I got Kari Chapin’s new book, Grow Your Handmade Business: How to Envision, Develop, and Sustain a Successful Creative Business, for my birthday in August and read it cover to cover. This book is a follow-up to Kari’s first book, The Handmade Marketplace.
Seven years into my handmade business I have lots of ideas for my future. I was hoping this book might push me to think big, plan strategically, and map out exactly where I’m headed. All kinds of good things have resulted from reading Grow Your Handmade Business. I developed an elevator speech, my incorporation papers arrived yesterday (!), and I’m getting ready to (finally) open a business bank account. See? I’m growing!
One of my favorite chapters in this book is about vision. Kari writes, “Your dream is to accomplish something with your new or up-and-running venture – but what is that something, exactly?” Gosh, that’s a great question and one I’ve been thinking about quite a bit. I’ve been doing the hard work of nailing down a clear mission and, as a reward to myself, I wanted to come up with a great tagline.
Even more succinct than an elevator speech, a tagline sums up your business in just a few words. And you can slap it on all kinds of things like your business card, website, online shop, Facebook page, even t-shirts to wear at shows. We need awesome taglines, you guys!
Kari and I have been in touch and she offered to help me out with mine. We had a great email chat this morning and I want to share the process with you because I think it really illustrates the kind of exercise that her book can help you to do.
I gave Kari some background about my business, how it’s changed over the years, and what I’m focusing on right now. We picked up from there and honed my mission and then we came up with an awesome tagline!
Are your ready? Here we go!
Hi Kari! Thank you so much for helping me out this morning!
I’ve been sewing soft toys for seven years and my business has taken on many different forms over that time. I’ve sold my handmade pieces at craft fairs, I’ve shown them in galleries, I’ve sold them on Etsy, I’ve sold them wholesale and on consignment in retail stores, I’ve contributed patterns to books and magazines. You name it, I’ve tried it!
After my first book came I out I shifted from making and selling finished work to making and selling sewing patterns. I love writing patterns that really teach people new skills and show them neat techniques that they’ll be able to incorporate into their sewing repertoire. I am formally trained as a teacher and taught middle school for many years before having children and becoming a designer. I really enjoy teaching still, but now I teach sewing! I have a popular “Get to Know Your Sewing Machine” class that I teach locally. I also teach a “Design Your Own Plush” class, and that is incredibly fun! My new book is all about teaching people to design their own patterns for stuffed animals.
That gives you a bit of background about my business. Basically, I design and sew stuffed animals and I can teach you to design and sew them, too!
Good morning Abby!
Wow, your business has really changed over the years. I love it when people can shift their focus and come up with new and valuable income streams. I’d like to ask you a few questions:
- What does your business card say?
- If we met at a party, and I asked you about your job, what would you tell me?
- What is your favorite descriptor word about what you do?
- Where do you plan on using your tagline?
I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t have any business cards. It’s on my to-do list, I swear! I plan to use my tagline in my email signature, on my business cards, and on my Etsy banner. If I do open up my own online storefront, it will go there, too. The tagline will always be accompanied by my logo.
If we met at a party I would say, “I have a sewing pattern business.” If you seemed interested I would then say, “I design sewing patterns for stuffed animals and I teach sewing.” If you still seemed interested I would say, “I have a new book coming out in May that teaches people to design their own sewing patterns for stuffed animals. My first book came out in January of 2011 and was all about sewing birds.” By this point most people are all set hearing me blab on about sewing.
I’m not sure I have one favorite descriptor word about what I do. A few that strike me are:
- stuffed animals
- sewing patterns
So you consider yourself more of a teacher than a designer? And I would be very interested in talking with you if we met at a party! Invite me somewhere!
I consider myself to be both equally.
Ok, good. Now that I have a clearer idea of WHO YOU ARE in your business, let’s talk about who your business is a bit. What kind of work do you want to do most? Like when someone sees your card or logo, what do you want to sell them? Designs? Finished goods? Lessons? All of those things?
I’d like people to buy my sewing patterns, whether that
means buying them via my books, via Simplicity,
via my Etsy or Craftsy shop or my Craftsy workshop, or via the other
online venues where my patterns are available for sale. I’d like to use
my 3-D design skills to teach. I like writing books
about how to make toys. I don’t want people to think I sell finished goods. I want to be clear that I sell patterns.
One tagline I’ve been thinking about is:
Sew Your Own Toys.
I kinda like it’s forcefulness. And if you say, “But I can’t!” Then I say, “So I’ll teach you.”
I like that, but it just says what you want to people to do. Not what you can do for them. I could see, “Sew your own toys,” and go and do just that without you. I want your tagline to express how you can help me sew my own toys. “Sew your own toys” is what you can show people how to do. But we need to get the YOU in there.
“Pattern Designer. Sewing Teacher. Toy Maker. Author.”
My issue with “pattern designer” is that it can be misinterpreted as someone who does surface design (like for textiles). And “toy maker” could be seen as a woodworker who makes pull-toys, for example. It’s tricky to be clear and concise with these terms, you know?
Okay, then you want to focus on pattern design, teaching and writing
and it’s important to make sure people know you work in soft goods
Yes, that’s my focus. I can see pattern design, teaching, and
writing as the main thrust of my business for many years to come.
Toy Pattern Designer* Sewing Teacher*Toy Maker*Author
Sew Your Own Toys
Plush Pattern Designer*Soft Goods Sewing Teacher*Craft Book Author
I like it. How about:
Plush Pattern Designer*Sewing Teacher*Craft Book Author
Oh, I love this. I’m so excited to order some business cards now!
I like it Abby. I think it describes who you are, what your business
is about and what you have to sell. By using descriptor words like
plush, and craft and soft goods, I would not be confused about what you
could offer me.
And staying away from words like custom, means maybe you can
discourage inquires about the type of work you don’t enjoy doing. Also,
it doesn’t direct me to try to do something without you – it makes you
the expert. I’d want to go to your website to look at your classes
and check out your books.
You could even consider something like “Let’s Make Toys!” which would include you in the process.
Gosh, I love “Let’s Make Toys!” That’s fun, and you’re totally right that it includes me. I had never considered that as a factor in writing a tagline. But it’s totally brilliant! Your tagline needs to position you as the expert and as vital to having your customer’s needs met. Super.
Exactly. I love it too – Let’s Make Toys!
And after I see all that you do (design, teach, write) you’d be the PERFECT person to help me.
So here’s my new tagline, you guys:
Plush Pattern Designer
Craft Book Author
Let’s Make Toys!
What do you think? I’m really excited about it!
I found Kari’s advice to be thoughtful and really sound and I’ve really benefited from thinking about the big ideas this book raises.
In May, Kari and I will be speaking together on a panel, along with an editor at Roost Books and another other craft book author, about how to write a craft book. If you’re interested in hearing about the ins and outs of getting a craft book published I hope you’ll join us at Brookline Booksmith in May. More information to come!
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