From Crafter to CEO – Building a handcrafted business

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Classic crafter scenario: You’ve given a few projects as gifts, then beamed with pride at the compliments that followed.

“These are really nice, you should sell them!”

“You could make a fortune on these.”

Perhaps, you’ve even been asked to make large quantities of your best craft for a special occasion to be given as gifts. Did you charge? Did you get compensated or additional orders from guests for more items?

Situations like these are common and I hear from customers all the time that this is exactly what encouraged someone to start a business. And with today’s technology, it seems easier than ever to turn a profit on crafting: You make a few items, put them on the internet, people buy them, then repeat.

Maybe that motivates you, right now, to jump on eBay and give it a shot. Wait! Before you quit your full-time job and plan for an early retirement, there are a few things to consider before turning your hobby into a business venture.

By a few things, I mean quite a bit.

Are you buying the best/right supplies or equipment?

Are you spending too much on production?

Are you paying yourself?

Have you kept track of your inventory?

What’s your budget?

What are your short-term and long-term goals?

Overwhelmed? Breathe. This is all a part of starting a business. To start, focus on the big questions.

Are you ready?

Have you done your homework? There is no such thing as too much research. Learn everything you can about what you can do, should do, might do, don’t want to do, then research some more. Your hobby is no longer a hobby, but an investment. To put a price tag on a handmade item means you are asking someone to see the value in it you do.

Research everything from supplies and equipment costs, to the time you invest making each item, to how you will market your new venture, to who your customers are. The more information you have, the more prepared you’ll be in the long run.  

What sets you apart?

You’ve invested a lot of time and energy into perfecting your craft, undoubtedly. You make something unique and desirable to others. But what sets you apart from other businesses? When you’re putting a price tag on a project, you’re turning it into a product, a piece of profitable inventory associated with value, and that comes with responsibility. Know that you are creating the level of quality you would pay for. Be critical of your work, but mindful of your time, cost, and profit. Time is money. So, make sure you have reached the level of production that is cost effective and quality efficient. Your products are a representation of your brand. Your brand is what you stand behind, your message to consumers.

Crafter to CEO  

The hardest part for many crafters starting a business is switching your mindset from recreational to professional. Instead of solely thinking about the end result of the product, you must also think of the cost, production time, and demand for the item. For example, you may have a product that looks fantastic, but requires several different colors of vinyl and rhinestones. Each color is an additional cost and time associated with it. If it takes you several hours to create this item, it’s very likely you will make minimal profit margins on it or need to price it higher. (This comes back to research). A business is made to make a profit, not break even.

Take the leap

Now that you’ve mentally and emotionally prepared yourself to turn your craft room into a boardroom, you’re ready to take that leap of faith. You can do it, and do it without falling through the cracks.

There are a number of opportunities and options for entrepreneurship in the crafting industry. Here are a few practical steps that don’t require a second mortgage or driving yourself crazy.

  • Go where your customers are. Think of where you shop, the community you live in; there are opportunities everywhere you look that are close to home. It’s relatively easy to upload some items on Etsy or ebay and start selling. Maybe a boutique is looking at add a product like yours to its storefront. And don’t rule out specialty orders. Our Decal Fundraiser Pack can give you some inspiration.
  • Waste not, want not. All of your materials are a part of your inventory. Use all those scraps and throw nothing away. Be resourceful. Don’t be afraid of mistakes, learn from them. That mess up can become the next breakthrough. It could be the next product in your line.     
  • Everything is marketing. Marketing is customer service. There’s no shame in looking for chances to spread the word of your business, but there is a fine line in being a pushy salesman. You’re going to have to wear many hats and you’re going to have a lot riding on this. Remember what it’s like to be a customer. Everything you do will come back as a reflection of your company. Make it a reflection you’re proud of.
  • Goals, goals, goals. Set realistic short and long-term goals. What do you want for your business? What do you want to accomplish? What can you handle? Start small and always look for opportunities to grow, within your means.

No one said building a business and taking a leap of faith was easy. It’s not, but it can be done and it can be rewarding. Think of starting your business as a new craft you’re learning. Don’t give up when it gets challenging. TRW has numerous resources to help you along your journey. We believe in your success.

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About Author

"Just use a little more hot glue." Lisa is the Creative Product Instructor for The Rhinestone World and has been with the company since 2014. She spends her day thinking up great crafting projects and teaches others along the way. Her weapon of choice is the Silhouette Cameo 2. Lisa holds a bachelor's degree in Advertising and Public Relations.

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