On Thursday evenings from 8 to 9pm ET, IBN hosts #HandmadeChat, a Twitter talk show to help handmade and creative entrepreneurs sell more products, have more fun, and be more successful personally and professionally. While the show is aimed mainly at business owners who make and sell handmade consumer products, the topics and discussions can empower and encourage the growth of any small business.
Yesterday’s chat was sponsored by The Box Co-op, where you can get custom boxes for your products at affordable prices.
Our guest this week was Emily Caswell, who designs “tiny thank-yous in personalized packages.” From lip balm, to sugar scrub, to lotion, Emily makes lovely gifts for your wedding, baby shower or other special occasion, so you can make your guests and friends feel like they are the most important people in the world. On #HandmadeChat, Emily shared her tips for offering customized and personalized products to your customers.
Q1 WHAT IS GCDSpa AND WHAT IS THE INSPIRATION FOR IT? WHAT’S YOUR SLOGAN?
For 8 years, I designed ads, packaging, websites for small businesses. I made bath and body products for Christmas gifts one year and they took off. Our slogan is, “We design tiny thank-yous in personalized packages.”
Q2 WHAT SORTS OF PRODUCTS DO YOU MAKE?
I make sugar scrubs, mineral soaks, lotions, hand creams; Our most popular product is lip balm. Our products are different because we offer personalization options for almost everything.
Q3 HOW HAS YOUR BACKGROUND AS A GRAPHICS ARTIST HELPED YOU GROW YOUR BUSINESS?
My design background helps me offer more design options to customers. My image archive is extensive. Because I’m a designer, I can move with ease from niche event to niche event: birthdays, bachelorette parties, baby showers, divorce parties … It’s an advantage that I can create original designs for each customer. I leverage that.
Q4 HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO FOCUS ONLY ON CUSTOM PRODUCTS, AND NOT HAVE A “LINE?”
At first, we had a “line,” and we still do, but we also personalize because that’s what people want. I considered offering wholesale so I could sell volume, but decided a better business model is to sell volume at retail prices. My focus on products as party favors is a good fit for my interests and experience.
Q5 ARE MORE CONSUMERS SEEKING PERSONALIZED PRODUCTS?
Yes, personalization is popular, and more people are offering it to meet the demand. People aren’t “cookie cutter,” and they like to express their individuality through their purchases. Who doesn’t love the idea of having something that’s unique, that no one else has? Businesses who can accommodate that know it builds brand loyalty, and it’s also profitable.
People will pay more for something that is customized. For parties and showers where theme and color are important, customized products fit right in.
Q6 WHAT DO YOU RECOMMEND PEOPLE CONSIDER BEFORE OFFERING PERSONALIZED PRODUCTS?
First, know what you will customize: flavor, fragrance, color, packaging? There are lots of options. Know how much custom option inventory you will need to offer everything. Understand your costs, add options over time to avoid buying supplies for products that don’t sell.
Also important is knowing where will you get your designs? Will you design yourself or contract out the service? (This will increase your costs a lot.) Where will you get fonts?
Important tip: be sure you have rights and/or proper licensing for fonts and graphics you use on the products you sell.
Q7 WHAT OTHER THINGS SHOULD WE CONSIDER IF WE WANT TO PERSONALIZE CONSUMER PRODUCTS?
How will you provide a proof or sample of designs for approval? Customers should sign off before delivery. Will you charge extra fees for rush orders? What will your rush order process be? (You’ll get plenty of those so you need to figure this out in advance.)
How will you handle returns and refunds if you make an error, as opposed to one where the customer no longer wants the item? There’s more to it than that, and each business will have its own unique set of issues, but these are basics that absolutely must be in place.
Q8 HOW HAVE YOU RENOVATED YOUR HOME TO ACCOMMODATE YOUR BUSINESS?
In 2010, after years of working in my house, we raised our garage roof, and added 500 feet of office and lab space. (Yay!) I still work at “home,” but I commute across the driveway. I love the separation between my house and my business, and I certainly don’t miss having bottles and jars all over the place.
Our YouTube Page has videos of the space http://www.youtube.com/gcdspa
Q9 YOU CELEBRATE 8 YEARS OF BUSINESS THIS YEAR, WHAT’S YOUR SECRET?
There’s a secret to being in business for as long as I have?! No one told me! LOL!
Seriously, I sometimes refer to my business as a third child because it must be nurtured like a child. I think you just have to love your business and be constantly willing to learn new things.ou must put tons of your time into your business, and be willing to constantly learn new things.
You also have to be thoughtful and disciplined. Know when you and your business need a break! My hope is to grow my business to the point where it can thrive on its own without me, but for now, it’s an unruly teenager.
Just like with my kids, I’m excited every morning to see what I’m going to learn each day!
Q10 WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST BUSINESS CHALLENGE, AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME IT?
The biggest challenge (read: nightmare) was finding affordable products liability insurance. I found IBN soon after it began offering insurance and I’ve been a member since June 2006!
Q11 WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLET AND WHY?
I adore Facebook. I share photos of finished products and works in progress. I also share party, food, decor, wedding ideas — perfect for my audience. I think of my Facebook page as a big party (which is perfect when you make party favors)!
Q12 WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SMALL BUSINESS BOOKS, AND HOW HAVE THEY HELPED YOU BE SUCCESSFUL?
“Attracting Perfect Customers” by Stacey Hall, Jan Brogniez helps me focus on best customers. Knowing what customers I like to work with helps me focus on creating better products and more connections. “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg is great to help me embrace good work habits; good for biz AND life.
“The War of Art,” “Turning Pro,” & “Do The Work!” by Steven Pressfield have been great. Steven has a great blog by the way. His work is about dealing with resistance, pushing through what’s holding you back. I cannot recommend him enough.
Q13 WHAT IS THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE CREATIVE AND HANDMADE ENTREPRENEURS?
Don’t be discouraged if it seems like there’s “already someone doing” what you want to do. There’s always room for something new and unique.
Q14 AT IBN, WE STRIVE TO BE A RESOURCE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES. WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO JOIN ORGANIZATION LIKE IBN?
IBN offers affordable product liability insurance, industry updates, continuing education, and collaborative opportunities. IBN also offers support of colleagues, new ways to share through events — including #HandmadeChat. IBN is also fun!
More About Emily Caswell
Emily has been an IBN member since 2006.
Pairing a lab science background with years of design experience, Emily Caswell has developed a line of beauty products that can be personalized for any occasion. She loves sharing fun designs, yummy ingredients, and reckless enthusiasm at her website, blog and Facebook page.
Connect with Emily:
When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?
The next #HandmadeChat will be Thursday, January 31, 2013, at 8pm ET, with Lori Nova of The Nova Studio, San Francisco Bay area. Lori is the founder of the destination location, The Nova Studio, where you can learn how to make everything from mineral makeup to cold process soap. People from all over the world visit The Nova Studio, and I have the pleasure of being one of her instructors.
Join us as we talk with Lori about growing a destination location, and also, about keeping it all going when you have an infant in tow — Lori had her first child this year. Bring it moms!!
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