Monthly Archives: March 2011

Branding Your Business at Craft Shows

This is the fourth post in Holly Hall’s Branding series.

Branding Your Business at Craft Shows

Another aspect of visual branding that is often overlooked is how you represent your business and merchandise at craft shows. Sure, you might sell a bit of product if you cover a table with a sheet and lay out some doodads, but how much more would you sell if you created your own little retail world for customers to step into when they enter your 10’ by 10’ space?

How much stronger an impression would you make in your potential customers’ minds? Once again, refer to your branding brainstorm list. What colors, props, and display items reinforce the brand you are trying to build?

If you embroider vintage-style tea towels and matching potholders, a “Grandma’s Kitchen” theme using oilcloth, vintage tablecloths, picnic baskets and old measuring cups as props makes a lot more sense than a black table covering and chrome display pieces.

Think about adding height and interest to your tables, and always make sure your tables look full. Customers respond to the appearance of abundance, and will linger at your booth if you hold their attention with an interesting display.

Creating a memorable display need not be expensive. Keep an eye out at garage sales, thrift stores, and even your grandma’s garage or attic for interesting pieces. Think outside the box.

When I was putting my first craft show booth together on a tight budget, I needed a rack on which to hang my hostess aprons, but purchasing a store fixture was out of the question. I walked around my home looking at everything with a new eye. It struck me that an old 1950’s, flexible two armed lamp I had made the perfect rack for the lightweight net aprons, and was a much more memorable and unique choice than an actual clothing rack would have been. For beautiful booth décor inspiration, search Flickr for “craft show booth.”

YOU Are Your Brand

During those craft shows, don’t overlook your personal appearance. No one is suggesting that a trip to the beauty parlor is in order before every craft fair, but you should try to put your best foot forward each and every time you represent your business in public.

Think about your brand. If you create ornate Victorian-style drop earrings and chokers, how well are you representing your brand if you show up to the craft show in flip flops and a black metal concert T? Save that ensemble for another day.

Try to dress in such a way that if a potential customer had to pick you out of a lineup and match you to your booth he or she would have a good chance at hitting the nail on the head. This goes without saying, but if you create wearable accessories, wear them while manning your booth and meeting your customers!

That chunky scarf or feathered hair accessory might be a bit intimidating for a shopper, but if she sees you pulling it off effortlessly, she’ll be more inclined to imagine herself wearing it. A perfect example of someone who lives her brand, at craft shows and every day, is the beautiful, talented Samantha Lamb.

During this Internet age, any chance that you have to make a personal impression on your customers is valuable. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been put off as a shopper when I’ve stepped into a craft fair booth or brick and mortar shop and been
utterly ignored.

This is one department where indie craftspeople could take a lesson from big retail operations. No matter how bored or tired you are, regardless of whether the show is turning out to be profitable or a flop, every single customer that steps into your space deserves to be greeted, welcomed, and treated with respect.

There are times when you may be busy helping other customers, but a quick smile or nod of acknowledgement can go a long way toward making a potential customer feel welcome. Be friendly. Offer to answer any questions. Compliment your customer on a cute hairstyle or piece of jewelry.

This is not to say that you should attack your customers, hovering over them as they browse, but you’d be surprised how a little friendliness can pave the way for a sale or a chance to give out your card.

Tomorrow, we will finish this series on branding by addressing the subject of Branding Your Customer’s Experience.

Building Your Brand: Visual Branding

This is the third post in the Building Your Brand series by Deluxe artist Holly Hall.

Visual Branding

Your online presence is, perhaps, the number one way your customers and potential customers will come to know you and your business, so I can’t stress enough how important it is to carry your branding through to each and every site you use. One very easy way to maintain a consistent look for your brand is to pick a color (or two) that you will incorporate into all of your visual materials.

Think about what colors best represent the feel of your products or the image you hope to project. Here’s where your list might be helpful. Read over it again. Do any of the words evoke a certain color in your mind? How about a feeling that you might be able to translate into a color?

For example, maybe you make lovely handmade soaps scented with essential oils and herbs. Your products are designed to transport your customers to a state of relaxation and peace. Perhaps a dreamy sky blue would represent your business best.

If you are in the business of creating funky abstract yard art, maybe a bold, energetic color like bright orange is just what you’re looking for. Once you’ve decided on a color (or two), stick to it! Use it everywhere—your blog background, your Etsy shop banner, your craft fair booth décor, your packaging and business cards.

When I started my business and blog, Sweetheartville, the feminine, 1950’s beauty and glamour feel I was aiming for naturally suggested the color pink. Although my brand and style have evolved over the last four years, I have always incorporated liberal doses of pink in everything I’ve done, from blog and Etsy banners to business cards to my craft show booth.

Now, let’s talk logos. A logo is simply an image that you will use to represent your business, both online and in print materials. You need not have the budget to hire a graphic designer to come up with an effective logo, though if you do want some help
from a pro, I know a great one.

Choose an image that represents your style. You can be as literal as you like, using an image of a yellow rose to represent your business named Yellow Rose Designs, for example, or you can go with something more abstract.

A monogram of your business’ initials using a fancy font is one simple way to go. And speaking of fonts, try to pick one or two favorite fonts that you use everywhere. When I began my business, I used a very specific, very 1950’s-looking font on every single piece of printed material and in every blog and Etsy shop banner I designed. My materials have since evolved to better represent my changing style, but I still try to be consistent, using only two or three fonts everywhere that my business is represented.

Just like that signature color that we talked about, your logo needs to be anywhere and everywhere your business makes an impression. Use it as the avatar on every single
website and social network you belong to, incorporate it into your Etsy shop banner, and of course you’ll want to put it on your business cards and product packaging.

Do you attach price or care instruction tags to your items? Do you offer any extra little goodies at shows or when you package your orders to ship, such as buttons or magnets? Don’t overlook any opportunity to use your signature color and/or logo! The tiniest details can add up to one cohesive statement about your brand that your customers will notice and remember, even if only subconsciously.

Tomorrow, we’ll continue this series by addressing the face-to-face culmination of all of your efforts – Branding Your Business at Craft Shows.

Holly Hall

Building Your Brand: Choosing a Name

This is the second post in the Building Your Brand series by Holly Hall of Sweetheartville.

Choosing a Name

If you haven’t already chosen a name for your business, now is the time to think very carefully about what you want to say to the world about your products.

Avoid names that are too specific. You must give yourself room to evolve. As creative people, we tend to follow our passions and whims, and what floats your boat today might be the last thing you’ll want to focus on two, three, or ten years from now.

So, if you make toddler tutus and hair bows, naming your business Tiffany’s Toddler Tutus might leave you feeling a bit pigeonholed when trends change and you’ve moved on to other artistic passions.

A good example of a business name that is totally unique and fresh but leaves room for growth is Fried Okra by Adrian Mix. She’s known for her handmade sock monkeys, pieced and embroidered zipper pouches, and adorable sweater mice, but her not-too-specific business name would easily allow her to add hand-sewn bags or other types of products to her offerings.

Once you’ve decided on a name you like, you’ll have to check to see that someone else hasn’t already claimed it. Google is your friend here, as is the seller name search feature on Etsy and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website where you can search to see whether a name has been trademarked.

If your name has already been taken, or a business exists with a very similar name, go back to the drawing board! You want to stand out from the crowd.

Once you’ve found the perfect name, you’ll want to register it as a domain name (even if you’re not prepared to do anything with it right away), and use your new name when you sign up at every site that you will use for your business such as Etsy, Blogger or Typepad, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc…

If you’ve already named and established your handmade business, it’s time to move onto the next step: visual branding. We’ll discuss that in tomorrow’s post.

Holly Hall

Building Your Brand

Building Your Brand is a fresh series of guest posts from our friend and fellow crafter Holly Hall of Sweetheartville. Holly has successfully created a strong identity for her line of products and now she has graciously offered to share her tips with Deluxe readers. Thank you, Holly!

Building Your Brand

Do you own a handmade business?
What do your customers think of when they think of you?
What words might they use to describe the look or feel of your products?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you have some work to do! Your brand is a combination of images, feelings, words and emotions evoked in the minds of your customers and potential customers every time they come in contact with you, your business, and your handmade products.

Building a strong brand will increase your sales, cement your customers’ loyalty to you, and give you a framework that will aid you in making many business decisions.

Branding Basics

If you are just starting your business, or are looking to revamp an existing one, a good way to begin building your brand is to sit down for an old-fashioned brainstorming session. Start with a list of words that characterize your business. Think of adjectives that you would like your ideal customer to use if he or she were to describe your products to a friend.

What? You don’t have an ideal customer? You simply must get one! You have to know your target market before you can build your brand. You can’t just put your products out into the world and hope for the best. Decide who is most likely to buy your goods, and always keep them in mind when building your brand.

Maybe you create chunky, funky, colorful necklaces and hair accessories. It’s unlikely that middle aged men are going to be your customer base. While a man might stumble upon one of your necklaces and purchase it as the perfect gift for his wife or daughter, the majority of your customers will probably be fashion forward young women. Maybe your target customer looks very much like yourself and your circle of friends. That makes your branding task that much easier, because you know exactly the sort of thing that appeals to you and your
crowd.

Now, back to that list of words–don’t think too much or aim for perfection as you brainstorm. Just list any and all of the words that appeal to you, and don’t stop at adjectives. List nouns, emotions, feelings, even colors that evoke the feel you want your business to have.

After you have emptied your brain of all those evocative words, take a good look at your list. You will probably begin to see an overall pattern emerging. Strike anything that doesn’t seem to mesh with the overall feel of the list.

When I began selling my handmade goods I used this exercise to obtain a clearer picture of the image I hoped to project. At that time, I made mostly fancy floral and feather hair accessories, jeweled vintage handbags, and sequined, vintage-style hostess aprons, in addition to the Beauty Buttons I still sell.

My list included words like “glamour”, “rhinestones”, “beauty parlor”, “vintage”, “1950s” and “Burlesque”. This gave me a jumping off point when designing my promotional materials and the booth for my first craft show (the very first Deluxe Indie Craft Bazaar!). Your list will be your compass for all of the branding decisions you make, so keep it handy.

Now, please spend some time brainstorming and creating your list. Tomorrow, we’ll continue this Branding lesson on the topic of Choosing a Name.

Holly Hall

March Giveaway: Oklahoma Pride!

If you don’t already have this iconic Bombs Away t-shirt with the Oklahoma shield on it, head on over to our Facebook page and comment on the post. We want to know your favorite thing about Oklahoma. Winner will be selected Wednesday, March 23. If you don’t use Facebook, you can comment here.

***Update! Congratulations to our winner, Amanda Ingram of Midwest City. Stay tuned for next month’s giveaway.***

JD’s DIY Dispatch: Disaster Preparedness

Mrs. Lauretta Parman, Sara's grandmother
Personal note:

Last summer, as my grandmother’s health was deteriorating due to cancer, the last coherent conversation we shared was about self-sufficiency.

She thought it was a shame that people don’t seem to know how to do anything themselves anymore. Imagine how proud I was to tell her about my friends and fellow crafters who are enthusiastically improving their skills and learning how to take care of themselves and their families. My own small-scale efforts aside, there are some very dedicated homesteaders in my circle of friends.

After she passed away, this topic remains important to me for many reasons, but mostly because I want to make her  proud. After all, she is the woman who taught me to sew, to read and write.

We will be adding more posts in the future on the topic of self-sufficiency, because it goes hand-in-hand with the Do It Yourself lifestyle.

-Sara Cowan

In this day and age, a major natural or man-made disaster just doesn’t seem that farfetched. It only makes sense to be prepared for one. I’m not talking about building an underground bunker in your back yard. I’m talking about gathering some supplies and knowledge, just in case.

There are several places you can go online to find information on preparing for a disaster. I recommend the FEMA web site

Your kit can range in size, from enough water for 3 days (1 gallon of water for each person times 3) and a change of clothes, to food, water, clothes, medication, toiletries, glasses, flash lights, water purification, etc… The list goes on.

Basically your kit can be as prepared as you want. Depending on the situation, you may or may not care about having something to work on, craft-wise. But in the event that your whole family is together and you have found shelter after the event and are just waiting it out, you may want to have a coloring book and crayons for the kids and something to read or knit (or whatever you like) for yourself.

Once you feel that you have prepared yourself to your comfort level, you can take a free class. I took a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) class this month.

The purpose of this class is twofold. First, once you have completed the training, a total of 20 hours, you will be prepared to volunteer in the event of a disaster. Everything is voluntary- you will never be told that you must help.

The second and, in my opinion, genius part is that you and your household will be prepared. You will come out of this class with the knowledge to be one less victim in the event of a disaster. You (YES, YOU!) will learn the right way to shut off all of the power to your home, how to shut off the gas, and water too! You will learn all about using a fire extinguisher to maximize its potential.

Other training provided includes learning how to triage (sort) victims based on the level of care they need. This is easy! There are only 3 levels and you are given an easy way to do (and remember) it. You will also some learn light search and rescue, some first aid and more.

Remember, in the event of a disaster, one of the things highly stressed in the CERT class is NEVER self-deploy. If they are in need of volunteers with your skill level, the authorities will contact you.

Oklahoma has some great preparedness information and planning ideas on their site too. I also recommend going over the Family Communications Plan with your family, children included, and making sure that you have a solid plan and your contacts in place!

For more information on CERT in Oklahoma City, contact Jon Lowry jon.lowry(at)att.com. CERT classes are offered every month but may not be available after August so get it now!

If you have any questions about my personal experience, you can email me JD(at)JDStar.net and I will be happy to share!

-JD McCoy

Deluxe in Austin – for a bit

We visited South By Southwest in Austin this week to help out with The Buffalo Lounge, our great state’s showcase of talent in the areas of interactive media, film and music. So many great events happening in one spot – be assured that our state is really getting some glory right now!

SXSW2011 175

We had some spare time to visit the Etsy venue, just a couple doors down from The Buffalo Lounge. It was cool to craft with the people who make so many connections possible. Did you know that JD and Sara met through the Oklahoma Etsy street team? Aww…memories!

My First Deluxe: McKenzie Ellis

The following post is from McKenzie Ellis of elements by mae.

Waking up the day of the Deluxe Indie Craft Show was like Christmas. The only difference was I was selling gifts, not receiving them. I arrived three hours early with my parents, aunt, and uncle who (thankfully) helped me throughout the day. The theme for my booth was apothecary-natural-science-fortune-telling-voodoo, all wrapped into one 10 by 10 foot space I could call my own.

I sold necklaces made with vintage charms and natural crystals; button rings, coin rings; zipper bracelets; even VHS tape covers made into notepads. Sharing my creations was more nerve-wracking than performing in front of a crowd. And although I did it for pleasure rather than business, it was satisfying having total strangers compliment my crafts. Needless to say, I was anxious, and my lack of social skills made interacting with so many people a challenge in itself. At the end of the day, I made more money than I had expected. I put it into a savings account for me, to use for my car.

After all, I am only fifteen.

A couple fellow artists stopped by my booth to compliment me. I felt starstruck seeing some talented, local artists who sell crafts around the city.

On my way home, I was exhausted. I held my money, and realized this is a full-time job for most of the artists featured in Deluxe. Every dollar they make is from something they have sold. It’s impressive how much dedication and passion goes into items at a craft show.

It would not be possible without all the planning, like clockwork, produced by JD McCoy and Sara Cowan. I am thankful to them for accepting me into 2010’s Deluxe show. It opened my mind to ideas for my future, and the experience was unforgettable.

See McKenzie describe her work in this video.