Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Greeting Cards

I've wanted to make greeting cards ever since I had the idea to start a second shop for my writing. Not the typical cards that you learn how to make in scrapbook stores and such. Although I like those cards, I've bought them on Etsy before, that isn't what I wanted to do with my own shop. My shop was for my writing. I want my cards to say something; I want to write them myself.
I'm planning a line with some humor (those are my favorite kinds of cards), silly rhyming poetry (that's the only poetry I write), and inspiring famous quotations. I made my first two cards (actually I made three because the first one sold already - Whoo Hoo!) today and posted them in my shop.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Not Made in China

So I was at Target over the weekend looking for a hard baby toy that my daughter could chew on. My first born wasn't much of a chewer, even when she was teething, but the new baby's reason for being seems to be to get everything possible into her mouth. Like so many, I'm hesitant to buy something from China and learn next week that it isn't safe, so I read the packaging for all the baby chew toys they had. Every single one was made in China. Every single one.

Now I'm on a mission. For some reason, the fact that I couldn't find something not made in China has made it that much more important to me to do so. I'm happy to say that I have success finding some great toys made in America and Europe, and I want to share.

Now obviously - I make baby and kid toys, and I'm in America. My baby loves her blocks and her I-spy security blanket - she studies it and chomps away at it. I'm a big fan of simple, stimulating, home-made toys, but I can't make everything I want. So this is where the search comes in.

1. Etsy.com
This is always the first place I shop. I'm a part of the Etsykids street team, and if you just enter "Etsykids" into the search box you'll find a ton of great handmade kids stuff. So if you're looking for blocks, you can enter "blocks etyskids". This will help a lot because of the way the Etsy search function works, if you were to enter 'blocks' by itself, you end up with a lot of 'block prints' and other non-kid items. Using the Etsykids search will make sure you only get kid related results. There is one, non-etsykids shop I want to mention because of his cool toys: Stump Pond Woodworks

2. I found this cool list of Websites that sell mass-produced baby toys that are not made in China, if that's what you're looking for:
80% of toys are made in China, but not these!

I'm sure there are more resources out there - feel free to share any you've found in the comments section. Together we can avoid buying from China.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Giveaways are fun.

I want to give away a copy of my zine. Would you like it? If so then just comment on this entry (as long as your comment links me back to someplace I can contact you if you win) or send an e-mail to me at karabu74@yahoo.com with Zine Giveaway in the subject line.

I will collect entries through the end of Aug, and announce a winner at the beginning of Sept. This is a kind of 'Thank You' to everyone for giving me such encouragement at Etsy, and with my blog. It really means a lot to me. Plus - giveaways are fun.

and, as promised, here's the link to my story published at A Long Story Short:
http://www.alongstoryshort.net/athiefinthenight.html

Monday, August 13, 2007

About me - sorry.

I've been tagged by Jen at Mama's Magic. So I'm supposed to list 6 weird things about myself. I don't really consider myself 'weird', though others may - so I'm interpreting this to mean 'unusual'.

Here goes:
1. I'm a huge Sci-Fi fan. I've even been to a Star Trek Convention. Now while I consider this perfectly normal- other people seem to think I'm a bit odd because of it.

2. I used to be a wild animal trainer - yet my favorite animals to work with were the llamas.

3. My dad and I once invented and built a wheelchair for a paralyzed cat. We were in the newspaper for that.

4. I'm not afraid of snakes or spiders - I even like them, but I can't stand ants, yet I'm considering getting an ant farm for my daughter. I guess they feel safer to me trapped in the farm.

5. I'm addicted to paper and fabric. I love having it around - looking at it and touching it, even if I don't make anything from it. In fact, I'm always just a little bit sad to cut into a pattern that I particularly love.

6. I have an odd sense of humor. I am frequently to only one laughing in a theater at an odd moment, or I tell jokes and only receive blank stares in return. I get it from my dad. We laugh with each other a lot.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

What I've Learned So Far.

I've been reading marketing books, reading marketing blogs, and lurking in business forums for several months now. I've also been trying to get my own home business off the ground while assisting my husband with marketing his Network Consulting business. I still have a lot to learn. But I want to share some of what I've learned so far.

I see similar questions in a lot of the forums I've visited, along the lines of "Where can I promote my business?" Sometimes people give a list of websites to use, or more often, just some generic advice to talk to everyone you meet about your business, post about it everywhere, etc. etc. While this shotgun sort of approach, as one of my marketing book calls it, may get your name out there, who knows if it's getting to the people who may actually be interested in your services or not? I started out this way too. Just looking to see what others were doing, and following suit. I guess it's a natural approach for a beginner. There's the thought that they wouldn't be doing it if it didn't work, right? Some flawed logic there, I'm learning.

So if that method isn't efficient, what are we to do? Step one is something I didn't bother to do when I started, but needed to be done. Identifying our target market. Who are we trying to sell our goods or services to? Without pinning that down as specifically as possible, we send a lot of time marketing to potentially the wrong groups. I've used Craigslist to place ads for both my handmade baby toys, and my husbands Consulting business. It has worked to some degree for him, but done nothing for me. Likewise, some of my online networking (myspace, forum posts on various sites) has brought my shop some traffic, but would be silly for my husband to do since he can only take jobs that he can drive to - online marketing to the whole world isn't what he should be using his energy on.

Even more closely related businesses should have a different marketing strategy. My target market may not be the same as that of someone who sells baby slings, or children's clothing. We may have some overlap, but we are looking to fill different needs, and as such we should be tailoring our marketing message for our specific ideal audience. Now finding that specific audience is something I'm still working on. However, know who I'm looking for is really helping me find them. I don't have a lot of free time. I don't want to use that precious marketing time telling people who couldn't care less about toys for small children. It would be like sending one of my Sci-Fi stories in to "Time Magazine". Just wastes everyone's time.

So that's my advice. Think about your product. Who needs it? If you think "everyone", you need to rethink. Even things that everyone truly does need, like toilet paper, have specific markets. For example, I only buy recycled toilet paper. Other people only want super soft and fluffy paper, other only care about cost. If you think enough about what you have to offer, and how it's special, you'll start to see the type of person you're trying to find.