Riding Sturdy: Confidently Saying Yes to a Monster Truckload of an Order!

I’m not sure how much I’ve let on about this, but when it comes to crafting I’m often pretty confident in being able to replicate a lot of things I see or visualize without any sort of instructions on how to do so. My favorite type of order is one where I have to make a brand new item I’ve never made before and that hopefully brings on a different type of challenge from what I’m used to, keeping things fresh and exciting for me. This order checks all of those boxes and beyond.

My best friend shared information on my craftabilities with her boss who is throwing her son a Monster Truck-themed party for his fourth birthday, and needs a few items that aren’t readily available on the market. When I got the call all I knew was that the party theme was Monster Trucks, and nothing else. Once we started talking and she shared what she wanted for the party, I panicked a little bit. She wants a ramp for the kids to be able to throw down the little monster trucks (apparently ramps for that size of toy cars don’t exist), some little truck boxes the kids could put on and run around in as if they were wearing cars, and a big car prop that could be used for them to take pictures. All three of these items are things I haven’t even remotely thought of making before, and two of them are on a bigger scale from anything I’ve ever attempted (other than maybe some backdrops, which were lighter and way less intimidating). For some reason though, I said “I think I can do this. I’m in.”

Tiny little problem though – the party is on the same day as my best friend’s engagement party, for which I’m doing a LOT of items, and another friend requested some stuff for her own engagement party, you guessed it, on that same day. April 29th, otherwise known as my personal D-Day. Why did my friend share my information if she knew that the parties were on the same day, you may ask (as did I)? Well, the world may never know but part of it was she didn’t know exactly what her boss wanted, so she did it innocently.

I have about a month to fit those two engagement parties, the monster truck birthday and a wedding order that keeps going and going. Go big or go home, right?

I’m going to make this blog into a three part series so that this isn’t an endless book, and each of the items will have its own dedicated post. Here we goooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

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I want to introduce you to… My talented crafty friends!

People say a lot of who you are is a direct result of your environment and those closest to you and upon some reflection, I’ve come to realize how much of my love for crafting has been reinforced by those around me. Of course, I’ve got tons of support from non-crafty people (which are the majority of my close relatives), but I am so happy to be able to share my craftventures with both friends and family that are just as excited about getting their hands dirty with DIYs as I am.

Some of my earliest memories include feeling happy finger-painting at school, and admiring my cousin’s drawings and wanting to be just like him (funny enough, I only just discovered I can actually draw, like two years ago! You’d think I would’ve attempted it because I was so inspired by him, but it appears I focused on other crafty endeavors…). He’ll definitely have a post completely dedicated to his stunning work! At summer camp, I wasn’t much of an athlete so I’d run off early each day to schedule my activities and make sure I got a spot at any of the crafting disciplines they offered, especially pottery. I even got the Arts & Crafts trophy at the end of my season.

My cousin, my tia, my grandma, and so many of my crafty friends and family members have helped me learn more about myself, gain confidence in my skills and supported me with advice on DIYs, orders, dealing with customers and beyond. Now I want to highlight them in this series called #WCBFriendsAndFamily. Stay tuned, as I’ll be showcasing them individually on this blog!

 

5 Things I’ve learned in My First Year on Etsy

One year. 365 days. 525,600 minutes (RENT fans, you’re welcome.) Can’t believe it!

Even though I originally opened my shop in November of 2014, I was flying under the radar, relying solely on Etsy’s SEO and Pinterest to make sales – until May of 2015 that is! That’s when I finally mustered up the courage to go public with my shop and open social media channels, add new products, and heavily focus on making it happen. Since that decision, a lot has happened and I have learned many valuable lessons in all areas from customer service, to operations, to social media, etc. Here are 5 of the most important things I’ve learned over the past year:

  1. Pictures, pictures, pictures! This is an obvious one, but trust me when I tell you that most Etsy sellers *think* they have good pictures, but we really don’t notice how bad (or average) they are until we do! I’m part of a few discussion forums where I’ve participated in exchanges about many topics, including pictures, and we’ve all massively helped each other better position our items, learn about lighting, etc. My pictures have dramatically changed since I first started out, and trust me when I tell you I thought I was doing a good job, and then I realized how bad they were. Exhibit A:
    Left: Original pictures  Right: Proof that evolution exists

    Left: Original pictures
    Right: Proof that evolution exists

    The picture on the left was the worst of my bunch, but there are no words to explain how I thought that would be good. At the time, I always took my pictures at night with bad lighting, using my “Frosty” colored corrugated wall as a backdrop, flash photography, and weird angles. AND I THOUGHT I WAS KILLING IT. I have nothing to say for myself.

    PRO TIP: Take advantage of all the communities out there, and get feedback on everything you can. You may be a one-man-show like me, but there are so many people willing to help or give quick advice that will make all the difference.

  2. Planning ahead and organization is everything. I’m pretty OCD and I love Excel sheets (really, I do), but when it comes to a self-run business, you really need to be aware of all of your activities/responsibilities, the time it takes you to complete them, the ROI (return on investment) from everything (are you sure you’re spending your time appropriately considering how it converts into sales?), and do as much ahead of time as you can. I’m the type of person who does really well under pressure, and that makes me consciously procrastinate, but unfortunately, I also get “moods” during which I don’t particularly enjoy to craft, and those can last weeks. So doing things ahead of time is very helpful, so that when I don’t want to do something, I don’t have to. Also, everything is much harder than it looks, so you will realize that you need more time to do things well until it becomes second nature.
  3. The customer is… an interesting individual. I am happy to say that the bulk of my sales come from total strangers on Etsy, and I’ve come across so many interesting characters that I could honestly write a whole book about. Customer service has always been my priority from the get-go, so I really try to do my best with each order, but that’s not to say that things are sometimes out of your hands and you just have to deal. The majority of my customers have been super nice, and about a third of them have left me great reviews. A portion of them I’ve had little to no interaction with. And a few have been a little more work than the rest. It’s all part of the game, and you just have to play along and hope for the best result, but definitely don’t let it get personal. I let one order in particular get the best of me and it was about a month of feeling crappy 24/7. Not fun. Try your best to separate your work and craft from your personal life and feelings.
  4. Be your own customer. This one has always been obvious to me and I’ve tried to use it in every sense, but it’s always good to analyze every “front of the house” aspect of your business from the customer perspective. For social media, would you ‘like’ the picture you just posted if it came up in your feed? For SEO, would you search for the item you’re posting using those words? For customer service, would you be pleased with the way you’re treating the buyer if that were you? Always do things thinking of the customer and how you’d respond in their place.
  5. Learn, implement and evolve! We’ve all heard the phrase “nothing is more constant than change,” so we need to be sure that we’re evolving with the trends and that our products remain attractive and innovative. Also, something I’m proud of myself for doing this past year is I’ve participated in many workshops (online and in person), free and paid, and I’ve learned a lot of different things that I’ve implemented wherever possible and I’ve definitely seen results from most of them. Information selling is a big thing right now, so a lot of people are putting out content for free to entice you to buy, and it’s always worth looking into. If you learn one thing you didn’t know before, it’s worth it!

I could’ve told you these things a year ago because a lot of it is common sense, but it’s one thing to “know” something broadly, and another to truly live it and see the relevance of following through.

Do you sell your crafts? Are you in business by yourself? What have you learned since launching that you had an idea about or wish you knew before starting out? Comment below!

Etsy is Getting a Facelift!

A couple of months ago I created an editorial calendar with topics to write about so that I wouldn’t struggle to keep up with my blogging commitment, and one of the items I wanted to touch on is my love for Etsy. Besides the benefit of the platform over every other e-commerce site out there (in my humble opinion), I truly believe that Etsy is always in touch with its community of sellers, and tries to do right by us as well as by buyers. I’ve participated in multiple surveys and I’ve seen implementation of changes I’ve written to them about (probably along with a few other sellers), and the improvements just keep coming.

Then, two weeks ago, sellers were notified that Etsy shops were getting a makeover, and I was like “HA! Perfect timing!” Let me tell you, I’m apprehensive about change, but this is a GREAT one! The new shop look is much more modern, clean, manageable by sellers, and easy to navigate by buyers. It’s definitely in line with the wave of “power pages” (basically, having the bulk of the information about the website in one single page where you just scroll down instead of figuring out the menu) and I for one can’t wait until it launches for everyone on April 5th. Here’s the detailed breakdown of the most noticeable changes:

Etsy Shop Looks - Before and After

Etsy Shop Looks – Before and After

First of all, the new look will allow sellers to choose between having no banner, a small banner (which will not be mobile-optimized), or a cover photo (mobile optimized!). As you can see, I’ve already gotten a head start on mine, and I’ve chosen to use this set up because I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase my items being used by my customers, which buyers don’t really see unless they’re following me on social media (::cough cough:: Facebook, InstagramTwitter). It’s a little overpowering on the screen, but I really think it does more good than harm (if done right).

Second, hello modernization! I never really noticed how “old-school” the current look is until I saw the new layout. The set up is fresh, and I think they got it right by emphasizing the shop itself over the owner, which is currently reversed.

Third, sellers can choose the order of their listings and OMG THANK YOU SO MUCH ETSY!!! It was so frustrating to feel like my shop was “disorganized” because right now the items show up in the order of “recent purchases,” and to my OCD self, it throws off the vibe. We can also choose to feature certain listings that will show up above the full shop. Where is my ::hands in the air:: emoji when I need it?

Fourth, the listings themselves are bigger, which is a great way to show buyers more in less time.

Fifth, the reviews are right under the listings. This is going to be YUUUUGE for buyers (#Elections2016!). As a frequent shopper myself, I know how much reviews influence my decisions to make a purchase, and having this information so visible is definitely going to make the process much quicker.

Sixth, the Shop Updates. I think I need a separate blog post to explain these, but basically, Etsy is going social on us! Through the use of the “Sell on Etsy” app (which is absolutely necessary if you’re a seller ::ehem:: customer service), Etsy has created a new way to push content through the platform and out onto other channels like text messages and the aforementioned Facebook, Instagram & Twitter, and going as far as Pinterest and even WhatsApp! These updates are going to tip the Etsy algorithms in favor of active sellers, as they’ll showcase more of the shops that use them, and honestly, it’s a great way to post different angles of our products by stepping out of the 5 picture limit. When sellers post these updates to their social media channels, they work as a cute little hooks to bring perspective buyers directly to each listing. In conclusion, if you’re a seller and haven’t posted your first Shop Update yet, get on it!

Seventh (and last one I’ll include here because I’m running out of screen), sellers now have a chance to upload a video of themselves and up to 5 pictures of their work spaces (or whatever they want) to help buyers fall in love with them even more.

Maybe I’ll have to make this post a trilogy or a Harry Potter-sized novel to cover ALL of the great new features Etsy is rolling out, and all the reasons why I already love them, but the point is, April 5th, check out my new swagged out shop and buy something from me 😀 Kidding, but really, SO excited for this. Thank you Etsy for being so awesomesauce! T – 1 week!

Copyright Infringement, Plagiarism, and ‘Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery’

Creating something brand new or finding truly original content/products is very hard these days. For example, think about current TV executive board meetings… In my head, they go a little something like this:

  • TV Guy 1: Hey guys, let’s talk about ideas for a new show for next fall
  • TV Guy 2: How about we remake/reunite Friends/Full House/Charmed/Sabrina the Teenage Witch/Gilmore Girls/literally any 90s show ever made?
  • All the TV Guys in unison: SOUNDS LIKE A PLAN!

Whatever happened to predictability? Ha, had to! No, but seriously, they really need to stop bringing back everyone and everything, especially when the shows had perfect closures – except Friends. They can bring back Friends forever until every cast member dies.

Anywho… The point is, a lot of times it can feel like everything has already been created/thought of, and it’s hard to think about something from scratch. After all, we have Pinterest!

I completely understand the struggle. As an Etsy seller, it’s my ultimate goal to have fresh and new items that my customers can only find at my shop, that keep them coming back, and that provide me with a stable income. I’ve tried from day 1 to make things people want, and because I’ve taken enough business classes, I know the key is to look for a market void and try to fill it.

The whole “photo booth props” niche was a very happy accident, but an accident nonetheless. I know there are plenty of providers of photo booth props in both digital and physical format, and I know they’ll continue to come up. I for one have tried very hard to create designs that are 100% authentic, different from what’s already out there, of good quality, and fun. Even though the bulk of my items are inspired by Disney, every single prop has been hand drawn, cut and put together by me – just like I make 4th of July, graduation, or wedding sets. The ideas/events/institutions have been around forever, but the designs themselves are mine.

So you can imagine, it’s disheartening/frustrating (to say the least) when you find that your designs have been copied by other sellers, right under your nose. And that’s what inspired this blog post. Is imitation REALLY the most sincere form of flattery? I’m not sure.

Yesterday, I was doing my routine SEO self-check, where I search random keywords associated with my items and I see in which pages they land, so I can make sure I’m staying relevant and top-sided in Etsy’s algorithms. As I start scanning for my props, on the very first page my eyes pick up on some familiar shapes, and I’m confused for a moment. Wait… Is that… Did I… No that’s not… Who… Woah. That’s my design, but that’s NOT my picture, or my shop.

As you all should know by now, I’m obsessed with everything Disney. So when the Descendants Movie came out, I was front row (to my TV) ready to watch it and fall in love with yet another new classic. It worked. I did. I died. And then, a customer saw my standard set of Villain-inspired props, and asked if I could make her some Descendants villain props. I already had 3 out of the 4 parents (Evil Queen, Jafar & Maleficent) designed from prior sets, so I got to work and drew out the last parent (Cruella), plus the 4 children: Evie, Jay, Mal & Carlos. I’m pretty proud of how they turned out, and I’ve already received a few orders for the set. So you can imagine, that when I see someone copied my design to the T, I’m a little bit flabbergasted. Let me show you what I mean:

I’ve checked for Descendants props on Etsy before, but there were none. Mine were the very first set of Villain parents and children on the marketplace. Until, quite literally, last week. On March 14th, another shop posted a set of Descendants props that looks like this:

Quite honestly, I couldn’t believe it! So eerie to notice the ends of the hair on the girls, Carlos’ (black and white hair) spikes, Jay’s hairstyle… They literally copied my design inch by inch. On the side of the parents, I think most of those props had been done before, but again, I hand drew my designs based off of the original cartoons, not other people’s interpretation of them.

Do you know what I did when I saw this? Wild guess? I laughed. I was in shock, but I try to avoid going crazy over things I cannot change, because ultimately, it only affects me. So I just laughed and, tried to figure out what I should do next. These were my options:

  1. Let it go (whaddup Frozen reference?! Whaddup iiSuperwomanii reference within the reference? #inception): be the bigger person, not care that my work was copied, move on…
  2. Report the listing: Etsy has an option to report listings. I’ve never done this before so I’m not sure under what grounds you may report something (probably over graphic or offensive content?). But, I really don’t want to start drama with another shop. I’ve been on the receiving side of crazy before, and it’s not fun.
  3. Send the shop a direct message: should I let them know I know? I would crap my pants if another shop messaged me telling me I plagiarized their item. I would for sure take it down, possibly apologize, but that’s just me. I’m not sure how the other shop will react.
  4. Write a blog about it to open up a dialogue and hear different perspectives on the matter? Sounds like a plan 🙂

I won’t do anything other than #4 right now. I really just wanted to put this out there for two reasons:

  1. For aspiring or existing Etsy owners – I know of one owner in particular who went through this recently. She was devastated that her design was plagiarized and I believe she reported it, but I’m not sure how much she could do about it or how the case turned out. I just know that it tortured her and stole her peace for weeks. We all work hard to make our shops stand out, hoping for stable sales and happy customers eager to leave reviews. It’s not an easy process trying to make a shop grow and go from hobby or side gig to a business, and this is potentially a roadblock. It’s not a “fair” competition. It’s a dirty play. It sucks but it’s not a make or break situation, so I really just wanted to showcase the story and hopefully have it serve as a “everything will be alright” reassurance, which I’ll need to confirm in the future. But I really think it will.
  2. Trying to honor my #WCBBloggingTuesdays commitment, and always #KeepingItReal (also, please help #KeepInstagramChronological)

In any case, as shocked and surprised as I was, this hasn’t really affected me the way other events have (I’m an ultra sensitive person), so I’m proud of myself for that. At the same time, I know social media makes it seem like everything is peachy 100% of the time, and I don’t tend to share the down moments, but I think it’s an important part of my journey, and in every moment, there’s a lesson to be learned.

Please share your thoughts below, and any personal stories of dealing with plagiarism or copycats are a plus!!

My apologies… I’m back!

Hey guys!

20160101_021450623_iOS

Welcoming 2016 with my beautiful mommy and grandma sporting my New Years Props! ❤ 

I’m sorry for being such a crappy blogger. I genuinely enjoy writing, especially about all my #craftventures, but sometimes the pressure of being constantly present and always delivering great content gets the better of me, and I fail to find inspiration for a good piece.

In order to combat this issue for 2016, I’ve worked on an editorial calendar in advance for the entire year where I have put placeholders for topics I am absolutely sure will be relevant for the date I’ve planned to post them, while also leaving some spaces to allow myself flexibility, depending on what’s going on at that moment.

In any case, this is a very brief post to let you all know that:

 

  1. From now on, I plan on posting a blog at least once a month on Tuesday, but will try my hardest to make it a weekly thing. This is a nerve wracking commitment for me to make, but now that it’s public, I’ll have to hold myself accountable somehow. May the odds be ever in my favor.
  2. I really like to document things, so I will be posting about some fun events or activities I got to be a part of since my last blog up until now (like five months… sorry!). I’ll get better at this, I promise.
  3. I love you! And the one place where I have miraculously managed to stay somewhat on top of is my Instagram account – @wcbcraftstudio – so if you’d like to know what I’ve been up to, feel free to head on over!
  4. I love to travel. LOVE TO TRAVEL. And thankfully, I’ve been granted some great opportunities to do so and see some beautiful places along the way. I also think I can pull off the concept that “to travel well is a craft” in order to get away with including my travel pieces in this same blog. The “Travel Bug” section of the page will be more active this year, and I hope you like it! But if you don’t think the content is relevant here, please feel free to bring me down from my cloud and I’ll put it elsewhere 🙂
  5. Recently, I FINALLY was able to transfer ALL the pictures I’ve ever taken (close to 30,000 or so… I shouldn’t be allowed near photography equipment), so get ready for some serious but fun throwbacks that will give you a little insight into my psych(o)e.

That’s all! I hereby sign off, for the first of 48(?) Tuesday blogs of 2016!

Entrepreneurship, Empowerment and Being a Shark: Women’s Business Symposia, Presented by Chase

I’ve had the chance to attend a number of educational workshops, retreats, and seminars throughout my life, and regardless of the size or nature of the event, I’ve always walked away with a few nuggets of information that impact my actions and decisions at some point down the line. Whether focused on leadership, communications, or any other important topic, there are just some events that stand out to me more than others based on the organization, content, agenda and flow, and the Women’s Business Symposia presented by Chase is DEFINITELY one of them.

Seriously, I couldn’t wait to get home to write this blog about the event, that’s how good it was! Let me take you through the basics:

– These Chase #WoBiz events are annual and tour around the US. This Broward one was the last stop for 2015.

– The invitation promised “an evening of insight and inspiration” with a keynote by Inventor, Entrepreneur, QVC Regular and Shark Tank Investor Lori Greiner; a panelist discussion featuring successful female business leaders, and a women-centric experiential networking reception.

– That’s basically all I knew from beforehand, but seeing Lori in person was a big deal to me because I’m a huge fan of her as well as Shark Tank, and an even bigger kicker: attendance was free!

Starting with the beautiful location of the Diplomat Resort & Spa, the event was set in its inviting and spacious convention center with different areas set up for the multiple sections of the evening, creating a great flow. The registration attendants were very cheery and helpful, and handed us the name tags, which marks the beginning of my mind being blown by the event. These name tags (besides being very nice) had a little pouch in the back with customized business cards they included for all registered attendees with our information in the front, and in the back it said “We met at Women’s Business Symposia” to facilitate the networking portion of the event. This was such a nice touch, and I personally saw a few people that ran out of their own business cards, so this was incredibly thoughtful and one of the many nice points of the night.

WCB WoBiz 1

Name Tag + Red Wine / Pouch in the back / Custom Business Card front / “We met at” back

After being offered wine post-registration (I’ll take a red, thank you very much!) we had a bit of a chance to mingle with some Chase executives, and I met fellow business owners with whom I stuck for the whole event.

Once we were ushered into the keynote and panel room, each chair had a symposia goody bag, holding Lori’s book “Invent it, Sell it, Bank it!” as a gift to all guests. What a treat! Whenever I watch Shark Tank, Lori talks about getting patents so easily, I’ve always wondered what it entails, and this is part of the information she includes in her book. Also, prior to the event I had no idea whether there would be a chance to interact with Lori, but our handy dandy name tags also included the event agenda, where it said Lori would be autographing books later on in the night… Seriously?! My prayers were answered to the 10000th power.

The event kicked off with some words from prominent Chase women, including Teresa Boyd (Market Manager), Jenn Piepszak (CEO of Chase Business Banking) and Laura Miller (President of Business Card for Chase), all with some great insights into the business world, work-life balance, and women in leadership. Afterwards, Laura moderated a panel with three women from different industries who also shared their experiences and advice in such an honest and relatable way that the whole audience was really engaged from start to finish. I live-tweeted some of the quotes that struck a cord with me on my biz account, check them out! FYI the hashtag for the night was #wobiz.

The Panelists: Laura Miller (moderator), Toula Amanna (Founder & CEO, Flashback Diner Chain), Alexandra Anagnostis-Irons (Founder & President, Total Marine Solutions), and Carmen Montalvan (Crowd Favorite, VP & Co-Founder, Montalvan's)

The Panelists: Laura Miller (moderator), Toula Amanna (Founder & CEO, Flashback Diner Chain), Alexandra Anagnostis-Irons (Founder & President, Total Marine Solutions), and Carmen Montalvan (Crowd Favorite, VP & Co-Founder, Montalvan’s)

Then, Lori came to the stage to give her keynote address, and I didn’t think it was possible, but I actually love her even more now. With great poise and creating lots of opportunities to connect with people in the audience, Lori shared her entrepreneurial story from her very first idea and took us through the process of turning it into a reality, while making some great points about the most important things to keep in mind to succeed in business (a few of which I tweeted as well) and also being extremely honest about the obstacles she faced and how she overcame each one. Lori’s key advice? “You CAN make ANYTHING happen.” That simple. Lori is a firm advocate of a ‘can do’ attitude and never taking no for an answer, but rather always asking “how can it be done?” instead. This concluded the keynote and panel discussion, and gave way to the rest of the night.

With books at the ready, we lined up outside the signing room, and everyone had a chance to get a few seconds of interaction with Lori. She was super graceful, posed for pictures and held as much of a conversation as possible with everyone in line. I exchanged a few words with her and I can’t wait to sit down and read my very own autographed copy of her book!

WCB WoBiz 3

Across the hall, the reception was in full swing and the energy was fantastic. There was great food, an open bar, lots of people mingling and overall a great ambiance. This is where Chase stepped in with a magic wand and made it all even better… At the reception room, you could also:

– Meet Beverly Johnson: American model, actress, and businesswoman who made history when she rose to fame as the first African-American model to appear on the cover of American Vogue in August 1974.

– Get a mini Spa Treatment at the Contour Day Spa: getting pampered during a networking event? Yes please!

– Get a new headshot: how many of us put off new headshots because of lack of time/money/space/contacts? Chase took care of that, also free of charge!

After mingling, taking a few bites, another few sips, and visiting all the stations around the hall, the event came to a close and it was time to go home. But wait! There’s more!!! To close this beautiful event that didn’t need much more to make everyone in attendance feel special, they handed each and every participant a ‘Thank You’ bouquet as we left. How do they keep topping themselves?

WCB WoBiz 4

Headshot Section / Meeting Beverly Johnson / Thank You Bouquet

Chase absolutely knocked it out of the ballpark with this event, and I am so happy to have been a part of it. From the great content shared to the perfectly timed agenda, I truly see an incredible value in this symposia tour and I can’t wait for 2016!