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It's Time for Another End of Season Sale



When i read “Growing your Handmade Business” by Kari Chapman and wrote this blog post, I was all ready for jump in and write a business plan, look at rental properties, launch a new marketing technique, etc, etc.  . . Then I went a little crazy at the local library and took out about six books on inter-library loan also on business planning for small creative businesses.

One of these books is “Etsy-Preneurship” by Jason Malinak. Now this book is an eye-opener. Where Chapin’s books are very inspirational and definitely geared towards the creative person, this book reminded me of the things I have really been putting off, like taxes, EINs, and other procedural paperwork kind of things.

So I’m back to the drawing board for a while getting my ducks in a row with the state. In Illinois fortunately they have something called the Illinois Business Gateway. I love the name. I’m picturing a magical gateway leading into a realm of possibility and dreams coming true . . .

Once I register with the great state of Illinois, I will be much more legitimized and all confident again. I am registered with the county, but to be fully realized, I must register with the Illinois Department of Revenue. Thank you Jason Malinak for prioritizing for me. Once I get through all this boring stuff, I can get back to marketing and business plans and endless hours of research into my dream store location.

Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor.

When we think of people who write books about business and economics, we do not think of quotes such as the one above. As I work on my business plan, I have been researching sustainable business practices and businesses with those practices in place that represent my market.

In this research I rediscovered Paul Hawken, an entrepreneur, environmentalist, author, an all together amazing person. The above quote is one of my favorite Hawken quotes.

A big buzz word lately is “sustainablity.” I use it all the time, in fact it’s in my mission statement (well my mission statement in progress) When I am asked to come up with the point of my business, that word comes to mind first and foremost.

So what is it? According to Paul Hawken, “The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces or at least not to defy them.” That might seem like hippy mumbo jumbo at first glance or maybe you think our commerce can’t possibly ever be “sustainable.” How ridiculous to think we would live in harmony with our planet (which is our home by the way and the only one we have and it would be perfectly content to be rid of us)

Really think about the word, “Sustainability” Quite simply, the ability to sustain. Now does that seem like hippy mumbo jumbo?

So what would I like to sustain? Human intelligence and our access to our base of collected knowledge (I would like to trade and sell used books) I would also like to sustain our natural ecosystems and beautiful landscapes, really who doesn’t? So I purchase from local small scale farming operations. Large scale farming is not practical and not necessary and if we really must have it, we can invest in our infrastructure and build vertical farms. Another really awesome person wrote about that, Dickson Despommier in “Vertical Farming”

I would like to sustain community development and creativity. So I started “Ripples Book Club” and I work at the public library. I also want to sustain my bottom line, but as Mr. Hawken says, “The bottom line is where it belongs, at the bottom”

So what can I do sustain and also grow my business? Better World Books has a fantastic business model that has 6 rules:

  • Customer Focus
  • People Matter
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Foster Innovation
  • Passion for Literacy
  • People, Planet, Profit (in other words, the Triple Bottom Line)

And what’s really important? Does my business venture sustain my happiness. The answer is absolutely yes. I find a lot of joy thinking, planning, and scheming was to make my business grow and sustain itself. When I get super excited thinking about what I’m going to make for Etsy next, I know I’m doing the right thing.


P.S. Better World Books is absolutely fantastic. Please check them out. They are one of the outlets I sell through with Ellipsis and I am very proud to do so!

Lately instead of vigorously being creative with every day objects, I have been figuring out if my business is ready to take to the next level.

On Alibris, I have 700 books for sale, sitting in piles and boxes all over the office floor are around 1,000 more to catalog! Now you might say, “Wow! That’s great!” Indeed it is. Now imagine cataloging all those books one at a time and then storing them in my tiny house until they sell and then tracking the book down, packing it professionally, and shipping it. And then doing all the accounting.

Then on top of that, I am running three Etsy shops, all of which are relatively successful. Of course I’m also trying to take classes. I want be certified in Advanced Web Design. I have a basic certification now and I’ve been working on the advanced certificate for quite some time . . . I have a three year old constantly at my feet (or climbing on my back. I was doing planks this morning during my workout with an extra 25 pounds on back!) and I have two part time jobs + a semi part time job. I am also working on the publishing end of Ellipsis. Then on top of all that I have to keep my house reasonably clean, cook meals, and take care of the garden.

All of this, from time to time, gets very old. I have to admit it. Trying to work up to self sufficiency is not easy, especially with massive student loan debt (that’s whole other gripe session.) So I’m searching for ways to do a bit less. One of the ideas I came up with was to open an actual brick and mortar store.

Whoa now, you are probably wondering, how on Earth would that be less work? Well let me explain, maybe by less work I really mean more organized. If we could get our office (my fiancee and I) out of our house, that would be all sorts of awesome. Our daughter could more into the office and have an actual bedroom! Then her tiny room could be a craft room. (!!!)

The plan would be to keep two of my jobs, the library and bookstore, and hire Matthew to work at the store three days a week, whereas I would work the rest. He would do all this graphic and CG work at the office/store. We would do publishing (print and online) and also keep all the online stores running. Our daughter could be there with us. Fortunately Galena has a pretty steady stream of tourists in peak season, unfortunately Galena is very slow between January and March (and I mean VERY slow), and rent is astronomical. So perhaps I could find an upstairs studio apartment or loft with a Main Street entrance? This would be completely acceptable.

So I’m finding myself putting together a business plan. I always sort of had one, but never Grow Your Own Handmade Businessofficially. It’s been wonderful! I am getting thoughts together and organizing my ideas into valid concepts. Really helping me with this is the book, “Grow Your Own Handmade Business” by Kari Chapin. Click the picture for her blog. It is very easy to read and makes a lot of sense. I’ve tried more “traditional” business books, but they are just not in my language. Kari follows a logical sequence and although I will probably need a bit more information once I am finished working through the book, I will have a great foundation. It’s set up like a workbook and has exercises throughout to enforce what is being read. It’s also very real. I feel like she is just talking to me with practical advice and first person experience. I love that if she honestly is not sure of something she says that and then finds someone to interview that does know.

One of the exercises I really found helpful and think will be even more helpful in a “public” manner is to take stock of successes. So what have I accomplished since I opened for business?

  • Registered a real business with the country
  • Opened a book store on Alibris and reached 700 books for sale and sold 500
  • Opened an Etsy shop for used books, jams, jellies, and teas
  • Opened an Etsy shop for vintage items and another for handmade and upcycled items
  • In 2012 I made a significant profit!
  • Set up at my first craft show
  • Found a commercial kitchen for my use
  • Began to sell in a retail location
  • Regularly kept a blog!
  • Found local producers for all of my products!

See now that I remembered what I have already done, thinking about what I still have to do isn’t so bad. Now I can tackle things in a new light.

Carrot Cake for Breakfast

Since it’s almost time to make more. I opened up my last jar of Carrot Confit Jam. It is made with cardamom and lemon juice. On toast with cream cheese it tasted like carrot cake! Yum! In the Spring it will make it’s reappearance on Etsy.

I am so excited for the new year, I am going to blog! It’s been a very long time, but I feel like I need to get back into it and also vent about how awesome 2012 ended up being.

This past year flew by me with the speed of light. Seriously I cannot believe it is over. Thinking back I am really quite happy with it. Ellimena turned two! She learned to count to five and some of her letters. She loves to read books and can name all the characters in Doctor Who. She says EXTERMINATE and makes the TARDIS sound! I am proud of my “nerd in training” She also makes her own scrambled eggs (with close supervision) and loved to be an independent yet loving human being. I am so proud of her.

Ellipsis has grown! I am now making the jams and jellies in a commercial kitchen at Ramona Sunny’s Bakery and Delicatessen in Galena. They are also for sale there and have been selling quite well. Jelly for sale at Ramona Sunny'sI am planning to approach other retailers in the area soon.

I made a great friend, Rachel O’Neil of Ayerish Designs. She does amazing knit-work and upcycled jewelery as well as sells vintage clothing. Rachel and I set up at craft shows together this holiday season. I’m looking forward to setting up at more in the Spring!

Business was great this past year. It is the first year I turned a significant profit. Not only did I run Ellipsis, but I also ran two other Etsy shops, Dodge Street Antiques and SisterCollective.Dodge Street is a place to vent all my vintage obsessions. I love vintage games and miniatures, but never indulge myself, now I can help others indulge themselves! SisterCollective is a collaboration between my sister and I. We create different forms of fiber art. Thea makes beautiful hemp jewelery with high end materials and I make needle felted wool sculptures and well as knitted items.

I want to really delve into fiber art and upcylclinNeedle felted owlg fabrics. I have loads of ideas for felting, I am becoming more of knitter, and my new sewing machine should be here soon (thanks mom) I bought a book on crocheting, The Happy Hooker, and I want to pick up that skill as well. I am so happy to be working in fiber again. I love tactile arts.

I am amazed and proud of my sister, her jewelery is beautiful.

Amber Piece with Troll Beads

Necklace with Shells and Blue Glass Charm

I worked my butt off this year, even with all three Etsy shops aside, I added 400 books to my Alibris shop and sold close to 200. I served on the steering committee for the Northwest Illinois Food Co-op and designed their website, maintained their Facebook, and set up their Paypal. Unfortunately it didn’t work out and the efforts were abandoned. I worked two part time jobs as a server in a restaurant and a clerk at a book store. Right at the end of the year I was blessed with a new job offer. I will start at the Galena Public Library as a Page this week. No longer will I be serving schnitzels and frites!

I am also very proud of my garden efforts! We put up the green house this summer and grew seedlings in it. I revamped the garden and even though we had a horrible drought, I think we did pretty well. I learned a lot about how to deal with drought conditions. This Spring I plan on extending the gardens and growing more fruit. Huckleberries and ground cherries as well as some other interesting varieties. And a big shout out to Rachel O’Neil! She allowed me access to her wonderful property where peaches, wild plums, apples,mulberries, pears, and pumpkins were to be had and they made delicious jams, jellies, and fruit butters.

Fortunately, the world didn’t end last week! Bring on 2013!

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