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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Benign Neglect

Here I am, pontificating about how to run a small crafts business and my Etsy shop looks like *&^$#.  I've been neglecting it, but you will soon discover, it's impossible to stay totally on top of all aspects of your business.  So, choices have to be made, and you have to stop and step back often to assess where you are spending your time.  Early on, I think you have to spend your time establishing your presence in your field.  Ironically, that means a lot of time on the computer (for us creative types, that hurts; but, think of it as just another aspect of being creative).  People need to know you exist before they can even think of buying your rhinestone widgets!  As that starts to fall into place, then you need to start making strategic choices about how you spend your time.  Of course, time needs to be spent actually making your product, but then, back to the computer to let others know your latest designs, etc.  For me, I've been concentrating on coming up with crochet patterns (as opposed to the actual items themselves, but I'm glad to make custom orders ;-)  Thus, I've been spending more time on Ravelry (a community of knitters, crocheters, and designers) posting patterns than on Etsy posting real products.  And, I probably need to step back and think about whether that's a good use of my time or not (I think so, but I do need to think about how to optimize my Etsy shop presence -- any suggestions more than welcome!)

In conjunction with figuring out how to optimize your time spent on your business and establishing your presence on the web, you need to figure out "who you are", "what's your message" and how best to express these answers.  Most business mavens will tell you that you need to formulate a mission statement, tag line, etc.  Don't get caught up in the jargon or formula -- just think about what it is you are trying to do -- "Rhinestones for a shinier world", "My mission is to create the shiniest rhinestone widgets to brighten your day" -- just try to say whatever it is that motivates you to create what you create. Believe me, it will resonate with your customers and yourself much more if you just let it come from your heart.  You will be more motivated to keep creating and getting your message out, and your potential customers will feel your vibe and energy!

Speaking of vibe and energy (or lack thereof), time to go to the day job ;-)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dipping In a Toe

So, back to entrepreneurship.  Last post, I was talking about being sure that this is really what you want to do and are committed to do.  Well, I'm going to take a step back here because I think there are some things you can do to test the waters before you really have to commit to anything.  Now, another disclaimer -- I'm talking mainly to creative, artistic types who want to explore whether they can make some $$ from their artwork.  I think many of my basic principles should be applicable to others too, but I don't want to lead anyone astray either.

Let's say you make incredibly beautiful (or at least that's what your mom and friends say) rhinestone widgets.  You've given them as gifts and made some custom order for friends who have been more than happy to reimburse your expenses for materials.  But, will anyone actually buy these things at a retail rate?!  Well, with the internet, it really doesn't cost much to find out!  And, that's what I mean by "dipping in your toe".  Exactly how you ask?!  I'd suggest three basic steps:  1) set up a blog, 2) set up Facebook and Twitter accounts, and 3) list your widgets on Etsy or another one of the crafts selling sites (more on this later).  And, link them all together.  Except for listing fees on Etsy, everything else shouldn't cost you a dime, but should afford you ways to let the world know about your rhinestone widgets and how people can buy them.

The blog should be your hub -- these days, with all of the functionality offered on blogspot and wordpress, it's almost as good as having your own (expensive) website (though, you might want to at least reserve the name you want to use for your potential business, and there's yet another topic for a post!). 

The Facebook and Twitter accounts are a way to make connections to others who can get the word out about your product.  Start with your friends, especially the ones who say they love your work -- well, have them say it out loud to their friends and provide testimonials that you can use on the blog so that potential customers don't have only your word for the greatness of your product.  I'll warn you, at first, you feel like you are shouting into a black hole.  Your updates and tweets are going into an empty forest where they and the falling tree are not heard.  But, amazingly, a wonderful person who is not your mother or already a friend actually responds, "likes", or starts following you.  It is indeed a happy day!

Ah, and yes, exactly where can people go to buy your product?  Etsy is the big kahuna marketplace for all things crafted, but there are others who are trying to establish similar models (small or no listing fee and a cut of the purchase price on the back end.  I'll post more about the pros and cons of such services next time).  Nothing like getting an email telling you that an item has sold and to "ship now".  And, once you get over the shock, you really had better be ready to ship!

Ok, I've given you some tidbits to think about, and I'll be following up with more details and more ideas soon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Free Crochet Golden Bangle Bracelet Pattern!

Just posted a fun free crochet Mother's Day project up on Ravelry (click on the icon to the left) and it should be available through soon too!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Part-Time Entrepreneur

I'm discovering that my posts on running my business seem to get more hits than the ones on crochet itself!  Hey, that's ok, if I can provide helpful information, whatever it is, I'm glad to do it.  So, I think the next couple of posts will be about trying to run a small business.  A few disclaimers though:  I am fortunate enough to have a day job, so this business of mine is done on the side.  I also have not done a business plan or had to seek outside financing.  In fact, it's not like I'm raking in a ton of $$ or anything, but for me, it's not about that (well, not totally :-)

So, if you are thinking about starting your own business, I think you should consider a few things:

1)  Do you really have the interest and commitment to do this? 

You've got to have an idea for your business that you really are going to enjoy doing, day after day, week after week, etc.  And, you've got to be committed to putting more time into it than you probably think you're going to need to.  I'm sure you've seen plenty of internet advertisements for "Work a Couple of Hours, Earn Millions" programs.  I'm not saying that some of those programs aren't of value, but really, as they say, "if it sounds too good to be true...."  I probably spend about 2 hours each day and even more each weekend day working on some aspect of the business.  Ironically, my day job involves sitting in front of a computer all day, and I chose crochet as a way to use a different part of my brain and different skills to get away from the computer.  But, in this day and age, I'd say that I probably spend 50-70 percent of my time in front of the computer for my small business!  But, more on that in another post.

Another danger -- you might really love doing something right now as a hobby, but think about whether you will still enjoy it as much if it becomes a business.  Why do I keep emphasizing the enjoyment aspect of this?  Because I believe it's the only way that you will achieve the commitment level and be willing to put the time into it that is necessary to even give your business a chance to be successful.  I don't want to discourage anyone, and I'm not a risk taker by nature, so I guess I am trying to offer a different perspective on this topic than you might be getting from other sources.

Ok, there's some food for thought.  Next post, we'll explore some ways to get started if you're on the bandwagon.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tug of War

Remember that game from the playground?!  You'd be pulling with all of your might, just to be upended by someone pulling harder from the opposite direction.  Welcome to my world :-)  I've been in a neverending tug of war with myself the last few days, trying to get everything done and struggling with which project takes priority.  The Yarn Club shipments went out, but at the expense of not taking pix to post like last time.  But, no worries, I'll be posting information on this month's shipment and listing the patterns on Ravelry soon.

The other major pull has been working on my 101 Crochet Tips in 101 Days.  I'm still on target, but I could use everyone's help, and I do have a great giveaway!  Here's the deal:  send me your trickiest crochet problem, and if I use it for a tip, I will send you the pattern of your choice for FREE!  Please either leave a comment here (with a way for me to contact you) or send me an email at

Alrightee, back to work for me!

Today's Thought:  I just became aware of Jessica Swanson, the Shoestring Marketer.  She's got a great website, blog, and twitter comments that convey useful information and actionable items for approaching small business marketing on a shoestring (i.e., zero) budget.  Check her out at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Gorilla on a Pole

I'm always so amazed and tickled by how creative crocheters can be!  Last night I checked into my Ravelry account and came across this post by karal3012 who crocheted my Simple Hearts pattern in an unexpected way:

"Modeled by George the cross dressing gorilla, these pasties would look great on any burlesque enthusiast.  After crocheting these little goodies I backed them with a layer of liquid latex and let dry, they can be applied to the skin with a bit of eyelash glue. For the center sparkly a gob of hot glue and some red hot glitter. Nothing better than a pair of sparkly boobies."

How fabulous!!!  Many kudos to karal3012~

Ok, hope this makes your Wednesday :-)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

For the Love of HTML

I am starting to love html, probably because I am finally figuring it out!  I've now figured out how to upload pdf versions of back issues of the newsletter to the "FTP file publisher" and then make a link from here to there!  They are now available on the left side here and on the "Newsletters" tab on our Facebook fan page.  Whoot whoot!

I can't believe how quickly the weekend has gone by.  So much html, so little time ;-)

Today's Thought:  Follow us on Twitter!  Just search for "PhyllisOfMCG" (I know, a lame thought of the day, but I'm pooped.  I'll make it up to you, I promise).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Crocheted Flower Placemat

So, I've just been itching to use up the rest of the nylon twine I had left over from the Easter basket project (and I found some orange twine tucked away too), so I came up with a flower placemat for spring and summer outdoor dining.  It's up on Ravelry, and here's a pic:

I don't know why, but I just really enjoyed working with the twine.  But, it's time to let it go now and move on!

Thursday, April 8, 2010


SEO, search engine optimization.  I'm still not sure I fully understand how the optimization part of it works, but I do try to think about using "key words" in blog entries and crochet tips on Lifetips.  I watched a webinar today about some new tech tools that Lifetips is rolling out to help us Gurus post more tips and get our books ready, so it was pretty motivating.  I like the fact that they seem re-energized themselves about their mission and seem open to innovative ideas (soon including the posting of YouTube videos!).  I'm looking forward to more webinars, especially the one about SEO.

Oh, but more importantly, a special offer for this anniversary month -- the BOGO offer -- buy one, get one free!  If you buy a pattern on Ravelry (just click on the icon to the left) and send me an email telling which other pattern of the same or lesser price you want, I will email it to you for free :-)  This offer is good until April 30, 2010, and don't worry about registering your information with Ravelry, you will be glad you did.  It's very secure, and they make payment and download so easy!  I'm hoping to get a few new patterns posted soon, so go set up your Ravelry account!

Today's Thought:  Food Rule # 50 -- The banquet is in the first bite.  A great reminder to slow down and enjoy the taste of your food.  As Mr. Pollen says, no bite is as good as the first, and each subsequent bite will give you less and less satisfaction.  We've tried to implement this rule just by slowing down and savoring each bite and trying to stop before we feel all bloated and stuffed.  One strategy we use in restaurants involves cutting everything in half and asking for the doggy bag up front!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy 5th Anniversary!!

Hard to believe, but Many Creative Gifts is 5 years old today!!  Whoooo, hooooo!  Now, for my loyal fans, I'm planning on offering great discounts and deals this month, ... just as soon as I figure out how to make that happen ;-)  I'm not sure the services I use right now allow for coupon codes, but I will find a way.  And, I'd love suggestions on the deals and products you'd like to see this month.

Other than that, happy Monday morning, have a great day!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Half Way There!

Well, the taxes are just about done, and new tips have been posted on, so I'm on track there too.  The weather here in DC has been amazing, so we've been trying to enjoy it -- so hard to believe that about 2 months ago we were buried in almost 2 feet of snow!

So, I've been thinking a lot lately about how to pull together all of the "mind, body, spirit and crochet" materials I have into a useful book.  I've been doing some additional research into mind topics, like meditation, because, frankly, that's the area that I have really let slip.  I used to meditate at least 3 times a week (still not considered sufficient, but better than nothing).  Now, if I make myself take a deep breath before b*tching and whining about something, I feel victorious!  It's really dawning on me that the excuse "I have no time for xyz" really is an excuse.  We've got 24 hours a day, and we've got choices about how we want to spend that time.  If you're CHOOSING to spend your time on x instead of y, then don't blame it on not having enough time.  I also think it's easy to get caught up in all of the contradictory information we receive everyday -- "you should exercise for an hour every day" v. "20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise 4 times a week is enough".  What should we do?!

For what it's worth, I'm figuring out that you have to customize your own approach to mind, body, spirit (and crochet :-)  Each of us has her or his own trouble spots (my right hip and my neck and shoulders have to be tended to, or they scream!), and we just need to be aware of them and address them in ways that work for us.  All I or anybody, even the experts, can do is give suggestions and general guidelines, but you have to figure out what works, or doesn't, work for you.  Mmmm, and I guess that's my opening statement for the book ;-)

Today's Thought:  Try this approach to addressing the lack of time in your life -- identify 1 hour a day that you can set aside for yourself (or, if you have to, 3 20-minute segments).  Then, spend 20 minutes of that hour reading.  Catch up on all of those magazine articles you've been putting aside or that novel you've been wanting to start or finish.  But, don't spend it on emails or at the computer -- you're already probably on there way too much!  Use the next 20 minutes to exercise.  Even if it means just walking around the block (you can cover a mile in 20 minutes if you're focused and vigorous), going up and down some stairs, or find a yoga routine (Baron Baptiste has some great 20-30 minute segments that work you from top to bottom) that you like.  Your last 20 minutes, start meditating!  Use the time to sit and quiet your mind, clearing it of all thoughts and stresses.  Having a hard time doing it on your own?  Seek out a meditation center in your town or a "MeetUp" group, or start one of your own.  Just anything you can do to step back and get perspective.  I know it'll be hard to do this every day at first, but believe me, you will start to crave it, and you will find that one hour each day to re-energize yourself, and this blog is all about helping you get there!