An interview with … me (!) about opening a craft store. This interview was done for a small business advice book that (to the best of my knowledge) was never published. I didn’t want it to languish in the archives forever so am dusting it off to share with you!
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to someone who
is considering opening a craft store?
is considering opening a craft store?
Budgeting is a mundane yet important part of opening a craft store. It is so much fun to think of all the items you’d like to buy, the signage, the displays, the branding and the overall look and feel of the store that it is easy to overlook the importance of budgeting and the prosaic aspects of spreadsheets. In my experience with opening a craft store specializing in soapmaking supplies (Otion), every little extra expense ended up adding up to a large amount of overages. If I had been more serious about my budget, I wouldn’t have overspent in my opening months. Can you offer any insight into emerging trends in crafts?
With the economy being a little difficult right now, I’m noticing a trend towards staying home and making entertainment options at home rather than going out to dinners and movies. After all, it’s cheaper to stay home and make bath fizzies with your family of 4 than it is to take them all to dinner and a movie. We’ve seen our business grow this year with more new customers than ever because of this trend. What is the biggest mistake you see new store owners make, and how can someone avoid making that mistake?
New store owners often neglect marketing and networking, thinking that advertising is enough to get the word out. Sadly, advertising alone will not drive customers to your store. You need to be ultra creative to ensure that your message gets out to the general public. For example, when we opened up our crafty soapmaking store in Bellingham, WA, we went to local restaurants and offered them customized soap products for their bathroom at a discount if we were able to put up a small sign stating were the soap came from. We did free classes every Wednesday at noon and heavily advertised the classes. We did coupons and frequent buyer punch cards. We joined the local Chamber of Commerce. More of our customers come from word-of-mouth than traditional advertising methods. If you are a craft store owner yourself, what is the one thing you wish
you had known before you started?
you had known before you started?
I wish I had known how long the day could be when not many customers come in. Some days, people just don’t come into the store and finding things to do to keep busy for 8 hours can be tedious, demoralizing and downright boring. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career as a craft store
I love talking and interacting with customers. Listening to their crafty and creative creations inspires and energizes me. The customers are the best part of the job! What has been your most effective marketing tool for generating new
Blogging has been very helpful for our business. Otion blogs at http://www.otionsoap.com/blog. We reach a wider audience through the blog than just our walk-in traffic allows and are able to have a conversation with our customers in a new and different way. Social media is an amazing tool that is really coming into its own, five years after I started Otion. Advertising is getting cheaper and cheaper because you can utilize social media to harness enthusiasm and eyeballs. Do you have any words of encouragement to offer new store owners?
Being self employed is the best thing I have ever done. I love being in control of my own financial destiny. Just remember that “how you do anything is how you do everything.” The little things DO matter. Dusting, keeping a clean shop and greeting customers within 15 seconds don’t seem like much on their own but taken all together, they help to ensure a friendly, welcoming environment. There are many little things that individually don’t seem like a big deal but add up to a successful shop. Keep your business reading up. I love reading Fast Company and Inc. magazine and discussing business books with other small business owners. Having a network to turn to during difficult times is definitely one key to sticking it out through the long haul. You’ll be glad you did.
Well I am opening a store! Actually I’m moving my current shop I’ve had for the past 7 years to a wonderful historic building just down the street from my shop that my husband and I are buying. Since I’ve made cold process soaps for the shop all along I’m incorporating a “soap bar” using M&P as another income producer. The building used to be an old soda fountain shop so it has a wonderful 21 ft. bar.
Even though I’ve been doing this for awhile I always learn new things. I’m creating a new business plan and cash flow projections since my expenses are definitely increasing but my exposure will also since I’m moving from a basement to street level. Thanks for your little tidbits Anne-Marie! Every little bit helps. Between you and dM I’m always getting new and good info and appreciate it greatly. I could comment more about issues here but fear it would be too lengthy!
Definitely relate to those slow days however I always have something to do…..it’s whether I choose to do them is the question. I’ll say that when I made the decision to open my store way back I was a soapmaker amongst other things and I knew didn’t want to depend solely on selling soap as my income. I incorporated my favorite things and created something that thankfully filled a needed niche in my small tourist town and I continue to grow. I’m excited with new ideas and the continued potential to create on my own terms in my own way. Thanks for being such a good businesswoman role model!
You definitely need to be up on current labeling laws (have you seen this book? https://www.brambleberry.com/Soap-And-Cosmetic-Labeling-Book-1-Book-P3663.aspx on labeling) and on Good Manufacturing Practices (http://www.southernsoapers.com/tools/GMP/Cosmetic_Good_Manufacturing_Guidelines.pdf) and of course, get your insurance (Handcrafted Soap Guild and Indie Beauty Network have insurance options) and your state, county and city licenses.
Good luck with your planning! =) I can’t wait to see photos once your store is open.
Wow! That would sure be fun to see you have your own store. You definitely have the passion and enthusiasm for it! =)
Keep yourself busy with things online – your Facebook and Twitter accounts for your business, working on your blog, writing follow up notes and thank you emails to your customers etc… That will help you from going crazy and also hopefully help you to attract new customers.
Aw, thanks! I appreciate that you took the time to read it =)
My sister and I have been thinking about opening our own store/website for bath and beauty as well as jams or other homemade items. There is one part that we are a little confused on. Is there something we have to do as a regulation before we sell our items? FDA or through the government, or is it just as simple as putting a proper label on the item of all its contents?
Anne-Marie…..I don’t know how you do this…..but you always seem to read my mind! I am, in fact, “entertaining” the very notion. Thanks for a great post, and these are my favorite posts that you do!
T.A. @ CoffeeHouse Suds says
I was just telling a friend of mine the other day something else you said before. Actually, I was preaching to her about the fact that people take EVERYTHING you post on FB and form their opinion about you. You have to watch what you say…especially if you promote your business on there as well.
Thank you so much for the information! This is really very useful for me. Being you great soap fan, I also have a store with pregnancy wear which we have just opened. And we are experiencing just the same things you are writing about – no one ever comes to us 🙁 Hope things will go better in a while – thank you once again for the advice!
Natalia - EnJabonArte says
oohh thank you for sharing this 😀 …i get inspired ….Hugs!
I’m positive that I didn’t come up with it but it’s definitely a good phrase that I repeat to myself at least once a day if not more =)
Oooooooh, those long days. Thank goodness for social media (now) but man, I was so bored in those first few years before I found blogging! =) And, I know what you mean about sending employees home … I’ve done that many times.
Security was definitely an issue at our old store in a slightly worse location than we are now. And, it is still an issue now. We try very hard to have good lighting in the parking lot (especially when it’s dark before 6!).
Shoplifting is a tough issue. I hate it! But most importantly, I hate it because it means that there are people out there that don’t feel like they can afford our products. But that said, we definitely have a strategy for combating shoplifting. 1) Expensive essential oils behind the counter 2) Essential Oils (all of them) on closest shelf to cash register 3) Service, service, service – we try very hard to ‘help’ any suspicious characters shop by standing near them in the aisles, cleaning while we work and in general, being very friendly and helpful.
Thank YOU for sharing your experience about your store with me too =)
Honestly? That’s my mantra for my entire life …
It may be out there … somewhere. I just know that I didn’t get a copy or notice that the interview was published so decided to share it =) If anyone finds it … let me know! =)
This is a great post! I’m sorry the book didn’t get published… sounds like it would have been interesting.
T.A. Helton @ CoffeeHouse Suds says
Awesome! Thank you for sharing this with us. I love your quote “how you do anything is how you do everything.”
Donna Maria Coles Johnson says
This is a wonderful post and I wish I’d had access to advice like this when I managed my store over 10 years ago. One thing I remember well is the long days when no one came in! My retail assistant and I would straighten things up, reorganize shelving, make a candle or two and just wait. Sometimes, I’d send her home early because I didn’t want to pay for her time when I knew I wouldn’t even break even for the day. That was hard.
(Of course the minute I sent her home, I’d get slammed. Such is life!)
Another thing I remember is security being an issue. I didn’t have security cameras and I was in the store alone a lot after dark, especially during the holidays. I also had a shoplifter come in once and steal a bunch of stuff. I reported it to the police, but there was really nothing they could do since it was a low priority issue.
As a woman with a largely female staff, how do you handle security issues? Thanks for any insight you can share!
I love your philosophy of “how you do anything is how you do everything”! Great advice for all aspects of life.