Tuesday, July 17, 2012

25 things you didn't know about my business...

I thought today I'd post something a little random, but still about my business. Instead of learning facts about the artist (I did this a few months ago), you're going to learn stuff about my business I may not have mentioned before.

1. I have no roommates, bf, or husband, which means I have no financial support other than the government stipend I receive each month (which happens to be not enough).

1.a. This is my full time job. I don't work somewhere else and make monsters on the side. I have been making monsters every single day for 1 year.

2. I have one unofficial 'employee' that helps me on Sundays.

3. My business started in a very random way. I actually wanted to work from home as a self-employed graphic designer or illustrator, but that didn't work out the way I wanted it to.

4. Unlike someone who works for a big company, and has a regular schedule, I don't. I don't have that kind of luxury, and I find most days I work 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week.

5. I often work 2 weeks straight before I get days off. This is probably the hardest part about being self-employed.

6. I keep a sketchbook of all my monster ideas, and more than 3/4 of them never get used.

7. I very rarely do one-offs (or one of a kind) monsters. Why? I am trying to make this business as viable as possible in the shortest period of time, and one does not make money by doing a one of a kind toy every once in a while. If I do do a one-off, it's because I had some vintage fabric or a small scrap was given to me that's no longer available.

8. I tend to work the same way a factory does, doing my monsters the assembly line way. :) I make 5-15 monsters in a row. 5 furry guys I can do in one day, but 15 stretches out over 3 days. I never make one from start to finish, but do all the cutting first, then sewing, then embroidering, then more sewing, stuffing, and closing.

9. Fur is the hardest fabric to work with, and turns out it's the most popular fabric in all my products that I've ever made. Go figure. ;)

10. I love to make the customer feel like they're number 1, so sometimes I surprise them with a hand drawn card with their purchase! Makes for a great surprise.

11. Somedays I feel like one of Santa's elves in his North Pole workshop! But think more slave, less happy. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do. It just gets tiring working 72 hour weeks sometimes. :) In the case of the cartoon below, the only time I worry about my 'quota' is if I have a store expecting an order, or there's a fair coming up, and I'm not done yet!

Credit: http://livenerddierepeat.wordpress.com/tag/funny/

12. It's really hard to be "ON" all the time. When I say that, I mean work all the time. My work day starts when I sit in front of my computer with my coffee. I check my emails, respond to comments on Facebook or Twitter. I do my production in the late morning to late evening, and then go to bed 30 minutes after work. Doing that every day for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week is the toughest part of working for yourself. Success doesn't come from a few hours work.

13. If I'm really disciplined, I can actually get my work done early enough, and enjoy the rest of my night. I managed for 3 days to do that in May. I was so proud of myself. This is a daily goal I try to work on. :)

14. I opened my business bank account in June, and an account with Moneris, so if I need it, I will have a the ability to take visa or debit at my next event! In case you're reading this, and you have a registered business (which is necessary in order to be considered a business), if your business name is NOT under your full name, you MUST open and operate using a business bank account. It is illegal to run your business from your personal checking account. Too many legal issues there.

15. When I'm at a public event like a fair or expo, I stand if there are customers nearby, and I am always smiling. I try to make sure to ask a lot of open questions, sometimes it even works in closing a deal!

16. I started with 3 stores selling my products in October 2011, and in 7 months grew that number to 10 stores. I now sell in 3 provinces in Canada. I've also sold my monsters to direct customers on 4 different continents!

17. With all the new stores, I've quadrupled my income in the past 2 months.

18. I live in a 700 square foot apartment all by myself, and I feel like I need more space for my studio. Furs and stuffing sure to take up a lot of space, especially when I buy everything directly from the supplier, and it comes in large quantities.

My modest fur collection. There are 17 rolls!

19. I love how life gives you these twists, and they are the things you expect the least. Like how I started making monsters as a design mail out to art directors, and then when I started selling them 2 years later, I had no idea it'd turn into a full blown business. But everything about this business came about so easily, that it just made sense to pursue it. Also, I was unemployed at the time, so I had absolutely nothing to lose.

20. I am a super friendly, and approachable entrepreneur, and if you ever need any questions answered, or would like some advice finding stuffing suppliers, please feel free to email me. Unlike some of my competitors, I don't mind telling you who my stuffing supplier is. The sales rep is the sweetest man, and instead of turning me away for someone with cash, he has taken me in as his small time client because he said "maybe some day you're going to be the next big monster maker."  Now that's a supplier I'm going to recommend to others!

21. I got a lot of help when I first started with my business. I visited YES Montreal, I would see a business coach, I still see an artist coach, and I attended every conference and business seminar I could get my paws on. That's how I learned to photograph my work professionally, I met a lot of contacts to widen my artistic circle, and how I found out about craft fairs.

22. To make money, you need to spend money. This is very true!

23. Writing a business plan helped me put some aspects of my business into perspective. In the entrepreneur program with SAJE I've had to fill out a 4 month diagnostic and action plan, and compare my predicted sales/expenses to reality, and I noticed how way off I was in some months, but in other aspects I've achieved some goals! Mostly monetary. A true business (one that's serious) will take the time to write up their business plan. Don't make excuses that you don't have time. I wrote mine in the middle of the Christmas rush, whilst making monsters, and going to class twice a week!

24. My business name came from a bunch of random business word searches back in April, 2011. I saw the word "Little Bird", and then "Curious" and put the two together. It works really well! The bird is my logo, but I'm not sure how many out there associate that bird with me. Although the font is my trademark!
25. I do everything in my business... I make my own fabric labels, I designed my own business cards (and have them printed with Vistaprint.ca which by the way has excellent quality for the price). I designed my own shop on Big Cartel, I do the accounting, the bookkeeping, the marketing, the production, the customer service, the sales rep, everything! It's a very big job!

Well I hope this was a fun and informative blog post for some of you.  :)  If you've learned something, I'd love to hear about what it was!


  1. Melanie, you are a machine! In all seriousness, you are an inspiration. I am working towards the kind of discipline you bring to your working day.
    That is particularly challenging when small people are home from school, and it's so hot but I'm on the improve. Well done on the successes which are coming your way, you deserve them!

  2. Thanks Jen! Yes, you're right, kids would make it harder.

  3. You are awesome! I always love sneak peeks into peoples business and daily work routines, and I think you're doing a great job of it all :) very inspiring!

  4. I love this post! We're the same in many ways! And I love seeing your fur collection!

    1. Thanks Julie! Yeah, the fur collection had to grow super fast. I just hope I don't run out by Christmas. :)