Thursday, March 17, 2011

Weekly BEST: All About Cats

This week, I have the pleasure of featuring All About Cats, a handmade shop from Vermont.  The owner, Linda, inherited her creative side from her mother.  You can read about their relationship here on Linda's blog.  Linda's favorite crafts are sewing and painting, and she puts her talents to good use in creating fun and imaginative toys for cats (and trinkets for their owners).  Her use of bright, bold colors and animal patterns make her items truly "pop."  Here are a few of my favorites from the All About Cats Etsy shop:

Dora The Duckling Organic Catnip Bell Cat Toy
Linda's toys can be made without catnip if you prefer, so feel free to contact her if you would like a special order made.  Find All About Cats at these locations around the web:


Which item from All About Cats would you give to the cat lover in your life?  Be sure to let us know in the comments!

Until next time,

I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Weekly BEST: Sandyvern

This week I'm featuring Sandy's Handmade Soaps & Things (sandyvern on Etsy), a unique shop from Stamford, CT.  Sandy describes herself as a "self-taught crafter" and has developed skills in soap making, knitting, and jewelry making.  While I'm only featuring her soaps here, be sure to check out the link section at the bottom of the post to find some of her knitting and jewelry (the monsters are too cute to miss!).

Sandy has been making soaps for three years through both the cold and "melt and pour" processes.  Her ingredients include oils, butters, lye, goat milk, oatmeal, and honey.  Interestingly, a batch of soap can take up to six weeks to perfect.  Be sure to check out her Etsy profile here for more information about her creative process.

Here are a few of the scrumptious soaps for sale at Sandy's Handmade Soaps & Things:

Toasted Coconut Bar

Soap Popsicles

Brown Sugar Scrub Soap

Blueberry Crunch Soap

Sandy has a variety of other offerings that I did not have room to share with you here, so be sure to check out both Sandy's Handmade Soaps & More and her other shops.  Find Sandyvern at these places around the web:

Shop 2:
Shop 3:

Don't forget to come back here and let us know in the comments which item(s) you like best!

Until next time,

I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.

Friday, March 4, 2011

EB Friday Hotlist: Five Tips for Avoiding or Reducing the Stress of Running an Indie Small Business

When I sat down to write this post yesterday my first thought was: Wow, what a long and stressful week!  I don't know about you, but TGIF has taken on a whole new meaning for me this week!  Ironically, that thought gave me the inspiration for today's Hotlist post:

Stress Reduction Kit
Stress Reduction Kit by
Programwitch, Used Under
Creative Commons License
Whether you are making 50 sales a year or 50 sales a week, you know the meaning of the word "stress."  You probably also know that reducing this stress as much as possible helps you not only have a better quality of life, but also helps you run a better business and create a better buying experience for your customers.  This time of year can be difficult for people, albeit in a different way than in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  There is a lot of anticipation and frenzied preparation in December, only to be followed by a (typically) slower January and potential disappointment over the way things went during the holiday buying season.  Whether you've got the pre-spring blues or you're struggling to keep up with orders, I think it's time for a brief refresher course in stress reduction.  Here are five basic tips to help you deal:

* Engage with others.  Maybe you're on a site like Zibbet, which makes it easy for you to connect with other people through groups and forums.  These people are trying to do the same thing as you - run a profitable online business.  Not only can enjoying the fun conversations about any and everything be a relaxing experience in itself, but engaging with other business owners will allow you to use them as a resource in the future.  When you don't know how to do something (i.e. ship packages to customers in Taiwan, create a coupon code, resize photos), it's great to be able to consult other indie business owners and get constructive feedback instead of stumbling along in the dark all by yourself.  Oh and if you're not on a marketplace website, there is still no excuse for not engaging.  Join a site like Creating the Hive and get involved in the conversation!

* Know your season.  People often feel that January and February are the worst months for their handmade businesses.  The Christmas/holiday rush is over and people are out of cash to spend on non-necessities.  This can make a seller feel like their shop isn't up to par, when really there are other factors in play.  Don't beat yourself up because your shop views dipped one day out of 30 or freak out on the Etsy forums over a short-term dip in your Google Analytics charts.  Also remember, different seasons are different for different sellers.  A business selling thick wool scarves and knitted beanies is not likely to have a rush on orders in July, and a custom swimsuit shop may not have a Christmas rush at all.  Keep things in perspective and know that ups and downs in sales are natural for a business.

* Stay organized.  I've always been an advocate of keeping a schedule but that's not the only way you should try to be organized.  Keeping your accounting up to date, your crafting room in some semblance of order, and your shipping supplies in one place and ready to be used when orders come in can help keep you from feeling so overwhelmed.  Check out the second article in the suggested reading list for more information about this strategy.

YOGA in nature's way
Photo: Yoga In Nature's Way
by Tony George, Used Under
Creative Commons License
* Take a breather.  Seriously, it's okay!  There is no reason to let the stress of running a handmade business overrun your life.  Are orders (or the lack thereof) just driving you nuts?  Go take a walk, eat a snack, do some yoga - then come back recharged and ready to get back on the grind.  It's important to make sure you're taking time for yourself and your friends/family on a regular basis.  You wouldn't work 12 hours a day, 365 days a year at a regular day job, right?  So why do you think you have to just because you're running a handmade business?  You do have to put in a lot of time, but one of the best thing about having a your business online is that you can put it on hiatus whenever you want.  Schedule yourself some time and take a vacation (or "staycation" if you're broke).  Whether you take a break for a day or a year, the market for goods and services will still be there when you are ready to tackle your next project.

* Evaluate yourself.  Whether you're just starting out or you've been in the game for a while, the handmade business world is not for the faint of heart.  Just see the first blog on the suggested reading list for a little perspective.  At many day jobs, if not most, supervisors conduct yearly or quarterly evaluations of their subordinates.  These evaluations can determine whether or not that employee keeps their job.  Since you don't have another boss to do it for you, you should make self-evaluation a regular part of your planning.  Taking stock at regular intervals of what's working for you and what isn't will make decisions like changing product lines or closing up shop all together much easier to determine.

As you can see, these tips for stress reduction aren't new - I've been supporting these ideas for ages and they certainly weren't my own original ideas!  Sometimes though, it can be beneficial to be reminded of the basics! Be sure to check out the links below for great insights on this subject.

Suggested Reading List:

Blunt Business Advice for the Handmade Market: If you're thinking about taking the full-time handmade business plunge (known on Etsy as "Quitting Your Day Job"), this is a must-read article.  MinervaLi doesn't hold back in this blog post and can help you understand exactly what you're getting into.

Improve Your Productivity and Lower Your Stress: In addition to being a fabulous example of how to do a guest post, this article by Celeste gives you tried and true tips for getting more done in less time with minimal fuss.

15 Ways to Reduce Your Stress Level at Work: This article was written to help B&M business owners and employees have a less-stressful work environment.  Let's face it though - many of these suggestions can be clearly and easily applied to your online business as well.

Until next time,

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Weekly Treasures: Amber Sunsets In Your Life

Continuing this week's "sunshine" theme, I'm pleased to share with you a treasury by the talented Freedom32 on Etsy:

My beaded peace sign bookmark made it into this beautiful color-themed treasury:

Peace Sign Beaded Gold Bookmark

Be sure to check out Freedom32's original paintings and other items, as well as the shops featured in her treasury.  Feel free to leave a comment both here and on the treasury to let us know what you think!

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Weekly BEST: You Are My Sunshine

Speaking of sunshine, this week I have the privilege of featuring a shop that always brightens my day!  You Are  My Sunshine is run by Nina, a jewelry artisan and vintage treasure seeker from the "Sunshine State" (aka Florida).  The name of her shop has a touching origin, which you can read about on her profile.  While Nina does have a separate vintage shop, You Are My Sunshine has a sophisticated vintage feel of it's own.  Natural themes and bright, bold colors abound in her many accessories and statement pieces.  Here are a few pieces I'd love to own:

Recycled Vintage Bobby Pin Set Purple Berries

Classic Oval Rescued Vintage Earring Ring 

Necklace, Like A Monet Painting in Blue and Yellow 

Woodland Fabric Flower Bracelet Corsage

Nina has the entrepreneurial spirit in her blood and her shops are evidence of both her skill as an artist and as a business owner.  I encourage you to sit back and enjoy flipping through the many pages of her items, as there's no telling what treasure might grab you!  Find Nina and You Are My Sunshine at these places around the web:

Shop 1:
Shop 2:

So what's your favorite thing from or about You Are My Sunshine?  Let us know in the comments!

Until next time,

I'm a part of an Etsy team called Boosting Etsy Shops Team or BEST. The purpose of the group is to provide promotion for each team member through our existing social networking accounts. Each week I'll be doing a blog feature about a different team member.