A Poem for the Armed Forces

As Christmas day is almost upon us, every Christmas Eve I like to read and re-read this poem as the subject is close to my heart:

'Twas The Night Before Christmas,
He Lived All Alone,
In A One Bedroom House
Made Of Plaster And Stone.

I Had Come Down The Chimney
With Presents To Give,
And To See Just Who
In This Home Did Live.

I Looked All About,
A Strange Sight I Did See,
No Tinsel, No Presents,
Not Even A Tree.

No Stocking By Mantle,
Just Boots Filled With Sand,
On The Wall Hung Pictures
Of Far Distant Lands.

With Medals And Badges,
Awards Of All Kinds,
A Sober Thought Came Through My Mind.

For This House Was Different,
It Was Dark And Dreary,
I Found The Home Of A Soldier,
Once I Could See Clearly.

The Soldier Lay Sleeping,
Silent, Alone
Curled Up On The Floor
In This One Bedroom Home.

The Face Was So Gentle,
The Room In Such Disorder,
Not How I Pictured
A serving soldier.

Was This The Hero
Of Whom I'd Just Read?
Curled Up On A Poncho,
The Floor For A Bed?

I Realized The Families
That I Saw This Night,
Owed Their Lives To These Soldiers
Who Were Willing To Fight.

Soon Round The World,
The Children Would Play,
And Grownups Would Celebrate
A Bright Christmas Day.

They All Enjoyed Freedom
Each Month Of The Year,
Because Of The Soldiers,
Like The One Lying Here.

I Couldn't Help Wonder
How Many Lay Alone,
On A Cold Christmas Eve
In A Land Far From Home.

The Very Thought
Brought A Tear To My Eye,
I Dropped To My Knees
And Started To Cry.

The Soldier Awakened
And I Heard A Rough Voice,
"Santa Don't Cry,
This Life Is My Choice;

I Fight For Freedom,
I Don't Ask For More,
My Life Is My God,
My Country, My Corps."

The Soldier Rolled Over
And Drifted To Sleep,
I Couldn't Control It,
I Continued To Weep.

I Kept Watch For Hours,
So Silent And Still
And We Both Shivered
From The Cold Night's Chill.

I Didn't Want To Leave
On That Cold, Dark, Night,
This Guardian Of Honor
So Willing To Fight.

Then The Soldier Rolled Over,
With A Voice Soft And Pure,
Whispered, "Carry On Santa,
It's Christmas Day, All Is Secure."

One Look At My Watch,
And I Knew He Was Right.
"Merry Christmas My Friend,
And To All A Good Night."

Friday, 24 December 2010 | 0 Comments

Merry Christmas!

'Twas the night before Christmas..... and I realised I havent blogged in almost a month! It's due to being so busy with craft fairs and also personal Christmas preparations! I hope to be far more prepared next year!!

I will be taking a break over Christmas for a few days to put my feet up and get back to some knitting and then spend some time planning out new and exciting products and cards for 2011 so watch this space!

I hope that everyone will have a very Merry Christmas...or a happy holiday if you do not celebrate Christmas and a very happy and prosperous New Year!

| 1 Comment

Sunday Recipe: Yorkshire Puddings

To me, no Sunday roast (or infact a roast dinner on any day) is complete without a yorkshire pudding.

You will need:
  • 100g/4oz plain flour/all purpose flour,
  • 2 eggs,
  • pinch of salt
  • 300ml / 1/2 pint milk and water mix,
  • oil for greasing
and you need to:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C / Gas 7
  2. Mix the flour and salt in a bowl,
  3. Add HALF of the milk/water mix to the flour,
  4. Gradually work in the flour and then beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth,
  5. Stir in the remaining milk/water mix and leave to stand for about 30mins,
  6. In a tartlet tin, pour about 1tsp of oil into the 12 sections, heat the oil in the oven until it is sizzling,
  7. Pour in the batter into each section,
  8. Bake on a shelf near the top of the oven for 15-20mins
Now I need to go and make some to go with my roast dinner!

Sunday, 28 November 2010 | 5 Comments

Sunday Recipe: Crunch

I hope you have been liking the recipes? Today it is the turn of Crunch!

You will need:
  • 4oz wholemeal biscuits,
  • 5oz chocolate,
  • Smarties or big chocolate drops
  • 2oz Icing sugar
  • 4oz butter
And this is what you do:
  • Crumble the biscuits into a bowl and sift in the icing sugar. Mix together,
  • Break the chocolate into a bowl and add the butter. Melt this mixture together in a saucepan or in the microwave,
  • Pour the chocolate/butter mixture over the biscuit mix,
  • Grease a tin with a little butter,
  • Press the mixture into the tin and add the smarties or chocolate drops on the top pressing in a little.
  • Put the tin in the fridge to set for about 2 hours,
  • Turn out and cut up into squares

Sunday, 21 November 2010 | 1 Comment

Exhibition Number 1: Handmade Tales, Women & Domestic Crafts

So back on September 1st I began my Thirty by Thirty Challenge where i came up with a long list of thirty things I wanted to do before I hit the big 3-0 and I was going to blog about it. Well, avid blog readers will be able to tell that I have not blogged once about the challenge since. It's not so much that I haven't been doing anything from the challenge, but actually that is kind of true. I have been keeping my journal of something that makes me smile every day however.

Anyhoo, on the 27th October, I went to see an exhibition entitled Hand Made Tales: Women & Domestic Crafts at the Women's Library. (Number 30 on my list is to go and see 15 exhibitions). The exhibitition blurb says:

"Hand Made Tales, curated by Carol Tulloch, is a timely exhibition focusing on the role domestic crafts play in many women’s experiences. It draws on the connections between the current revival of domestic crafts such as sewing, gardening, and cooking and the historical roots of the domestic arts within the home. The exhibition will allow visitors to explore and learn the stories of crafts and the women involved in them through personal tales and fun interactive projects. Come and discover treasures that share the intimate bond between generations from the once mundane to the now treasured heirlooms of families past."

I thought the exhibition was a good opportunity to read some of the stories associated with some of the items and items that had been loaned, but I also found some a little bizarre like the jar of jam and the jam pan that didnt really have a story attached to it.

What I enjoyed more however was an associated project called Crafted Footnotes by Nicola Malkin as part of the Museumaker project. Malkin created her own versions of domestic items, ranging in scale from the gigantic to the miniature. Her objects, which included a giant bar of soap, a 3D poster and a cluster of ladybirds, formed a trail of ‘hidden stories’. They were placed around the Library, in the foyer, on bookshelves and other furniture, with archive numbers that lead to the relevant sections of the archive. Each of the items related to a story such as the mini porcelain babies relating to the stories of Baby Snatching or the giant tea bag depicting a scrapbook of press cuttings relating to the women in the second world war.

What I enjoyed about this section of the exhibition was the way you had to walk around the read room library searching for the items but it was also a creative way to get visitors to look at some of the book titles held at the library.

It was a good start to seeing fifteen exhibitions, who knows what the next one will be but I hazzard a guess it wont include giant knitting needles!

Thursday, 18 November 2010 | 0 Comments

Sunday Recipe: Christmas Mincemeat

Well the holidays are fast approaching and something I love about the Christmas season is all of the holiday baking and homemade cooking that taks place in kitchens around the world! I would like to take this opportunity to share my recipe for holiday mincemeat that makes fabulous mincepies.

You will need:
  • 1 small cooking apple,
  • 85g/3oz raisins,
  • 85g/3oz currants
  • 45g/1.5oz chopped almonds
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spices,
  • 85g/3oz brown sugar,
  • 55g/2oz butter,
  • 85g/3oz sultanas,
  • 45g/1.5oz mixed peel/candied peel,
  • Zest of one large lemon,
  • 1tblsp brandy
  • 1 banana - optional
and this is what you do:
  1. Put the raisins, currants, chopped almonds, sultanas and mixed peel into a big bowl and mix together,
  2. Add the brown sugar and mixed spices,
  3. Mix in the brandy and lemon juice,
  4. Grate the apple including the skin into the mixture and mix well,
  5. In a separate bowl melt the butter over a pan or in the microwave,
  6. Add the butter to the mixture and mix well.
  7. Now you're left with the banana, because the mixture would not keep well with the banana added now, only add the chopped up banana before you are going to use the mixture.
  8. If you are not using it straight away then put the mixture into glass jars or an airtight container and store in the cupboard.
This mincemeat recipe is great to make with the children to get them included in the holiday preparations and is also a lovely present to put in pretty jars with a pretty ribbon and use as small gifts for friends and family.

I'd love to know if you make it and how it tastes!

Sunday, 14 November 2010 | 1 Comment

Today, we WILL remember

Today is the 11th of November, it's Rememberance Day, although officially it is celebrated on the closest Sunday which this month is the 14th. However, today I will be wearing my poppy with pride as I remember.

Traditionally Rememberance Day is to remember those fallen in the Great Wars but for me, it's a little closer to home. For the first time, the Royal British Legion have a Field of Rememberance for those who have fallen in the Afghanistan War. The picture above shows just some of those brave heroes who now shine as stars in the sky.

This year the Royal British Legion are focusing their Poppy Appeal to raise funds for the families of those fallen or injured in the Afghanistan war. Their target is to raise £36m, if you would like to help the appeal please visit the Royal British Legion website

You may be wondering why this is so important to me? Well, my big brother is a Sargeant in the Royal Marines here in the UK and he has been for the last 9 years serving in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan and he will be going back to Afghanistan again in Spring 2011 leaving behind his wife and gorgeous girls. No doubt I will blog about it when the time comes but for now, I am just doing my small part to raise awareness of the need for support that the familes of those who did not come home need.

And so, at 11am on the 11th of November:

At the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we will Remember.

They shall not grow old as we that are left shall grow old,

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,

At the going down of the sun,and in the morning

We will remember them.

Thursday, 11 November 2010 | 1 Comment

Let it snow!

Now the holiday season is fast approaching there are lots of Christmas theme collections being created on Artfire which is lovely to see!

This simple Christmas card with a snowman and the words Let it snow along the bottom is included in a great Let it Snow collection!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010 | 2 Comments

Sunday Recipe: Cranberry and Almond museli bars

If you ever find you dont have time for breakfast or want a healthy snack, its good to make up a batch of these bars.

You will need:
  • 2 bananas,
  • Unpeeled pear,
  • 2 cups (standard mug) of rolled oats,
  • 1 cup of cranberry juice,
  • 1/2 cup raisins,
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries,
  • 1 cup flaked almonds
You need to:
  • Pre heat the oven to 180C / Gas4
  • Mash the bananas and chop the pear and mix together,
  • Add the oats, raisins and cranberry juice and mix,
  • Add the dried cranberries and flaked almonds
  • Mox together well then spread about 2cm thick on a baking sheet
  • Bake for 15-20 mins

Sunday, 7 November 2010 | 0 Comments

Sunday Recipe: Apple Polenta Cake

This is one of my favourite caje recipes ever! Apple polenta cake is so yummy as a cake or a dessert.

You will need:
  • 200g sultanas,
  • 200g caster sugar,
  • 1 teaspoon bicarb-soda,
  • 155g fine polenta,
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract,
  • 250g natural yoghurt,
  • 300g cooking apples,
  • 150g plain flour (all purpose),
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon,
  • 2 large eggs,
  • 125g unsalted butter
What you need to do:
  • Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas 4
  • Butter and line a 23cm tin,
  • Mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and polenta together,
  • In a separate bowl or cup mix the eggs and vanilla,
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar and then gradually add the egg and vanilla mix,
  • Add the alour mix alternatively with the yoghurt and mix until just combined,
  • Peel and wash the apples and cut into small cubes, fold into the mixture along with the sultanas,
  • Pour the mixture into the cake tin and smooth the top over,
  • Bake in the oven for approximately an hour, cover with foil if needed.
I love this cake and i hope you will too.

An alternative is to use rhubarb instead of the apples and sultanas.

Sunday, 31 October 2010 | 0 Comments

Christmas Card Giveaway

It's about time I do another giveaway from my blog for Christmas!

This one is going to be really simple, all you have to do is become a follower of the Butterfly-Crafts blog. If I reach 200 followers by the 5th December I will randomly pick one of the lovely followers to win a set of 4 cards.

Already a follower? Not to fear, I will pick one person from all of the followers but only if it reaches the magic number of 200.

The cards will be based on the design shown here.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010 | 2 Comments

Which Witch?

With Hallowe'en fast approaching I am pleased to have my Witch card included in the Which Witch collection on Artfire cutated by angeliqueart.

Get in the Hallowe'en spirit by taking a look at this great collection of handmade witchy items.

You can see the collection here

I also have another Witch card featured in this collection called Wonderful Witches

Tuesday, 26 October 2010 | 1 Comment

Sunday Recipe: Herby Potatoes

Another Sunday Recipe - Herby potatoes that will serve six

You will need:
  • 1.5kg / 3lb red potatoes,
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter,
  • salt and pepper,
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil,
  • 2 tablespoons of mixed fresh herbs such as parsley, rosemary and thyme
How to do it:
  • Preheat the oven to 230C / 450F / Gas8
  • Lightly oil a large baking dish and set aside,
  • Scrub the potatoes (do not peel), rinse and dry well,
  • Cut the potatoes into 3cm cubes and arrange on the baking dish,
  • Combine the olive oil, melted butter, salt and pepper in a small bowl,
  • Drizzle the oil over the potatoes and mix them around,
  • Bake in the oven for thirty minutes, stir and then bake for a further ten minutes,
  • Add the chopped herbs and stir well,
  • Continue to bake for ten to fifteen minutes until tender and brown.

Sunday, 24 October 2010 | 0 Comments

Creating a Newsletter Sign Up Widget with Mail Chimp

Many people have asked me how I created a newsletter sign up widget on my Artfire shop, blog page and other locations. Well, to save responding individually, here is how I did it.

Firstly - log into your MailChimp account.

Next, go to "Lists" and towards the left it will say Design New Sign Up Form - click here even if you already have a sign up form.

If you have not yet created your sign up form, here is where you do it. If you have already created it, you should see text saying "Link to subscribe form" and then a direct URL and the option to get embedded text. Write down what the direct URL is.

The next step is to design the widget button how you want it to look, mine is simply the word Newsletter in purple text that matches my banner etc. Save this and upload it to somewhere like Photobucket.

Now you need to open up Notepad and write the simple piece of coding. Now, I cant write it properly here as it will just click to my sign up so here is a screen shot of the text, you just need to fill in the bits that tell you what URL to put in.
The image is likely to be really small so click on it to get a bigger version.

Save your text in Notepad.

Then go into My Artfire, My Studio and then Widget. Pick where you want the widget to show up (Right side of bottom) and copy/paste the widget text. Save it and then it will hopefully show up!

If there are any questions post them here.

Monday, 18 October 2010 | 0 Comments

Sunday Recipe: Marinated Chicken

A quick recipe for today I wanted to share:

You will need:
  • Chicken breasts,
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Herbs
How To:
  • Mix the olive oil with the lemon juice in a bowl,
  • Put the chicken breasts in the bowl and cover with cling film, leave in the fridge for at least thirty minutes,
  • Heat up the grill or griddle and grill for approximately six minutes each side or fry for four minutes
  • Let stand and then sprinkle with herbs and added lemon juice
Really quick and really tasty!

Sunday, 17 October 2010 | 1 Comment

Europe on Artfire Collection

With being included in all of these collections I thought it was about time I created my own, so I have done just that featuring fellow artisans from the Handmade in Europe Guild. The card I chose to represent Butterfly Crafts is this handmade rocket card ideal for a child's birthday.

Also in the collection you will see jewellery, crocheted items, a coptic bound journal and a polymer clay dog along with other wonderful European creations.

You can see the Europe on Artfire collection here.

Thursday, 14 October 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Round Up

I thought it about time that I return to the blogsphere and get back on track - just as my offline life gets CRAZY with craft fairs! It seems appropriate then that soon I will be blogging about time management tips as I try and learn how to productively manage my time.

Before doing that, I wanted to do a roundup/summary of the business tips series I began back in 2009 for easy access to new readers and for older ones to have a quick reference. So here goes....

In the beginning we looked at business set up and the basic necessities before thinking about finances. Creating a mission statement is an important part of any business as is establishing a brand identity.

After looking at how to set up a business we then moved on to capturing ideas (and part two) and how to go about researching new potential products. But we also addressed the risks with plagiarism.

Next up we talked about packaging and production once you have a product line established. Then was every crafters worst nightmare: pricing (and part two.)

Once you have the products you need to think heavily on marketing and promotion for which you need to have good photography. If you want to sell your craft something important is having an online presence whether that be on a site such as Artfire or your own website. Social media methods are also key with todays society and this includes having a blog.

When you set up selling your crafts as a business you quickly have to learn how to be your own publicist and a good place to start is creating a press kit. Or go a step further and hire a publicist. But no matter what you do, you need to have a marketing plan of some sort.

A method I have found great for sales is attending craft fairs (and part two), other artists find their creations are good for consignment whereas others prefer wholesale (and part two.) But the key to consignment and wholesale is knowing how to approach a shop in the first place.

Trade shows can also be good for getting your work 'out there' but also for research. Going to shows whether they be trade shows or the local craft fair, you will need to learn to be a good salesperson.

Part of being a good sales person but also running a good business is fulfilling orders to time and providing excellent customer service.

As with any business there will be ups and downs and at some point you will ponder where the sales have gone? But if you are super busy, you can end up feeling exhausted and can begin to question whether or not you have a good work and life balance.

If you find you are creating and working solidly, you may at some point end up with a creative block but other issues you may need to over come include having a baby, ans when business is booming that much you need to hire staff.

If you are successful and need to hire staff there are points to remember about being a good boss . If you are needing more staff it is also likely you will end up with home not being big enough for your production. If this happens you can be looking forward to growing your business but sometimes it doesnt all work out and you have to face reality and whether it is time to quit.

I plan to start looking at the successful side of business soon when you really need to start to manage your time well to meet your deadlines, requirements, expectations and also maintain a life outside of your creative business!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 | 0 Comments

Iced Lemon Sugar Cookies

On my recent trip to the USA I purchased a little booklet entitled Old Fashioned Cookie Recipes and a couple of cookie cutters. I love to bake but have never tried cookies before. At work, we have a cake club rota where 14 of us each take it in turns every week to bake and then at a specified time we sit down and share cake. Well this week just gone was my rota week and I thought I would give the cookies a try. Yes I agree they are not technically cakes but they have eggs, sugar, flour and butter so will do just fine!

You will need:
  • 1 cup / 8oz sugar
  • 1/2 cup / 4oz butter softened
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 3 cups / 24oz plain (all purpose) flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • Granulated sugar (if you DON'T plan to ice them
  • Icing sugar & lemon juice for the icing (optional)

And this is what you have to do.....
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F / 200C
  2. Cream the sugar and butter together then blend in the egg and grated lemon rind.
  3. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Stir the flour mixture into the egg mixture and knead until well bound adding more flour if necessary,
  5. On a lightly floured board roll out the dough to about 1/8" thick using a rolling pin,
  6. Cut into shapes with the cookies cutter or a knife and lay on a baking tray,
  7. If you are NOT icing them, sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  8. Bake in the oven for approximately 8 minues.
  9. When the cookies have cooled if you are icing them mix together the juice of a lemon with enough icing sugar to make a thick icing paste, I used about 4tblsp of icing sugar. Coat the top of the cookies with the icing and allow to set before eating!

Unfortunately I don't have a picture of my cookies as they were eaten very quickly but people did say they were nice so I passed the cake club test!

If you bake these cookies let me know how they turned out!

Sunday, 3 October 2010 | 1 Comment

Thirty by Thirty Challenge

I will confess, this is not a craft related blog post, but it's my blog so ner ner ne ner ner! Earlier this month I turned 28 years young and I have been doing a lot of thinking about various issues and paths etc. Inspired by a former colleagues blog "Rhi's 30 before 30" (she has 11 months), I have come up with a list of thirty things I would like to try and achieve before I hit the big 3 0.

Starting today, September 1st, I have exactly 23 months to see what I can achieve. Ok, some of these are going to be a challenge, one more than any of the others, and some will be fairly easy but nothing on the list so far is anything I already have planned. I will blog about them on this blog so you can learn a little more about me!

So here goes in no particular order:
  1. Own a sewing machine,
  2. Learn to knit socks,
  3. Visit Buckingham Palace,
  4. Swim in a lake or stand under a waterfall,
  5. Own a home (the BIG challenge),
  6. Be debt free except from a mortgage if Num 5 happens,
  7. Visit Dickens House,
  8. Go to a soap making workshop,
  9. Learn to hang wall paper,
  10. Spend a night on the Norfolk Broads,
  11. Learn to make pastry,
  12. Learn the succession of kings and queens from William the Conqueror in 1066,
  13. Make and wear my own dress,
  14. Read 5 books from my bookshelf - I currently own 40 books that I have not yet read.
  15. Have a make up lesson,
  16. Do something every day to make me smile,
  17. Learn to change a car tyre,
  18. Be able to jog a mile with out stopping - with my leg issues this is a BIG thing,
  19. Go to Rome or Sorrento,
  20. Sleep for 6.5+ hours sleep a night consistently,
  21. Visit Giant's Causeway,
  22. Have a dinner party,
  23. Have Butterfly-Crafts mentioned in a newspaper or magazine,
  24. Sleep under the stars,
  25. Live as much of a handmade/homemade/economical life as possible,
  26. Begin to have the stamina, strength & body shape from pre-leg issues,
  27. Watch: Goodfellas, Casablanca, Dr Zhivago, Gone With the Wind, The Philadephia Story, A Street Car Named Desire, Ferri Beulers Day Off, Schindler's List, The Godfather and Citizen Cane,
  28. Go to a comedy club,
  29. Finish my knitted patchwork blanket,
  30. Visit 15 exhibitions at museums and galleries

So that is my challenge, I hope you will enjoy reading about it on my blog, in between the craft blogs!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010 | 3 Comments

Butterfly-Crafts has a new website!

It has been a very long time coming but I am very pleased, and very proud to be able to launch the new website for Butterfly-Crafts! Here you can see a screen shot of the home page, it's quite purple in line with my branding!

As much as I love my Artfire shop, I have wanted a central website that showcases my handmade cards and gifts but also has pages for events I am attending, news items, the websites I sell on, links to social media, a facility to sign up for the Butterfly-Crafts newsletter and also a page with links to 12 other handmade sellers.

I am really happy with the website, it was not too complicated to set up, unlike transferring the domain host over! I hope that it creates a more professional look than the previous website I had created and that it can only go towards helping Butterfly-Crafts succeed!

Monday, 30 August 2010 | 0 Comments

Such talent in Europe!

Whilst I have been away from blogging (busy with craft fairs) one thing that I have done is join the Handmade in Europe Guild on Artfire and, I love it! What a great bunch of handmade artisans I am now a part of, we have a weekly chat and run challenges, have the Handmade in Europe blog, are running a tour of our studios with Flappy Flambe (more another time) and help to promote and support each other.

I thought that I would briefly introduce you to the members of the HIE Guild alongside myself we have.....
  • Babs Beads & Designs creating fantastic glass and lampwork beads

  • BlueAlmonds is a jewellery store created by Anna, a Polish crafter living in the Scottish Highlands

  • Bluetina is a jewellery seller from Spain

  • Catswire sells jewellery using crochet, wire and polymer clay,

  • Cymberrain is a fabulous fibre artist from France,

  • EddysPressies is a fellow British seller buit creating lovely woolly gifts including crochet bags,

  • Ignisfatuus is based in the Netherlands and sells handmade journals, books and magnets
  • JennyKarlssonDesign creates beautiful bags along with other items with the tag line Feeling before Fashion,
  • KittyBallistic is also a jewellery creator form the Netherlands

  • LauraCameron not only sells beautiful jewellery but stunning photography,

  • LiminalThreads sells beautiful hand embroidered items,

  • MeganJaneJewellery sells as the name would suggest - another jewellery artist

  • Welshmillie creates a variety of products including stitch markers, bags and cell phone charms,
So take a look and see what fabulous talent Europe has to offer the handmade world!

Friday, 23 July 2010 | 2 Comments

Christmas in July is Here Again!

Now that we are almost half way through July, Christmas descends on Artfire. That's right, it's time for Christmas in July.

At Artfire, there is a new trend set up to feature items ready for Christmas in July, these might be Christmas cards like those from Butterfly-Crafts or items that could be bought early for Christmas presents including jewellery, handmade soap, christmas decorations and bags.

To celebrate Christmas in July, I am offering a 15% discount from all Christmas Cards and Christmas Decorations from the 12th to 25th July (inclusive) if you use the code CIJS2010 at checkout.

Monday, 12 July 2010 | 0 Comments

A busy weekend is coming!

If you are a regular follower of my blog, which I hope you are, you will be expecting a business tips blog this Friday. Well, I'm afraid there will not be one this weekend but it's for a good reason. My big brother is getting married and its an all weekend affair!

On Friday I will be driving to Wales with my parents, a good 4-5hours drive, where will will stay until Monday night. We get to help out with my gorgeous nieces (Bridesmaids) and then the rehearsal in the late afternoon. I have a reading for the ceremony so I get to reheare it.

The wedding is on Saturday in a castle near to where they live, its a gorgeous building as you can see. A hundred people have been invited and then a further 50 will join us on the terraces for drinks. Then its back to the farm for the party!! My almost-sister-in-law's parents are farmers and have a big farm where there is currently a marquee being built. After the meal a further 100 people will be turning up for the dancing! So 250 people in total - going to be fun!
It is a full military wedding as my brother is a Sargeant in the Royal Marines and there will be ten Marines in uniform so it will be a special occasion. On the Sunday, a lot of us will be back in the marquee for a Hog Roast for which we all have to make a donation to Help for Heroes, a charity close to all of our hearts in this family.
So...I wanted to explain why there will be no business tips blog this Friday or Monday but service will resume shortly.

Thursday, 27 May 2010 | 1 Comment

Business Tips Part 47: Growing Your Business

If you have made it this far with your craft business you have a lot to be proud of - growing your busines into what it is today. But, as you have grown I would imagine everything has grown in terms of your bills?

Now is not the time to be complacent and sit tight. You need to aim for steady growth at a manageable pace that will provide you with a steady income. To do this you need to launch new products regularly, remain in the public eye and keep an on-going marketing programme.

Keep an eye on your business practices to steadily improve them. If you spot any problems, throwing money into marketing isn't necessarily the answer - especially if your cash flow is low and tight. Consider reassessing your payment terms or your work force to produce more before increasing your marketing budget.

There will always be new goals to reach and growing markets to cover. This is a great opportunity to adapt your products to fit a new market or a niche group. You may find that anm offshoot project can open up income streams, especially if they are not too labour intensive like a licensing agreement for example. What about writing a book on techniques or if a book is too scary then a magazine column? Do you struggle with the written word? Then what about teaching a workshop - something I would LOVE to do!

In business it is important to accept you will go through changes. For a period of time you will be heading in one direction and then suddenly veer off in another way. This is perfectly acceptable so long as you ar enot altering the identity of your business. Marketing efforts are aimed at getting your brand recognised, if you change this too frequently or too quickly you will destroy all of those efforts. Maintaining consistency is absolutely essential.

There is no specific criteria or path to follow that will make your business successful - believe me I wish there was! There will be highs and lows and varying levels of profitability in between. Lows may break your heart like having an order returned because it was damaged or faulty. But then you will receive fabulous reviews by a customer that will cheer you up.

As a small business you must learn a lesson from every experience. Only you can define what is successful - it might be your bottom line, gaining fame and recognition or simply the fuzzy feeling of pride and happiness that you are producing work you love based on your creativity and living your dream. I have a sign that hangs by my computer and it simply says

If at first you don't succeed,
Redefine success
Coming next time: Time management tips

Monday, 24 May 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 46: Calling it Quits

Being determined in business is vitally important, but so is the willingness to accept defeat as a possibility. The payoff in business is not immediate and even a business that thrives may suffer as trends change. It is also true that people struggle at being both a business person and crafter whilst some are too attached to their products when they should regard them as something they manufacture.

Even good things come to an end whether by slow or fast decline. You will know in your heart when it is time to move on. But first it is so important to congratulate yourself for taking your crafting hobby up to the next level. The next steps you make are entirely up to you.

You may prefer to go back to a regular 9-5 job but you will need to realise and accept some potential employers may not recognise or understand a self-started in the handmade industry you will need to adapt your CV ensuring that it reflects the skills you have developed.

You may even choose to stay in the handmade/craft field - perhaps teach your skills, write a book or take on a magazine column if it is an option. How exciting would it be to remain in the craft industry with a steady salary!

Coming next time: When you need to grow your business.

Friday, 21 May 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 45: When Home Isn't Big Enough Part 2

Int he last blog we started to look at options for when home just isn't big enough for working anymore. So, now you have taken the plunge and decided to branch out into a studio/shop/office.

Remember one key thing: location, location, location. Is there foot traffic in the area to provide a good passing trade? If not, do you truely believe that your products are popular enough to pull shoppers to your destination? Set yourself regular opening hours which may include weekends and an evening opening. You may decide to hire an assistant so that they can tend to the customers whilst you renew displays and try to figure out what will attract repeat business - along with finding time to make new products!

There are some questions you need to ponder before you look for a space:
  • What purpose does the space have? i.e. will you create products from there or is it just to sell?
  • What amenities will you need? Internet, kitchen and even windows can be optional.
  • Is the location convenient and provides foot fall?
  • What is the minimum space you will need?

Also, some questions to ask the landlord and/or Estate Agent:

  • What do you get for the rent?
  • Is there access for deliveries?
  • How long is the lease and is monthly acceptable?
  • Are you allowed to decorate?
  • What is the storage capacity?
  • Are there parking spaces nearby?
  • Is there a bathroom and kitchen?
  • What is passing trade like in the area?

It can also be advisable to have a chat to other shops in the area to guage their opinions on passing trade etc. But, if you feel ready to take the plunge - go fo it and enjoy!

Coming next time: Calling it quits.

Monday, 17 May 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 44: When Home Just Isn't Big Enough Part 1

One day it may just happen that you will need to leave the confines of your home office and studio and expand your business into new premises. A good indicator of this is when your cupboards are filled with your product inventory and your garage or shed id piled high with packaging. So far I have 2 drawer units, under bed drawers, 2 plastic crates and half of the spare wardrobe! Another sign might be that you need a more formal showroom in which to meet clients and buyers. However bear in mind that having a bricks and mortar location is not essential so don't make the move purely to boost your ego.

The benefits of your own shop-cum-studio or professional office include allowing you to showcase your brand and business, develop merchandise and perhaps more importantly keep personal and professional lives separate. However managing premises will be a lot of work and may reduce your flexibility.

You might prefer to test the waters by finding a retail partner in your area who also wants to expand or look towards a co-op where you could have your line of products on consignment, but you also have to work there allowing you to develop customer services skills, test new products and gain valuable feedback,

What ever you feel most appropriate: studio, shop or office, your schedule needs to be ready for it, and more essentially, so does your finances. Set a budget and STICK TO IT. See if you can negiotiate a lower cost lease and if everything is over your budget, consider the co-op option.

Next time we'll look at some points to consider when you do decide to take on a studio/shop/office.

Friday, 14 May 2010 | 1 Comment

Business Tips Part 43: How to be a Good Boss

In the last Business Tips blog we looked briefly at the need to hire new staff, well now it's time to think about how to be a good boss. I would imagine that most people have stories of good and bad bosses they have encountered, I certainly have and I hope I would know how to be a good boss.

Having worked on your own, you may find delegation hard work along with sharing your work space and/or home. You will need to have clearly defined policies for your company outlining your expectations and what you will allow in the workplace. For example is there a dress code? Can music be played? How long can lunch breaks be and are there core working hours that need to be kept? Putting together an employee handbook can be very useful, even if it's a bullet list on headed paper. Also include your complaints proceedure, how often appraisals will take place and if there is a probabtion period.

Being a good boss will encourage productivity and efficiency, here are some leadership tips:
  • Keep financial issues private, especially if you have hit a rough patch,
  • Keep personal and professional life separate. If you become too friendly with your employees you risk becoming a threapist if they have personal issues. Talk about serious issues that may be affecting their work but leave dating advice to their friends,
  • Project a caring demeanour but know you can't always be nice e.g. refusing holiday requests or letting an employee go.
  • Only give employees responsibilities related to work. You hired someone to do your marketing/design work etc, not collect your children from school or your prescription from the chemist.
  • Show respect for an employees ideas. Give praise in public and if correction or constructive criticism is required, do it in private,
  • Do not let small problems escalate for example too many private phone calls, surfing the internet or constantly arriving late,
  • Accept that NO task is below you as it shows you are willing to be part of the team. Take out the rubbish and clean the tea mugs when it is your turn.

Have you got any tips about being a good manager? Share them here...

Coming next time: When your home work space is no longer big enough.

Monday, 10 May 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 42: It's Time to Hire

If you are anything like me you will hope that one day your craft business will turn full time. But, what if you have too much for one person to do? To start with you might "hire" your husband, wife, mum, dad, sister or niece - you catch my drift - but the need to find more qualified and skilled assistance may at some point be apparent.

Taking this step can be bittersweet. Yes, you will get the help you need but the flip side of that is having to pay for it. Of course you will want an intelligent and hard working assistant but if you cannot provide a suitable pay package then an intern, work experience student or even part-time employee may be the best way to go as you will not necessarily need to provide benefits.

As a small business owner I would imagine that you have become pretty skilled at the things that you need to do, so, when you decide to take on staff, think about your weak areas or the tasks that you do not really enjoy doing. Have a serious thought about what you are able to pay, what skills you require from someone and what their workload is likely to involve. It is really important to ask for a CV and covering letter and give thought to "pre-screening" with Facebook and Twitter research if possible. You don't really want someone who's status update is "I'm bored and online shopping at work". You are in the position to hold out for the perfect candidate who will not only be happy with the money you are able to pay but also someone who sincerely wants to work for you.

Employing someone can be a great help but you will have legal responsibilities for them such as allowing a break in the day and maintaining a safe working environment. You should consult your accountant with regard to payroll and taxes, National Insurance and student loans if applicable. You will also need to look into the relevant insurances in case there was an accident in your work place.

Employing staff can be great but do you know how to be a good boss? We'll look into that next time.

Friday, 7 May 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 41: When Babies Come Knocking!

When babies come along, everything changes and that's obvious. But, it can bring an independent business to a standstill or at least a slowdown. The way you work and function will have to alter in ways you may never have realised because even though combining raising a family and growing a business will be twice as rewarding, it will be twice the challenge as both areas of your world compete for attention. Creating new products can wait, a screaming baby cannot.

Unless you have a business partner it is unlikely that you will get a true maternity or paternity leave as there is no one to fill your shoes. Therefore it is advisable to slow things down whilst still expecting the arrival: design products that are quicker to porduce and take on fewer custom orders and such like. If you are the one carrying the baby, avoid working up until your due date as you will need to rest and prepare for your new arrival.

It would also be a good idea to skip any trade shows or craft fairs unless you can guarantee an assistant....or three. It is not wise to schedule too much in the following few months after the birth as you have no idea of knowing what you will be able to handle. If you find the delivery date approaching and you still have orders to fill then enlist help - FAST. But also talk to your customers, many will be understanding.

The biggest challenge you may face will actually be a mental one. First and foremost you are now a parent and the needs of your child will need to come first. However you cannot let business slip to the point you forget to file your tax return or deliver late on orders. The easiest way around this is to get both yourself and the baby into the best routine you can. Creating a schedule for your child so that they nap, eat and play at similar times each day will allow you some element of control. If you do find yourself struggling, or are suffering sleep deprivation, ask for help from family and friends, or hire an assistant.

Often many people believe the stay-at-home but working parent is the ideal situation - being with your children all day but the flexibility of running your own business. Mixing the demands of a family with the demands of a business can create stress you never knew was possible. Everything becomes a balancing act of craft studio vs. dining room vs. play room, taking a business call in fear of your baby starting screaming and trying not to laugh when they distract you on the phone.

It will get easier because as your child grows they can play with you and you can work at the same time. I have one friend who's daughter loves to help her pick out the fabric for her dolls clothes and likes to be involved. When your child arrives at the inquisitive stage, you can utilise them - get them to stick on your address labels and decorate your packaging. They will be proud to help and you not only get the job done but also spend some time together.

If all of this sounds too much, think of the alternative - sitting in commuter hell for the daily commute to a job you don't really like, that saps your creativity - just so you can pay for childcare and a work wardrobe.

I know which option I'd prefer!

Coming next time on the 7th May - It's time to hire.

Monday, 3 May 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 40: Getting a Creative Block

Have you ever experienced writers or creative block? It's awful isn't it? It happened to me today whilst I had new products to make, I was sitting looking at ALL of my supplies and nothing, there were no ideas there. I also experience writers block sometimes whilst I write this blog or write my articles for Handmade News.

I often find that creative block pops up its ugly head if I've been focusing on the "business" aspects of Butterfly-Crafts for a period of time rather than playing with paper and sticky tape. Here are some suggestions about how you can bring it back:

  • Take a nap!
  • Go for a walk in the park,
  • Change your scenery for a short time especially if you work at home. Work in the dining room or lounge or garden.
  • Go to the gym/run/swim/yoga,
  • Visit a museum or art gallery or a book reading. These types of activity can inspire you more than you realise,
  • Walk arounf your nearest craft shop. Don't have anything in particular in mind but you may find something new,
  • Do you listen to music whilst you create? What about switching over the station for the afternoon - change can be good.

The saying "a change is as good as a rest" is very true, especially for people who earn through creativity. Change is a renewal process - mentally, spiritually and physically as it allows you to return your base point feeling refreshed and raring to go.

What do you do when you get hit with the creative block?

Coming on the next business tips post: What to do when babies come knocking!

Friday, 30 April 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 39: Life Balance Part 2

On Friday I posed a number of questions for you to assess your work/life balance. There are also questions you need to ask to ensure you are not falling behind on your business. Some of these I think are ok to ask yourself every couple of weeks but others may need to be asked weekly, if not daily.

  1. Do you have emails that need to be returned? An unreturned email may be a potential customer or a wholesale enquiry. Emails really should be responded to within 24hours and if you are on holiday/craft show/sick set an out-of-office response.
  2. Are you paying your bills on time? In my opinion this is almost more important ro replying to an email because a cut-off from a supplier, whether they be inventory supplies, electricity, telephone or internet, is something a business cannot function without.
  3. Do you need to collect payment from vendors? If you have any wholesale or consignment accounts, do the vendors owe you money? Does anyone else owe you money for that matter? You need to be paid on time to keep your cash flowing.
  4. Are your accounts reconciled on a monthly basis? I am very guilty of this one: FAIL! Not because I don't have the understanding or the information but because I haven't quite developed a system I am happy with. When I have, I will sit down on the last day of the month and reconcile.......with a bar of chocolate at my side.
  5. Are you making enough money? Now you're not going to outrun Alan Sugar or Donald Trump for their bank balances but you do need to know if you are making enough. Are you charging enough/fairly for your time and supplies? Perhaps give your competitors the once over to benchmark. I wouldn't recommend making frequent price alterations but the beginning of the year is a good opportunity.
  6. How clean is your workspace? This is really important because there is nothing worse than suddenly feeling inspired to create but having to tidy up first. Find a storage system that works and use it. It will also keep you more aware of when supplies are running low.
  7. Have you spent a satisfactory amount of time on marketing? Have you increased your Twitter followers? Facebook fans? Blog followers? Do you look at your Google Analytics to see what is working? Only you can know what works and if you have done enough to feel happy.
  8. Is there anyone you need to network with? Has a new shop opened up in your area you could wholesale with? Stop by and say hello.

That is a lot of questions to think about! But you may find you can make a few changes and actually increase the time you have to create or spend with family.

Coming next time on April 30th: Getting a creative block.

Monday, 26 April 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 38: Life Balance Part 1

In the last business tips post we looked at what happens when you feel exhausted. This can pose the question about is your life in balance. Do you ever find yourself with more than one personality? Does multi-tasker / control freak and over achiever sound familiar? It is no real surprise really if you always have a to-do list that reads a little like this: finish orders, begin X project, spend time with family/friends/significant other, eat, sleep and run household. If you haven't realised it by now - a business can completely throw your life out of kilter.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to check your work/life balance, you may need to do this frequently:
  1. When was the last time you were physically active? - walking up the stairs does not count, I'm meaning swimming, dancing, a long walk, a "night in", running and yoga are all good examples.
  2. Are you eating regularly and not relying on junk/fast/processed food? - Why not make an agreement with yourself that at least three days a week you will eat a well balanced and nutritious meal and always have fruit and seeds on hand for snacks.
  3. Did you sleep well last night? We all know the recommendation is for seven hours sleep a night but how many of us actually get that? Sometimes, if not frequently, I'm lucky if I get five, but I try to compensate at the weekends. You need to find out what is right for you.
  4. Got a mirror nearby? Go take a look in it, how do you look? When was your last haircut or time you put some makeup on? Im not saying you have to do this but sometimes it can make you feel a little better.
  5. Have you visited a museum, restaurant or cinema lately? Treats like these are important for well being and giving your brain a rest as well as a treat! It doesn't need to be expensive. With some of my friends, the restaurant we go to depends on what vouchers we can get.
  6. When was your last day off or even a holiday? It can be difficult to arrange a break when everything is resting on your weary shoulders - but it is so important. If time and funds don't allow for a holiday then the minimum should be to take a day off, not to catch up on household chores but to go and have fun!
  7. Do your friends and family know you are still alive? It is important to keep these relationships alive and kicking and sending a few emails/texts/phone call won't really take that long but will keep you all happy.
  8. Do you have appointments to make/keep or emails to return? Set aside an hour or two a week to tackle these.
  9. Are you being a good friend/daughter/son/wife/husband etc by supporting your friends and family in their projects? You need to keep a tie to friends and family and mark their celebrations or you may be cut out of the loop altogether. I often struggle here but in reverse - I always try to be available and supportive of my friends and family but as it is not often reciprocated it makes me question why I actually bother.
  10. Finally, are you attending any events you are invited to like Christenings, Weddings and Funerals? Keeping on top of birthday cards or other cards you need to send? Forgetting the birthday of a friend is marginably acceptable once but twice is a huge big black cross in my book. I find it helps to keep one central diary where both business and personal events/dates are combined. I have a beautiful purple leather Filofax which is with me at all times. It is also a good idea to keep a calendar central in the home so all family members can see it.

Coming next time on April 26th: Life Balance part two.

Friday, 23 April 2010 | 4 Comments

Business Tips Part 37: Feeling Exhausted?

What would you think if you were to open a magazine and see the pages full of an artists' handmade items and know they have their items in all the big department stores? I bet you'd assume they are sitting back and counting their pots of money? Right? Well not always.

The reality is more likely to be they are in their studio pulling out their hair, worried sick about how to keep up with the demand! To them, what started out as a reliever of stress is in fact now a major creator of stress.

I certainly find it difficult to step away from Butterfly-Crafts for fear of falling behind. There are always new products to make, promoting to do and business admin to keep up with. However this heroic lifestyle will take its tole. I have suffered creative exhaustion and frequently sleep issues due to worry. Other signs of exhaustion might be anxiety, headaches, restlessness and in severe cases even rashes.

I really don't think I'll be alone in saying I have been exhausted with my business, I think that all business owners probably do at some point. If they don't I'd like to know their secret!

If you are feeling exhausted is it possible you are trying to be too ambitious and consequently feel overwhelmed? Do you need to rediscover your creativity with some quality time with your beads / knitting / soap etc? Perhaps you need to set more of a routine; or you might just need a complete break.

I truley belive the only way to overcome exhaustion (beyond taking a complete break) is to recapture the fulfillment your business used to provide you. Know when you have done a good days work and then stop and relax rather than work all hours under the sun and then at weekends too.

It is difficult in this business to be all things to all people - controller of stock, designer, inventory creator, accountant, purchaser, press guru, customer services manager, agent and cleaner. If this sounds like you, perhaps you need to enlist help - more on that in a later post.

I'd really like to know what you do when you are feeling exhausted with business?

Coming next time on the 23rd April: Life in Balance

Monday, 19 April 2010 | 6 Comments

Business Tips Part 36: Where are all the sales?

Does this thought sound familiar: you've spent hours, days and even months creating product, really putting your heart and soul into every piece but where are the sales? Or if you are getting sales, why aren't there more? We've ALL had those thoughts.

It's easy for me to say don't panic or don't give up. The first step is to take stock of the situation you are now in. Might you have launched at the wrong time? Do you only have Christmas products and it's only March? However, it might not be down to your product, it might be your marketing strategy at fault.

Ask youself one very important question: Do I believe in my products? If you do, and I hope that you do, think long and hard about what it is you can alter. Would making your aprons available as vendor aprons help or change the fastening on bracelets?

It is also worth revisiting your pricing strategy. However do not automatically assume that you need to lower your prices, it may be that you actually need to increase them. We've covered pricing handmade items before in previous blogs and it is true that buyers of handmade items associate the product with quality and something special and so are willing to pay for it. If they see a beautiful handmade piece of jewellery but priced too low they may either question the quality of the work or how much the artist values their work.

Something similar happened to me with Butterfly-Crafts. When I first started selling I priced low assuming this was the best way to get sales. That was until a very kind Artfire seller advised me that pricing low made it look like I was a) not valuing myself and b) desperate for a sale. I revisited my pricing formula, tweaked my prices and then the sales started to come in.

Overall, it is so important to realise that having a creative business is a brave task because you are exposing yourself to other people's opinions. Don't get discouraged though, as it can take time before you are making a profit. You need to maintain a belief in yourself and your abilities because one day, you may be struggling to keep up with the demand!

On the next Business Tips blog on the 19th: Feeling exhausted?

Friday, 16 April 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 35: Taking the Rough with the Smooth

How long have you been running your creative business? For me its been a little over a year and one thing I have learned this far is that it will not always be rosey and there will be high points and low points.

Unfortunately one of the biggest low points for any creative business is to find out your products have been copied and are being sold elsewhere at a lower price. As unfortunate as it is, everything that you create can be copied somehow.

If you are copied, it is likely the biggest culprit will be a mass merchandise company who can make similar items on a large scale for just a fraction of the price. It is sad to say their latest victim is often found at a trade fair and they may even place an order with you to receive samples. But, independent designers can do exactly the same thing but perhaps for a different reason: envy.

As I've said, virtually anything you make can be open for copying, But there are steps to take to help lessen the blow: Have your work protected with either a copyright, patent or trademark. But if you have been copied it might be wise to seek legal advice with regard to any action you can take.

The other aspect of having your work copied is emotion. Knowing that something you have spent weeks working on have been copied is extremely upsetting. But you need to stay confident in your work and your abilities because keeping the emotion bottled up could stop your creativity flowing.

If you are copied, as awful as it may be, keep one thought in mind: "I was one step ahead of the crowd and always will be" and those who copied you will just get left behind!

Coming next time on April 16th: Where are all the sales?

Monday, 12 April 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 34: Customer Service

Cast your mind back to when you had that lightbulb moment about running your own craft business and how great it would be to be your own boss, make all the decisions and report to no-one. Have you realised that's not strictly true - you now report to your customers, buyers and possibly the press.

The way to respond to your ne bosses can make or break your business. A quick well thoughts out response can help you make your business, but a short and shoddy response will be a business breaker.

We now live in a consumer society and as such, you and your business will be judged on short customer interactions. These interactions may be telephone calls, emails, in person within your shop, at a craft fair or just passing on the street.

If you feel exhausted from running your business, beware, a tired owner will end up being your worst enemy! No matter how tired or busy you are you cannot avoid emails or dismiss phone calls. If you do, you will give the impression that you either have too much to do and cannot cope, think yourself too important to respond, or are simply incompetent. Be refreshing and surprise people with a response within 24hours or if that is not possible 2 days at most. On the reverse side, responding instantly may give the impression you don't have much else to do - I always wait an hour before responding to someone so I can think about what I want to say in the first instance.

Another potential downfall in business is being too formal. I'm not suggesting you treat your buyers as if they are your best friends (unless of course they are) but a degree of human interconnectivity can go a long way. For example, I would rather be addressed in an email as "Hi Victoria..." rather than "Dear Miss Heath".

There is however a line that cannot be crossed. Never use your daughters dance class as an excuse as to why you have not mailed out a parcel late or that you needed to take your rabbit to the vet. Stay professional at all times but do allow the real you to shine through.

Comine next time on April 12: Taking the Rough with the Smooth

Friday, 9 April 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Blog Part 33: Fulfilling Orders

What happens if you have been putting all of these tips into practice with wholesaling, consignment, trade fairs, craft shows etc? Well, you will need to think about fulfilling orders.

Independent businesses are able to gain huge orders from major retailers but more often than not, the big order will come with a list of do's and dont's. It is essential you read these guidelines with a fine tooth comb and if there are no guidelines, you may wish to create your own.

It can be tempting to save a few pounds but do not scrimp on packaging. Buy good quality boxes and tape and use some filling materials like polystyrene or air packets. The best way to save some money with packaging is to buy in bulk at wholesale prices rather than from your local Rymans or Staples.

As you package up your lovely handmade products, assume that the parcel will be knocked about during transit. Therefore consider a "fragile" sticker and fill every last space with filling materials to help make it resistent to compression.

Postage costs can put a potential buyer off so consider buying a postage scale to achieve accurate costs. I have my postage as accurate as possible but I have added a policy to Butterfly-Crafts saying if postage paid is more that 70p different I will refund that difference.

If you receive a large wholesale order that you are posting rather than hand delivering consider using Royal Mail parcel force or another large carrier such as FedEx or DHL and they provide an online tracking system.

Postage is also a great opportunity to add the personal touch. For example I include a business card, a hand written thank you nore, occasionally an offer for a future purchase and often matching gift tags.

Remember the joy and excitement you experience when your purchases arrive? That is what you are trying to recreate.

Coming on the next Business Tips blog on the 9th April: Customer Service

Monday, 5 April 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 32: Being a Salesperson

Something very important to learn with owning a craft business is that you will be the chief salesperson whether you like it or not! You have probably had to learn many skills to get your business set up but sales skills, in my opinion, are the most important.

I find it still a little embarassing talking to people about my business, especially on days when I still think of it as just my hobby but the more i talk to people about it the easier it is becoming. Always smile and make your customers, both potential and existing, feel important, but without being insincere.

Two excellent salesperson traits are being visible and spirited. Staying behind your craft fair table or visibly day-dreaming or reading is a big no-no. Remain alert at all times and ready to attend to needs and answer questions.

It is important to never make an assumption about a buyer if they enter your space at a craft show or even cross into your physical shop door. This is especially important at a tradeshow - don't even contemplate the way someone has dressed and don't ignore an independent buyer to spend more time with department store buyers. Engage with every single person and have a conversation without pushing a sale.

An important lesson to learn as a salesperson is that you never have a second chance to make a first impression. Therefore dress to reflect your brand but be professional at all times.

If you are at a tradeshow, these can be stressful enough if the future of your business rests on its success. Be ready and open for any feedback - both good and bad. You should already know that your products will not appeal to everyone so try not to get discouraged or take comments too personally - yes this is super hard I know! Don't let a negative comment or someone walking on by affect your poise. Be open to all comments as it can only help you develop.

It is enevitable that at some time in your business you will have a bad experience or a bad show but you need to learn from those lessons and enjoy yourself. Once you begin to enjoy talking about your business, others will be more receptive.

Coming on the next Business Tips Blog on Monday 5th April: Fulfilling Orders

Friday, 2 April 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 31: Trade Shows Part 3

Last week we began to look at trade shows in terms of research and planning. Today we will look a little more in to planning how you will take orders. Imagine the week of the show has arrived and you will no doubt be excited - that's completely normal! A word of advice though when at the show - don't get too excited and misplace all of your orders, take a folder with you and keep them in there. Take the folder home every night and keep the orders safe.

Another word of caution over orders, it can be very tempting to accept any order that comes your way but you must consider three things:
  1. Realistic lead times,
  2. Quantities expected,
  3. Who do you want to carry your product line?

There is nothing worse as a seller than not being able to deliver an order on time. Keep a schedule book and enter all of the orders and be realistic - especially if you make your own products.

You may find that you are asked lots of questions about minimum orders and lead times - that's the nature of wholesale. Some buyers will ask you for a catalogue so they can place an order at another time. If this happens, as for a business card in return so that you can track any potential leads.

Unless you are superman/woman (and aren't we all!) you will find a tradeshow exhausting especially if you have no assistance. If you need to book a hotel nearby check with the organisers as they are likely to have a partner hotel that will offer a discount and a shuttle to the venue.

But even superheroes need a sidekick and I could not recomment more bringing someone with you - I would take my mum! Be selective, this sidekick will be representing your company meaning your reputation is at stake. They must know and understand your products, order terms and lead times. But having a show buddy will free up a little time for you to walk around, take a rest break and if you're like me - they will offer reassurance.

Overall, a trade show is a big step for your business. They are costly and tiring but exciting at the same time. If you are ready for the commitement - give it a try!

Coming on the next Business Tips blog on Friday: Being a Salesperson

Monday, 29 March 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 30: Trade Shows Part 2

Earlier this week we started to look at trade shows and how they can be ways to sell your items. today I want to look a little more into what happens once you have secured that booth. Simply put: PLANNING! You will need to start planning at least two months before the show.

You might decide to promote the fact that you will be attending the show so give thought to pre-show promotion. You could head to Vista Print (or other similar places) and create some postcards including the dates, booth number and a photograph. Send these to your stockists and potential future stockists.

If the show is your first one ever, I know you will want to crete as much stock up as possible but this isn't always a great idea. You will not know what product lines will be popular and rather than spend every waking minute creating items, take samples of your entire range and have a production plan for each of them including delivery times.

In your planning you will want to give thought to the booth set up and display, this can often be overlooked but with so many people displaying, yours will need to be memorable so PRACTICE. Remember that your products are the star of the show and the display should highlight this not steal the limelight. It is also an idea not to over clutter the space but have it well lit, easy to assemble, portable and not overly designed.

The next stage in planning it transport - vital really unless the show is quite literally on your doorstep! How will you transport everything to the show? If it is a distance you may need to inlist a haulage company or another car at least. If you are worried about transport, especially if you have booth fixtures and fittings to take, contact the events manager and see if they have a list of reputable companies you can hire from.

Coming on the next business tips blog on the 29th, Trade shows Part 3!

Friday, 26 March 2010 | 1 Comment

Butterfly-Crafts Is Almost A Year Old - Are You Ready?

Yes that's right, Butterfly-Crafts is almost a year old, the big day is coming on March 26th (this Friday) and there will be cake to celebrate - if only you were nearby to share it and the pancakes I'll be having for my tea!

Anyway, to mark this special day I am going to be running an extra special sale! Usually when I have had sales I promote them here and on Twitter, Facebook etc but not this time! The sale will be exclusively for recipients of the Butterfly-Crafts Newsletter so if you want to be part of the sale you'll need to sign up to the newsletter which you can do HERE.

I send out a newsletter every four to six weeks and include details of new items, special offers, developments in the business you might find interesting and often share a fabulous handmade store I have stumbled across.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up before the 26th to receive the special offer!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 29: Tradeshows Part 1

Its always good to dream big and being a small business owner is no reason to reign in your dreams. If your big goal is to sell your products nationwide then a trade show is likely to become part of your annual calendar. There are many trade shows and each usually cater to a specific market i.e. jewellery, gifts, pets, eco-products. As a rule, trade shows are mostly wholesale for 'trade' only but there are some that will include a retail element - you will just have to do some super research.

A show can run from three to five days and a broad range of retailers are represented from the tiny independent shops to the much larger department stores who often attend purely for buyer research.

If you are interested in attending a trade show the first and most important question to ask is how much is the fee? The smallest booth may set you back £750 / $1000 as they are charged by the metre/foot. The fee should hopefully cover the minimum such as a table, chair, rubbish bags and lights and then you will organise curtains, table coverings and drayage (moving your freight from your vehicle to your booth) - but sometimes it might be the other way around. If the fee scares you and you approach a friend to share the booth, best check with the organisers first as there are likely to be guidelines.

Once you have signed up, you will be issued with a contract. Before you sign it, check where you will be on the floorplan and who you will be next too, as with housing, location is key!

Coming on the next business tips blog on Friday: Tradshows part 2.

Monday, 22 March 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 28 - Approaching Shops Part 2

Earlier this week we looked at the first stages of approaching shops for wholesale or consignment. Today we look at what to do once you have secured the appointment with the owner/buyer.

Ensure that you arrive on time and are dressed appropriately. Have your hair and nails done if it will boost your confidence and you can afford to have it done! Also bring order forms, samples, a catalogue, relevant business information, price list and the most important part.....a pen! I have some pens created on Vista Print that are branded with my business logo and colours, they were pretty cheap but look professional. As the buyer or owner looks at your items, sit up straight and pay attention. What feedback are you getting? Do they seem excited? Make sure you note anything down because a comment from a retail buyer is invaluable.

If the buyer decides to purchase, write up the order, discuss the terms and how long delivery will take. Once you have delivered the products, follow up with further literature so that the sales staff have an understanding. Also remember to visit the shop so that you can check out the display.

If you do not get an immediate sale, try not to get too discouraged. A buyer will need to consider the 'fit' of your product in their shop, what it may compete with, actual capacity of the shop, their customer base and your prices. Sometimes a non-purchase just comes down to bad timing in regard to the shops cash-flow, budget or simply being wary of a new seller. If you do get a 'no' for purchase, ask if they would consider a consignment, because for you, any presence in a retail shop is good business!

But, no matter if you have achieved an outright purchase or a consignment, be sure to follow up with the buyer to see how your products are selling and if they might need to reorder.

Coming in the next business tips blog: Tradeshows

Friday, 19 March 2010 | 0 Comments

Business Tips Part 27 - Approaching Shops Part 1

If you run a creative business like I do with Butterfly-Crafts, I am going to take a guess you dream of getting your items into a retail store? A great way to start off small is to approach local independent shops in your area and then this may grow into being a big player at wholesaling.

The best place to start is with a list of the top five shops in your area you would like to target that your items are appropriate for. Simply target number one and then work down the list but if one shop agrees, think very carefully before approaching another on the list because often independent shops want to have something unique and not something that can be found in all the local shops. However, if you have a range of products for example jewellery and model figures, you could offer one shop one product and another shop the other range.

The second step is to go and investigate the shop you are going to approach. Look at their product range, packaging and prices but do not introduce yourself as a creative business owner as this will come a little later. Make sure you also find out if they have an online presence as your products might feature on their website.

Once your research is complete on all of the shops on your list now what? Telephone the shop and ask to speak to the owner or buyer. Introduce yourself and let them know that you will be sending or hand delivering a package of your items for their consideration. Once you have made that call it is important to follow up promptly with a personalised package including:

  • A covering letter that requests an appointment,
  • A catalogue,
  • A line sheet / wholesale prices,
  • Samples if you are able to spare them,
  • Your contact details & website,

If you do not hear back within two weeks then follow up with an email or phone call. In an ideal world, you'll secure that appointment!

Coming on the next business stips blog on Friday 19th: Approaching Stores Part 2

Monday, 15 March 2010 | 1 Comment

Business Tips Part 26 - Wholesaling Part 2

Following on from the blog on Monday about Wholesaling, today I will talk about getting paid from your wholesale accounts. Generally the business of wholesale requires a little give and take, you give your product and then it is time to collect payment and the way in which you do this will be layed out in the terms section of your wholesale agreement.

In order to turn your inventory into cash you will need to send your retailer an invoice which is pretty much a list of what they ordered and a total sum due. You may also include the date of order, an invoice number, your company details, mailing address and phone number. It is also essential to include the terms of payment and the buyers purchase number. If the order was prepaid with a credit card or cheque make a note of this on the invoice. Something you might also want to bear in mind is to write INVOICE really big and central to let your buyers know that it is a bill and consider offering a small (like 1.5%) discount if it is paid early or charge a daily interest rate if it is overdue - just make this clear on the invoice.

Credit Cards
Paying by credit card is easy, quick and convenient but there are costs associated with it. If you have to purchase processing equipment you will be subject to various charges but using PayPal or some merchant card processors you can escape these charges by processing the transaction over the internet. In order to accept credit card payments you will need to set up an account through your bank or merchant card processor, do some research to see who has the most competitive rates and always keep in mind that you may be able to negiotiate. When you do accept credit cards, maintain good financial records of the transactions incase there is ever a dispute with the card holder. If a problem arises and you are unable to provide sufficient evidence your processor will withdraw the amount from your account along with any charge back fees.

Cash on Delivery
Accepting cash on delivery allows the buyer to pay at the time of delivery (kind of obvious wasn't it!) Once the item has been put in the mail you will need to let the buyer know and then a cheque can be raised. Upon delivery, the buyer will then send the payment to you, I would strongly suggest you insist on registered post!

Net 30 Day Terms
Getting paid on 30 day terms is a much slower form of payment so bear in mind you could offer 15 days for payment but also know it might not be you setting the payment terms, if you are lucky enough to work with large retailers, you will have to accept their requirements which might even be 60 or 90 day terms. What ever the term, the general idea is that you send your buyer an invoice and they have 30 days in which to pay. This form of payment does carry risk in that you run the risk of not getting paid. If you end up with a cheque that bounces, call the buyer immediately and see what they will do about it. To counter-act this, consider keeping their credit card details on file with an agreement that it will be charged if a cheque bounces.

Billing and payments can be a hard part of business to manage, you will need to be efficient and keep up-to-date with invoices and chasing payments to keep your cash flowing. If a buyer is late with a payment, keep hold of their order until the bill has been settled. New business owners can be incredibly shy when it comes to payments and bills because you want to keep hold of the buyer but if you dont, you may end up in debt just to keep your cah flow moving. You will still have supplies to purchase and bills to pay so you need to get paid to.

Coming in the next business tips on Monday 15th March: How to approach a store.

Friday, 12 March 2010 | 1 Comment