact that people buy handmade things because things that are made with love and honesty and creativity are just so much more spectacular than anything that comes off a factory line. So when someone asks me What should I sell? I counter with What do you love to make? Dont make stuff because its popular or trendy. Make stuff that you want to make, and youll set the trends. Focus on what makes your crafts unique, and go from there.

Ok, so once the product situation is figured out, how do you locate places to sell? There are so many options! Does one stand out from the rest?

I get into this a lot in my book (which if you havent read, you can get here: http://craftysuperstar.com). There are so many more options today than there were five years ago. Selling online is the most easy point of entry for most of us -- all you need is an e-mail account, a PayPal account and a digital camera, really. Some crafters -- myself included -- do better selling in person at indie craft shows. Others make a killing in gift shops and craft stores. It all depends on your products and your audience!

So for someone going the Etsy route, what do you think is the most important thing that needs to be considered when first opening a store there?

You need really excellent photos of your stuff. Doesnt matter what the stuff is, it just has to look really good. Ive got instructions in Crafty Superstar for making a DIY lightbox (which is good for close-ups), but if youre not handy with a camera or dont like how your pictures look, Id suggest getting help. But it doesnt have to be a $100-an-hour professional photographer -- if you live near a college, Ill bet anything there will be some students for hire whod love to get some work...

How do you go about pricing your items for sale?
There are a lot of different formulas you can use, but I like the following one. If you want your business to be sustainable, you need to cover all your costs: not just materials, but also your time, and that includes the time you spend promoting your work and buying materials and working on your website. And then double that to get your retail price. But pricing is an art as well as a science. You might find that $40 isnt a price people will pay for a felted coffee cozy. So you have to consider your audience and the market in general when you set your prices, and then tweak your process to make sure youre still being compensated fairly. I really think people should err on the side of pricing to high -- you can always offer sales or reduce your prices if its necessary.

What is brand identity and how important is it?

With most crafters, the brand is themselves. I think its important to be consistent, so that people who like your work can continue to find you and support you. But craft is such a personal thing that it feels almost sacrilegious to get all marketing-y about it. I really love this manifesto: http://www.blogher.com/manifesto

Obviously most part-time crafters (and even some full time ones!) dont have a ton to spend on advertising; what are your suggestions for making the biggest bang for your buck?

I talk a little about advertising in my book -- from my own experience, advertisings not been worth it. My hand bound books are kinda expensive, and the people who dig them like the feel of the paper and love the craftsmanship. I find it much more cost effective to build relationships with the customers I meet at shows than to spend a lot of money to reach out to wide swaths of folks who might not become customers. I suggest building a Facebook page for your biz, using your blog or website to keep people updated and interested in your new work, and using e-mail newsletters to reach out.

Are there particular types of marketing that work better than others (ie, a certain % off, free shipping, etc)?

I think sometimes free shipping can convince a person whos on the fence to make a purchase, but I generally dont like discounts. When you discount your work, youre discounting yourself. Lets say you spent two hours working on a Gaga-esque rotary telephone hat. Your ideal hourly rate is $20, and you spent $10 on materials. Id price it at $100. If it doesnt move quickly, you might be tempted to discount it to $60. But then youre effectively cutting your hourly rate to $10. Youre worth more than that!

There are certain brands (think Apple and Aveda) that practically never have sales, but somehow theyre still really successful. Thats because theyve conveyed the value of their products to their customers so well. Crafters need to have more conversations like that with customers (and themselves). Yes, my soaps are more expensive than storebought soap, but thats because my soaps are made right here in the city, out of organic and locally sourced materials. I dont offer discounts, but you wont find a better hand soap!

How do you feel about giving away free samples of your products, maybe through something like The Sampler? Do you think it works? Is it effective?

With cosmetics and beauty lines, I think its very important to allow customers to try out your products if youre not selling in person. (Whether thats free samples or cheap testers is up to you.) With the Sampler and similar schemes, Im kind of torn. In a way, I feel like its crafters marketing to crafters, and were already entrenched in the scene! The one time I definitely advocate giving away samples is when youre pitching your work to a media outlet thats likely to be into your work. Editors are much more likely to feature something they see in person than if they just get an email with some JPGs.

Is it really necessary to network with other sellers in order to sell?
This makes me think of the last question a lot -- if its just crafters reaching out to other crafters, youre missing out on a lot of people in the general population who appreciate crafty things but cant make them themselves. When I go to craft shows where Im selling, I love meeting the other sellers (I guess it is networking) and sharing experiences and seeing familiar faces, but Im not doing it to get them to buy my stuff. (Though I do love doing trades!)

Do you think social networking sites are important for small, crafty businesses?

I think having a Facebook page or Twitter account for your business is a really easy, cheap way to keep in touch with your customers and build up your internet presence. Be sure to focus on creating a conversation with people -- dont just sell at them.

Its always really cool to interview a published author! It seems like such a scary, foreign process to many of us. Did you have to have an agent for Crafty Superstar to be published with North Light?

I didnt have an agent, actually. A lot of craft publishers work directly with artists, unlike some other parts of the publishing world, where an agent is absolutely necessary. The things that an agent would really help with are getting your book idea in front of the right people and then negotiating your contract. I had it super easy -- I work in a different part of the company that owns North Light Books, so when I had an idea, I just e-mailed a coworker. And then when it came to negotiating my contract, I got advice from some other coworkers who edit Writers Digest. I was really lucky!

Now youre also a co-organizer of Crafty Supermarket, a craft show in Cincinnati with 50 vendors and over 1,500 shoppers; With your experience, what tips do you have for vendors looking to attract customers to their booth in the middle of a crowded craft show?

The absolute most important thing is to have a kick-ass table display. (And I totally cop to still not being great at this!) Build up on the table, and represent your work well! Earlier this year at Crafty Wonderland in Portland, there was a 10x10-foot booth where the people had eschewed tables altogether and instead had a glass display case and wooden cutouts of trees and animals and put down Astroturf. It was amazing, like a playground!

On top of all your amazing crafty accomplishments, youre also a full time editor. How do you juggle it all?

Sometimes I dont even know! I think the thing thats most important is to know your body and your stress levels and know when to take breaks and recuperate. For example, back in April and May, I put on Crafty Supermarket then two weeks later went to Crafty Wonderland (alongside some other traveling for work). I am still recovering, but thats totally OK by me. I have no problem with cleaning my apartment top-to-bottom, watching West Wing and doing things that arent my usual crafts for the summer.

What would you like lino printed on to your tombstone?

Haha, well, my motto is DIY or die -- but that seems almost too ironic for a tombstone!

Thank you so much, Grace!
« Last Edit: July 07, 2010 02:32:50 PM by jungrrl » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2010 02:34:03 PM »

This is a terrific interview and I learned a lot! I'm certainly going to bookmark it to come back to it in the future.

Thank you!

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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2010 03:03:24 PM »

Great interview! Thanks so much for all the info.  Smiley

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« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2010 06:25:18 PM »

You could always have "DIY or die... oh wait." on your tombstone instead Tongue

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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2011 01:04:42 PM »

Awesome info, thank you!

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« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2011 08:00:03 PM »

My friend bought this book for me months ago, and I love it! It really helped me feel confident enough to start crafting in a much more public way. Thanks!
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2011 08:47:13 AM »

Thanks for sharing all this information!!!!
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« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2011 06:54:19 PM »

Thanks for this! I've been on the fence about this book but I think after reading this interview that I'm going to go ahead and get it. Lots of good sound advice.

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« Reply #8 on: August 01, 2011 05:26:54 PM »

Thanks it was interesting and informative.
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« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2011 11:02:52 AM »

This book is totally on my Amazon wishlist.  Smiley  Great interview!  I didn't know Grace had an Etsy shop.  Very cool. 

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