Wednesday, 26 February 2014

top 5 books for setting up a small business

when setting up Ladybird Likes I bought and read a LOT of books about starting, running, and growing a handmade business. and a lot of them were a bit rubbish. there seem to be SO many books out there about the subject, and they cover a lot of the same stuff, so I thought I'd share my personal top five (yes, I know there are actually six here, but two of them are part of a two part series, so thought I'd class those as one. plus, five just sounds better.) I wouldn't recommend necessarily buying all of these, as there is quite a bit of repetition between them, but I've tried to give a little summary of the main areas they cover so you can see which would be the best fit for you....

1. The Handmade Marketplace and Grow Your Handmade Business by Kari Chapin. Although these two books aren't directly tied together as a two part series, they follow logically on from one another. Handmade Marketplace covers the basics for starting selling your handmade items online and in shops, with some really interesting Q and A type sessions with people from within an appropriate area of the industry (so when talking about applying for and selling at craft fairs, they interview Alison Gordon who runs Boston Bazaar Bizarre.) This means you get a real insight into what goes on behind the scenes, and get tips and tricks specific to the industry. Grow Your Handmade Business goes on to discuss 'how to envision, develop, and sustain a successful creative business.' So this book is for when you have your business set up, and you're ready to take it further. It's set up in the same way as the first book, but it goes more in depth in areas that only really crop up when your business is more established, such as budgeting, licensing, loans etc. It helps you to start evaluating what aspects of your business need work, what's good and what's bad.

2. Craft Inc. By Mateo Ilasco. This was the first creative business guide I ever bought, and it's still one of my favourites. It helped me so much when I was just starting out, and working out things like wholesale and consignment, and pricing. I'm not sure why this has only got one review on Amazon, and that's a one star review. It's true that it does contain some information that is specific only to America, such as taxes and copyright laws, but the majority of it is general information that would be applicable in any country. I really love this book, as it's broken down into really logical sections - from creating a business plan, to branding, to marketing and publicity strategies. Each chapter contains handy bullet points and often little checklists so you can tick off when you've done something, which I find extremely fulfilling! There is also a real life casestudy for each section, featuring lots of big names such as Lotta Jansdotter, Renegade Craft Fair, and Design Sponge.

3. Handmade to Sell by Kelly Rand. Written by the directors of Hello Craft, a nonprofit association for crafty entrepreneurs, it's clear these guys know what they're talking about, after years of working with small business owners. Set out in much the same way as the other books, with different chapters covering different topics, this book is packed full of some really useful tips on a huge range of areas. Great for anyone just starting a crafty business.

4. The Craft Business Handbook by Alison McNicol.  This is probably the most 'basic' of the five books - a lot of the areas seem dumbed down quite a bit, but not necessarily in a bad way, just in a way that's obviously meant to make them easier to understand. It does have some useful checklists at the end of chapters, with a mini sort of 'to do list' to cover before moving on to the next chapter. Alison has also authored a book called Craft Business Heroes which is pretty much just 30 awesome creative business owners sharing the stories and tips and what they've learnt. It's not so much a handbook type book, but it's so interesting to read, and I actually found it more inspiring than a lot of these 'how to' type books - after all, what better way to learn something than from those who've tried before you and succeeded?

5. Etsypreneurship by Jason Malinak. As you can probably guess from the title, this book is aimed at people selling craft items on Etsy. It does include information that is applicable to other online marketplaces, but if you're not selling on Etsy as your primary source of revenue, I'd probably give this one a miss! That being said, if you do sell on Etsy, this book covers a lot of ground, a lot of it ground you didn't even know existed. While some of the information seems a bit out of date (my edition is from 2013 but already stuff has changed on Etsy!) most of it is still relevant. Great guide if you want to know more about selling on Etsy and growing your sales on there - or if you just want to know lots of facts about Etsy!

So there you have it folks! I hope this post has been of some use to someone out there! Also, it's worth noting, there is a TON of amazing free information and business guides out there on the internet too - you don't need to go out and buy a book to get this information, but I'm just a bit of a bookworm (and a total geek) so I like to cosy up in bed and read up about how to make my business better!

Oh, and if anyone else has any business type books to recommend then please do!


  1. I have that Kari Chapin book and thought it was great to read!

    Katrina Sophia Blog

  2. I jumped a little inside when I saw your post title. I feel I've been on the fence about my handmade business for the longest time constantly changing my focus, but I still feel I'm not really where I'd like to be. I thought about giving it up completely, but then this feeling keeps nagging at me, that I actually really want to do this.
    So, I've been thinking about starting over and trying to rebuild my business from the first stones, and a nice guide would help a lot on that journey. Thanks for the suggestions!

    1. oh your comment made my day because I'm just so pleased someone found this post useful :) I know that I would have loved a post like this when I was starting out, so I figured it might help someone else too! whereabouts are you based lovey? I'm hoping to start offering some business mentoring soon in London/Greater London if you'd be interested in some one to one help with business related stuff? just a thought! xo


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