Monthly Archives: September 2012

The “How Much Product Should I Create” Dilemma

In preparing my products and booth for the upcoming Art on the Avenue festival, I’ve encountered a dilemma:  not knowing how much inventory to create.

As of tomorrow I’ll have one week left, and I work a 9-5, so I need to use my small amount of prep time wisely. 

I need to make more Merlin Mats, but I’m honestly not sure how many I should have on hand at the festival.  I’m going to have more in the smaller sizes and fewer of the XLG size because I expect the smaller ones will sell more quickly. I thought about having a fabric swatch book so that people can place special orders, but I’m not sure I want to come home from the festival with a stack of orders to fill.

Say I only have 10 MED, 10 LG, and 5 XLG.  That’s around $1200 in sales, and selling that many would seriously rock – but at the same time I’m a little terrified of selling out of the Merlin Mats midday and then having that hole in my product lineup.   At the same time, I can’t imagine selling even $1000 worth of dog beds in one day – but then when the weather is good, the show draws a crowd of 50,000 humans, many of whom attend *with* pups.

So I don’t know.  Are 25 dog beds enough?

And while I’m thinking out loud, I also am not sure how to display my zip-off pillow covers.  See, I have a shipment of about 20 pillow inserts that should arrive in time (fingers crossed) but even if they do I have at least 40 pillow covers to display and sell.   I’m giving customers the option to buy them without the pillow insert if they choose. 

For the pillow covers I’m displaying wtihout an insert, I’m thinking of having them wrapped with a logo band like I do when I mail them out to customers. The band would be computer-printed, not stamped, so it would look more professional than this.   Pro:  The upside to this idea is that it would keep them nice and tidy in a tray or basket.  They would look more professional than if they were not folded and packaged. Con:  The customer wouldn’t be able to see the whole pillow cover, so in some cases they’d be removing them from the band and I’d probably have to deal with re-folding and re-packaging throughout the day.

I thought about rigging up a system to have them all hanging, but I don’t really care for that idea.  Too many logistics to worry about.

I’d love to hear any ideas you guys have on how to display the pillow covers – or on how much inventory I should make . . .

Also, my end-of-month giveaway may be delayed by a few days because I have camera issues.  I’ve “scouted out” an awesome product that I can’t wait to share, but I want to do it with decent photos!

Have a great weekend!  What will you be up to while I’m frantically sewing?

Art on the Avenue Preparation – 2 weeks out

As of this past weekend, all home décor projects have stopped.  There is no more organizing. No building. No crafting. There is only sewing and preparing for Art on the Avenue because it’s two weeks out!

Can someone preemptively give Ryan the “Saintly Husband” award?  He’s going to be helping and putting up with me during these two weeks!

So I’m here today with a belated weekly status update – as promised.

Art on the Avenue 2012 Postcard Instagram

First of all, I’m having fun getting ready!  When I told you I was considering closing my shop, I mentioned that I got bored when creating the same products over and over again.  I guess the goal of creating for this live festival has altered my mindset.

Progress-wise, I feel pretty good, despite the fact that my goal was to have $5,000 of merchandise created, and right now I only have $2,000.    But I’m getting really excited!  When the weather is good, the event gets about 50,000 attendees.  (Please let the weather be good.)

I’m so glad that I impulsively built my massive sewing table in the spring.  Having a 7 ft x 4 ft solid workspace has been invaluable for cutting fabric and foam and doing all sorts of bulk production.

Janery Sewing Table Fabric Cutting Instagram

In this shot you can see how one side of my sewing studio space looks right now.  It’s never evolved past the “bare necessities” setup that I implemented when I moved it to the basement last winter.   After all it’s sewing, not “designing the sewing room” that brings in the money.  And this unfinished space gets the job done.

Janery Sewing Table Art on the Avenue Prep Instagram

Until this past weekend I hadn’t actually made any of my pup pads – now officially named Merlin Mats – for the show.  Why?  I had tested out a few tweaks to the design and the supplies used, but I was reluctant to just make a decision.  I’m noticing a pattern; reluctance to commit to a decision is has been a challenge that causes me to fall behind on tasks.   It happened with our wedding invites, other wedding design options, and now with multiple decisions for Janery.

This weekend’s proximity to Art on the Ave forced me to make decisions, and the end result was a pile of pretty Merlin Mats.  I’m excited about the new design, because I was able to shorten production time while keeping them durable and washable, and I added a new feature to make them even more portable.

The end result?  A lower price and a product that I am absolutely in love with.

Janery Pup Pads Merlin Mats Instagram

Sidenote:  With a text message coupon and the sales going on at the fabric store this past weekend, it ended up cheaper for me to buy some supplies there than through my wholesale account with the manufacture.

I also made some of my Flour Sack Towels, which were my top selling item at Viva Vienna in 2011.  This totally retro fabric may be my favorite of the bunch!

Janery Retro Flour Sack Towel Instagram

Also, a few weeks ago I became obsessed with the embroidery stitches on my sewing machine. I have been using them to add a little extra embellishment here and there.

Janery Embroidery Stitches Instagram

There are still products that I haven’t started making, and I’m going to tackle the “cutting” of fabric for them tonight, then sewing them up later this week.  I’d like to have some of everything created by Saturday night, then I can focus on other preparation (labeling, signage, booth design tweaks) and the making of extra stock during the next and final week.

There’s one significant bump in the road, which I’ve saved for last.

On Thursday I realized I hadn’t received a shipping notice for a large and expensive supply order:  Supplies for the plush and cozy dog beds I was planning to make.  I called the manufacturer, who is thankfully in the US, and we discovered that though my card had been charged for the order, the order hadn’t shown up in their system.  Since the pet bed inserts and pillow inserts are made to order at the factory, this was bad news.

Fortunately the company provided super speedy and awesome customer service – a perk of dealing with a small, US factory – and they promised to get my order manufactured and shipped as quickly as possible.  So I’ll be sewing up my dog beds at the last minute, it looks like.  Oh well – if I don’t get to them in time I’ll save them for the next event, or for Etsy.

Before I sign off for the day, I want to thank you all for your wonderful feedback on my questions in last week’s status update.  I really appreciated all the food for thought, and have decided not to offer gift boxes for the products.

Art on the Avenue is Saturday, Oct 6 from 10 am – 6 pm in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria.

Art on the Avenue Preparation – 3 weeks out

The timer is ticking:  Art on the Avenue, the huge art festival in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, is a little less than three weeks away.

Of course I’m not as ready as I’d like to be!

I’m hoping that sharing weekly status updates between now and October 6th will help me stay on-task and motivated. I’ll be back with a 2 week and 1 week update, too, so you can yell at me if I’m falling behind!

I’ve been working very hard, sewing and prepping pretty much every day, but I’m still learning things.  For example, one reason I may get bored and burnt out when producing the same item many times over is because I set unreasonable goals.  For some reason I thought I could make 50 of my “Sunny Sweaters” in one fell swoop.

Sunny Sweaters by Janery | TheBorrowedAbode.com

Well, the good news is, I can . . . But it’s going to take a while and become tedious.  And while on the up side I now have a ton of Sunny Sweaters ready for the show (and leftovers will be stocked in my shop) I haven’t focused on making many other products. I would have been better off making only 20, then making other products, and then making more Sunny Sweaters if I had time.

So, lesson learned:  Set a reasonable and achievable production goal that won’t take forever.  It’s better to have a dozen of each product than a ton of one product and none of another.

Speaking of product, here is my anticipated product lineup:

Home Decor & Personal Accessories

  • Pillow covers
  • Waterproof Fabric Coasters
  • Flour Sack Towels
  • Produce bags (I thought I was sold out but I found another stash!)
  • Sunny Sweaters
  • iPad Sweaters *new!
  • Business Card Holders

Pet Accessories Necessities:

  • Pup Pads
  • Catnip Cuddlers
  • The Ultimate Dog Bed **more on this in another post
  • Coffee Sack Dog Beds
  • Catnip Cigars

Things for Kids:

  • Tooth Fairy Pillows
  • Scrappy Owls (similar to what I made for my niece, but with a different pattern)

And . . .

  • Christmas Stockings?

Several of the items listed above were not part of my regular Janery offerings online, but for craft shows it’s good to have a wide range of products.  Not such a wide range that you lose track of your style or essence, but wide enough to help you appeal to a large audience with varying budgets.

If there’s one item that doesn’t mesh it’s my produce bags.  But I found another stash of them and I’d like to use them up, and they’re a really eco-friendly product that I believe in.

Another reason I haven’t made more progress is because I have a severe case of I-can’t-decide-how-to-spend-my-budget-itis

Indecision is a beast. I also haven’t ordered product labels (because I can’t decide if they’re worth it), gift packaging (because I don’t have a vision), or several other supplies because of fear of making the wrong decision.

Gift Wrap / Packaging:

I’ve been drooling over images of impeccable packaging and thinking that I may put a little more effort into my packaging.  I was going to order some gift boxes and bags, but I think I’ll stick with my standard brown paper bags and then just find ways to embellish them.

Booth Design & Setup:

I’ve been spending a lot of time pondering the best way to set up my booth.  I loved using the vintage steamer trunk to display pillows at Viva Vienna, and it was a great, eye-catching display for the front of my tent.  However, I felt the rest of my display was lacking.

This time I need to have an eye catching display inside the tent as well as at the front, which means I need to create some height as well. I’ve been tossing ideas around and pinning inspirational retail merchandising photos like crazy.

I really, really love this informational board that Linen Laid & Felt used in their booth.  It’s a great way to provide a lot of information to customers who are interested.  I’m strongly considering doing this myself.

LinenLaidandFelt_tack board Bookbinding Etsy Street Team

Credit: Bookbinding Etsy Street Team Blog (click photo for link)

I have so much more to say, though, about booth setup, that I think I’ll save it for another rambling post. :)

In the mean time, I have some questions for you, my fabulous readers who always have great ideas:

Product Labeling:    Knowing that I may not do another craft show with Janery, should I still bother ordering and sewing labels onto items?

Display & Packaging:    Do you think that an embellished gift bag along with cheerful tissue paper is enough, or should I have gift boxes for items like sunny sweaters, iPad sweaters, pillow covers, and tea towels?

And finally, do you have any blogs that you recommend for great examples of retail merchandising and/or packaging?

Thanks for joining me and always encouraging me in these adventures.  Art on the Avenue is easily my most exciting Janery-related adventure yet!

 

Fired Up to Create a Backyard Escape

Do you have a specific part of your home that you avoid sharing on your blog? 

I know I do . . . and it’s the outer limits of our backyard, between our two sheds.   Only our closest friends, who come over in the nice weather for backyard bonfires, have been privy to the view – and that’s because the embarrassment helps fuel our fires.  Literally.

You can’t see the mess here, because this was taken before it got bad, but this is our backyard.

Since we rented this house 2.5 years ago we’ve had a slew of crazy storms that regularly bring down massive branches from the towering trees in our backyard.  It always makes me sad, because I love the yard, with its thick, multi-layered canopy of leaves. Even though the yard is small, encircled by a ratty chain link fence, I can sit out back, and truly feel like I am escaping from the hustle and bustle of the mega suburbs around me.

Whenever I had a really bad day (few and far between, thankfully) I would come home and go straight out to the backyard with my journal.  I’d set up Ryan’s portable hammock or my lounge chair, lay back, and start to write, but without fail I’d end up setting the pages aside and just staring up at the trees.  I recently stared at the trees a lot as I was pondering what to do about my shop.

So when Ryan and I found ourselves with several Crate and Barrel gift cards after our wedding, we knew just what to do with them:  buy a large, 2-person hammock to hang in the backyard.

The only problem?  Our massive pile of downed branches stood exactly between the only two trees that could hold the hammock.

Frankly, the brush pile was out of control.  It looked more like a beaver dam:

Massive Brush Pile

This was the state of the brush in 2011. This year it was even bigger, but I forgot to photograph it. The swing set and other junk is long gone.

What choice did we have other than to clean up the back of the yard?  I never thought I’d say this, but I set about organizing our downed tree branches.

After breaking down all the good, strong branches into piles by thickness (kindling and then small, medium, and large firewood) I realized that we had more “firewood” than we’d ever use.  I hauled 3 10×10 tarp-loads to the curb for the city to pick up.

Remaining Brush Backyard Hammock

That left us with a smaller pile of debris that I burned in the fire pit every night after work for about 2 weeks.  It went slower than expected, but at least the ground under the hammock is clean.

And I’ve had an excuse to play with fire. A lot.  :)

Burning Brush Firepit Backyard

As you can see above and below, the whole endeavor has been supervised by my four-footed family.

Doctor the Cat Helping Backyard Cleanup

The brush is finally cleared out, and now we’re laying a bed of mulch and turning the whole space into a little backyard oasis.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but that’s not stopping me from enjoying the hammock.

PS:  IF you’re new, check out how we cleaned up the “front” of our back yard, aka our porch, last summer.