The 5 basic steps of setting up a craft business

Setting up a craft business is exciting stuff. The trend usually goes something like this; you start off by making some pieces-jewellery, clothing, ceramics, dolls etc-for yourself. Your friends and family see them, wow at your talent and proceed to buy some. While they are busy choosing through the assortment, they urge you to not only make more so they can gift their friends, but make a whole lot for sale. In other words, they urge you to make a business out of it. Many of us, buoyed by the recognition others are giving our talents, jump right into “making a business out of it”, ignoring the basics of starting a craft business. Soon after however, we realize that we need more than the enthusiasm of friends and relatives to run a business. So, what are the basics?

1. What is your product?
It is quite a different story creating a set of earrings for yourself and those close to you and creating for the wider market. When you are creating for people whom you have probably never met, how do you predict what they want? What colors will appeal to them? How much are they willing to buy your jewellery for? The answer is research. Here is the truth-there is no substitute for research. Just because your sister, her friends and your best friend fanned over your creations doesn’t mean the rest of the world will. You must be able to engage your target market in a conversation that will reveal what they are willing to buy and for how much. Which brings us to the next point-who are you targetting to buy your creations?

2. To whom are you selling your product?
A piece of advice that proved worthwhile to me when i was starting out was that there has never been a great brand that appealed to everyone-a great brand must be able to attract and repel at the same time. What does this mean? Simply that you must create your product with a target market in mind. For instance, if you are going to use crystals combined with similarly expensive stones to create your jewellery line, you are in effect defining your market as those who have enough disposable income to buy a pair of earrings for a few thousand bob. So, do not make the mistake of peddling your wares at the local college craft exhibition because it is unlikely that the person you are trying to target shops there. Define your brand well. What do you want your brand to represent? What is the packaging of your brand? Taking all your costs of production, level of detail and workmanship, how much will you cost your creations? In answering these questions, you answer to whom you should be selling your product to.

3. Why are you in business?
I have met three categories of people in the crafting business: those that do it as a side business. This category will usually have a job someplace else but will also work hard to realize supplementary income from their craft. The second category does it purely as a hobby. They create when the mood strikes and will rarely worry about the bottom line. For them, it is a favorite past time and nothing more. Then there is a third category-those to whom their crafting business is a full time job. It is especially important for the first and third categories of crafters  to put systems in place that support their objectives of earning substantial monies from their craft.

4. How will you establish your craft business?
Assuming that you are setting up your business as more than a hobby, here are some considerations into the how-to’s of starting a craft business.
Find a name for your creations-this is the beginning of creating a brand. How would you like to be identified? Come up with a few sample names and test them on potential customers. Better still, ask them to assist you in the process of coming up with a name. Whichever way you go about it, the golden rule is to keep it simple. Once this is done, register your company as a legal entity. It is fairly easy these days to register a company-my advice would be to go for a sole enterprise at the beginning and change legal status as the company grows. Of course if you want to go into partnership with someone else, there is provision for that. Make sure to get your book keeping in order right from the start. I cannot emphasize this enough-keep your business and personal finances separate. I guarantee it will be the single most important thing in determining the success or failure of your business. Finally, consider where you will set up shop. There is validity in setting up a workshop at home-if only to keep your overheads low. Convert your veranda or a spare room into a working area. Make sure it is comfortable, well lit, inspiring and cut off from the rest of your home. It is important that customers visit your workshop without feeling like they are intruding into your privacy.

5. Where will you sell your creations?
Once all your friends, relatives and neighbors have bought their fair share of your creations, what next? How do you go about creating awareness of your brand? The first thing (simple enough yet rarely done), is to create some promotional material. The cheapest format is paper and to this end, i see lots of people with printed cards that detail their names, telephone numbers etc. I have to be honest and say business cards will not do much for your business. A business card with your name and address doesnt say much about your brand. Most will argue that these cards bear the URL addresses to their websites or Facebook pages, and clients will automatically find their way there, right? wrong! Most customers–unless they are completely blown over by your creations–will not go that far. Save your potential customers the hassle and give them a peek into your work with an A6 flyer that bears image designs of your work. That way, you will always have your ‘display unit” with you and clients can pick a design right there. In other words, turn every meeting into a potential sales opportunity. Reinforce this with a well laid out online studio. There is no excuse why a brand should not have an online presence. With the free and easy-to-design websites such as, social sites Face book and Twitter and free blog sites, craft entrepreneurs are spoilt for choice. Establishing and maintaining an online presence is crucial in communicating with clients who do not necessarily have time to physically visit your studio space.
But what about those who do have the time, but will still not come to your studio? How do you make contact with them? Through craft exhibitions. These platforms provide great avenues to sell your work. In a later post, i will go into details of the different craft fairs held in Kenya. But for now, let me say that you have to think very carefully about which craft fair to attend. Most importantly, base your decision on your target market-find out which exhibitions they frequent, and strive to be a vendor there.
You also have the option of displaying your items at the various shops that sell craft items including Spinner Web, Banana Box, Blue Rhino, Goodie’s just to name a few.