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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Still Looking for My Market....

Looking back at 2010 - my first full year in business - to help prepare and plan 2011, I'm still a bit stymied as to what and where my real market is.  When Dom and I put the original business plan together we were convinced that college students would swarm all over these bags.  Of course, that's when we thought we could keep the cost to $20, which isn't possible.  Also, we forgot that we had to go through the purchasing staff first.  And unfortunately, my first 3 major wholesale orders were made before I'd switched from the big bubble wrap to the tougher stuff, so the quality wasn't where it should have been.  Hence the return, below, and the disappointing sales at Macon State.  On the other hand, Abraham Baldwin made a repeat order last year.

My other retail stores didn't work out.  Re-inspiration gave my bags back after only 2 months, saying that they were "too nice," i.e., didn't look as though they were made from recycled materials.  Uh, that was kind of my goal.  And The Gift Emporium, well, not sure how well it's doing overall - I know that at last look they'd only sold one of my items, a card case.  And the web site is a mess.  My apologies if you see this, but it's true.

Then there was the farmers market.  Hmmm.  Sharing a booth with mumuboutique made the registration fee $137.50, and I sold over $600 worth of stuff.  Good return on the financial investment, but what about my time?  4 hours of market, plus 45 minutes commute each way, every week for 8 months.  Not even going to figure out the hourly rate, that would be way too depressing.  Still, it was $600 that I wouldn't have otherwise made and got the word out that much more.

And finally, of course, there's etsy.  I had a pretty decent year on etsy, not brilliant, but the numbers are definitely going in the right direction.  And I made the contact with Matt Dilling of Lite Brite Neon which led to the Tiffany project which could lead...who knows?  I don't spend that much time on etsy and I'd have to take the photographs anyway for my catalog, so there's an acceptable return there.  Zibbet has been a total bust so far, and Zecosi wants nearly 10% commission!

So what does all this mean for 2011?  Well, I'm not giving up on the colleges, but I do need a more organized approach to them and better follow up.  To that end, I've scheduled 4 MailChimp campaigns to send out my catalog at strategic moments - 2 months before Earth Day, early summer for back-to-school, September for Christmas, and early December for 2nd semester.

Etsy will definitely continue.  As I post more items and become better known, I expect this venue to grow.  Especially if I can keep ahead of the holiday calendar.  That's been a big challenge for me, to plan 2-3 months in advance of a major  holiday and make sure I've got some relevant items to showcase.  Plus I'm going to do 4 retail MailChimp campaigns with features, sales, coupons, etc., and see what happens.

Haven't given up on the retail stores, either, but maybe it makes sense to focus on nicer stores and not just "green" ones.  I've started making card and passport cases from the store of silks and linens that I have, and I think some higher-end gift stores might be interested.  I'm going to contact one later today, and I've been in touch with Whole Foods for my sandwich bags and will see one of the buyers next week.  Overall, though, I need to be more aggressive in researching good venues.

And I need to decide soon if I want to do another farmers market, especially if I want to be at a good one like Norcross or Peachtree Rd.  I think Muriel would like to do it again, although commuting might be a challenge for her.  The personal contact with customers was nice.  We'll have to solve the tent problem (namely, we don't have one).

I don't see myself doing craft fairs - I hate craft fairs.  Ironic, isn't it?

Any suggestions?


  1. Hi! Thank you so much for the link on your blog! I appreciate your kindness!!

    This sounds familiar, but it looks like you are ahead of the game! First year in business and you have tried out a lot of things!! Sorry to hear that they didn't turn out as you had hoped, but you never know what might come from the contacts you did make here! Those 'hidden' contacts, the ones that you don't hear from right away, can surprise you when you least expect it! I have had some experience on this one!

    Keep going! You have some wonderful items! I don't know about the market where you are, but it is still slow where we live. I'm looking forward to seeing what you do next!!! Sharon

  2. Hi, again! I do love to chat! :)

    I thought of something else - do you 'wear' your bags out in public? I have found that I have sold pieces of my jewelry, just by wearing them myself!

    Just a thought! Hope you have a great day!!