28 September 2010

Building a Biz: Lessons Learned 3 Months Later...

Can you believe it's only been 3 months since Lather Creations was born as a business?  I sure can't, it really feels like longer to me.  So I'm taking some time to reflect back on what I hoped to achieve, what I have achieved and my future goals.

 To date, I've transformed 24 pieces of furniture.  I've sold 16 pieces in total, including 13 original pieces of my own and 3 client commissions.  I currently have 8 for sale.  Break that down to 4 sales a month, which is ahead of my initial goal of completing and selling 2-3 pieces per month.   Yes, I'm a bit of a 'goals geek', it helps me stay motivated!

Here's a little recap of the lessons I've learned and continue to learn as I go:
  1. Know your worth - Everyone told me to make sure I priced accordingly, but it's hard in the beginning to believe you have something valuable to offer.  I've had to turn a few people away after a few lowball offers on my pieces and when you're first starting out - ouch that isn't easy! But I am slowly beginning to believe in myself.  My pieces are timeless and very well made.  I search high and low for quality pieces and this takes time.  This is what I have to offer when you buy one of my pieces.
  2. It won't always be fun - Even though I love doing it, painting furniture isn't always fun.  Some days I don't want to go the extra mile and add coats of finish...but I always do.  I fundamentally enjoy it at the core and that's what I have to remember.  The little details?  That's why it's still called work!
  3. Building takes time - I used to really feel the highs and lows.  I'd have no nibbles for weeks and think this was all a big mistake.  Then I would have a series of sales and I'd be on top of the world.  Luckily, I live with a VERY patient man who constantly reminds me to look back at the last few months, not the last few days.  It's so much more rewarding to see your successes as a whole rather than focusing on one short period of time.
  4. Keep track of your customers - I'm lucky enough to work at an ad agency and this gives me a little bit of insight on research and marketing.  It's not huge, but I always send out a short email questionnaire to my buyers after they've purchased a piece.  I ask them to provide some info on who they are, their style and why they choose upcycled.  It helps me validate who I'm marketing to and better focus on the product traits that appeal to them.
  5. Keep track period - No, I'm not the best at this but I'm working hard to make sure I document everything - from my supply costs to my days on the market to the age of my buyers.  Even if I'm gathering slowly, I know I will be able to use this information in infinite ways in the future.  and I'll be prepared to do so!  Plus the tax man can come get me if I don't...
  6. Don't say yes to everything - I was approached by someone who had a lot of old furniture ans wanted to perhaps be a regular supplier to me.  I did buy some pieces and they're perfect for me.  But he also had homemade pieces that didn't quite fit my brand of vintage and antique furniture.  It can be hard to say no when the price is right but I have to remember I'm building a niche.  Store commissions are another area that I'm asked about , but if customers are happy and buying my goods now - why would I want to take on the risk in a shop of something not selling or getting worn or damaged?  It's hard not to get excited about opportunities but I've had to learn when to say no.
Every business is different, these are just some of the things I've learned along the way.  I have so much more to learn and I can't wait to look back in another three months.

For you biz ladies out there...what's been your biggest lesson learned?  I'd love to hear your wisdom!


    1. I would have thought your pieces were priced a little on the low side . . . don't undervalue yourself and be prepared to let them sit for a few weeks waiting for the right buyer.

    2. I enjoy reading your reflections on your business. You have noted so many important aspects of building a creative business... I wish I had someone like you as a mentor when I got started. You are so right... You never want to under value your work as an artist. It's good start pricing quite reasonably (which you have), to have a formula, and increase your prices gradually as demand and sales increase. And for those pieces that have been around for a while... patience is key. Each piece has a future home, it may just be a matter of time before the right person finds it. Your attention to detail and creativity is what will set you apart.

    3. Brilliant post, Lenore...are you sure it has only been 3 months!? It seems like you have been around for much longer (in a good way, lol)! I have been going just on a year now and I have no idea how many pieces I have sold but I could find out my looking at my paperwork (not my strong point either which is odd considering I was a banker for 16 years!)

      I can really relate to everything you say in your post...my confidence takes regular 'hits' usually brought on my none other than myself, I might add...and it does us good to take stock and 'know our worth'.

      My biggest and most recent 'lesson' well one I learnt a while ago but bit me in the bum a couple of days ago, is to keep your suppliers/service providers to yourself because if you give that info away, no matter how friendly and nice to you someone seems, you potentially give away your some of your market share (and it looks like I have naiively done just that). Given that I am really a nice friendly person, keeping my mouth shut or saying 'can't tell you that' doesn't come easy to me, but I have learntthe hard way, that I have to.

      xx Karen

    4. I tend to agree with Elinor that perhaps you could actually increase your prices a bit -- of course, I don't know what your local economy is like. I am curious -- is the internet the ONLY place that you sell? Do you advertise on Craig's list or another type of "local" paper?

    5. i wish i had read this when i got started! i had to learn all of the above the hard way. but practice makes perfect, right?

    6. Great post, you are doing all the right things to make a great business. Your prices are very good, I think you could go up a bit on some items. It's hard when you live in "wholesale city!"
      Did you know that common term for Winnipeg?
      People always want a deal!!
      I'm sending you an email. Have a great evening!

    7. Lenore, I too can identify with your struggles/lessons learned! 'Knowing your worth' has been a big one for me...pricing is difficult! As well as keeping track of the hours and supplies put into a piece...it takes discipline.

      I love your posts and since your comment on my blog a while back, I've regularly turn to your blog for inspiration to help me get going on my work for the day. So, thank you!!



    8. That is such an amazing post...I am going to pass it over to my friend who is just starting off..and I bet she would love to read it.You are doing so well my dear:)

    9. Love this post!

      So informative and insightful.

    10. Really great info and tips here! I do keep a detailed spreadsheet on supplies purchased but your market research isn't something I've thought of, thanks, Lenore!

    11. I love the tips that you have here, and will try to apply them myself! Especially paper work. I have to be more diligent in organizing it right away, and not putting it in a basket for later.


    Thanks so much for stopping by, I love reading all your comments! If you have a specific question, please email me at lhume1@mts.net. XO Lenore