2016, wow what a year! As it draws to a close I want to have a look back at what I’ve achieved with my little shop, how I’ve measured up against my goals and think about what I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully some of this will help fellow crafters and small business owners too…
A change of direction
The biggest thing that happened in 2016 was my decision to stop selling (or trying to sell!) button bouquets and buttonholes and to focus solely on bunting. The wedding market was proving difficult to break into, sales were slow and effort on my part was high! I learned that sometimes you just have to “smell what sells” (as Alan Sugar would say!) and let go of things that aren’t working. As a result of this, I put all my energies into building up my bunting ranges and this has resulted in many more sales in 2016
Due to said change in direction, the goals I laid out at the beginning of the year were a bit harder to achieve! I wanted to get to 100 items in my shop (to some Etsy sellers, this seems to be the magic number) but due to retiring my other ranges, I was minus 50 or so items. It took the rest of the year to build up my bunting ranges, so as a result, my total item count is at 40. I won’t be too hard on myself on this one – things don’t always go to plan.
I did, however, manage to exhibit at a wedding fair before I decided to change direction. Tick!
As for blogging twice a week (ahem) this was perhaps a bit on the optimistic side. Perhaps it should have read “twice a month”.
I can hand on heart say that I’ve had fun with it all though – which is good, otherwise I may as well get my coat and go home!
Social media shenanigans
Love it or hate it, social media is still a big part of running a successful small business. I have to be honest, I still struggle with what to post on my Facebook business page, so I was really pleased to get to 1,000 likes in 2016!
Likewise, I crawled to 1,000 followers on my Instagram too – I had some great advice from Natasha of Willow shop fame earlier in the year (thank you!) and I put a lot more effort behind finding the right hashtags and posting regularly, which really paid off!
For a hat trick, I also hit 1,000 followers on my Twitter account – this proved a bit easier and my main strategy was to engage with things like #CraftHour and be an active part of the community. Thankfully this wasn’t difficult as there are so many lovely crafters out there 🙂
Learning along the way
I love attending workshops and learning new things – I made it to a couple in 2016, both run by the lovely Emily from Makelight. The first was a photography workshop for makers where, among lots of useful things, I finally learnt how to use my fancy camera to take good photos – result! The second was a workshop run by both Emily and styling guru Ashlyn Gibson – I came away with lots of great tips and ideas (many of which will be part of my plan for 2017). Makelight courses get 5 stars from me – highly recommended!
Trying new things
I am a bit of a self-confessed early adopter who always wants to try the new shiny thing, and this was no different in 2016! Earlier in the Spring, I had a chance meeting with the lovely Delia from Depop – for anyone who hasn’t heard of it, it’s a social shopping app with an amazing community of buyers and sellers. Not technically aimed at makers, but there is a growing contingent on there and they seemed to be doing well, so I set up a little shop which you can find here. I’ve taken custom orders on there as well as normal sales and was even invited to sell my bunting at their charity event at Brighton Pride.
I was also keeping my eye on Handmade at Amazon – when they launched in the US I had set up a shop but hadn’t had a lot of sales and had a feeling that I’d have more luck with the European launch (as I’m in the UK and the majority of my sales come from home turf). This turned out to be a good assumption – I opened my European H@A shop at the end of September and sales sky-rocketed in October (well, by my standards!).
Later in 2016, Etsy opened up promoted Google Shopping listings for sellers, in addition to their own promoted listings within Etsy. Not one to miss out, I signed up for both (with a minimum spend of $1 a day) to see what effect, if any, these would have on sales. It was interesting to see the effects as sales started to come in from countries that I’d never sold to before – Italy, Israel and lots of sales to the US which I suspect I wouldn’t have had otherwise! Profits from sales are higher than the costs to run the ads, so I will be keeping those on in 2017 and see how it goes.
I love a good collab – it’s fun to work with other creatives and there are always mutual benefits. This year I’ve done a few, ranging from a competition with the fabulous wedding photographer Megan Wilson, of Captured by Megan Wilson fame, to one with my husband and his business, Ian Viggars Art.
It’s been great to see Ian’s designs printed onto fabric for me to experiment with – more of that in 2017!
Over the course of 2016 I’ve sold at quite a few craft markets in London (and visited many more to check them out!) with varying degrees of success. The main things I’ve learnt are to look for markets that are promoted well on social media and in the press and try to find one that are targeted at punters who are as close as possible to your ideal customers.
My favourite market this year was the Christmas one curated by the lovely folks over at Urban Makers East. I’m looking forward to selling at more of their markets in 2017!
One final learning from selling at markets was figuring out how to get over the fear of taking custom orders and getting payment upfront – I know that other makers find this hard (and sometimes get stung by only taking a deposit!). People are generally nice about upfront payments if you’re confident and direct about it 🙂 A skill worth mastering!
A great end to the year
I had some fab news to finish 2016 – a couple of months ago I applied to be an Etsy mentor, but got turned down. However, they wrote back to me just recently and asked if I could be a mentor for the next year’s intake for Etsy Resolution, their step-by-step guide to opening your own Etsy shop. I was part of the 2016 program and found it so valuable, so I’m really excited to help others in the new year.
What have you learnt or achieved in 2016? Tell me in the comments below!