To tide you over, I've uploaded a bunch of new pics to my Flickr account (sorry for neglecting you, Flickr!). Also, I'll be blogging as usual Monday through Friday at PAD. Every Monday I post about my projects for the new apartment, which you can read here.
The latest development is that I bought upholstery foam to finally make proper cushions for a Danish chair I got for free from the loading dock at my old job. I had been using some floppy pillows as cushions for the past 2 years. (After many years of lusting over midcentury furniture, I now worry that I have too much of it). Next step is to sew the cushion covers. Then I'll tackle the sofa.
When Sara Tams of Sarah & Abraham posted a job listing on Monster.com to hire her first employee for her home-based stationery business, she received 380 resumes over ten days! It's great to hear about an Etsy business expanding and bringing on employees; the fact that she received so many applicants for "someone willing to print/fold/cut/package orders" says alot about the state of the job market right now.
It highlights the fact that small business is one of the biggest growth areas in the otherwise dismal US economy. You know one way we could really nurture small businesses and give them even more reasons to succeed? Reform Health Care. Reduce the costs for small businesses to provide health care for their employees. Better yet stop tying health care to a job so that people don't have to choose between pursuing their dream of self-employment or retaining health coverage. There is alot of mis-information out there, which is why the government has set up an official site to dispel myths and explain the plan here.
How would health care reform affect your plans for your small business?
(p.s. Thanks for your great comments on the post about clip art. I love it when a post strikes a chord with readers and this one surely did!)
Grace Hester Designs
Owner: Grace Hester
What: Modern and customizable artwork for children and moms.
Today for the Small Business Spotlight, I'm doing things a little differently. Instead of providing some general observations as I did in previous posts, I'll answer some specific questions that Grace wrote in with. Please take the time to answer the questions in the comments and give Grace some feedback.
Is this a product that appeals to you? Stylistically, I'm not a huge fan of this style of art, which is very common on Etsy and popular with customers. But, I'm not your target demographic as I don't have kids or purchase kids' items.
What do you like or not like about my etsy postings? (pricing, photos, listing descriptions, etc.) Product-wise, I like the alphabet poster (these are also ubiquitous on Etsy but I like the style anyway), and the Little Piggy Nursery Rhyme print, which is a unique product. You also have nursery rhymes in Chinese which are also great because they allow you to reach a very specific audience of Chinese speaking customers. It's always easy to market a product when you have a niche customer base. I would suggest you consider doing a series of other nursery rhymes or songs in this manner, but look into the legalities of reproducing lyrics.
I think your photography is good. You have alot of items in your store, which is good because it gives customers lots to choose from and they'll spend more time at your shop browsing. Pricing is fair.
There are competitors out there with silhouette-styled
work but they are mostly printed for sale, not paper cut-outs. Is this a
significant differentiator? Or do you think I am better off focusing on silhouette
prints (which are definitely easier to make and so I can price it more
competitively)? I don't think the fact that you cut your silhouettes out of paper is a significant difference. It doesn't look like your sales reflect that either. I say, focus on the less labor-intensive prints and differentiate yourself through unique print products, like my suggestion above.
Does my blog interest you? Do I have to separate my personal life journal-keeping with my business presence? Or is the combination of both more appealing to a customer since they see the life of the owner behind the store? The types of posts that are appropriate for a business blog vary depending on the type of business. Because you're a mom who makes kid-centric products, incorporating stories about your family and personal life is a good idea and allows you to connect with customers. I see no need to separate the business posts from personal posts; your readers are probably moms who are interested in starting their own business from home, so they can appreciate both types of posts.
Helpful Suggestion/Criticism: You have received lots of nice online press so I think a next step would be to send some press kits to print magazines. To differentiate yourself from the many other shops selling kids' silhouette art on Etsy, create a signature line of prints like the Nursery Rhymes, and promote the heck out of it. Don't forget to market your Chinese language products to blogs and magazines for Chinese speakers. Think about how to promote yourself at different times of the year: release a back-to-school print in the fall, offer deals around the holidays when people are looking for easy and quick gift-giving options.
Alright, time to open it up for comments.
Everytime I see a Design Sponge post on Thomas Paul, I make sure to check out the comments because someone always brings up the fact that he heavily uses copyright-free Dover clip art images in his work. I've never seen this confirmed elsewhere but it comes up so often in Thomas Paul posts that I'm inclined to believe it.
Thomas Paul is a very successful designer with dozens of press mentions and his line carried in numerous stores. Before reading about his work in the comments section, I had no idea he used clip art, and I imagine most of his customers don't know and possibly don't even care.
But what do you think? Do you think less of a designer when you find out they use clip art. Is the act of choosing an image, placing it on fabric or stationery, incorporating other elements and playing with color, the same as creating an original image or pattern?
I remember the disappointment I felt when I discovered one of my favorite letterpress artists almost exclusively used copyright-free images. It did seem a little like cheating to me. I see some of her same images turn up on other artists' work and I wonder: what recourse can you take when you are not using an original image yourself?
On the other hand, artists use these images because they sell. I, personally, have changed my opinion on the subject of these images. Even though I still make an assumption about the talent level of the artist, I no longer see them as "cheating" and sometimes I think it would be fun- and easy- to incorporate Dover images in my own work. If you're not breaking the law by using these images, and if your customers enjoy them, what's wrong with building a business in this way?
To paraphrase a comment left by Rivka on this post: Why aren't I writing on this blog about my own journey with Rifferaff.
I haven't been writing about Rifferaff because there's not alot to say. I mentioned here how I was feeling daydreamy and unfocused and that feeling hasn't really gone away. It's lingered and as a result I haven't done anything with Rifferaff in about 3 months. I haven't made soap, printed any papers or taken any photos. My work table looks essentially exactly the same it did in May. Somehow I lost my momentum and I haven't tried too hard to get it back, leading me to think about the future of Rifferaff.
The lack of space in the apartment has been a real drain. Maybe you can relate: in order to start any new projects I have to first clean off my work table, which is no fun and saps any creative energy I had. I got a little burst of motivation this week with the feature on Mint which has sent some sales and inquiries my way on Etsy and made me realize, hey, people like what I'm doing, I should pay more attention to this.
Here's hoping the move to the new place - in a few short weeks - where I will have a separate room to set up Rifferaff stuff will give me new energy to work on projects. I'm feeling a desire to start working on things for the holidays and repeat the success of last holiday season again this year. After the holidays I will definitely be taking a look at where I stand and re-assessing the future of Rifferaff.
A NY Times contributor asks: is New York still the place to be for young creative professionals trying to launch their careers?
Is New York still worth the trip? Recessions tend to be hard on youthful dreams, but this downturn has proved especially dispiriting...Internships across the board are down by more than 20 percent. And those of us who still hold full-time jobs in creative fields are clinging to them for dear life, making it difficult for young people to pry any free for themselves.
another destination beckons, a place that courses with all the raw
ambition and creative energy that the hard times seem to have drained
from New York. I am referring, of course, to the Internet, which over
the past decade has slowly become the de facto heart of American
culture: the public space in which our most influential conversations
transpire, in which our new celebrities are discovered and touted, in
which fans are won and careers made.
I came to a similar conclusion in this article I wrote for CRAFT a few years ago. More and more, where you are physically matters less than your ability to connect with your audience and build community over the Internet. Do you agree?