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Crafty Business Week Articles Wrap Up

We hope you have enjoyed all the great articles this week about craft businesses. In case you missed anything, here’s a helpful list of the articles for the week:

Craft Fair Info
Craft Fair Lessons and Tips
Craft Fair Tips
How To Make a Memorable Product Tag
Articles about Craft Fairs and Shows

Blogging Info
Blogging Tips for Crafters
Types of Blog Commenters
Articles about Craft Blogging

Crafter Interviews
Mark Montano
Rachel Johnson from Swap-bot
Steff Bomb

Selling Online
Tips for Listing Items on Etsy
Etsy Newbie Tips
Articles about Selling Crafts Online

Social Media for Crafters
Setting Up a Facebook Fan Page
Social Media for Crafters

Better Your Business Articles
Photo Tips for Crafters
Promoting your Crafty Business
Materials for Promoting Your Crafty Business

Do you like these types of articles? Did you find them helpful? Would you like to see more articles like this? Please let us know, we love to hear what our readers think!

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Crafter Interview – Steff Bomb

Reported by Simone Collins

Today I’m sharing an interview with Steff from Steffbomb.com. I had the pleasure of meeting Steff last year at Renegade and pretty much fell in love with her plushies immediately. Steff is an Etsy seller, as well as having her products in stores for retail purchase, so she is full of experience as an owner of a crafty business.

Crafty Business Name: Steff Bomb

Where can we find you online? My website, Steffbomb.comEtsy store, Twitter and my Facebook Fan Page.

P9110920

When did your business begin and why did you started?
Owning a business was completely unintentional. An important part of the story is that art and drawing were always my life, but since I’m self taught and never went to college having an actual career in art never seemed plausible.

I started sewing when I was around 21, not clothes or anything useful, just a bunch of shapes with eyes, limbs, and pointy teeth… it was all totally for my own personal fulfillment. I made some and gave them to friends and my roommates at the time, then started trading with a few artists friends. A little later the owner of my favorite store in Philly (Jinxed Philadelphia) asked if I would sell them in his store. Word-of-mouth spread, and more stores began to contact me. It all progressed so smoothly, before I knew it I had a small business and I didn’t even realize it. I still consider myself to be extremely lucky in every way.

Mr. Lertchman

Sometime in 2007 I realized that this was my chance! I was given a small window of “art career” opportunity, so I grabbed it like my life depended on it and worked like crazy to make my unrealistic childhood dream a reality. That year I saved up all of my money and mass produced an asparagus plush, called Mr. Lertchman, which was sold by a distributor to stores around the world. That opened even more doors for me and I was asked to be in an art shows for the first time ever. That in itself was mind-blowing. In July of 2008, I moved from Philadelphia to Chicago. September 2009, I gave the 9-to-5 world the heave-ho, quit my day job, and took on sewing full time. Everything keeps growing. It’s very easy to get caught up in the frenzy of my day to day but not a moment goes by where I don’t say to myself, “damn, this rules”.

Tell us about your business.
It’s plush things. Inanimate objects with faces, mostly foods (let’s be real here, eating rules). It’s hard to describe because even though it is art you don’t want to say “art” because that can come off as kinda snooty, so I usually just say “toys” because that sounds more fun, and hopefully people will acknowledge the amount of hard work that goes into it on their own.

Describe your typical day.
Pretty much everyday I wake up at 8:30/9am, hug my cat, eat breakfast, then sew forever until my hands fall off. Once in a while I’ll throw in a shower, a workout, or a trip to the post office, but that’s the basic outline of my life.

What keeps you motivated?
My unbridled passion for eating and paying rent. Just kidding. Half kidding. This is going to sound extra super barfy but I love this, every bit of it. I used to daydream about being in art shows with people I admire, making my own stuff and having exactly the life I have now. It’s literally the only thing I’ve ever wanted, and that is motivation enough for me to give this everything I have.

What keeps you on track with your business? Tools? Tricks?
The only trick I have is to keep my business as simple and as organized as possible. I have a file system for invoices, emails, and tracking numbers but I am still figuring things out as I go along so the less complicated I can make everything for myself, the better.

Any websites or programs you use to help with your business?
I’m sorry, did you just say there are programs that help with my business? Seriously? Here I am doing everything myself like a sucker, when I could have been getting help this whole time? I need to look into this because I definitely need all of the help I can get.

What is the biggest challenge in your business?
Being only one person is hands down my biggest challenge. Between orders, commissions, wholesale, art shows, craft fairs, and more, I can’t keep up with the demand. This past year I worked so much that I ended up with tendinitis. I don’t have health insurance and I had to keep working through it, but I felt like everything became a disaster. I’m finally almost caught up from that, but I’m still two months behind on emails. It’s a tad heartbreaking when I think about. When things go awry, it can really get me down, but I all I can do is not dwell on it and get as much work done as humanly possible until I am back on track. On a similar note, I AM looking for an intern, hint hint. If anyone is interested, feel free to email me at steff@steffbomb.com…wink!

Any advice you would give to someone just starting a crafty business?
One thing that seems super obvious but I still somehow managed to overlook is how important it is to have some kind of savings. When I quit my job I had $20 in my bank account. Holy crap that was dumb.

What do you love most about owning your own crafty business?
I get to make severed limbs and hamburgers and somehow still make a living. What’s awesomer than that?!? I also get to run errands while everyone else is at work. No lines! Two weeks ago I rode to the beach, sat by the water, and worked there all day… best day ever! It’s the tradeoff for working non-stop for very little pay and no benefits.

Grumble Bun

Besides crafting, what do you love doing?
I love eating breakfast, I love riding my bike, and I love getting to hang out with my friends. I’m a pretty simple gal.

Where does your inspiration come from?
I definitely know 1000% that the better the weather is, the better my work ends up being. I have a bit of a crush on sunny 75 degree weather. Sunshine, swoooooon. As far as ideas themselves, they always happen randomly, pretty out of the blue. Most of the time it’s when I’m in the shower, while I’m riding my bike, or when I’m about to go to bed.

Who are your favorite crafters?
Amy Sedaris is totally my hero. If anyone out there knows Amy Sedaris please tell her that I totally want to craft with her and then maybe one day we can and then I can die a happy girl. Shawnimals rules and Heidi Kenney is phenomenal… if you make plush and don’t admire everything they’ve done, you’re bonkers.

Tell us about your crafting space.
It’s kind of awful at the moment. I sit on my bed and work on a not-very-sturdy card table. I recently moved my sewing machine to my kitchen table, which is a treat because it’s not in my room (already a plus) and it’s much more stable than the card table. Once I get some extra money I will rent a car, head to IKEA, and get that $50 table and $30 chair that I’ve been longing for…but for now, I’m working with what I’ve got.

If you lose your crafty mojo, how do you find it again?
I’m very stubborn and will do my best to suck it up and keep working… but I can only ruin so much work before I realize that I need to take a breather.

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Where do you see your business in 10 years?
It will be a little difficult to run my business in 10 years. I’ll be too busy throwing stray cats at intruders outside of my hobo shanty… probably at a rail yard.

Many thanks to my fellow Chicagoan, Steff, for all her insight and candidness. I love to hear how professional crafters got started and her tale is inspiring. Now head on over to her shop and grab yourself a little plushie of your own, what are you waiting for? Aren’t they adorable?

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!

Crafter Interview – Rachel Johnson from Swap-bot

Reported by Simone Collins

I am so happy to be sharing my interview with Rachel Johnson from Swap-bot with everybody today. Rachel is not only a crafty business owner but she is also a reporter for Craft Critique (and lucky for me, a personal friend). Her crafty talents, as well as business savvy, have made Swap-bot what it is today; I am sure some of Rachel’s insights will be inspiring as well as informative.


Name: Rachel Johnson

Crafty Business: Swap-bot.com

Where can we find you online? Swap-bot website, Swapbot blog, personal blog, Ace Department, and reporting for Craft Critique of course!

When did your business begin and why did you started?
My husband and I created Swap-bot in the fall of 2005 after participating in some blog-hosted swaps. We thought swapping was a fun hobby and a great way to “meet” people online, but organizing the swaps by hand is a hassle. Swap-bot takes the hassle out of hosting swaps by organizing and assigning the partners and sending out reminder emails. Swap-bot also has a feedback system which helps keep all of the swappers honest.

Tell us about Swap-bot.
Swap-bot is a service and a community of creative individuals. Our goal is to connect artists, writers, and crafters via the snail mail. We currently have over 40,000 members from all over the world, and the site gets over 3.4 million pageviews a month. I work on Swap-bot full-time and am the site’s only administrator. I do everything for the business (customer service, marketing, blogging, accounting, strategic planning, etc.) except the backend programming. To support the site financially, we publish ads.

Describe your typical day.
I like to get my household chores out of the way in the morning before I sit down at the computer. Then, I get a large mug of coffee (with chocolate soy milk) and sit down to go through emails. My day is technically flexible — I often go to the grocery store or go running — but in general, I spend the whole day in front of the computer.

I receive a LOT of customer support email, which I try to keep up with on a daily basis, but it is difficult. I often spend a good amount of time mediating disputes and investigating questionable accounts. I also monitor the Swap-bot forums and try to write a blog post every day. I update the Swap-bot twitter account and Facebook page a couple times a day and I often spend a few hours each week working on design projects for Swap-bot, like business cards, postcards, or other collateral.

To supplement my income I also do freelance graphic design work for other clients, so I usually have quite a few projects in the air each day.

What keeps you motivated?
The awesome, dedicated Swap-bot users! It is sometimes easy to get caught up in the small day-to-day problems of running a large community, but I always get a renewed sense of purpose when one of our users tells me how much they love Swap-bot because it has helped them meet new friends or renewed their creativity. Our long-time members who have completed hundreds, or even thousands (!), of swaps really inspire me to continue trying to improve the site.

What keeps you on track with your business? Tools? Tricks?
I hand write a To-Do list about once a week. That helps me to remember all of the big important tasks. I also have a pretty complicated system of flagging and filing email that keeps me organized. But other than that, I basically just keep showing up each day and getting as much done as possible. We have been working on Swap-bot for almost six years, and I really think that longevity and perseverance are our only “tricks.”

Any websites or programs you use to help with your business? Which ones and how do they assist you?
I use Goggle Docs for my financial spreadsheets. I like that I can access it online from anywhere and that it is inherently backed up.

I use Google Analytics to track our site traffic.

I love Hootsuite for managing my many social media accounts. I think it is the best Twitter tool out there.

All of my blogs are built on WordPress.

For all of my graphic design work I use the Adobe Creative Suite. I think I use Photoshop every single day of my life!

What is the biggest challenge in your business?
Oof. That is easy — constant complaints. Did I mention that I get a lot of email? Ha! A good portion of it pertains to problems, disputes, site glitches, etc. Most issues are easy to fix and respond to, but sometimes I get some really hurtful email about really random things — often things that are not in my ability to fix or even speak to. Those emails bring me down even though I know that the only proper response is to ignore them.

Any advice you would give to someone just starting a crafty business?
Perseverance is key. It takes a while to establish your brand and build relationships. I know that it is hard to hear, but it usually takes years — not months — for a small business to see real profits.

What do you love most about owning your own crafty business?
I really love working for myself and being in control of my own success or failure.

Besides crafting, what do you love doing?
I love exercising! I train with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and I highly recommend it. I completed the New York City Marathon in November!

Where does your inspiration come from?
Besides our awesome Swap-bot users, I am inspired by huge collaborative projects, like Wikipedia, that demonstrate how incredible humanity can be.

Who are your favorite crafters?
Well, the big mama, Martha Stewart, of course! I also really like Kal Barteski, Jessica Marquez, and Tyshawn Henry.

Tell us about your crafting space.

I have a small office in our Brooklyn apartment where I do all my work, and which houses all of my crafting gear. It has a big wrap-around desk and a large paper storage chest, but it is basically a small space covered in clutter.

If you lose your crafty mojo, how do you find it again?
I join an interesting swap!!

What trends are you noticing in Craft?
Well, cupcakes are definitely on the way out… Bright colors, fringe, and confetti seem to be trending lately.

Where do you see your business in 10 years?
I really hope Swap-bot is still around and swapping is still a popular hobby — hopefully postage doesn’t go up too much! I also love creating new websites. My newest one is AceDepartment.com, a community site for entrepreneurs that I co-founded with my friend Jessica Alfieri Wright. Over the next ten years I hope to continue expanding my online presence and making friends along the way!

Thanks to Rachel for sharing her thoughts about crafty business and how she makes all the magic happen over at Swap-bot. I encourage everybody to go and check out all the fun, it is a great place to be inspired as well as make new friends with similar interests and some of the swaps require absolutely no crafting.

Click on the link at the top of the page to visit Craft Critique for comments, giveaways and more!