Category Archives: Indie Business

Balancing Business and Motherhood: My Interview on the Sarah R. Bagley Podcast!

Balancing Business and Motherhood: My Interview on the Sarah R. Bagley Podcast!

Do you listen to podcasts?   Today I’m discussing Janery and family, and essentially how I’m balancing business and motherhood on the Sarah R. Bagley podcast.

I listen to several while I work, and Sarah’s is one of my faves! It’s a lifestyle podcast focused on pursuit of a B+ life – something that she’s passionate about as a “recovering perfectionist.”

I have experience public speaking, but not so much on podcast interviews! While I was prepared to talk on these topics with Sarah, nothing prepared me for how nervous I got!   Just keeping it real.  I fear I may have rambled a lot, but we discussed things like my perseverance with launching Charlie Cushions at Janery, my inspiration for products, the dog that touched my heart like no other, and exciting life topics like laundry.  😉

And if you have any tips on balancing business and motherhood, please chime in on Twitter, Instagram, or in the comments!

Balancing Business and Motherhood Janery on the Sarah R Bagley Podcast Episode 93 Handmade Business

Why are handmade products so expensive?

Why are handmade products so expensive

Did you ever look at the price tag on a handmade item and wonder why handmade products are so expensive?

When I’m selling at art shows or craft fairs I sometimes hear “I could get it at Target for half that price.”   I don’t take offense, because I know I thought the same before I started Janery, my handmade home decor and pet bed business.

This is on my mind because I just released a collection of plush waterproof pet beds. I was nervous before the launch because I knew some people would see the $125 – $195 price tag and be shocked at how “expensive” they were. It’s true: my Charlie Cushions are not cheap dog beds. They are made carefully with ethical labor and quality American-made materials.

So why was I nervous about my prices?

Because I know people often experience “sticker shock” at handmade prices, and I’d never want customers to think I was trying to take advantage of them.

A handmade product costs more than its counterpart at Target or Walmart. The big box stores manufacture in overseas sweatshops, where people, often children, are paid pennies an hour in dangerous working conditions.

Given the low prices (and frequent sales) that big box stores advertise, we’ve been conditioned to expect low prices on everything.

To combat that, here’s a very simplified look at what’s included in the price of a handmade product:

  • Cost of materials used to make the product
  • Labor – any time spent designing, making, and then marketing the product – whether it’s the business owner or an employee
  • Packaging materials
  • Overhead (all other business costs – including the cost of equipment, accounting, insurance, utilities, rent, advertising, etc)
  • Profit

Profit? Yes. A business that does not make enough profit will go out of business.

Profit may seem like a dirty word to shoppers. It conjures images of wealthy CEOs living on yachts in the Caribbean, but the majority of small business owners will never live in such luxury.

Profit is what remains after the employees are paid and all business expenses are covered. Profit goes into the bank where it’s saved until I need to buy new equipment, take training courses, or grow and strengthen my business in other ways. It’s my businesses’ emergency fund.

At the end of the year the owner may pay themselves a bonus. That does come out of profit, and it’s no different than an employee at a big company getting a bonus for a job well done.

My goal with Janery is to grow the business and hire women in my community to sew for Janery, so that I can focus on designing more fabulous home and pet products. A talented seamstress makes $15-$20 an hour in the US, and my prices reflect that. A similar employee at a factory in China would make pennies.

I can’t compete with sweatshop prices, and I don’t want to.

Next time you see a handmade product with a price that surprises you, hopefully this will help you understand what’s behind that price tag. I encourage you to support small businesses during the holiday gift-giving season, and year round.

PS: Will you help me educate shoppers on the costs that go into handmade and ethically made goods? Please pin this on Pinterest, or share on Facebook and Twitter.  Thank you!!

Handmade Business Secrets: Get product photos that rock!

If you’re selling your handmade products online, clear and pretty product photos are key to increased sales.  But how do you get those awesome images if you’re not a pro with the camera?   I’m sharing my secret today, in the hopes that it will save you the time I wasted.

Handmade business get product photos that rock

Psst:  Before we get started, I’d like to remind you that this is not a sponsored post.

This summer I launched an independent website for my pet bed and home decor business, Janery.  After selling for several years on Etsy, launching my own online store was the natural “next step” to take Janery to a more professional level.

Janery Pet Beds Home Accessories Screenshot product photography

I was ready to launch it more than a year ago, except for one huge roadblock:

My product photography was terrible.

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t terrible, not anymore.  I’d worked on it over the years, first getting a better lighting kit, then taking photos against the white wall of my studio, and then finally DIYing a large white backdrop.  I’d even played around with my camera settings a little.  But no matter what I did, I couldn’t get product images with a bright white background and well-balanced, realistic color.

My online customers don’t have the luxury of picking up and inspecting my products.  They’re  forming opinions based on the images on my screen.

Despite knowing this, I was about to settle for less-than-ideal photos for the new website, because I had delayed so long that I said “Jane, you just have to launch this.” 

A week before launch, I discovered companies that provide this photo editing service for you.  After reading reviews on several, I tried out Mister Clipping. They offer a variety of image editing services and were able to do what I needed for Janery.

I uploaded photos in large batches, then used these instructions (based on recommendations I found):

“Make the background 255 white. Keep the hard shadow under the product and fade the long shadow. Spot product and fix damaged areas. Correct for distortion. Deliver Full resolution jpegs with no compression.”

24 hours later, my edited photos were ready to download from the service.  I was very happy with the results.  62 photos edited for under $200, and all I had to do was select them, upload, wait one day, then download.

Check out the difference it made:

Janery Product Photo Editing Comparison

After the edited photos were loaded to my website, it took only a few more days to be ready for launch.  I could have kicked myself when I realized the one thing holding my business back for more than a year was lack of proper photos. 

I’d like to leave you with this lesson learned:  Sometimes it’s better not to DIY everything for your business.  Paying a professional to help where your skills are lacking is worth it, if you spend that time saved on the parts of the business you know and love.

7 Inspiring Podcasts for Indie Business Owners & Future Entrepreneurs

I love to listen to inspiring podcasts while I work in the Janery studio. Designing new products and patterns is exciting, but production sewing is repetitive.   I used to watch TV shows and movies, but I have found that they can be distracting, and they aren’t that inspiring – except for the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

7 Inspiring Podcasts for Indie Biz Owners Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Once I switched to podcasts I became much more efficient in the studio, learning and being inspired even when I was tired and just wanted to go to bed. Over the last year I’ve found a good collection of inspiring podcasts for creative business owners – or aspiring entrepreneurs.  Here are my 7 favorite inspiring podcasts for indie biz owners and inspiring entrepreneurs:

Being Boss –Kathleen Shannon runs a killer branding company, and she and her podcasting partner Emily are rocking this. I started this last week and I am hooked! I recommend starting at the beginning and listening in order.

Brilliant Business Moms – A podcast about business, run by entrepreneur moms? Sign me up! You don’t have to be a mom, though, to appreciate the topics covered. Favorite episodes include interviews with my friend Katie Clemons from Gadanke (episode 33) and discussions on Kickstarter / an ethical clothing line with Hayley Morgan of Wildly Co. (episode 35)

Elise Gets Crafty – Elise and her podcast are what got me hooked on podcasts while I work. I’m pretty sure that everyone in the handmade business arena is already listening to Elise’s podcast, but it needs to be listed. She’s hosted a variety of guests and hers is the podcast that keeps me extra inspired when I’m working.

From Scratch – Interviews with people from all industries who grew companies “from scratch.” Some have interested me more than others, but it’s interesting to learn from people outside the “indie biz” niche. Favorite episodes include one with the founder of Etsy (episode 4), and the inventor of the Coravin wine preserver, (episode 10).

Thriving Launch – This is new to me, but I could have used this several years ago! I can’t recommend favorite episodes yet, because I’ve only heard the first few, but I think it’s worth a shot.

The Sarah R. Bagley Podcast – My friend and neighbor Sarah tackles the issue of perfectionism in her podcast about living a B+ life. She hosts a wide variety of guests; some of my favorite business-related ones are Kyla Roma (episodes 18 and 62) and Michelle Ward (episode 55).

UnPodcast – I’ve been a fan of Scott Stratten’s ever since he spoke about marketing at the first Blissdom conference I attended. His no BS approach and humor rocks my world as he reminds us that sincerity and common sense are the keys to good social media marketing.

If you have other favorites, I hope you’ll share in the comments!