Positive Yarn

November 12, 2008

Take advantage of the economy this holiday season

Filed under: Business marketing — heathergooch @ 8:30 pm
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If anything good comes out of our nation’s current credit crunch, it’s that many craft enthusiasts are making it a homemade holiday this year.

This can be verified by outlets as diverse as MarketWatch and Canadian women’s magazine divine.ca, but I can also personally vouch for it after sitting through a fantastic day-long seminar yesterday hosted by the Stan Hywet Needlework Guild. Designer Joan Thomasson came up to Akron, OH, from Miromar Lakes, FL, this week to instruct dozens of eager students on three of her most popular angel designs, Liz, Beth and Elizabeth. The experience led me to consider two super-easy, but not-so-obvious ways for shop owners to make their cash registers jingle this holiday season:

1. Lessons are the gifts that keep on giving: While I’m going to be selfish and keep Elizabeth for my own Christmas tree (even though, at the rate I get to stitch, it may be Christmas 2009), I overheard many stitchers discuss how they want to give the finished ornament to a friend or relative. A trunk show of Joan’s beautiful patterns — and kits for sale on the spot — also emboldened stitchers who got their confidence levels up with the class to try making additional pieces for gifts. Kudos to Joan for being savvy enough to bring extra inventory; plus, she gave a percentage of the sales to the guild, thus building goodwill and almost guaranteeing a return performance in the future!

Another key to making kits go the distance is to add in materials for future inspiration. A friend of mine who was taken with the bracelet-making class I blogged about last week figures there’s at least enough beads in her kit to make her sister a matching bracelet. Plus, she went back to the shop recently and purchased even more beads to make for additional Christmas presents. Studio Bead probably hoped for some return sales based on the class they gave, but their late-October timing was particularly ideal: They’ll have at least a couple students popping back in with holiday present-making on their minds.

2. Give old inventory new life. This time of year we also start thinking about “out with the old, in with the new.” Take a cue from a shop owner from Middlefield who knew two of her customers were taking the Stan Hywet seminar: She gave them about six books to bring in and donate for a random drawing among the guests. So six people (myself included!) went home with an unexpected, but wonderful present.

Choosing from among the prizes, I picked Holidays in Cross Stitch, 1989: The Vanessa-Ann Collection. Would that 19-year-old edition have sold in her shop this year otherwise? Probably not, unless she showcased it alongside a finished piece that got customers to thinking about what else was inside its pages. Will I use it, and feel good about the way I received it? Absolutely. (Note to the shop owner, though: It would have been great to have seen your business card tucked inside the cover so I knew whom to thank, or perhaps a coupon/flyer to entice me to learn where your business is located and make a visit!)

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November 5, 2008

People make the difference

Filed under: Employee relations — heathergooch @ 4:41 pm
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Last Saturday I was lucky enough to take a class from Jennie and Kathy from Studio Bead. While it was a bit of a comedy of errors at first (no one had the key to the church where our guild usually meets, so one member generously offered her house — which is both stunningly gorgeous and reaaally out of the way, especially when you’re the sixth car in a caravan on some very busy streets), when the eight of us finally got down to business at the dining room table, it was a lot of fun.

Two of the eight students had already taken classes at Studio Bead’s Copley, OH, headquarters. A couple others had done some beadwork in the past. But the rest of us were newbies to the process of crimping the clasps and tying the knots to make a piece of wire and some beads into a thing of beauty.

Because when you get 10 women together around a table, you’re bound to have lots of conversation, talk turned to how the studio offers more than 50 classes and actually is owned by a woman who relocated to Berkeley, CA. Jennie, who also assists her daughter, Katelyn, in an awesome children’s party/craft franchise (Noah’s Art Animal Workshops), is Studio Bead’s manager and trusted guide. All this I learned while trying not to embarrass myself with the crimpers, pliers, and other foreign tools. “You’re all needleworkers, so I assumed you knew everything about knots,” Jennie teased us, to which we replied in unison: “We don’t use knots!”

I believe every business owner would be so lucky to have employees like Jennie (not to mention Kathy, Tammy and the other Studio Bead staff, from what I hear). Jennie puts her heart and soul into the studio, but her loyalty to the owner, whom she’s known since they were both 5 years old, means she always respects the decisions and directions that come from the “California office.” In fact, it seems that success is built of mutual respect and trust, and never losing sight of the fact that beading is a creative outlet that is meant to be fun.

It’s just my food for thought today in this post-election season, where people relationships and skills were at the forefront of every debate — and probably will be for the detractors to chew on for the next four years to come.

Politics aside, I invite you to look at your employees and think about what shape your business would be in if you “ran” it from 2,000 miles away. Hopefully, you’re in Studio Bead’s situation: Your people would look out for your company’s best interests.

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