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Stranded Treasures: Wearable Hand Sculpted Blossoms

strandedcollageWhether or not is feels like spring outside where you are today I want it to feel like spring on your computer! I am so happy to introduce you to Stranded Treasures designed by artist Sharlene Maher. I think her colorful work will definitely brighten your day! I have absolutely fallen in love with the beauty of her designs!

Purple-Iris-Necklacepurple iris necklace

Sharlene started sculpting flowers from clay 12 years ago and is now making a living from what she once considered just an enjoyable pastime. She has taken her passion that was inspired by memories of flowers and scents from living in New Jersey, San Francisco and Florida full-time and is loving discovering new ways to grow and share her work with the world.

Pink-Lily-Studspink lily earrings

She does not use any molds to create her flowers – can you believe that?! She loves to focus on the art of sculpting and mixing colors to bring her visions to life. Her attention to detail comes to life in each photo of her jewelry and also in all of the options she offers. Customers can have the flowers in different sizes, on rings, on lockets, as clip-on earrings (perfect for my mom!) and she even has a scented variation!

Red-Rose-Studsred rose earrings

A big reason she has such a diverse selection is due to balancing her creative nature with listening to her customers. As her business has grown she has learned a lot about her customers and that they are similar to that of a florist – people shopping for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, romantic gestures and more. She has now created a site full of gorgeous designs that she loves creating because she know her customers will love them too.

Red-Poppy-Sterling-Silver-Braceletred poppy bracelet

I encourage you to spend some time on Stranded Treasures today. Allow yourself to be whisked away as if in a meadow of every flower you have ever seen. Did I mention there will be butterflies there too? Be sure to follow Sharlene on her Facebook page too. I hope you enjoyed starting spring with these gorgeous creations and be sure so share this post with a friend who might enjoy a little bouquet today!

Hibiscus-Pendant-Necklace2hibiscus necklace

This post was kindly sponsored by Stranded TreasuresAll views and ideas here are my own.

Interview with Amy Frank, fabric artist and small business owner

unnamed-2Bio:  Amy Frank is the designer and creator behind Mindfully Made Studios. Amy’s unique, thoughtful Blessing Bands©, yoga mat carriers and other inspirational accessories can be found at http://www.mindfullymadestudios.com and also in 40+ stores nation-wide. She lives in Central PA with a patient husband, 4 crazy kids and an even crazier yellow lab. : )

1.  Tell us about your handmade business and how it began.

I’ve been sewing and selling work for some time, but Mindfully Made Studios was born shortly after I had our youngest daughter. With 4 kids under 5-years-old, I was overwhelmed.  I wanted something to remind me of how lucky – how blessed – I was. So I made my first Blessing Band©. Friends noticed it and asked me to create personalized bands for them. Soon, I began selling them online and in a few local stores, and my business unfolded from there. Here is a link to a video that tells this story: http://youtu.be/foPUOegruro

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2. What is your education? Do you have special training from school that has helped you to run Mindfully Made Studios?

I have a degree in Communications and Business and worked in business consulting and fundraising for several years before having a family.  I think this business background helped me to understand the importance of organization, goal-setting and tracking outcomes.  I also took several courses through the Art Business Institute.  Their seminars capture the fine points of building an art-based business.  The information I took from those seminars helped me to take the next steps in my business.

3.  What steps have you taken to transform Mindfully Made Studios from a hobby into a full blown small business operation?

First, I had to decide where I wanted to go with my work.  Believe it or not, there are lots of options for us artists!  Did I want to blog and write books, sell product at shows, teach, sell through stores and distributors?  While often we do many of these things at once, I believe it’s beneficial to decide where you want to focus your energies. 

My products lend themselves easily to wholesale sales or selling to retailers.  I decided this was my primary focus and have been working to place Mindfully Made Studios in stores and shops around the country.  By focusing primarily on this step, I have been able to grow our wholesale accounts to almost 50 stores this year.

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4. I know you have done some traditional craft shows, but tell us a little about the professional trade shows you have also attended and what that experience was like.

Last year, I began selling my work at wholesale trade shows around the country.  This was a huge financial commitment and a scary leap for my business.  Happily, these shows are the primary reason we’ve been able to expand so quickly.  I think once you know where you would like to go, make a plan and try it.  Even if it’s scary!

5.  Can you share some helpful advice that you received?  Who gave this advice? 

Carolyn Edlund (http://www.artsyshark.com) from the Arts Business Institute (http://www.artsbusinessinstitute.org) has been a terrific help to me as I’ve built Mindfully Made Studios.  She stresses the importance of keeping up with the often-not-fun business side of your work.  While your creative work is important, also be sure to take care of BUSINESS…bookkeeping, insurance, taxes, etc.  Set aside at least one day a month for these tasks. 

Carolyn also suggested a big change to my business early on.  I was calling my Blessing Bands by a different name and she – very bluntly – said “I don’t get that name, you need to change that.”  I was a little taken back, but I saw her point and quickly re-introduced my bracelets as “Blessing Bands.”  Ironically, that’s when they really began taking off! : )

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6.  What advice would you share with someone hoping to take their handmade business to the next level?   

Decide where you really want to go, talk to others that have reached similar business goals, and make a plan to get there.  Also, don’t try to do too much at once.  I often get so excited and inspired that I over-do it and burn out.  Try to set manageable goals for yourself and celebrate small successes!

7.  What are you conservative plans for the future of Mindfully Made Studios?  What are your crazy big dreams for the future of Mindfully Made Studios?

Conservatively, I would like to continue growing our retailers to about 100 stores this year.  I would also like to introduce several new products into our line.  Ultimately, I would like our Blessing Bands to be picked up by a few major retailers that fit our brand.  Subsequently, Blessing Bands would be on the wrists of the majority of men, women and children! : ) I say this jokingly, but I really do believe those little bands help people to stay present and peaceful…and that is what REALLY inspires me in my work. 

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8.  Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself or your handmade business?  

I just want to stress the importance of not losing your original focus when building your business.  We all believe in handmade because we know that the things we create hold special significance and we LOVE making them.  I would encourage you to put practices in place that help you retain your creativity and love of making.  I try to set aside several hours a week for new ideas and designs.  It doesn’t always work, but the intention is there.

It’s also very meaningful and FUN to remember that this is YOUR business and that means you get operate I a way that is meaningful and special to you.  We give a portion of our proceeds to a foster care advocacy group called CASA.  I can’t tell you how good it feels to give back in that way.  It inspires me and my employees to work harder every day.  We also believe in our local economy and stress that our goods are made in Central PA.  I am proud to say this and I feel inspired to work harder to continue to help our local economy.   It’s your business, so you get to do what YOU want…how fun is that?!? : )

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virginiabiowashi

Virginia Lindsay — Gingercake Patterns and Design

Virginia Lindsay designs sewing patterns for Gingercake Patterns and Design. She loves the to sew practical, fun, and stylish things! Several of her patterns have been published by Simplcity and she has also written 2 books. Sewing to Sell and Fabric Stash Cuties:  Pretty Little Birds.

Movers & Makers Summit Photos

athens, gaGoodies bags!

athens, gaTons of goodies from the presenters and friends!

athens, gaLisa Jacobs talking about “If I Knew I Could Not Fail.”

athens, gaCozy and creative attendees!

athens, gaBonnie Forkner presenting “Pursuing Your Creative Dream.”

athens, gaWriting down dreams and business-building tips!

athens, gaMe sharing self-care techniques for creatives and dream-biz worksheets.

athens, gaThere is one of them!

athens, gaApril Bowles-Olin talking about “Creating Your Own Success.”

athens, gaMore creatives learning and relaxing!

athens, gaPaige French sharing photography tips.

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I had such an amazing time and am so grateful to all of the presenters and the attendees for making it such a wonderful weekend! I took a huge step and shared about self-care and also worked with everyone on some worksheets I have developed in the last year. Everything was well-received and I am so excited about it! You can expect to see some changes start to happen over here but I promise you will love all of them! XO!

The Reason You Simply Must Proofread Your Handmade Product Listings

Vintage-ErasersVintage Eraser Tops from The Newton Label

Want to know how to make your handmade product listings more attractive, persuasive, and easy-to-understand? Brush up on your proofreading skills.

Before you head for the hills screaming, “Oh no! Not a grammar lesson!” – hear me out.

You already know that a fabulous product description is crucial to selling your product. You’ve spent time thinking of descriptive nouns, persuasive adjectives, and vivid verbs to describe your product. You might have even completed a product descriptions course and used the tips to improve your copywriting.

You’re not finished yet. Your product listing needs one extra layer of tender loving care before you send it out into the world to help sell your product: proofreading.

Want to know why proofreading your product listing is so important? Here’s why:

A product listing with errors could cause potential customers to doubt the quality of your product.

What in the world does a spelling or grammar error have to do with the quality of my product, you ask? I know, I know. It doesn’t seem fair that people would think less of your handmade product because of a wording error, does it? But they might.

Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a grammar whiz to be a good proofreader. Read on for the areas you should check.

Basic Proofreading for Handmade Sellers:

  • Spelling
    • Remember that spell check doesn’t always catch errors such as their/they’re or its/it’s.
  • Punctuation
  • Grammatical Structure
    • Are you familiar with the Grammar Girl website and/or podcast? She approaches English grammar in a fun, easy-to-understand way.
  • Conciseness
    • Say just what needs to be said; don’t be too wordy.
  • Spacing
    • Look for extra spaces between words, sentences, and paragraphs. Keep it consistent.
  • Jargon
    • Remember that just because your wording is free of grammatical errors doesn’t mean that it is clear to the customer. Do you use jargon (terms that apply to your niche but that your average customer won’t understand)?

Your product description isn’t the only shop wording to proofread. Here are some others:

  • Shop announcement
  • Seller profile
  • Shop categories
  • Tags
  • Message to buyer (automatically sent after customer makes an Etsy purchase)

So what is a non-grammar whiz handmade seller to do? The following reminders will help you improve your proofreading skills:

  • Read your product listing (title, description, tags, etc.) for errors and then leave it for a while.  Come back to it later when you have “fresh eyes” to spot errors.
  • Copy and paste your wording into a text editor of some sort. Fix any errors that you find.
  • If you know someone who is a grammar whiz, beg, plead, or bribe (☺) them to read your wording and point out any errors or unclear wording.
  • Take your time when checking your product wording. Product descriptions that are written hastily are more likely to contain errors.

Okay, confession time. Which of the following proofreading styles best describes you?

(a) I carefully proofread all of my product listings and feel comfortable correcting the errors myself. I’m pretty good at proofreading.
(b) I struggle with proofreading my product listings. Customers sometimes point out mistakes that they find in my wording. I need to work on this skill.
(c) Proofread? I’m supposed to proofread my product listings? ☺

Tell us in the comments, will you?

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Julie Corbett – On The Dot Creations

On the Dot Creations features handmade creations and shares biz tips with those who sell them. Check out Julie’s free video series3 Reasons Your Product Photography Might Be Turning Customers Away, or her brand new online workshopDIY Product Photography.

12 Social Media Management Apps to Save You Hours Every Day

Right now you’ve got a pile of to-do lists that get longer instead of shorter as the day goes on, emails filling up your inbox, and your next creative project still marinating in your brain just itching to be completed, am I right?

Then you’ve got all your different social media sites that you’ve been told are totally crucial to stay on top of if you want to market your business right.

And yes, social media marketing is crucial, and you do need to stay on top of it. But social media management can be a full-time job in and of itself.

As it is, we spend an average of 3.6 hours a day on social media! That’s over 10 hours a week juggling Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+…

That’s 10 hours you could be using to come up with your next awesome handmade masterpiece!

So stop interrupting your day and wasting more time posting on social media. You don’t have to be on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram all day long to get the awesome results of all-day engagement. The answer is social media managing tools!

If you can’t spare a few minutes to read the descriptions of each tool right now, click the button under here to instantly download your Free Social Media Management App Resource Guide.

Click Here to Instantly Download Your Free Social Media Scheduling Guide

The 12 awesome tools explained below make it easy to gather all your content and schedule it up for days, or weeks at a time – and let your social media work for you.

Tools for Managing Facebook AND Twitter Accounts Like a Boss:

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Buffer

Buffer helps you set that sweet spot posting schedule between silence and oversaturating your followers’ feeds. Set up a scheduling pattern you want to follow, and let Buffer do all the work of posting. Whenever you find post-able content, Buffer will automatically set the post for the next available time slot. Updates can be posted on your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.

Buffer is totally free for one Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn account and up to ten posts scheduled at a time. The Pro plan for $10 a month lets you include up to six social media accounts and 50 scheduled updates, while Premium offers unlimited accounts and updates for $99 a month.

Hootsuite

This popular social media tool manages your updates across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ping.fm, WordPress, MySpace, and Foursquare accounts with easy-to-use scheduling tools. Plus, Hootsuite incorporates an RSS feed, so you can update your accounts with your own articles and posts from other blogs.

Use Hootsuite for free with up to five social media accounts. Upgrade to the Pro plan for $5.99 a month to incorporate unlimited social media profiles, RSS feeds and more.

IFTTT

“IF This, THEN That.” Set up recipes linked to all your social media profiles that give you alerts when specific things happen. This helps you organize what social media interactions you see and de-clutters your inboxes.

For example, you can choose “IF: A comment is left on my FB post, THEN: Send me a text“ or “IF: I’m tagged in a photo on Instagram, THEN: Add the URL to my Dropbox folder.”

IFTTT complements Hootsuite or Buffer to give you complete control of your social media.

Keep It Simple and Organized on Facebook

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Facebook offers a handy built-in feature for planning posts called the Facebook Scheduler.

The above tools are excellent for juggling multiple profiles at once, but there are benefits to logging directly into your Facebook account every once in a while.

Facebook incorporates EdgeRank software, meaning direct content is often prioritized in feeds over posts sent from third party apps (like Buffer or Hootsuite). Plus, Facebook users have the option to hide all content posted by third parties. Check out Econsultancy’s guide to EdgeRank if you want to learn more.

Facebook Scheduler avoids the snags of EdgeRank. This built-in feature is available for any post you prepare on Facebook – look for the little clock icon in the bottom left corner of the text box. Pick the date and time you want to post (you can even select past dates to pad an empty timeline!) View or edit your scheduled posts in your Activity Log.

Tools to Tidy Up Your Twitter Reach

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Tweepi

Tweepi is like a Twitter detox. Flush away unfollowers, cleanup inactives, reciprocate those who are following you, and even find new followers! It’s a great way to reorganize and drop off dead weight.

The Pro version lets you do bulk follow/unfollow actions up to 200 users at a time – this is the weapon of choice for a total Twitter account overhaul.

TweetDeck

This management tool was recently purchased by Twitter and allows filters on what matters (so you don’t let any crucial Tweets pass you by!). You can schedule upcoming tweets and remain up-to-date on notifications from fellow Tweeters. Use this program on your chrome browser or download the tool to your Windows or Mac desktop.

Become an Insta-Managing Guru – Three Helpful Instagram Tools

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Latergram.me

This is an easy-to-use tool that lets you schedule your upcoming posts for the ideal time. Upload photos from the web or your phone. Plus, you can edit and view your scheduled posts from the mobile app, or online, and get push notifications (alerts on your locked phone screen) once your scheduled posts go out. Nothin’ gets by you!

Takeoff

This app helps you schedule just like Latergram.me, but also claims to increase your comments and likes. TakeOff crunches numbers to suggest the best time to post and offers hashtag suggestions to reach new followers.

Schedule up to ten posts per day on one Instagram account with the free version.

Schedugram

Another scheduling tool for controlling upcoming posts on Instagram, you can edit images with filters and other Instagram features. You can also request an email confirmation once your scheduled posts go out.

Pin On Schedule with Pinterest Tools

MFblog_RichPins

Tailwind

Tailwind analyzes your Pinterest account and gives you a graph of your statistics right when you log in. Analyze the growth of your fans, followers and pins, audience engagement and find the best time to post your pins. Follow Pinterest clicks through to sales using Google Analytics and benchmark your performance against competitors. All your research is instantly done for you!

Viral Tag

A total time-saver for finding and posting visual content over Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. Viral Tag lets you add a Bookmarklet to your browser – drag photos you may want to post into your Bookmarklet and come back to them to add captions, links and schedule a posting time. You can also enhance and edit images before posting.

Piqora

Piqora is a useful enterprise tool for both Pinterest and Instagram that lets you schedule upcoming posts as well as access analytics. Plus there’s the option to create promotions and sweepstakes schemes to grow your Pinterest following.

Doing More with Social Media in Less Time

With the help of these organizational tools, some useful analytics and a direct focus, you’ll start wondering when they added more hours in the day, and your social media profiles will never go empty.

So start experiment with these tools and the ones that work best with your social media profiles and level of engagement.

Are you using any social media scheduling tools right now? Which ones do you like the best?

rachelwashi

Rachel Daley – MadeFreshly

Rachel is the resident Content Fairy at MadeFreshly, the online store platform that actually helps you succeed. Click here to get her creative marketing tips for entrepreneurs free, every week!