9 Crucial Tips for Growing Wholesale Around the Holidays

Normal people start thinking about the holidays in late November. Makers, on the other hand, start thinking about the holidays, well, as soon as they recover from the last season.

As a maker, getting ready for the holidays can be stressful. On one hand, you want to make the most of the season to get sales -- especially wholesale sales -- in the door. On the other hand, you don’t want to oversell (and under-deliver) or create a stressful situation, trying to fulfill orders beyond your capacity.

So consider this your cheat sheet for holiday sales and holiday sanity. It’s for any maker who is trying to get their handmade line into more stores, but without driving themselves insane. We want to share our biggest learnings, based on watching hundreds of makers grow wholesale over the holidays. If we can save you time, frustration, and stress, then we’ve done our job.

As always: There are certainly no magic bullets in business and there is no “one size fits all” business growth plan. So be sure to “sense check” each piece of advice below with what you know is right for you and your line.

 

9 Crucial Tips to Grow Wholesale This Holiday Season:

1. Prepare your personal life.
This is a bit of a “do as I say not as I do” type recommendation. (We closed on, and moved into, our house on the same day we launched the biggest sale we’ve ever had. Not a recipe for sanity.) Here’s the deal, as you probably know if you’re more than a year into your business. Things get crazy around the holidays, especially if you’re trying to grow. You’re dealing with retail orders, wholesale orders, holiday markets, and production all at once. So it will be a little nuts, but the truth is that the truly nuts period is pretty short, probably about 4-6 weeks. It doesn’t last forever, so don’t “heap on”, adding other unnecessary commitments to the roster during those weeks. Try to set expectations with yourself, family, and friends so that you have as clean a slate as possible so you can focus on your business. During the most intensive 4-6 weeks, don’t sign up to volunteer or bake cookies for your kid’s thing or go away for a long weekend or do things for your business that aren’t directly related to holiday sales. It’s a short chunk of the year, so it’s ok if the rest of your life isn’t 100% “normal” during it.

 

2. Get the help you need -- early.
Ideally, you don’t wait until you’re already completely overwhelmed before you get help. The time to start setting it up is now, long before you’ll need it. Perhaps you’re so well-established that you can actually interview for skilled hourly workers to help you with production, and you already know how many hours per week, during which weeks, you will need them. If so -- GREAT -- make it happen. But, if your business is a little more unpredictable at this point, and you’re not sure whether you’ll need help, whether you’ll be able to pay for it, or how much help you’ll need -- that is ok. You can ask a couple of friends to commit to being “on call” during a 3-week period for movie-and-production nights. You can tell a friend’s teenage daughter you’ll pay her $8 an hour for production help but that it might be 2 hours or 22 hours. In other words, you can start cultivating the help you’ll need, but doing so in a way that is flexible and fits the stage that your business is at. It’s ok to tell people, “I might need help, but I’m not sure how much.”

 

3. Love the ones you’re with.
If you’re growing wholesale, it’s tempting to focus entirely on getting new orders from stores. But one of the most important things you can do is cultivate your relationships with your current stockists. In other words: love the one(s) you’re with. How to cultivate reorders during the holidays? So many store owners tell me that they don’t have a super-precise system for deciding what to reorder. So a big part of your focus should be making your line visible to the stockist and being of service to the stockist. That way you’re top-of-mind when the store owner is making their list of items to buy. The way I’d recommend doing this is “rounding up” a list of your current stockists. In the Wholesale In a Box system, you can do this easily (our full guide on this is here) just by filtering for All Stockists. I’d recommend reviewing one by one, reflecting on who might benefit from a check-in and what they’d be interested in hearing about (whether an update or a new product). Then, schedule a task for each store that you think would be good to check in with. Again, that’s easy to do in Wholesale In a Box by clicking Add a Task, but you can also do it in your regular calendar or task management system. The idea here is: 1) reflect on who will benefit from a check-in 2) plan out and schedule all the check-in tasks at once rather than getting distracted and doing them one-by-one.

 

4. Focus on your best sellers and what makes you distinctive.
Makers tend to think their line needs to be well-rounded. There is certainly some truth to that, but store owners often tell us that it is actually the 2 or 3 standout pieces that prompt them to choose this line over that line. Standout pieces help stores make sales when a customer is in the shop browsing. So if there is a piece that they simply can’t get anywhere else, it will likely push them over the edge to choosing your line, and putting together enough other pieces from the line to make a full order.

 

5. Get your outreach materials as good as they can be, so they’re not holding you back.
The pre-holiday period is a great time of year to spruce up your outreach materials. It doesn’t have to be a hugely time consuming process, but if you can set aside even an hour to pull up all of your outreach materials and look at them with fresh eyes, that can be helpful. Take a look at your line sheet, product photography, email template, and other materials. Make a list of the things that will take the least investment of time and money that will have the biggest impact on the quality of your materials. Get a fresh pair of eyes on them if you can, too. (We provide Wholesale In a Box folks detailed feedback on their materials, but even a non-expert can often catch inconsistencies or mistakes that you might not have caught yourself.)

 

6. Connect with people who will love your work
The entire Wholesale In a Box service is built to help you connect with stores that will love your work. But I do want to demystify it for you. With Wholesale In a Box, we do the scouting for you, but you absolutely can do it for yourself with consistent investments of time and attention. Start by looking for stores for whom carrying your work should be a no-brainer. Find stores that are such great fits that you almost think they must already be carrying your work. Track them down locally and across the country. Once you find a good list of stores, connect with them from your heart. Do the thinking for them. Show them how your line can be sold as gifts. Explain why you think your work would be a great fit. And follow up. It’s not rocket science -- it just takes a little courage and a lot of consistency.

 

7. Take a step back and make a plan.
Gosh it’s hard for me to take my own advice, but here is the advice: the more you do early, the better the results, with the less stress you’ll have. Makers often ask me when the ideal time to reach out to stores for the holidays is, and my answer is: earlier than you think. Different stores wrap up their ordering at different times. But no matter the store, you really can’t lose by being a little too early.  August is a great time to start but most people delay their holiday wholesale outreach until it’s close to too late. My observation is that it’s actually fear that causes us to delay marketing and sales until the last possible minute. Because at the last possible minute, your fear that you’ve completely missed the boat starts to outweigh the fear of sharing your work. But if you can manage your own discomfort, your “return on investment” of marketing and sales work you do early will be SO much more than marketing and sales work you do at the last minute. So start now, plan what you intend to do to grow over the holidays, and take it one step at a time.

 

8. Launch ‘em if you’ve got ‘em.
If you have a product that’s brewing, pre-holiday season is a great time to do it. Don’t let it be a distraction for the sales and marketing of your current set of products. But if there is something that you think you could get out in time, the holidays are a great time to get new things out into the world. (And if you want some help launching new products without spending a lot of money or hearing crickets at launch time, check out the guide to launching new products that we created with Leela of Native Bear.

 

9. Work according to your business stage.
One tricky part of wholesale growth is that everyone needs slightly different advice. If you’re brand new, and this is your first holiday season, I’d recommend dramatically different things than if you’re 5 years into your business. Here is our top tip for each stage:

 

If you’re brand new…

 

If you’re brand new, don’t worry too much about being overwhelmed by a million sales. For the most part, it takes time to get traction and your main challenge (to be blunt) will be getting sales in the door at all. Focus on tips 4, 5, 6, and 7 above -- connect with stores as much and as effectively as you can. (Oh and for a nice primer on starting with wholesale for handmade lines, check out Aeolidia’s lovely post here.

 

If you have several holiday seasons under your belt already…

 

For the love of all things holy, process and act on that experience. Usually that means focusing on tips 1, 2, and 3 above. The majority of makers we work with have an incredible depth of experience and business savvy but they mentally discount it and say that they’re “making it up as they go along” or “flying by the seat of their pants.” Honestly? That is true for very few of the people that are reading this email. Claim the knowledge you have by spending 20 minutes jotting down answers to these questions:

  • What went well for me last holiday season?
  • What did I wish went better last holiday season?
  • If I were looking at my business from the outside, what would I recommend doing?
  • What are a few things I can do differently this year to build on what worked, do less of what didn’t, and get better results?

There is always an element of luck in business growth. But a huge portion of it is in your hands. You can grow your wholesale, and you can do it sanely. Start early, do what you can with what you have, and be realistic about the time and resources available to you.

If you are at the end of this post and find you still need help strategizing, we’re here to help. Just email team@wholesaleinabox.com and we’ll get back to you within 1 business day.



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Excited and Nervous to Tell You About This New Project...

Hey, you guys!

Today I want to announce a new project that’s really close to our hearts and one of the things I’ve been the most excited about since we started our business.

It’s also something that feels really vulnerable and personal and honest and scary. So the process of putting this together has been periods of pure joy interspersed with bouts of nausea.

 

Here goes:

  1. We’re starting a “sister” company to Wholesale In a Box that will make other tools and workbooks and training for makers, artists, and designers. That company is called One Mill Co. Just like villages used to have one mill where farmers got their grain ground and ready for market -- One Mill Co is a central place for makers to get tools and clear away obstacles to their work thriving.

  2. One Mill Co’s first project is a series of business Workbooks for makers, artists, and designers. These workbooks are beautiful, soulful and actionable. And we’re coauthoring them with some of the best makers in the business. (Like Gopi Shah, Falling Into Place, and Little Truths Studio.) The very first workbook will be coming out for preorder NEXT WEEK -- with a powerful topic and a gorgeous, wonderful coauthor who we’ll announce then.

In the meantime, I wanted to share the principles and ideas behind One Mill Co.

It’s our manifesto! Also known as: You Don’t Need Advice And 9 Other Things You Already Know.

Anyway, we’ll be announcing the very first One Mill Co workbook very soon! To receive updates on that, just sign up here!

You can also follow along with One Mill Co on:



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How to Know Whether Your Wholesale Minimum Is Hurting You

We got a great question from one of our favorite makers yesterday, a letterpress card maker who had decided not to have a wholesale minimum:

I don't currently offer a wholesale minimum and oftentimes a buyer will tell me that they are very appreciative of that -- it enables them to try product and figure out what they want to sell in store.

I'm in a weird place with my business where I am not currently doing this full time and I don't have a massive ton of product on hand. And I feel like if I start enforcing a $200 minimum order, I'm going to have to be printing a lot more often and I'm going to have to keep a lot more of each card/pin/etc. in stock at all times.

I know everyone's business is different. Do you think it’s possible that I don't have the same need for such a high minimum order? 

Am I crazy? Am I going against the flow for no reason?

On the flip side, sometimes we hear from makers that have chosen a very high wholesale minimum and have the same concern: am I crazy and will this hurt my business?

My short answer? No, you’re not crazy, and you’re likely not going against the flow for no reason. But you should think through a few cornerstones in wholesale minimum setting to make sure you won’t be hurting your business by setting your minimum too high, too low, or with a structure that doesn’t make sense.

Here’s the deal.

In the past, we’ve talked about our basic tips for feeling super-confident about your wholesale minimum. And we still stand by those.

But sometimes we’ll hear from a maker who has a sense that the typical way of doing it just doesn’t apply to them. AND -- they want to make sure they’re not “missing something” and are going to hurt their business by choosing a different way of going about it.

So whether you’re considering having no wholesale minimum order, a wholesale minimum that is structured differently than normal, or a wholesale minimum that is especially high -- there are some key points to consider in deciding whether that decision will ultimately help or hurt your business.

 

8 key considerations in setting your wholesale minimum order so that it doesn’t hurt your business:

How expensive is your line?

We have makers who sell $200 leather handbags and makers who sell $2 note cards. If the handbag maker sets her minimum opening order at $500, that will mean the store needs to order 5 bags (with wholesale at 50%); whereas if the note card maker sets their opening order at $500, that will mean buying 500 cards (with wholesale at 50%). 500 cards is a LOT for an independent store owner -- and likely a level of risk that could dissuade them from moving forward. So, generally, the higher your price point, the higher your wholesale minimum be. Additionally, makers of much higher-priced products can actually run the risk of having consumers try to get a deal by placing a wholesale order. If the handbag maker set her minimum at $200, the store owner would only need to buy two bags.  Forcing the wholesale buyer to buy five bags protects against that.

How hard is it to get supplies?

For some makers, the supply of their materials is a concern. Perhaps they need to buy several yards of leather at once, at a not insignificant cost, and if they don't have a reasonably sized wholesale order, they're left with a lot of excess source material. That would guide you to make your wholesale minimum higher. On the other hand, you might not have a lot of inventory or might have unique, one-of-a-kind supplies (like upcycled materials or limited-availability gemstones) -- that might mean you’d set your wholesale minimum lower, or even have a per-unit maximum. Similarly, you might need to produce a certain amount at once for a run to make sense (pointing to a higher minimum) or you might struggle to produce a lot at one time (pointing to a lower minimum.)

How much do you have to work for each order?

Most makers are pretty good at thinking about the costs of their individual items (labor plus materials plus a percentage of overhead). But they sometimes makers forget the cost of an order as a whole. Whether a wholesale order is $1,000 or $100, you invest time (and sometimes money) into the outreach to the store, answering questions, processing and packing the order, etc. All of that adds up to a cost -- and when you don’t set your wholesale minimum high enough, that cost can make it unsustainable to serve your stores.

How established is your business?

Someone who is brand new to wholesale will benefit SO much from having 5-10 boutiques they’re working with (in follow-on sales that arise from that visibility, in particular) -- and that might make it worth hustling a bit more for a bit less money at first. On the other hand, more established makers might be wary of taking on new accounts unless they’re really going to be financially meaningful.

How small of a barrier to buying can you make?

In some ways, this is the biggest consideration, especially if you are actively reaching out to store owners to pitch your line. When a store owner takes on a new line, it is a big risk. For an independent boutique owner, spending $200 or $500 or $1000 on a set of products that aren’t proven sellers is exciting, but can be costly if the work doesn’t move. The lower you can wisely set your minimum -- in full consideration of all of the factors here -- the less risk you create for the store owner. That means the barrier to them buying your products is lower.

What does a store need to sell your product well?

If you have a line of essential oil perfumes, with 7 different scents, and the store only buys a few bottles of one scent, your line likely won’t sell as well, in store, as it would if the owner had bought a few of each scent. Or perhaps you have 4 sizes of your leggings -- if the store owner buys two pairs of leggings total, it’s going to make it hard for customers to find their size, and thus hard for the leggings to sell.

How are you structuring your minimum?

There’s the amount of your minimum, and then there’s the way you actually structure it. Here is a menu of different ways you can structure your order:

  • Minimum opening order (dollar amount): a minimum total order, like $250. Usually repeat order minimums are lower.
  • Minimum opening order quantity (units): a minimum number of items, like 25 cards.
  • Per-unit minimum: a minimum of each product, like 5 of each card.
  • Incentives for different order amounts: offering something like free shipping or a free display above a certain order amount.
  • Starter packs: offering a set mix of products as an initial order, usually best when there is a variety of products that won’t sell well in isolation.

The most common mistake in structuring minimums is to make it confusing. Sometimes a maker even has a very store-friendly minimum, but they’ve made that fact sort of confusing and opaque. Think about it this way -- if you were shopping online at, say, West Elm and they had the same minimum you have, would you find it confusing or unwieldy? Wholesale, of course, has different standards, but there’s no reason it can’t be elegant and simple.

How do you feel about it?

Establishing minimums is like establishing pricing -- there are no hard-and-fast rules. Which means that after you’ve taken all of the above factors into consideration, your own sense about the minimum is a pretty big deciding factor. Set your minimum at a level, and with a structure, that won’t make you cringe because it’s a little unfair to the store… but not so low you’ll feel resentful or overwhelmed when you see a wholesale order come in.

 

Long story short, you should absolutely do what makes sense for your business. Industry standards are evolving quickly, and what worked for one maker may not work for you. In fact, what worked for you last year may not even work for you this year. Learn about the factors you should be considering -- and then feel free to go against the grain in the ways that make sense for you and your business.



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Putting Our Money Where Our Mouth Is… Why Our Price Is Changing

If you’re like me, mulling over pricing for your business usually leads to a spiral of self-doubt that can only be treated with “just a tiny bite” of ice cream straight from the freezer at 10:45am.

Pricing is hard because it’s entangled with fears about our self-worth and the viability of our businesses. Plus, pricing is technically challenging, with lots of little exceptions and loopholes and specific situations. Like these questions we’ve gotten from makers:

• I need to raise prices on my necklaces but I’m afraid folks won’t be able to afford them.
• My main competitor just dropped her prices by 20% -- what do I do?!
• I want to lower my prices but don’t want people to think it’s not a handmade line.
• Should shipping be included in the price?

If I price too low, I’m worried my line will be undervalued and I won’t make any money. If I price too high, I’m worried no one will buy and… I won’t make any money. If I price too low, I feel resentful and worn out and foolish. If I price too high, I feel fake and greedy and... foolish.

When it comes to pricing, we work through these pricing questions every day, on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration makers’ competition, past prices, costs, and goals. Every situation is different, but I do tell all makers one thing:

If your price isn’t high enough to cover costs, eventually that will be bad for your customers, in addition to being bad for you.

If you’re not covering costs, there is no room for developing new designs. There is no room for maintaining quality when materials costs go up. There is no room for the sustainability of your business over the long term.

Setting the price for Wholesale In a Box is no different. How did we set the original price of $99/month? Well, two years ago when we first started, we asked makers what they thought they’d like to pay for the service, and we made it that price.

Recently, we decided to increase the Wholesale In a Box price from $99/month to $119/month. This is for two simple reasons:

  1. The value that most makers get from working with Wholesale In a Box is worth far more than $119/month, in business coaching, wholesale guidance, time saved hunting down stores, and new stockists gained.
  2. $99 isn’t really enough for us to cover our costs. Nothing we do is automated or on autopilot. We work with every single maker one-on-one at a very high level of professional business coaching. We also hand pick every single store, for every single maker (putting it through a gauntlet of tests before offering it to a maker), constantly updating store data to make sure it’s accurate, and developing training materials every month.

If you’ve been thinking about working with us to grow your wholesale business, now would be a great time to give it a try, since we’re offering the “old price” for the next 5 days. After that, all new signups will be at the new price.

Click here to learn more or sign up.

 

Mini-FAQ About The Price Change:

What is the price changing to?
$119/month.

When does the price change?
11:59pm on Tuesday, June 6th

I’m interested in signing up with you. Can I get the $99/month?
Definitely! If you sign up by 11:59pm on 6/6, you will have the $99/month price for the lifetime of your subscription.

I’m a current customer with you. Will my price change?
Absolutely not. Any maker who is currently working with us will have the same monthly price as long as they stay subscribed with us.

What about the “cultivate” plan -- does that stay the same?
Yes, once you’re a customer with us, you can choose to downshift to our $49/month “Cultivate” plan, which gives you access to the online system, all your store leads, and lets you manage current stockists, but doesn’t give you new store leads to reach out to.

Thank you for being on this journey with us. Let us know if you have absolutely ANY questions about the price change or about Wholesale In a Box -- just send us an email and we’ll get right back to you.



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14 Things You Can Do if You Feel Overwhelmed and Dumb at Business

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“It is important to have a container for all that we sense and hear from the wild nature. For some women it is their journals, where they keep track of every feather that flies by, for others it is the creative art, they dance it, paint it, make it into a script… Yes, containment is the solution to the problem of all loss of energy.”
- Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves


In 10th grade, I realized or decided that I was bad at math. During math class, I was simultaneously confused, bored, and overwhelmed. And doing my math homework in the evenings was so tedious and overwhelming that I buoyed myself with a huge bag of ginger snaps and Charles in Charge sitcom breaks.

My brother Larry, who is 5 years older, was always fantastic at math. And when I was in 10th grade, he was majoring in engineering at college. One winter break, Larry was walking through the living room and saw me sprawled on the carpeted floor, with the TV on, my crumpled papers spread around me, and my math textbook opened to yet another incomprehensible page. He asked me what I was working on.

“Horrible terrible math homework.”
“Oh! What are you guys doing right now?”
“I really couldn’t tell you. I’m not good at math, I’m just not smart in that way, the teacher is horrible, and it’s just not happening.”

I felt really sorry for myself, and I figured Larry would feel sorry for me. But he didn’t; he was utterly, completely unimpressed.

“Em, you think you’re not smart enough for the math, but you just need to get organized.”

The next 20 minutes were filled with some angsty shouting on my part (“I am organized! You don’t even care how I feel!”) and some reasonable arguing and insisting on his part. Once the shouting died down, Larry got me to gather up my papers and follow him to the kitchen table. He made me find a black, ballpoint pen that worked, and brought me a thick stack of college ruled loose-leaf from one of his binders.

“Ok,” he said, “Write your name on the upper left-hand corner of the page. On the upper right-hand corner, write the problem set and page number.” I gave him a withering look and certainly didn’t see how any of this was going to help, but I half-heartedly wrote out what he said. “Then, as you work the problem, write evenly and neatly, doing every single step in the problem area, rather than on scratch paper. Most importantly, write out the ‘in between’ steps rather than doing that part in your head. And line up the equals signs so everything is straight and you can see your own thought process very clearly. Then, as soon as you start to feel mixed up, you can look back through your own work, and find where you went wrong.”

I was deeply reluctant to follow anything he was saying, but I had done enough shouting for one evening, so I just quietly did exactly as he told me.

Soon, the problems were getting done. It wasn’t completely effortless, but I was able to complete the homework, more or less correctly. Because everything was neat and organized, and I was writing out every step in the problem, the math got simpler -- it was just 100 tiny things I could do -- not one huge thing I could never do. Plus, whenever I reached the end of the problem and had the wrong answer, it was simple to start from the top of the page and spot where the miscalculation happened.

My feeling that night, working in the warm glow from the can lights above the wooden kitchen table, was one of immense power. An hour earlier, there was this thing I thought I couldn’t do. And now, suddenly, I could. The advice Larry gave me, both in words, and by gently walking me through it, remains powerful, especially when I’m feeling dumb, overwhelmed, and weepy (in business or in life):

If you think you’re too dumb (or inadequate, or unskilled) to do something, you just have to get organized.

I think of this when I’m trying to fix QuickBooks and I can’t even log in, or reset my password, much less get all the transactions to import. I think of this when I’m working on making a blog and email calendar for Wholesale In a Box but am juggling two apps that don’t talk to each other, advice from 6 sources, 35 half-done blog posts, and (unrelatedly) am on hold with the electric company. It all gets so circuitous and overwhelming that I want to quit.

“Get organized” means different things for everyone, based on your personality, challenges, and business stage. But for some people, it might mean one or more of the below:

  • Find a neat place to work and getting your papers in a row.
  • Turn off the radio/TV/phone

  • Write out every step of the problem and not doing any of it in your head.

  • Drop 5 of your 10 projects.

  • Pay for software or consulting or an assistant.

  • Make a spreadsheet.

  • Delete the spreadsheet and going back to pen-and-paper.

  • Write down a process that you follow every single time, so you don’t have to rethink it.

  • Break the project into the tiniest possible tasks, and completing them one by one.

  • Put it all on a cork board.

  • Make a plan for the month, instead of treating each week like it came out of nowhere.

  • Break your day into time blocks so you always know what you’re supposed to be doing when.

  • Clean up first.

  • Resolve to not clean up at all, so you can focus on the work.

I see the power of getting organized with our makers, too. Wholesale In a Box can’t fix all of our makers’ business problems, but it does help them get organized. We help makers identify what they’ll need to start wholesale outreach, and what tasks they need to do to create those pieces. We help them figure out what’s “good enough to start” and what really needs to be more professional to be effective. We give them a calendar with every task they need to do, for every store they’re reaching out to, so they don’t have to reinvent that. And we offer support, hand-holding, and coaching along the way so that they’re not adrift alone. And somewhere along the way, the most satisfying shift starts to occur: makers feel in control of their own business growth -- they feel, well, smarter and more capable. But it’s not magic -- it’s just a method for getting organized -- and that’s something that is available to all of us, at all times, for free.

Today, I wish for you that you’re able to take yourself kindly by the hand, guide yourself to the kitchen table, and equip yourself with a new black pen and stack of loose-leaf paper. I wish for you that you are patient with the process and trust that you’re not too dumb or inadequate to pursue what you envision -- you just need to get organized.



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I Feel Pressure to Portray My Brand as Bigger Than It Is

“I understand that I need to tell my story but I feel pressure to portray my brand as something bigger than it is. I am worried that store owners will be turned off knowing that it's just me in my kitchen. They want to be buying from someone who is a big deal, not someone who is unprofessional and not able to fulfill an order.”

 

Let’s start with a few things that we know.

Yes, it is true that store owners like someone who is professional.

Professional means something very specific: that you are clear, timely and deliver what you say you are going to.

There are many professionals that work from their kitchen tables. We happen to be two of them.

Being big doesn’t make you or your brand special.

Being you makes you special and it is your job to tell that story as best as you can with whatever tools you have.

If you choose not to do that and make yourself out to be something you’re not, you will be less equipped to tell your unique story than if you said it plain.

You are likely not that big.  And the biggest shame of saying that you are is that you are not using the one advantage that you have: that you are small.  As a maker, your primary advantage comes from the story behind what you make. It is why people choose to buy from you, rather than buying something less expensive from, say, a big box store.

Your story is the way you produce what you make, the specific art and design of what you do, the inspiration behind it, and what makes it special beyond what is immediately obvious at first glance. This could include your production process, your design, your sourcing, the design inspirations of each piece, perhaps why you make what you make, or a mission or ethos that the company embodies.

 

If you are looking for inspiration, the Jenny Lemons ‘Our Story’ page is a great example of what a well crafted version of this looks like. Jenny shares the handcrafted, personal nature of what she does in a straightforward way -- while also communicating professionalism via her excellent photos, concise writing, clear terms, and thoughtful layout.



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What does the Wholesale In a Box app look like?

We have been getting requests from makers to be able to take a peek inside our app, so we created this 1 minute video to walk you through what it is like.  If you are feeling very excited to see what your day-to-day could look like working with Wholesale In a Box we created a much more in depth 5 minute walk through here

We hope you enjoy and please let us you know if you have any questions!



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

Listening to Learn: Our 5 Favorite Podcasts on Creative Business and Artistic Life

With our increasingly mobile and flexible lives, it makes sense that many of us are turning away from reading and towards more mobile forms of consuming good content. While we’re avid readers, we’ve been getting tons of inspiration from podcasts recently, and the medium for content sharing is exponentially growing. 

Listening to podcasts has allowed us to soak in super useful content and stay connected to even more people in our space by hearing their stories. That said: there are a LOT of options out there, and while we have subscribed and have listened to over 60 podcasts relevant to makers, there are really only a few that we love and recommend. 

Here are the podcasts we’ve found to be consistently inspirational and on-point: 

 

1. Creating Your Own Path

createyourownpath

In this weekly podcast, Jennifer Snyder interviews creative business owners and makers. She’s got a recent segment on brick & mortar business (super relevant to those growing wholesale) and her interview style is personable and warm. Each episode is titled with it’s big takeaways and we’re impressed with Jen’s selection and range of interviewees (such a huge range of female thought leaders in the creative space). Check out Episode 91 with Tina Essmaker of the Great Discontent. 

 

2.  Elise Gets Crafty

If you go to the Elise Joy website, Elise’s intro is “I'm Elise and I make stuff. That's who I am and that's my job.” Elise Gets Crafty takes Elise’s experience as a creative business ownerand combines it with informative and fun interviews with other small business makers, writers, and designers. There’s a new episode every couple of weeks. Her episode with Julie Ann Art is great - it tracks how Julie’s system for online sales has evolved from 2014 to 2016.  We’re also fans of Episode 91 (where we talked to her about jumping into wholesale)  :)

 

3. The Distance

“What’s the hardest thing about business? Not going out of business.” That’s the premise behind The Distance, a podcast by Basecamp. They interview individuals who own companies that have been around for 25 years or more, and their interviews range from people who manufacture guitars to funeral home directors. It’s fascinating to hear from individuals who have a long-term perspective on business ownership and what it takes to sustain a business model. We recommend starting with the Unchanging Gears episode with John Stallworth, where he talks about how to build a business that can anchor a community.

 

4. How I Built This

How I Built This interviews founders of top brands (think: Patagonia, Warby Parker, Southwest Airlines) and asks not only how they built their companies but also the work culture and movements that made them successful. Guy Raz hosts the podcast and these interviews feed our aspirations on business ownership. The very first episode features Sara Blakely of Spanx, and we highly, highly recommend listening to that one!

 

5.  Death Sex & Money 

While this one might not be so directly linked to makers and creative business, we find that artists and creatives are often some of the most willing to engage in difficult, thought provoking conversations. Many of us are sparked by the big questions, and we find Anna Sale, the host of Death Sex & Money, to be refreshing, inspirational, and original. This podcast will help you feel less crazy and more connected.

 

Need even more? Check out Raise Your Hand Say Yes, Tara Swiger, and Dear Handmade Life

Happy listening! 



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The Best Complaint is to Make Something

Art is man's challenge to time, his rebuke to chaos; the protest will survive neither the triumph of fire, nor the finality of ice — but it is better than the silence of consent.
- Dr. Idel Dreimer

Whatever your politics, the present feels like a time of both destruction and creation. It feels like a time to make a stand - to actively participate in creating a world that we want to live in, a world where all people can thrive. To take ownership of ourselves and our businesses and our process. Something in Elysian Fields post of the James Murphy quote “The best way to complain is to make something” just rings true, especially right now.

We’re always inspired by what people make. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been so inspired by how the artists, designers, and makers that we work with and that we admire have spun overwhelm and fear into ideas, beautiful things, and action. Most importantly, each of these makers have called us away from division and into love. Their actions have been beautifully generative.

 

Here are just a few of the ways they’re doing it.

 

Native Bear, a stationary and gift line, lent their creative hand to Signs of Solidarity, a public art protest in opposition of divisiveness in Atlanta, Georgia.

signsofsolidarity

 

 

Welcome feels the warmest in your native language. Scout & Whistle have created neighborhood signs to affirm and include, and they’re giving almost half of the proceeds to Portland’s Immigrant & Refugee community.

 

neighbors.jpg

 

 

Bringing opportunity and ethics into every piece of their beautiful products, Sweetgum Textiles, based in New England, partners with regional women to sew their linens, donates 1% of all of their profits to For the Planet, and they only use natural fibers and water-based dyes.

 

sweetgum.jpg

 

 

Love binds us: This is the message of this newly released card by Pen+Pillar. 100% of the proceeds from the card go towards the Preemptive Love Coalition, an organization that offers support to refugees in Syria and Iraq.

 

lovebindsus.jpg

 

 

SugarSky sews encouragement and empowerment into every headband they make. Skyler partners with US women to sew the headbands, and her new collection of patterns featuring the natural parks are subtle but powerful advocacy for the great outdoors.

 

ntlpark.jpg

 

 

A few more: Beetle Ink Co. is donating 20% of their February art sales to the ACLU. Milk Handmade and Argaman & Defiance are teaming up to donate up to $750 for the International Rescue Committee. Lisa Congdon is standing up for her right to state her opinions, as well as share her art, publicly.

 

How are you creating a world we want to live in?

 

We invite you to share your #makercomplaint online and tag Wholesale In a Box. Selfishly, we could use a little more inspiration these days.

 



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How Many Times Should I Follow Up With Stores

For makers, the emotional aspect of reaching out to stores is often the hardest. If you have taken the leap and reached to stores to introduce your work, you know it can be scary and even harder is knowing how many times to follow up. We get a lot of questions such as:

‘How many times is too many times to follow up? I know being persistent is good, but I don't want to look desperate or be a nuisance?’

‘How many follow-ups is too many? When is enough enough? Where is the line between following up and driving someone crazy?’

Every maker feels differently about the ideal number of follow-ups for them. We make the default with Wholesale In a Box to do two follow-ups as we find that this catches a lot of the stores that might be interested but didn't see or forgot about one of those initial emails. Some of the makers we work with don't like to do that second follow-up while others do an additional 2nd or 3rd and engage the store on Instagram and send something in the mail. 

The "ideal" number of follow-ups can certainly vary from store to store. Sometimes, if you're already a little "iffy" on the store, you might not want to follow up twice. But then again if you're pretty darn "sold" on your work being a super-good fit for the store, you can absolutely circle back a number of times. 

One way to do 3+ follow-ups is to stretch them over the longer term. So perhaps you do two follow-ups right away (at 2 week intervals) and then you circle back 3 months later with an update. And then again 6 months later just to pop your head in and say hello, perhaps telling them about a new product or line.  One thing you do not want to do because it’s illegal (and because it’s ineffective) is to add people on your mailing list who never signed up for it. 

For the most part, unless stores have given you a "no" it's not bad to keep touching base via email. The only thing that's not appreciated is if you do a TON of follow-ups in a super-short period of time, because then the store owner might feel like, "I haven't even written back to my mom/customers/friends in the period that you keep writing to me in! Hold your horses!" Keep in mind this isn't about wearing anyone down or sending them emails they don't want to receive. It is about being present and responsive and engaged with stores you truly believe are a good fit and would benefit in some way from carrying your line.

Check out our store owners interviews with the owners of Omoi Zakka, Moon and Arrow and Collected Thread to hear more about their thoughts on being approached by makers. 
 

 

I would be leaving something out if I didn’t say that the etiquette around following up varies quite a bit from industry to industry. There are so-called sales gurus who will tell you not to follow up fewer than 7 times and then 5 more touch points after that!  The truth is that while you may not want to go that far, if you only are reaching out to stores that you are really confident would be a good fit, you can stand tall in your strength and persistence in whatever way feels right for you.  

It is often at the intersection of self-doubt and a lack of information that we feel nervous.  You can mitigate a lot of the emotional turmoil around following up by: 

  1. Setting a standard for yourself as to the type of store you reach out to and trusting that anyone you have on your schedule to follow up with has already been vetted.

  2. Setting a follow-up schedule that you think is respectful, fair, and proactive, and

  3. Sticking to it no matter how you feel in that moment.  

For more see our Following Up With Retailers: Do's and Don'ts article in the Wholesale In a Box Training Center

 

If you have questions please feel free to reach out, we would be more than happy to help! 



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An Interview: PROS & CONS of Different Wholesale Outreach Methods

We are really excited to announce an interview we did with Olivia Hayward of Mane Message.  

We sat down with Olivia to talk about the pros and cons of three different wholesale outreach methods: email outreach, trade shows and walking into stores to introduce your work. 

Olivia has been doing this work for years and is one of the few people in this space we feel thrilled to vouch for.  Her knowledge is hard won and she has created a wealth of resources about growing a handmade business on her Youtube channel. She even has a playlist specific to wholesale which you can see here.

We hope you enjoy! 

 



Grow Your Wholesale

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Hit the Ground Running in 2017: Announcing the New Wholesale Pro Training Center

As you are gearing up to hit the ground running in 2017, we have an exciting announcement: today we are launching our brand new, 100% free Wholesale Pro Training Center.

We have been writing recently about the success behaviors at the core of our most successful customers which boil down to the below three categories. We have now put our most popular, actionable and inspiring posts, interviews, and thoughts in one place.    

Business Mastery - Writing and tools to inspire a growth mindset
Wholesale Tactics  - Actionable steps you can take to improve your practice of reaching out to stores
Customer Guides - Tips and tricks for our customers to get the most out of the Wholesale In a Box

We hope you enjoy it and most of all that you use it.  We wish you all an incredibly successful year and are grateful that you are here with us.



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

After Working With 233 Makers Over 18 months: Real Talk About Why Wholesale In a Box Works for Some Makers and Not Others

When we first started Wholesale In a Box, there was nothing in the space or on the market that existed like it -- not a single company that provided this service, though a couple have since sprouted up. We knew the method worked, based on our depth of experience in related approaches with makers and artisans around the world. We knew makers wanted it because we created it in response to the dozens and dozens (now hundreds) of conversations we had with makers in which they said, "I want to grow my wholesale, but it's a huge hassle finding stores that are a good fit, I don't have a good system to stay consistent, and I don't know what to send to stores or what to do when they don't write back."

But we didn't know specifically what kinds of makers would sign up with us. We didn't know how much of a difference training would make. We didn't know how successful we could help makers be.

The last 18 months have been a wild ride. And we've learned an incredible amount about which of our makers are most successful and which of our makers are least successful. Because the truth is that some of our makers are dramatically more successful with Wholesale In a Box than others. We have makers that got 5 new store accounts in their first two weeks with us. We have makers that get a new store account in their first 24 hours with us. And we have makers that go several months without seeing the results that we all want them to see.

So over the past few months, we have been on an obsessive mission to help all of our makers get the results of our most successful makers. We've asked the question: how can everyone we work with be wildly successful, both immediately and over the long term?

The result of months of work and days of analysis resulted in some pretty fascinating results. We found a lot of things that we could be doing better, to train and engage and equip our makers to the greatest extent possible. So we’ll be working on our end to put those in place. But we also found 7 "success behaviors" on the maker’s end that differentiate the makers who are most successful growing wholesale from the makers who are least successful growing wholesale. It’s a combination of super-concrete things and more high-level mindset pieces.
 

 

The 7 things that makers who are successful at growing wholesale do:

  1. They are hugely consistent in their email outreach.  
    Our most successful makers are like clockwork when it comes to sending emails. One maker logs in every morning at 6:30 am and sends every intro email and every followup until about 7:15 am when she moves on to other work. She sends every email on her calendar, and also adds additional outreach to stores she’s most excited about. We also have successful customers who are inconsistently consistent. That is to say that they work in spurts. Every two(ish) weeks they spend an entire afternoon sending emails and that works for them. Any way you work it, the ones who are getting stores are getting emails out regularly (which includes followups).
     
  2. Quality of product: they show stores what stores want to see.
    Store owners are, by necessity, practical. They want to be able to tell a story about a brand. They want accessible price points. They want to know the facts about your pieces and also feel inspired that it will fly off their shelf. They need to know your work fits into a broader trend or zeitgeist in the market. Successful makers help store owners out by putting their minds at ease in relation to these dynamics. They can do that in photos, in narrative, in their line sheet, or in their outreach email -- but they address these things both implicitly and explicitly.
     
  3. They reach out to stores that make sense for them.
    Whether you are working with us or not this one is essential. It’s one of those things that should go without saying but as many of those things go, does need saying.  For our customers, this is one of the parts that we take care of by making sure that we send stores that line up with your brand and products. We take things into account like what a store owner is buying in a particular season, geography, style, offerings, and other makers’ experience selling to the store. If you are doing it by yourself, you may not have access to all of that information, but it is essential to make sure that the stores you are reaching out to would be a good fit for you.
     
  4. They are open minded about stores and don’t sweat the small stuff.
    Our most successful customers don’t worry too much about "nos" or mis-steps. They are discerning but not picky when it comes to which stores to reach out to. They respond thoughtfully to stores, but don’t stress about every weird response. It is simply too hard to be consistent if you’re getting caught on the daily bumps in the road -- and consistency is where growth comes from.
     
  5. They have great quality outreach materials and packaging.
    It’s hugely helpful to stores if your line looks great on the shelf. It doesn’t have to be fancy or have expensive packaging, but it is very important to be far away from ziploc bags and labels printed on flimsy paper. We also see this concept more generally -- pro makers focus on making great products, but also on all the “packaging” around them: their website, their photos, their line sheet, and working to improve those as time goes on.

    Specifically one thing they do is purple cow outreach.
    Seth Godin, a marketer we love, has this concept of the “purple cow.” The idea is that we tend to ignore products or marketing that is “just like everything else” -- and we are drawn to things that are remarkable, different, outstanding, or even weird. Our most successful makers are those that make themselves remarkable. That might mean a super-detailed and informative email template. It might mean a product line that is totally accessible but completely unlike anything else on the market. It might mean using penguin tactics. What it doesn’t mean is creating beautiful (but not unique) products and sending a competent (but not unique) email over and over again. Honestly, it’s more fun to be a purple cow -- and it definitely works better.
     
  6. They don’t get in their own way.
    “Getting in your own way” could mean taking 2 months to draft an email template because you’re scared to get that first “no” from a store. It could mean quitting after a store owner says she doesn’t like your work. It could mean signing up for Wholesale In a Box but not investing the time or money to get good product photos that show your work well. It can be hard to pin down, but you can probably sense when you’re getting in your own way.
     
  7. They have endurance and take the long view.
    There’s always a balance in business, between being persistent and ruthlessly cutting out whatever doesn’t work. We could never tell you the perfect balance. But we can tell you that our most successful customers are those who have good months, and bad months and forge on throughout. They’re the ones who say, “My focus is on growing my business over the next 12-24 months, so it doesn’t matter that much whether I get a new store account this month or don’t, as long as I’m making progress towards that goal over the span of several months.”

The one thing I can tell you for sure is that every single one of these things is something you can change, build, or develop. Makers who are successful at growing wholesale are made -- not born. We do our best to help every maker who works with us to develop in these ways -- as well as do everything we can on our end to make sure they have the tools to succeed. We also know that there is SO much more that we can do and are also in a constant process of improving.

So whether you’re a Wholesale In a Box customer or not, we want to cheer you on, on your journey. Wherever you are, there is room to grow and ways to get there.



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Do Not Disturb Unless I’ve Won the Lottery or Jesus Has Been Sighted on the Old Taos Highway

There's a book I really like called Women Who Run with The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It's got a poorly designed cover (see below) and an embarrassing title.

 

But over the past few years, it's been my book. It's the book I go to when I'm inspired. It's the book I read in the morning with my coffee. It's the book I go to when I'm confused and feel weak.

With everything that is happening in the world right now, I know some of us feel frustrated, confused, and defeated. So, for whatever soul balm it is worth, I wanted to share some of the passages that most inspire me around creativity and making.


4 inspiring quotes for makers from the book Women Who Run With the Wolves:

On taking our work seriously
“Often the creative life is slowed or stopped because something in the psyche has a very low opinion of us, and we are down there groveling at its feet instead of bopping it over the head and running for freedom. In many cases what is required to aright the situation is that we take ourselves, our ideas, our art, far more seriously than we have before.”

On saying “no”
“A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she ‘should’ be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.”

On what it means to be a real artist
“Gifted women, even as they reclaim their creative lives, even as beautiful things flow from their hands, from their pens, from their bodies, still question whether they are writers, painters, artists, people, real ones. And of course they are real ones even though they might like to bedevil themselves with what constitutes ‘real.’ A farmer is a real farmer when she looks out over the land and plans the spring crops. A runner is real when she takes the first step, a flower is real when it is yet in its mother stem, a tree is real when it is still a seed in the pine cone. An old tree is a real living being. Real is what has life.”

On creating protected time
“I know a fierce painter I know who hangs this sign on the chain that closes off the road to her house when she is in a painting or thinking mode: ‘I am working today and am not receiving visitors. I know you think this doesn’t mean you because you are my banker, agent, or best friend. But it does.’ Another sculptor I know hangs this sign on her gate: ‘Do not disturb unless I’ve won the lottery or Jesus has been sighted on the Old Taos Highway.’”

Keep running with the wolves -- and keep making what you make for the world.



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Your Survival Kit for Wholesale Around the Holidays

As the holidays approach, we get this question a lot from the makers we work with:

“Things are crazy for me right now, and I’m not sure if retailers are even ordering. Should I even bother connecting with stores during this season?”

For store owners, this time of year is about trying to survive and high hopes for a great season. (Retailers often make 30% or more of their total yearly gross between November and December.) For makers, it’s a crazy combination of making, packing, and shipping goods for Christmas, doing holiday markets, and trying to lay the groundwork for sustained growth in the coming year.

For makers who are more established, this season usually feels high-stakes and a little (or a lot) frantic. For makers who are less established, the season may feel uncertain, busy, but also a little frustrating as you know you’d like to be in more stores to increase stability and sustainability for your business… but may feel behind the eight ball.

We never want any maker to spend their money, time, or energy in any ways that aren’t going to be fruitful for them. So we’ve looked at the data, talked to maker after maker and store after store, and these are the 3 most important principles we recommend considering as you decide how to approach this season, when it comes to getting your handmade products into stores.

 

3 key things to do (and not do) for makers growing wholesale around the holidays:

1. Keep the long view and focus on building relationships.

Sometimes people ask us what the main difference is between the makers we see being successful with growing wholesale and those that aren’t as successful. There are several key differences, but one of them is having the “long view". That means worrying less about whether you’ve gotten a new store account in the last 60 days and more about whether you’ve grown over the past year, and how the work you are doing now will help get you where you want to be a year from now.

This becomes especially important during the holidays, since stores are often reviewing product and making buying plans -- but may have already bought what they’re going to through the end of the year.

For instance, here’s what Chelsea at the famous Moon + Arrow said about her holiday buying habits:

“I’ve found not a lot of people realize how far in advance we buy. We buy in late summer for Christmas. People are emailing us [in late November] for Christmas and unless it’s a perfect fit, we just don’t have money for it. Sometimes we’ll buy things for more immediate timing, but those are usually things we’re just restocking. We’ll still be interested and look at emails and products we get now, but it would be to buy in a while, once we’re able to make more purchases.”

Long story short? Some stores are still buying in November to fill gaps in their holiday selection but almost all are shopping for new products, even if they’re not currently buying. Every maker knows that a strong wholesale business comes from strong, long-term relationships with stores -- so whether that great store partener places her first order with you on November 15 or January 15 or March 15 is less important than building that relationship overall.

Wondering how you actually go about building those retailer relationships and laying the groundwork for growth in the coming year? We actually wrote a really in-depth piece on this topic last year, during holiday season, which you can check out here.

2. Choose your approach based on the stage of your business.

Very busy right now but want to grow wholesale?
Only do what will be highest impact for your growth 6 months from now. You can’t afford to cut corners on things that will help you grow in the spring and summer (because otherwise you will see that growth drop off) -- but you don’t have a moment to spare for “nice to have” stuff that’s not really going to move the needle. For instance, if you’re a Wholesale In a Box customer, do send introductory emails to your store leads, but maybe push your followups to January. Do follow up with stores that have expressed interest, but maybe wait until the new year to finesse your email template. Do cultivate your current wholesale accounts, checking in with them and making sure that they don’t need more product or replacements of anything.

Not as busy as you’d like, and want to grow wholesale?
Use this time to create foundations for growth. Especially for makers that only have a few wholesale accounts, we generally say that this is a really great time to jump into wholesale. You can start investing in creating a great line sheet, refining your email template, introducing yourself to stores, and even developing penguin tactics. You may not see results right away, but this is a really good time of year to get started and set yourself up for a transformative 2017.

3. Don’t get holiday tunnel vision.

Just as many retailers are buying in August for Christmas, they’re also buying in November for Valentine’s Day…. and in January for the summer. While stores are certainly big buyers for the holidays, that is not the only season for which they need product (obviously.) Especially if you have great products in your line that span a range of seasons, keep those seasons in mind and consider pitching appropriately.

As always, our caveat is: do what works for you and what makes sense for your business. These principles are trends we see across our makers, but they are certainly not applicable to every maker in every situation.

Let us know if you have specific questions about products, lines, or how to change your outreach this season-- we’re happy to help!



Grow Your Wholesale

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Doing What You Love vs Winning Awards For It

When I was about eight, I went to camp for the first time.

As a fairly introverted person who loved hanging out with my family, summer camp ended up being hard. Thirty-two-year-old me would know exactly why it would be hard for me and in what ways; eight-year-old me was bewildered, as the camp seemed literally designed to have a good time around every corner and yet I felt kind of dazed from home sicknesses and nervousness about how to be around the other kids.

The camp was a week long. There were times when you were expected to go with the group -- on swim lessons, or hikes, or at meals. Overall you were encouraged to try a lot of things and have a well-rounded experience, but much of the time was "free time" and you could choose to spend it how you wished. Many kids would sit on their beds in the cabins sharing Twizzlers, playing cards, and making trouble. Others took part in sports or competitions or skit-making or, well, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure what the other kids did.

I only know what I did -- which was that every time there was an option (even with time that was not explicitly "free" but during which there would be no consequences for my deviation) I went to the Arts and Crafts shed. There were set projects with all the materials for them and an example of how it could turn out. There were also materials for making whatever you wanted -- paints and wooden shapes, embroidery floss, and even plain dolls you could paint and make clothes for. There was also always a woman in there who would quietly work on something, but offer help with your project whenever you needed it. I made dozens of projects that week; among them a red-cheeked baby doll, a tangle of bracelets for everyone I knew, and a butter-yellow wreath adorned with a hand-painted wooden duck and a baby-blue satin ribbon.

I spent a lot of time in the Arts and Crafts shed.

At the end of the week there was a slightly dressed-up lunch and awards ceremony. Kid after kid received awards. There were awards for activities and contests I had never even heard of. Children were awarded for things like "excellence in sportsmanship" or "fastest time in the 5K", and they'd get trophies. It was nearing the end of the award ceremony and it seemed that almost every child had been awarded something. Except, obviously, me -- I hadn't participated in most of those activities, much less won them. All the awards had been given out.

There was a pause in the ceremony and a side discussion among a couple of the counselors. And suddenly the announcer said "And our last award goes to Emily Kerr, Bunk 9 -- the Arts and Crafts Award!" Everyone applauded. I collected my hand-painted, wooden plaque with the wooden teddy bear and tiny ribbon attached to it. The plaque had obviously been carefully made from all the materials in the Arts and Crafts shed -- not something normally given out.

And this is where I have two versions of the story. One version of the story is that I had such a good time and focused so intently in the Arts and Crafts shed that they were forced to recognize excellence in a category that they had never recognized before. I had somehow not only done amazingly well in a category, but had done amazingly well in a brand-new category. The other version of what happened -- and the obviously factually accurate one -- is that I was such an odd, introverted kid that I spent the entire week of summer camp in a dark little Arts and Crafts shed, and the kind counselors were forced to invent an award simply because they wanted everyone to get something and I hadn't participated in any of the regular stuff.

In other words, I was either so strong in something unique that I received a handmade award, or I was so abysmally weak and absent in the regular stuff that I received a handmade award for literally whatever they could think to award me for.

For a long time, when I would think of this story, I would feel a little hum of pleasure as I thought about the award and the Arts and Crafts shed. I loved the arts and crafts, I loved the plaque with its glued-on adornments, and I loved having done so much of the thing I loved to do that a plaque was made about it. But I would always also simultaneously know that the plaque was basically hilarious -- a hastily created stopgap for the one situation in which they had a camper who didn't do anything at the camp other than craft.

Recently, though, I've started to look at it differently. I've started to see how it doesn't really matter what the counselors’ intentions or private thoughts about me as a camper were. Because in grown-up life, there are no counselors and there is no award ceremony. There's only the choice of what to do each day -- swim or make skits or climb up a greased pole. Or, find the one place where you feel cozy and excited and a sense of I-can't-believe-they-let-me-do-this and spend as much time as possible in that shed. As an adult, you won't get a handmade plaque. And you still may be a little weird. But you'll get a hum of pleasure every time you think about it. And you'll not only have done well -- you'll have done well in a brand new category.

I guess my point is just to remind all of us that we don't have to do well at 101 things to be able to be proud of ourselves. And just because the people around us might be excelling in all the trophy categories, and there's no trophy for the thing we're doing, doesn't mean we aren't excelling too.



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

Save a Little Time With Gmail Canned Responses + Keyboard Shortcuts

Here's the thing. You can't just send the same email to a bunch of stores and expect a positive response. Hear me when I say that efficiency does not equal spam. 

That said, we are big fans of tools that make it faster to connect meaningfully. For instance, you can use Wholesale In a Box to find stores that are a great fit and then connect with them in ways that are thoughtful. You can hire a studio assistant to do some of that holiday packing and shipping. And... you can use two little tools, Gmail Canned Responses and Mac Keyboard Shortcuts to save yourself hours of email time. (Read: you can get back to the making.)

 

 

Tool #1: Gmail Canned Responses

If you don't use Gmail, you can move on to tip #2 -- this one isn't for you. However, so many of our makers do use Gmail that I find myself recommending this to folks on an almost daily basis. 

The purpose: 
Obviously, every single email is different and you always want to speak directly to what you respond to a given store as well as how you see your work fitting in. That said, having an email template for all the parts of the email that don't  change can be crucial. If you use Gmail, Canned Responses is a way to save your email template in the actual window where you compose it -- and you can access it in just 2 clicks. Plus, you don't run the risk of creating formatting issues by copying-and-pasting from another program.

How to do it:

  1. In Gmail, click the Gear Icon, then click Settings.
  2. In the Settings area, click the tab that says "Labs."
  3. Search for the lab called "Canned Responses." Once you find it, click Enable, then save your changes.
  4. Once you're back in your regular Inbox, click Compose to draft a new email.
  5. Write (or paste your email) in the Compose window. Make sure to delete your signature from this version, as it will pop up again when you use the template. You can include links but you'll have to add attachments when you send the individual emails.
  6. Once your template is how you want it, click on the small grey area at the bottom right of the Compose window. Select Canned Responses, then select "New canned response..." A window will pop up where you can name the template. Perhaps you call it something like "2016 Wholesale Outreach Template."
  7. Now, you have your template saved in Canned Responses. You can repeat the above steps to add other templates. Perhaps you have one for home/gift stores and a different template for lifestyle shops.
  8. Once you're ready to use your template, just compose a new email, click the grey arrow at the bottom right, select Canned Responses, and then select the name of your template (for instance, 2016 Wholesale Outreach Template) from the "Insert" section. Customize to the store you're sending it to, edit your subject line, and you're good to go!

 

Tool #2: Keyboard Shortcuts

If you don't use a Mac, this tip isn't for you. But this tool will save you a lot of time if you do use a Mac, so it's definitely worth sharing here.

The purpose: 
Do you ever find yourself typing the same things to people over and over again? You absolutely mean them - and you value the relationship, of course. But some things you might find yourself typing repeatedly when you're growing wholesale are:

  • Thank you so much for getting right back to me!
  • To place an order, you can head over to my Wholesale ordering site.
  • Sure thing! You can email me at diane@houseofhome.com.

In every one of these cases, retyping the phrase or sentence doesn't make anything more personal -- it just runs the risk of delaying your email or causing a typo. Mac Keyboard shortcuts let you input common things that you say and then you can trigger your computer or phone to type them for you with just a keystroke. For instance, perhaps you input the "To place an order..." sentence, so every time you type "77" your computer knows to insert that sentence.

How to do it:

  1. Type command-space to pull up the Mac spotlight search.
  2. Type "keyboard" in the search. Then, select the Keyboard system preference.
  3. Once it opens, click on the Text tab.
  4. Click on the "+" button to create a new shortcut. Type in an easy to remember shortcut, then tab to enter its longer version. For instance, perhaps the shortcut is "rr" and the long version is "So sorry for my delay in getting back to you!"
  5. Once you're done, close the Keyboard system preference to save your changes.
  6. Whenever you want to use that shortcut, just type in the combination of letters or numbers -- from your phone or your computer -- and the sentence will appear. 

 

Let us know how these two tools work for you, and if you have any questions about the process! We're happy to help if we can! 



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

Our Guide to Calling Store Owners, Without the Stress

Have you ever had to call a store owner by phone and felt a little stumped about what to say? This post is for you!

For the most part, when you're reaching out to stores that you don't have a previous connection to, we recommend using email. The main reason is that most store owners really want to be with their customers when they’re in the shop -- so they prefer not to have an in-person or telephone interruption. Plus, email has the added benefit of allowing you the time to craft your story, think through your email template, and attach a few beautiful photos of your work to make a good first impression.

Emailing doesn't always work, though, because some stores specifically request that makers call them. (As we’ll note in the “specific requirements” section of our store profiles.)

 

So what do you say when you need to call a store? Here's what we recommend:

Someone answers the phone: Hello this is XYZ boutique, how can I help you?

You: Hi there! My name is Sara. I’m a (maker, jeweler, artist) and I wanted to share my line with the store. Who would be the best person to talk to about that, or would it be better to email?

(We suggest confirming that phone is best, just to express respect for their time.)

 

Option one: They are not available and the person you're speaking to just seems to be working the desk.

You: Oh great, when would be a good time to call back and speak with them? Is there a particular time of day that is good for them?

Then add a task on your calendar to follow up with them.

 

Option 2: The store owner answers with, Yes, I’m the owner, what kind of jewelry do you make?

Once you're on the phone with the right person, give them a one (maybe two) sentence description of the line. Avoid the temptation to tell them your life story -- assume everyone you talk to is busy and just heading out the door.

You: I make a handmade line of sterling silver jewelry that is functional and beautiful. Does that sound like something you would be interested in?

Usually they'll either say that it doesn't fill a gap for them, or they'll request that you follow up via email or snail mail with more info. If they ask for you to follow up via email, ask if there is anything specific they would like you to send or if a line sheet is ok.  

 

One other tip is to avoid language like potentially, just, maybe, might, and other words that are implicitly apologetic. You’re not a telemarketer and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You researched this store and really think your work would be a good fit, so stand tall in that.

For instance, instead of: Does that maybe sound like something you might be interested in?

You can ask: Does that sound like something you would be interested in?

 

What do you say when you need to call a store to introduce your work? Have you gotten any funny responses that made you think on your feet?



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

I Have a New Line Coming Out… Do I Pitch to Stores Now or Wait for the New Stuff?

The question goes like this:

“I’m curious about pitching when you’re in the midst of putting together a new line sheet for the next season. I plan on having a new line sheet with lots of new cards around mid August (that’s the theory anyway) and I wasn’t sure if I should wait to pitch to new retailers until it’s ready? Or should I pitch them my current line sheet and just not worry about that?

I’m also worried about annoying new retailers by coming out with the new line sheet right after they’ve placed an order. Is this something I should worry about?”

We often hear this question because creative people are always in the process of making new pieces, new lines, or new line sheets. So they often wonder: should I go ahead and introduce my work now? Or should I wait until I have everything set?

The usual caveat does apply here: do what feels right for you. There are no hard-and-fast rules that can be applied across businesses, product type, time of year, etc. If you have questions about a specific situation, reach out and we’ll get right back to you.

That said, there are a couple of general ways to approach this (and either approach can be right at different times): The “Wait” Approach and The “Get-After-It” Approach!

 

The “Get-After-It” Approach

What we've been seeing with the businesses we work with is that there's not a real disadvantage to using what you have.

In our free e-course we always say to start with what you have and then make it better.  If store owners like the work enough to place an order, it's unlikely they're going to feel shortchanged by new product coming out. It tends to be great, actually, when you look at this process more as relationship-building than as ‘order-prompting’ because then you can reach out now with your current line sheet. From that perspective, this initial contact is about starting a conversation, not selling any piece in particular.

You can consider adding a short line to your introduction email along the lines of "I also have some new products coming out in the next few weeks so I'll circle back with that when it's ready!" If you are following up (and you need to be following up!) then this is just a great way to do that. Your final followup can include the brand-spanking-new line sheet, or if the timing doesn’t work out you can set a task for yourself to reach back out a month or two down the road to send them the new line sheet. Don’t think of it as an excuse to follow up, but rather as a value to them.

One other thought, from the perspective of relationship building, is that even if someone places an order a week or a month before you launch your new line, why not be proactive and send an email to any stores who have placed an order recently announcing that and offering to replace or swap out if they like any of the new stuff.  This kind of care is how you turn a $150 order into $3000 as the years go by.

Set it and forget it. If you're a Wholesale In a Box customer, you can click on any store and add special tasks for that store, as seen above. These will be in addition to the "regular" tasks already set up for that store. 

 

The “Wait” Approach

We’re always working to improve what we do. But there are times when, for whatever reason you are at a point where you are not really thrilled about what you’re offering. If that’s the case, it’s likely that others won’t be either.  

If you have some specific changes you are making to your line (or the story you are telling about it through you line sheet or photos for instance) that you’ll be really excited about in a month or two, then waiting might be the right decision. This is most often true when the changes are already in progress (e.g. the photographer is sending over the files next Tuesday or Wednesday) as opposed to a more general hope of, someday, time permitting, changing a line sheet.  If you go this route, we highly (highly) recommend that you have a specific time frame that you are really trying to stick to.  If you don’t have a time frame, you are likely not making a strategic decision -- but rather pushing it off -- which is not going to result in growing your business in the way you would like.

 

In general, it usually pays to keep connecting, cultivating orders, and iterating on your line as you go. But if it feels right to wait for a month or two -- especially if you have a particular timeframe you’re making changes in -- then go ahead and wait before connecting with stores.

 

What have you done in the past when deciding if you should reach out with what you have or the new version of your line or line sheet you are actively working on?



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.

Announcing: Wholesale In a Box Launches a Tool to Cultivate Current Stockists + Get Reorders

Today we are launching our two biggest updates: we are adding the ability to manage and cultivate all of your existing wholesale accounts AND the option for our customers to switch to a $49/month Cultivate plan during busy seasons.  

Our goal at Wholesale In a Box has always been to help makers grow their businesses, on their terms. So we have been nose-to-the-grindstone to see how we can do that even better. Over the past two months, we’ve talked to dozens of our customers, done virtual and in-person studio visits from Pennsylvania to Nebraska to Georgia, and refined every nook and cranny of what we do. 


Here’s what you’ll now be able to do with Wholesale In a Box:

Reach out to new stockists as before AND cultivate your current wholesale accounts all in one place.  

  • No more spreadsheets collecting cobwebs & no more missed reorders because you didn’t follow up
  • See at-a-glance what is pending and where everything stands with every lead and all of your current stockists. 

Use our method -- but also make it your own

  • Set reminders to tell a stockist about your new line, follow up to check in on a recent order and more.
  • Create custom tasks and notes about a store. 

Do all your outreach faster -- no more switching back and forth between screens.

  • Your pending tasks are always front-and-center
  • See a complete history of all of your interactions with any store. 
  • Know exactly where everything stands with easy, color-coded “cards” for each store.

Introduce your work to stores when it works for you, on your schedule

  • A drag-and-drop calendar so you can adjust your to-do’s 


Downshift to a $49/month Cultivate Plan

Most of the time, makers want to be growing and reaching out to stores to introduce their work but sometimes you just need to take a month or two to focus on a trade show, do a redesign, deal with the holiday rush, or move to a new city. When this happens you don’t necessarily want to slam on the brakes but you may not want to reach out to new stores during that time.

That’s why we now have the ability for our customers to downshift to the Cultivate plan for $49/month. While you’re on Cultivate we won’t send you new stores to reach out to but you can continue to reach out to any stores from previous months, have access to the app and cultivate your existing wholesale accounts. You can switch back to the Grow plan and get 20 more stores a month whenever you are ready. 


We are so excited about these changes and we hope you are too!  

Learn more here and of course if you have any questions or would like a screen share walkthrough of the new app, please reach out!



Grow Your Wholesale

A free five part email series with the most important things we know about getting your handmade products into stores.