biz chat: how to infuse color trends into your work

Infusing color trends in your work

We’re doing a blog theme this week, and that theme is the 2016 Pantone colors of the year. Jen shared with you how to add it to your make-up routine, and I’m here to share with you how to incorporate it into your work.

If you’ve seen the colors Robo Roku uses, we tend to be very bold, and more toward the primary color side of things. This year’s Pantone colors — yes, that’s plural, are Rose Quartz and Serenity (featured in the image above). These colors are more on the pastel side of things, but we do have some ways we can work it in. I recently learned about mompreneur coach, Renae Christine, and watched a three part video series where she breaks down how you should build your color story per line launch. She recommends using five neutrals, three trend colors, and two “out there” colors that you just love and need to have in your line. Neutral doesn’t need to mean beige, so don’t freak out if beige is not in your wheel house. Robo Roku’s neutrals would be more like black, red, and blue.

I really like Renae Christine’s breakdown of colors. It’s a helpful list to keep you from using all the colors out there, and keeps you focused on the colors that will sell the best. Honestly, I would even say you could maybe do two trend colors, and add one more to “out there”, if you’d like. As long as your overall color story is staying on brand, there’s no harm in infusing the newest trend colors every year. It’s not only going to challenge you, but keep you current! Let us know if you decide to try to infuse the trend colors into your line this year.

Share your work with us via Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #TCLcreative so we can see what you’re creating!


Biz Chat: Overcoming Obstacles

What's Holding You Back?

As 2016 is fast approaching many of us will be making resolutions and goals for the new year. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I don’t make resolutions. Resolutions are too “wishful thinking” for me, I make actionable plans, I’m more successful in meeting my goals that way. One thing I think should be considered for resolutions or action plan lists is stopping yourself from being too stubborn to help your biz grow. It’s all too easy to be your own biggest obstacle. Don’t let you be your own worst enemy.

We all have things we don’t want to do for various reasons. Maybe you don’t know how to create a line sheet, maybe you’re afraid to pitch places, maybe you need better product photography, or a new website, whatever it is, don’t let these things stunt your growth. Sure, some of these things cost money, but some of them just require you to go all in on you.

This industry has a lot of rejection with it, that’s part of the territory. The thing is, the answer will never be “yes” if you don’t ask the question. You could even learn from your rejection and improve your business. Make 2016 the year you pitch to all the places you’d love to see your work in. Apply to those shows you think would never accept you. Put yourself out there, don’t just wait for some “magic” to happen. You make your own luck.

If money is the issue, start saving up. See if you can lower your costs with a trade of services. Try for payment plans. You know the saying, “you have to spend money to make money”, and it’s true. Try cutting back on your “fun” money for a bit to afford services you need.

The excitement of a new year coming can really pump you up to jump those hurdles. Let that excitement energize you to face those fears and kick butt in 2016.


biz chat: how to deal with holiday show rejection

Holiday show rejection is the worst, it’s the busiest shopping season of the year, and we all want to be out there as much as possible. As most of the show letters have gone out now, and you may have been rejected from some, here are some tips on what to and what not to do now.
*will denote personal experience notes

how to deal with holiday art and craft show rejection

First, and most importantly, DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY.
I know it stings, you may want to cry, and you may see someone get in that you think you’re better than, and that’s okay. We can all feel those things, just don’t stay in that negative space for long, and only share those feelings with your friends and family, not in an public forum. You don’t want negative posts to get back to show organizers. Don’t email show organizers in a defensive manner, either. Stay professional, review your applications, and work on improving it. You don’t want to hurt your chances of being accepted in the future, or getting a bad reputation.

*I know I said “don’t take it personally”, but sometimes you could not get in because a show organizer is close friends with someone, and they don’t want them to have any competition. This happened to a friend of mine. The show did tell her that she could bring everything else she sold, just not one particular item that competed with their friend. Is that fair? No, but if you run a show, you might do the same thing for your friend. I would continue to apply for that show, because you never know if that person is going to apply.

Hit them with your best shot.
The number one thing that keeps people from getting into a show is bad photos. I’ve seen people using bad photos in their shop, social media, and of course their applications, and I cannot understand how they don’t know they have bad photos. If you were rejected, this is the first thing you need to review. Some juries only look at photos and know nothing about you, so if your photos are bad, or there is a lot in the photo causing distraction from the piece you want reviewed, you might not make the cut. This is the most frustrating reason to see people get cut over. It wasn’t that your work or quality was poor, it was that your photos didn’t do your work justice. If you invest in nothing else, invest in good photos.

*When I was on the ACR jury I scored someone low because the products didn’t look great. Thankfully, aside from scoring we would discuss. Two people on the jury owned work from that person, and they said the photos were terrible, but the products were solid. If we only went by scores, that person would not have made the cut.

Never expect it.
When you’ve been accepted to a show many times, you may expect you’ll always be in. When I give talks on shows, this is something I always stress. You need to give every application your all, treat each one like it’s the first time you’re applying to the show. Give them the respect of showing your best work. Just because the jury loved you one year, that doesn’t mean the jury will love you the next.

*Often this is a numbers game. You could have had a great score overall, but your category may have been super competitive. Imagine your category had many people scoring 100’s, and you scored an 85. An 85 is a respectable grade, but if your category is packed (jewelry makers know this all too well), you might not pass. Meanwhile, if you had that same score in a less competitive category, you could have been at the top.

Show growth.
Show organizers want to keep their show fresh and exciting, giving shoppers something new to look forward to. If you keep applying with the same photos, and show no growth, it will lessen your chances of getting in. If you make candles, you can simply add a new scent. Make sure you change your booth set up every year, too. Remember there are new people coming on the scene all the time, and if they make something similar to you, but also have a little extra, they can edge you out.

*Shows can get three times the applicants of spaces available. Some shows have a percentage of new artists they want to accept each year.

Find your place.
Once the show roster is up, look at who got in, does your work fit? Sometimes you could be applying to a show that is targeting a market you’re not right for. That doesn’t mean your work isn’t “good enough”, it just means it’s not the place for you. Maybe the demographics of the audience cannot afford your work, these are things some shows consider.

*When I was on the ACR jury we turned someone down because they were too fine art for the show, not because the work wasn’t amazing, but we knew they wouldn’t get the sales they would expect. We did let them know the reason, but other shows might not take the time to let someone know that.

Don’t ignore being wait listed.
I’ve seen people get called from the wait list the day of the show! You never know what could happen. You may have missed the cut by 1 point, you don’t know how the decision was made, treat being on the wait list in a positive light.

*People can drop from a show because they applied to two shows the same weekend, and prefer another one. They can drop because they didn’t get the space they wanted. I dropped a show I love one week before because I had pneumonia and was way too sick to drive to LA.

Face the situation.
If you’re getting rejected more than normal, look at any changes you’ve made to you offerings. If you’ve never been accepted to a particular show, try emailing them in the off season (generally January) to see if they can offer you some feedback. Depending on how the decisions are made they might not be able to, but it doesn’t hurt to graciously ask for more information. Walk the show, look at any competitors of yours that made it in. Are their price points lower or higher? Do they have a wider or more targeted range of offerings? Do your sleuthing!

Don’t give up.
Keep in mind that juries can change from year to year, maybe a strong competitor of yours won’t apply the next year. As long as you keep improving your work, have bright, clean photos, and are applying to a show that your work fits within, there’s always a shot.

Now that you’ve gone through the 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance)…

Let’s talk about how to make up that show income:

Have your online shop full and optimized (SEO and tag wise).
Pitch to blogs.
Advertise on sites/blogs (check out Passionfruit for some leads).
Get your line sheets in order to send out.
Pitch to stores (keep your pitches extremely short).
It’s pretty late, but see if you can get in any gift guides.
Try to get in show swag bags.
Work on your social media game.
Join an Etsy group or a Treasury group, any kind of group that does a great job of promoting one another.
Suck up your pride, and apply/sign up for those smaller shows you weren’t even thinking about before. This is the time of year we need to be out in full force to get those sales. Every show is a learning opportunity, and a chance to reach more people.
I’m one of those people that believes everything happens for a reason. Maybe the show wouldn’t have been the place for you (wasting your time), maybe you needed a reality check to humble you, maybe you’re going to have such a busy season, you’ll need the break. Rejection hurts (we’ve all been there), but it’s up to you to move past it, take it as a learning experience, and keep pushing forward.

biz chat: craft show booth set-up tips


Looking back at this booth, I’m a little embarrassed. I’ve grown so much since this. That said, I did win 2nd place in the best booth contest at this show. I’m using the pronoun “I” instead of “we”, because booth set up is something I heavily obsess over, and is one of the facets of Robo Roku that I take complete charge over. I love trying to create a happy environment. I was fortunate enough to have had merchandise training in one of my former retail management jobs. The company I worked for sent managers on a week long retreat that mostly focused on the Psychology of merchandising. I don’t always use what I’ve learned, because “happy environment” is top priority for me. This post is going to be a little bit more “do as I say, not as I do”, sharing my past retail merchandise training and experience as a former producer for a local craft show with you to help you up your show booth game.

Memorable Experience
Use your booth as a way to create a memorable shopping experience. Infuse your branding into all the elements. From floor, to walls, to “ceiling” have every aspect of your booth show your colors and style.

We try to bring the outdoors in and remind people of a fun day laying in the grass looking at clouds. We use AstroTurf for the floor and walls, and batting to create “clouds” in the air. We use white curtains on as many sides of the booth as possible to brighten up the booth, and increase the airy feel.

We also always pay for electricity. Lighting is worth whatever they charge you, it helps your booth stand out from your neighbors, and highlights your goods. It can also act as a beacon, drawing people in.

Table Coverings
If you have beautiful tables that you’re not hiding anything under, then you can skip the tablecloth. If you bought a standard folding table at Target (or wherever), then you need to cover it up, and class up the booth. Choose a tablecloth that matches your branding, ideally one that is water resistant. Having custom fitted tablecloths are even better. If you’re like me and change up your set up too much to justify paying for custom fitted tablecloths, have safety pins handy to tie back the sides of the tablecloth for a more polished look.

Height in your booth is very important. Having staircase type set-ups gives your customer’s eyes places to continue going, which keeps them in your booth longer, and maximizes your display area. I prefer to have a 3ft tall table, because it helps most people not feel strain bending over to look at your goods. Only having this height can cause issues for people not able to see that high up, so make sure you have multiple levels for all situations.

Make sure there’s room for your customers to move around. Try not to create a dead end or bad corner where they can get stuck. In the photo above I have the tees on a rack near the entrance so people can flip through from the aisle. If you can make a space that’s shoppable from both sides, you gain more space in your booth.

Have a big banner with your name (maybe even your url) so people can know who you are, and can read from the aisle. Pricing signs (if your items are not individually priced); social media contact signage, so they can jump on their phones and follow you right away; payment options, so they don’t have to worry whether or not they can buy something from you. The payment signage is so important. Even with a sign from Square in our booth sometimes people miss it, assume we’re cash only and almost walk out of the booth.

At the very least you want to give out your business card to as many visitors as you can. Have these in more than one place. We always keep some near the front of the booth (opposite of where our checkout is), and some at the checkout. If possible, have freebie stickers, buttons, or postcards to help them remember you. While this is not necessarily a takeaway, make sure your shopping bags have your name on them, this is free show advertising for you. I chose a particular size and color for our shopping bags, and that bag alone (without our branding on it) is recognizable locally. At many shows I’ve had people tell me “I’ve seen so many people with your shopping bags”, it may not be true that so many people have shopped our booth, it’s that we’ve solidified our branding so much, that the bags stand out.

Seasonal Decor
If it’s the holiday season, try adding some garland, twinkle lights, pine cones, snowflakes, etc to your booth to up the holiday shopping spirit.

Keep in mind, even with my past retail experience, my first booth was a sad card table with no table covering. Just packaged jewelry and badges laying on the table. Not much height or interest at all. You can see some past booth set-ups here, and see the growth over the years. We all start somewhere, and even if your last booth was super awesome, I guarantee there’s always room for improvement. Every year I look at my booths from the year before and think “yuck!”, even though I know when I was setting up each booth I was super proud of the time and energy I put into it. I think evolving every year is one thing I really like about booth set-ups. I look forward to finding ways to make the booth better than before. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave them in the comments below. Some people have emailed me asking questions from the last biz chat post, and you’re welcome to do that, too. I just want to share with you what I’ve learned to help make your first time out a little less scary.


biz chat: holiday show season inventory prep and sales

Square Analytics
With the holiday show season fast approaching I wanted to do a four part series to help you get prepped. First thing I do is look at our sales data from Square of the previous holiday season. If you don’t use Square, please come up with a way to be able to look back at your sales data, it’s so helpful. Stitch is great, too! We use Stitch to manage online sales and show sales combined (it helps to keep us from over selling), but when I just want to look back at show data, I use Square data. You’ll want to know the quantity, size, style, and price point of each item sold. I have a separate button in Square for sale prices, that way I can easily see the difference in numbers between the regular and sale price points.

If any of the goodies we sold last holiday season are still in play for the upcoming season I look at the best sellers and make sure to start our inventory minimums with the quantity that sold last holiday season.

Poor sellers get the boot. Medium sellers may get the boot, too. Holiday show season is when you want to focus on upping your inventory on your best gift items to maximize sales to get you through the January lull. We sell 1-inch buttons at shows; those are not really a great gift item, but are good for stocking stuffers and just to pick up at check out. We do not up our inventory on buttons for holiday shows. We make “enough” and have them near the check out, just as an add-on item. By minimizing our not so “gifty” (made up word) items we have more time and money to spend on upping our best gift-giving sellers.

For items released newly this year, I like to do spring shows to get a feel for what people are liking, buying, and how they feel about our price points. I use this data to determine the quantities we’ll need per show for the holiday season.

With a holiday line I will not have real data for the designs, so I try to have lower quantities on these, because getting stuck with holiday themed goods after December is not ideal. This happened to us our first holiday season, and every time I looked at the leftover holiday cards the following year I was so frustrated. We did sell the leftovers at a discount the following holiday season.

Keep in mind the chance of each sale being given as a gift is more likely than a purchase for the buyer, you want your items to have your brand name on it. Make it easy for the gift recipient to be able to find you, so that they can become a future fan. Include more than one business card with purchases, too, that way the buyer can keep one, and give one away. Invest in quality cards and or stickers to give away to help get your name out there.

If your packaging has been rock-star awesome all year, then kudos to you! If not, now’s the time to up your packaging. If you can simplify the gift shopping experience you’ll be remembered fondly, and may gain repeat customers.

When we do a series of holiday shows in our hometown we release something new at each show and let our customers know. This gives our customers a reason to come to the next show, has been a great way to gain repeat sales, and an opportunity to chat multiple times with our customers.

Come back next week for a post on booth set-up tips! If you have any questions or tips to share, leave them in the comments below.


biz chat: learn from the best

The Last Bookstore
There is so much information for running a creative biz easily accessible today, sadly, most of this information is coming from people that are self proclaimed “gurus” that are just good talkers (and really great marketers!). What kills me most is when someone I admire suggests you check out one of these “gurus”, these fab marketers, that absolutely know how to market, but they have not gone through, and successfully grown their creative biz. Many of them didn’t succeed, and/or gave up and now make their income by giving people advice, when they only have a partial journey to have learned from.

Making a living as an artist, maker, and/or designer is incredibly hard. Talent, creativity, and skills are not enough. You have to have all that, get/have some business sense, have thick skin, and be willing to put in long days, live off of little money, and put your biz first until the money starts rolling in. Even once the money starts coming in, you still have to wear many hats, and pretty much be made of perseverance. So when I stumble upon these “gurus” I get a little angry at how they tend to focus on “following your dreams” and don’t give hopeful newbies the proper information and tools to really make it. Running into these people over and over certainly adds fuel to my fire to share my journey and be an honest mentor.

I’d like to share some resources with you and urge you to not go out and buy that new book/class/e-course from anyone before doing the research on them. Even if your bestie says they are great, research them. Has the person teaching/mentoring actually succeeded in the areas you want to succeed in? If not, keep searching for another mentor or advice from someone who really knows what it’s like. I highly suggest you look for someone that has been doing it for at least 5 years. Each year you’re in business it can get harder to keep going if your biz isn’t making forward momentum. After five years you’ll definitely do some thinking on whether your biz is worth it and will actually pay off. Some businesses catch press breaks early on and get a huge push, but surviving the first five years is quite an accomplishment. This month will mark my eighth year in biz, and I’m still learning and growing (sometimes contemplating going back to work for someone else). This path isn’t easy, but if you can stick it out, it can be pretty great.

You may remember I used to have a resource page on the blog. I’ll be bringing it back after the redesign and constantly updating as I discover new helpful sites/books/people. Here’s a short list to jump start your own resource library…

Blog Boss
Blog, Inc.
The Blogcademy
Blog Life
Blogshop (designing for your blog).
All of these resources are from successful people that are blogging full time.

Smaller Box (hasn’t been updated recently, but the site has such great info that spending time reading old posts will be incredibly valuable)
Launch Grow Joy
Rena Tom for her experience as a buyer.
Obviously there are more people out there, but these people are legit. These people have succeeded and are sharing what they’ve learned along the way.

Art courses by Mati Rose.
Flora Bowley (new course starting next week!)
Kelly Rae Roberts
Art, Inc. by Lisa Congdon, (also check out her online class that accompanies the book!) I was so excited to pick up this book from Lisa Congdon, as I am familiar with her career and know that she’s been through it all.

Make Art That Sells
Art Licensing Academy* (new course starts tomorrow!)
Maria Brophy
Jessica Swift
Make It In Design
All Art Licensing.

Laura Roeder – I’ve mentioned Laura Roeder quite a few times, and there are some bigger names out there, but what I love about Laura is that she breaks down the info in easy to understand ways. She’s so good that I can name five other successful marketing people that are just re-sharing what they learned from her. It makes me so sad that these people were in the same class as me with her to try and learn how to market their business, and just decided to do what Laura was doing.

Elizabeth Potts Weinstein – I actually met Elizabeth in the very first course Laura Roeder ever taught in 2008 or 2009. She is so chill, and is great at explaining legal matters in a way that us non-lawyers can understand. She shares a lot of great tips for free, too!

I hope these lists are helpful to you. I know many of these resources have been amazing for me. If you can’t find someone that is teaching/mentoring in your field, try reaching out to someone that is succeeding and offer to pay them for consulting. I’m in an online group with some very successful handmade sellers, and many of them get hit up for advice and feel guilty because they are so successful/busy they don’t have time to help. If you do your own research, you’ll find most of the answers you seek; and when you’ve done all you can and still need help, be short and concise, reach out, and offer something in return. I’ve reached out to some successful licensed artists a few times, and they were happy to help, because my questions were to the point. I wasn’t bombarding them with lots of questions that showed I hadn’t done my research, and I wasn’t basically asking them to tell me all their trade secrets. There’s a lot of info out there to get you started, and hopefully these resources will help you take further steps. Check them out, and let me know if any of them helped you.

*affiliate link

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