Low Season: 6 ways to Make It Work For You

The first quarter of the year is usually rather low in sales for many a craftpreneur. It however presents wonderful opportunity to prepare for the months to come. Below are 6 areas of focus you can invest time in

1. Read
No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance Confucius.
There is no better investment you can make in yourself- and in your business- besides reading. Purpose to understand the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal (PESTEL) contexts you operate in. Keeping up to date on industry changes will do more than educate you on the trends, it will put you in a position of leadership- you know the old adage knowledge is power?

2. Improve your product
There is no better time to research into your product. Find ways of improving the design, finish, packaging, raw materials, branding and generally everything that helps your product gain greater market share. Better still, learn new techniques of making the same thing. This way you elevate yourself from simply being producer to designer. Another significant way to improve your product is to research into current trends and infuse these elements into your work. If for example you are into interior decor, you need to be constantly browsing blogs like Laura Bielecki’s (captioned right) that is currently forecasting trends up to 2014.

3. Actively seek your customer
It is very often the case that customers find us. However, it might be beneficial to proactively seek out your customer. Go to the same social events they go, plug into their sources of information, actively listen to why they buy what they buy…in other words, get to really know and understand your customer. There was, for example an interesting meetup for natural hair enthusiasts a few months ago (check it out here). If your product line involves ethnic, Afro centric pieces, this would have been a perfect networking opportunity for you. Be on the ready with look books, business cards and references. Remember modern networking is about putting yourself at the service of your potential customers. Its about what you can do for them- not the other way around.

4. Collaborate on a project
Creative industry practitioners have often been accused of flying solo, to the detriment of their business ambitions. Truth is, while competition is necessary, and even encouraged, you go further if you can successfully leverage another product/service to enhance your own, and vice versa. Establish mutually beneficial relationships along your entire value chain. Work with an interior decorator for example and let them design your stall at the next craft fair. In return, extend their market foothold by promoting their work. Word of caution though- make sure expectations are clearly spelled out and even signed upon. And start identifying potential partners early- in other words, start before you start.

5. Travel
If you are looking to step out of your comfort zone (as you should), find inspiration and a fresh outlook to life, visit a new destination. The good news is that the low season in the crafts sector seems to mirror that of the travel & hospitality industry and you can therefore take advantage of the relatively low rates to see the world around you. And if money is the issue, apply for any of the several annual grants that support movement of creative entrepreneurs globally. Check out the Art Moves Africa website as well as Prince Claus Fund.

6. Teach someone else what you do
During our September 2012 edition of Jumpstart Thursday, we got talking about how critical it is to separate individual from enterprise. One of the ways we identified was skills transfer or teaching someone else how you do what you do. Think of it as an insurance cover- if you were incapacitated for one reason or the other, the business would not grind to a halt.
During this low season, there is plenty of time to identify an individual(s) and train them on the skills of your trade as well as other aspects of your business. And no, they will not ‘steal’ your ideas and take off. And if it turns out that they do, great! That will serve as your impetus to not only protect your designs through intellectual property law (IP), but also to keep creating.

Image sources (Bankable Craft: Putting Money In The Hands Of People, Laura Bielecki.com, businessmanagementstudies.blogspot.com, lorschberke.com, evaser.com)