Here is a little history of my business and a little story on how taking the Indie Business course last year was the best investment I could have ever made!
In the early spring of 2009, I was dating a boy who did wood working and during that time, I became interested in trying out Etsy just for fun. We were both in college still so we weren't too serious about starting a business, but having a little project like an Etsy jewelry shop sounded like a fun thing to have going on the side. We decided to collaborate, me designing the pieces, him carving the wooden pendants, and me putting all the pieces together. Here are some examples of the pieces we collaborated on together:
The college that my ex-boyfriend went to ended up featuring our business, named S.E.A.L. at the time, in one of their campus magazines. That was pretty cool but it didn't really get us any promotion, sadly.
We ended up breaking up after a few short months of dating and thought about trying to keep the business going together as friends. But that was too hard. So I decided to shut down the shop for awhile... until I came up with idea of making wooden book necklaces in the winter of 2009. One of my roommates during that time was a guitar builder and could do a lot of wood working. So I paid him to create the 2 pieces of wood needed for each miniature book and then I pieced it all together, sewing, cutting the paper, and assembling the metal pieces. It was a lot of fun finally feeling like I had a creative idea of my own that I could create multiples of but still each one would be unique. I was finally catching on to some basics of business. But my photography still wasn't so great:
In January of 2010, I still wasn't sure whether I wanted to really invest in my Etsy shop as a business or as a hobby. And I didn't know what direction to take my shop in. Should I include illustrations since I did just get my degree in Illustration? I tested out selling Valentines Day cards that I illustrated and donated the profits to a charity. But I priced the cards so low that I didn't even cover my costs and ended up losing a lot of my own money, not just the profit that I sent to charity.
The cards were cute but they weren't exactly cohesive with the style of jewelry that I was making. And looking at my shop, I didn't really see anything connecting with each other. I just saw a mess of things that didn't relate to each other. I didn't understanding the importance of "branding" or "creating a business identity." I didn't quite understand how to build a cohesive set of items. And it left my shop looking purposeless.
I felt a little lost in what I was doing. I knew I had a creative mind that just needed to be directed the right way in business, but I had no idea what sort of things I needed to learn and I didn't know who I could go to for advice. I knew that I had the potential to create something unique, but I didn't understand how to do something unique AND sustain myself at the same time. It felt confusing. I needed some advice.
...and then I noticed my friend Kyla has posted about how she was going to take the Indie Business 2.0 class from Leigh Ann, Jill and Elsie. I checked out the information site about the class and I realized, holy crap, there is so much I obviously need to learn and these ladies look like they really know the ins and outs of running your own little business! They are all big names in the blogging/small business world and I admired them a lot from just reading a little bit about them on their blogs. So I thought, well, I might as well try out this class and see if it helps me at all in understanding what to do with my Etsy shop. And oh man, it helped me SO MUCH.
I eventually learned some wood working skills of my own so I could be the sole creator of everything in my shop, sourcing trinkets and supplies where need be. Not having to employ any friends to do some of the work gave me a lot of freedom knowing I could make exactly what I wanted, when I wanted to. No waiting for my friends to work wood working for me into their schedule. And once i was able to create everything on my own, AND I had all the business skills I learned from Indie Biz, I felt so much more assured in my business. Here is a video I posted quite a few months back of when I first started doing all the wood working for my miniature books myself:
Go to the Indie Business 3.0 site to read about this years course outline and everything you will be taught to help you re-envision your business! Last year was awesome, and I am so excited to participate and teach this year too :)
Here is what I learned in Indie Biz:
- How to figure out "What is my Style?"
- How to create a cohesive body of work
- How to build a portfolio
- How to create an inspiration board, an organized binder to keep track of everything, a business calendar, and other useful tactile tools for inspiration and managing my business.
- How to asses my skills and weakness and how to work with my weaknesses to benefit my biz
- How to streamline my production methods so I can produce more efficiently
- How to find my ideal marketplace (online, or offline)
- How to price my products
- How to style the presentation of my work and how to photograph it well
- All the ins and outs of Etsy and running a shop outside of Etsy
- Finding local and online resources
- Product packaging
- Blogging effectively, and some basic html for your blog (this launched me into blog designing!)
- Networking on the web and locally
- Deciding if I wanted this to be a hobby or a business, part time or full time
- How to balance life, family, friends, and running your own business
- plus so much more!
This is the time to find your business community, invest in it, and find friends who are just as excited about creating something new, or enlivening their current business, as you are! It doesn't matter if your business has been around for awhile or you are just thinking about starting a shop, this course benefits people on all levels.
Indie Business and I mean that sincerely! It is so worth your time and I highly recommend it. Let me know if you have signed up! I am so excited to encourage you and help you in your business journey through Indie Business :)