Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spread the Love

As you may or may not have noticed, I've started writing a bit more frequently here on the ole blog...something I hope I can keep up (funnily enough the original title of my blog was Try To Keep Up!)  But with the super delayed spring, and just the world in general, I felt like I should spread some cheer!

If you have met me in person you have, no doubt, realized I am a smiley, goofy, big-laugh kinda girl.  I want everyone to have a good time and feel like they're "in on the joke".  And sometimes being in this #craftipreneuer #solopreneur world can get kinda isolating. 

And then I remembered something. A while back (ok like a long time ago), I read a realistic post about this one blogger's struggles & I empathized with her on so many levels.  So I reached out to her and basically gave her a virtual pat on the back.  And she emailed me back (!), thanking me for, what I considered, a tiny gesture. But what a HUGE difference it made in both our lives.

We tend to boost our friends or our tribes and rarely venture outside of those protective circles.  And for good reason.  We gather people around us that we trust and feel safe with.  But could you imagine if a peer from OUTSIDE your circle commented on something you did? Something you posted.  With genuine feeling? 

So I'm challenging all bloggers, craftipreneurs, mompreneurs, solopreneurs, basically anyone who reads this to go outside your tribe, find someone who inspires you, or posted a cool vid, or has a great product and tell them.  Honestly.  No emojis.  Just real talk. Direct message them.  Email them. 
Let's call it....a Random Act of Real-ness

A Random Act of Real-ness can be anything. Maybe feature someone who needs some exposure?  Write an email to that "big time" blogger you admire.  Send a hand made card (or even e-card) to one of your followers?  We're all "regular" people.  Even the people who we think have "made it big", or are "more Insta famous" than us. They are totally normal humans, just like you and me!  So go ahead! Tell someone you like them.

I hope I can inspire you to spread a little love outside of your regularly scheduled programming.  If you decide to get involved, copy and save and post the Random Act of Real-ness image! XOXOXO Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Facing your Email Fears, or How NOT to Email a Craft Market

I don't know about you, but cold emailing people is my nightmare.  I can dance on stage, sing the national anthem in an arena full of strangers...but cold emailing someone is something I've REALLY had to force myself to practice.

If you're anything like me, the fear of sending that email comes from a jumble of emotions of wanting to look professional but not cold, friendly but not goofy, succinct but not curt, and informative but minus the verbal diarrhea. It's a delicate balance to be sure. So here are some tried and true nuggets to make the most out of that cold email!

1). NIKE aka Just Do It
Hurdle number one is grabbing your "beach ball sized lady nuts" (thanks Negan) and plunking down at the laptop to start.  I remember when I met the WONDERFUL Ally Matos of Allyfotografy and listening to her talk about reaching out to BIG NAMES (like, big!).  And she has such a wonderful philosophy about it.  If nothing happens, if they don't respond to you, you're actually no worse off than you were before sending that email. 
And she's right.  The worst that can happen is that you don't get an answer...ok cool.  I literally have to tell myself that when I step out of my comfort zone; the world will not end, I will not be swallowed up into a pit of oblivion, it will be ok.  Next!

2). Try to avoid "one-liner" emails aka don't ask "how much are tables?"
Now, I know I might have some push back on this one.  IF you are emailing/contacting a market organizer do not, I repeat DO NOT, write a one line email asking how much a table costs and leave it at that.  To a market organizer this proves that you, the vendor, have not gone to their website, Instagram, or Facebook, nor have you looked at the FAQ page (where incidentally A LOT of markets say in black & white how much their booths cost) and you're not interested in anything beyond your costs.  And I get it - we're all trying to be as profitable as possible.  BUT  I will also say that you get what you pay for.  This has been true in EVERY instance I've encountered it. When you pay a bit more in fees, you get a lot more because the organizer now has additional budget for advertising, printing, prizes, coffee, and a great venue.  Also you'd never do that in person - just walk up to someone, ask how much their jacket costs and then walk away?!?! Why would you do it in an email? lol  This is a perfect example of the the stuff we humans do because of the anonymity of the internet! If you wouldn't do it in person, don't do it online (man, that's a good life lesson!)

3). Tell me who you are!!!!!
This is one of those things I assume would be obvious....apparently not.  I have received WAY too many emails, sometimes with most of the information I need, but without people telling me who they are and how they found me!  Or people who are interested in applying for a market, but don't tell me the name of their business and what they make?!?! What do you want me to do with that lack of info? lol
Imagine someone knocking on your door, you answer and they just start spewing info at you and before you can get a word in they turn around and leave?  It's like Cinderella at the ball- the Prince has NO IDEA who she is! As a rule of thumb when I start an email, even to people who might know of me, I often start with "Hi My name is Leslie Kuny and I'm the Creator and Designer of West Coast Leslie Designs. If you're unfamiliar with my brand I create handmade, heirloom quality, modern designed, knitwear accessories for women."
See how easy that was? In TWO sentences I introduced myself, and told you who I am.  If I'm contacting them because they posted in a Facebook group, or maybe online somewhere, be sure to mention that! All you need is one additional sentence that says something like "I saw your post in the Shabadoo Goofball Facebook page" OR "I'm emailing you because I saw your post on the Awesomesauce Vendors webpage".  In the email I would also link my website or Facebook page to the name of my business to make it easy for the recipient to check out my online presence.  I'll tell you one thing, they DO NOT want to hunt you down online. Which brings me to.....

3 A). Show me who you are
This doesn't mean clog up someone's inbox with high-res photos when they didn't ask for them.  But for darns sakes would you PLEASE link your social media?!?! I think it's great that you make handmade, up-cycled, themed pillows that help kids with night terrors(is this a thing-maybe?), but where can I see your work? Link your social media feeds in the email!!  I can't tell you how many times Jill & I have had to go scrounging the internet for people and photos. (Again I reiterate, who are you?).  It's always helpful to imagine yourself on the other end of this interaction.  Would you want to spend extra time trying to hunt someone down and find their instagram account? Probably not, so why are you making someone else do your work for you? Plus there's a real easy way to NEVER forget to add in your social media links  - add your social media links to your signature. Pretty slick right? I know!

4). Do Your Research
Remember the last time you were chatting with a friend and they knew you were training for a marathon and were really excited for you? Yeah, that felt pretty great didn't it? Someone took an interest in you and that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Same thing goes for events.  So before shooting off a hasty email, go to the company's website, or Facebook page, or Instagram, or Twitter, or Pinterest, or LinkdIn, or Blog, or Youtube channel...or ANYTHING! 
Find out a little bit about who they are, what they stand for.  There is a lot of info on those websites (like costs, times, dates, names of important people, mission statements, values, etc). Knowing a bit about the person/company you are contacting makes a HUGE difference. It will set you apart from the other emails and it shows that you've taken an interest in what that company does.  We all want to feel valued for what we do, so taking the time to do a bit of research before hitting 'send' is well worth it.  

5). Say Thank you, be Polite, and be Patient
(sidebar guys...it was really hard finding a not sarcastic thank you gif - just putting that out there!)
Everyone is "busy".  Everyone is "important". Everyone has responsibilities, obligations, and priorities. You and the person you're emailing. So be sure to thank them for their time.  Think about your day.  How much of your day goes into reading and responding to emails...how much laptop rage do you experience in that time? lol A "thank you", or an "I appreciate your time" can go a long way.  Likewise you can't expect an immediate answer.  Things have really changed in the "internet age" and, let's admit it, in this time of instant messaging and texts we expect answers. Like NOW. Give them a solid three days.  I know - when you're expecting an answer you're basically that chick from Willy Wonka singing "don't care hooooowww, I want it nooowwww!"and then she falls down a chute or something.  Patience is a virtue, so try not to follow up too soon. You don't know what's happening on the other end.  Unfortunately the written word can be misconstrued (even in this blog post! I wish we had a keyboard for sarcasm), so constant follow up emails can be seen as impatient or worse, rude.  Now, that's not an excuse for anyone to let emails slide...but if you haven't heard back in a week, I'd say that's a fair amount of time to send a follow up.  And sadly sometimes you just won't hear back...and that's shitty. BUT see email tip #1

Again, with most of these "Tips & Tricks" the key take away is to put the shoe on the other foot.  Would you want to receive a cold email that has no pertinent information, that is curt, doesn't have a call to action (what do you want from me?), seems to know nothing about my business/brand, and doesn't say who it's from or what they do?  Who would reply to an email like that? And that's the last tip - write an email you'd want to receive. What information do they need to know?  What information do you want to know from them? Ask them for what you want. Be kind, and say thank you.  Follow that and you're golden.

Did I miss something that you ALWAYS make sure to do when emailing?  Let me know in the comments or get at me on Facebook

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

How To Be a Great Vendor

*NOTE: this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for like....forever.  Meaning I've really been thinking about it. Enjoy!*

I considered titling this blog "How Not To Be a Giant Flake"  But then I was worried that some people might not appreciate my humour.  And then I thought, well if you are offended by that, we probably can't be friends.  I'm just kidding...my point is...none of us WANT to be a flake... but...

...most of us can remember a time when we were total flakes.  Bailing on a friend's request for coffee.  Not picking up a phone call  (GUILTY!!!!)  Spacing on an important date. We all know it's not cool,  but when it comes to the handmade world, your word is a bond, especially when you're applying for markets.

By no means am I the definitive authority on Do & Do Not's when applying for markets, but I think we can all use a little reminder to make sure we're working together for a respectful, inclusive handmade community. So I wanted to share some of my tips to be an awesome vendor (who gets great reviews and gets invited back!)

1).  Don't Apply If You Can't Committ to the Show
Maybe you're clean out of stock.  Maybe you're going on holiday the weekend before the market.  Don't bow to the pressure of applying for that market.  I know it's hard - I also want to do all the things all the time.  
But if you're not ready, be real about. It's not gonna be good for you, and you know it...deep down, you know it's not going to be fun.  You're gonna be stressed and end up resenting the market.  And you're going to be in a bad mood the day of the market, and that affects the vendors around you AND the shoppers.   Keep the love alive for your business and don't put so much on your plate.

2).  Don't Apply and then Recind your Application prior to the application closing date
See #1.  But really.  Let the application close.  If you get selected for the market, graciously bow out and let the next person on the waitlist take your place.  Applying and pulling out before the close of the applications just looks bad. It also makes you look unorganized; like you don't have your poop in a group.  (PS How much do I LOVE the phrase "get your poop in a group"? ROFL) Maybe you don't think this is a big deal, so let me put it another way.  Imagine you applied for a job on Monday, and the posting was accepting applications until Friday.  Now imagine you calling the store/office on Wednesday to tell them you DON'T want to apply for the job.  Think about how that manager would interpret the situation.  Then imagine in 6 months you applied for that job again....?!?!?
To me, this is what it looks like when you apply for a market and then cancel before the applications close. It's weird. It's unprofessional. It's unorganized. Mostly, it's confusing. And it telegraphs to me as a market organizer that you didn't really think about what applying to the market meant and entailed.  This also might affect you if you want to apply for that same market in the future!  Remember, it's a small community - you always want to put your best foot forward.  Honesty is the best policy (see #5).

3). Actually read the Terms & Conditions

Hands up, we're all guilty. But only frustration comes from NOT really  reading the terms and conditions.  

"No, you can't have a refund. "
"Yes, you have to donate 30 Swag Bag items. "
"No, you won't have room to bring your farmhouse kitchen sink in addition to the 8ft table that's being provided."

Markets have terms and conditions for a reason, usually because they had that EXACT thing happen to them in the past! So terms & conditions come from learning experiences-not evil vengeance.  As a vendor I get A LOT of emails in a short period of time because I only sell from September to December.  These emails are long, detailed, and from multiple events.  YOU MUST READ EVERY SINGLE ONE! Maybe a few times - I have done this more than I'd like to admit.  I think I read the email, when in reality I scrolled through it while I was watching TV....and then I have to go back because I can't remember what time set up started ;)   
Here's what I do - make a folder in your inbox where you put all your contracts and info emails from each market, each season.  That way if you do forget something like where you're supposed to park on the day of the market, you know where to go and find the information instead of bothering the organizer, who already sent you the information you needed. And yes, I know, of course it's much easier to fire off an email to the organizer who no doubt knows exactly the answer to your question.  But they're busy. And they already sent you that information.

4). Don't Be Late                             
 This should seem obvious. It's not.  

Don't be late with anything.  If you have to pay by next Friday, make sure you pay by Thursday.  If you have to be at the venue by 9:15am be there by 9am, even if you have to wait in your car until the doors are actually open (I do this ALL THE TIME). EVERYONE'S time is valuable, not just yours! Be respectful.  If you're running late because of a traffic accident, deathly ill child, or your car broke down, phone the organizer.  Being late because you didn't get up early enough to grab a coffee is NOT OK!  Not having enough time to set up is a detriment to you and the market.  Think about when you're running late for work, how stressed you get, and how that affects your WHOLE DAY! Think your sales are gonna be good in that emotional state? Nope. Every market is like your first day of work for a new employer.  You want to show up on time, look the part, be ready to work, and generally be awesome. 

5). Be Honest
Easier said than done, I know.  Especially when you think you might hurt someone's feelings.  Maybe you applied for two markets, got in to both, and now you have to back out of one? Or maybe finances are tight and you need some extra time to pay?  Don't fib your way through an email to try to save my feelings.  You know how you can usually tell when your kid/friend is lying...yeah, same here.  Just be honest in your email.  In MOST cases (actually I would like to say ALL cases, because I have YET to meet a market organizer who is 100% heartless) the market organizers are here to help you have a successful event.  If that means you need a payment plan, need a couple extra days, just be honest with us because we want to help you! Seriously.  I believe that most markets truly want their vendors to succeed and have fun. I know that Jill & I have an "intense" application and a stricter payment deadline than other markets, but that doesn't mean we're ogres! 
OK, sometimes, on Monday morning before coffee, it's border line. But honestly, we're here for our vendors and we really value the relationship we build with them, because without vendors we're just two crazy ladies in an empty hall. 

Did I miss any key tips that you think new vendors should know before jumping in to the handmade world?  Disagree with me? LOL Or did I hit the nail on the head?  Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Branding 101

Hey y'all, 
What a busy year! Phew!  Now that I've got a little more time on my hands, I wanted to share some tips and tricks for making you, your brand, and your booth stand out from the rest. For info about creating the perfect booth check out this previous post.

Today we're talking about BRANDING.  Ugh.  What a horrible word.  I know it scares me sometimes, and it can be super scary.  It's one of those things that creative types, me included, often leave until too late and then get stressed about.  I'm here to tell you there's nothing to stress about. Branding can be fun!

When I started my business in 2013, I chose my favourite colours, taupe, vintage white and coral, to represent my brand.

My sign and decor for my table had coral accents against burlap and white. But for last year, I was kind of over the coral.  Don't get me wrong, I still love the colour, but was it really working for my brand?  I liked the white and burlap-they're great neutrals that can work with ANY accent, AND didn't clash with my colourful scarves.  But the bigger question I was really asking was "what is my brand"?  And am I doing a good job of getting that across to my market/fans/clients etc?

So I looked around online and did some brainstorming.  That's tip #1-BRAINSTORM.  And I mean in the most literal way possible.  It's hard to think of flashy one liners that describe your brand straight off the bat.  One of the best techniques to find what your brand (and you) stands for is create a word cloud (or list). List EVERY SINGLE WORD that describes you, what you make, and what you believe in.  
See my word cloud (right).

Use these words (2-3 per sentence) to come up with a tag line, that best represents your brand.  From these words I have some great descriptive sentences I can use on market applications, Facebook posts, websites, twitter, etc without having to come up with something new every time.
West Coast Leslie features handmade & local products
Handmade, with colourful yarns, these products are truly inspired
This wearable art comes in various designs, colours, and sizes.

You'll also notice in my word cloud I have a few words that describe me and what I stand for in my business; like service, quality, & fun.  Once you've come up with maybe five lines, save them to a word document so you can grab them anytime.   Also take a couple of sentences and work them into a paragraph about you and your business.  Have a 5 sentence paragraph that can be used on applications etc.  
This is one of my business bios I use.  

It feels a bit like writing an essay for University, but you want to be clear.  Make sure you include what you make, how you make it, and why it's awesome!

Tip #2 You don't have to marry your brand.  What?!? I know, I said it.  Yes, it is important for you to have consistency with your brand, but let's say you've had your logo for 5 years and over those years your business has changed, morphed, grown.  Then shouldn't your brand also change to reflect your business?  Think about the clothes you loved in high school (for me it was surf/skate logo tees and flared jeans! YIKES), you would never wear those clothes now.  Likewise with your brand-it should reflect your business.  This isn't a license to change up your logo every year!!! That is confusing for your clients and does not encourage brand loyalty.  But if you feel that your brand/logo/colour scheme doesn't reflect your business anymore, it's OK to change it. There's nothing worse than having a name that doesn't tell people what you're about.  You'll spend all your time explaining it instead of talking about your products and selling them!

Tip #3 Consistency.  Right just after I finished telling you you can change your branding! Ha ha ha.  What I mean by consistency is look at how you are represented online and in person.  If you look at my Facebook page, my website, my online store-they look like they're part of the same family.  I've used the same header, in the same colours, with the same fonts and logo. No one is going to wonder if they're in the right place, especially when moving from one online entity to another.   And while for us creative types, it might be a bit boring to have the same colours, font, etc it's NOT boring for our customers.  It's reinforcing that they are in the right place, you are a trusted source, and yes they want to buy from this maker!  Consistency is also why I would recommend simple graphics and fonts, so that you're not going crazy with images on every online platform!  And don't forget to use these online images in print too.  Hang tags, pricing signs, postcards, business cards.  Everything that represents you and your brand should be thematic.  I changed my tags to better reflect my brand this year and I love it - plus it makes my life SO MUCH EASIER.  

By doing this you're again reinforcing in your customers mind that you've got it all together (even though sometimes we are running around like chickens with our heads cut off!)

Do have other branding tips?  
Share them with us in the comments below!