Hi. Today we would like to sit down with you and talk shop (so to speak).
We have been surfing the web looking for the little guys who have been making big strides in business... OK!
So if you can introduce yourself and your shop/boutique and tell us how long have you been in business?
My name is Terri Collins and I opened my shop, Callidora's, a year ago in December. Before that, I had a jewelry shop online called LQQKS2Thrill, but the jewelry market was so saturated that I just sort of gave up. I have been self-employed for the last 5 years doing various things - always reinventing myself. I have finally something in Callidora's that was lacking in my other attempts - true expressive creativity and I really enjoy making others feel beautiful and confident with my works.
Where can one find your items/merchandise?
My "hub", if you will, is www.callidoras.com. All of my current collections are housed there, as well as my Custom Work Gallery - a photo essay of commissioned work. I also sell on community sites, such as Etsy, Artfire, DaWanda, and am in the process of setting up shop on ShopHandmade.com.
I physically have items at ArtSpot in Corsicana, Texas, and through EmilyRoseJewellery.com - she monograms aprons she purchased from me. My blog also showcases my work and where it can be found.
How is it having a website and selling on a network site (such as Etsy/Ebay)? What are the pros and cons?
I feel that they are very different right now during this start-up period. I started on network sites, and after about 4 months decided to go with my own website. Eventually, my hope is to have most of my sales coming through my website rather than the network sites, but I understand that takes time, advertising, and an established network of customers. Statistically, my website gets as much traffic as all the network sites combined, but all my sales come through the network sites. The pros of my site are: the ability to sell what I want without rules and regulations; the ability to create a newsletter and maintain a direct marketing list; the ease of creating search engine ads; statistics reporting; and image hosting. The pros of the network sites are: the ease of creating a working shop; built-in networking community; the site itself has its own marketing; the ability to bid on Custom Work Requests; and not having the hassle of setting up a cart.
Do you advertise?
I do. Right now, I use a lot of free and low cost avenues because I have to keep my capital for supplies. My hope in 2009 is to have consistent enough sales to be able to purchase advertisements/banners on high-traffic Internet sites.
Are you a part of or partake in any networks/groups, such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc... How do these networks help your business grow?
Oh goodness, yes! I don't see how a business can thrive on the Internet if you aren't all over the place! I'm on MySpace, Twitter, IndiePublic, Smidge and WeLoveEtsy. I was on Flickr, but their "marketing" restrictions have left me feeling that it's not worth the effort to keep it up. I know many feel they have gotten a lot of sales from Flickr, but honestly, there are so many online avenues that it would be a full-time job just to keep your presence in the forefront!
We are approaching the Holidays and the end of the year with a dropping economy. We have also introduced a new president to the USA. So how do you prepare or drive your business to further success with all that in mind?
Our economy has been dropping for some time and there has also been a slow but steady shift away from the commercial and big corporations among shoppers. I'm very excited for the future - when you're down, the only way to go is up! And Yes, we can! I try to offer specials for the holidays and as promotions throughout the year, but as an Individual crafter selling my wares - I have to make money and pay bills too. I try to keep in mind that there are many people out there who aren't feeling the crunch as much as the middle class and I try to market to those demographics. I have also increased my presence on DaWanda and plan to really push that in the coming year to capitalize on the European market. I realize that global economy is hurting, but if your items are available to the world - you're bound to see an increase in sales!
As you know here at SBT (Your Small Biz Talk) we try to share new ways to do the impossible. So is there anything you can share with us about marketing and running an online business?
Marketing is so very important. No one will know you're there if you don't shout it out to them. My advice is to find 3-5 online marketing avenues that are user-friendly to you and stick with them - really build a base. Create the best product you can, and manage your time wisely. I was given some really good advice when I started Callidora's that I didn't have in my other ventures:
- Set a price that reflects your supplies and your time, and don't lower it to make sales. Lower prices don't bring in more sales in the crafting world - that works for Wal-mart, and that's not who I am trying to be. My design and construction time is valuable and my heart is put into everything I make. Each item is special and has it's own characteristics, even if it's the same item in a collection that's been made several times.
- Marketing can take over if you let it. Set up a time management schedule and stick to it. i.e. First, check emails, log-in to all your accounts and spend an hour updating/networking. Then get off the computer, and craft for a few hours. Have lunch, take a break, go for a walk, whatever. Do more crafting or supply ordering/shopping in the afternoon; check email. Spend your early evening with your family, dinner, favorite show, etc. Then an hour in the late evening, do final updates/networking etc.
- Carry your business cards with you everywhere - leave them everywhere, restaurants, the gym, the daycare center, the public restroom, bulletin boards, etc. Get a personalized license plate, bumper sticker, or car magnet that shouts what you do. I have gotten stopped in parking lots for my license plate and car magnet - who knows how many have jotted down the info while sitting behind me in traffic!
- Network with other small business people. They will pass your information on to their customers and you should do the same for them - obviously not your competition, but small business people should stick together. Your network intersects my network and we both have new customers! Try to purchase all your supplies or business needs from other SB entrepreneurs - it helps to further the comradery. Lift each other up and bounce ideas off each other. When you don't have a board of directors to brainstorm with, you have to get creative - and bring in like minds.
*Note: It has been said many well known brands and companies have started and grew during bad economic times. See SB in Bad Economics Times in the left side bar for links to great, supportive quality articles on the topic.