Saturday, 22 November 2014

Crafty Fox Market

Another market update for you all! I will be selling at the absolutely amazing Crafty Fox Market at a brand new venue this Christmas. This is the first Crafty Fox in Dalston and I'm very excited about it! If you'd like to come visit the details are:

When: Saturday 29th November (it's also on here Sunday 30th November with 40 new stalls, but I will only be there on the Saturday)
Where: Farr's School of Dancing (it's a pub, not a dance school!), 17-19 Dalston Lane, London
What: 40 plus stalls on handmade loveliness, kickass crafty workshops, AND there will be a pop up cafe serving tea and cakes!

It's completely FREE to get in (always a huge bonus) so why not come and make a day of it? Do some shopping, make something, have tea and cake (or an alcoholic beverage if you fancy!) You can see a full list of the traders who will be there on the Saturday right here, and those that will be on the Sunday right here. If you come along please do say hello - I will have extra treats to pop in the orders of anyone who mentions that they follow me online/read my blog!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Tips for a Successful Trade Show

Now, I don't claim to be a trade show expert - Top Drawer was my first experience as a standholder at a trade show, but I learnt a LOT from my experience and thought that sharing some of what I learn might help others who are thinking of exhibiting. (please note, none of these points cover building a stand - this is because I posted a specific blogpost about this topic on Wednesday, so be sure to have a read of that too!)

- trade shows are NOT craft fairs - yeah, I know, pretty obvious right? But I went into my Top Drawer experience sort of expecting it to be like the experiences I'd had at craft fairs. It wasn't. Firstly, it's a lot more business-y. People are making big decisions, and spending lots of money, and talking to lots of people, so there is a lot less chit chat than at craft fairs. That's not to say I didn't talk to anyone - I had some really lovely chats with some really lovely people, but don't feel upset if people just take a catalogue, ask a few questions about minimums and lead times, and then move on!

- have a helper - not for all day, but even if someone can come a relieve you for an hour in the middle of the day so you can go and have a spot of lunch and relax for a little bit. I was lucky enough to have help for all three days of Top Drawer, and it really did make a difference. I think like most makers I find it difficult talking to people about my work, and even harder to 'sell' my work, so having someone else to help with this was awesome! Why not persuade a friend or family member to help in exchange for some freebies?

- make sure to have your stand number somewhere on the catalogue/business card/postcard or whatever it is that you're handing out to interested visitors. This way they will easily be able to find your stand again should they want to come back and place an order.

- know your stuff - remember that the vast majority of people that visit your stall will have never seen your products or your brand before, so they will probably have lots of questions. It's so important that you can answer these in a professional manner. The obvious questions are of course prices, lead times, minimum orders, and payment methods, but I found that most people would also want to know which butterfly necklaces were the most popular, what style of cufflinks most men bought, what colour banner necklace sold the best. Know your bestsellers and be sure to offer input to buyers.

- take a clipboard - trying to write out orders leaning against a wall, on the floor, or balancing on a corner of your display is not only difficult, but it looks pretty unprofessional! Oh, and take lots of pens (because they always get lost) and take a stapler to attach business cards to order forms (most people when placing orders will give you a business card with their address/email/phone number etc on, rather than writing everything out, and you don't want to lose this information!

- trade shows can be boring - in my mind I imagined it would be a constant flurry of activity, talking to crowds of people, handing out hundreds of business cards, filling in order forms left right and centre. But the reality was that inbetween talking to people or taking orders there were long periods of standing/sitting around. Taking something to do (business-related if possible) not only combats boredom, but looks productive and can be a conversation starter. Don't take along anything messy, or that requires lots of concentration though!

- if someone asks for a catalogue or a price list, give them one, but also ask for their card in return. This way you will know who is interested in your items, and you'll be able to follow up with them after the show (don't harass them the day after, but leave it a few weeks then send a friendly email along the lines of 'hello, we met at Top Drawer, I hope you're well. I just wanted to see if you'd had a chance to look through our catalogue, and whether you had any questions I could help with at all?)

- have a trade show special offer - I offered free shipping on all orders placed at the show, to encourage buyers to place orders on the day. I definitely think this helped. Next time I will also be offering some sort of 'new stockist' introductory pack, which will feature a selection of our best selling products at a special show price. Lots of buyers struggle to make on the spot decisions, especially if you offer one product in several options or colours, so having a pack like this helps save a lot of hassle.

- take drinks and snacks - make sure to keep your stand stocked with bottles of water, packs of dried fruit and nuts, goldfish crackers, or anything easy to eat, not messy, and not stinky! You'll be working from 9:30am till 5pm (may be different for different shows) so it's important to keep hydrated and keep your energy levels up. Also keep some mints or gum handy - nothing more off-putting than talking to someone that has smelly post-lunch breath!

- and remember, it's NOT all about the orders on the day - yeah, sure, orders are awesome. Every businessperson is looking to get orders and make money, but do remember that people will take away catalogues and get in touch at a later date (we had just as many orders placed after the show as we did at the show!) Also, you never know who has seen your stand or picked up a card on the day. Lots of press and freelance journalists visit trade shows looking for brands to feature, so you might end up being contacted to be featured in a magazine.

If you have any specific questions about trade shows then do leave a comment, or drop me an email, and as always I will try my best to help!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

How to... create a kickass trade show stand

 As this was my first ever trade show, the biggest headache for me was designing and creating a stand for my business. My aims going in to Top Drawer were to show off my products in a new and exciting way, and to give buyers a sense of what Ladybird Likes is all about from my stand. I spent a lot of time planning, looking on Pinterest, designing, and painting, but I'm really happy with what I achieved and with how my stand looked on the day.

Although I am clearly no expert on trade shows, I thought I'd share some of my top tips for creating a stand that fits your business and will (hopefully) draw buyers in! The first (and probably most important) point is to make sure your stand reflect and represents your brand as a whole. If your brand and your products have a vintage feel, and you use a lot of upcycled vintage ephemera in your work, you wouldn't have an uber modern stand would you? It wouldn't sit right, and it wouldn't tell buyer what your company is about. Ladybird Likes is very simple, and clean, but with little twists of vintage incorporated. Our colour palette uses lots of white with hints of grey and minty green, and we use specific fonts in all our branding. I incorporated all of these elements into the stand to ensure it accurately represented what Ladybird Likes is.

 Along the same lines, if your business is selling handmade items like mine, be sure to get across this notion of handmade within your stand. BE CREATIVE. One of your biggest and most unique selling points is you as an artist, so be sure to show off your creativity wherever possible. Ladybird Likes has a strong DIY/craft/upcycling ethos running through it (most of the images used in my products are taken from vintage books/sewing patterns/other ephemera) so I wanted to incorporate this into my stand. I made display items - the photo displays are made from old books, the shelves are wooden crates painted white, I used a vintage typewriter for display, and all the signage was handmade and handpainted. I also put up printed versions of some of my instagram photos around the stand. Not only is this is a great way of injecting a bit of personality into what can be a very boring and plain space, but it meant buyers would stay longer in the stand, taking time to look at the photos!

 Tailor your displays to fit your products - I saw lots of awesome display ideas on Pinterest, but had to reject lots of them as they wouldn't have worked with my products. Make sure you are always taking into account the size of your products - don't try to cram huge cushions into tiny shelves, and don't put tiny pieces of jewellery on huge props as they will get lost. Your displays should be made to work with the products you have, NOT the other way round! Think about the best possible way to show off your products. Hang tea towels so the whole design is visible, rather than having them folded. Put jewellery on a mannequin so buyers can see it being worn.

 Display items as if they are in a store - buyers are buying for shops, so it makes sense to show them how your products would look in their shop! I grouped similar items together, and tried to tell a story through my products. I also created simple little vignettes around the stand, using my products plus extra props to add interest. Buyers will often purchase items based around how they think they could display them in their store, so it's in your best interest to give them ideas. For example several buyers purchased our typewriter key necklaces purely because we displayed them on our stand on a vintage typewriter, and they thought they could replicate this display in their store.

Have your stand name displayed clearly! Simple BUT it's easy to forget. You get a small sign provided by most trade shows, but it's not enough. You should have a large sign of some description with your company name on, so buyers don't have to try and guess who you are. My Dad made mine for me from a sheet of MDF which my Mum (my parents are where I get my creativity from) then hand lettered and painted it for me. It's super simple, and cost hardly anything.

 Get lights for your stand! Again, sounds so simple, but you have to pay extra at most trade shows for your lighting, so it can be tempting to scrimp and get the bare minimum. But having a good amount of lights for your stand size is so important - if buyers can't see your stuff properly, how can they buy it?!

Think about levels - you want the majority of items to be at eye level, or as close to as possible. Don't put items up super high, or down really low, as buyers won't look at these. Don't have huge empty spaces though - even if you don't want to display your products in a certain area, why not put some sort of signage or imagery in the space instead?

 Have photographs of your products being worn/being used/styled nicely. It helps buyers to imagine products in different contexts, and often seeing something being worn gives it a whole new dimension. If there isn't space on your wall for photos, why not have a photo book made using some of them (especially if you have lookbook photos, or professional photos - you've paid for them, so you might as well show them off!) and put this out on your stand to show buyers?

 Highlight key items and key selling points to buyers. I created some simple heart shaped signs using grey card and white paint, to show which items were our best sellers, and which items were new in. I also highlighted our cufflinks as 'gifts for guys' as this is something buyers are always looking for, and our kitsch circle necklaces as 'stocking fillers' as they are our cheapest item, and coming up to Christmas people are often looking for small gift items.

Well, I think that's it! The main thing is to get creative and have fun - your stand should be something for you to be proud of and enjoy. For me it was like having my own tiny little shop for a few days! Remember, if you have any specific questions at all you can leave a comment below or drop me an email. I'll always try to help where I can!

Monday, 17 November 2014

How to.... make a wholesale catalogue

 One of the most important things for any business wanting to sell wholesale, whether you are doing a trade show or not, is to have a comprehensive, easy to read wholesale catalogue. I am by no means a graphic designer, and have never made anything like this before, so if I can do it then so can you! All I used was Adobe Photoshop (but you could also use Illustrator if you are more versed in that - because my background is in photography and photo editing I have no clue how to use other Adobe software so Photoshop it was!)

Whenever I'm creating anything digitally I always make a mock up or rough sketch on paper first. I find it much easier to play around with ideas on paper, rather than staring at a black screen waiting for inspiration to strike. I had an idea of how I wanted my catalogue to look, and took inspiration from other companies catalogues. Issuu is a great online resource for this - simply search 'wholesale catalogue' and you'll be able to look at others to get ideas for layout. Or you could also ask any fellow makers/designers if you could have a look at their catalogue, but obviously don't go copying directly!

Keep the layout as simple as possible, especially if you aren't a skilled graphic designer! There is nothing worse than a wholesale catalogue that has so many fancy frames, and colours, and different fonts, that it's hard to tell what is actually being sold. Make sure the photos you use clearly show the product - it's great having beautiful, fancy photos on your online shop, but it is important that the focus of the photos in your catalogue are the products. I tried to mix product photos with a few more styled photos for balance and to add interest.

 Think about what information you need to get across within your catalogue - the most important things to include are product codes for each item (and for variations if applicable), any colour/size/style options that are available (for example our banner necklaces come in six colour options, so it's important to make sure this is clear), size information (are your cards A5, A6, A7?), materials used (is it made from paper, plastic, metal, wood?), and of course the price. Below you can see a couple of sample pages from my catalogue.

Before printing be sure to print out a copy on your home printer and go through it carefully, looking for typing or spelling errors,  any misalignment, photo sizing issues, things like that. I find that often things will look fine on screen, but once it's printed I notice small things that aren't quite right. Make any changes then you are good to go! I used for my catalogues, because they were reasonably priced, and good quality.

 Aside from the information on your actual products, it's also very important to include your wholesale terms. These will cover;

- what payment methods you accept (we accept bank transfer and paypal) and your payment terms (whether you require payment before goods are sent, or perhaps you have a 30 days payment period)

- your lead times (basically how long it will take from the day they pay for their order, till the day you send the order - ours are generally 5 - 7 working days, although this time gets longer around Christmas time. If you make products to order that take a long time to make, such as crocheted or knitted pieces, or handmade clothing, then you will want to make your lead time longer. It's always better to give a longer lead time, rather than missing the deadline!)

- the minimum order value - this is totally up to you, and some people don't even have a minimum. Our minimum is £100 for the first order, and no minimum for reordering.

- delivery information such as postage costs and delivery methods available (we send all our packages using Royal Mail Recorded, but some companies also offer services using couriers)

I also wanted to emphasise the handmade, local, small company aspect of Ladybird Likes within my wholesale catalogue, so I chose to include a few extra pages such as an 'about Ladybird Likes' page, which included a bit about me, about the business, and about our company ethos, a 'why you will like us' page, which outlined our key selling points (handmade, quirky, high quality etc.), plus a page focused on our social networking sites, encouraging stockists to follow us online to stay up to date on what's going on.

 Once you've created your wholesale catalogue, it's important to think about how you're going to present it. For me, I love adding the extra touches to things to make them feel that bit more special. Whether you're giving out your catalogues at a trade show, or sending them direct to potential stockists, everyone loves to feel like they are getting something special. With this in mind I put together very simple little wholesale packs - into an A5 envelope I popped a copy of the catalogue, an order form, a postcard, a business card, and a fun little pin badge. Each envelope had a handstamped tag stuck on the front with some washi tape, just for a bit of fun.

If you have any other questions about creating a wholesale catalogue please feel free to leave a comment below, or drop me an email, and I'll try my best to help!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Cathedral of Junk

So I mentioned the Cathedral of Junk in my previous post about Austin. Well, this is it. Built by Vince Hannemann, it is invisible from the street so unless you knew it was there you'd walk right on past his house! The entire structure is built in his back garden, on a residential street in Austin, using just reclaimed and recycled materials. It literally is made from junk (60 tons of it roughly!)

Being into anything a bit quirky and arty, I obviously had to visit. Vince asks for a $10 donation per group (very reasonable at around £2.50 for each of us!) and you need to call ahead to make sure he is home. He was very unobtrusive, just pointing out a few things then letting us go off and explore! Even though there were about five or six other people there while we were it didn't feel crowded at all. The whole place had the feel of a secret clubhouse or den, like the kind I'd dream of finding as a kid, and apparently this is exactly what Vince was going for. It was never built as some modern art piece, there is no secret meaning behind it, he just started building it because he felt like it. 

 (cheesy couple photo - ten days in Texas sun and I am still the colour of milk!)

 It's not all just on one level - there is a second level which you reach by a set of stairs made from old tyres. The Cathedral of Junk isn't just a pile of stuff - it really is a proper structure, which is probably why Vince's neighbours have been unsuccessful in getting the structure deemed 'unsafe.'

This section was made entirely from old wheels and hubcaps and tyres - I love how Vince groups similar items together to make a real statement.

 Lots of the Cathedral of Junk is divided up by colour (which obviously I loved - colour themes are totally my jam!) It was so fun to spot all the different things within each colour section - the blue and the yellow sections were my favourites, and I spent ages just staring! One day I want a house with each room themed around a different colour!

If you visit Austin, and like things that are a bit different, then I cannot recommend enough that you go visit the Cathedral of Junk. It's incredibly humbling to see someone that has spent twenty years creating something not for money, or fame, or critical acclaim, but just because he wanted to and because he enjoyed doing it.

Friday, 14 November 2014

DIY vintage book photo display

 I am obsessed with photos - taking them, sharing them, printing them, and displaying them. Last weekend me and the mister hit up a couple of photobooths in town (if you're looking for photobooths in London then fear not, I have a post coming in a few weeks sharing some of my favourites!) and I wanted to show them off. These folded book displays aren't something I have invented - I can't even remember where I first saw the idea, but they are so simple to make and look so effective!

 All you do is take a paperback book (you can use a new book, but I find older books have a nicer page colour - more of a creamy brown colour, whereas new books have whiter pages) and fold every page inwards on itself, so the outside edge of the page now is touching the spine inside the book. Repeat on each page and voila! If your book is thin you will end up with a 'half' display (more of a semicircle) whereas if your book is thicker you will end up with a 'full' display that is a full circular shape.

Just slot your photos, business cards, cinema tickets, or whatever else inbetween the pages for an instant fun display. I whipped these up using books I had at home, but I have since visited a local charity shop who gave me a bunch of books they can't sell (they had damaged covers or missing pages) which I'm going to turn into some displays for friends. Hope you like this idea - why not make some as gifts, and send to the recipient along with a few photos?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

DIY painted drawers

 Whilst looking for quirky, cheap, and fast display options for my Top Drawer stand I came across this DIY over on Pinterest, and decided to have a go at making my own version! This isn't exactly a DIY as I figured the steps are pretty easy, but I created two variations using different colours and different styles of triangles, just to show you what you can do!

I bought the drawer units from Ikea - they have a few different styles of drawers. I have actually seen these drawers at car boot sales before, so will be sure to keep my eyes peeled next time as I want to paint more! I used standard craft acrylic paints from Hobbycraft.

I used masking tape to get a clean edge to the line and made sure to give the wood three coats of paint to ensure the coverage was good and even. You could use emulsion from a DIY store to avoid having to give as many coats (Dulux and other brands do a one coat emulsion, and you can get tester sized pots in a huge range of colours for a few pounds.)

 This pink, grey, and white colour combination goes perfectly in my bedroom! But for my studio (and to use at Top drawer) I painted the unit below in a turouqise/minty green and white. These drawers are the perfect size for holding all those random bits and pieces that end up rattling around in cupboards or cluttering up your desk.

Such a simple project, each drawer unit took me around half an hour total to complete (including letting the paint dry between coats.) I didn't bother varnishing or sealing the wood afterwards, but if you'd like you can give it a coat or two once the paint is totally dry using a quick drying wood varnish (I recommend using Ronseal - they do a satin/matte finish which is pretty awesome.)