Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Business Behind Working With Businesses

Zone Orange - Gallerie & Boutique in Old Montreal

Today's post, The Business Behind Working With Businesses is to help entrepreneurs like yourself get ahead in the game.

Here's a scenario. You work for yourself (maybe part time, or full time), and you sell on Etsy another website, but you're just not getting enough sales. You're pressured by the government (ok, it's not your situation, but it's mine!) to prove your business's viability, and in order to do so, you need to augment sales. The majority of promotion is done on Facebook, Twitter and the odd blog post you do. In my case, my target market age range is women from 25-45, and they all hang out on social media websites (as far as I know). But no matter how much marketing and business promotion you do, the sales just aren't there. What are you going to do?

In case you weren't paying attention, this above scenario (however badly I've disguised it) is my scenario. Except remove part time and replace that with crazy full time hours! I sell on Etsy, I have my own personal website on Big Cartel, and I spend money on banners, buttons on blogs, and ads on Facebook, as well as promotion of my products. I do have the government on my ass about proving my business's viability, and that right now is my number one source of anxiety and stress.

So one day (after I started my sales courses with my entrepreneurship program), I sat down with my sales coach, and we talked about my business. He asked me all sorts of questions, and one hit home. Why didn't I solicit stores from January to April?? Good question! I remember having a bout of depression, when I had to raise my prices 45% to reflect the time I put into making my monsters. That alone made sales drop like flies in hot weather. I suppose the other factor was that no one was buying right after Christmas. I had my ups and downs during the last four months. There were a lot of doubts about my business, and I had to stop comparing myself with those who do crafts for fun, or part time while working full time. I am really not in the same league as them. For an hour we talked, and in the end I had only two choices. Either I work hard and solicit as many stores as I could, or I kept doing the same old thing, and I'd get kicked out of the program in July. All financial assistance to pay my rent and bills would stop, and the real stress would start as I'd be forced to find a job. Being an artistic person who doesn't like to be told what to do, I did not want to end up there, so I hustled my ass, promised my coach I'd call 25 stores in 2 weeks, and I left.

A week went by and I didn't do anything. It was always there in the back of my mind. I was working hard to make monsters for an upcoming 4 day event. Then on Tuesday, May 1st (my only day off in over a week), I realized I was running out of time. I sat down in the morning and wrote down 21 stores, some I'd emailed a month ago, some never got an email. But they were all cold calls. I started with the ones in Ontario because I was nervous, and I thought it'd be easier for me to speak English to start. I got 3/4 of the way through my list before I hit an almost immediate YES! Zone Orange! My first encounter with the handmade. I didn't know 3 years ago this was all handmade, but I do now. Back to the story... I made a total of 15 phone calls. I already had one yes, and when I checked my email, I got another yes! By now I started floating on a cloud!! During the following 48 hours, I got 3 more stores that wanted to work with me! I didn't finish my list because I thought I'd like to enjoy the last of my day off. :-D

Now you're wondering what I said or did to convince them? Well, first and foremost, I made sure my product was awesome (which it is), and that I can reproduce the same creation over an over (because stores like to re-order what sells well). I also had a little spiel worked out. I started with mentioning the email I sent to them and wondering if they'd read it, and if I had written them, then I told them I was a supplier of monsters looking for new stores to place my products. Most of them asked me to email them my website, which I did. Excellent photos on a website works wonders.

So the moral of the story is, if you're in or wanting to be in business for yourself, you have to get your product out there in shops. Think hard about being able to make reproductions of your product, reducing the time to make it so you can make a series (5 minimum) in one day. I know a lot of people like the fact that their creations are one of a kind, but what if the store wants the same doll/plush again? What then?  The reason I mention this is because when I first started, I was making one of a kind monsters. My business coach said to me, "What if someone orders 30, can you make 30 of the same thing??" This is something you really need to remember. Remember in a previous post how I talked about Amanda Spayd? She does a lot of one of a kind dolls, but has done series of 80 of one kind to sell online. She doesn't limit herself to 1 doll, and 1 doll only, and neither to you. Now back to my moral of the story! :) Lastly... Don't be afraid to call stores. A lot of the owners are really nice, and are always looking for new suppliers (especially those who deal with all handmade). Besides, you have nothing to lose! If they say no, you move on to the next store.

I think that's all the wisdom I can impart on you today. Good luck!!


  1. Yay! I am excited to absorb this information! I am always nervous to call/e-mail stores. But once I get my tags in and build up my supply again I will do just that so I can grow from just two stores.

    Great advice! And best of luck, your monsters will do great!

    1. There's absolutely nothing into be afraid of. They all need suppliers, and all you need is a great product, and some confidence. :)

  2. Great job! cold calls are always hard to do, but they do work. Sometimes sticking to a serie is not as much fun. But i like to think that in the end it helps create and evolve.

    1. In my experience, having repeats of the same item makes my job soooooooooo much easier. Honestly!! I do do one of a kind work, but not very often as I find them time consuming,

  3. I'm learning a lot from your experience. Thanks for sharing it! :)