Business Set Up Part 6 - Capturing Ideas (Pt1)

Inspiration can present itself in so many ways; perhaps it might be a complete idea of just a tiny little acorn of an idea. But, sometimes it is the little acorns that set your products apart from the rest - from tiny acorns grow great oaks afterall.

It can be helpful to start the ideation process off slowly, beginning with a single idea rather than a whole collection. I for example think of an idea for 1, maybe 2, cards rather than think "I need to create a line of anniversary cards". Document your ideas process in a pretty notebook and do not get too bogged down with time or budget as these can be altered. It is also important not to write off your mistakes too quickly as you can learn from them.

If you did want to create a collection, then focus on a single element or concept to ensure that the collection is memorable without one item take the pride of place.

No single item will please all buyers which is why it is important to vary your items in purpose, price and production. Customers like variety which is why in Butterfly-Crafts I have complicated cards like Iris folding or Flowersoft and then more simpler cards such as Birthday cupcakes.

It is also important that a good number of your items require very little labour time otherwise the craft that you call your labour of love will soon become labourious.
Coming next time: Business Set Up Part 7 - Ideas Part 2

Monday, 27 July 2009 | 0 Comments

Artisan Feature: Creative Critters

In the third installment of my Artisan Features of fellow Artfire artists, here is Michelle from Creative Critters and her answers to my bunch of questions:

1) If you had to work by a creative mission what would it be? "Love what you do". I get great pleasure from all my creations, and hope that my customers get pleasure from them as well.

2) Have you had any creative disasters? Creative disasters? -but of course! I've super glued my fingers together, dropped unbaked sculptures on the way to the oven, spilled everything from paint, to glitter, to embossing powder. But you clean up your mess and move on (hopefully before the cats track embossing powder all over the house!)

3) What is your favourite item in your collection? My favorite item is kind of hard to choose. I form a real attachment to all my pieces. Two of my favorites right now are my Plush World of Warcraft Tauren Hunter and his Pet Lion, and my Scorch the Rockin' Dragon sculpture. I put a LOT of work into both of those.

4) Sum up your collection for me: My collection could certainly be considered "varied". I have a good variety of polymer clay sculptures (lots of fantasy, whimsical, animals, pens, miniature houses), then I also sew cloth dolls and plush World of Warcraft characters, make mixed media jewelry, and knit stuffed animals. I like making use of my many creative skills, plus I'm always picking up new crafts.

5) Is there another craft you would like to try? Metal clay looks pretty interesting, and glass beads have always fascinated me, but for the moment I can't afford new equipment, materials, and tutorial books. Maybe by the time I'm 90 I'll have mastered every craft that catches my attention!

6) What is your favourite craft store? I do a lot of business with JoAnn Etc. They're the closest craft store in my area, but I've been wandering the web more lately, and of course Artfire has some really great supply stores as well. I get a lot of my stuff from flea markets, garage sales, and donations from friends and family. I recycle everything I can and try to find creative uses for otherwise unusable items.

7) From where do you draw your inspiration? The entire world of
fantasy gives me tons of inspiration, be it movies, anime, paintings,
books, anything fantasy oriented grabs my attention and puts new ideas in my head. I also get a lot of inspiration from nature and animals. Really, I can find inspiration in nearly anything. I've got more ideas than I could ever complete in a single lifetime.

8) What made you do this for a business? I was born an artist, and when people offered to actually pay me to do what I loved, what choice did I have? I'm still amazed that people like my work as much as I do. I really can't imagine doing anything else (although I've had plenty of other jobs, none were very fulfilling). I wouldn't be "me" if I couldn't create.

9) How do you like online selling? I love it! I don't have to cart my stuff all over, from show to show, or ship everything to a consignment store where I have no control over anything. I can post the pictures I choose, write up a detailed description, even let people in on my inspiration for a particular piece. And I can communicate with tons of like minded people all over the world. And I absolutely ADORE Artfire. The staff is great, the artisans are great, the whole experience on this site has been wonderful.

10) What tip can you pass to a new online seller? Promote, promote, promote! It really works! Before Artfire I didn't know a thing about promoting my work or social networking. Now I'm on Facebook, MySpace,,, Flickr, and I have a blog, Since February, I've had more than 7000 views, and a lot of those clicked over from my other sites. Posting in the forums is another good way to get yourself out there. People have to see you in order to buy from you (plus it's so much fun chatting with the other artists!).

11) Describe yourself in 5 words: Creative, Caring, Unique, Organic, Passionate

12) What has been your favourite vacation/holiday? Christmas. I make gifts for everyone in my family and I love seeing their faces when they open them. I try very hard to make them something very special and personalized. Plus I just love getting together with family, especially now that I've got young cousins, nieces, and nephews to play with. I don't have any kids of my own, but I really love kids.

13) What is a favourite film of yours? Hayou Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro. It's a wonderful anime with great characters and a delightful story. I've seen it quite a few times and it always makes me smile.

Thanks Michelle - now take a look at this spotlight on Creative Critters, I have to say, my favourites are the houses!!

Thursday, 23 July 2009 | 0 Comments

Butterfly Crafts Newsletter Giveaway

When I relaunched Butterfly-Crafts, I created a Newsletter for people to sign up to and I will send out a newsletter ever 4 to 6 weeks. Well, the newsletter hasn't received a great number of sign ups and this might be because I have not advertised it well enough or there is no incentive to sign up!

Well, let me tell you about what I will write about! People who sign up to the Butterfly-Crafts newsletter will receive information on new listings, projects in the making, promotions coming up and general information about the business and me! I will also run special promotions for newsletter recipients that will not be available to anyone else.

If you would be interested in signing up, you can either click the box in the top right of the blog screen, click the link at the top of the page saying 'Newsletter' or the one right here:

As a prize, I will be picking one person from all of my newsletter recipients to win a handmade card similar to the ones shown here. I have not yet made the card so cannot show the exact one but it will be a twisted flowers card! I will make the draw on July 31st and contact the winner!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009 | 2 Comments

Business Set Up Part 5 - Brand Identity

Last time we looked at creating a mission for your business, this blog will talk about brand identity. By creating a brand, you communicate a message about your company to other peope. But, a brand is not just about a logo, colours and stationery but about an entire idea. If I asked you how would you like other people to describe your business, what would you say?

When establishing your brand consistency is key. Think about what your business represents and relay this in your products and photographs, website, blog, business stationery and packaging. If, for example, your logo is comical yet your website/blog is deadly serious, your message will be mixed. The brand you decide on whould not only reflect your business personality but be appealing to your customers - both potential and current.

When I first set up Butterfly-Crafts I created my own banner in photoshop and it was terrible! Then I found LibertyDoll on AF and she created me a wonderful banner. However, in July of 2009 I decided to rebrand myself and worked with LibertyDoll again to design a new set of banners and the results you can see on this blog in the header. I also use it as my banner in my AF store, on promotional materials like pens and use the avatar seen here on my promo materials. To continue the purple theme, my AF studio is purple, I photograph on a silver background with purple butterflies and a purple pen in everything. I try to carry this over to my packaging where possible, including branded business material and if multiple cards are purchased they are tied with purple yarn.

Take a look at your brand and think - is it consistent and what message am I trying to convey? It would be great if you'd like to leave a comment and tell me about your brand.

Monday, 20 July 2009 | 0 Comments

Business Set Up Part 4 - Creating a Mission Statement

Over the past few business set up blogs we have looked at the technical side of things. Now it is time to talk style! The biggest aim you have is for someone to see one of your products and recognise it as your brand.

Defining a style does not need to be complex, especially if you keep it real and make it an authentic expression of who are you because you will be more satisfied with the end results if you have stayed true to yourself.

To help me stay focused, I created a creative mission statement for Butterfly Crafts. When you know what your goals are, it is far easier to work towards achieving them! However, creating a statement is not easy as you will need to be introspective and visualise what inspires you!

My mission statement is:

1) Ensure that I enjoy what I am making and be conscientious when making,
2) To make all of my items by hand

3) To design cards that I believe will bring a smile to the face of the recipient

I would hope that when the brand of Butterfly-Crafts: Handmade Cards and Gifts becomes more established, someone would see one of my cards, such as these shown here, and think "I know who made that!"

Friday, 17 July 2009 | 0 Comments

Business Set Up Part 3 - Finances

Now you have decided to make the giant step into owning your own business you need to decide if you want to continue doing things alone (sole ownership) or with someone else (partnership).

A partnership is much more than just dividing up the work and the profits, it’s also about taking advantage of each individual’s strengths. A partnership can be very satisfactory if it works well, but emotionally draining when they aren’t working right. What ever legal structure you decide upon will determine your taxes and personal liability. The best recommendation I can give here is to seek professional advice.

When you set up a business, one of the biggest concerns is the finances. Many craft businesses are started as a sideline career or an extension of a hobby and therefore require little capital investment (like Butterfly Crafts). But if you plan to work full time on your new business, many business advisors recommend that you save up twelve months of living expenses – just in case!

You really should not use your personal savings for your business as all business related expenses should come from your business account. At first be prudent with your spending and keep your overheads low. I have recently imposed a shopping ban on myself and to “use what I have” so that I can reinvest any profit I make. There are ways to save money on other aspects of your life though. Remember that you have an inner domestic goddess who really does know how to cook rather than dial for takeaway and obviously, hand make your gifts instead of buying them!

For me, book keeping is the least exciting task as a business owner but it is so important to have an effective record-keeping system. Keep copies of invoices, bills, cheques and receipts and file them. I bought a little expanding file with 12 compartments that I file things in by the month. With a little bit of thought and organisation, the way you run the financial side of things and file records will help in the long run at tax return time!

Coming next time: Your style & products

Monday, 13 July 2009 | 0 Comments

Business Set Up Part 2 - Basic Necessities

Whether you sell online or in bulk, once people begin buying your products, you are a business and there are some basic necessities you will need to consider. Firstly bear in mind, a company must make a profit for 3 out of 5 years or it will be considered a hobby. I will not, in any way, call myself an expert here and you will need to research further but below are some points to consider:

Business License – you are often required to keep your business license mounted on the wall at your place of business.

Zoning – you may need to verify that you are allowed to run a business from the location you choose.

Fictitious Business Name – if you run a business under a name that is not your legal name, you will need to file a fictitious business name (FBN), also known as a DBA (doing business as).

Sellers Permit – if the goods you sell are taxable then you will need a sellers permit.

Federal Tax ID – if you have employees then you will need to have a Tax ID number. If you are the sole proprietor then you would fill out a self assessment form instead every year.

Trademarks – a trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or picture that distinguishes your goods from another company’s. Getting a trademark is a protective measure to prevent someone else opening a company or selling a product with the same name.

House insurance – if you are running your business from your home you need to make sure you have enough insurance to cover your tools, equipment, materials and products.

Health insurance – sometimes joining an artists’ guild or association can provide discount rates.

Product liability insurance – this covers you if someone suffers an injury from your product and decided to sue you. Items that may be affected include candles (fire) and bath and body products (skin irritants).

Phone line – it is illegal to have your home phone line as your business line so you will either need a mobile phone or another land line.

Business bank account – it is far better to use a separate bank account so that you can keep track of expenses and keep the income separate. It might also be a good idea to open a separate savings account to set aside money for the tax bill.

Friday, 10 July 2009 | 2 Comments

Artisan Feature - Silver River Jewelry

I really love featuring other Artfire artists and today is the turn of Silver River Jewelry. I set Silver River Jewelry owner, Sonja, a bunch of questions to find out more from the artist.

1) If you had to work by a creative mission what would it be? My creative mission is to make as much of each piece by hand as I possibly can. You can see this the most in my metal work as I dig many of the stones myself and finish them as well as design and make the settings. I am hoping to learn to make lamp work beads in the future which will help make my pieces more "mine" as well.

2) Have you had any creative disasters? Almost every day! I am quite good at melting metal!

3) What is your favourite item in your collection? Right now I really like my rustic wildflower pendant series

4) Sum up your collection for me: Elegance with a touch of whimsy

5) Is there another craft you would like to try? Umm everything else in the jewelry field I haven't learned yet! I came late to the jewelry but have spent many years doing other crafts.

6) What is your favourite craft store? Rio Grande

7) From where do you draw your inspiration? From the stones, from nature, from color and shapes

8) What made you do this for a business? My compulsiveness to create and my addiction to stones and beads of course.

9) How do you like online selling? Actually I love it! BIG learning curve but well worth it. And I have met so many wonderful people I would never have met otherwise.

10) What tip can you pass to a new online seller? Take really good pictures, be willing to work harder than you ever have and be patient.

11) Describe yourself in 5 words Christian, Mother, wife, metal smith, jewelry designer

12) What has been your favourite vacation/holiday? Germany

13) What's a good book you have read? If you want to walk on water you have to get out of the boat.

14) Which season do you relate with and why? Spring, Summer and Fall. Spring is for new beginnings. Summer is the best, I love the warmth and the sun, and Fall just has such beautiful colors that can't fail to inspire.

15) What is a favourite film of yours? Lord of the Rings

Well thank you Sonja, and here is a spotlight of my favourite items available at Silver River Jewelry:

Wednesday, 8 July 2009 | 2 Comments

Business Set Up: Part 1

So you've been thinking about how you can turn your creative hobby into a business, but now you have this idea - what next? Well the absolute first thing you need to do is become serious about your dream and don’t just limit your idea to earning a few coppers on the side because you never know where it might lead!

Earning an income from your creative hobby is not purely about someone buying your products; it’s about making a livelihood that works for you. The early days are about development stages where it is important to include all the activities you love or you will soon grow tired of something that started as a hobby.

One of the first items on your business “to-do” list has to be deciding on a business name. The name should reflect your product but ask yourself this: Will the name still sound good in 5 years time and will it give me the space to grow? I chose Butterfly-Crafts because I am fascinated with butterflies and how they go through many changes, I could develop a good brand and also cover many crafts. If I’d chosen Butterfly-Cards, I would’ve put a constraint on myself.

Coming up with a business name can be fun, just remember though that you will have to live with the result so it pays to do some homework and groundwork. Research on the Internet to see if your name has been taken, check with any agencies if necessary but overall, make sure the name you choose is a perfect fit!

Coming in the next Business Tips blog on Friday: Business Set Up Part 2 - Basic Necessities

Monday, 6 July 2009 | 3 Comments

Welcome to Butterfly Crafts

Hello and welcome to the Butterfly-Crafts blog.

I write this blog to coincide with my store, Butterfly-Crafts, on Artfire, where I sell one-of-a-kind handmade cards and gifts along with taking custom orders.

I have enjoyed crafting for as long as I can remember and it is a hobby I can never grow bored of, every time I pick up a project to continue I keep saying - oh just stitch one more row or make just one more card before i can pack away for the night.

Cross stitch will always be my weakness, I love nothing more than picking up some fabric and sifting through patterns for a new project. I have made small 'initials' pictures up to much larger fire screens and baby samplers and my friends and family frequently have an cross stitch card.

I have been making cards with mixed media for a few years now. I love the way a few pieces of paper and card can be turned into something wonderful and given as a gift.

I am always trying to expand my craft skills and I have been knitting and crocheting since 2008 and I am thoroughly enjoying them and learning new stitches all of the time! I knit on the train to work, in my lunch break, on the train home from work - heck, any chance I get!

This blog will feature my handmade items, general comments regarding my life and running an online store, along with a twice weekly blog featuring business tips (hopefully Mon & Fri). I will also be featuring a fellow Artfire artisan every fortnight (Wednesday) and help promote the Artfire Crazy Marketing Train - featuring a different artist every 2 days.

I hope that you will enjoy following this blog, please do leave me comments on what I write and if you would like me to write about anything specific.

Best Wishes

p.s. - that's me eating ice cream in Siena.

Saturday, 4 July 2009 | 1 Comment

This butterfly is changing her wings

I have been running Butterfly Crafts for a little over three months now and I have never regretted a single minute! Artfire is an amazing site to have a store on, the staff are brilliant, the other sellers are my online "friends" and I feel a valued member of the gang!

But, after these three months I feel it is time for the butterfly to get a new set of wings! On Saturday 4th July, I will be having a mini relaunch of Butterfly Crafts. This will include
  • A new banner and avatar,

  • A whole new blog with a different layout and features

  • An artisan of the fortnight feature on the blog (If you wish to take part leave me a comment)

  • A mailing list which you can sign up to and receive an email every 4-6 weeks with news of special offers, new items and general news

  • A better utilised Facebook site

  • An up-to-date Flickr site

  • A more up-to-date site

  • A new style of picture in the store listings,

  • A whole big bunch of listings to fill up the virtual shelves

  • And hopefully some well placed adverts to get my brand 'out there'
  • A written blog series on turning your craft into your business.

Here is a sneaky peak at my avatar:

Make sure you check back on 4th July for an overview of what has happened!


Thursday, 2 July 2009 | 2 Comments