Archive | June 2011

Favorite Things Monday-er Tuesday

Mondays are always super busy and for that reason alone, I usually find myself with the dreaded Monday blues. So, over the weekend I decided I’d have Mondays be Favorite Things day on the blog. You know. A place to talk about things that make me warm and fuzzy or squeal with glee.

Of course, I found myself swamped yesterday with stuff and I didn’t get the post written. (Please. I’m not organized enough to do my posts in advance and that would defeat the purpose of Favorite Things Monday anyway. The whole point is to take  a few moments to focus on something that makes me smile). Obviously I failed at my first cheerful Monday post.

That means I have two things for Tuesday. Or three really.

First up: My boys. Little balls of energy and kisses.

Someone should really gives these scrubs a haircut.

Next up. The finished manuscript. My editor sent the word file back while I was at Bead and Button. Last night I finished my edits and revisions. I’ll be doing one more read through, then it’s off for a final copy edit on the changes I made. Holy Crap. Almost there!

The Help–Book Recommendation Thursday

Sorry I neglected this feature for the last month, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I have and I’ve even ventured off my own beaten path of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. This weeks feature:

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

Literary Fiction

From the Barnes and Noble website:

“Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women-mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends-view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.”

Over Memorial Day weekend, my friend Angie recommended The Help to another of my friends and raved, “From the first paragraph I was hooked. You have to get this.”

So, when getting ready for my long road trip up to Wisconsin, I downloaded The Help onto my Ipod. I listened to this book all the way there and listened all the way back until every last word was uttered. It was fantastic and I can’t recommend it enough. Run down walk  to your retailer of choice. Angie was right. I was hooked from the first paragraph.

Getting Legal–Chapter 2 The Business of Lampworking

Now that you have defined your success and hopefully worked out your goals, it’s time to get legal. Before you offer anything up for sale, be sure you have all your legal ducks in a row.

Every state, county, parish, and town has their own rules as to what a person needs in order to be legally running a business. I recommend going down to your county (or parish as I live in Louisiana) offices and find out what you need.

I’ve run our lampworking business out of three states. California, Texas, and Louisiana. Each have their own regulations. But these are the things you need to be aware of:

First things first. Are you going to be a sole proprietorship? Meaning you are the sole owner of your business? In a partnership with another person? Or maybe you want to be set up as a corporation. I understand there are tax and legal benefits to forming a corporation, but you’ll need to do that legwork yourself. Our business is set up as a sole proprietorship, and is by far the simplest way to go.  I am the owner, so yes, Greg works for me. 🙂

Okay, next you need to decide on a business name. If you are going to operate under anything other than your legal name, you need to file a DBA (aka Doing Business As) with your county. Years ago it was a trend in the lampworking community to use made up business names, especially ones with the word fire or flame in them. In retrospect I think those artists would have been much better off going with their own artist name. JC Herrell, Lori Greenberg, Kimberly Affleck, Andrew Brown Studios, etc, etc. All easy to remember. I don’t have to think, ‘were they Dancing Flame, Fire Diva, Midnight Glass?’. BTW, I just made those all up off the top of my head. If any of those are your business name, I apologize if I offended you.

Last month while at Bead and Button we were looking for one of our friend’s booth in the booth guide and none of us knew her business name. We knew her name, but not what she was operating under, and we’d all known her for years. After we found her she concluded she should probably just change it to her own name. Unless you are prepared to do a major branding, think about just using your own name. We’ll remember you, I promise. Greg and I use Chase Designs, since there are the two of us. But I still brand his marbles Greg Chase in every listing. Its the connection thing.

Anyway, if you use your own name you can skip the DBA.

Permits and licenses:

Business license. Find out from your state and county if you need one. For some places you do and some you don’t.It’s usually a revenue thing for cities.  Since I run a business out of my house that doesn’t have customers coming here, I do not need one. I found this out by calling my city offices and asking.

Sales and use tax permit. Almost anyone in engaged in business will need one of these unless you are in a no sales tax state. In Louisiana, I needed to register for one with the state and my parish. In California and Texas I only had to register once with the state and the one form took care of both. If you don’t know, go ask someone or call.Also find out what you need to collect taxes for. In most places if you sell on the internet and ship out of state, you do not need to collect sales tax. If you are selling in person or doing shows, yes you need to collect it. Do your homework, talk to an accountant. Know your city, county and state laws.

Also if you do shows out of state, you will need to register for a sales and use tax number for each state you sell in. Most shows will help you with getting the right forms filled out, but if not, just call the taxing authority in that state and explain your situation. They will help you out.

Resale license. If you are purchasing anything and reselling it, you want and need one of these. This little number makes it so you do not have to pay sales tax on these purchases.

It can seem overwhelming and sometimes the forms are confusing, but I’ve found all of the people at my parish offices to be very helpful. They want you to be legal and are more than willing to help.

How to answer the discount question–Lampwork business extras

Periodically I read stuff on my lampworking forums that prompts a blog post. While customer service has it’s own chapter in my series The Business of Lamporking, I couldn’t resist tackling this topic that came up a few days ago.

As a lampwork seller (or any seller) you’ll likely get the discount question at some point. It comes in a variety of forms. Everything from: do you offer wholesale? To: what’s the lowest you’ll sell this for?

The wholesale question is a reasonable one. Many of us do sell wholesale or offer quantity discounts. If you want to sell in bead stores or galleries, you will need to figure out your wholesale terms. Most of us offer a 50% discount if the buyer reaches a certain retail amount.

I’ll admit, the question, ‘what is the lowest you’ll sell this for?’ can be irritating. Especially if you don’t have a history bargaining with that particular customer. But I recommend responding just as polite as you would to the wholesale question.

Here are my standard responses.

The wholesale question:

Hello, thank you for your inquiry.  I offer a 50% wholesale discount on retail orders that reach $xxx. My lead time on such orders is usually two to three weeks from time of order to shipping date.

The discount question:

Hello, thank you for your inquiry. I do not offer discounts on individual beads. On orders over $xxx I offer a 25% quantity discount. In addition, I do periodically run 20% to 25% off sales in my Etsy store. Sign up here for my newsletter to be notified.

If you don’t offer any discounts that is fine, too. I still recommend being polite. You never know who is on the other end of your email. There is nothing wrong with writing, I’m sorry, but I do not offer discounts on my work. Simple, easy, gets the point across. No room for negotiations. And you don’t run the risk of alienating a potential customer. Maybe they are used to bargaining. Lots of cultures do it and the beauty of the internet is it’s global.

I’ve seen many people get upset when asked for a discount. I admit I’ve gotten irritated myself. But why is it so hard to just be nice? Especially when we are selling our work online. We have the opportunity to step back and calm down before we hit the send button.

It’s my firm belief that being nice is one of the most fundamental business practices and crucial when selling our own artwork. We each have our own ideas of what is acceptable and what isn’t. But lets get real. When you get an irritating question it isn’t like you are entering a relationship with that person. You don’t need to school them on social graces. Stay polite and you won’t run any risk of harming your reputation.

But you don’t care what that person thinks, you say to me. You don’t want to do business with them anyway. Be careful here. There are pieces by lampworkers I used to covet, until I got to know them better. Now I don’t have any desire to have a piece these particular people made in my personal collection based on how they treated other people.

If you are selling your work, always remember this is a business. Your business. Don’t let one or two irritating questions get the better of you.

Bead and Button Report

I’ve been home from Bead and Button for a week and I’m just now getting back into my regular routine. I actually got home last Tuesday night and by Wednesday I was off and running with everything that didn’t get done while I was gone. I’m semi-caught up and didn’t want to forget to give you the dish on how the Bead and Button show was this year.

A few years ago when I was researching shows and trying to decide which ones to do, after each one I would scour the internet looking for a results posting. It isn’t something that is easy to find. And shows like Bead and Button are expensive to do. How’s a girl to know if it’s worth it?

If you have good friends in the industry who have done the show you might feel comfortable asking them. However, it’s awfully crass to ask how much someone made isn’t it? Usually the question is, was it a good show? Was it worth it? I’ve asked those questions myself. But everyone has a different barometer of success. And sometimes people don’t want to say they had a bad show, always putting on the happy it-was-good-face.

Once when trying to decide if I should do Best Bead in Tucson, I emailed a respected friend and colleague who had done that show for quite  a while and gave her a breakdown of what numbers I thought I would have to do in order to have a successful show and just asked if she thought that was reasonable.  That worked pretty well, but again, she’s a friend of mine, so I felt comfortable doing that.

As always, I don’t like to talk about exact figures on the internet, but I’ll give you some specifics.

Last year was the first time I attended Bead and Button. A friend and I decided to share an eight foot table to keep costs down. That gives each of us four feet of isle real estate. In hindsight, we both agree that wasn’t the best move. You see, that only leaves space for one customer at a time to browse your wears.  Now, it is my understanding the sales were down across the board last year at Bead and Button with the economy in the toilet. I don’t know anyone’s actual numbers but my own. I barely made expenses and that was only because I luckily ended up with a free hotel room. Expenses included booth fee, travel, and food. Plus the show takes up a full seven days that I’m out of the studio. Needless to say last year wasn’t a success.

Still, one bad show in a bad economy wasn’t enough for me to give up on Bead and Button, the show that everyone in the industry says is the place to be. Instead I signed up for an eight foot table, did a lot of brain storming on revamping the table display with Greg, and worked like a dog to fill that table up.

I somehow managed to fill the table, but barely. Seriously, by mid-day Saturday the table was looking woefully understocked. I should have brought at least twice as much as I did. That’s all good though, right? It means I was selling stuff, right?

Exactly.

Everything came together. My table looked gorgeous (in my opinion–Greg did a great job–and others commented on it as well), I had good real estate (a full eight foot table in a good row), and the economy didn’t seem to be as much of a factor. Of course, I’m sure the beads themselves had a least something to do with it. 🙂

I came away making four times as much as I did last year, picked up a new wholesale account, and made a contact for Greg to teach this fall. Overall it was very successful and more importantly profitable for us. We’re already signed up for next year.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t hear anyone grumbling too much about sales this year. During a bad show, when another vendor asks how things are going–and we all have a lot of free time during those shows–you usually get a crunched up face and a shrug or a slight shake of the head. This year, I got the impression most everyone was pleased with the financials, but again I only know my numbers.

Define success – Chapter 1 The Business of Lampworking

For a few years now a friend of mine and I have been kicking around the idea of writing a book on the ins and out of the lampworking business.  It’s always been, “Hey we should collaborate and write a book about that.” Maybe we still will one day, but in the mean time I’m going to do a summer series on the topic. So far I have over twenty chapters to cover and the first one is to define what success means to you.

Success comes in a variety of different packages. Does it mean making a living off of selling lampwork?  Making  some extra mad money? Maybe you want your work to be published in the various glass magazines. Do you just want to sell your work as a form of validation? Then there are those who only want to make enough money to keep up their glass buying habits.

All of these are valid goals and don’t ever let anyone else define what success means to you.

Let me say it again. Only you can define what your success is.

If you want to sell your work for a dollar a bead, then go for it. Last I checked we live in a free market economy. But are you on the right path to being successful? If you’re looking at people buying your work as a form of validation, you might be. But if you want to make a living at this, then probably not, unless you are selling spacers or seconds.

In order to be successful, you need a goal. One person success may be another person’s failure.  For instance if your goal is to make a living off of lampork, the financials are going to be very different for someone who has a two thousand dollar house payment and two kids to support compared to someone who’s rent is five hundred dollars and only needs to care for a dog.

First set the goal, then make a plan. When Greg and I got serious about being full time lampworkers our version of success went something like this:

Greg: To make what he wanted, when he wanted to.

Deanna: To make enough money we didn’t have to work for anyone esle.

Looking at those goals, we set a plan. And only part of that plan was financial. We did a budget and figured out how much we needed to make each day to live. Then we took that number and added in how much we wanted to save and came up with a daily sales goal. Then we looked at the items we were making and made sure we listed enough items online each day to at least cover that sales goal. In the early days, if I had it on hand, I put up twice as much as we needed since not everything sells the first time around.

Happily, that worked out just fine. But remember, Greg said he wanted to make what he wanted, when he wanted. He’s got that artist gene. You know the one. When the artist feels stifled when they can’t do their own thing regularly. Luckily, I don’t have that problem. I like production work. So, while Greg tolled away being an artist, I did the production bead work, happily making the same kinds of beads day in and day out. I still do that, but have also learned to build in some play time at the torch for new designs. Greg on the other hand has learned he sort of likes production sometimes. Being creative all the time can be exhausting.

Our version of success had changed over the years. As I said, early on it was to make enough to not have to work for anyone else. That’s a good goal, but does that mean it’s okay if we are barely scrapping by every month? I’ve since revised. It’s now, to make a comfortable living. And my sales goals have changed accordingly and so has my marketing tactics.

For instance, I can sell a lot of beads if I lower my prices. A Lot! But I’m far better off selling less beads at a higher price. Not only do I make roughly the same amount of money (if not more) but it also gives me some free time to enjoy my life. We’ll get to this in another post.

For now, I urge you to set your own parameters of success. It will then be far easier to set your goals  and work out a plan to get there.

 

I’m Packed and Ready to Go…

Almost. Oh, come on. You know you aren’t surprised. I leave tomorrow for my long drive to the annual Bead and Button show in Wisconsin. It’s a two day trip and this time I get to stop outside of Knoxville to visit my dear friend Ali VandeGrift. She’s cooking and everything. It’s more than I get at home, though Greg did just ofter to make me some stir fry (oddly enough that is what Ali is cooking tomorrow), but I already ate. So, everything is packed, except my clothes. The laundry is done though. That’s something right?

To see what the display looked like just two months ago, go here. This is what my table looked like this morning before we packed it all up:

This is why I have neglected this poor space for the last month. I will be gone for a week and after I get back I have big plans of paying attention to this blog, so look for some regular posting in the near future. If you’re coming to Bead and Button, please be sure to stop by my booth 1238. I have beads, marbles, and murrini!