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Tutorial Roundup

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

As we trawl the interwebs looking for crafty inspiration, we’re always coming across clever, pretty or downright odd craft tutorials. Here’s a few that we found and liked recently:

First up, we featured ‘Squirmy Jelly worms‘ on our Facebook page this week & it proved to be a very popular post.

squirmy jelly worms from Instructables

squirmy jelly worms from Instructables

Other versions of the tutorial at instructables and Sunny Coast Kids.

A slightly more refined tutorial, beautiful DIY Otomi Fabric from Threadbanger via Craftzine

DIY Otomi Fabric

DIY Otomi Fabric

Pretty DIY drink umbrellas from Oh Happy Day.

DIY Drink Umbrella from Oh Happy Day

DIY Drink Umbrella from Oh Happy Day

This DIY lego keyholder by Mini-eco was inspired be a post on technabob.( found via t-boo on Pinterest)

DIY Lego Keyholder by mini-eco

DIY Lego Keyholder by mini-eco

Hope there’s one in there you enjoy. If you’ve found a brilliant tutorial recently, please share in the comments.

Trade Secrets

Monday, April 26th, 2010

trade secrets

On the 29th March the Mafia held our very first Trade Secrets event where some crafty types got together and shared information and tips about running our craft businesses.  It was a resounding success and we hope to do it again soon, but for those of you who didn’t make it along on the night and for those of you who did but need a reminder – here are the notes from the evening, enjoy! x

How many websites do you sell on?  Is it better to sell on many or few?

The general consensus was that fewer were easier to keep track of and those which you can control yourself like Folksy and Etsy are more flexible as far as stock control and new products are concerned.  If you have your own online shop this is the easiest to control, but you need to advertise it much more.  If you want to use lots of online selling places then you need to be very organised with your stock control, this may not work so well with one-off pieces.

How do you drive traffic to your website?

Google Analytics is a very important tool and easy to set up, it’s already built into Etsy and Folksy in the tags and titles, so it’s vital that you give your products correct titles and tags and descriptions – think about how potential customers might describe your work, often simple obvious titles will come to the top of Google searches.

Have a blog, link to other blogs on your Blogroll list, advertise on blogs – think about which blogs your customers are reading and target them, don’t always target the crafty/design blogs not all your customers will be reading those.  Tutorials on your blog can be very effective to keep people coming back, and giveaways and swaps have been very useful for some in building up interest and gaining followers.  Google Stats is a very useful piece of code to add to your website or blog to see who’s looking at the site and what they are looking at, and where they are linking from – it’s always helpful to know how people are finding your site.

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Notes from the Enterprise Nation conference

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Enterprise Nation

You might remember, back in September, that some of the Glasgow Craft Mafia were interviewed for the Enterprise Nation Home Business Road Trip documentary. That’s still being edited but I was lucky enough to attend the recent Enterprise Nation conference in London on behalf of the Glasgow Craft Mafia. Here’s my report back.

20th November was the very first Home Enterprise Day with an aim of raising awareness about the huge number of home businesses in the UK. Home businesses are largely ignored by the government, despite their contribution to the economy.

These issues were raised in the 2009 Home Business Report published by Enterprise Nation, which includes the following key points:

  • 2.8 million home businesses contributing £284bn to the annual UK economy
  • Over 60% of small businesses started in the UK are started at home
  • 89% of home businesses expect to increase turnover in the next 12 months
  • The majority of businesses will grow by outsourcing and sub-contracting, as opposed to taking on staff
  • ‘Working 5 to 9′ is on the rise as people hold down a day job and build a business at nights and weekends
  • Home business is bringing families together and contributing to the local economy and environment

You can download the full report here, which includes a little interview with our own Miso Funky!

The report was launched at the Enterprise Nation conference. All the panels were really interesting and though-provoking but I’ve picked out some of the most relevant parts for crafters like us.

Enterprise Nation

==

Doug Richard (former Dragon & CEO, School for Startups)

A great way to start the day as Doug was extremely entertaining and a natural speaker – he had no notes or slides and constantly interacted with the audience. As a web designer, I spend a lot of time trying to break down myths about Search Engine Optimisation, social networking etc. and was completely delighted to discover Doug talking 100% total sense about these subjects. I couldn’t have agreed with him more. Here are a few of his main points:

Get rid of costs to make more profit

So simple but so easy to forget. If you quit your day job you learn this very fast – if you can’t make money, then spending less money is almost as good. Do you need an office/studio? If you need extra staff, can they work at their own homes etc.

Don’t be shy

If there’s one thing about entrepreneurs and business owners, it’s that we love taking about our businesses. So talk about what you love on your blog, Twitter etc. and that enthusiasm will help promote you and your business, honestly. Customers love a peek into how the magic happens.

Target your potential customers

Figure out what the target group is for your products, find them on blogs, forums, Twitter etc, and talk to them. They may not buy now but they might remember you in future,

SEO

Use SEO to intercept your potential customers’ desires. Find out how your target audience or strangers would describe your products and build your SEO around that, not around what YOU think your products are. The majority of Google users click on the 1st-3rd organic result, not sponsored links or ads, so make sure you’re there when they decide they want a wool scarf or a bunny necklace (as opposed to a hand-knitted cowl or a rabbit pendant).

Use word of mouth

Word of mouth is the most trusted recommendation but don’t fake it. Try things like video testimonials from happy customers. Keep them honest and real for trust – don’t worry about being professional or hi-tech. The less professional it is, the most trustworthy it will seem.

Be shameless

Get the best deal any way you can. Doug actually suggested pretending your husband just died in order to get a cheaper stand at trade shows!

Know what you do

Make sure you’re able to describe what you do and what the benefits are in a single sentence and use that at all times, whether in person or online.

Doug’s SEO tips were fantastic but, as I say, they match mine exactly, so I’m going to write another post on SEO soon.

==

Enterprise Nation

Sites that changed the home business world

A panel discussion chaired by Dan Wagner (Venda.com) with eBay UK (Mark Lewis), MyEhive.com (Louise Campbell) and BT Tradespace (Ivan Croxford)

This would probably have been the most relevant panel for crafters, except that the speakers were very much talking from a business perspective. I couldn’t help wondering how much more interesting this could have been if someone from Folksy had been invited, to talk more about the community aspects.

Product photography

Both Louise and Mark picked good product photography as the most important thing to get right with online marketplaces. It’s a vital link to sales, features and opportunities. Second most important is product descriptions, which need to be well written but also include keywords for SEO.

Feedback builds trust

A lot of discussion was about the feedback system pioneered by sites like eBay and which is now such an important way for buyers to find trustworthy sellers. If you have your own shop, can you incorporate a feedback system or testimonials page? eBay are even planning to highlight and promote sellers by their feedback ratings and good service record rather than the number of sales.

Stand out through customer service

With thousands of other sellers on marketplace sites, you need to use customer service to get yourself noticed. Good service leads to good feedback and repeat buyers.

Use Video

Apparently video is the next big thing – can you use video to show how your products work, or to showcase happy customers?

Use your individuality

People buy from a person not a company. Use your unique voice and a personal service to set you apart and build trust and word of mouth recommendations.

Build your network

Recommend other small businesses outside your scope, especially on business networking sites. Are there products or services that compliment your own? Can you refer your customers or collaborate? Help build a sense of community outside of big business.

==

Building a global business from my home

Christian Arno (Founder, lingo24.com) and Mike Hollands (Founder, Toniks)

A short discussion, as the previous panel ran over. Translation is something I’ve only recently given any thought to, having set up on DaWanda so I did find this very interesting.

Expansion through translation

Expand your customer base by translating your site into multiple languages,  but be prepared for enquiries in those languages. Translated sites also do well on foreign search engines as there’s not as much competition.

Take advantage of free technology

Similar to Doug Richard’s point – Mike talked about how they use Skype for global language classes – since Skype is free, they remove costs and instead can market a value for money premium service.

==

Make Me Famous!

A panel discussion on the media with Daryl Willcox (DW Publishing), Jenny Culshaw (Working Lunch) Lisa Sykes (Features Editor, Country Living) and Jimmy Leach (Head of Digital, Independent)

Another great panel for crafters – most of the advice here is common sense but so easy to get wrong. Also, the room was asked who did want to be famous and only 1 person raised their hand!

Stand out

Find a story about yourself and your business that makes you stand out. Your story should highlight your Unique Selling Point but, despite the name, you should also have more than one USP! Editors like jeopardy and life changes and want to know about the individual, not the company.

Target your promotion

Make sure you’re contacting the right person in the right way, otherwise don’t bother. Do your research to find the relevant person at a magazine or TV show that fits your target audience. Show you know what they do and why you’re a good fit.

Paper press releases are dead

Always use email – never send anything in the mail unless you have a unique idea or samples that will catch someone’s eye.

Why should someone open your email?

Journalists are busy and won’t read every email – you’ve got just the subject line to convince them it’s something worth opening.

Provide all the information they need

Once they’ve opened it, get it right. Give them all the information they need – don’t expect them to go to a website. On the other hand, don’t send attachments – send links to images and PDFs.

Make it personal

Include photos of yourself and where you work as well as your products. Quality is not that important – if they want to feature you, they’ll arrange to take their own photographs.

Are you ready?

Most importantly, are you ready for fame? Can you handle a sudden influx of orders, appearing on television or being recognised in the street? If not, approach the press at a level you’re comfortable with – try a local paper instead of an international magazine.

==

Interview with Mark Dixon (CEO, Regus) by David Parsley, Parsley Media

I admit I had never heard of Regus before this interview and spent the first half wondering what on earth his businesses actually did. While being way above most of our ambitions, being someone who has established global companies, gone public and sold off businesses, Mark Dixon was extremely interesting and I could have listened to him for a few hours more.

Not a huge amount I can pass on from this – you might not think of yourself as an entrepreneur but a few things really stuck out.

Drive to do better

Despite multiple successful global companies, Mark mentioned that he is only ever satisfied for a few minutes then wants to go on and do better.

Stay excited

Mark advised to sell a company once you’re no longer excited about it, or have nothing more you personally want to try with it. On a smaller scale, this could apply to giving up a product, range or style if it no longer gets you excited. Don’t just make things because they sell, or because no-one else does.

Most of the interview was personal experiences but he also mentioned a couple of Regus services that intrigued me. Regus own flexible use buildings throughout the globe. Coming soon they will be offering swipe cards for pay as you go office space worldwide so if you’re visiting stockists or manufacturers you can have a short term office space anywhere in the world, 24/7. Also access cards for business hubs where home workers and freelancers can meet for networking and socialising.

==

The future of business support

Panel discussion with Patrick Elliott (Business Link for London), Professor Colin Mason (Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, University of Strathclyde), Dawn Whiteley (National Federation of Enterprise Agencies) and Andy Hudson (BT Local Business)

This sadly got bogged down in broadband availability issues but Colin Mason in particular raised two excellent points.

  • The majority of businesses that close did not fail, nor were financial disasters
  • Risk takers aren’t more successful

==

Mr Motivator aka Mike Finnigan

The final session was with ‘Mr Motivator’, though sadly not THE Mr Motivator. It was a little too cheesy for me but it was good to be reminded of a few motivational thoughts, e.g.

- Love what you do, so it’s never work
- Never be embarrassed about what you do – promote yourself at all times
- It takes a certain type of person to be an entrepreneur or start a business. Remember it’s you and your attitude who drives the business.

And a final word from, Scott Cain of Enterprise UK who had the sweetest point of the day, that however bad you might think you are doing, to some people, who’ve tried and failed at business, you’re a hero! Aww.

==

If you’ve found this advice helpful then make sure you check out the Enterprise Nation blog, for lots more tips and interviews. We’ll keep you posted when the documentary is available.

(All photos by Enterprise Nation – see more on Flickr)

Getting Crafty on STV

Friday, December 11th, 2009

stv1

Did you see mafia member Katy Penman, from Girl Industries, on STV’s The Hour last week?  She was talking about upcycling, and crafty ways to dress your gifts this Christmas.  UK-based readers can watch here again (part 3) at the STV website until the end of the month, but here she shares her top ten tips to make the outside of your presents as thoughtful and unique as what’s inside!

1) Do your maths!

If you measure the longest side of your parcel, you need seven times this measurement in ribbon to create that wrapped finish – measuring before you start means you only cut off what you need each time.

2)  Use your odds and ends

You can dress a plain box with that annoying last strip of paper from the roll that otherwise would go straight into the recycling.  Or use your odds and ends, a couple of dabs of glue and some plain card to make a co-ordinating gift tag.

3) Think outside the box

Present too difficult/fiddly/awkward a shape to wrap?  Stick it in a bag, pop a glittery bow on top, job done.  Life’s too short to wrestle sticky tape.

4)  Raid your tree

A teeny little bauble, felt stocking or even a handknit ornament look cute and pretty on top of your packages.  And the recipient can pop them on their own tree, instead of in the bin, once the presents are all opened on Christmas morning.  Or how about using mini tinsel instead of ribbon?

5)  If you aren’t artistic – cheat!

There’s no shame in not being able to draw – I was kicked out of art classes at school and still managed to make a bit of a career of it!  My top tip for Christmassy themed tags is to use Christmas cookie cutters as a template – just draw the outline onto a sheet of double-sided card (plain one side, patterned the other), cut out, punch a hole and you’re away.

6)  You don’t need to buy fancy materials

See those cookie cutter tags I just mentioned – you don’t even need to buy the card.  Use pretty packaging from toiletries or chocolates, pick up some vintage packaging from eBay, or do what we all did when we were little, use last years Christmas cards!

7)  Shop from your sewing box

Great alternatives to ribbon can be found in your sewing box, or your local haberdashers.  Lace trim, embroidery thread, bakers twine, even fancy yarn can make a cost-effective and visually interesting alternative to expensive glossy ribbon.

8) Use what you have

As well as re-purposing or upcycling other materials, don’t forget all those bits and pieces you have stashed away from last year.  A fresh glance might inspire you to add a different type of ribbon, trim down your tags into another shape, or pop your gifts straight into the kids’ stockings, to cut down on the sheer amount of waste Christmas time can generate.

9)  Do away with gift tags

You can pick up loads of letter stickers and other embellishments from shops which specialize in scrapbooking, card making or journaling.  Think about adding the gift recipient name to the side of your package in stickers, or you can even cut letters out of the paper and stick them to the side of your gift.  This is especially good for Secret Santa presents, where no-one needs to know who it’s from!

10)  Have fun

Get together with friends for a gift wrapping party – a couple of glasses of something merry, a cheesy Christmas soundtrack, enough scissors and tape to go around and all your crafty ideas for making your presents stand out should make for a very festive evening.  Pooling your resources will help your supplies (and your money) go a lot further!

stv2

As well as featuring Girl Industries’ festive products on TV last week, Katy also managed to show off a selection of gifts from Craft Mafia members and local crafty friends, including a hot water bottle cover from Sarey Poppins, upcycled matchbox gift tags from Miso Funky, cute tags from Asking for Trouble, notebooks by Pumpkinsputnik, Rab C Nesbitt portrait cushion from Angharad Jefferson, and a dinky cute dinosaur brooch from Madness of Many.

Miso Funky’s Market Tips

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

010409-0261

Seeing as it’s now well and truly craft fair season, I thought I’d share my top tips for getting prepared for market with you. I’ve been going to markets and craft fairs as a stall-holder now for almost 4 years and have learned a lot along the way. I hope these tips will be useful, especially if you’re taking the plunge for the first time this year!

Bring a piece of material to cover your table!

This could be a plain table cloth, or even an old curtain that is big enough to cover the table at the fair. Remember that some of the tables supplied by venues are older than you are and have served more craft fairs than you’ve had hot dinners, so it’s best to cover them up!

You can also use your table covering to show off your wares too – e.g. if you have silver jewellery, a dark table covering would show off your lighter items. You can store all your junk, boxes, packaging, lunch, etc under the table, and use your covering to drape over the front to hide your stuff – clever, eh?

Bring Sellotape!

It’s amazing how useful sellotape is! You can use it to stick stuff to walls, fasten bags closed, tape stuff to your table … bring some and keep it handy, you’ll never know when you might need it. You might also want to keep some blu-tak and/or white-tak handy for fussier venues. Always check with the organiser before sticking something to the wall!

Other useful things to have handy are mulitple pens (you WILL lose one), scissors and a notepad.

Bring a project!

Bring along a craft project you are working on to keep you busy during the day. Nothing too elaborate, but, for example, if you’re a knitter, then bring your needles! Your potential customers will love to see you working on something – let them see how the magic happens!

If the worst happens and it’s a day for poor attendance, then you will have something to keep you occupied, but don’t bank on getting your project finished – hopefully you’ll be too busy raking in the cash!

Bring carrier bags!

It’s often overlooked in the excitement of seeing your stock ready to go, but make sure you bring something for your customers to take their purchases home in. This could either be shop bought bags or even recycle your own stack of carriers (I know you’ve got loads under your sink). At Miso Funky, I like to keep any interesting bags from trips overseas to use for my wares. I also use new recycleable paper bags to cut down on the old landfill.

Smile!

It sounds daft, but people are more inclined to buy stuff if you smile! I’ve been to events before where people sit with their arms crossed behind their tables looking surly and really, it just puts people off. If you’re shy, bring along a chatty friend to help – they can do the sales pitch, whilst you beam with pride in the background and wrap the goods!

 

The organisers of the events do the hard bit in getting people in the door – you do the easy bit, working your charm and showing off your fabulous stuff! After all, no-one knows your stock better than you. Don’t be too pushy though – friendly, polite and helpful is the order of the day.

 

Chat to your fellow stallholders – you’ll find them to be a mine of information about other events, their experiences of markets, packaging suppliers, where’s best to get lunch nearby… You’ll also hopefully make some new friends and get involved in your local crafting community.

Have a price list!

Again, it can be overlooked, but make sure you think about how much you want to charge for your stuff. Remember to factor your time in when you are coming up with prices, as well as materials. It’s a good idea to have at least a mental idea of what you want to charge for things – you can always haggle with your customers on the day!

For new products, I often print up two lots of price cards – a maximum price and a lower price that I’d still accept for my product. That way, I can experiment with pieces I’m not sure what to charge for and see what the customers think.

Bring your card!

If you have them, bring a stack of them to hand out to everyone, customers and fellow exhibitors alike. If you don’t have a card, then make sure you’ve got something with your website address or email address on it, a flyer, or even handwritten cards. That way, everyone will be able to find out where to go to buy more of your stuff!

There’s no excuse not to have a card in this day and age! It’s your cheapest and most effective way of getting your name out there for little effort. I get mine printed at Vistaprint and designed by Asking For Trouble, both for extremely reasonable prices.

Leave a stack on your table for browsers to take – they may not buy anything today, but more than likely they’ll take your card, visit your website, tell a friend or just remember you til next time.

Be able to make change!

Remember to bring some loose change, especially one pence pieces, if you have x.99 prices. Better still, eliminate the need for change by charging whole number prices. Obviously you’ll still need change, but only then a couple of fivers and some pound coins. It’s better to be able to give change than someone not buying something because they only have a tenner.

Make sure you keep your takings secure, especially if you’re at an outdoors market. Don’t turn your back on it for a second! Invest in a market traders’ apron and keep it close to you – it’s handier as well as more secure. Just don’t compromise and use a bum bag!

Remember to keep a note of what you sell for your accounting records and also to help you evaluate what sells best and what’s not-so-popular later.

Pack your stuff well!

You don’t want to worry about humffing your stuff around in carrier bags – so pack a suitcase! One with wheels is a great idea, so you can roll it along behind you. It looks more professional too to have one well-organised bag than lots of carriers.

If it’s a hard-bodied case, you can also stand things on top of it, or lean things against it. If you’re not using it, then you can close it over, and stick it under your table out of the way. You could even keep bags and change in it out of the way, to give more room on your table for your wares.

Also, of course, a well-packed bag means your stock will be in tip-top condition when you arrive to set up. Remember to repack it well at the end of the day to make life much easier next time!

Practice makes perfect!

Take the time to think about how you want to set out your table. If you have a lot of stuff, decide what will be best to go at the front to catch the customers’ eyes. Consider leaving some stuff off the table if you have loads – you can always restock later in the day, or swap less popular items over.

Common sense applies here – if you have tall items, put them at the back so they don’t hide any smaller items and put light objects against a dark background and vice versa.

Get a few friends to have a look and give their opinions – you can always tweak it as your stock dwindles through sales over the course of the day! Practice at home on the dining table, kitchen counter or even on the ironing board.

I’m not saying you should follow this to the letter, but these things are all points I’ve picked up on through my own experiences and I hope they w ill help you too.

One last tip – HAVE FUN! Remember why you’re doing this, and have a great day. Good luck!