Monday, July 30, 2012

Changing my "brand"

"A brand is a living entity - and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures" 
~ Michael Eisner, CEO Disney

I really like what Eisner had to say in his quote above--that a brand is really the small gestures you make.  

I have been selling crafts online for 2 years now.   I've seen the marketplace change, and, as a result, my shop has changed.  A big part of that change has been the popularity of etsy, fascinators in general (you can buy them at Walmart, literally) and the surge of international crafters on etsy offering wares for less money.

Initially when I started selling, I sold OOAK fascinators made from hand curled peacock feathers, buttons, and pearls mounted on felt backing with hair clips.  

I named each piece after an admirable and beautiful attribute or thing: "Whimsy," "Cappuccino Moon", and "Pomegranate Wine"... eventually I branched out into a thesaurus to keep me going!

I explored different textures, feather types, and aesthetics.  I got a batch water marking program for my photography.  

I took pictures of myself in my bathroom with my little camera from college.  I would face the viewing screen on the camera towards the mirror of the bathroom sink so I could make sure I was in the picture.  I wanted to show the size and placement of the fascinator in a woman's hair.

I got to know every craft store's silk flower supply.  My favorite was ranunculus flowers from Hobby Lobby on Madison's south side.  I just loved the uber soft silk petals and the wide, flat base.  I bought bleached peacock feathers on ebay from a peacock farmer, and I made a ton of beautiful fascinators with the champagne, iridescent feathers.

I had really good business, and I charged a high mark up for the time, creativity, and "extras" that went into each piece.  I made hand made cards out of beautiful scrapbooking supplies with embossed covers thanking each buyer.  For my first sale ever, I even made an origami box to keep the fascinator in!

Although I was marketing myself towards bellydancers, I made many custom orders for brides and bridal parties.  I even designed steampunk fascinators in teal and antique gold for a wedding in Australia!  I also worked with local brides - meeting them at coffee shops and bringing a tuperware of flower bases and feathers to show them.

I created a logo for my shop with peacock feathers and dyed guinea feathers as the background because I loved working with the textures of feathers and silk flowers. 

I only sold bellydance costuming or clothing as an after thought - mainly to sell old costume pieces I was no longer using.

NOW though, fascinators are just not lucrative for me.  The fact that you can buy them at every local store - even Walgreens! - has just put me under.  As a merchant and artist, you have to make something hand crafted that people can't buy for cheaper from China (nothing against the Chinese).  So... I started to shift my focus. 

This spring, I declared that I would not put an ounce of money into my souk that wasn't for a prepaid custom order.  I sold off the rest of my back stock of fascinators (and some costuming too) at a deep discount.  My goal was that I would clean out my souk completely and only take in custom orders, but what I didn't anticipate was that without good photos and good examples of my work, it wasn't easy to market my souk.   Moreover, I started to understand that I needed to give a suggestion for what the custom item could be for a buyer.  At a yoga class in the final shavasana, my mind started race with new ideas for designs like fireworks!  I decided I'd market 2 or 3 different types of skirts as the basis for custom orders. 
Custom ordered skirt I made this summer

Then I was invited to vend at Shimmy in the Grain...  AND there was the proposed fashion show!  Being home alone all day this summer made me go crazy making stuff for the event and for my students who were excited to volunteer to model my stuff. 

And last night, I started to look at address stamps.  I'd really like one for my business to get back to creating beautiful packaging that feels one of a kind for shoppers.  I used to have a lovely peacock feather return address stamp, but I've moved since then. When shopping for a new stamp last night I realized I should really get a different design.  Very little of my business revolves around peacock feathers now.  I think my new stamp should be lacy, frivolous, and shabby chic

Skirt I made for fashion show at Shimmy in the Grain
So now I'm thinking about changing my logo too - Peacock feathers and bright colors don't really represent what I'm doing any more...  so now it seems I am shedding my skin, emerging into a new identity as a "souk", and I guess I find it to be pretty exciting.  If only the summer were longer so that I could really spread these new, dewy wings.
I even created teal and gold fascinators for a steampunk wedding in Australia.  

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