Category Archives: Indie Business

Janery Update: Overcoming the “perfection procrastination”

It may come as no surprise to my regular readers that my handmade pet bed & pillow business, Janery, took a backseat in my life last year. Sales were lower than even my first year, and I didn’t reach my goals of launching Charlie Cushions or my new e-commerce website.   Family came first, and I don’t regret that.

I actually started to launch my Charlie Cushion dog beds in the fall, but in the process I found I’d made some mistakes with them that could only be fixed by ripping out all the seams and starting over. It was an important lesson in measure twice, cut once!

Janery Charlie Cushion Seam Ripper

There’s been more bumps in the road to launching these waterproof dog beds, but the whole story is a topic for a separate post.

Janery Charlie Cushion Progress Notes

The launch of the new Janery website has also been challenging. I’m struggling with a quest for perfection in the website; a quest which I have now realized has kept me from making enough progress. I told myself I wouldn’t launch it until I had a perfect product line, had launched the Charlie Cushions, and had all new branding and perfect product photos, and the list goes on.

The reason? About two years ago I got the idea in my head that I couldn’t advertise or promote my handmade business until it looked more professional. However, in my first two years, I advertised and promoted my business and had the sales to show it. My photos and back then? Completely amateur and embarrassing.

Oh, the irony.

My blogging friend and neighbor, Sarah, has a great podcast about exactly this type of challenge. The Sarah R. Bagley podcast is focused on “a recovering perfectionist’s guide to a B+ life” – and boy, is that just the kind of advice I need to get Janery to the next step.

While I will always strive to create A+ products at Janery, right now I need to be a little more accepting of a B+ backend to the business if I want to take steps towards growing it.

Janery New Website Draft Screenshot

With this in mind, I’ve been busily uploading my best product photos to the new website, and working with my graphic designer to get all the elements in place for a late April launch date. Once the site is live and the Charlie Cushions are really launched, I’ll go about upgrading the site to A+, one step at a time.

Indie Business: Designing a Shop & Blog Website

A lot of the behind-the-scenes work of rebranding a business and designing and launching a new website is busy but unexciting.  One of the biggest tasks has been the physical design of the new Janery website, which will include both my shop and my blog. Etsy has been a great starting point for me, but migrating to my own shop site will help me take things to the next level.

So, how do you design a website from scratch?

Fortunately I’ve had practice in this at my day job, where I used to create internal websites for different teams.

Make a list of all the content you think you want to include. Next, figure out what types of pages the content will be organized onto.  Finally, you sketch out how you want each page to look. I use pencil and paper, and it’s easy to erase and adjust as I go.

That’s what I did for the Janery site – below are all the pages I sketched out, and then taped to my wall to live with for a few days, seeing if I wanted to make changes.
Paper Website Mockup

Designing the Janery Website Layout
After I was pretty sure of the layout I was going for, I re-created the site sketches using Powerpoint.  I used my old logo and random images I had on hand, so it doesn’t look pretty.  But what it does do is give my graphic designer an idea of the layout we’re working with.  And it gives the web developer an idea of what I want when I say to him “this page isn’t looking like it should!”

Designing Website Layout in Powerpoint.jpg
After I created the site mockup, I reviewed each page to figure out what copy, or text, I would need for it.  I made that list in a word document, and started writing.

I’m finalizing the website copy now, which is a little easier said than done it turns out.  I really struggled with writing the “About” page – it was hard for me to share my story without rambling too much!

If you’re trying to design a website for your blog or handmade business, but don’t know where to start, I recommend trying this method. Let me know if you have any questions! 

My First Podcast: Living a B+ Life

Today I’m a guest on the Sarah R Bagley podcast where I’m chatting with Sarah about perfection.  It was so much fun to do my first podcast ever with her, since she’s also my friend and neighbor!  I have to admit that I’m envious of her perfectionist spirit in regards to blogging and writing. It’s what keeps her blogging on a perfect schedule, whereas my carefree approach means that I never keep a good schedule. :)

Sarah Bagley Podcast B+ Life

A few items of note:

  • If I sound stiff and boring for the first few minutes, it’s because I AM.  Just kidding – I was just nervous and had to get warmed up.
  • I was a slob in college, and I admit it.
  • I mention an embarrassing fall wreath project in my early days of blogging.  Here it is. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.
  • I explain (sort of) why the basement has never finished being decorated.
  • I tell the whole horrific story of The Watermelon Living Room at the old condo.
  • I explain how perfection definitely applies to the products I make for Janery.  I ramble a lot at this point.  (Sorry, Sarah!)
  • Finally, I’m on a quest to get Sarah to relax in her perfectionist approach to DIY.  :) We’ll see how that goes this year!


The Financials of a Craft Show: Profit and Costs

Have you ever wondered what financial profit sellers make at craft shows?  If you’ve tried to search for it online, you’ve probably come up short.

Profit and Costs of a Craft Show

I’m an information junkie, so I’ve read a ton of blog posts on craft shows over the last few years.  The blog world is overflowing with solid advice on craft show preparation, branding, booth display, and customer interaction.  But have you ever tried to find out about the financial side of participating in a show?  None of the posts I’ve found have really come out with facts on what you can expect, financially, from a show.

Maybe it’s because everyone is too polite to talk about money.

Since I’m not embarrassed to talk about money, I’ve decided to share my experience with the financials of both good and bad shows.

My Best and Worst Shows

At my very first show, Viva Vienna, I didn’t track my sales on paper, but I think I remember doing about $800 in sales.  $660 on the first day and very little the second day.  At the time I was ecstatic about the first day’s $660 in sales, because it was exciting to have people buying my products.  The second day was 105 degrees and sunny and no one was buying.  With a booth fee of over $200, that was depressing.  I didn’t even bother to calculate my loss for the entire show.

At my most recent show, Art on the Avenue, I did approximately $1600 in sales.  That sounds really good for a one day show, doesn’t it?  Let’s take a closer look at the true profit.

Assessing True Profit

  • Gross Sales at Show          $ 1600
  • Product Production Cost   -$ 695
  • Booth Fee                         -$ 185
  • Cost of My Time at Show   -$ 240
  • Profit                                   $ 480

1.  First, I have to subtract the product production cost, which includes the price of materials and labor.  Right now that labor is me, but I have always included it in pricing because I hope to hire a seamstress.

To get the production cost, I have to use my average markup.  The markup on my products varies and I track it all with a pricing spreadsheet.

My average product markup is 130%.  (This means that I take my product materials & time cost and multiply by 2.3.)  Some are marked up more, some less.*   At my 130% markup, that means that the production cost was $695, or 43% of my sales.

2. Next I need to subtract the booth fee of $185.  These fees vary by show.  I’d rather pay a high booth fee for a very busy, large show than pay a low fee for a small show, since the same amount of time is required either way.

3.  I’d be silly not to subtract the value of my time, which really brings the true profit down.    I spent 12 hours working on the day of the show.  Let’s assume that I pay myself $20/hour.  That’s $240 in labor costs on the day of, and it doesn’t account for all the time Ryan spent helping me load the car, setup the booth, and break it down.  It also doesn’t account for the time I spent preparing the night before.

4.  This leaves me with my true** profit:  $480

Suddenly that day of $1600 in sales doesn’t sound quite so glamorous, does it?

Before you decide that shows are a waste of time, however, let me assure you that I still love shows!  There are many reasons why I participate in shows beyond just the possible financial benefits, which I will discuss in my next craft show post.

In the meantime, please let me know if you have any additional questions about my experiences at shows.  I’ll gladly answer them in a future post.

*I should have a 200% markup, especially if I ever want stores to sell my products, but that’s a topic for another time.

**Are you wondering why the cost of my time isn’t profit?  Because even if a business makes enough to pay the employees (in this case, me), there needs to be cash left over to keep in the bank and to reinvest in the business – for new equipment or materials, for example.