Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Decade at the Artist Market and A New Schedule

It's time for me to do fewer markets...everything has been aligning for this shift. I will miss being there every single Saturday but I'm happy I will still be there half the time. This will be my 10th year at the Burlington Artist Market. I can't believe it, a decade! It seriously flew by. The market is so much fun that I've just kept doing it year after year...after year! In a way though it felt like I wasn't growing and expanding my business. For 5 years I've been trying to juggle the market, my Etsy shop and having my work at Trinket and I was always overwhelmed. Often shops would contact me about wanting to carry my work and I would always sadly say I just can't keep up with what's already on my plate. I did want to get into shops though, I think it's great exposure, I just couldn't figure out how.

So this is the year I began implementing a change. This happened in 4 parts...

1. Aside from enjoying selling my work myself, I've never liked the idea of losing 50% of a sale by selling wholesale. I understood that you make it up in volume but since I couldn't produce a lot of volume, that didn't mean anything. I needed to get help with making things, so I could make them faster. First I needed to figure out a formula to see how I could afford to have help...
     So after a lot of research, I developed a great jewelry pricing formula that works for me. I weighed every piece of silver and priced out every jump ring. I  timed how long it took to make things. I put it all in an excel spreadsheet so I could see everything. If I could price out how long it took me to cut something out of metal maybe I could find a company to cut my metal and then I'd have more time... I suddenly loved math and appreciated using a coefficient of expansion. I began to see how every piece related to another one. It was so helpful and from there I was able to choose my wholesale line.

2. I picked 6 of my most popular earrings in 2-3 sizes and 3 metals. Boom! That yielded 36 earring options. I found a company to cut out my earring shapes which, aside from saving me time, is saving my hand. Then I heat, drill, hammer, file, wax, patina, polish and wire them up. I'm also getting some pendants cast which allows me to make multiples and to get them in sterling and brass and to keep the prices down. So I can wholesale about 20 necklace and some rings. Some pieces in the line are made entirely by hand but I can make them fast so they're included too. I'll be adding more to the line often.

3. I got an intern! I'd like to introduce Fiona. She is a going to be a senior at UVM and she's AWESOME. She's been working with me since November, mostly doing a lot of hammering and I love having her here once a week. She's super enthusiastic, sweet, stylish, helpful and has a great eye. I've never had help before and it's incredible how much work you can get done when you have 4 hands working at the same time. She also modeled for my catalog (she owns those stitched crescents), they look so great on her!

4. I started a wholesale website, made a catalog, got it printed and sent it to shops. Mostly Vermont galleries and boutiques, just trying to grow my business very slowly, organically. Hoping to take this ball of energy amassing in Burlington and fan it out. I got into 6 new shops! I sent out first orders and I'm going to see how this all gels together. In order to make room in my schedule to make work for shops, I decided to do every other market. That decision was confirmed when I looked at my calender. I have 5 weddings to attend (and 2 bachelorette parties!) this summer. CRAZY! A very natural schedule emerged and it's 2 markets a month.

I'm excited to weave this all together and hopefully expand my business - and not be overwhelmed. It will be nice to be less dependent on the market for income, especially on those rainy/cold days. This has been the hardest I've worked during a winter and that was what it took to make the leap, make the shift, shake things up and grow. We'll see how it goes...

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