Sunday, December 20, 2009

"That Hobby Looks Like a Lot of Work"

Annie found and e-mailed this article to me about people who make their full-time living selling on Etsy (although they briefly mention supplicating income through craft shows, wholesale, etc.) and I wanted to make sure we shared it here. 

"That Hobby Looks Like a Lot of Work"

There's a section in it that just made me want to scream:
While most people would find it impossible to meet a mortgage payment selling $8 crocheted mug cozies, some top-sellers on Etsy have moved beyond the stage of earning pocket money and are building careers — in some cases, earning six-figure incomes.
But even the successes add a note of “seller beware.” To build a profitable business on the site, they say — well, it’s a business. You need to build a brand identity, which often means courting design blogs or the news media. You need to manage distribution, which might mean standing in post office lines with a baby on your hip and a garbage bag filled with 30 self-packed boxes to ship. And as with any start-up, you need to maintain the morale of the labor force, which can be particularly challenging when you are the labor force, and the workday runs from “Good Morning America” to “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”
 Um, DUH.   If it's your JOB...then you have to WORK.  It still boggles my mind that some people just don't get that!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Excellent Article on Copyright Basics

Having filed for a patent myself, I'm always looking for articles that apply intellectual property laws to crafters and artists.  This is an excellent one (heads-up, it's a PDF file): Copyright Basics Including 12 Myths About Copyrights for Artists and Craftpersons

You can find more awesome craft-related business articles here as well!  Thanks to Craftmarketer for sharing!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Handmade for the Holidays

It is now December 8 and Christmas is only 17 short days away from us! I am feeling the crunch, as I am sure many of you are, too! For those who we buy Christmas gifts for, I try very hard to make the gifts meaningful and thoughtful! I think handmade is best... The problem: I don't have time to make everything myself! And in comes Etsy... There are so many wonderful shops out there with fabulous handmade gifts!

First up... To a T. To a T is owned and operated (with help from her mother, of course!) by Taryn Peine of Houston. I went to high school with Taryn and was able to reconnect with her through Ravelry - of all things! I've already purchased two darling outfits from Taryn to gift to the little loved ones in our life... If you need something cute and unique - be it Christmas gift of baby shower, check out to a T! Below is our interview with Taryn where she tells us how she got started and shares some of her inspiration...


Q: What inspired you to start an Etsy shop?
A: I always admired other Etsy shops, and I thought it would be fun to see if I could do one too, even though I'm terrible at accounting, math, billing people, and business in general. I re-discovered my love for sewing this year thanks to my mom, so I knew I wanted the shop to involve sewing something, but I didn't know what. Then, POOF, suddenly everyone in Houston was pregnant and I discovered handmade baby gifts were in high demand. So that's how I ended up with a baby shop, even though I myself have only a dog and a husband. They both act like babies sometimes, but they no longer fit in onesies.

Q: What is your creative process like?
A: I get a little gaggy at the sight of cutesy baby items, so my creative process starts with seeing an adult fashion and thinking of a way to scale it down to an infant size. For baby boys, I'm always inspired by my husband's abundance of argyle and tweed, and for baby girls, I try to create something I wouldn't mind wearing if I had my 19" waist back.

Q: When did you start hand-making things? Who taught you?
A: I've been crafting all my life, beginning with art projects in Girl Scouts. I took my first sewing class when I was in the 7th grade. I made a giant patriotic vest that was a big hit with the gentlemen, as I'm sure you can imagine. My mom taught me everything I know. She's incredibly patient, and loves creating just as much as I do. In fact, she's in charge of creating quite a bit of the items in the shop!

Q: What has been the biggest challenge of running your own shop?
A: Definitely the business aspect. I am from a family of accountants, so everyone in my life is constantly asking me about spreadsheets and bottom lines and profit margins and cost per item and that entire sentence is pretty much a sleeping pill for me.

Q: What is your favorite thing about running your own shop?
A: I get such a high from being in my sewing room all day, creating things for little ones I've never met before, watching precious outfits come together. I love it when someone loves what I've created. And I love collaborating with my mom!

Q: What are your plans for the future of your shop?
A: We're still young, and our goal in 2010 is to find ways to expose people to our shop. We're brainstorming some new designs to come out next year, and we're so excited to watch it grow. And we're learning better ways to photograph our products so everything looks more professional and less camera-phone-ish...

For more of Taryn Peine, check out her blog She shares hilarious thoughts on life and yummy recipes, too!

Thursday, November 19, 2009 A Review

Man, I really seem to be on a review bender, eh?  Well, if it helps you in your business, then I'm happy to be the guinea pig!

Ever since I started Julip Bags back in August 2007, I've only ever used or PayPal's shipping tools, primarily because they were free and convenient.  PayPal has the added benefit of automatically importing the buyer's information...all you have to do is click the "Print a shipping label" button at the bottom of the sale info screen.  It even automatically sends an e-mail to the buyer that their purchase is on the way with a customized message!  Super-fabulous!  So why in the world was I interested in paying for a shipping service?!?  Check in after the jump for my reasons why!

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I enjoy the "f" word, so much so that I use it as many times as I can in a day....I'm working on several designs at once, both sewing and knitting and this "f" word has moved from "favorite" word to "THE word!!!!!!". But I'm headed to the "other" side for inspiration...which means, I'm headed to the East side of MI next week for some knitting/sewing inspiration and some eastside Mason Jar moonshine... I will either triumph or will be found in an eastside gutter in a bunch of felted wool topped with Amy Butler...discuss......

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Strike A Pose

When I hear the phrase strike a pose, I instantly think of Vogue! Well, my friends, RoseKnits made the pages of what's new in knitting in the Vogue Knitting Holiday edition! This is following an earlier release of the Knit Simple Holiday edition where RoseKnits made the Knits and That section!

Press, in itself, is exciting. Press from people you don't know, double exciting. Press in a nationally published knitting magazine by people you don't know: priceless! It is a great honor and I am humbled by their recognition! The people at the magazine are super nice and encouraging and I will be forever grateful for the kudos.

Amby and I are working hard at Julip Bags and RoseKnits to bring you guys great, new, affordable holiday items! Please check out our shops when considering your holiday shopping!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Review: "Craft Inc. Business Planner"

Finally, after much impatient waiting, I got my hands on the new "Craft Inc. Business Planner: The Ultimate Organizer for Turning Your Crafts Into Cash."  I absolutely adore the original Craft Inc. and HIGHLY recommend it to anyone with a crafty business, whether it be full- or part-time.  There is a lot of inspiration, advice, and motivation packed into that book, and I treasure my copy dearly.

First off, it's hardcover and spiral-bound, so I'm already happy.  Second, it's very much an interactive workbook...whereas the first Craft Inc. was more of a read-only resource, this one is PACKED with areas to jot notes, worksheets, lists, etc.  I WILL say that this is NOT a how-to book by any means, and really should be partnered with the original Craft, Inc. to get the full effect.  And by that, I mean that they have sections on budgeting, craft shows, trade shows, etc, but they don't go into the details that the original Craft, Inc. did.  

The pros: this workbook will help you put pen-to-paper things that you really should have written down somewhere, such as your Creative Mission, your Open-for-Business Checklist, budget breakdowns, Marketing Campaign Worksheets, and even places to list contact info for blogs, magazines, and other advertising venues to consider.  There are three heavy-duty pockets in the back for tucking snippets, samples, and receipts (think of a bride's wedding-planning binder). 

I think my favorite thing about this planner is that it really helps you put down in black-and-white the core elements of a BUSINESS PLAN...something that sounds really scary and big, but is truly essential to anyone taking their business seriously.  If you were to go through and fill out all the exercises and worksheets in this planner you will have (HAPPY DAY!) already completed most of your business plan, you'd just need to organize it into a single document form.

This planner, when completed and with the included professionals' advice, can also function as an AWESOME motivational tool...when you're feeling down because you haven't made a sale in days, or you're feeling overwhelmed, or not quite sure why you got into this in the first place...whip this bad boy out and hear your inner indiepreneur roar!

The cons: to say that I was surprised that this book includes additional blank worksheets to photocopy would be an understatement.  Yes, call me a snob if you like, but I really think this book would have been finished off perfectly with a cd-rom or pdf-download link of all the pertinent worksheets.  Even if I had to pay an extra dollar for it, it would have been worth it, since I now have to head to Kinkos to make copies of the worksheets within.  In a market where similar "For-Dummies" books all have included cd-roms, I really feel this is an inexcusable omission.  

I think the organization of the book could have been a wee bit I was cruising along in it I was surprised to see that the author had her section about trade shows (something many indiepreneurs will never tackle) before a section on craft shows (the first big step for many crafters).  Not to say that the trade show section isn't necessary...but it's a HUGE step that would probably have fit better later in the "progression" of advice.  Additionally there is a section about your product line that (IMO) sticks out like a sore thumb.  The entire book is very focused on BUSINESS advice about your craft BUSINESS, and then suddenly there is a tangent about sketching out the items you intend to sell.  Yes, the worksheets about calculating the costs vs. wholesale vs. retail are helpful, but to have several blank pages of places to sketch designs out didn't quite fit. 

I also feel like the book came to a screeching halt after the sections on trade and craft additional section on expanding your indie-empire could have been helpful...maybe a tool to help evaluate after a year?  

Overall rating? Probably a B...the tools within this book are invaluable and approachable to a start-up business, and will be a wonderful resource to fall back on once it's completed.  The lack of a cd-rom for the forms and lack of focus on the business AFTER the start-up is also a negative for me.  Overall, though, I would definitely recommend this workbook for anyone STARTING a new business, or anyone who needs a little help refocusing on their crafty bottom-line.

(Cross-posted to Russell Yarn)

Monday, September 28, 2009

New Virtual Lab!!

Howdy all!  Just wanted to let you know that Etsy has asked me to host another Virtual Lab, "Bigger Than a Breadbox: Photography for Medium to Large Objects" on Wednesday, September 30th, at 8pm EST, as part of their "Prep Your Shop for the Holiday Rush" series.  Yay!

To participate, make sure you have an Etsy ID (which is quick and easy to register for!), click on this link, click on the Classroom on the left-hand side of the screen, and then click on any empty square (seat) once inside.

Now, I will be the first one to admit that this is probably totally biased on my part, but I am really loving these Virtual Labs (and I don't mean just the ones I'm hosting)...they're a great forum for brainstorming, new ideas, new leads, and new links!  If you have a chance to check one out, definitely go for it but be warned: they fill up FAST.  And once they're filled up, you have to hope someone leaves the chat to leave a space for you to skip into.  The more popular labs fill up 10-15 minutes before the scheduled start time.

ETA: The notes for the Virtual Lab can be found here!!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Soundtrack for a Business

So I've had several people lately ask me what kind of music I listen to while I'm working.  In no particular order, the most common things you'll find me cranking up while making bags are:

1. Anything by Muse.  Perfect for settling into an energetic afternoon of fabric-chopping.
2. Anything by Nine Inch Nails, but especially the Broken album.  I'm a NIN fan from back in the day, and now I find I still love Trent Reznor because he gets my procrastinating butt in gear.  Or when I'm in a hurry and need a more, um, upbeat tempo to work to, "Wish" is especially good for this.  Ask me sometime about how I was introduced to NIN, it's a funny story (now).
3. The Bubblegum Oldies channel on Pandora.  A nice happy all-day groove.  A great day is when "Palisades Park" comes up in the rotation.
4. The Michael Jackson channel on AOL radio.  Being able to sing along (badly) to almost every song is a definite plus.
5. Anything that falls under the category "Classic Rock."  My hands-down favorite genre.
6. Classical music, especially Tchaikovsky and Mozart.  Very good talk-me-down-off-the-ledge-I've-got-a-huge-wholesale-order-to-finish-today music. 

So what do YOU listen to while you're working, crafting, or chilling?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Quit Your Day Job!

Yay!  Julip Bags has been featured as the Quit Your Day Job story of the week on Etsy!  Check it out for (funky) pictures of me, read about my love affair with my Crackberry, and other solid business advice!

I'll be hosting a live video chat in Etsy's Virtual Labs on Wednesday at 5pm EST (US), please stop by to see me and say hi!!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ideas Ideas, and then SPLAT!

I'm late to the party and unlike my cohorts, I can't think of any cool theme song to begin my first post that is outside the realms of the Wiggles or Sesame Street...although I do always comment on their choice of knit attire. I don't think of myself as much of a designer just someone who is always perusing the gazillions of patterns on Raverly only to realize what I want or imagine hasn't been made out comes the post-its and my stick figure un-Project Runwayesque sketches of ideas. I'm not someone who considers myself an awesome knitter that knows every little way to decrease, increase, shape, size etc but I like math (a lot) and like to find different ways to construct something (or should I say EASY ways that don't involve a lot of fiddling). I find the knits that I crave or am drawn to are simple, nothing fancy. Often I have ideas that I am still trying to technically work out - now, how do I make THAT happen????

When I began my first pattern, I had a zillion ideas and that is not an exaggeration. The hardest part was to actually focus and stay the course with ONE idea. I considered myself lucky to develop two patterns based on my first two ideas and they worked. And I like them.

Them came the Vulcan vest(s). The idea seemed perfect - a tube of sorts with cool large color blocks and then a chest and arms of color blocks going in the opposite direction. I was so smug, I cranked out two and they looked cool. Then I put them on my boys for a model shot and they looked like Star Trekkies and not in a good insult to them. I tried to talk myself into liking them because I know people have different tastes and sometimes I see what people are drawn to on Raverly and can only declare WTF???? You really want to make THAT or you DID make that???? But I just couldn't talk myself into selling it or even making it a free pattern OR even forcing my kids to wear them because for Crap's sake, they will wear a girdle thong with a monkey tail and look at me like I AM the strange one for telling them it isn't appropriate for preschool. So I hit a wall. I haven't stick figured sketched or even allowed myself any ideas because what the hell kind of knitter is gonna knit a kid something that will make them (and in turn me) a laughing stock. But I'm starting to come out of it. You just never know what magic can happen when you create could flop terribly or it could be the next Cobblestone/Clapotis rage????

Im just little ole me trying to not make my kids look like Vulcans on roids and hoping some other people may like my stuff. But when you have an audience, they can judge and that perceived judgement can back your vulcanized ass right into a corner. But I have my handy post-its back on my bedstand next to my wine coaster and look forward to something inspiring. How do these famous knit designers do it, cranking out stuff left and right? I would LURVE to see the oddities of what these people have created in their lifetimes because I am sure my Vulcan pattern is not the only one to hit this galaxy, right, RIGHT?

My cohorts must have sewn some shizzle bags, right?

Friday, September 11, 2009

International Shipping - Just Do It!

Anyone who reads the Etsy forums knows that there are certain topics that come up, um, often.  Non-paying buyers, feedback concerns, and SHIPPING seem to be three of the biggest, and international shipping is definitely one of the most hotly-dissected topics.

All three of the Bosses on this blog have online businesses, which naturally means that our items are viewable by potential customers living outside of the United States.  I personally get a thrill out of sending my bags to countries I've never visited, knowing that there are knitters out there with Julip Bags jaunting around the UK, Sweden, Brazil, South Africa, and other faraway lands.  (And if you are, please please pretty please upload a pic of your jaunting over on my Rav group!)

So perhaps I'm biased, but when people ask me "Should I offer international shipping?" my answer is ABSOLUTELY YES!!!  Even if your stuff is really heavy or really valuable (which will potentially increase the shipping costs) there ARE people outside of the US that will buy your lovely handcrafts and willingly pay the shipping costs, if only you give them the option.  This will be a long one, so check it out after the jump!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Take 5

Ok, you guys are probably sitting here thinking... 3 of you blogging, 5 days with no blog - what gives?? Haha! Being the owner of your very own baby business is very hard work, often requires you to work 24/7 in one form or another, but sometimes one must take a break!

I think that Amby and Kristi (I hope I spelled that right... if not, I'll edit later.. Sorry babe!) would agree - if we aren't sewing up a new bag idea, trying to update the shop with new goodies for you guys, or test knitting / drawing that new fabulous pattern idea we're thinking of marketing - working on excellent customer service (because that is what sets us apart) or packaging up orders. It is very fun! Very exciting! and Very tiring all in the same. I'm not complaining, just breakin' it down for ya!

My husband and I often have this conversation - he mows the yard, I sew. I believe in some ways he still views sewing as a 'hobby' and I am getting to do something I enjoy where he feels he's having to do a 'chore.' But it's hard work and the proof is in the puddin'! Every package shipped from my second bedroom / make shift studio space for now has my name on it, and I would not ever purposely give myself a bad name!

Tomorrow is Tuesday - day after a long holiday weekend! So I hope you find us refreshed, funny as ever, and bloggin' a lot!

Have a great week everyone!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

From the Beginning

Taking the cue from Annie's totally excellent first post, I'll use music as my introduction...when I think of starting something new, I think of "From the Beginning" by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.  So where to begin with my two fabulous co-authors?

Kristi, Designer Extraordinaire of RedDogKnits has been my partner in crime for a looooooong time...she and I co-hosted two Michigan Knitterpalooza events and continue to be Sister Secret Squirrels (code language for co-conspirators) when it comes to giving the finger to The Man and declaring independence from corporate overlords.  Her twin sons love me, her husband tolerates me, and she and I generally leave a swath of mayhem in our paths whenever we get together.  Most recent hijinks: me getting saucy when I was totally dissed and dismissed as the maker of Julip Bags at a Michigan LYS.  That or the the whole "Hey I KNOW that guy!" Mexican restaurant debauchery. 

Annie, Mistress-in-Chief of RoseKnits, is truly my favorite long-distance-relationship...despite being (supposed) competitors in the world of knitting bags on Etsy, we are friends, confidants, and support each other unconditionally!  I share with her things that would normally make me explode in either mirth or fury since I can't post them anywhere publicly for the good of my business, and we mutually speak the language that is Amy Butler, Timtex, and wholesaling.  Most recent hijinks: (cannot be posted on a public blog for reasons I mentioned before).

Me: Amby, owner and chief grunt of Julip Bags, wife of JP and mama of Russells, I quit my day job back in mid-June to do JB full-time.  My first "real" post will be about the things no one ever tells you about doing this crazy life full-time, as your primary source of income, and all the hilarity that ensues.  I will also post about such lighthearted topics as Intellectual Property attorneys.  It's all a barrel of monkeys from here, folks!


Let's Get it Started!!

Inevitably, every time I think about starting something new the song Let's Get It Started by the Black Eyed Peas pops into my head. I used to love the Jazzercise routine to that song... Have any of you ever been to Jazzercise?? Ok, I digress.

I wanted to start by telling you all how I met Ms. Amby - the coolest gal EVER and owner of the even cooler Julip Bags!. I had just started RoseKnits and I e-mailed Amby to see if she would carry some of my bags in her shop (naive shop owner, yes I am). She gracefully said, "no" and I offered to send her a bag! She was kind enough to accept and even prepare a review on her blog!!! Very kind of a fellow, established bag maker.

I've met other bag makers who would not dare publish anything about another bag maker for fear of losing customers (I guess). I don't really understand this school of thought because I certainly own more than one bag, what about you? There's plenty to go around, I'm sure! So, that was lesson number one from Ms. Amby!

I think I bothered her again shortly there after for tips on how to become a full-time bag lady... She, again, kindly obliged and took the time to write to me a real tips and tools e-mail! This chick was impressive! And kind!

Today, we find ourselves chatting back and forth about business and life... It's fun, and I'm definitely glad I met her. Ok, enough mush mush... Maybe next time my blog will be about a bag. Or not. We'll have to wait and see.