Friday, September 3, 2010

~This blog is currently offline~

We are taking a little break at the moment, but we encourage you to still have a look around if you are a crafter looking for help with your business.  The best places to look are the Craft Business Tool Kit which has lots of interesting articles and links, and the Handmade Markets and Stores directory.

We hope to return better than ever in 2011.

Cheers, Chicken

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We have a winner!

Saffron Craig bundle

Congratulations to Michelle of Wing By Sea! You’re the winner of the Saffron Craig FQ pack.  Please check your email for redemption information.

Thanks to everyone who entered.  If you would like to learn more about or purchase Saffron’s products, please visit her online store.

Cheers, Chicken

CHA - going on 12 month hiatus

Profile Pic 2 picnik It is with much thought and consideration that I have taken the decision to shut down operations of the CHA for the next 12 months or so, while I have a baby. 

It has become apparent over the last few weeks that the challenges of being pregnant, working, running a household and looking after a boisterous toddler is more than this little chicken can do without some areas suffering; and it pains me to see the CHA struggling and not being all that it can be. I have such big ideas and plans for this project, but not ones that I can implement fully at this point in my life. Hopefully after the baby is born and settled, I can get back to it bigger and better than ever.  In the mean time, I will keep my finger on the pulse of the industry and will be keenly watching you all.

I will be leaving the blog open so that the resources (the Craft Business Tool Kit and Handmade Markets and Stores Directory) remain available to people who may wish to access them; but the Facebook page will be suspended.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank some key people who helped made the CHA what it is:

Linda of Lulu froufrou and Beckie of little wise owl; (just some of) my buddies who become real friends and who have always been supportive of my ideas and dreams. Thanks ladies for your blog contributions, ideas and support along the way.

Jemma of Handmade Kids: a savvy, key figure in the Aussie Handmade Industry who was kind enough to regularly share her valuable knowledge and insights through her contributions on the Discussion Board and with the provision of articles for the blog. If you don’t follow Handmade Kids, you should!

Sharon of the Robin Street Market who spend much time putting together some fantastic and really useful tax and small business information for our blog.  Thanks so much Sharon!

My wonderful sponsors: most notably The Oz Material Girls and Funky Fabrix who have been with us since the beginning and offered our CHA members benefits of real value; plus 2 new editions Fairy Floss Markets and Hide & Seek Market. Thanks for coming on board, and we wish you all the very best for your businesses.

My family (especially my wonderful husband and gorgeous daughter) for putting up with me being on the computer…. a lot.

And finally and most importantly, to everyone to who followed, commented, asked a question, shared knowledge & experience, and promoted the CHA. We experienced considerable growth and a wonderful following of interesting, talented and knowledgeable people in such a short amount of time. We couldn’t have done it without you. There is a lot to be said for strength in numbers; and the way you all helped each other out freely and with a sense of community via our Facebook page is both astounding and encouraging. Please don’t stop.

I strongly urge you to follow both Meylah (USA) and Made’n’found (AUS) to continue to connect with the handmade industry and access high quality information, knowledge and support. 

I look forward to reconnecting with you all again in the future, and I will still be hanging out round the traps!  So until we meet again,

Cheers, Chicken

Saturday, August 21, 2010

An interview – With Aussie Fabric Designer Saffron Craig

Saffron Craig picture Australian designer Saffron Craig produces vibrant, whimsical and contemporary fabrics for quilting, crafting, interiors and clothing. Already widely known for her Owls and Fairies ranges, Saffron introduces us to her newest designs in the Bird Tree Range; and offers CHA members the change to WIN a Fat Quarter pack (see below)! But first, Saffron shares with CHA members her wisdom about being an Australian designer, business partner and parent.

I understand that you have a background in fashion design, but that you were dissatisfied with the fabrics available on the market. When did the light go on in your head that you could do it yourself? How exciting was it? What happened?
I suppose I have a mindset of “I can do that!” which is what it took to print fabrics. I was creating hand painted silk dresses at the time, the paint was going everywhere and it took hours to paint one metre; I laugh because now I could have it digitally printed.

I wanted to create fabrics with my illustrations on them, fun fabrics with clean neat lines using my sense of colour. I suppose it helped that I had the studio space and the ideas to start. I do love to challenge myself.

In one of my first projects I hand printed fabric for an entire day and turned that fabric into one quilt. The paint was so thick in places I could not put the sewing machine needle through the three layers of the quilt without snapping the thread. As much as I love the process of screen-printing I knew I could not print fabrics by myself, as it is too limiting and very time consuming. I loved the end result, which was the fabric with my illustrations on it. It made me so happy so I focused on that.

Aside from your existing design background, did you have to learn any new skills to enable you to get the design from your head onto the fabric? Did you try different processes and techniques?
I have a degree in designs so I built on that. I use skills that I have learnt, like sketching, drawing, colour, design. Getting my illustrations onto fabrics has seen me learn a lot of new skills; becoming competent on the computer to start with.

The designs often grow as I take them from my imagination and put them on paper, I change the scale and the colours. My drawing skill is what makes most of my designs. I know that the design will look better on fabric than on paper.

Four years ago I taught myself to make my first quilt. Quilting is very addictive for me. After years of fitting dresses, it’s pure heaven to make a square and use limitless blocks, colours, patterns, so I am addicted. A couple of years ago I started to design quilts in my own fabrics and then I had to learn to write the patterns, photograph the quilts then and blog about them.

Now that you have refined your process, how long does it typically take to create a new range; from concept to the fabrics arriving in shops?
My new range is called Bird Tree. The design of the Bird Tree was sketched in spring 2009. I started to put the designs into a range in February 2010. I sent the files to the printer in March and received the strike off in April. I made changes to the colour and received new strike-offs two weeks after that. I approved the new colours and we started to take orders for the fabrics. When we knew people liked the designs and would support us by placing pre-orders we placed an order with the printer. We usually see the first few metres arrive within 20-30 days. In this case, for an idea to be a fabric for sale on the shelves, it has taken over twelve months. So I really am excited when I get to create with new ranges.

What program do you use to create your fabric designs? Have you always used it?
I work lot in Illustrator and I have had to learn to be very technical and accurate on the computer. I have to push myself to totally finish each design, as I am far from being a perfectionist. I would say two years ago I had no clue how to use Illustrator.

With the support around you including your business partners who take care of production and distribution, do you need to partake in any the business side of the operations?
I am very hands-on in all stages of the business. I oversee every stage of the production of my fabrics. I approve everything and there is often a lot of too-ing and fro-ing. I am also involved in the business. I come up with new ideas for products, and advertising.

Though the website is managed by my Husband Patrick I do run the online shop which requires me to manage orders, post orders, answer emails, write blogs, photograph everything. I also design and make quilts as well as the children clothing; I just finished my first children’s pattern.

We do help with the wholesaling; I recently went to the trade show and was very involved in all aspects. We have another trade show booked for Melbourne in November.

I am a mother on Thursdays, Fridays and the weekends so I spend three days a week on the business. With nights and early mornings for emailing and now social media is taking up hours every day.

Usually my creative time is spent designing fabrics. Most creatives who also run a business will attribute long nights and many hours to be conducive to running a business. They will also attest to not spending much time actually designing but time is spent thinking, planning, communicating, managing and organising my business. In my case my daughter gets a lot of my time as well.

I have a creative project I am doing, writing a children’s book, which is 4 illustrations away from being finished.

What are your top tips for the Aussie small business entrepreneur?

  • Keep the focus on what is your big picture.
  • Stay true to yourself.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Indeed be a positive person. (One negative comment will need 9 positives to be counteracted.)
  • I think you are the creator of your own life so make it beautiful.
  • Oh yes. Manifestations boards really do work! Really truly they do. They help you decide what you like.

...and finally: Which creative mind do you most admire and why?
I admire any one with focus and determination. I admire oh so many creative minds and spend a lot of time reading books, blogs, magazines and being inspired by all kind of visionaries and philosophers.

Follow Saffron:
Buy her fabric on her website.
Read her blog.
Follow her on Facebook.

Saffron Craig bundle

WIN a Bird Tree FQ Pack!
To enter, simply tell us in 25 words or less:

What's your favourite bird and why?

Competition Details:
To enter, write your answer in the comments below this blog post.
Competition closes Saturday 28th August at 9pm EST.
1 winner will be selected, and notification made by 9pm Sunday 29th August via email and on the blog.
This competition is open to Australian residents only.

Cheers, Chicken

Monday, August 9, 2010

We have our winners!

Mixtape Giveaway

Congratulations to our 5 winners of the mixtape magaZINE
prize pack give-away!

The following entries were selected by the creators of mixtape, and each receives a prize pack with issues 9,10,11,12 & The Kids Issue - that’s $45 value in each pack!

cate said...
living a creative lifestyle means shaking off the "you can't do thats" and welcoming the "I can have a go at that" and introducing my children to the wonders of "I made that" in as many areas of life as they want.

SunDoll said...
Living a creative lifestyle means... finding new ways to express yourself each day and discovering things about yourself and others you never expected. It is dancing to a tune that no one else can hear but that you want to share.

TJC said…
Living the creative lifestyle means no limits, it is about flexibility and enjoyment. It is stretching your creative boundaries to new levels. Using inspiration from around you to create the perfect handmade piece to share with others.
That sense of achievement that you get when you are finished and can say 'I made that'.
The middle of the night ideas that you just have to get up and start on or at least make notes/sketches of.
Most of all it means living in a happy place while doing a job that I enjoy most.

Row Row Row said...
Living a creative lifestyle has opened my heart more fully to my family and community. Has allowed me to share some of the whisperings my soul has said to me. To enjoy the offerings of other people and to explore all sorts of 'crazy' ideas. is but a dream. x

Tas said…
Living a creative lifestyle is baking with my kids for their lunches instead of buying commercial foods, sewing and crafting everything I can for the family (and for my sanity) and exploring the world as a family in walking boots on a hiking trail, not from the back seat of a four wheel drive on a sealed highway.

Thanks to our friends at mixtape for the wonderful prizes. We’re sad that you only have 3 issues left before you shut down operations; you will be missed!

Cheers, Chicken

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Top Tips with seller Rabbit & the Duck

Rabbit and the duck 4 square

Its Market Week at the CHA!

So... you’re a super motivated crafter and micro business owner, and you’re looking to really connect with your audience, broaden your exposure and gain more sales. Going to market sound attractive, but don’t know where to start? The CHA are here to help!

This week is ‘Market Week’ where we share the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of many people connect with the CHA; from members contributing their thoughts on the Discussion Thread, to sellers who are known for their outstanding visual merchandising and other friends of the CHA who have more than 2 cents worth to add.

Top Tips with seller Rabbit & the Duck

Give your stall height
Different levels keep the eye moving and provide lots of visual interest for customers. Use open boxes you can stack on top of each other to create mini shelves. I also use cardboard storage boxes along the back of my table to create an extra level. If you have products that would benefit from being hung, see if you can rig up a piece of rope across the back of your stall to peg them off. Maybe an old ladder could sit behind your table with products hanging from the rungs.

Keep a look out
Always be on the lookout for interesting items you can use to display your products. I found an old set of scales in a second hand store and had them for months before I realised they would be perfect for holding loose buttons! I love to visit antique stores, op shops and garage sales to source my display pieces. I also slow down every time I drive past a collection of things on the side of the road! It's also a good idea to have a look around your own house, as there are probably items you already have that could be given a new use.

Price it
Make sure your products are priced! Pricing should be kept simple and in keeping with the look of your stall. Your products are the main focus and while it should be easy for a customer to see the price of something, it's not the first thing you want them to see. Make them fall in love with your product and the price won't be an issue! I use simple cardboard luggage tags pegged to my products that show the price. You could also use a frame with a price list.

Have fun!
Above all, have fun! Don't be afraid to try new things. If something is not working, move it around. Look at other stalls and see which displays attract your eye. The beauty of having your own business is that it can grow and change with you. When I look at pictures of my first ever market stall I am surprised by how different it was to my current display! Every day and every market teaches us something new!

Rabbit and the Duck collage

See the full collection of their photos on their Flickr page HERE.
See their shop on HERE.
Follow their blog HERE.

Thank you Rabbit & the Duck for sharing your thoughts with us!

Market Week Wrap Up
This is the last article in the Market Week series (which turned into a 3 week marathon of posts)!
Thank you so much for all your wonderful feedback about this topic. These articles couldn’t have been brought to you without the collective knowledge, experience and contributions of many members and people associated with the CHA. A sincere thanks to everyone who provided input.

Cheers, Chicken

Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Market Week Part 6: Market Checklist

Craft Market Post 6Use this checklist to ensure you are ready to go, the night before the market. Tick off the items and away you go!

Not everyone will need all these items, and there will be more items for you to add, but we have tried to capture all the ideas discussed through the Market Week blog series.

Print it easily!
Yup! To make it really easy for you, we have saved it as .PDF file for you to print and use as many times as you like!  You can access it HERE!

Market Checklist

  • Insurance
  • Food handler’s licence
  • Float (money) and bum-bag and/or lockable money box
  • Stock
  • Trestle tables
  • Fold up chairs
  • Marquee/market umbrella
  • Power cables/lighting
  • Radio/CD player and music
  • Signage including banner, pricing and other business info
  • Table cloths (and clips to hold it down if windy)
  • Clothes racks and hangers
  • Spare price stickers and marking pens
  • Mailing list sign-up sheet on clip board with pen attached
  • Business cards
  • Fliers
  • Bags for customers to use, such as brown paper bags
  • Set dressing items such as shelving, basket ware, mannequin, mirror
  • Fresh flowers and a vase/plants
  • Lollies/food treats
  • Extra stock packaging such as bags, cards
  • Notebook to take custom orders and other useful information, and a few pens
  • Measuring tape (to measure for custom orders)
  • Water bottle
  • Food
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Jacket/scarf
  • Mobile phone

Cheers, Chicken

Next post: Top Tips with seller Rabbit & The Duck

Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

{Giveaway Time} by mixtape magaZINE

Mixtape Giveaway Our lovely friends at
mixtape magaZINE
are offering 5 prize packs to WIN!

Each pack contains issues 9,10,11,12 & The Kids Issue - that’s $45 value in each pack!

To enter: Expand upon the following thought:

‘Living a creative lifestyle means....’

There is no limit on the number of words, but your answer should encapsulate your ideas on this topic quickly and easily.

Competition Details: To enter, write your answer in the comments below this blog post. Competition closes Sunday 8th August at 9pm EST.  5 winners will then be selected and notifications made by COB Monday 9th August.  This competition is open to Australian residents only. 1 entry per person; 1 prize pack per winner. Please note that your entry may be selected to be published in a fourth coming edition of mixtape.

Why we love mixtape and why you should check it out:

  • It’s about nice stuff: mixtape is a craft maga(ZINE) about making time for the small things!
  • And cool stuff: mixtape is a collision of craft, eco-cool and pop culture kitsch.
  • It gets your mind flowing: mixtape is a collection of creativity.
  • It’s Aussie and independent: Independently published FIVE times a year out of Melbourne, Australia

You can check out mixtape on their Facebook page and Website too!

Market Week Part 5: Visual Merchandising

Rabbit and the duck 2 So... you’re a super motivated crafter and micro business owner, and you’re looking to really connect with your audience, broaden your exposure and gain more sales. Going to market sound attractive, but don’t know where to start? The CHA are here to help!

This week is ‘Market Week’ where we share the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of many people connect with the CHA; from members contributing their thoughts on the Discussion Thread, to sellers who are known for their outstanding visual merchandising and other friends of the CHA who have more than 2 cents worth to add.

Visual Merchandising

The thoughtful presentation of stock on your market stand, with consideration given to layout, colours, theme, lighting, product/business information and sensory stimulation, is fundamental to creating an attractive and engaging display - with the ultimate goal of making sales!

Your market stand and displays should represent the story of your business and your stock. That is, you need to give though to developing an overall image which is in line with the types of products you make and sell, your business identity and the principles which underpin your business ideas and ideals.

Consider what products you are selling and what message you aim to send. Then, it is important to think about who you target market is, and what they might find attractive.

  • How does your image relate to what the customer wants?
  • Is the customer looking just for value? Or is the customer more interested in style and quality?
  • What theme or styling will support your message?

This process should naturally lead you to a design and look which makes sense for your product.

Example You make children’s items from organic fabric using good environmental practices. It would be wise then to represent these ideals with a display which echoes these principles; such as using calico to cover your table, using recycled basket-ware to hold stock, wooden frames to display price information, and perhaps have some living plants on the table. All these visual cues contribute toward the message you want to send. (And don’t forget signage explaining your principals which support the environment!)

Your theme can change too for many reasons; for example with the change in seasons, with the introduction of a new range or with a change in direction for your business. So remain flexible and always be thinking about how your stand design is supporting your aims and business direction.

No matter what theme you choose though, there are some basic ideas that hold true for all stands:

Go neutral:
Especially if you can’t decide on a theme, then going neutral will always be a winner. The use of neutral colours on the table will allow the stock to standout and present a fresh and clean image which is always desirable. Having said that, you may wish to break with this rule if you have a strong theme idea which deviates from a natural style. If so, take care to remember that the table design should never be louder or stand out more than the stock itself.

Avoid clutter:
Don’t overwhelm your stand with so much stock that no one can actually see what you have! Seek to achieve a good balance of looking bountiful and offering the customer choice without it getting over crowded. You can always hold stock back and add it to the table as sales are made; you don’t have to put out everything at once.

Stock layout:
Put some real thought into the placement of your stock. Group like with like; perhaps you can place all the items for girls on one end, and all the items for boys on the other? Or if you have been wise to create matching items (such as a necklace with matching earrings and bracelet) place them together, to encourage people to buy the set and not just a single item.

If you can show your items in action, do it! You might acquire a mannequin, a hat block or other way of showing off your items in action. But importantly, avoid using ugly displays that don’t fit your style and look.

Give it height:
People are unlikely to see your stock if it is all lying down flat on your table. So get creative and always keep a look out for some unique ways to add height and dimension! Some ideas on how this can be achieved include:

  • Creating a step effect with different height boxes, and then covering the boxes with the same fabric as the table covering. You can do this for the whole length of your table, or just in sections.
  • Using small 2 and 3 tier book shelves (in white) often found at discount stores; placed on the table or on the ground next to it.
  • Using old packing crates and other recycled wooden boxes.
  • Stack matching basket-ware upon each other, with the mouth of the basket facing forwards (just make sure it is stable)
  • Hanging items from your marquee (you can string up a line of twine and hang items using wooden pegs).

Set dressing:
To avoid spending large amounts when you are first getting started, start by looking around your house to see what you already have which is in line with your image. For example, if you want to do a tea party theme for your range of cupcakes, then you are likely to already have tea cups, saucers, cake plates and stands and other relevant equipment already in your kitchen (as long as it suits the colour and styling of your look).

Then, you can find items to ‘set dress’ your table in the most unlikely of places; op-shops, florist suppliers, discount stores like The Reject Shop as well as retailers such as Target, Kmart and Big W.

Aim to remain consistence in the look and style of your set dressing items. If you are using bowls to hold different hair clips, use lots of the same bowls; if you are using lots of coat hangers, make sure they are all in good condition, and the same size and design.

And while you are out and about, visit some of your favourite stores and have a look at their shop displays. Retail stores have professional Visual Merchandisers who have studied the field working on their displays! What do you like about their displays? What ideas can you borrow for your own table?

Finishing touches:
Lighting can be very effective in spotlighting key products, pricing sheets or other things that you want to draw attention to. Power is sometimes available at indoor events for an additional fee. If it is available at your market, think about how adding lamps or spotlights could enhance your stand and attract people walking by.

Fresh flowers or plants add a beautiful, fresh and natural element to your table; their use and style will depend very much on your overall theme and message.

Music can attract people to your stand before they even see you! If you know your target market and understand what music they like, then you can peak their interest as they are approaching your stand. How many times have you lingered in a department store just a little longer to hear the end of a favourite song? But as mentioned in our last blog post, make sure you gain permission from your event organiser to have music at your stand, and always make sure the music is appropriate and unobtrusive.

Food offers a different element again, which can attract people of all ages. Again, as mentioned in our last blog post, make sure you are following any applicable food handling regulations for your council and rules set by the market organisers, and be considerate of ingredients that people may be allergic to.

Personal presentation is the all important final piece to this puzzle.  Your personal look should also compliment the look of the business, and great hygiene and personal presentation is a must.

Final Tips:

  • Practice your stand set up at home before going to market. You can ask friends, family and neighbours for their feedback.
  • Always iron your table clothes and other fabrics and pack them carefully to avoid creasing.
  • On the big day, make sure you take photos of your stand for review and to remember your layout.
  • Be sure to keep your ears peeled for comments made by people passing by; and watch what they pick up and what they don’t react to.
  • Professional packaging and signage really add a great finishing touch.
  • Remember to add a mirror to your table if people will want to see how items will look on them.

Thanks to some of our wonderful CHA members for sharing their photos on the CHA Flickr Photo Pool.  Here is just a selection of some great examples which show some of the ideas shared today!

PArt 5 Collage














You can see more photos from our Flickr Group HERE!

Cheers, Chicken

Next post: Market Checklist

Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Market Week Part 4: Market Preparation

Craft Market Post 4 Pic So... you’re a super motivated crafter and micro business owner, and you’re looking to really connect with your audience, broaden your exposure and gain more sales. Going to market sound attractive, but don’t know where to start? The CHA are here to help!

This week is ‘Market Week’ where we share the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of many people connect with the CHA; from members contributing their thoughts on the Discussion Thread, to sellers who are known for their outstanding visual merchandising and other friends of the CHA who have more than 2 cents worth to add.

Market Preparation

Preparation is key! A great place to start is to ensure you carefully read all the information provided by your market organiser. If at the end of this you have un-answered questions, make sure you contact them before the event to have your questions answered. Never make an assumption about what you are or are not allowed to do at your stall; or what support and facilities will be available to you at the event.

Before rolling up to market, consider your approach to these areas of your business and your set up for market.

Stock Preparation:
How much do you need? How much is too much? People with market experience will likely tell you to specialise in a handful of great products and have lots of variety and choice within those products; rather than trying to spread yourself too thin with many different products, but not much variety of each.

A good rule of thumb to remember is to provide the power of choice to the customer. If they like your item, but you have made them all in green and they want blue, that won’t help you get the sale! So think about creating lots of variety within your product line to suit different tastes and needs.

Ultimately though, getting the balance right is something for which you will find a happy balance as you do more and more markets; and will depend somewhat on the size of your items, the size of your stall set up and the time it takes to manufacture each individual item. But know that a clean and clear, well organised and uncluttered table is more appealing than one stuffed with product. In the end, if people can’t see the product for all the mess, they will keep walking. (Stay tuned for more to come about merchandising your stand).

Custom Orders:
In the event that you just don’t have the right combination of design/colour/size that your customer would like, this is where being the creator and developer of the product really comes into its own; because you can just take an order! Make sure you clearly add signage to your stand that custom orders are welcome, and have a notebook at the ready to take down the order details. You will need to determine if you want to take a deposit at the time of taking the order, or if you are happy to collect the full price upon completion.  Don’t forget that postage could still be a consideration!

Pricing and Signage:
If people have to ask you what the price is, then you’re running the risk of losing sales. You need to make it really easy to see what your items costs. The best way to do this is to clearly label each individual item. This should also be used in conjunction with a larger display with the product name, brief description and price. You don’t need to have a proper pricing gun, just some plain small stickers with the price handwritten neatly is sufficient. However your larger displays with product names, description and pricing should be computer designed, printed (home printer is fine but professional design and printing is better) and should very clearly echo your business image with use of your logo and colour scheme, and possibly your business name as well.

Professional banner signage behind your stall is a good idea if and when you can afford it. Not only does it communicate your key business information to passersby, it also reinforces your commitment to your business and your professionalism.

Don’t forget to also have plenty of printed advertising material for your business available for people to take away with them; business cards and fliers with your contact details and examples of your work will make it easy for people to find you after the event. Tell people as they are about to leave your table that you have an online store and/or Facebook page where they can purchase your items, and hand them a flier!

Securing your money and making it easy to access, without flashing it around can be difficult. People don’t want or need to see how much cash you have. Always be thoughtful and discreet when handling and moving the money around.

You can use a money belt (yes that’s right, a bum bag!) to make change and some notes easily available. But if you have lots of sales during the day, you might also want to consider having a separate lockable cash box to store and hide away your larger notes. This should either be hidden under or behind your displays (always under your watchful gaze and out of range from the general public) or better still given to a trusted third party (such as your partner) to remove safely all together.

The size and set up of your float depends on the pricing of your products; and you should consider this when setting the prices. If your prices aren’t in whole dollars (that is, they include cents in the price such as $10.95 or $15.50) then this will have a big influence on your float setup. To make it easy at market, it is wise to set all your prices in whole dollars, meaning that the smallest denomination you will require are $1 coins.

A good example of a market stall float for products with prices in whole dollars is:

$200 float

  • 4 X $20 notes
  • 6 X $10 notes
  • 6 X $5 notes
  • 10 X $2 coins
  • 10 X $1 coins

Other than having a beautifully designed and laid out table, what else can you do to entice people to your table?

Food is always a great draw card! You can sell it (muffins and slices are a great eye catcher and compliments handmade perfectly) or give it away (a tray of lollies will get the little and big kids’ attention), but make sure you investigate the following before putting food on your table:

  • What council laws are you required to adhere to with food on your table? Do you need a special food handler’s licence? Contact your council for further information. Remember that rules and regulations may also change from council to council and you may need to contact more than 1 if you do markets outside of your local area. Be prepared to show your food handlers licence to the event organiser.
  • Wether selling food or giving it away, does the food contain anything that people are likely to be allergic to? If so, consider changing to another product or at the very least provide clear signage and an ingredients listing.
  • Speak with your small business/market stand insurer to ensure you adhere to their requirements and aren’t invalidating your insurance cover.

If you have a tray of sweets, make sure you don’t have hard lollies which small children are attracted to but are a choking hazard. Always have clean tongs available and bags if required for take away purposes.

Competitions are another great draw card; but there are strict requirements around running competitions which require you to contact the gaming commission in your state before running. I am going in investigate this further before providing any more detail, so stay tuned!

Music is a another fantastic way to draw people to your table. Keep it at a volume which isn’t intrusive, but people will hear as they walk by. Think about your target market and what sort of music they are likely to listen to. Be sure to check with your market organiser if playing music is ok first.

The last thing you want is to be caught out desperate for the toilet, or starving for something to eat and drink, and knowing that there is no relief on the way! Some markets offer stall holder minding services, but others don’t. Check with your market organiser; it might be wise to arrange for a friend or family member who is somewhat familiar with your products to relieve you during the market so that you can take a quick break.

So the last of the big tasks left now (other than making all your stock) is working out how to visually merchandise your stand to create a standout, attractive and eye-catching display!  Stay tuned for the next blog post!

Cheers, Chicken

Next post: Merchandising your stand

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Market Week Part 3: Applying For Market

Craft Market Post 3 Pic 

So... you’re a super motivated crafter and micro business owner, and you’re looking to really connect with your audience, broaden your exposure and gain more sales. Going to market sound attractive, but don’t know where to start? The CHA are here to help!

This week is ‘Market Week’ where we share the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of many people connect with the CHA; from members contributing their thoughts on the Discussion Thread, to sellers who are known for their outstanding visual merchandising and other friends of the CHA who have more than 2 cents worth to add.



Applying For Market

Now you’ve found the perfect market! It meets your needs, has your target market, it’s within a reasonable travel distance, it features other great quality products, and you can’t wait to be a part of it! But you need to apply and get approval as a stall holder first, before you can do your happy dance. Have you thought about how your application looks to the event organiser? Is it clear, professional and well presented? Does it entice them to want you at their market event?

So what makes an appealing stall holder application?

  • Supply quality photos of your products (they don't want to know what your living room looks like); dark photos of your products detract from your business image.
  • If you are relying on your blog to provide the relevant information and photos to the event organiser, make sure they are quality photos & big enough to enlarge. Otherwise you may need to send in your photos separately via email or in the mail on disk.
  • Make sure it is easy to locate your blog; send a link and spell it correctly. With all links, make sure it is a direct link so it doesn’t have to be searched for! This is time consuming and when there are hundreds of applications to go through - yours may get overlooked.
  • If you are sending in your photos, name all your photos and other documents clearly with your business name. Markets get 1000's of photos for each event, and unless the photos have your business name, it can be hard to remember which photos belong to each business.
  • Sometimes with stock, less is more – stick to your genre and do it well, instead of trying to cover all bases or categories. This is very important at a competitive market.
  • Be clear, specific and realistic about the stock you intend to come with. Don’t apply to bring handbags and turn up with one bag, and the rest of your stock is jewellery; nothing will get you uninvited quicker!
  • Be polite, be polite, be polite. Always be polite!
  • Make sure you read terms and conditions and the application carefully; you might find this answers a lot of your questions and saves you contacting the market organiser unnecessarily.
  • There is a difference between persistence and stalking.
  • Be prepared for rejection.

If you were unsuccessful:

  • Be polite in your response. Shooting yourself in the foot is unprofessional and unwise - burning bridges never helps future applications.
  • Try not to take it personally; remember that different markets target certain demographics, and there may be limits to how many stalls the market can accept, or how many stalls in the one category get accepted.
  • The market may just not be looking for the type of product you offer.
  • Sometimes your blog and website (and how professional or up to date it is) can be the difference between you or the next person being accepted.

If you were successful, then help promote the event! Advertising the event is a two way street. The organisers must advertise the event and with any luck they will know their target market. If you do not see the advertising, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been advertised appropriately. Stallholders should also assist in promoting the event as much as possible too. Remember; it makes you an attractive stall holder to the organisers if you are a great ambassador for the event!

Thanks to Julie of Handmade Canberra for supplying the outline for these guidelines.

Next post: Pre Market Preparations

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Top Tips with seller Sweet William

Sweet William 2


Its Market Week at the CHA!

So... you’re a super motivated crafter and micro business owner, and you’re looking to really connect with your audience, broaden your exposure and gain more sales. Going to market sound attractive, but don’t know where to start? The CHA are here to help!

This week is ‘Market Week’ where we share the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of many people connect with the CHA; from members contributing their thoughts on the Discussion Thread, to sellers who are known for their outstanding visual merchandising and other friends of the CHA who have more than 2 cents worth to add.



Top Tips with seller Sweet William

Sweet William, who are award winners for their amazing market stall design and visual merchandising, share with us their top tips for a successful stand.

Tell a Story
Sweet William has always aimed to tell the story with our stall.  We feel it needs to be personal, reflect who we are, and our creations.  We love vintage, tea cups and pretty things, and we want this to come through in our stand. We brainstorm ideas about what we can have on the stall that fits a particular theme - for example our most recent stall was a girly bedroom - and we used an old dresser, a set of drawers and a few bed side tables to convey this.

Be Unexpected
We always try and add the quirky and unexpected - not over the top - but just a little detail or two that would not be expected on the stall. For example, a geranium potted in an old silver trophy or a kitschy dolls head to add a bit of fun.

We always do a mock stall before the fair; sometimes it is set up well ahead of time so we can think and plan and play around with heights, positions and tweak and fluffing here and there. 

Love it
It’s something we love - to be honest it’s a real highlight of the fair to do the setup. Its the packing-up that’s not fun at all!

Sweet William 3Sweet William 1Sweet William 4

See the full collection of their stall photos on their Flickr page HERE.
See their shop on HERE.
Follow their blog HERE.

Thank you Sweet William for sharing your thoughts with us!

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Market Week Part 2: Choose a Suitable Market

Craft Market Post 2 Pic


Its Market Week at the CHA!

This week is ‘Market Week’ where we share the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of many people connect with the CHA; from members contributing their thoughts on the Discussion Thread, to sellers who are known for their outstanding visual merchandising and other friends of the CHA who have more than 2 cents worth to add.

Choose a Suitable Market

There are many markets to choose from in each state, but which one is right for you? Use a directory (such as the CHA Handmade Directory) to check out the different markets on offer, and start by visiting their websites to get a feel for who they are: the type of clientele they attract, what products are sold at the market, and who the event managers are. Send them an email if you don’t see the information you are after.

Questions to consider:

  • What type of market is it and is it in line with your marketing strategy? Will it help or hurt your reputation to be seen there?
  • How many people regularly attend?
  • What type of people frequent the market; and they your target market?
  • How well established is it?
  • What sort of reputation does the market have with people in the industry?
  • How well is the market advertised? What sort of media coverage and marketing activity can you hope to benefit from?
  • How much does it cost to be a stall holder and how does the cost compare with other markets? What do you get for your money?
  • How frequently is the market run and do you have to commit for a minimum period of time?
  • Is there a waiting list to gain space as a stall holder?
  • How far do you have to travel to get there?
  • Can you access your site with your car easily? Is there lots of free parking?
  • Is it inside or outside, and do you have a marquee?
  • Does it offer power, tables, marquees and other equipment if required?
  • What insurance coverage do they provide; and can they help you purchase insurance just for the event?
  • Will you be offering the same stock as everyone else, or will you offer something unique yet complimentary?
  • What activities will be there as a draw card to the event: i.e. live music, food stands, kids activities?
  • What is public transport like to the event?
  • How much will it cost you to be there when considering stall holder fees, insurance, petrol etc?

If you have found a market which you think meets your needs, then it is time to go shopping.... that is, visit the market first as a customer. Pay attention to what is going on:

  • Is it busy or quiet?
  • What times of the day seem to attract the most visitors?
  • Are people buying?
  • What are they buying?
  • Who is selling?
  • What are they selling?
  • What sorts of prices are items marked at?
  • Can you compete and still make a decent profit?
  • What is the vibe?
  • What role is the weather playing?
  • Is the area exposed or sheltered?
  • What are facilities like?
  • Does it meet your expectations?
  • How many tables of stock do people typically have?
  • Do they have marquees?
  • How are they merchandising their stalls?
  • What works?
  • What doesn’t?
  • Is parking and public transport sufficient?

Take the opportunity to talk to the current stall holders and get a feel for their impressions. Don’t be shy! Tell them that you are considering becoming a stall holder there and ask their opinion! Most people will be very happy to share their experiences and knowledge with you.

Then, there comes a point where you have done all the research you can, and you need to take a (small) leap a faith. So when you’re ready, take the plunge and make the booking! Just make sure that you give yourself plenty of time to make preparations and get your stock ready. So find out when the next few markets are, and choose a date in the future that gives you enough time to prepare, but also has a sense of pressure to ensure you work efficiently towards that market date!

Remember; the first market is always the hardest because it is unknown. But you have done your homework, and you know what your goals and expectations are. So its time to get preparing!

Cheers, Chicken

Next post: Top Tips with Seller Sweet William

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Market Week Part 1: Goals and Expectations

Craft Market Post 1 Pic So... you’re a super motivated crafter and micro business owner, and you’re looking to really connect with your audience, broaden your exposure and gain more sales. Going to market sound attractive, but don’t know where to start? The CHA are here to help!

Going to market is a great avenue through which you can promote your business and gain sales; and can successfully compliment your online, wholesale and consignment efforts. It’s your very own store front - a little bit space which you run and control. That is exciting! But you may not have retail sales or customer service experience; or merchandising training. That’s ok - everyone starts somewhere.

Before you stay up sewing into the wee hours of the morning (surviving on coffee, determination and the good will of your partner) you should make sure you have done your homework and are truly prepared.


This week is ‘Market Week’ where we share the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of many people connected with the CHA; from members contributing their thoughts on the Discussion Thread, to sellers who are known for their outstanding visual merchandising; and other friends of the CHA who have more than 2 cents worth to add.

Look out for regular posts all this week which should help you get started!

Goals and Expectations

First things first! You need to set yourself up to succeed. Have a plan. Have realistic goals and expectations. Do your homework.

It is a good idea to have a business plan (another blog post entirely) and you should build selling at markets into that plan.  Know where it sits in the grand scheme of things.

Start by working out why YOU are going to market:

  • Is it to shift old stock?
  • Try out new stock?
  • Sell your whole range, or just a portion?
  • Make some quick cash?
  • Gain exposure?
  • Make a connection with your audience and get real time feedback?
  • Build and develop your business image and reputation?
  • Get people to sign up to your mailing list and encourage them to follow you on Facebook and Twitter?
  • Get them to take your business details so they can buy online?
  • A combination of some or all of these... and more?

Not all of these goals will yield you a heavy money tin at the end of the day, but all will be helping you with the bigger picture and achieve your mid and long term goals.

It is unlikely that you will make a fortune at your first, or even third market. That’s ok, as long as you understand it and have planned for it. To start you might run at a loss. It may take you 6 months to make a profit. But remember the reasons why you are there; and know that when you’re first starting out, there is so much more than just money to be gained from the experience.

Set some goals. Initially, aim to cover your cost to be there (stall fees, equipment hire, insurance, travel etc). Then, set yourself mini targets such as making a profit of $100, $200 and onwards.

You will most likely be making some initial investments to get set up; with tables, a marquee, merchandising equipment (‘set dressing’ if you like) a chair, signage and more. Give yourself time to recoup these costs, and remember that when all is said and done, many of these items will be able to be integrated into your everyday life (an extra table at the family reunion is always handy!) You don’t have to buy it all NOW. You can progressively expand your set up as you gain sales and can afford it.   Work out what is vital, and what is just nice to have.  What can be borrowed from friends and family? What can you purchase second hand or from an op-shop? Don’t push yourself into debt - remember that the aim is to make money!

Know that often, people like to see you at market regularly before they buy from you. You might have a product that they like, but maybe they don’t have a reason to buy it right away. Or perhaps they want to get a feel for you before they commit to buy. Or they just think ‘next time’. Regularly turning up at the same market will help to build your presence and reputation.

Every time you go to market, you will be more comfortable and confident with the process. Make sure that you and your family/supporters know exactly what you are aiming to achieve and take a step closer every time you go to market.  And remember that goals can change…. adapt with them to remain current!

Cheers, Chicken

Next post: Choose a suitable market

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

We have a winner!

Softies Club Congratulations to
Steph of Moobear Designs! 

You are the winner of the Softie Pack, provided by our friends at
Patterns Only. We have sent you an email on how to make arrangements to claim your prize pack!

Thanks to everyone for your entries…. look out for the next CHA competition, coming soon!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Facebook Faux Pas for Aussie Craft Businesses

Facebook Logo 

How you represent yourself and your business on Facebook is just as important as other facets of your marketing strategy.

Always put your best foot forward; and avoid these mistakes to build and maintain a professional image in the eyes of your customers, peers and within the Aussie and international craft industry. 

#1 Faux Pas: Writing on the wall of another business for the express purpose of advertising your own business.
There is a fine but very distinct line between wishing to make a genuine connection with someone in the industry and letting them know you are a fan; and simply posting details of your own business on their page, with the express purpose of promoting yourself.

“Hey I just became your fan, feel free to pop by and become a fan of mine too” is common; but comes across as too needy and turns people off. It is more likely to hurt your reputation and give the impression that your business is small, struggling and desperate for fans. People will fan you because they are interested in what you have to offer; not because of this ploy.

Conversely, if you find people doing this to your fan page and it makes you feel uncomfortable, you can feel comfortable to delete the post without any guilt.

#2 Faux Pas: In-appropriate profile pictures. As you cannot make comments as your business identity, your personal profile picture will become associated with your business name. This may be because you mention your business name in your comment, or because you are building a reputation in the industry and people are getting to know who you are and which business you represent. For this reason, it is imperative that your profile picture is either an appropriate head and shoulders shot of you looking, neat, clean and professional; or you can use your business logo as your profile picture. People don’t want or need to see images of your kids (no matter how cute they are), or you looking slopping from the weekend. People want to know who YOU are and you will be judged by your photo... so put your best foot forward.

#3 Faux Pas: Publishing all your posts for the day only minutes apart. It can be hard to apply some structure to your posting timeframes, especially when we have lives to lead away from the computer and Facebook. But nothing will halt people from reading your News Feed faster than seeing 15 posts in a row, crammed into a 5 minute period. It’s just all too hard and overwhelming; no matter how useful the content you are providing. Try to allow at least 5 - 10 minutes between posts, and do no more than 3 at a time - at the absolutely most. If you have the luxury, a good rule of thumb is 1 post in the morning, 1 in the afternoon and a few at night, when people are most active. But space them out as best you can!

#4 Faux Pas: Airing your business or personal frustrations, negative situations and arguments publically on your business page. Having a disagreement with a customer? A competitor stealing your designs? Frustrated that your fabric delivery is late? Your fans don’t want to know about it. Avoid discussing negative issues or airing frustrations on your page. No matter how justified you may be in your argument, discussing it publically may make you feel better, but also makes you look highly unprofessional. Avoid using any negative language at all in your posts. Remember, if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.... or you will just hurt your own business’s reputation.

#5 Faux Pas: Forgetting the importance of using the English language correctly. Because you are representing yourself and your business through written communication, you must endeavour to use this form of communication correctly. Spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and using txt spk just makes you look lazy and uncaring. If you need to, type your status update and copy and paste it into Microsoft Word to check for spelling and grammatical errors before publishing; and make changes as needed. This small, extra step will speak volumes about your professionalism. We all suffer from typos every now and again, but aim to get it right 99% of the time. You wouldn’t send your advertising off to the printers without carefully checking it first, would you?

#6 Faux Pas: Allowing your photo albums to become out of date. If you are selling via your fan page photo albums, it is imperative that your albums only show items which can be purchased or custom made; and that there is relevant information attached to each photo. Failing to list vital details such as product descriptions, prices, availability and ways that customer can place an order will surely lose you sales. Because you don’t receive notifications when people comment on your photo, it is most important to provide instructions for interested buyers on how they can contact you to place an order; and list your email address under every photo. If you have a album of supplies such a fabric which people can select from to place a custom order, make sure you number and/or name your fabrics, so that you can be sure everyone is talking about the same thing.

#7 Faux Pas: Not having the last word on your page. In the case of your Facebook page, it is best that you have the last word. That is, if someone comments on your wall, on your post, or on your photo, always acknowledge what they have said. This acknowledgement will help build the all important genuine dialogue with your customers, which ultimately builds loyalty.

#8 Faux Pas: Sending a Friend Request without a message. If you have decided to mix your personal profile page with your business presence on Facebook, you make choose to ‘Friend’ people in the industry with whom you wish to make a connection. But sending unsolicited Friend Requests without a personal message attached will not yield you a good result! Be sure to take a few minutes to send a message along with your request, explaining who you are (including your business name) and why you want to make a connection. And don’t take it personally if your request is not accepted; many people choose not to accept Friend Requests from anyone who is not a genuine friend. Oh and if you do have business contacts as friends, then you need to monitor your personal status updates and photos for appropriateness too; it still all represents who you are and impacts your business reputation.

#9 Faux Pas: Becoming a stalker. If you comment on everything posted on a page, you will start to creep people out. While comments are always sought after and welcomed on business pages, it will become weird if you always comment or ‘like’ everything that page publishes.

#10 Faux Pas: Presenting content as your own; when it’s not. It’s great to pass along interesting information which you think your followers will find useful, but it’s not ok to represent it as your own work. Always attribute photos, blog content and other unique thoughts which are not yours to the owner. A good way to do this is to thank the creator and @tag their Facebook page when publishing the information in News Feed. Of course, if you are linking to their blog, website or other location, it is clear who the content owner is; but it’s extra nice to acknowledge them in the News Feed post too. Plus it lets them know that you are sharing their content and may attract them as a fan to your page, or even start a new business relationship.

What Facebook Faux Pas do you see? What drives you nuts?

Cheers, Chicken

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

{Round Up} The 1st CHA Craft Swap

How I have loved reading your emails, learning your stories and seeing all your lovely craft swap items; and getting to know your businesses too.Picnik collage 3 Here is just a selection of the photos I received for you all to feast your eyes on (there were just so many I couldn’t fit them all in!) Wow, such a lovely, diverse range! Some are people’s first brave attempts to make a new item; and other are tried, true and tested products.

Picnik collage 2
Try as I did, it was certainly too difficult to choose a favourite swap pair. So many of you have relished the opportunities to make a connection in the handmade community; and have taken care to make and send products that would perfect suit the recipient.

Picnik collage 1 Most importantly, it seems all involved had lots of fun. For those that missed out this time around, there will be another craft swap in the near future, so stay tuned.

Picnik collage 4 Thank you all so much for participating, taking such care to create your items, and for sharing your pictures and stories.

A very special thank you to Beckie of Little Wise Owl for processing all your details and assigning your partners. A massive task. Thank you lovely girl!

Cheers, Chicken

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Package Your Success

packaging4 One of the biggest issues with online selling is that it’s considered to be so impersonal. There is no greeting as you browse through the store, or time to talk about how it was made and developed; and there certainly isn’t a chance to thank them face-to-face for purchasing (or reminding them to return in the future). In most cases the package you send is the only actual physical contact you make with your customer; and therefore can be one of the most important tasks you complete during a sale.

Protection First
Obviously the primary purpose of product packaging is to get your sold item from A to B safely. The Post Office is not your only option for postal products.  You can try Officeworks for great bulk packs or there are many websites that sell products in bulk such as Signet. It’s also fine to reuse jiffy bags; or for the Eco option, Ecocern is your place. If your items don’t need a lot of padding, why not simply wrap them in brown kraft or butcher paper? Price wise, trying to make a few extra dollars on postage is a no-go, and be sure to have the registered post as an extra option if your item calls for it. Remember that most of your customers will be regular online purchasers and therefore are likely to understand general postage costs.

To Pretty or Not to Prettypackaging3
There are different schools of though when it comes to gift-wrapping your product. Personally, I think there is nothing more enjoyable than receiving a delightful package in the mail. When I purchase an item, I always look forward to seeing how things come packaged. A beautifully presented handmade item demonstrates pride and thoughtfulness in what has been created and follows the ethos of the handmade revolution. It can be simple and cost effective, and can make your item stand out from the rest. Use things from around the house – fabric, doilies, ribbon scraps, an old atlas; or re-purpose some golden books, perhaps an old textbook or sewing pattern. Bakers thread or twine with threaded buttons also looks effective. There are many Etsy sellers that specialise in pretty packaging if you want brand your items. A few of my favourites are Packagery and CaliforniaCraft, and you can also have your logo printed on to stamps or stickers to use in prettying things up.

A Freebie
You can always thank returning customers with a little something. It can be as simple as mini gift card (sew a square of fabric onto a folded piece of card or tag) or a few pretty buttons or appliqu├ęs from your collection. Pretty Moo Cards with a ribbon at one end make lovely bookmarks. What about a sample of a new line your starting? Ask them for their opinion or a review on one of your information forums. There are a number of Etsy sellers that have bulk mini gift packs with slogan or vintage print badges, stickers or even mints. I like to offer an incentive to return; perhaps free postage or a percentage off their next visit.

Must Not Forget
Without a doubt, your best advertising is your product. Give your customer the tools to share in the excitement of finding such wonderful products. At least two business cards are a must inclusion. Word of mouth is documented as the most effective form of building your business – so encourage it.

How about your networking options? Got friends in the craft selling business? Then why not organise with them to swap each others business cards. These can be addedpackaging1 into your package when you make sale and visa versa. I love to pop business cards of my favourite shops into my customer’s packages when I think it will compliment what they have bought from me.

Most of all don’t forget your handwritten thank you note. This personalises the online buying process and reminds your customer that it’s just you - creating, marketing, selling, packaging and shipping your items, especially for them.

If your still looking for a little inspiration don’t forget to check out the Etsy Packaging Pool on Flickr.

Good luck and happy selling,

Lulu froufrou

You can follow Linda and see all her lovely pretties on her Facebook Page, in her Madeit store, on her blog and on Twitter.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

{Give Away Time} by Patterns Only

Softies Club As an exclusive to The Contemporary Handmade Alliance, Patterns Only is giving one lucky reader a chance to win a fabulous Softies Kit; complete with fabric, pattern and toy stuffing to create an adorable soft toy.

To enter:
Go to the Patterns Only website and check out
their range of softie patterns.  Sign up to their Newsletter via the homepage), and then come back and tell us below in 25 words or less, which softies kit you would love to win and why.

You can also gain additional entries by completing a ‘Shout Out’ on your Facebook Page (tag @The Oz Material Girls in your post); and/or Tweet about it (tag @patternsonly).  Just leave an additional comment below advising how you have spread the word! You will receive 1 entry for each shout out.

Competition Closes Thursday 15 July at 9pm. Winner will be selected by random number generator, and announced on the CHA Blog.  Open to Australian residents only.

Happy 1st Birthday Patterns Only!Patterns Only 1st birthday
The sister shop of The Oz Material Girls, Patterns Only is celebrating their 1st Birthday.  They are having some great giveaways plus FREE Australia Wide Postage during the month of July.  You can find out more details on their blog. 1 lucky customer will also win patterns for a year!

They have a terrific Softies Club to join and receive a new kit each month, for 12 months. If you sign up in July you will get 1 month FREE.  The kits are also available individually.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Your Craft Business Part 3 – Record Keeping and Business Management

Desk 3 This is the final instalment in a 3 part series designed to assist the Australian hobbyist crafter determine if they need to set up as a business. It aims to provide relevant information to help you set about taking this next step; which can be confusing and a bit daunting! It is also a great time to consider this topic, with the start of the new financial year only days away!

Record Keeping and Business Management
How difficult is it to keep proper financial records?
Regardless of the complexity of your business, it is important to keep proper financial records. MYOB and Quickbooks are both fantastic, relatively easy to use software packages that can handle everything from inventory to payroll – and if you only need a basic package to track income and expenses, these are available as well.  That said, until your business reaches a certain level, an excel spreadsheet may be all you need to track the income and expenses related to your business – particularly if you are not registered for GST.

It is important to have some sort of system though. You should be able to extract data quickly and easily which tells you how your business is travelling – for example, you should be able to find out how many items you have sold over a particular time period, what the profit was on those items, and how much total profit you have made over a time period.  These are all important ways of measuring how your business is performing.

If you are running your enterprise as a business (rather than a hobby) you should keep receipts for all expenses associated with your business for at least 7 years (to be on the safe side). Our tax system is “self assessment” which means that the ATO do not “audit” your tax returns as they are lodged; however, they do perform random reviews and audits for a time period following lodgement of the returns (usually between 2 and 4 years). Reviews and audits are much more pleasant if you have kept good records and if you have a system that allows you to find things easily.

What program should I use?
As mentioned above both MYOB and Quickbooks are used regularly for small businesses – everyone will have a different opinion about which package is better. In my opinion, Quickbooks is better for those people with some level of understanding of accounting and MYOB is better for those people who really have no idea of general accounting concepts. Quickbooks provides more flexibility and is probably a more powerful accounting program however, I think this can be a bit dangerous when combined with someone who has no accounting knowledge.

Do I have to worry about Business Activity Statements (BASs)?
If you are registered for GST you will need to lodge Business Activity Statements (BASs) either quarterly or annually. Refer to the second blog in this series to find out whether or not you need to register for GST (link to the blog).

You may also need to lodge BASs if you are paying tax on your income. For example, if you have a business profit of $30k when you lodge your tax return, you will need to pay tax on this profit. In addition, once the tax office receive your tax return, they will assume you are going to make $30k profit in the following year and they will start sending quarterly statements to you to start collecting the tax for the following year (called the Pay As You Go system). If your profit in the following year is significantly less than the year before you can “vary” the instalments on the activity statements.

Year End Checklist For Small Businesses
Here are a few items to consider in the lead up to 30 June:

1. Are there any expenses that you could pay prior to 30 June (which would allow you to claim the expense in this financial year and therefore reduce your tax). This will only be an effective tax planning technique if you have profit that you want to minimise. If you are in a loss, then you will not be paying tax anyway.

2. Is there anyway that you can push income into the following year (i.e. invoice in July rather than just before 30 June)? Same applies to the item above, this will only be effective where you are trying to minimise profit and therefore tax.

3. If you carry stock, you should do a stock take so that you can claim as an expense any items that have gone missing during the year. It is also good business management to do this annually to ensure that your physical stock matches your accounting records.

4. Now is a good time to review your debtors (if applicable) and make the decision to write any debts off that are not recoverable. This will ensure that you are able to claim the “bad debt” as an expense in this financial year.

5. Now is a good time to consider making any donations and/or superannuation contributions (if applicable). Both are great, legitimate ways of reducing your taxable income.

6. You could consider prepaying some expenses (most small business can claim prepayments where the expense relates to the following financial year) – examples may be rent, insurance and interest. Again, this will only be relevant where you are trying to minimise tax in the current financial year;

7. Talk to your accountant and ensure you have a clear understanding of your tax return lodgement deadline.  This can differ depending on the size of your business and whether or not you are lodging through a tax agent.

Please note that the information contained in this post is provided as general information only; none of the information provided takes into account your personal circumstances. It is important that you seek advice from your accountant in order to address your specific circumstances.

Written by Sharon Parker of The
Robin Street Market especially for the CHA.
You can follow Sharon on Facebook and Twitter

This was the final instalment for the Your Craft Business series of blog posts by Sharon. Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Shopping in the New Social Media World

Online Shopping

Sharon was thrilled to find on a social networking business page a perfect head band to go with the christening outfit that she had bought for her daughter. She chatted to the Facebook store operator and sent her credit card details. Several weeks went by and nothing happened; and when Sharon tried to contact the store, the Facebook page was gone.

Sadly, with the popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook becoming an avenue for selling handmade items, we are seeing more and more claims of online fraud in the WAHM industry.

Whilst there is no fool proof method in ensuring you are not a victim of online fraud, there are a few helpful things customers can check, and also tips for store owners to make customers feel completely comfortable in purchasing:

1 Business Registration Whilst in some instances a business does not need to register their name, many businesses do have the relevant registrations and licences required to operate.  This will NOT tell you whether a business is completely genuine, but it can show that a business has taken the time and cost to register to operate their business.

2 Check the Website/Facebook Page for Contact Details  All websites and Facebook business pages should have relevant contact details for the business.  If you should need to contact a store owner for any reason, you should be able to do so easily. Sites and pages should have relevant postal details, email addresses and a phone number for contact.  For business owners who want to ensure their personal details are not revealed, you could try using a Post Office box and a cheap mobile phone to receive business calls on.

3 Payment Always pay by Paypal.  By paying with Paypal, if a transaction does go wrong, you have an avenue to attempt to receive your money back.  Although Paypal comes with fees, it offers more protection that a bank transfer. NEVER email your credit card details or provide your credit details to a site that does not have a secure merchant payment facility.

4 Google Google the business name.  Customers who receive bad service quite often like to tell the world and with social networking sites so popular these days, Googling a business name should provide you with any information you are looking for.  Indeed, you may also find fabulous feedback about a store.

5 Ask Around Ask friends, family, social networking site contacts/forums you are involved on if anyone has used that business before.  Word of mouth is the best form of advertising for businesses and happy customers always like to tell others of the great service they have received.

6 Ask for Registered Post It costs a bit extra, but this can avoid any worry or concern that your parcel will not arrive.  Using registered post you can be assured your parcel has been sent and you have a very good way of tracking it if it goes astray.

6 Store Fronts Call me crazy, but I would not purchase from a store who ONLY operates on Facebook unless I was able to view the products locally. There are so many affordable options for people to operate store fronts and internet shopping carts. Gone are the days when you need to pay thousands of dollars to be able to have a basic store. Stores can be operated from blogs and online shopping malls such as where listing fees are very affordable. Having your own website or store shows that a business has taken the time to establish itself, a domain name purchased and the time taken to publish all information on products and policies in order to operate their store.  Facebook does not offer a lot of options for a shopper to feel comfortable.

In Sharon's case, she was not able to recoup her lost funds and she has learnt the hard way that shopping from a social networking site can have drawbacks.

Written by Handmade Kids