Reflecting on Your Sales This Year? Remember This.

In 2006, I was living in New York City and going to yoga a lot. I was going through a hard time, so yoga class served as a refuge, exercise, and social connection.

One day, as I walked out of class, I saw a stack of books for sale by the cash register. The handwritten sign next to the stack said the book was a memoir by one of the yoga studio’s attendees. I figured the book was terrible, obviously just displayed because the author went to yoga at the studio. But I bought it anyway because my life doldrums were such that going to an actual bookstore or library wasn’t happening. As the cashier ran my credit card, she mentioned that the next day, the author was doing a reading and Q&A at the studio. Since I’d be at yoga anyway, I decided to go.

The following evening, the author huddled with three other yoga rats in a corner of the studio and fielded sparse questions from the group, allowing a lot of awkward silences. She read a bit from the book. But with such a tiny group, the reading didn’t last long. I felt a little bit sorry for the author, who was trying to sell a book three people at a time.

Eventually, I read the book and loved it. And it turned out that the embarrassingly small reading was led by the author Elizabeth Gilbert. The book, of course, was Eat, Pray, Love. (If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last 10 years: the book sold 10 million copies and Liz Gilbert is famous, speaking to crowds of thousands and on TV Shows like Oprah.)

I think about this little book reading a lot.

I think about how Elizabeth Gilbert must have done lots and lots and lots of tiny, awkward book readings. She must have done them in yoga studios and bookstores and church halls. As she did them, each tiny book reading added to the last one and the more she did, the more the size of the readings grew. In other words, I probably met Elizabeth Gilbert at the very beginning of her book’s “snowball effect.”

But here’s the thing. When we say “the snowball effect”, we don’t picture a snowball that starts with awkward 3-person book readings, night after night. We picture the part where you go from a 20-person event to a 40-person event and grow from there. We think only about the end of a snowball’s journey when its size and speed quickly compound and the snowball is big and fast and growing quickly. We forget the beginning of the snowball’s journey when the snowball is bumping along in fits and starts; a few snowflakes come together, then hit a rock and separate again; the snowball gets bigger then breaks. Eventually, it gets bigger and bigger, faster and faster -- but the beginning part, the slow part, is long.

In our work with over 250 makers, the reality of their business growth has ALWAYS been a long time of bumping along with just a little growth at a time, followed by (what looks to the outside world like) overnight success. Our most successful makers have gone from 20 stockists to 120 stockists, but they went from 20 to 21, to 22, back to 20, up to 22… and grew in that small, uneven way for months and months. Eventually, the pace picks up and you go from 70 stockists to 90 stockists in a single month… but that stage of the snowball effect takes time to get to. And it takes sustained effort, tolerance of discomfort, bearing of uncertainty, patience, and good humor in the face of awkward 3-person events.

However you are feeling today in your work, I hope that you’ll remember Elizabeth Gilbert and the snowball effect. If you feel elated about recent sales and successes, remember to return to work tomorrow and next year to grow and evolve your business, since no snowball becomes large through a single event. It is the process of rolling and growing momentum that sustains it. On the other hand, if you are disappointed, exhausted, and frustrated today, remember that the largest snowball starts with a long period of almost imperceptible growth, but that the growth comes eventually.

Most days, I can’t remember any of this, and I move through the day in a frantic combination of self-judgment and impatience. But on the days when I just do the work, gently and consistently, without such obsession about how quickly the results arrive, I feel peaceful and the work goes better.

So if it helps, as you go about your day, your year, and your work, remember that before Oprah and before the 10 million copies, Elizabeth Gilbert’s snowball was made of many tiny, awkward book readings. And remember that your snowball is on its way, too.

 

To be of use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
-Marge Piercy



Grow Your Wholesale

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

5 Things Makers Wish They Knew When They Started Wholesale

When a maker is beginning to think about getting their handmade line into stores, there are a lot of questions that come up, many of which we’ve covered in other articles:

But often, the biggest questions makers are faced with when starting to do wholesale is some version of:

“What should I know that I don’t know I don’t know? What should I know going into it?”

So we asked some of the makers that we work with for their advice. They thought about the early days of growing their handmade wholesale business and sifted through their experiences for the single piece of advice they think is most crucial.

Here’s what they said…

 

 

5 Things Makers Wish They Knew When They Started Wholesale:

 

Reach out to a store or two locally, first
“I think it’s important to sell your work locally first. It's a great way to learn the do's and don'ts of selling wholesale in a more personal and comfortable setting. Most store owners love to sell local artists so it's a good selling point when approaching them. One of my first accounts was our local independent bookstore in Oneonta called The Green Toad. The owner there was actually the one who convinced me I needed to raise my prices and after some research I found he was totally right. So they can be a really helpful resource when you're still figuring it all out. It was a great store to "practice" on since it was right here in town... I could walk in, see my cards on the shelf and talk to him about what he likes and needs from a wholesale partnership. Once I was comfortable with the numbers and process there, expanding to other stores was a lot less scary.” — Lara, Paper Wolf Design

 

Don’t let trends dictate your art.
“I think one of the biggest things I like to encourage new makers is this idea of making what they want to make and not letting the trends or "what's hot" dictate their art. Eventually, it will become obvious that you're not making quality items because you're not really into it.” — Bill, West Park Creative

 

Remember that you may have it “together” as much as everyone else, even if it doesn’t seem that way.
“I think there is a temptation to believe that everyone else has it all together. We look around us at our competition or friends and because of the way they are portraying themselves on social media it appears that they have all the answers. And I'm sitting here with hardly anything figured out.” — Bill, West Park Creative

 

Just start...
“My advice would be... just start. It's a process that should be refined. Striving for perfection on your first pass will be left frustrated, unsatisfied, and more likely to overlook creative solutions. I think allowing yourself room to make mistakes and recover from mistakes is the best and quickest solution to building a solid wholesale business.”  — Lydia, Argaman&Defiance

 

… But be sure to refine and iterate as you go.
“Getting started is not and shouldn't be the hardest part. Starting becomes the focus because it’s so uncomfortable. What we should be focusing on is the editing process and how we can become sharper, more decisive and recover quickly from mistakes and failure.  If we can become stronger editors (in the creative process and beyond) you can communicate your brand, aesthetic, and process that much better.” — Lydia, Argaman&Defiance

 

If you’re just getting started on your wholesale journey, we have a lot of free resources for you. Check out our free 5-part eCourse and our Wholesale Pro Training Center. And if you have questions we might be able to help with, send them our way.



Grow Your Wholesale

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

The Very Real Problem with Faking It Until You Make It

The most common piece of advice that we give the makers we work with is this: sound like yourself.

Usually we don’t say it like that. But sounding like yourself, telling your story, and expressing your values and personality through your business communications is the subtext to many of the practical pieces of feedback we give, when looking over line sheets or websites or emails to stores.

We frequently say to makers:

  • Your wholesale catalog looks great, but consider adding a page describing your production process and showing photos of you in the studio.
  • Replace those generic photos with photos of your line that are styled in a way that reflects the ethos and spirit of what you’re doing. Present your work in all of its quirky splendor.
  • Don’t worry about sounding bigger than you are. A gorgeous photo of a maker hand-printing skirts at her kitchen table is a lot more interesting and compelling than photos that feel like they were ripped out of a JCPenney catalog.
  • On your wholesale terms page, instead of saying, in all caps, “KAVALON THREADS WILL NOT ACCEPT RETURNS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION BY KAVALON STAFF WITHIN 30 DAYS OF INITIAL PURCHASE,” you might be better saying simply, “If you’re not happy with anything about your order with us, we want to make it right! Drop us a note within a month of getting your Kavalon goodies letting us know you need to return or exchange something and Julie will be glad to help you figure out a solution.”

In other words -- communicate who you are and what you do honestly, in your own voice and aesthetic.

Of course, we give the advice we need to hear ourselves. And I’ve been noticing recently that there are a lot of small ways that I’m not being fully myself in my work, either. It’s subtle and it’s never a conscious choice, but sometimes I write in a voice that really isn’t my own because I think it’s what people want to hear… or the right way to do it… or the effective way to do it. Sometimes I make a choice about pricing or what to put on the website that seems, while not dishonest or bad, just a little lame to me -- but I do it because it is the “smart business choice.” I’m not talking about anything dramatic or unethical -- I’m just talking about tiny silences, small twinges, and subtle aesthetic choices. But all of those little things can add up to a lot in how we feel about our own work. And I’m starting to make some changes, so that my “outsides” better match my “insides,” consistently.

This exploration has started to feel vital. It has started to feel like the source of what is most important in the work.

But, it’s really hard to actually do sometimes.

The irony is that as creative business owners, the entire PURPOSE of the endeavor is for our work to be creative, authentic, and freeing. If we wanted to feel like frauds, we could probably make more money doing it in an office setting for a faceless bureaucracy.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve taken so many risks for my work that to risk REALLY showing up as myself in everything I do feels like a bridge too far. It feels like, “I’ve risked everything to do work I love -- and now I need to play it safe and make sure that this works out.”

Alternatives to sounding like yourself:

  • Sounding like your cool maker friend
  • Sounding like the corporations that email you discounts every day.
  • Sounding like the “power suit” version of yourself.

There is power in acting out new ways of being. But the thing about faking it until you make it is that it’s very possible you’ll never feel like you’ve “made it” so you’ll just… keep… faking it. And ultimately, the art, brands, and people that we’re most drawn to are those who are skillfully most authentic. It’s hard to connect with people who are faking it.

 

“Words create worlds.”

- Abraham Joshua Heschel

 

Words create worlds. When we are fully ourselves in the words we use and the things we make, we create more authenticity and inspiration and generativity in the world. I know I find myself deeply inspired when I come across examples of people being fully themselves in a business or creative context.

For instance, there is a little chunk at the very bottom of Demetria Provatas’s website for Woodland Keep where she asks for donations. She could have said something like “The long term sustainability of this site depends on donations by readers like you. We appreciate your generosity.” But instead she said:

Woodland Keep has a lot of big bright dreams for the future. Land of our own, a brick oven, a baking space/studio, baking equipment, a cabin, a space to grow our own food/ingredients. With all of these dreams, plus more, the temptation to put ads on this page, to create empty merchandise, or to invest time in shallow work grows, but at our heart we know these things would defy the values and intent of this project - so, if you like what's happening here and you feel so inclined to invest [in] its humble growth any donations given would be very much appreciated. And either way - thank you for following along! This project wouldn't be the same without you! Xx

I don’t know about you, but the directness, honesty, and vulnerability that she shows in that paragraph makes me feel much more connected with her work than I would if she’d chosen more generic, “professional” wording.

And the artist and illustrator Phoebe Wahl finds ways to be deeply authentic in every word and photo of what she does. You wouldn’t think that a product page and description would be the time to be radical, deeply authentic, and inspiring, but I’m probably not alone in feeling emboldened by the spirit that comes across here. Her photos are aligned with her ethos and aesthetic, as is the fact that she shows gorgeous models of every body type. But what struck me the most is the way that she allows her voice and values to carry through even to the description of the sizes she carries and how sizing works:

This Warrior Woman tee is 100% cotton, made in the USA by American Apparel*. It fits like a fitted classic tee, but with more of a scooped neck. Very soft cotton, in a 'cream' color. THESE TEES RUN SMALL! I recommend sizing up one or two sizes, depending how you like your fit.

Designed and illustrated by Phoebe Wahl 2014, hand screen printed by Red Boots Design in Bellingham, WA 2016.

*2X-4X women's tees are Port & Co. brand, 100% cotton, made in China. (Please let me know if you are aware of a distributor of blank tees in plus sizes that are made in the USA! I'm on the lookout for options, since AA doesn't go above XL for most women's styles.)

She’s not trying to sound like she has it all figured out. She’s making her intentions clear. She’s communicating what she needs to about the product. And I love the honesty, clarity, and integrity that comes across throughout.

Of course, everyone’s ethos is different. So if you and your line are about minimalism or oddball irreverence or haughty glamour then that is what should come through in the styling of your photos, production descriptions, and purchase confirmation emails. Only Phoebe Wahl should sound like Phoebe Wahl.

 

 

Why does it matter?


Why does being ourselves in our business, telling our story authentically, and allowing our “outsides” to match our “insides” matter?

It matters because as a maker, the only advantage you have in the marketplace is your story. What you make is not the cheapest. It’s not guaranteed to not break. What you make is not world famous or perfectly executed. The reason that stores choose to buy what you make over something else is because they are buying into your perspective, your story, your voice.

Every photo we make, every sentence we write, and every aesthetic decision we make is a part of communicating who we are and, if done well, inviting people to be a part of that.

It matters because how you do it is what you get. And making your work a practice of faking, of misrepresentation, of anxious grasping, of going along to get along will only create more of that franticness.

It matters because we do this work to make something we believe in -- and to undermine that in how we show up in our businesses is a shame.

 

 

Why don’t we do it? We’re afraid.

 

As I write this, I’m butting up against the very thoughts I’m trying to encourage you to move past. “This might be meaningful to me, but other people won’t resonate with it,” I think to myself. “People are going to think less of me if I share my weaknesses around this” And of course, “Ok, now you’re just rambling -- no one is going to have any idea what you’re talking about.”

As far as I can tell, I’m not alone in having those thoughts. Some reasons that I think we’re afraid to consistently speak in our own voice, with our real aesthetic, according to our values, in our businesses:

  • We are afraid that it’s not professional.
  • We think the way to make money is to sound like a big company.
  • We are afraid that somehow we’ll put ourselves at risk.
  • We want to run with the big dogs and think we need to sound like them too.
  • We think our way is too wishy-washy or unsure for people to trust.
  • We are faking it until we make it.
  • We are afraid people won’t understand what we mean.

 

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. That the speaking profits me, beyond any other effect…

We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

- The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action (excerpt) by Audre Lorde (by the way, it’s way 100% worth your time to read the whole essay)

 

 

Why don’t we do it? It’s freaking hard.

 

Here’s the truth: it’s not as simple as deciding you want to sound like yourself. It’s not as simple as bravery. It’s also about practice and skill. Perhaps you have a vision for how your styled photos should look and feel, but when you pull them up on the computer, there is something about the lighting and perspective that just doesn’t align with what you had in mind. Or maybe you try to communicate your personality in your writing, but you’ve never felt very comfortable with the written word.

 

“Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.”

- Miles Davis

 

Ira Glass speaks about this gap that exists between the vision we have for our work and the skill with which we execute that vision, especially at the beginning.

Honestly, I think that makers like Jenny Lemons and Gopi Shah are respected because they are both brave enough to do their work in full integrity and because they have put in the work over a span of years so that they are able to execute their vision fully and skillfully. They had the taste. They had the integrity. And they worked their way through the “gap.”

That’s why we call the process of establishing yourself in a craft or art “coming into your own.” Your own (voice, aesthetic, values, story) may be clear to you but you still need to learn to come into it.

 

 

There is no path, the path is made by walking.

 

Whether you’re afraid to sound like yourself or whether you struggle to execute it, there is really only one solution to all of the above:

Do your best to sound like yourself, in all aspects of your craft and business, and you will get better at it over time.

Even the best of the best are only doing it 80% of the time. And those who are just starting out are probably truly telling their story 20% of the time. But we can inch toward fullness and wholeness. And there are rewards all along the way.

Like they say, there is no path, the path is made by walking.



Grow Your Wholesale

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

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.



Grow Your Wholesale

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

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:



Grow Your Wholesale

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

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.



Grow Your Wholesale

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

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.



Grow Your Wholesale

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

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.



Grow Your Wholesale

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

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.



Grow Your Wholesale

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

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! 



Grow Your Wholesale

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

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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 



Grow Your Wholesale

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

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! 



Grow Your Wholesale

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

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

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

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.