Thursday, December 22, 2011
5 Things with Manzanita
First, I want to thank the lovely and talented Savannah for inviting me to participate in this amazing project! Thank you so much, Savannah! MaieDae has been a huge inspiration to me and my own blog and business for a long time now.
Hi MaieDae readers! I am Rebecca Caridad, the lady behind manzanita. I live in Boulder, CO, with my brand new husband and our two little poodles. I am so excited to be here today to share a little bit of what I have learned as a handmade business owner. I am still relatively new to the field and I know I have much more to learn. I hope, however, the few things that I have found to be most important and beneficial to me will help you if you are interested in becoming a part of the handmade community or have just joined it. I feel so lucky to be a part of it myself!
Since I have started Manzanita, my life has completely changed with the new relationships and opportunities that have come my way. I am constantly inspired and constantly gaining more confidence in myself as an artist, business owner, and woman. Today, I am going to share some things that have become crucial to making Manzanita what I want it to be. I am going to focus on owning a handmade business and primarily an online one. I hope my little tips will inspire you and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. :)
Blogging and social media like Twitter and Facebook have totally redefined what it means to me to be the owner of a handmade brand. To see other artists and crafters out there doing their thing is probably what keeps me going at this point. I feel like I am a part of a team and it is such a supportive and inspiring team to be on.
Most of my dearest Blogger and Etsy friends were made by sending them a quick hello or receiving one from them. I have some ladies who I email with almost daily and they have become such a necessity in this venture!
2. Presentation. ---> I spent a long time trying to figure out how to get to a happy place in this area. I am still working some kinks out here. I think this part of selling handmade, especially online, is something that will always change and evolve with time and taste. I also think it should be on the top of your priority list! You work hard handmaking your goods. You want to present them so people can see that! Not everyone has the same ability to see the potential as you do, so you want to show them every angle, all ways to wear or use the item, and most of all, you want it to be well lit and in focus.
You can totally achieve some great photos with point and shoot cameras but my advice is to save up for a really affordable SLR. You can find some really great deals and when I got mine, it was like night and day on both my blog and shop.
When it comes to packaging, go the extra mile and also be practical. This was what my packaging looked like when I started really putting some energy into it. I have never gotten such positive feedback from customers until I started doing it this way. Once business started getting more regular, I realized that hand stitching every envelope was not very practical. Now, I use cardboard boxes that are really easy to put together and really easy to prettify with stickers, stamps, and personal thank you messages. I still take my time with thank you cards and I write in them with pencil so people can re-use them. Have fun with packaging because it will really pay off!
3. Be honest with your customers and let them get to know you. ---> If you are selling handmade, odds are, your customers are looking for specifically handmade goods. Most people who are familiar with handmade goods know that, unless it is a ready to ship item, it will take a minute to get their purchase.
This took me a long time to believe. When I first started my shop, I was trying to act like a big company, but the reality was, that I only have two hands and they can only move so fast. Up until a couple of months ago, I had a two week turnaround time. If I got more than 2 orders in a day, it became very stressful to get my stuff done in the allotted time. I can’t afford to support myself off only Manzanita just yet, so with my full time job and personal life, I found myself losing the enjoyment that typically came with crocheting my designs for people.
With a lot of hesitance, I decided that I would push the wait time to 4 weeks and I don’t think I have seen any drop in sales because of it. Now, when I make a sale, I don’t quickly go to stressing about how I am going to fit it into my schedule. Now I get to feel flattered and happy that someone decided my stuff was worth spending their hard earned money on, yay!
Let your customers get to know you! One way I have worked with this is modeling all my own goods. I had a very strong aversion to this at first, but I read somewhere that it was really good to put a face to a name, especially when selling online. I have never been very comfortable in front of the camera but since I have made this change, it has proven to be a really fun feature of Manzanita. I really enjoy photo shoots now and it has even inspired me to start doing outfit posts. I like that my customers are seeing the person who is actually going to make, package, and mail out their purchase; it gives the whole experience a very personal touch!
I also try to be as personable as possible in my item descriptions. Using friendly language like a simple hello message. Example: “Hello! I am Rebecca and I am so excited that you are interested in The Elsie!” Online shopping can be pretty technical, so I try to make it feel like we are in a little shop somewhere downtown whenever I can.
4. Don’t undercharge. ---> This was a very hard area for me at the beginning as well. When I first opened Manzanita, I wanted to give everything away for free! I have slowly gained more confidence in my skill and in the fact that my time is worth more than I was willing to admit.
Time is very important to consider. How valuable is your time? Do you have a lot to spare or a little? Like I said earlier, I have a full time job, so I consider my time very valuable at this point. I could spend time with my new husband and family, or I could work on Manzanita.
Since I have raised my prices to what they are now, I feel like I am being fairly compensated for my work. I spend a lot of time on each item because I want my customers to really love their purchase and I don’t ever want to feel rushed in doing this. Be honest with your customers and be honest with yourself!
5. Don’t be afraid to give things away. ---> I know this may sound like a contradiction to my previous statement, but it’s not. The more people that wear or use your goods the more people will come into contact with it. Blogging is a great resource for this. Contact your favorite bloggers and ask if they would be interested in sporting your goods in a post. I have made some great connections with lovely ladies such as Veronika of Tick Tock Vintage, Katie of Skunboy Creatures, Erin and Stefanie of Oh So lovely by sending them Manzanita gifts. Again, it’s all about networking!
Donate to giveaways! This is a great way to get your name out there. Be generous with coupons. Sometimes, I will send coupons to people who heart my things on Etsy. Occasionally, potential customers need an extra thoughtful gesture to actually follow through with a purchase. Also, this is a great way to send a personal hello to your community! I have made great friends by doing this.
Find Rebecca Here: Blog | Shop | Twitter | Facebook | Bloglovin | Pinterest
Thank you, Rebecca!! This was fantastic advice. :) I especially like your thoughts about giving your product away to be marketed on other blogs. When people see others loving and wearing your product, it makes you want to buy!