Starting a handcrafted goods business is a lot of fun, and can also bring a lot of professional satisfaction. However, if you don’t do your homework then that fun can become a nightmare very quickly. Use these tips to learn more about how to successfully start your own handcrafted goods business today!
1. Make an Awesome Product
What is the most important part of a business that sells handcrafted goods? The product itself! This is where everything starts, and if you are passionate about what you do, the authenticity of your product will be infused with everything you create. It is very apparent when a company is trying to run a business instead of building the best product that they possibly can, and building product credibility promotes organic growth and makes consumers more likely to buy something that they trust and want to tell others about. So, don’t rush ideation, and put a premium on quality.
2. Tell a Story
Your product and your story go hand-in-hand. Whether you are selling a truly superior product or not, your consumer is buying your story. When they show off your product to a friend, the first thing that they talk about will not be the diamond-stitched seams, or the rustic burnished edges, it will be about you and your brand. For example, my company,Vortic Watches, sells custom, handcrafted luxury watches. We can talk all day about our custom machined parts, cool 3d printed cases, and hand-cut leather bands. But, the story of our company’s migration to Northern Colorado to pursue superior craftsmanship, and the rich history of watch making imbued in every timepiece we fabricate, resonates with customers and is what creates an authentic brand. Those cool facts about the nuances of your product are the credibility behind your story-telling.
3. Look for Press Opportunities
Press is your best friend. It is the tangible realization of your story-telling efforts. Good press outlets have already built credibility, so when they talk, people usually listen. This is especially important in a world where people are berated with ads from the minute they wake up to the minute they go to sleep. And, for a small company with a tight budget, a positive press appearance on a well read publication, blog, or other media outlet will reach far more people than a standard, expensive direct advertisement, as well as improve your company’s credibility.
4. Make a Simple Website
Simple is the key word here. The best handcrafted product websites have a minimalist theme and rely heavily on high quality images. When people visit your site they should be immediately imbued with a sense of your company’s ideals. There are great tools on the web to create a beautiful site, and they don’t require any previous coding or technical skills. Try Squarespace or Shopify to get started!
5. Promote Your Brand on Social Media
You can make social media as complicated or simple as you would like, depending on your comfort level. Hand-made products usually lend themselves to imagery, and image based media can really help tell that story about quality. It is a must to have a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. There are other outlets, but we’ve found these four to be the most effective. The most important thing here is to have a schedule and consistency. Make sure to post a picture to Instagram each day, tweet as often as you’d like, add pictures to Pinterest periodically, and use some sort of engagement technique on Facebook. For example, Vortic has a “Timepiece Tuesday” each week where we spotlight a unique pocket watch, and we encourage our followers to send us pictures of their own pocket watches. This is a great tool for getting people involved on an interactive level where they feel like they are part of the conversation.
6. Optimize Manufacturing
Making a single handmade product is a wonderful experience. Putting in your best effort and spending the time to inspect every detail leaves you with a beautiful product that you can be shamelessly proud of. However, switching gears to making hundreds and even thousands of that same product is a different story entirely. I’m not saying that you need to sacrifice quality here, but it is very important to create an efficient and effective process of multiplying your efforts. If all your time is spent inefficiently making your product then you’ll have no time to promote it, not to mention that inefficient manufacturing increases your cost and labor margins!
7. Create Relationships with Manufacturers
It is next to impossible to make every single component of your product yourself. Whether it’s thread, tanned leather, brass buckles, etc. there will be a time when you need a manufacturer to make specific components that you cannot. This is why forming trusting and lasting relationships with your manufacturers is crucial. We have found this to be easiest when we source locally. This is why we source all of our components (at least those not made in-house) in the United States, and the majority of them are made in our home state of Colorado. Being able to walk into your manufacturer’s facility and understand their process is unbelievably helpful. And, you will be astonished at how much more someone who values your business is willing to do for you when you are in a pinch! Maker’s Row has a great lineup of quality manufacturers to get you started.
8. Ask Questions, Get Help!
Last but not least, do not be afraid to ask questions and get help. One person cannot expect to excel at every part of the business as well as making and designing the product. It is important to build a circle of advisors that you can trust for sound advice who also sincerely care about you and your business. When you run into an issue, at least one of these people will say, “I had the same thing happen to me years ago, here’s what I’d do…” and you’ve now avoided paying someone for help and/or pulling your hair out about the unknowns. There is so much to learn and do, and other people have done these things before, so why not learn from them? Sometimes the best advice comes from people who aren’t even in your industry!
There are no cookie cutter guidelines to starting a business, especially when it comes to the handcrafted goods industry. But, if you try some of the tips laid out here it might make your life a whole lot easier, and your business more successful. Keep on making!