Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Missing Pieces: Part 2 - Mandatory Standards for Nightwear

Yesterday Christine wrote about why we strongly suggest that you read the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Mandatory Standards for Nightware for children, before designing P.J’s for children this coming winter.

Pillow Fight Print by ImaginArt by Lisa Flanagan

Calm down! Don’t be afraid! It’s not as scary as it sounds!

To help you understand what you need to do, we bring you an interview with Bec from Little Toot Creations. Bec has successfully designed a fantastic sleepwear collection, whilst complying with the mandatory safely standards. If designing sleepwear is in your business plan this coming autumn, then please read on to learn what you need to do.
How long have you been designing sleepwear for children?  I launched my first collection of pyjamas in August 2011 – boys’ and girls’ short and long-leg pyjama pants matched with Australian made cotton tees.
On your bike Flannel pyjamas
by Little Toot Creations 
When and how did you find out that you had to abide by the mandatory safety standards when designing your PJ’s?  I had the idea to start making children’s sleepwear from beautiful designer flannelette fabrics about 2 years ago. 
At first I didn’t give the fire danger issue much thought, until a fellow small business owner drew my attention to the mandatory standards. 
Looking into it, I noticed that most bolts of fabric, particularly flannel, carry a warning along the lines of ‘not suitable for children’s sleepwear’. This is because cotton is highly flammable, and in particular anything with a pile, like flannel. 
I consulted a lawyer friend, who advised against making sleepwear from these fabrics. 
Itching to find out more, I bought a copy of the Australian Standard and read up on what was required. 
What was your initial reaction when you found out? It became clear, after reading up on the subject, that selling children’s pyjamas without the correct fire danger labels or having them checked for compliance with the Australian Standard was against the law. 
I was keen though to see what the market’s reaction would be to flannelette sets, and so I took a risk and started making children’s ‘lounge sets’. I called my debut collection ‘Lazy days and Sundays’ and was careful to never call them pyjamas. In hindsight – it was a stupid and grossly negligent thing to do. 
They didn’t fly out the door, but the more I thought about it the more I could see a gap in the handmade market for quality, handmade pyjamas, and I could see Little Toot Creations filling that niche.  
What did you then have to do?  I already owned a copy of the Australian Standard, but without a legal background it was a little hard to read. I started researching online and looking for others who were making and selling children’s pyjamas.  
I came across a small Australian company who were matching flannel pants with cotton tees, similar to what I had in mind, and so I sent them an email. 
They would have been well within their rights to dismiss me, but instead I received friendly, helpful advice on the mandatory standard and what was required. 
They even put me in contact with the RMIT Textiles Testing facility, which was so supportive of my small business and put up with me asking a million questions!

Lazy long PJs in little girls by Little Toot Creations

What was the process that you had to go through to get your products tested and how much does it cost?  The first step in the process for me was to pay for a garment assessment. This looks at the size and shape of your garment, and compares it to the Australian Standard. It also checks that your garments are correctly labelled – with the brand, size, care instructions and the right fire danger label (there are different categories of garments, which require different labelling). 
They have to test you fire danger labels also, to ensure they’re not going to fade when washed. These tests cost about $230 per garment (or style). 
In addition, for my winter collection (that’s just been released) I needed to have my flannelette fabrics tested for flammability. These tests were more expensive. 
What would the consequences have been if you had carried on selling your non-approved sleepwear?  Under the law, a supplier (which might be the manufacturer or even a retailer who on-sells the items) may be found guilty of a criminal offence if they fail to comply with the mandatory safety standard. The maximum fine is $220,000 for an individual. 
This is an offence of strict liability, which means a court does not have to consider the person's intentions before finding them guilty. 
Do you have any tips to other children’s clothing designers who want to branch out this autumn and create sleepwear for children? I’m all for competition in the marketplace, but each and every time I see a handmade seller doing sleepwear (or loungewear that is obviously designed for sleeping in) I cringe, because I know they are breaking the law. 
On the other hand, I have come across some amazing businesses, like Sienna & Sidney (whose sleeping bags I stock at Little Toot), who are careful to adhere to the rules.
Sleeping bag by Sienna & Sidney
If someone is committed to their craft, and to their small business, and they want to make children’s sleepwear (this includes baby sleeping bags and a whole list of other items), then I strongly encourage them to do as I did and get some professional advice.
While the chances of prosecution are probably small for a small handmade business, is a risk they are willing to take?
Thank you Bec for giving us such a great insight into your business ~ many people in our community will benefit from this.


About the Contributor: 
Owner of Cheeky Pickle, Ali is a Textile Designer, originally from the U.K. She comes with a BA (hons) in Mixed Media Textile Design and has an established background in the Textile industry. She loves mixing simple, bold designs with an eclectic mix of mediums, creating unique and texturally exciting Art pieces. Ali finds her inspiration from simple, natural and organic shapes and textures, that can be seen in nature. To find out more about Ali go to her blog or follow her on Facebook.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Missing Pieces: Part 1 - Meeting mandatory safety standards

Source: Soft Autumn Pink Leaves
by Aussie Girl takes Pics - Vivienne Ward Photography 
Autumn has arrived in Australia, the mornings are becoming crisp and in the evenings donnas are being pulled up.  Its also the time when retailers release their winter ranges, including winter sleepwear.

Are you planning to head out to Spotlight this week? Have you got flannelette and blank Tees on your shopping list?  Before you do we strongly suggest that you read the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Mandatory Standards for Nightware for children.

Stop and be informed!

In simple terms it states; 
All nightwear needs to be tested by 'anyone in the business of supplying nightwear for children'.

What does that mean?
It applies to you if you are making or distributing or selling nightwear.  It is not up to the fabric manufacture to test their fabrics.  Most of you will be aware that on most rolls of fabric the manufacturer will state that it is  'not intended for children's sleepwear'.

What about those who say 'just call it a different name'?
Don't believe them! Calling it a 'Lounge Suit' is the same thing by any name.

If you read Appendix C of the Standard it notes that they take into account when determining whether or not a garment is classified as sleepwear under the Standard. They also note in the last point of this appendix,  that labels like 'intended for daywear' are irrelevant. This point also applied to the use of terms like loungewear and other names used to circumvent the law.

So generally speaking, all garments sold as sleepwear, or would be interpreted as sleepwear, need a garment assessment.

What does testing involve?
Testing looks at the shape and size of the garment (length and width of sleeves, legs etc). Garments made from non-pile fabrics (eg. ordinary cotton) don't require the fabric to be tested for flammability, however anything with a pile (eg flannel, minkee, fleece) requires flammability testing.

The icing on the cake 
There are also rules that apply to embellishments, which includes ribbons, ties, appliques. Don't despair you can still make sleepwear, you just need to comply with the standard.

Why should I bother, who does this? 
If you are caught not complying with the mandatory safety standard you could be charged with a criminal offence with a maximum fine of $220,000 for an individual.

Canberra based handmade business Little Toot Creations gets all of their sleepwear tested.  Back in 2010 Bec, the owner, was alerted to the mandatory safety standards. Instead of deciding to circumvent the system or give up on her dream she decided to get her PJs tested.

To find out more go to Nightware for Children section on the Product Safety Australia Website (


Further reading:
  1. Online trader fined for selling flammable infant sleep bags
  2. ACCC takes action against Cotton On over children’s nightwear
  3. Dimmeys penalised $400,000 for selling children's dressing gowns which failed labelling standard

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Missing Pieces: Mad 'About' You

Source: via Rebecca on Pinterest

Congratulations you have your own website!  Which you have either put together yourself or hired someone to do it for you.  Like me, you most likely have spent a lot of time working out all the details including your primary navigation (those buttons on the top or on the side that say Home | About | Services | Contact Us).

So my big question is - What is the content like?
Sure the website looks pretty, but this will only get you so far. Customers, especially those who are choosing to buy handmade, usually want more. From my experience they want to be reassured that they can trust you and feel safe in their purchase.

One way to help them is to have a great 'About Us' page.  This page is sometimes neglected but in fact its just as important as the rest of the pages on your website.

Here is a list of questions I put together, which I think you should consider when reviewing your contact page:
  1. So what does your 'About' page say about you and your business?  
  2. What have you told your buyer about you to make them what to buy your product? 
  3. What have you told your buyer to generate a safe feeling about purchasing your product? 
  4. What have you told your buyer about you to entice them to follow you on Facebook/Titter/etc?
What to include in your 'About' page
A good 'About' page should provide the buyer with an overview of your business, your general location, the benefits of your products, a little ditty about you including your name, why you do what you do and why your skills and accomplishments make your product the one for them.  Remember to talk yourself up - the whole point of the website is to sell your products.

Also add a photo of you, provide links to your social media sites, provide a little thank you at the end and either a link to your contact page or simply re-state your contact info.

But wait there's more!
Remember to add your personality to the page, this isn't a dry mission statement, it your opportunity to let your buyer get to know you and your business a little better. If you are quirky then be quirky, if you are visual then be visual, just be yourself.


Further reading:
10 ways to Mazimize the Power of your About Us Page
15 Key Elements All Top Web Sites Should Have

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Missing Pieces: Shop Policies

When I was first asked to write a piece about policies, I must admit I did come up against a bit of a brick wall. I mean, surely everyone has the same type of thing on their policies, don’t they?

Well when I started to look into it, I was rather surprised at how many small businesses either didn’t have any at all or they had just a couple of policies that looked to me as if they had been thrown together as an afterthought.

I was shocked. Honestly, I was truly shocked that these people who were putting money, time and love into their product, advertising and marketing, were then just throwing all their hard work away and making their shop look totally unprofessional, by not adding a few, well thought out policies.

When I put my own policies together I really didn’t know where to start. I had a look around to see what everybody else was doing and was amazed at how different they were.

So which were the ones that didn’t work for me? Which shops policy pages would even go as far as to put me off from buying from that particular seller?

Long ones
To start off with, there were the ridiculously long ones, you know the ones that try and cover every single aspect of their business and are paranoid about anything and everything. We are not Myer! We are (most of us) small businesses who just want to get paid, send our products off and hope they arrive safely and in one piece to our customer. Happy seller, happy customer.
Keep it short, sweet and to the point.

Rude ones
Then there were the rude ones. You can see that these sellers have been, in the past, been stung big time. Their policies are straight to the point, like a dagger through the heart. There are no nice vibes going on here at all. You may have had a bad experience in the past, but that is not your future customer’s problem, it’s yours. Move on!
Keep it upbeat and positive, but direct and to the point.

Confusing ones
Again this seller has been stung, yet is still trying their very hardest to be nice. They waffle on so much that you give up reading in the end. All this does is cause confusion on the buyer’s part and if there ever is an issue, the buyer could say that the policies were not clear enough.
Keep them clear and concise.

Trying to be clever
Again, these sellers come across rude. Their comments are sarcastic, not friendly. Keep your personality for you FB page. Policies are an important and integral part of your business.
Keep it professional.

So what do I think is important to include in your policies?

First of all you need to have a look around, like I did, and see what other people are doing. Pick out what works for you and your business/products and what doesn’t.

Points to remember

  • Make it clear and to the point
  • Keep it short and simple. If you start to waffle, rein it in, think about what the message is you are trying to say and stick to it.
  • Keep it friendly but professional. 
  • Include a link to your policies on every invoice you send out. Cover yourself from the offset. If this is not possible refer to or insert a link your shop policies in your listing.

Write down your main headings, making sure that the most important ones to you are at the top. Here are the headings I think are most important.

Payment – State payment methods taken

Shipping – Include here your policies for loss of shipped items. This is probably where you really need to be clear and to the point. Lost items are probably what have stung a lot of small businesses. I strongly suggest you either ONLY use registered post or you try your hardest to get your customer to add it to their order.

Refunds and exchanges – Be very clear on what you will and will not exchange. If you are happy to exchange, then state who will be paying the excess postage

Additional policies – This is where you need to include everything else, e.g. your custom and wholesale orders. Try not to waffle.

To finish off with, make sure you end with a really positive comment. Something like
“I will do my very best to make sure you are totally happy with your purchase”

Source: Artwork by Cheeky Pickle
Note from Author:
Last year I was unfortunate enough to be involved with a lost (expensive) parcel incident that I sent, registered post, to my customer. To cut a very long story short, Consumer Affairs became involved. Basically if you are unsure as to where you stand with regards lost parcels and postal services, call Consumer Affairs. They are very friendly and will give you the answers that you need. They may not necessarily be the answers you necessarily want to hear, but it can cut out a lot of uncertainty as to where you stand on the subject.

About the Contributor: 
Owner of Cheeky Pickle, Ali is a Textile Designer, originally from the U.K. She comes with a BA (hons) in Mixed Media Textile Design and has an established background in the Textile industry. She loves mixing simple, bold designs with an eclectic mix of mediums, creating unique and texturally exciting Art pieces. Ali finds her inspiration from simple, natural and organic shapes and textures, that can be seen in nature. To find out more about Ali go to her blog or follow her on Facebook.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Building your brand through cause marketing

As a small business operating in a competitive market, building your brand is something that takes not only an ongoing commitment, but also a creative approach. It is likely that you discovered very early on that the uniqueness of your product (being handmade), your personal touch and ability to identify with your target market (perhaps you are a WAHM) and the loyalty of your customers (sharing their fond experiences with their friends) are key selling strategies.

Why? Because a brand is so much more than just a name, it's a collection of feelings and perceptions about quality, self-image, lifestyle and status. Today I’d like to focus on the “self-image” component of your brand, and how you can foster a strong sense of community and positive public opinion through cause marketing, in particular, the online charity auction.

What is cause marketing?

Cause marketing is a potentially profit-making initiative by a for-profit company or brand to raise awareness, money, and/or consumer engagement in a social or environmental issue. Via Do well. Do good.

The online charity auction generally works in a reciprocal manner whereby a business donates products to be auctioned, with proceeds donated to a specific cause. An example of this is a charity campaign I am currently supporting called the Cuddle Craft Collective which aims to raise funds to provide urgent nutrition to children at the Bonga Feeding Centre in Ethiopia.

How can cause marketing work for my business?

THE CAUSE – if the charity auction is set up to support an emotive cause, such as the plight of malnourished children in Ethiopia, there will be public desire to support the cause.

THE BUSINESS – aligning your business with this cause allows you to connect with your customers and the auction bidders on a deeper level that goes beyond normal sales and customer service. It gives you the opportunity to share your core business values, working together with the customer to “make a difference in the world”.

THE CUSTOMER – supporting the charity auction, or buying from a business who is socially responsible, generous and community oriented boosts the customers’ self-image and makes them feel proud, proactive and caring.

THE RESULT – your business receives increased visibility through the combined promotional efforts of the auction organizers and sponsors. You also gain positive publicity, and a “story to tell” that can be shared through press releases and business bios. Remember, goodwill goes a long way!
In summary, cause marketing can be an effective and low cost method for promoting your business and helping you to build positive feelings, perceptions and associations with your brand. To make this kind of marketing successful, it is best to choose a cause that you are passionate about and is compatible with your core personal and business values.

About the contributor: 
Indi Taylor is editor of {KID} independent, a children’s style blog devoted to handmade, fair trade, vintage, and sustainable products. She is also a major sponsor of the cuddle craft collective charity auction

Find out more about cuddle craft collective at:

View the auction items at:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Guest Post: 6 Ways to Enhance your Business Page using Facebook Timeline

Timeline for Facebook Business Pages has arrived offering a new format, a new look and a new way to market your fabulous business.

So let’s get busy and revisit, revamp and rebrand our social media strategies.  Here are a few ideas to get you started…

First, let’s “see” the elements we will discuss…

Next, let's see some recent examples that we have just finished designing:

Billycart Market
Melissa Caron Jewellery
Boutique by Design

1. Cover Image
The cover image is the large image that spans the entire width of your Facebook page. It totals 800 x 315 pixels worth of invaluable marketing real estate. This is THE space to define your brand and set yourself apart from the ordinary, so be sure to use it to feature something powerful and captivating.

Use this space to:

  • Permanently brand your business. Use your logo, product photographs and/or mission statement.
  • Advertise weekly promotions or sales
  • Showcase a new line of products with fabulous photos.
  • Highlight your latest marketing efforts.

Regardless of what you do be creative, memorable and maximize this amazing space. The possibilities are truly endless. Just be sure that you are following Facebook’s policies to avoid any issues.

2. Profile Image
Profiles images are still very important. In the new Timeline format, they are used as both the square image sitting within your Cover Image and as your posting thumbnail. I highly recommend using your business logo for this image. That way, regardless of your cover image or where you post, your business will always be easy to recognize. The new size for this image is 180 x 180 pixels. You can upload this via your “Admin Panel” – a button located in the top right corner of your page.

3. Custom Pages/Apps/Tabs
I'm sure your old Page used many different custom pages/apps/tabs. At the very least, most of us had a welcome, contact or newsletter subscription page that sat in the left side bar menu of our page. With the new format, these custom apps now sit just under the cover image in the main menu bar. By default only four will show in the main bar, but if you look closely there is a little blue arrow to the right of this bar that allows everyone to access all the custom pages you have to offer. Now Timeline also allows us to rename these apps and include a custom image of our own for the app icon - another way to extend your brand! Here's how: click on that little blue arrow > find the app you wish to edit > hover your mouse over the top right corner > click "edit settings" in drop down menu > follow the prompts. Viola!

4. About You
On the old Pages layout “info” was just a tab in your side bar menu. While it contained a detailed synopsis of your business and brand, it was rarely ever viewed. With Timeline, the “about you” element of your information section now appears center front just under your profile image. Do not overlook this incredible marketing potential and be sure to use this space effectively.
Use this space to:

  • List your website link
  • List your blog link
  • Define your mission statement
  • Announce your weekly promotion
  • Feature a “quote of the day”

5. Design Your Posts and Control How They are Displayed
With Timeline, you can pin a post to the top of your Facebook page for up to seven days to highlight popular or relevant content. You can also change post dates, which will help you bump up posts that you want to keep at the top of the page. This will help when marketing a new promotion – you can still post your daily content, and then bump or pin your promotions or features to the top so they are never missed. Simply hover over a post and click on the star icon to make the post featured or “highlighted”. Click on the pencil icon to pin the item to the top of your page.

6. Change Your Business Page Name
For some of you this is the biggest benefit of Timeline. I am a huge supporter of brand consistency (the secret ingredient for business success). So having a Facebook page that actually has your business name (which also matches your website, blog and other social media names) is key in helping potential customers find you.

Do you have more ideas on how to enhance your brand using Timeline? Or maybe you have an insanely creative cover image to share. I love to hear all of your ideas. Just comment them below…

About the Contributor: 
Kim Timothy is the Owner and Creative Director for Boutique by Design and has been actively involved in the graphics and marketing industry for over 15 years. Her earlier focus was corporate design and she boasts an impressive clientelle who included: McDonald’s Restaurant (Canada), Westjet Airlines, Telus Communications, Forzani’s Sport Group, Fording Coal, University of Calgary, S.A.I.T., Petcetera, plus many others.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Making Photo Collages after Picnik closes

One feature that many Picnik users, including myself, employ is their super easy collage feature. In our search for alternatives to Picnik we only found a few programs that offered this feature. 
Boondie Baby's creation for Pillowcases for Oncology Kids
Collage made using Photovisi
Below is a short list of programs that are either programs dedicated solely to creating collages or offer this feature.  
Collage of magazine features
Collage made using Picasa
Do you use any of these products? What do you use? We would love to know, leave a comment below.  {Wow that rhymes ... it must be all those Dr Seuss books I keep reading the kids}


About the Contributor:
Christine is a Wife and a Mum of 3.  She is the owner of C Percy Designs, the co-editor of the Handmade Cooperative - Australian Handmade 4 Kids and is a little obsessed with all things crochet.

To find out more about Christine go to her blog - or follow her on Facebook.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Contact Me ... why?

Okay one of the things that bugs me about 'Contact' pages is that most of the time you will only get the opportunity to email the business using their contact form.  ARRR!!!

And now I know its not only me, Mel from Billycart Markets feels the same way.

Personally I like to email someone using my own email address, this way I can keep track of my emails, I know what I have originally sent, and if need be I can attach an image.

What if someone wanted to call you about placing a large order that day?  How can they do that if you don't give them a way of contacting you?

What if it was a market organiser, like Mel from Billycart Markets, offering you a spot at her next market because she thinks you rock?

What if they want to follow you on Twitter or  Facebook?

What if they wanted to check out your style on Pinterest?

If you don't give them this information 
then how can they do this?  

Forms are fine.  I have a form on my own page.  They are easy to use and a great way of contacting a business but I personally believe that you need to offer more than one way to contact your business.  

By going to your 'Contact' page they have indicated that they are interested in your business. Take this opportunity to connect with them further by providing links to your twitter or facebook accounts.  Better still, give them the opportunity to sign up to your newsletter.

Its a contact page - provide ALL of your contact information.

Example of a good contact page.  Source: 

Here is a short list of things that you could include:

  • Short intro
  • Provide contact information - contact name, address, email address, web address, phone number
  • Social Media links - Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc
  • Location - city and country
My rant is now over ... now go to your contact page and update it. Oh and if you don't have one, go and create one NOW.

Further Reading:
91 Trendy Contact And Web Forms For Creative Inspiration

About the Contributor: 
Christine is a Wife and a Mum of 3.  She is the owner of C Percy Designs, the co-editor of the Handmade Cooperative - Australian Handmade 4 Kids and is a little obsessed with all things crochet and not Pinterest.

To find out more about Christine go to her blog - or follow her on Facebook.