Sunday, 4 March 2012

Featured Business: Perfect Imperfections

Today Caroline Haniak shares her experience of running Perfect Imperfections, a beautiful jewellery store on Etsy

What is your mission for Perfect Imperfections?

Perfect Imperfections mission is to provide unique and creative homemade jewellery but also share my passion for Macrame and Tatting. Macrame is the technique I use to make my bracelets which are popularly known as Friendship Bracelets. I am also experimenting with a dying art of lace making called Tatting and hopefully raising it’s profile.

Tell me more about Perfect Imperfections on Etsy.

Knotted Friendship Bracelet
Perfect Imperfections was inspired by a quote from an American Philosopher – Sam Keen. “Love isn't finding a perfect person. It's seeing an imperfect person perfectly.” I felt this was true of homemade products. My jewellery isn’t made by machines and therefore will not be ‘perfect’ but what is special about my jewellery is that it is unique. You fall in love with an item and you love it perfectly.

Despite my love for crafts spanning a lifetime, Perfect Imperfections is a new venture for me. I have only been open since November 2011, on Etsy, and I have taken my time populating my shop with items that inspire me and hopefully will inspire others. My jewellery is generally for casual wear however Tatted items look so elegant and dramatic that they would be suitable for those times you need something extra special to stand out in.

Friendship bracelets traditionally are supposed to be worn till they literally break and fall off you. You make a wish when you tie them on and when they fall off your wish will come true. They are made by tying small knots in embroidery thread, in different ways, with different colours. The technique takes a lot of patience and time but the end results look amazing. I’ve also added clasps and chains on to some of my friendship bracelets, for those who prefer removable bracelets. You can take them off when you want and mix and match colours in the way you want to.

Who do you target your products at?

Friendship bracelets are adored by young people and teenagers. You can swap them, share them, wear loads at the same time or just one or two. They make lovely, bright, colourful presents for friends. However it’s not only young people who like wearing these unique bracelets. The clasp finish appeals to most people who like to change their jewellery regularly and match it with outfits. My tatted jewellery gives an air of vintage sophistication with a modern twist. These items appeal to people who love Victorian fashion and have a love for lace (like me!!).

Why should people buy your products?

Sea Blue Ankara Friendship Bracelet

Jewellery from Perfect Imperfections is intricate in its detail and a long time is spent making each piece. The friendship bracelets are made with high quality Anchor Embroidery Thread and the colours are chosen carefully for each pattern. I am also interested in making custom jewellery for people. I love the idea of owning something that was created just for me and I want to give that feeling to others. I work closely with customers to make sure I create a piece that they will love perfectly.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m 24 years old and live in Manchester, England. I have experimented with different crafts from a very young age. My Mum always encouraged us to be creative and most of my fondest childhood memories involve paint, glitter and glue!! When I got a bit older one of my family members owned a small craft shop and I was mesmerized by the colours of the embroidery thread and the intricate designs of cross stitch patterns. I took up cross stitching and tapestry and created some lovely wall art, but I didn’t come across Macrame until a few years ago when a friend showed me how to make a small friendship bracelet. Since then I’ve been hooked! It’s a great way of relaxing for me and I get a lot of enjoyment out of making each piece. My recent find is Tatting and if it wasn’t for getting involved with the Esty community I may not have ever known about it. I have always had a thing for lace and to now be designing and creating my own is utterly thrilling for me. My tatting collection will be growing and growing so watch this space!

How do you build relationships with your customers?

I have recently set up my Facebook page and have been using it not only to promote myself but also share other unique and inspiring crafts from Etsy. Personally I can be a fussy buyer and what really helps me is being able to talk to the seller before I make my purchase and that is what I can offer anyone looking to purchase from my shop. I love getting feedback and critiques because I can then really begin to improve things and strive for that perfection. I am also very active in the Etsy community and try to share and pick up as much advice as possible. Outside of Etsy I am part of the international friendship bracelet community and we share our experiences as well as our products on a regular basis.

How and where do you promote your products?
For the time being I use Facebook and Etsy to promote my shop. I believe in Karma though and the more I support other people on Etsy and their wonderful talents, the more support I will get from them. If I treat my customers well and engage their interest they will continue to support me.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Woven Macrame Friendship Bracelet
The one thing I love about the homemade jewellery I offer is the patterns. It often feels like magic, that making tiny knots in embroidery thread can result in a magnificent, intricate pattern, and better still you can wear them as statements on your wrists. I love the process of making each item and I spend a lot of time with each piece making sure that whoever it’s meant for is truly happy.


What is the best resource that you use and would recommend to others?

The best resource that has really helped me set up my shop in the last few months has been the Etsy Community. My advice for anyone with a shop on Etsy would be to join some of the teams and speak to those who are successful or well established. Their advice is priceless and it has and will continue to help me.

To find out more about Perfect Imperfections and to stay up to date with news and offers, take a look at the store's facebook page.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Event Promotion Ideas

Promoting an event can be tricky, but this post explores event promotion by telling you the top 8 ways to promote an event and how to advertise an event successfully. Remember cheap advertising can be just as powerful as spending loads, the key to advertising an event is to make certain the event branding ties in closely with that of your business.

To be successful business events need visitors, and remember you want a reasonable quantity of attendees but quality is what counts! What I mean by this is your target market needs to be there. If not you probably won’t reach the goals you set out earlier.

How to promote:

8. Online- Promoting an event online may get a lot of visibility but it’s not very specific and people from all over the world will be reached, and realistically many of them won’t be able to attend.

7. Your website- This is better than just online promotion, because if someone is already on your website they are interested in your business offering. Remember to also be using social media. But again distance may be an issue.

6. Promotional leaflets- These can be used to target people local to you, and how many people are reached depends entirely on your dedication. However it may waste a lot of your time if people aren’t that interested in what your business is selling.

5. At local venues- Local venues are good for attracting local people and you can pick venues that you think your target market are likely to visit.

4. The venue where your event is to be held- If people are already at your venue they may attend events there regularly this means they are more likely to come to yours.

3. Word of mouth- This is a great way to promote there is no cost, and your friends and family can help. Hopefully their enthusiasm for your event and business will intrigue people and because someone has personally recommended it to them they will be more likely to attend.

2. Amongst existing customers- If you have contact details or an email for your previous customers be sure to send a personalised invitation.

1. PR and local press- Local press coverage is great for any event but particularly promotional events,  it will be seen by lots of people and give your event more credibility. Tie this in with your PR and create a story around your event that will increase interest in your event.

When you promote an event remember to tell people the benefit they will get out of attending, will they receive discounts on any of your products (remember if this is a product or business launch it’s probably not the best idea to discount products quite so early on!), will it be the first chance to see new trends and to buy therefore giving your event an exclusive edge?

Friday, 3 February 2012

Events - The 3 W's

Running a successful event will depend not entirely but really rather quite substantially on the 3 W’s. They are key to creating a buzz around your event, achieving your aims and providing valuable interaction with your customers.

1.       WHO

Who needs to attend your event to make it a success? Friends and family for support? Existing customers or new ones? Business contacts or even dare I say it rival businesses? Can you even get the press involved, even if it is just local press it is still great coverage. Who attends is up to you but make sure you invite the right audience for your event. Send appropriate invites, that get your message across and include key details - location and time of your event etc. Explain what the benefits of attending your event will be and remember to end with a call to action! If your event is trying to attract a new audience for your business remember to advertise widely and target your businesses tribe (your key consumer segment) Promote in places they go or in the media they are most likely to follow.

Think about what your audiences will expect as standard at your event, and then create a WOW factor that will get them talking about your event and embed your brand in their memory.

2.       WHEN

Decide on the key factors first – how long will your event take to plan? And when will it fit cohesively with the rest of your marketing strategy? For example if it is a product launch you need to make sure your product is finished, top quality and ready to sell! The time of day, week, month you choose to host your event should fit with your target market, for example working mums aren’t going to attend a mid-week event in the middle of the day. Remember to balance opportunities for increased footfall with the potential costs involved. And consider carefully how long your event should last, all day is a long time to fill!

3.       WHERE

Does your venue fit with the image of your business? Will it help create a theme or particular atmosphere, do you want guests relaxed or buzzing? Is your venue the right size? Forecast carefully the number of attendees, they won’t stay long if they feel like sardines ,but vast swathes of space don’t always feel that inviting either. Are you going to rely on your own advertising or can you attract a lot of people passing by. Remember to keep costs tightly under control as venue will most likely be your biggest expense. Make sure the venue is suitable for everything you have planned and design a floor plan to check everything will fit!
WWW is key to designing events that will be successful and engage your audience. Let me know what your three W's would be. Next time I'll be giving you great tips on promoting and marketing your business during the event

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Featured Business: Natural Bathing Co

Today's interview features Carrie Freeman the owner of Natural Bathing Co, which can be found on Etsy and Ebay. Now to Carrie, to tell us more about her luxury handmade bath and beauty product business.

Tell us a bit about your products.

At Natural Bathing Co I sell my own handmade bath and body products, which I make in our kitchen at home! I like to make my products as natural as possible as I know how hard it is to find products suitable for sensitive skin, and I'm hoping that in 2012 we can expand our shop to include up to 50 different items.

What makes your products stand out from the crowd?

The things that make my products stand out from the crowd are the ingredients. All the ingredients are researched and are only put into the products if they will benefit the user in some way. I do my best to give great customer service and repeat customers have the opportunity to obtain discounts!
Sandalwood and Vanilla Soap

How did you start out?

I originally sold wholesale made bars of soap until I found out that these included artificial foaming agents which in fact dry out the skin. I looked into making my own soaps and haven't looked back since. Now I am running my business to set up a fund for my first home and to give me a little bit of extra income while doing the thing I love.

What has been the hardest part of running your business? How have you overcome it?

Personally I think the hardest part of running my business has been time management. As I am also a student at university I have a lot of reading and studying that I have to do at home, as well as making my products. I've tried to organise myself by setting aside designated time slots for doing studying and then using a lot of my spare time for my business.

What motivates you?

As previously mentioned, I have set up my business to provide a fund which will help me make a start in life. My dream is to expand my business to the point of it becoming my full time job, where I can work from home and be there for my children when I decide to start a family.

What is the best resource you would recommend to others?

The best resource for anyone looking to start out in soapmaking would be The Handmade Soap Book by Melinda Coss. It is a great book with lots of helpful information for troubleshooting and ideas. For anyone looking to start their own bath and body business I would recommend checking out the legislation in their country as often there are certificates that you have to have in order to sell your product. Other than that, research! Research and practice making your products is essential! You might also want to look at the current market and see if there is a niche, which you would be able to fill nicely.

How do you connect with your customers?

I like to connect with my customers through social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook, but with Etsy, the community discussion boards are also a great way to keep in touch. I am a member of the CraftBritannia team on Etsy and often like to take part in team events, chatting with other people and helping to promote other people's items as well as my own. Etsy is so community focused that not only do I make friends with other users, I also get some sales through doing so. I'm ordering some new business cards as well which I will pack into each order with a coupon code for each return customer.
How do you make your customers feel valued?

I know that sometimes it can be hard to make each customer feel valued so I try my best to make sure I send them informative but friendly emails about their order status. You have to remember not to be overly friendly though as then you are at risk of losing your professionalism. As mentioned before, I also like to include a coupon code for customers so that if they come back to my shop and buy again, they can get a small discount.
Dragons Blood Soap

Tell us about your latest product range?

Coming in February 2012 will be several new products. I am adding a fruity strawberry smoothie scented soap which reminds me of strawberry milkshake, a lime, mandarin, and basil soap which is very citrusy and fresh, and a baby butter bee soap, which is similar to the fragrance of baby powder. I am making these soaps as my shop has been open for a couple of months now and I feel it is time to expand my range. I am also planning on making some more bath bombs in the same scents as my soaps, and I'll be looking into recipes for making wonderful flavoured lip balms for Spring 2012.

What ingredients do you use in your products?

The main ingredient for all my soaps is an organic base, to which I add shea or cocoa butter, followed by a fragrance or essential oil. I pour it into my silicone moulds and wait! I love the silicone moulds because not only do they provide me with a good chunky bar of soap, but it is really easy to unmould my soaps and they are super easy to clean.

My favourite ingredient is organic unrefined cocoa butter which I use in my chocolate truffle soap. It is a hard butter but is rich in the chocolatey smell which many people love as well as having all of its natural properties.

To find out more and stay up to date with the Natural Bathing Co please remember to stop by and visit Carrie on facebook and twitter.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Event Management

Planning your event should incorporate everything that needs to take place in advance, and on the day itself. There are lots of elements to running an event so it is very important to have a clear plan and great organisational skills!

Firstly decide the purpose of your event and what your goals are, for example, to make sales  or new contacts. You need to do this so that you can work out what actions your attendees need to undertake whilst at the event. This way they won’t turn up and leave with no positive outcome for your business. Maybe have a contact form so that when people turn up they can sign in and leave an email address. Or do you need to make sure there is a demonstration of your product at the event so people are more likely to buy? Do you expect them to take any further actions after the event? Say to visit your website, if so do you need to hand out a business card or a voucher for the site?

Now you know what needs to happen at the event and what elements you need to include. Decide on the event itself, where will it take place, will there be a theme? If so how is it relevant to what you are trying to achieve and how does it represent your brand? Depending on the type of event you decide upon do careful research on local legislation, are there any rules you should be aware of in terms of health and safety or if you plan to serve any alcohol?

Begin to decide on the time frame involved. Decide on a suitable date for your event to take place and begin to create a schedule for all the elements you need to organise.  When will you have to book a venue? Send invites or place an advertisement? Do you need to plan any entertainment or activities?

Remember if it starts to become too complex break it back down to the goal you decided on at the beginning, you really don’t need a lot of bells or whistles! Is it a one off business launch or a little monthly catch up?  Plan the scale of the event accordingly! Make sure you stick to a budget otherwise costs can spiral. Remember sometimes the events that are free to set up are the most fun! As you have to think a little bit more creatively about venues and activities.

It can be a bit daunting arranging an event by yourself, so can you round up any helpers? Do you need any greeters or speakers at your event? Could you get them to carry out some market research for you while they mingle with your guests? Or could you combine your event with some other local businesses?

As for the day itself, plan how long your event will last, will it go on all day and people can come and go as they please or will it only last an hour and guests should be there for the duration? Plan what activities will take place and when. Don’t try to cram too much in, as schedules always slip a little and you don’t want to bombard people!

Most importantly make sure your event will be something to remember. As not only may you gain new custom from attendees. If your event is exciting, interesting and well planned it could increase exposure for your business through word of mouth promotion and this really is the best kind!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Your Business Event Will Create A Buzz

Your first question is probably why host an event? Well there are plenty of reasons! It is great for making sales or getting your business noticed, whether this is launching your business or just a new product. An event is a great promotional activity and way to network with customers, suppliers or even your competitors. An event will make a fabulous PR opportunity and can broaden or create a whole new audience for you.

It can also be a great way to share information whether this is by you giving a talk to your customers or hosting a seminar for businesses that operate within your market. Treat the event as a learning experience, this is a great opportunity to talk first hand to your customers and to see what they do and don’t like. This makes an event the perfect place to not only market your products but conduct valuable market research.
Create a new product range like I have here!

If you are not sure you have a reason to host an event make one! Maybe it’s time your product range was injected with a little bit of excitement. Make sure your event has a specific purpose and that the way you portray your business fits with the message you are conveying to your customers.

Your event should fit well with your company, and attract the correct target audience. For example if you sell cakes, think about hosting a family orientated event, a tea party or traditional village fair for example. You can put a creative twist on it but make sure it is relevant, for example why not make it themed, the mad hatter’s tea party perhaps? If however your business is more about designing couture jewellery, how about an evening event with canap├ęs and your products displayed decoratively or even hire some models (or friends)!

Hosting an event will get your business noticed, give you credibility within your market and help give your company some more history, could this become an annual event for example? It will help consumers identify with your brand and give you more presence especially if you currently operate online.

Plan your event carefully as you want an event that runs smoothly and has a polished and professional feel. Remember the event will reflect on your business and customers want to buy from companies that are reliable and can deliver especially on quality.

Remember to take plenty of photographs at your event and get some customer reviews, these will be great for future promotional material!

Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to update the blog with plenty more advice on hosting your own event. So that you can create an event that maximises the potential benefits that have been outlined and creates a real buzz about your business!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Positive = Proactive


Running your own business requires a lot of positive thinking, but don’t confuse this with dreaming or wishing! Which will not get you very far at all and will most likely result in a number of wasted hours. Remaining positive can be hard work in itself, but in the end will reap huge benefits. You need to keep going when progress is slow, overcome set backs, cope with rejections and learn from criticism rather than taking it to heart.
Remember customers will react much differently to someone who is positive, upbeat and has obvious enthusiasm for what they are doing, rather than a business owner who seems desperate for a sale or even worse like they don’t really care.
How to stay positive when things don’t seem to be going your way?

Firstly start writing down your goal for this month, just doing this will help focus you. A month is long enough to sink your teeth in and make real progress, but short enough to give it some momentum. Now everyday write down what you have done or what has happened to help you achieve this. By keeping a record like this it will remind you of everything positive you have done, how you are moving yourself and your business forward and what you are successfully achieving. Repeat every month!

Another way is to reaffirm one good thing every day, it could be about yourself or your business. It may be an improvement you have made, something new you have tried or a goal you have met. Every day wake up and think of what your successful moment of yesterday was. This will help you start your day in a good mood and with more confidence.

Seek out feedback from your customers and your peers. You can display the positive feedback you receive on your marketing materials or on a page on your website, helping build your businesses positive reputation and increasing consumer confidence.
Whilst this may not seem quite so positive if you receive customer complaints especially if you feel they are unjustified, it can be turned in to a positive action by yourself, by recognizing this as a learning opportunity. Take the criticism and make it constructive. It will help you to improve your businesses processes for example returns or deliveries, how are they organized, or how the customer is kept informed etc. Therefore improving your customer service and the likelihood of future sales.

Finally remember to believe in yourself! Have enthusiasm for what you do and continue to explore what works well for you. If you come face to face with a problem remember to keep the focus on finding a solution, this will help keep your business ahead of the game!