3 Simple Ways to Rest

3 Simple Ways to Rest

This was a time before cell phones were clutched in palms, a time that was fast paced in respect to it's time, but much slower compared to the lives we live today. 

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At Home With Essie - A Family Print Shop

"I'm greatly inspired by nature and classic detailing, things of the past, old and used items that have a story to be told." - Essie (AFPS)

It's a Monday morning, you'll find Essie in the kitchen of her New Jersey home making breakfast, while classical music is chirping in the background. Once the bellies of her two littles are full it's time for school at home, story time, play time, nap time, and more play time.  

A seemingly normal day in the Griffin household uniquely transitions in the evenings. In addition to homeschooling and homemaking, Essie operates her growing business, "A Family Print Shop".

We have dinner, play, baths, books, song, pray, and bed! Then work really starts for me. Most of my drawing and computer work happens at night until midnight, although I'm trying to stop by 11:00. During our busy seasons I have to work throughout the day while the kids are awake. I'm not as productive, but it's the only way I'll make my deadlines.

In 2012, I was a stay at home mom to a one year old and I thought it would be fun to have something on the side that I could do. I started an Etsy shop selling random homemade crafts and wall art, including custom silhouettes. I wanted to make one of my son (a paper cut version).

My husband said he could show me a cool way of designing silhouettes on the computer. He also suggested that I sell them, as they weren't common back then. I only sold for about 6 months and then decided it was too much; I was newly pregnant with our 2nd. Fast forward about 2 years and while my husband was in a major job transition, we both agreed I should try my hand at the business again since financially we were majorly struggling. I decided to only sell silhouette art and redesigned my offerings.

About a year after starting again I joined Instagram to promote my shop and I worked really hard to get my name out there naturally and through word of mouth. The rest is history!

I am still learning and I think that's important to note. Running a business is a continual learning experience. You will grow and get better at your craft as time goes on. You will find better ways to manage your time and work efficiently as long as you are striving for better, asking questions, and gleaning from those around you. Finding a community that can encourage you and help you to remember your priorities is also critical. Run your business as ethically as you can and do what is right.    

I try to be friendly with all of my customers and I hope they realize that they aren't just a customer, but rather an important part of this business. What we are creating for them is something special and in return they are a special part of AFPS! 

Running a business while also being a stay at home mom is hard! For me, running a business comes pretty natural. I could work 24/7 if I let myself because I love what I do. But I also feel the heavy weight of not wanting to sacrifice the blessing of raising children and being home with them. My goal was never to work full time, rather work part time here and there. At this point we have big decisions to make as to where to take this business. Thankfully my husband is capable of doing everything that I do (he taught me all I know). We are taking steps to have him come on board more and more; with his help I can get back to working more reasonable hours and focusing on my mama role. 

I'm greatly inspired by nature and classic detailing. Things of the past. Old and used items that have a story to be told. I love that silhouette art is an old art form and bringing it back with modern & fresh, yet classic designs is really exciting!  

I never expected to have grown to the point that we have as a business. I'm grateful. My dream is for us as a family to have time together each day, to not work our life away, but rather to live simply and love what we do. To do it together, while raising and teaching our children. 

Eight Ways to Collaborate - Small Business

"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much." - Helen Keller

On any given day you can scroll through Instagram and see two more brands coming together to collaborate. Maybe it's a giveaway, or perhaps a product collaboration, or a gathering together to sell and promote one another's work. Collaboration has the obvious benefit of sharing fans and followers, but it runs deeper. Collaboration is an avenue for encouragement; it provides a burst of inspiration, and authentic motivation. 

 Our handcrafted photo rails and  Artifact Uprising  prints. 

Our handcrafted photo rails and Artifact Uprising prints. 

GIVEAWAYS 

When you hear the word "collaboration" the first thing that comes to mind is probably "giveaway". This is how many of us started to get to know one another (unless you were part of the "Etsy Treasury Team" era). And yes, giveaways are a wonderful way to engage your following and introduce people to something new, and one or a few lucky people will benefit tangibly by winning. Send a DM to a few other shops and schedule a giveaway together.

Sarah, from "Chalk Full of Love" occasionally hosts giveaways, and her followers are cheerfully engaged. Visit her feed to see how she masterfully engages her followers with her products and her lighthearted spirit. 

PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY 

A more subtle approach to collaborating would be to include other products in your own product photography. You could take this further and create a link to the product in your listing. This works especially well when the products work together practically in some fashion (for example, a frame and a print). With more photos of your own product (if another shop uses your product in their photos too) you have a greater variety of photos to advertise your product with. Reach out to a brand that you think would be willing to participate and swap some products and eventually some photos.

Hilary Walker is a Dallas stylist/blogger who now collaborates with the Magnolia brand. Visit her feed to see how she works to create beautiful vignettes for photos shoots. Often times these shoots incorporate a collaboration of artist/designer and product/manufacturer. 

SHARE THE LOVE 

You see many feeds posting a "Follow Friday" or a "Friday Favorites" type post. You can do this too! You don't have to necessarily ask for a return favor, you'll reap what you sow. The simple act of sharing about others will demonstrate to others that you like collaborating and will likely get you connected with some new "IG friends" (that's what I like to call them). 

Aly from "For Such a Time Designs" often shares about products she loves, and creatively incorporates her own products in the photos. She has collaborated with various brands; take a scroll through her feed, you'll love everything (and you may become hungry). 

BLOG ABOUT OTHERS 

If you have a blog, choose one or two brands each month to share about. The featured shop will likely share your post with their following too. Think about brands that your followers would love to learn about. If you sell a natural type of product, share other related "natural" products; if you sell handmade coffee cups, share about a local coffee roasting company. And EVERYONE loves to peek inside the homes and workspaces of other brands, it's intriguing and inspiring. 

We recently shared about Elisa from "Song of A Sparrow" on our blog. 

SELL A PRODUCT TOGETHER

We did this a long time ago with our friend Missy from Beach Blues. She makes beautiful painted mason jars, and at the time we were selling mason jar soap dispensers. Customers had the option of ordering our pump mechanism paired with her painted jars. It was a wonderful collaboration. Maybe you make candles, why not contact a potter and have them create some candle holders for your candles? 

Essie from "A Family Print Shop" recently added these gorgeous lockets to hold her mini silhouette illustrations. Instead of sourcing lockets from a larger manufacturer she uses lockets that are made by "Dear Mushka", another small business. 

GUEST POST

You can have people guest post with or without a blog. Guest posting is possible on IG too! Bring someone to your feed for a day or two and have them share from their perspective. Maybe you make baby accessories? Have a mom share a day in her life on your feed with her new baby and the products she uses (including yours). 

Erickson Woodworks creates beautiful display boards that are used by food bloggers and photographers all over the world. They are tagged with sharable content on a daily basis. If you have an idea for a product that your customers will be eager to tag you in, go for it! (another example would be Letterfolk) Basically your customers will be collaborating with you on a daily, ongoing basis!

PRODUCT REVIEW

A beautiful photo of someone's product curated nicely in your home is a great way to share about a product you love, and likewise, the best way to have your photo shared on their feed as well. 

Soury from Kawaii Goodies is a master product reviewer, but more specifically she is a master encourager and promoter. Head to her feed to see her work; she is a well of wisdom. 

GET TOGETHER

This is the most complicated yet the most simple way to collaborate. Get together with a few other brands when you can, critique one another's shops, share what's working, share where you're struggling, share your process, your craft, your art. We all have much to learn. (Share a pic of your gathering on IG and tag everyone...this is pretty obvious, but easily overlooked when you're wrapped up in quality conversation.)

Trent from Preszler Woodshop isn't only great about sharing the work of other woodworkers and genuinely taking the time to learn about them, but he gets together with them too. His feed and his craftsmanship is an inspiration. 

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

At Home With Elisa - Song of A Sparrow

Most of all, don't compare yourself to others, but walk in the beauty of uniqueness of who God has made you to be.  - Elisa, Song of A Sparrow

Tucked away in the San Bernardino Mountains, in the scenic town of Lake Arrowhead, California, is the lovely "soaper" or soap maker, Elisa. She fell in love with handmade soap when she was a child. "I visited a family-owned farm where they made and sold their own handmade soap. Their soaps smelled amazing, and I was fascinated by the process and beautiful result, so it became something I always wanted to do. 

 "It has a bubbly, creamy lather and is also safe for sensitive skin."  

"It has a bubbly, creamy lather and is also safe for sensitive skin."  

Years later, Elisa began to teach herself the traditional cold process method of making soap. She experimented with different oils and ingredients, and eventually created her own personal recipe for an all-natural bar of soap. Originally she sold her soap on Etsy but has now transitioned to her own website. 

"Living in the mountains makes for a very a peaceful and tranquil environment, something I thrive in. I love listening to music when I create. I feel like something is missing if I don't. Right now I listen to mainly folk and Indie worship, blue grass, and classic rock.

Making soap requires a lot of focus because you have to multitask and work quickly at the same time, or the batch could be ruined.  It takes me about two hours from start to finish to make a batch of soap, which yields about 20 soaps. After I've mixed all of my ingredients together, it turns into a thick, hot liquid that I pour into a wooden mold. I then cover it with a lid, wrap it up in blankets, and put it on the shelf for two nights. After two nights of being in the mold, it turns into a hard soap and it's ready to take out and be cut into bars. After it's cut, the bars then have to cure for two weeks on a wire rack. I have a workshop in my home with lots of shelves that I use to cure my soap. Once the soap is cured, it's safe to use.

I also love to do my own product photography. I don't consider myself a photographer, but photography has been another creative outlet for me. Being my own product stylist and photographer is a big part of the creative process for me and I enjoy it immensely."  

"I think being surrounded by beauty in nature of where I live inspires me. Sometimes I'll get inspiration while I'm on a walk in the woods. I might look at a tree or wildflowers and think, how can I create a bar of soap out of that?I'm drawn to soap that is natural and also looks natural. I never use fragrance or synthetic materials in my soap. I can't make a soap unless I like the scent myself and that I would use it myself."

While social media has been a place of creative inspiration for Elisa, it has also been a platform to grow her business. Farmers markets, auctions, retreats, friends, family, craft fairs, parties, and showers have also been avenues for Elisa to share her soap and establish new customers. 

Elisa also creates spa salts and lovely knitted blankets and "scrubbies". She sells her products on both her website and in a few retail shops, and she hopes for continued growth. She also dreams of a bigger studio and her own place of business in Lake Arrowhead. 

"I plan for the future, but I try not to think about it too much. It can be overwhelming. I just commit my plans to God and then live one day at a time. I'm very happy living and working in beautiful Lake Arrowhead, but I'm open for adventure."

"Create what you love to do and makes you happy, and then work hard at it. Strive for perfection, but don't expect it. Enjoy the process. You can't be everything to everybody. Not everybody is going to love your product and that's ok. Nurture and love those customers who do. Most of all, don't compare yourself to others, but walk in the beauty of uniqueness of who God has made you to be."

When she's not hard at work making soap, Elisa is spending time with her sweet family. She also leads worship with her husband at their church, what a beautiful way to share together as husband and wife. It has been a pleasure to share about Elisa, and peek inside of her beautiful home. Be sure to visit her on social media and follow along with her soap making journey.

Elisa will be offering 20% off through Sunday, April 2nd! Use the code "HURDandHONEY20" on her website. Thank you for supporting Song of A Sparrow!

Spring Clean Your Online Shop

In the spring there is an exciting energy in the air, we're motivated, eager to tidy our homes and fill our beds with lovely flowers (flower beds). The spring is also a season to "spring clean" your business, specifically, your online shop(s). 

Realistically I don't know that Sam and I will be able to tackle all of our suggested bits explained here, in fact we haven't attempted to clean up our online shops in more than a couple of years. Now that Ester is toddling around and we've established a more solid grasp on parenthood, combined with running Hurd & Honey, we should be able to clean things up (at least a little)!

1. Add New Photos

 We do love our cover photo, but it feels a little holiday-esqe, it's time to change it!

We do love our cover photo, but it feels a little holiday-esqe, it's time to change it!

Yes, it's the most time consuming part of running an online shop, but also healthy for your shop. You likely have several great photos of each of your products, so instead of completely replacing your current photos, focus on taking one great new shot of each product you sell (and their variations). When choosing props, go with a simple setting, but still connected to your branding. Maybe some fresh peonies or your newest stack of antique books? One new shot can give your online shop a facelift for spring, and this will also give you new content to share on Instagram, Pinterest, and with your mailing list. 

2. Simplify Your Titles

 Our title here is a bit much! I'm thinking "23 x 35 Chalkboard - Reclaimed Wood Frame" would be substantial. 

Our title here is a bit much! I'm thinking "23 x 35 Chalkboard - Reclaimed Wood Frame" would be substantial. 

Using the data you've collected from your customers, revise your titles. Titles that have too much information can mislead your shoppers. Save the specific details for your tags and keywords, and be brief with your titles. Also, check for consistency with your the way you phrase, organize details, use capital letters, and special characters (-,) in your titles. 

3. Revise Your Tags

 Our tags above ( the blue text)...several of these keywords are never searched when we look at our stats. For example, "blackboard", "Christmas gift" - these really need to be swapped out with something else. 

Our tags above ( the blue text)...several of these keywords are never searched when we look at our stats. For example, "blackboard", "Christmas gift" - these really need to be swapped out with something else. 

On Etsy you can add up to 13 tags, use them all, but change the tags that aren't helping you, and add some new ones. Remove your holiday related tags (Christmas, Holiday, etc.) Also, Etsy has a new attributes feature to help shoppers find your products (colors, holidays, occasions), use these if you can. 

4. Streamline Your Descriptions

 All of this information is the description of one item! It's a lot...and we probably need to go through and take out what doesn't matter...and maybe update the spacing too so it's not so much to read. People don't like to read much anymore. :)

All of this information is the description of one item! It's a lot...and we probably need to go through and take out what doesn't matter...and maybe update the spacing too so it's not so much to read. People don't like to read much anymore. :)

Think of your descriptions as the place your customers go to find answers to their questions. Make the information clear and simple. This will help avoid extra messages from customers and likewise should result in easier purchasing. 

5. Double-Check Your Pricing and Shipping Fees

 We integrated pricing into a variation since we often get asked if we can build something quicker. It's now just a simple part of our pricing. There are still a few inconsistencies between our different online shops that we need to go in and correct. 

We integrated pricing into a variation since we often get asked if we can build something quicker. It's now just a simple part of our pricing. There are still a few inconsistencies between our different online shops that we need to go in and correct. 

While you're in the revise/edit mode it's also worthwhile to consider any changes to your pricing and shipping. 

6. Update Your Profile

 We've never updated the little paragraph below the first line...and I don't think we ever will. I read it sometimes to remind myself why we're doing what we're doing. But the other details, our photo, etc. I'll be sure to update from time to time. (For example, Instagram wasn't something we used when we first opened, so I added that in 2014.)

We've never updated the little paragraph below the first line...and I don't think we ever will. I read it sometimes to remind myself why we're doing what we're doing. But the other details, our photo, etc. I'll be sure to update from time to time. (For example, Instagram wasn't something we used when we first opened, so I added that in 2014.)

On Etsy spruce up your About section, your profile...on your own website add something new to your "About" page. Maybe you have a new photo of yourself, or an exciting change/announcement for your business. Adding new process photos/videos is also something to consider if you have the time. 

7. Rearrange Your Shop

 As you can see here, we still have Christmas items listed on our landing page. This is the first thing customers see, and it's March, not December. We really need to clean this up!

As you can see here, we still have Christmas items listed on our landing page. This is the first thing customers see, and it's March, not December. We really need to clean this up!

Once you've gone through all of your backdoor updates take a look at your shopping pages from your customer's perspective. Consider what changes can be made in terms of how your listings are presented. For spring you'll want more airy, and clean looking shopping pages. 

8. Add Something New

 This chalkboard is our newest product, it has a natural wood frame. We still haven't added it to our Etsy shop! Need to do this! 

This chalkboard is our newest product, it has a natural wood frame. We still haven't added it to our Etsy shop! Need to do this! 

Maybe you've been meaning to add a new variation, or maybe even and entire new product. Adding this in the spring gives your new option/product time to pick up traction before the next holiday season. Spring is a great time to launch something new. 

Offering Coupons and Discounts

Offering Coupons and Discounts

Large brands always seem to be offering coupons and discounts during the holiday season, if not, always. For small businesses this can be a little tricky. It's a challenge to discount something that has been made by hand, with love. We have definitely made our share of mistakes with coupons and discounts, but have also had great results come from promotions as well.

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