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What You Ought to Know About Starting Your Own Website

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If you have or are starting a business to sell your products to the rest of the world, your own online store is a necessity.

When launching your online store, you will probably have concerns. Will I have enough time? Am I technical enough? How will I attract people to my store? Can I actually afford it?

All very legitimate concerns, but all concerns that can be answered with ease. Promise!

MadeFreshly is the perfect software platform for independent sellers. Those with a passion for their small business, and who need their own dedicated website to sell their products.

Time:

Online stores and businesses take time. Plan wisely. If you already have a business or store (or are simply thinking about it), you know that business plans and preparation takes lots…and lots…and lots…of time; however, if you plan your days accordingly and practice organization techniques, your online store does not have to keep you up at night.

Technical:

It’s incredible (we think so!), but MadeFreshly is simple to use and makes it easy to get your business started. Follow the steps in our first article here and we promise to take stress and anxiety out of the building process. The planner guide will help you create a five-day plan to launch your store, and after that, it’s all about the fun and enjoyment of growing your business.

Marketing:

Marketing your online business isn’t always easy, but social media and guerilla marketing is a great, and often free, place to start.

If you don’t already have a social presence, sign-up for Facebook and Twitter. Start sharing the social love with your own personal connections (friends, family and existing social base). Network, Network, Network! Post regularly and engage with your audience. Consider building an email database to provide regular (but well-thought out) messages to your audience. Read through our feature article, Easily increase your Facebook fans with these 3 proven tactics, for some creative ideas to engage and communicate with your audience.

Affordability:

You’re in luck. MadeFreshly offers a free plan to get acquainted with our platform, so you can get your online business set-up at no cost. Once you feel comfortable with your store, we encourage you to sign-up for a paid plan.  MadeFreshly ranges from $11.99 – $34.99 per month, a much more affordable alternative to hiring a designer, developer, hosting and more. We give you all the tools you need to do it yourself.

When you’re ready to upgrade, Handmade Success will give you 25% off your first 3 months. Enter code handmadesuccess at the upgrade page.

Have questions for us? Any other concerns you need debunked? Leave us a comment!

Editor’s note: I am so in love with the passion MadeFreshly has for helping the handmade community – check out this video I just watched on their home page. I know you will totally relate! (Handmade Success has teamed up with MadeFreshly so feel free to ask me any questions too!)

MadeFreshly + Handmade Success: Sweet Threads Interview

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As an online destination for new and vintage children’s clothing collections, Sweet Threads was born out of a love for hand-selected pieces. Getting their online start through Etsy, and now with a brick and mortar location (as well as a MadeFreshly shop!), this company is a unique, one-of-a-kind boutique business that has capitalized on social media and online marketing. With features in Apartment Therapy, Long Beach Business Journal, My Cakies and more, you’ll want to learn more about Sweet Threads below. Sweet Threads is a proud MadeFreshly shop, and one that we’re very excited to share.

Read more as Shella Garcia, an entrepreneur and MadeFreshly store owner, shares her story.

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Tell us about your business and the types of products you sell.

Sweet Threads is an online destination for NEW + VINTAGE Children’s collection of clothing, shoes and accessories. Vintage pieces and brands are carefully hand picked and curated with the idea of offering the market with unique kids fashions we would want to wear ourselves yet still playful.

WHERE WE GET OUR VINTAGE – Our vintage is carefully selected and hand picked from our obsessive thrift trips, estate sale hunting, and yard sale treasures. We are in it for the hunt and we love that we can share our gems with you! Each piece is hand washed or dry cleaned as best we can. Vintage means PreLoved and will have normal wear and slight imperfections which is expected and to be enjoyed.

Why did you start Sweet Threads and what is the story behind it?

Sweet threads was created from the ideas of two friends. While one friend had the idea of children’s fashions, while the other had a love for vintage, collaborated their ideas and developed a Vintage Children’s Fashion business.  As soon as we found our niche, we were obsessed with the idea. We later brought in the “NEW” designer brands as this is a reflection of how we dress. We like to mix it up. I may wear a vintage skirt, but my t shirt is store bought. We couldn’t wait to share our vision to the world.

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How do you get past fears and self doubt to share your awesomeness with the world?

By just doing it. I think it’s fear of not achieving my dreams that drives me and I honestly don’t think I’ll ever completely got rid of all my fears, but I just knew if I wanted to get from point A to point B there was no other way of getting there but by just doing it. So I had took that risk and decided to not look back. Just keep going forward.

What inspires you be an entrepreneur?

I’ve always been a creative person and thought I was good at being a creative but at the same time I had a lot of self doubt or fear of rejection. It was until I introduced our idea to social media that I started to realize I had something special. The positive responses from others sparked something in me. Knowing that our ideas were being enjoyed by other people than myself made me proud. So proud,  I knew I had to share it and the only way to nurture this idea was to become an entrepreneur.

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Where do you sell your products both online and offline?

We sell our products online at http://www.shopsweetthreads.com and offline at our brick + mortar shop in Long Beach, CA.

How do you manage a brick and mortar store, online store, and an Etsy store?

By having a brick + mortar, it allows me to work on the online store, Etsy and Ebay when there is downtime. I am also always on my phone which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but that’s the way I am able to give great customer service by responding in a very quick manner.

The way I manage inventory at the moment is when I list NEW + VINTAGE products on our main website and any vintage items posted that week will also list on Etsy and Ebay. Anytime a product sells in any of these 4 places, I immediately remove it.

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How did you make the transition from part time to full time?

At the time we were working demanding full-time jobs. So we started off small by opening up an Etsy store in December 2011 selling only vintage children’s fashions. About half a year selling there, we decided to continue online to gain an online presence and decided to open up our own official website in April 2012 selling NEW and VINTAGE Children’s fashions.

This was all around the same time when mobile boutiques were gaining momentum and thought it was a great opportunity to have face-to-face interactions with our customers and sell on weekends. Bought a VW bus and pimped out the vehicle with uber cute graphics and colors to resemble an ice cream truck. Took baby steps and decided the Rose Bowl Flea Market in September 2012 would be the best place to debut our new ride and business. It so happened that on our very first flea market experience, we met the customer who we knew could help us. They always say it’s who you know to break into an industry. We met one of the top baby bloggers, Ashley Jenner from http://www.thestorkandthebeanstalk.com. As corny as it sounds, life works in funny ways and I do believe we were destined to meet her that very day.

She wrote about us and featured our vintage children’s fashions on her blog. She was a real supporter from the beginning by using her creative outlet to let others have the opportunity to learn about our business. We continued selling monthly at the flea markets for almost a year before we decided to open a brick + mortar. By this time, we had gained a following on social media and when we found the spot in March 2013 we are in now, we decided it was time. We were ready to leave our day jobs to pursue our dreams. We officially opened our doors in July 2013.

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What made you decide to create your own online store?

We were selling vintage children’s fashions on Etsy and felt it was too competitive. When we decided we wanted to sell NEW Designer brands we felt it was the perfect opportunity to not only open our own online store but to also start gaining an online presence.

Share your experience with using MadeFreshly.

I really enjoy using MadeFreshly as they make it easy to create your own website by choosing pre-designed templates but still having the option to make design changes.

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What is your favorite feature of your MadeFreshly store?

The SEO Keyword feature helps us be found within Google.

What has been your biggest success with Sweet Threads?

The biggest success to date is that we opened up a brick and mortar store in Long Beach, CA. Opening up a brick and mortar gave us an opportunity to meet our customers and interact with them to explore our customers needs.

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What has been the biggest hurdle when you created your business?

Obtaining a following and letting people know that we’re out there. We knew there was a following for vintage children’s clothes but we weren’t sure how find them.

How did you overcome it?

The power of social media. Our favorite social media tool we love to utilize is Instagram. Instagram has helped our business tremendously as it helped us find our customers and obtain a following and maintain communication with our customers from all over the world.

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What do you love most about working on your business?

Best part is being able to bring happiness to our customers when they come into our store or see something on social media that triggers a memory. It’s very nostalgic for them to be able to bring happy childhood memories which is priceless to us. What also makes us happy is that we become friends with some of our customers based on their experience.

What success tips can you give to someone wanting to start their own online store with MadeFreshly?

Patience. It takes time to build anything and it can’t be done overnight.  The main thing that helped us out was creating that following to let people know who we are and where we can be found. Your biggest free resource is social media which is something anyone can build as long as you put passion into it.

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As with any business, Sweet Threads has had it’s share of successes and challenges. Learning patience, capitalizing on resources available and using online and offline business solutions has helped Sweet Threads become the success story that it is today. Are you interested in launching your online store, just like Sweet Threads? Creating your business with MadeFreshly is easy. Start by downloading our planner and get selling in as easy as 1, 2, 3.

Editor’s note: Thank you MadeFreshly for this fab interview and thank you Sweet Threads for being a part of our Shop Local Directory! Remember, if you decide to upgrade from the Starter Free Plan be sure to use the discount code “handmadesuccess” to receive 25% of your first 3 months!!!

A New Year + A New Online Shop for You From MadeFreshly!

madefreshly1It’s a guest post! We’re very excited to announce this brand new partnership with ourselves, MadeFreshly, and Handmade Success. In an effort to help handmade sellers in creating their online store, this partnership aims to provide some of the most creative and unique artists and designers with an online framework and easy-to-use website to sell their products.

Here at MadeFreshly, we keep it easy, simple and straightforward. We want to help you promote and deliver your product in one unified online store that is able to managed on-the-go. By setting-up an online store for your business, you can not only display your products visually, you can also reach a brand new demographic and audience through digital sales and transactions. Our platform offers you the ability to brand a home for your products, be easy-to-reach and available to your customers and expand your database. How could you say “no”?

In comparison to many other online e-commerce platforms, MadeFreshly is designed to be easy to understand and set-up. It is made for the independent, small business seller – YOU. We take pride in creating a great platform and product for our customers.

Why I started MadeFreshly:

I needed to create an online store for my clothing business. I used open source software, then tried just about every hosted ecommerce software that was out there. Even with a technical background in web design, it was hard to set up and customize the online store to get exactly what I wanted – and a lot of the designs that were available were just not up to my standards. I ended up shutting down the clothing business, but I kept thinking about how frustrated I was when trying to create the online store. With this in mind, I set out to make someone simple, well designed and fun to use for just about anyone. My partner and I spent years understanding usability and software design and madefreshly is the product of our love and labor. Ecommerce can be very confusing, and overwhelming so we set out to fix this! Although all sorts of business sell with MadeFreshly, we found that the handmade community is one of the most supportive communities of entrepreneurs – and this is why I wanted to start this partnership with Handmade Success. It falls along our core love of helping the “small guy” do what they love. We want to help you.

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Are you ready to sign-up for your online store? Sign up at the MadeFreshly Registration page. Once you sign up you will have to confirm your email before logging into your account. You will start off with the forever free plan. The Starter Free plan is perfect for starting a small store and for you to get acquainted with the platform. Once you feel up to it, you can upgrade to a premium plan that jives with you. Premium Plans have advanced feature like SEO, extra themes, advanced customization and lots more. Go to the Pricing and Plans page to find the plan that is right for your store. Setting up and designing your online store takes 5 minutes – we promise. Check out this link here for all of the juicy details.

Have questions? We have answers. Get started with registering for an account with us and, if you have any questions along the way, please do leave a comment or check out our support center. We can’t wait to see you on MadeFreshly!

Editor’s Note: I am so excited about this partnership with Trin Salaloy  from MadeFreshly! Be sure to check out the amazing Online Store Planner above to get all set up with your new online store. You can even check off tasks and take notes right from your computer! You can check out some of the cool shops that have already signed up here: https://madefreshly.com/samples.

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If you decide to upgrade from the Starter Free Plan be sure to use the discount code “handmadesuccess” to receive 25% of your first 3 months!!!

You can share your questions in the comments or email Trin at trin@madefreshly.com or me at kerry@handmadesuccess.com. Stay tuned each week this month for more posts about creating an amazing new shop for your business!

 

It is Time for Your Own Website

halfcirclesYou’ve been working your ass off, day in and day out. Putting in long hours to make your products, write product descriptions, take product photos and list your items on Etsy. Then learning about copywriting, SEO and photography so you can spend even more hours rewriting descriptions and taking more photos. I’m exhausted just thinking about all the work you’ve done. And don’t even get me started on the money you’ve spent—printers, shipping materials, equipment, training courses, the works. Add it all up and that is a lot of time and money you’ve invested in your Etsy shop. What if one day . . . it all disappeared? All that time and money gone out the window. That’s the risk you take when your business is completely dependent on Etsy. Making your business dependent on another company, like Etsy, eBay or Amazon, is called digital sharecropping. And it is bad news, friends.

Digital Sharecropping

Remember learning about sharecropping in school? Yeah, it’s been a while for me too. Here’s a quick refresher. Sharecropping was all the rage in the southern United States after the Civil War. Landowners allowed farmers to live and work on their land in exchange for profits from the crops. Sharecroppers were at the mercy of the landowner. If the landowner raised the rent, they had no choice but to pay the higher fees. If the landowner kicked them out, they had no other means to survive. The sharecropper does all the work, and the landowner gets most of the profits. And to make it worse, the landowner has all the control, so the sharecropper is stuck with whatever the landowner dishes out. When you rely solely on Etsy for your business, you are digital sharecropping. Etsy is the landowner. They give you an online shop, a piece of digital land. You are the sharecropper. You pay rent in the form of listing fees and commission. Etsy has control over your land, and you are stuck with whatever they dish out.

How Digital Sharecropping Can Hurt Your Business

My friend Suzie recently got an email from Etsy asking her to answer a lengthy questionnaire, and to submit an in-depth tutorial (with photos) explaining how she makes her jewelry. She was given five days to respond. Suzie’s mom was admitted to the hospital the day before she got Etsy’s email. She wasn’t able to compile the info in such a short timeframe. So she responded to Etsy, providing links to several existing tutorials on her blog, and explained she would provide the rest of the info in a few days when her mom got out of the hospital. Etsy closed her shop immediately. Suzie no longer had a way to make money from her jewelry business. She couldn’t even access the product descriptions and photos she had spent so many hours on. Sadly, Suzie isn’t the only person this has happened to. You’ve probably seen lots of stories about shops being closed by Etsy. There are other worries as well. What happens when Etsy raises their fees? What happens if Etsy is bought by another company? What if Etsy shuts down? These scenarios are totally possible. Just one decision made by Etsy, a decision you have no control over, can make or break your business.

Protect Yourself From Digital Sharecropping

It’s scary stuff! But there’s one thing you can do today to protect yourself from digital sharecropping—get a self-hosted website. Having a self-hosted website is the equivalent of buying your land instead of renting it. It gives you total control over your online home. It gives you a backup plan to ensure your business can survive, with or without Etsy. Ack, tech-speak! What does self-hosted mean? Every website needs web hosting. Web hosting stores all the articles and images for a website, and makes the website accessible online. Self-hosted means you have access to your website’s server, which is where the articles and images are stored. You control what programs are installed for your site, as well as your website content, design, back ups, email, etc. Free services like Blogger, Weebly and Wix are not self-hosted. They only give you limited control of your website. And, just like with Etsy, they can shut your site down at any time.

How To Get a Self-Hosted Website

Thanks to WordPress, you can make your own self-hosted website on the cheap. If you can use Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, you can make a website with WordPress. For reals. Need help getting started with WordPress? That’s what I’m here for! What overwhelms and confuses you? What questions do you have? Let me know in the comments so I can help you out. Then head on over to Pixel Frau where you can learn how to register a domain name and get a free WordPress beginner’s guide.

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Julia Sydnor – Pixel Frau

Julia Sydnor is the geeky gal behind Pixel Frau. She teaches Etsy sellers how to make kick-ass websites with WordPress. Want a website for your creative business? A website you can be proud of? A website that gets you more sales? Head on over to Pixel Frau to get started.

 

Technology & Your Shop

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The way we shop has changed – for good. How often do you walk into a bricks and mortar store, find a specific item you’ve been looking for, and buy it there and then?

If you’re anything like me, this scenario happens a lot less often than it used to. In 2013, I can walk into a high street shop and pick up a product that tickles my fancy. I can then take my smart phone out of my pocket, open up a browser and do a quick internet search. Within seconds I’ll be reading reviews from other shoppers and comparing prices from different retailers. Perhaps I’ll a post a photo of whatever I’m mulling-over on Facebook, and ask my friends for advice. All of this while I’m still in the shop!

Unless I’m in a desperate hurry for an emergency purchase or gift, I’m unlikely to get in line and hand over my card there and then. I’m far more likely to go back home, look at a few more options online, think about it for a while….. If and when I finally decide to take the plunge, am I going to get into my car and drive back into town? No! I’m going to buy online – from the shop that has the best price, the best reviews, and who can deliver it quickly and conveniently to my home.

Now if you’re thinking this scenario doesn’t apply to customers buying from independent retailers and craft sellers….you could be right. Customers buying from handmade sellers are more likely to be looking for something special and unique than searching for a deal.

But don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. The pace of change in technology is changing the way we shop, for good. This, together with the fact that we’re still dealing with a challenging economy – mean that it’s important for retailers of all shapes and sizes to take note.

If you’re a small business with big ambitions, here are four things you should be thinking about:

  • Think multi-channel 

When thinking about how and where to promote your work, think about the lives your customers lead. Do they spend all their time in coffee shops, reading books and magazines? Or do they spend 24 hours a day online, browsing websites and checking their social media accounts? Chances are, they do a bit of both. Digital and “real” life are now so intertwined, your customers are likely browsing the Etsy app on their iPhone while sitting in a coffee shop, or reading reviews on Amazon for the latest craft books while lying in bed.

To make the most of the opportunities the digital economy provides, you need to adopt a multi-channel approach. A website is no longer a nice-to-have: it’s an essential tool for doing business online and off. Even if you’re selling to galleries and offline shops rather than direct to customers online, a professional online presence is a must.

If you don’t yet have a website and are planning to get one soon, choose a responsive design so that if can be used on different devices like smart phones and tablets. Don’t forget to include the URL on your business cards too!

  • Take a long-term approach 

In this age of constant distractions and huge choice of options online, customers won’t make an immediate decision about whether or not to buy from you. So stop thinking in terms of the instant sale. Some customers will want to research and look around. Others will want to get to know you first. So give them plenty of ways to do this by building an authentic online presence, sharing your story, and being consistent in your approach.

Crucially – make sure you’re encouraging them to sign-up to your email list when they visit your website or blog. It’s your best chance of getting in touch and encouraging them to come back if they don’t buy from you first time around.

  • Pull, don’t push 

It’s no longer acceptable (if it ever was) to be pushy and use the hard sell. How many brands have you un-followed because of a barrage of promotional Facebook updates or tweets?

The next generation of consumers are savvy, sophisticated shoppers, and firmly in control. So attract, engage…..then let them know about the wonderful products and services you have to sell. Learn to listen to your customers and understand their needs. Become the brand they look forward to hearing from because you put a smile upon their face!

  • Embrace openness 

In 2013, there really is nowhere to hide! Ratings, reviews and feedback play an important part in building trust and authority for your brand. So embrace openness and use these tools to your advantage.  Ask customers for testimonials. Make a habit of requesting feedback after an order has shipped. Let customers leave ratings and reviews.

Once you’ve done this – add a praise section to your website. Add snippets to your product descriptions and about page, even your business card. Then look out for an increase in sales!

Have you noticed any ways that technology is impacting your business and the way your customers shop? What are you doing about it? I’d love to know – leave a comment below.

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Claire Hughes — Make, Do & Sell

Claire Hughes is an online marketing consultant with over ten year’s experience running campaigns for some of Europe’s biggest brands. Proud to call herself an internet geek and home-working mum, she now focuses exclusively on working with creative entrepreneurs. You’ll find Claire sharing free tips and advice on the Make, Do & Sell blog, as well as co-leading the Handmade Horizons marketing e-course. That’s when she’s not changing nappies or feeding her Pinterest addiction, of course…..

There’s nothing Claire loves more than helping talented ladies overcome their marketing challenges and achieve their wildest dreams. Why not connect with her on Twitter and tell her all about yours?