Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Ventures

Happy 2015 to everyone!  James and I had a wonderful holiday season with Thanksgiving in Tennessee, Christmas at our home with my parents visiting, and back to Tennessee for the New Year!  We are fortunate that we are "in the middle" of the map and can spend time with both of our families.  As we get ready to go off on our own adventure next week (I'll post photos of Hawaii when we get back), I wanted to take a few minutes to catch the blog up.

Although I'm still on Etsy, sales have not been very steady and frankly, the fees are starting to chip away at any profit I may have made.  When I close up the shop next week for vacation, I may leave it closed for awhile to rethink the types of items I'm selling and the pricing.  Getting noticed on Etsy is almost impossible, there are thousands and thousands of people out there who do the same thing I do.  There are a few who make hundreds of sales a week selling pottery beads and pendants.  I'm lucky if I make one a week.  I admit I've let the store flounder, I haven't listed anything new in a long time but I still have well over 100 items in my shop.  Some items, that I've renewed repeatedly (and paid the fee every time) I've simply taken out of the shop permanently.  Most of those items, I will use now to make my own jewelry.

I've decided to kick off 2015 with a tour around the local craft show markets.  We've got a bunch of them in the area, starting with the monthly market in downtown Newnan.  This market is the first Saturday of every month, from April through December.  It's a small one, centered around the courthouse on the square, set up on the sidewalk.  We've been there a few times, it seems well attended- not sure how many folks are actually "buying" but even on a recent super cold and blustery day, people were out there.  It also seems to me that the vendors who set up this year were the same vendors from the previous year.  Some had pottery, some had jewelry, some had woodworking projects.  (Photos below from Newnan Market Days website.)  The Newnan circuit will be great for me to start off with- it's just for a few hours on Saturdays.  There are several weekend-long festivals that I eventually want to work my way up to, but for right now, one brief afternoon is perfect for testing the waters.  And downtown is only about ten minutes from our house, so even better!

There are plenty of larger shows in the area, and I've been making a list of them- dates, fees, requirements.  The really big shows- the ones that are juried and cost a fortune- I'm going to have to bypass.  These are the ones in the Atlanta area, that are marketed nationally.  I just don't have the inventory or prices to justify paying $500 for a booth!  I will be selling small items for $5 and $10!  As far as what I will be selling: jewelry made with my own pottery beads and pendants, my recycled floor tile jewelry, photo holders from old wood with pottery accents, signs with pottery, and my little pottery dishes.  

I'm also currently working on recycled red clay pots- cleaning them up and glazing designs on them.  The few that I listed on Etsy sold out and I had lots of requests to make more.  And I'm working on recycled tiles, glazing colorful designs on those as well.  I made a few for Etsy, the large clay patio tiles, and sold all of them.  I am now working on the small white bathroom tiles, glazing those to use as coasters.  So I think I will have a nice mix in my products, with "pottery" as the main theme although I don't make the typical bowls and mugs that everyone else does.  I also recently started purchasing the tools to start embossing metal, and have had fun punching letters onto old washers.  I may incorporate that into my jewelry as well.  We even started cutting glass bottles, for James to make lighting with the tops while I have taken the bottoms to turn into tea light candle holders.  If those work out, I may sell those as well.  Even at 50 cents each, what is the alternative- sending the bottles to the recycling center?

So I have now purchased just about everything I will need to get a booth going.  My parents bought the 10 x 10 white canopy for me for Christmas, which I appreciate.  I think the canopy makes a booth look more professional.  I may just have enough items to set up one table in the beginning, but the canopy completes the illusion that I am a true "business"- ha ha!  In fact one of the larger shows I want to do later on, requires a canopy.  Once I have all the items (some are still on their way), James and I will get everything together and set it up in the driveway to see how it all looks.  I haven't decided on a ground cover or not, although I think a nice 10 x 10 outdoor rug would be pretty.  As well as a tripping hazard, so perhaps that isn't a good idea.  Hhmmm.

From Vistaprint I ordered a large custom banner for the booth (first photo).  It will hang at the front of the canopy.  It hasn't arrived yet, but I'm anxious to see it and it should hopefully get here soon.  I also ordered business cards from Vistaprint (second photo) and they came last week.  Gorgeous colors and very high quality paper, I am super happy with them and will probably restock with the same when I run out.  I've been ordering business cards to go with my Etsy shipments from another company, but with Vistaprint allowing me to customize the card and matching banner with Spider's photo and giving me plenty of space to write out a message, they beat the competition by a mile.  I am hooked on their products!  Of course leaving my Etsy shop address on the business card, I will have to eventually kick that back into high gear as well.

Most of the booths are 10 x 10 spaces, so every time Target put their 6-foot long banquet tables on sale this past year, I bought one.  I now have three of them, so I'm ready to outfit my booth.  I ordered table covers online from a wedding retailer, and they should arrive in the mail soon (second photo).  They are just white, basic as it gets, but they are the exact size to cover the table and all the legs.  In the third photo is a beautiful heavy cotton tablecloth.  I purchased three of them at Target just yesterday.  I love the pattern, it has flowers for spring and summer, but the colors are also great for autumn.  These will go on top of the ugly white table covers, and I plan to keep all my displays a neutral color.  As I said, at the first show in April I may only have enough product to cover one table, but I hope to look at least semi-professional.  I would say so far, just to set up the booth, I've spent about $400.  But, that's pretty much all the big items I will need.  Unless I set up in a hurricane and the entire booth gets destroyed, I think the initial investment of canopy, tables, and everything else should last for a long time.


I'm gathering up other supplies as well, like buying paper bags from our local Uline (no recycled grocery store plastic for my booth!) and tissue paper to wrap items.  I've bought some price tags off eBay- the small kind with string used for jewelry and of course the good old-fashioned round stickers.  For bigger tags, I'm making my own using scrapbook paper and punches.  I also found a very cool punch (below) for turning card stock into instant earring holders.  Can't wait to start using that!  I even got customized labels online to carry my shop name and a "thank you" message that I will put on every bag.  Pretty soon I will have to start thinking about signs for my table.  I don't want to just flop a glazed tile out there, I want to tell the story of how it is recycled, how it came from our local Habitat store, and how I transformed it into something new.

 As soon as we get back from our Hawaii cruise, I have a list of ideas for displays that I will need help from James to make.  He has plenty of power tools in the garage to pretty much cut any kind of wood into any type of display.  I've been getting a lot of inspiration from Pinterest (who hasn't!!) so I've been saving photos on a board.  I'm not very handy with a saw, but I can paint and glue and nail all day long.  My problem is I can "see" a finished product in my mind- I just don't know how to figure out the logistics of actually making it.  That's where a helpful husband comes into play.  And James is super supportive, and now that football is over and baseball/NASCAR hasn't started yet, the next few weekends will be the perfect time for us to be in the garage toiling away.  Oh yeah, with plenty of heaters plugged up!

I will post upcoming shows with times and dates, here and on my Facebook page, so stay tuned.  We've got a few months before the first show, but by spring I will need to hit the ground with both feet firmly planted if I'm going to do this- and do it successfully!