My Blog

Whatever rings Mel's bells

Posts Tagged ‘feedback’

Time for a change

Well, the Christmas sales season has come and gone, and I’m sad to report that my sales were weak.  I certainly can’t point to anyone for that except myself.  I left a lot of opportunities on the table because of my schedule and my need to prioritize.  Frankly, it’s kind of insane to try to run a business with everything else I do!  And when you consider that I’m selling in a glutted field, it’s not hard to understand my distinct lack of wild success.

Honestly, I look at my pieces and I don’t see a common thread.  There’s nothing recognizable about my pieces – nothing that makes them obviously mine.  Nor is there anything to set them out from anything else on the market.  I have a couple of amazing ideas in the works that will make both of those true, but unfortunately they both require time commitments that I just can’t fulfill right now.  :,-(  Though I am slowly squirreling away all the supplies and tools I need to make them happen.  And eventually, I will get laid off and have some time…  But that doesn’t help me now!

The other thing about my pieces is that they don’t stand out.  They’re balanced and attractive, aesthetically pleasing and sometimes meaningful.  But I don’t think they’d ever make someone stop in their tracks and release an involuntary gasp.

Basically, I’m saying that I don’t think I’m a particularly special snowflake, and I’m tired of putting this kind of energy into a business endeavor that isn’t going to go anywhere.  So it’s time for a big change.  Like, a REALLY big, world-shaking, life-changing, paradigm-shifting change in direction.

I look around, and I say, what’s selling?  What do people want to buy that I enjoy making?  What can I make that will satisfy my desire to create, and also satisfy a need (or desire) that people actually have?

Short story long, I’m going into the wedding market.

Starting this weekend, I’m going to pack up my office and all the unfinished or half-finished projects so I can start developing new products.  Pinterest is quickly becoming my friend!  I’m getting great ideas for what brides are looking for right now, and I’m going to use those as guidelines to design things like attendant gifts, table decorations, and of course jewelry and accessories for the bride herself.

On one side, I’m very excited!  Big projects and plans always get my peanut brain going, and I love developing ideas and figuring out what I need to make them happen.  On the other side, I’m scared. To. Death.  Change of this scope is daunting, to say the least.  Comfort zone?  Not even sure where it is at this point.  I need to reinvent myself, rebrand what I do, and in some ways start from scratch.  Practically, this means everything from business cards and packaging to descriptions on every social media site I have a presence on.  (See what I mean about big plans?)

I guess what I’m saying is, watch for updates.  It may take me a few weeks or even a couple months to get what I want to do right, so you might not hear much from me right away on new product.  Rest assured, I’ll be busy behind the scenes.  And when I emerge from this dark, scary cocoon, you’ll be treated to some amazing things!  I may even share some of the process as I go…  Sneak peeks, anyone?

So stick around.  There’s a lot to see, and though its going to be a rocky time, it’s also going to be fun.  And after the growing pains are done, a whole new world is going to open up.  Hey look, I’m excited again!

New shop naming contest

So the first of May came and went, and I got distracted.  But the first thing I did when logging on today was to hit up a random number generator website which picked AL EAKIN as the winner of the shop name contest.  Al suggested the name “CountYourBlessings.”

I haven’t actually settled on a name for sure yet, but as soon as I do I’ll make sure and let you all know.  Thanks to all the entrants for your interest and for your suggestions.  😀

Tell me my name!

As you may know if you followed a link to get here, I’ve decided to remove my prayer beads from my Etsy shop MelsBellsJewelry and create a separate shop specifically for the spiritually-related items.  So I need to come up with a name for the new shop.

My first shop takes its name from my business, which got its name thanks to my friend Ed Houser.  We were at karaoke one night in 2008 and I was telling some friends that I planed to open an actual business.  Problem was, I needed a name.  Without hesitation, Ed replied “Call it Mel’s Bells!” and I knew that was perfect.

My second shop got named for the store I plan to open (said plans have been pushed back until the economy improves and opening a new business makes sense, FYI), which will be a combined bead store and coffee bar, called The Bead and Bean.  It’s going to be a fun place to shop with a welcoming atmosphere where you can get a latte and bead very fast.

My third shop needs to have a name that’s just as fun, just as exciting.  And I’ll be honest with you, I’m stuck. So I’d like to enlist your help, internet friends.  Register on this blog and leave a post here with your name suggestion for my new prayer bead shop.   It needs to somehow convey that I sell prayer beads for many different faiths (Catholic, Protestant, Pagan, Buddhist, Muslim) so the name can’t be specific to one faith, like Jesus Beads or anything.  Imaginary bonus points if you search Etsy for the name and nobody’s using it yet!

On May 1 I’ll choose one of the entrants at random to receive a crystal birthstone rosary of your choice.  These beautiful strands make fantastic gifts, or you might want one for yourself.  I’ll email the winner to get a shipping address, so make sure your contact info is complete when you register.  You will also be added to my email list and will get one message about every 3-4 months talking about specials and news.

I look forward to seeing your suggestions, and to notifying the lucky winner!

Obnoxious Legal Statement Designed to Keep My Butt Out of Hot Water:
No purchase necessary to enter.  No age limit.  One entry per person.  Contest ends on April 30, 2012; any entries timestamped after 12:00 AM May 1, 2012 may be disqualified.  One prize will be awarded; no cash equivalent.  Odds of winning will depend on number of entries.  Void where prohibited.  Winner will be chosen on May 1, 2012 and notified by email.  Winner’s name will be announced in social media content published by Mel’s Bells and/or The Bead and Bean, including but not limited to Facebook, blogs, newsletter, and Etsy shops.  Contest is run by Mel’s Bells, 811 Hayward Ave. #5, Bremerton, WA  98310.

Survey says…

So I’ve been doing a survey, asking folks at market which is their favorite of the spring’s new looks.  It’s not at all scientific, and the limitations are several.  For one thing, I didn’t want to overwhelm people with options, so I picked five.  Another problem is that several people asked me what one or more of the choices meant, which says there were others who didn’t ask.  But the idea was conceived out of fun, not for a million-dollar marketing project.  So I’m okay with a little uncertainty in my results.

Speaking of the results…  Here they are!

 

Three strand pearl necklace by Agnes of treasures570

#1  Classy multi-strand pearls
By a hair, the pearls won the contest.  Any why not?  Pearls can be done in so many ways.  They can be traditional, contemporary, or anything else you want them to be.  Today pearls can be seen on brides (though they once were avoided as they represent tears), on the red carpet, at work, or at the grocery store.  Is there anywhere pearls can’t go?  I submit that there is not.

 

"Rosey lock and key" by Nikki of bejeweledbynikki on Etsy

#2  Anything in rose gold
Rose gold is an alloy that results from mixing gold, silver, and copper.  Without going into a bunch of boring details and percentages (which can be found on Wikipedia), that’s how we get the different colors in Black Hills Gold.  Which no longer comes from the Black Hills, but that’s another story entirely.  Suffice it to say here that rose gold is delicate without being fluffy-cute, is rich without being stuffy, and is an elegant third option to the eternal gold-or-silver question.

 

"Lush Sterling Silver Chandelier Post Earrings" by Jessica of JessicaC on Etsy

#3  Big chandelier earrings
Let’s face it, ladies, who doesn’t love a great pair of dangly earrings?  They make a trip to the mall feel like a fancy outing.  As they swing against your neck (highlighting the graceful curves, I might add) you remember that even rock stars have to get their oil changed and their clothes pressed.  Maybe you feel a little like a rock star or a movie diva yourself…  And there’s nothing wrong with that!

 

"Sweet Yellow Rose Hair Pins" by brontesattic on Etsy

#4  Cabachon stones
The top three items on the survey were very close together, but cab stones made a showing.  There was more confusion about what cab stones are than with any of the other items, so if you weren’t sure, a cabachon stone refers to a flat-backed stone that is set with a bezel; instead of prongs holding the stone down, there is a band of metal going all the way around the edge of the stone holding the stone to the piece.  Most often cab stones are round or oval shaped, and the face of the stone is rounded rather than faceted, but they can occasionally be seen with facets, and one of the advantages of the bezel is that you can corral any irregular shape that comes your way!

 

"Recycled silver, gold and chain earring" by Marja of lemonadehandmade on Etsy

#5  Chain – fringes and tassels
Obviously, chain itself is hardly a new fashion (Hey look!  Somebody invented hair!), but this season we’re seeing more of it used in tassels and fringes, dangling from random items.  On purses, belts, hair accessories, and more, chain seems to be replacing the Bedazzler as the ubiquitous random-embellishment-of-choice.  Not that it’s a problem.  Personally, I’ll take chain over Bedazzles any day of the week.  And twice on Sunday.

Honorable Mention – Cocktail rings
I did get a single write-in vote, which is great, and the gal voted for the cocktail ring.  This 60’s staple has been “new again”  for a couple seasons, but it’s still going strong.  Like most of these styles, you can take it anywhere (except perhaps into the pool) and it’s a very personalized look.

Thanks to all the folks who contributed their opinions (and to my fellow Etsians who graciously allowed me to use their photos).  Now I’d like to hear from you – which of these looks is your favorite?  Add a comment below, I’d love to know what’s on your mind!

Happy birthday to me!

Thanks to my fabulous beeeg seeester Aubrey, I have a brad new laptop for my birthday!  Woot-woot!

I know I’ve been MIA for months now, but my PC died on me (right in the middle of the Christmas rush, no less) so I’ve had to borrow others’ computing devices for months now.  And between keeping Etsy up, checking my email, and (occasionally) following the news a little, my blog has fallen by the wayside.  Mea culpa, my followers, please forgive me!

You know that I’m not the most prolific poster, but I hope you’ll continue to pop in on occasion and see what’s blowing my skirt up…  figuratively, of course.  😉

The response

In my last post, I included a letter I wrote to Michael Pelosi of Showcase Events, the fine folks who ran the Definitely-Not-A-Craft-Fair I was part of last weekend.  Today, I’m going to share with you the insipid, finger-pointing, passive-aggressive response I received – which of course ignores the actual question I asked.

Enjoy.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Hi Melanie,

Thank you for your email. Your feedback is valuable to us. Sorry to hear the show was not successful for you. We have many jewelry vendors that do extremely well with us year after year. Location, display, salesmanship, price points all play an important role in an individual’s success. We do have a mix of vendors, with not all categories appealing to others.2011 is nearly 1/3 sold out already which is one indicator of the successful events which we provide vendors.  This show is not for everyone. We do though have many handcrafted vendors that continue to return annually. If you would like to consider a more premium location, and sign up earlier, I believe your results would be much better. Again, thank you for your concern and consideration. Best wishes to you in the future.

Sincerely,

Michael

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

As you can see from this letter, my lack of sales must surely be attributed to my own incompetence.  After all, if my displays had been nicer, people would have stopped to look.  (No, wait, plenty of folks stopped to look, that can’t be it.)  Perhaps if my salesmanship had been more professional, I would have connected with a few folks and sold them something.  (Oh, that’s right, I talked to a lot of people.  Some of them even made purchases.  Others  became new friends and business connections.)  Well, if my prices were more reasonable, then surely I would have been mobbed by customers desperate to buy my goods.  (Perhaps they were confused by the fact that I didn’t have a large shiny cash register, so they didn’t know where to put the money.)

Actually, he does have a point about price.  Which is exactly the point I made in my letter.  The folks buying at that event did not want handcrafted sterling silver Swarovski Christmas earrings for $25, they wanted machine-made Swarovski Christmas earrings for $10 imported from the third world.  Who do you think sold more?  Not I!

And this brings me back to the very problem that caused all us crafters to have such crappy sales: this event is geared toward the Wal*Mart crowd, not toward the handcraft crowd.  Six different skilled artisans, all in different media, all with years of experience and success, tried this venue for the first time.  And every one of us, doing our friendly and capable best, failed miserably.  What does that tell you?  It tells me the problem is not in the products, or the salesmanship, or the displays, or any other excuse he can come up with.  The problem is that we didn’t have a customer base at that venue.

The funny thing is, this show used to be full of crafts.  But over the years the organizers’ focus has shifted, and in order to fill slots and make money they’ve turned what once was a craft festival into a flea market with Santa.  Showcase Events could easily bring back the handmade vibe, but they’d have to do more than the empty gestures they offered this year.  Marking a few booths with “Artists in Action” on a map that few people look at doesn’t do much to call us out.

How about creating a shop within a shop – two rows of booths facing each other?  Put down different colored carpet, put up different colored backdrops.  A whole other color scheme, something earthier with browns and golds instead of bright white and red.  Perhaps add arches over the aisles to make it feel more intimate.

While we’re at it, add one leaf to the handout and give each Artist a 1/4 page ad for free, instead of lumping us in alphabetically with the home improvement hustlers, the food vendors, and the book signings.  At very minimum the descriptions listed should reflect the information we actually submitted!

And it certainly wouldn’t hurt to treat your vendors better as a whole.  Making us pay full price for parking is beyond ridiculous.  We don’t even get a discount rate?  And even the free coffee only lasted a couple hours.  Would it kill you to put on a second and third pot?  This is Seattle!  People drink coffee all day here!

I could go on and on; the lousy management of this event left me with plenty of fodder for (constructive) criticism.  But I don’t want to bore you all with the gory details.  Suffice it to say that I’ll be sending another letter soon, asking (again) for a feedback or complaint contact.  Another very carefully worded letter, which I will post here so you can keep up with the saga.

Until then, hope you’re all doing well.  Wish me luck as tomorrow starts NaNoWriMo.  If you don’t hear from me much, that’s why.  I’ll be writing a 50,000-word novel about kittens with opposable thumbs.  Stay tuned for (occasional) updates!

The truth will out

Everybody’s been asking how my show in Tacoma went, and I’ve been putting a good face on the whole thing. The truth is, while I really did meet some wonderful people and while I did get some valuable information out of the time I was there, it was far too expensive to justify it as market research. And really, there was far more to it than just money.

So I am posting here a letter I wrote to Michael Pelosi, the gentleman who sold me my spot in the show. When he gets back to me and as the situation develops, I will post updates here as well.

“Michael,

Words cannot express how disappointed, how upset I am at last week’s Holiday show in the Tacoma Dome. We artisans were completely abandoned by your organization. Lumped in with the home improvement sharks, the ticket-selling paintball employees, and the acne medication, and surrounded on all sides by importers of cheap garbage. Not to mention nickel-and-dimed at every turn. And then to top it all off, the information printed in your lousy excuse for a brochure was patently incorrect. Whatever incompetent you had in charge of writing the copy for your flyer took the description I provided – “jewelry, prayer beads, and glassware accessories” – and rendered it “jewelry, engraved glass, and bottle stoppers.” I suppose I should be happy that your organization is entirely incapable of attracting any but the Wal*Mart crowd; since no one was interested in handmade goods, I had no customers to explain your error to!

I have, in fact, been so enraged at your personal misrepresentation of this show as being friendly to the crafting community, that it has taken me four days to craft a letter that communicates to you my feelings in a coherent manner.

Please send me the contact information for your complaint department immediately, so that I will know who to write to on this manner. I can speak for all six crafters I boothed with (all first year vendors at your show) that none of us will return without seeing significant changes making your show friendly to handcrafts. And that, in fact, is a stretch, as we all discussed our general unwillingness to return on principle. I can certainly understand now why so many of your regular attendees speak with such disappointment of your show.

I have been given to understand that your organization used to support arts and crafts, and in fact this show used to have crafts in the title. Showcase Events is obviously making no more than lip service to support of actual arts. I am sickened and saddened by the treatment I and my fellow artists received, and am not inclined in the slightest to remain quiet about it.

I await your prompt reply,

Melanie Malcolm Delker
Mel’s Bells Jewelry”