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:
- What is the best way to connect with stores?
- How many times should I follow up if I don’t get a response?
- Should I portray my brand as bigger than it is?
- Is it a good idea to send samples to stores?
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
“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