So, in my lack of ability to keep up with my blog, Twitter, and Facebook, I added Pinterest to the mix. (BTW, add me if you dare –

So, Pinterest is like an online bulletin board/mood board/inspiration board.  It’s not so much a social media site, which I like.  I have a tendency to feel a lot of guilt when I’m not as interactive as I want, especially when that interaction has a lot to do with my budding business.

Also, if you could see my list of bookmarks, the layers of nested file folders – the sheer volume!  Pinterest will allow me to pare down those lists.  And although I’m checking out other people’s pins and stuff (I love learning more about people), Pinterest is really just for me.  So, if I happen to leave it by the wayside for a bit, I won’t feel terrible.

I don’t see Pinterest as a vehicle to drive sales for Shawnte Designs, although it would be a nice side effect.  People are talking about it like it’s the next best thing, and they say that 90% of the users are women, my demographic.  I did add a board titled “Things I’ve Made”, but it’s low on the page and I’m not so sure I should reposition it so it’s more prominent.  So, is there a way I can use Pinterest to my business advantage?  And, more importantly, do I want to use it that way?

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Figuring out shipping on Etsy

Recently, a friend on Twitter asked how those of us on Etsy established our shipping prices.  To be truthful, I don’t think there is any one easy way to go about it, but after a lot of research (Etsy has a  LOT of resources online, even if they are mostly US-centered) I think I figured out a system.  In the hopes that it might help someone else in setting up their shop, or even to enlighten customers in the process and possibly the reasoning behind setting up shipping prices, I’d like to share what I did.

First of all, I looked at what my products were.  I realized that I had three general sizes/weights of products that everything generally fell into.  I determined them to be: light (for example some necklaces and most earrings), medium (most necklaces and bracelets), and heavy (cluster bracelets, some necklaces, and all fascinators).  Then, I spent a ton of time playing around on the Canada Post website in the “find a rate” section.  Etsy allows you to set up “shipping profiles” to speed up the listing process once you get your base rates established.

But, it’s not just as easy as determining weight.  For example, fascinators barely weigh anything, but they are larger in size, so they had to go in the “heavy” category.  I offer gift wrapping, so that means if a customer requests it, I will box their purchase, and that ends up making the package a bit bigger.  See, if you can make your envelope less than 2cm thick, you can get a cheaper rate with Canada Post because it qualifies as a “large letter” rather than “small package”.  Most of my boxes end up making the envelope bigger than 2cm.

Within Canada, postage rates can actually change depending on where you send it to, so I looked at the rates for the furthest away.  Same with US and International, and I did that so that I was sure not to short change myself.  Yes, generally the postage stamp on your purchase is less than the postage price listed with the item, but you also have to take into account materials and time.  It takes me about 15 minutes to pack up an order.  I need envelopes, boxes, bubble wrap, ribbon, tissue paper, thank you notes, printing the invoice, cute labels, business cards….etc.  Yeah, I could just shove it into an envelope and let it go, but how much fun would it be to open a package like that?  I like to think that my presentation is part of my brand, and it’s appreciated by my customers.  Some people choose to hide that extra shipping cost beyond the postage in the item price, and some in the shipping price, it’s really your call.

Most recently, I added special shipping options to my shop.  I now offer adding tracking and insurance to an order (the only way to do that is by making it registered mail), and expedited shipping.  I doubt most people will actually use them, but by establishing a listing, I’m avoiding a potentially lengthy conversation with a customer that is looking for that service.  This might also save me some headaches during the holidays.

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What does your craft space look like?

Two people (and three cats!) living together in a one-bedroom apartment leaves little room for your own personal oasis, let alone work space.  We are hoping to move in the spring to a two-bedroom apartment, turning the second bedroom into a craft space for me, and work space for G to tinker with his electronics.  I’ve spent much time thinking about layout and essential elements in an ideal craft space.  I’ve got lots of doodles and lists from the past few years of what additional space can do for me.

Right now, this is what my “craft space” looks like: Well, that is what it looks like all nice and tidy.  Plus, I have a bin of extra fabric under the bed and a ton of relevant books in the bedroom that I would love to have closer at hand.  I would also love to have more room to better organize the stuff I do have around.  Also, I don’t think I’ve ever done any actual crafting at the table itself, save for sewing.

This is more like what the craft space usually looks like.  Having the table next to the door means that whatever we’ve brought in with us usually gets dumped on the table and more often than not it stays on the table for a while.  And when the table isn’t used as a dumping area, I often make little piles of projects that I want to complete.

And so, the craft area/table is not really a space to get any work done, especially fascinators and jewelry.  I end up hauling a lot of supplies to the dining room table to work.  It’s got much better light than the craft table, too.

Since I need to be crafting as often as possible, I’m sad to say that the dining room table looks like this 95% of the time.  I’m pretty sure it works on G’s nerves a lot.  Oh, and this table rarely looks this tidy as well.

I absolutely adore seeing pictures and blog posts about other people’s crafting and work spaces.  I bookmark them for future inspiration, and cannot wait until the day I can create a coherent space that works well for me.  For now, my main challenge (especially with trying to revamp the Etsy shop) is keeping things organized and tidy so that I don’t get overwhelmed and feeling chaotic.

I’d love it if you’d link in the comments to your craft spaces, or your dream craft spaces online!  Inspiration ahoy!

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The human connection: going the extra mile

I try to read all the info out there that gives any advice on how to build and create a following.  They say that it is far easier to keep a customer than to obtain a new one.  I know that there are a ton of areas that I need to work on in my business, but I’d like to think that I do all that I can to show my customers that they mean a lot to me.  I know that the pool of competitors in jewelry is big, and I am incredibly flattered whenever anyone chooses to buy from me.

For Etsy purchases, I put the product in a cute box with a Shawnte Designs sticker on it (if size allows – some boxes are too big and then postage goes WAY up) or wrap it in pretty tissue paper and use a cute ribbon around it.  Then it gets wrapped in bubble wrap or in a bubble envelope.  It it’s silver or gold-plated, I include a 3M anti-tarnish tab along with a description of how the anti-tarnish tabs work.  I then put in a copy of the invoice, and a business card into the envelope.  Finally, I always include a hand-written thank-you note.  My envelopes have a cute little return address label on them, with a hand-written address to the recipient on cute extra scrapbook paper.

It really doesn’t take a lot longer to do these extra things (I have all my shipping supplies in one area and prepare envelopes as much as I can in advance).  I’ve ordered enough supplies and gifts from Etsy for myself that I’m always aware of how others are presenting their products and, really, themselves.  In the same respects, leaving quality feedback on Etsy shows that you care enough to take the time to do so.  I ordered something from a vendor on Etsy (I’d link to them, but then it’d spoil a Christmas gift for G), who hand-wrote on the invoice next to Shawnte Designs, “is awesome!”.  It made me laugh and made my day.

At craft fairs, it’s a bit more busy, so the level of detail isn’t quite the same.  I have brown lunch bags with Shawnte Designs stickers on them that I put the product in.  I always make sure that a business card goes in there, too.  I ask if they’d like a gift box, and if not, I wrap it quickly in tissue paper.  I have a receipt book on hand for those who want one, but I don’t offer.  The lack of time to give the presentation as much flair is made up in how you present yourself, your table, and your interaction with the customer.

What sorts of things “above and beyond” have others done for you that have stood out?

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2011 end of year wrap-up

The holiday 2011 craft show circuit, in my humble opinion, was a complete success.  Some shows were better than others, but in discussion with more seasoned veterans, this year was a bit of a bust for most.  I never really came away with a lot of money, but I always made my table fee back.  Since I hadn’t had to turn down any other gigs to attend a show, it was always worth my time.  The shows were fun, I met a ton of great other artisans, but boy, it was tiring.  Having borrowed a larger suitcase in which to take my supplies via transit was a good call – and I ended up getting a big suitcase for Xmas, so I’m all set for next year.

The best thing I think I did this year was to be on top of tracking the craft shows.  As I called, inquired about, and applied to each show, I created a spreadsheet of info so that I could really get on top of the good shows next year – there were quite a few deadlines that I just missed this year.  I also kept a spreadsheet of what I sold at each show so that maybe the info can help me target what kinds of product to bring to shows next year.  There is a big difference over what sells on Etsy versus craft shows.  I think it has a lot to do with display – some products are easier to showcase in person than online, and vice versa.  It’s very difficult to showcase a tiny pair of c-wrench earrings on a 2×8 foot table.

I feel like the Etsy process got a lot easier for me this year.  I established a big binder of info and tips, and although I still have yet to use a lot of the info to make over my shop, I’m glad that I was able to collect the info and organize it to be added to in the future.  I can’t tell you how awesome Etsy is for having so many tips and tools for success available to its users.  I certainly got very efficient at filling orders, and I’m pretty happy with the process and the time I put into presentation, especially when I see how things that I’ve ordered come to me.

I’m very happy with how the last year has gone.  Sure there is a TON of stuff that I could have done better (contributing more to this website is one of them), but I did see a “return on investment” with what I did spend time on, and that’s a great motivator to do more in the new year.  I’ll be posting another entry later on about my goals and resolutions for 2012.  I’m very excited to watch Shawnte Designs grow in 2012!

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The road to Shawnte Designs

I’ve always dabbled in crafts.  I’ve pretty much tried everything at some point.  Cross-stitching, scrapbooking, candle-making (oh, that one was a hot mess, literally!), and many others.  But the story of the path to Shawnte Designs goes WAY back!

I’d gone to university straight out of high school.  I thought I’d excel in Chemistry, but by the end of 2nd year, it was clear I was in over my head.  I didn’t want to start over, and quitting never crossed my mind.  Turns out, my university offered a B.Sc. in Psychology, and my Chem background gave me most of the prerequisite science courses that were needed.  So, I got a Psych degree.  Barely.  I squeaked by, and as most grads find out, a Bachelor’s degree is pretty much worthless.  With no grades, no money, and no real passion to go for a Master’s, I took that degree and entered the work force.

I waited tables, and eventually ended up in a call centre, which was the worst fucking job EVER.  Eventually, I went on stress leave.  I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career.  But, I had always been involved in theatre.  I took some time and thought long and hard about the things in life that made me truly happy, and theatre was the strongest.  I made the decision to apply to Ryerson’s Performance Production program.  When I went backstage at the Confederation Centre to get a letter of recommendation, just the smell of the theatre gave me goosebumps, and I knew I was making the right decisions.

Moving to Toronto alone at 26 and not knowing a damn person in the biggest city in Canada was the toughest thing I’ve ever done.  My background in theatre was mostly rooted in Stage Management, so I figured that would be my focus in school.  However, the program at Ryerson is such that you must do a little bit of everything (lights, sound, stage management, administration, PR, costumes, etc) in your first 2 years, and then really specialize in your last 2 years.  Well, I really took to costuming.

That new focus on costuming brought me to take a Jewelry and Accessories class.  We did hats, tiaras, jewelry, ruffs, ascots, and all sorts of really cool stuff.  It was ADDICTIVE.  Basically, after the jewelry segment of the class, I couldn’t stop buying supplies and creating.  Eventually G told me that I was going to have to curb the supply-buying or start selling.

Thus my Etsy shop was born.  It’s been amazing.  I wish I had more time to devote to it, as you really reap what you sow with Etsy.  I don’t have a full-time job, but I do freelance tech work-setting up lights, sound, staging, etc for rock shows, concerts, galas, trade shows, and corporate affairs.  It’s fun, but a lot of hard work, and you need to be ready to work all hours of the day or night, and sometimes be ready to work at the drop of a hat.

Everyone’s path is different.  To those who have always known what they’ve wanted to do, and are truly happy in that decision-good for you.  It’s taken me a long time to find out what makes me happy, and I’m sure it will evolve over time.  Right now, my dream is to create accessories for theatre productions or film/television.  We shall see where all that takes me.  I’m excited for the journey.

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Results of the Shawnte Designs Contest!

Congratulations to Mary Mondoux, who won herself the silver and pearl teapot earrings.

Thanks to the tech-savvyness of G (because I worked a gig tonight, and am preparing for the first of this season’s craft shows, I cannot think straight) we used to determine the winner:

Mary wrote: “Well it has to be the Silver and Pearl Teadrop Dangle Earrings. You see I’m basically a “tea granny” and have been all my life! I’ve even passed this trait on to one of my sons. So these would be so appropriate!!!!”

Mary will get an email within the next 24 hours with more details on how to get her prize (forgive me, I have a craft show first thing tomorrow).

For those who entered, but did not win…fear not!  You will also receive an email with a special tidbit as well.  I want to thank everyone for participating, the feedback I got was so appreciated!

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Shawnte Designs Contest!

Welcome to my very first attempt at a giveaway/contest!  The best thing is that YOU get to choose your prize.  The contest will run from now until midnight Nov 19th, 2011 – so that you get your prize before the holiday season is over.  Here are the rules:

1.The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada only.

2. Visit my Etsy shop and take a look around.  Come back to the blog and leave a comment telling me what your favorite item is and why you love it.  If you see something that you think would make a perfect gift for someone else, comment on that in the same way.  If you win, you will win that favorite item you commented about!  Make sure to include your email as well, if you win, I want to be able to contact you!

3. From those who fulfill the requirements above, and comment before midnight November 19th, 2011, I will randomly choose a winner with a number randomizer.  I will post the winner here, and contact them via email.

The great part about the contest is that I can get feedback on what people like about my pieces, and YOU get to pick a prize you truly love!

So, what are you waiting for?


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Craft Fair Season 2011

This year, I was much better prepared for the holiday craft/artisan show season.  However, I did find out that I still should have started months earlier-my requests for show info were often met with a note that the deadline had passed.  No worries, as I inquired about each show, I kept all the information in an Excel spreadsheet so that I can really be on top of it next year.

So, for those who asked, and those who are interested, here is the lineup for Shawnte Designs!

November 19th is the Swansea Craft Fair at the Swansea Community Centre from 10am to 3pm.  I’m excited about this show, as the coordinator told me that the popular hat and fascinator vendor from last year will not be there.  Needless to say, this weekend will be feather-filled as I prep to have lots of merchandise ready for this show.

November 24th is the Alternative Grounds Craft Show at Alternative Grounds coffee shop from 6pm-9pm.  This show is special because it is co-hosted with That’s Women’s Work and all the vendor fees go towards Romero House.  I loved doing this show last year, it was such a last minute addition on my part, I called about a week before the show and got in.  The cafe is adorable and amazing and if I lived in the area I’d be there all the time.  Free Admission!

November 26th is the Beach Holiday Craft Show at St. John’s the Baptist Norway Church from 9:30am-2pm.  Not sure if there is an admission charge for this one.

December 1st is Speakeasy’s Annual Holiday Sale at The Gladstone Hotel from 7pm-11pm.  This is more of a “cocktail” event, which is new to me.  I’ll be missing G’s office Christmas party, but I wouldn’t make any money there, so, meh.  Not sure if there’s an admission charge, though.

December 3rd is Mondo Bazaar at The Gladstone Hotel from 10am-5pm.  I have to say, I’m pretty excited to be doing two shows at The Gladstone.  I hope I’m cool enough-that’s hipster territory!  Free Admission!

December 10th and 11th is the Annex Artisan’s Gift Fair at the Transac from 12pm-6pm.  It will be nice to be back in my old ‘hood again.  I’ll just try not to blow my earnings at BMV afterwards.  Free Admission!

I’m pretty excited about each one.  Now, to find/beg/borrow a large suitcase so that I can successfully haul all my shit from one show to the next.

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Pricing Conundrums – Friends & Family

Pricing your own product in and of itself is one of the most difficult things a crafter will face.  I still haven’t gotten the hang of it, it’s something I worry about a lot.  Recently, I’ve started to inventory all my supplies, and confronting the real cost and time involved with my creations is quite eye-opening.  Thankfully, there are a ton of resources out there (not to mention the Etsy forums, teams, and blog posts) that can help you find your way.

But, today I want to talk about pricing for customers that are friends and family.  Now, I know that no one ever made a living by giving things away.  Now that I’ve been doing this for a while and making a name for myself, I know that it’s not feasible to be giving discounts to everyone I personally know.  If someone asks for a discount, I’m usually happy to comply.  But really, this is business.  But, I love to fret, and so I worry that my nearest and dearest resent it if I don’t offer them a deal.

Last week G’s mother ordered a bunch of stuff from my Etsy shop.  And, for some reason, I felt the utmost amount of guilt because somehow I felt bad that she paid full price.  My work is worth it, she can afford it, but still the guilt remains.  I should be feeling more flattered, but it’s difficult.  My mother insists she pay full price, even though she’s usually strapped for cash. I have another friend who insists on paying more for custom work because she believes I undercharge in general.

Yeah, so why the hell am I whining?

Maybe I just want other crafters out there to know that it’s a struggle we all have.  Maybe when I get things completely inventoried, pay myself an hourly wage, and do more research I can feel more comfortable with the prices I choose.  This year, I’m much more dependent on the income I get from my work, I’ve invested a lot over the last year in supplies, and I’m not working much otherwise.  I think I’ll hold off on offering discounts willy-nilly and hope that the people who expect/want a discount ask for one.  I don’t mind.

P.S. Now that I’ve thought about the topic so much in writing this post, I’ve decided to only do a discount promo included in all sales from here until Christmas to be used January and February (when things really slow down).

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