This blog is meant to be a record of my adventures as a new home-based business owner. Starting my jewellery business was one of the most daunting things I've ever done, next to giving birth. Especially since I was (am?) pretty technically stunted. In this blog I will describe the trials, tribulations and, hopefully, eventual successes I experience while navigating the world of (really, really, really small) business. I also plan to use this blog to talk about all the aspects of jewellery design that fascinate me, keep me addicted, and cause me to spend thousands of dollars (What, honey? No, I didn't say thousands...) on gemstones, beads, findings, etc. I welcome your input, ideas, and stories of similar experiences in beading, jewellery design, or running a handcrafts business.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Jewellery Display Stuff

There are countless different ways to display your jewellery at a craft fair. I was at a loss for how to display my earrings, which I sell on my homemade earring cards.  I came up with this design for an earring rack.  They were easy to make, inexpensive, and they are light enough to carry to craft shows and fairs.  I keep these racks loaded with earrings, and covered with clear plastic bags, and when I have a craft fair to do, I just pull the plastic bags off, and voila!

This is the earring rack empty.
This is the earring rack fully loaded.

I used 12-gauge copper wire to hang the earring cards on, and bent it into spirals at the ends to finish the look.

 I love these earring racks!  I need to make more to hold all my new designs.  They only cost about $15 each to make.   

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Bead Planet Offerings on Etsy

Blue Velvet Necklace
 Check out these new items I just listed on Etsy!  It's been a while since I last listed anything new.  Report card time for a teacher is like tax time for an accountant.
Chocolate Mint Necklace

Copper Sea Necklace

Juliet's Heart Necklace

These are the last of my Tudor Queens collection of earrings. They're called Katharine Parr Earrings.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Handmade Marketplace

Must-Have Resource for the Budding Bead Tycoon
I found a book that is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to sell handcrafts.  It's called The Handmade Marketplace:  How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online.  Written by Kari Chapin, it is chock full of ideas, hints, and advice on everything you need to start up an online handcrafts business.  The book begins with advice on finding your niche, setting up a space in which to work, and identifying your motivation and goals.  Chapin goes on to talk about branding, pricing your work, collecting money, marketing, and becoming part of a community as a way to find help, inspiration, and spread the word about your product.  There are three whole chapters on using social networks to market your work.  The chapter on blogging was particularly helpful for me, as I had never even read a blog before starting this one.  The next part of the book is about selling your work at craft fairs, online marketplaces, and at brick-and-mortar stores, including wholesale and consignment.  The last chapter suggests ways to diversify your empire, such as doing  trunk shows, parties, teaching courses, and offering kits.  Chapin's advice is clear, practical, and timely, and she gives plenty of examples of how her suggestions might be used by artists of various media, such as jewellery designers, knitters, sewers, fabric artists, painters, and woodworkers, to name a few.  The author calls upon artists in various fields who are running successful businesses to share their advice and experiences (good and bad) with the reader, which they do in a friendly, open and personal way.  Some sections are set up in an easy-to-access FAQ style.

The book is illustrated by Emily Martin and Jen Skelley.  The hand-drawn black and white cartoon illustrations are simple and charming, just like the handcrafts they illustrate.  The headings are clear and relevant, making it easy to find pertinent information again and again, even after you've read the book from cover to cover.  Even the shape of the book is pleasing.  It's almost square. 

I usually hate instruction manual-type books, but this book reads more like a novel.  I read it from cover to cover, and have referred back to one section or another many times since.  I would definitely recommend this book to other budding handcrafts tycoons.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bead Planet's Pre-Boxing Day Sale on Etsy

Get the jump on Boxing Day savings with Bead Planet's Pre-Boxing Day Sale on Etsy!  Enter the coupon code below at checkout to receive 15% off anything in my shop from December 22 to December 31.  See shop policies for more information on how to redeem this coupon code.

Coupon Code:     PREBOXINGDAY1411

Happy Holidays!

Shipping Snafu

So far in my journey to bead tycoon status I've made four sales on my Etsy online shop.  The last sale involved a lot more customer service than any of the others.  The customer convo'd (contacted via the Etsy communication system) me with a request to adjust the length of a bracelet he wanted to order.  I contacted the buyer to let him know I'd be happy to make the change.  He then ordered the bracelet.  As per my shop policies, I wanted to send the order out inside the 3 business day time period, but I was having trouble getting more of the exact type of chain that I used for the bracelet in the picture.  I convo'd the buyer with pictures of the original chain and a chain that was as similar as I could get, and asked if the change would be OK with him.  He convo'd me, saying no problem.  So, I made the bracelet, and shipped it out by US Post Light Packet on December 6th.  (Through Canada Post, of course.)  This was within the 3-day time limit promised in my shop policies.  I then emailed the buyer to let him know that the package had been shipped.  Mission accomplished...or so I thought. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas

Only 8 days left until Christmas Eve! Funny how when you're a kid you count down to the 25th, because that's the day when you get to unwrap your gifts; when you're an adult, you count down to the 24th because that's your last chance to buy last minute gifts, stocking stuffers, food, wrap, tape, etc. 

Anyway, I'm nowhere near finished my shopping, but as of Friday noon, I'm free for two weeks!  I plan on taking one full day to finish it all up. I'll have to prepare myself like Ernest Shackleton for a six-month expedition to find the south pole, but I have incredible stamina.  The only thing that scares me is not finding a parking spot.

I don't have much to say about the bead world today. My plans for the business over the holiday:

1.  Make more jewelery.
2.  Photograph all of it.
3.  Make more jewelery.
4.  Make an instruction video or photo tutorial.
5.  Download and read Rena Klingenberg's e-book on selling on social networks.
6.  Make more jewelery.
7.  Have a sale!
8.  Make more jewelery.

Watch this blog for a coupon code which will allow you to take 15 % off anything in my shop until Boxing Day. Happy holidays!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sad News

I was just watching CityTV on channel 7 here in TO, and heard that Mark Dailey, reporter extraordinaire, died of prostate cancer today.  What sad, sad news.  Even though, of course, I didn't know him, he was one of my favourite newscasters.  He seemed like a real guy, who didn't take himself too seriously.  He seemed like someone you'd want to be friends with, or just work with.  So many times I'd be watching the news and just laugh out loud at something he'd say.  And what a beautiful baritone voice.  Only 57 years old.  What a shame. 
Mark Dailey

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Trunk Sale

Had a trunk sale at school Thursday and Friday afternoon (4:00 to 6:00--is that afternoon or evening?) I did pretty well.  I felt a little awkward about having it at my place of work, but everyone said I was being ridiculous, so I did it.  Some workplaces might not allow it, though, so if you want to do it, ask first.  Two things that really worked well were the raffle and the Treasure Box.  Everyone who bought something got a raffle ticket to win my Mauve Crackle charm bracelet. I displayed the bracelet pinned to a nice black picture frame that I lined with black crushed velvet.  It was on a black wrought iron easel-like stand.  I stuck a sign to it that said, "You could win this charm bracelet!"  People liked getting a little extra with their purchase.  I'll draw the names on Monday. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Black Friday Rules

I just got my third Etsy sale. Although this isn't exactly an onslaught of interest, I'm encouraged. It's exciting to think that someone out there, other than my sister and my best friend, thinks my work is worth parting with their hard-earned dough. I stayed up way too late last night changing all my earring listings on Etsy to reflect my Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale. I've offered free shipping on all my earrings, and on a few other select items. One such item is the necklace that made my third sale. Since shipping through Canada Post can be expensive, this is a good deal, I think. Next week, I'm having a trunk sale at school. After that, I think I'll shift my leftover merchandise by offering a 10 percent off sale on all my stock. Etsy has a cool coupon code app now that allows you to offer whatever percentage discount you want by including a code in the listing that the buyer enters when checking out. The code automatically cuts the price by the designated amount, and you don't have to mess with revised invoices. Revised invoices scare me. They're the reason I haven't had the nerve to try a sale before this.

My giveaway on Facebook isn't exactly changing the world. Nobody has entered! WTF?! It's free, for cryin' out loud! The bracelet's nice, and all you have to do is like the page, like the post, and comment. This is the bracelet I offered.

I don't get it.  I'm gonna go watch TV.  School of Rock is on, and I love that movie.  All teachers love School of Rock.  It's a secret thrill to live vicariously through Dewey Finn, substitute teacher extraordinaire.  My favourite line is when Dewey (Jack Black) tells the kids to back off because he has a hangover, and the runs.  Raise your goblet of rock!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My First Giveaway

I'm attempting to run a giveaway on my Bead Planet's Facebook page. I picked a nice bracelet to give away, researched how to do a giveaway, and set about promoting the contest on my business page. I asked people to enter by liking the post, liking Bead Planet's page, and then commenting. That was Saturday. So far, I have one like, and it's my sister. And she didn't comment. I must be doing something wrong, but I don't know what. I need some advice on promoting my business on Facebook, and, more specifically, how to run a giveaway properly. AAAAAAUUUHGHGHGH!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Neat Things I Plan to Buy

Christmas is coming--only 40 shopping days left!  This is not the time of year to be perusing online jewellery supply stores and bead stores for new, nifty goods for me.  Nevertheless, I do it.  Recently, as I trolled the websites and my local bead store, Bead FX (see my link) I found many cool things that I plan on acquiring with all my gift certificates on Boxing Day.  I thought I'd share them with you.

What the hell is this?  It looks like a hideous camping lamp, but it's actually a Speedfire Cone System.  Huh?  It's a propane torch thing for firing Art Clay Silver, which is the next thing that I want to try.  I plan on using my Bead FX gift certificates (this isn't a subtle hint--I've already informed my family where to buy these and what amounts would be suitable) to take a class in Art Clay Silver at my fave local bead hangout.  I'll need this device, apparently, to fire my creations. 

Check out these gorgeous stones!

These are called Dragon's Blood Jasper.  Very fitting name, don't you think?  I love the contrast of these complimentary colours (I'm teaching colour theory in art this year). My favourite red is this blood red. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Frugal Tycoon's Money-Saving Tips

Marketing and promotional materials are an essential part of building a small business and getting your name and product out there.  The costs of these materials can be prohibitive to a budding tycoon, though.  Through research and happy accident, I've found a few ways to save money on these promotional materials. 

1.  Make mini cards.  Buy pretty blank cards from the dollar store, and cut them into 1-inch strips.  Using a nice marker, write a personal note to the buyer on these and slip them into the package before shipping.

2.  Make your own promotional literature.  If you don't have Microsoft Publisher, consider investing in it.  I've used it to design my own business cards, flyers, craft booth signs, and e-invites for beading parties.  I printed my own colour flyers, on my ink-jet printer, on normal office paper.  After looking into the price of printing 50 colour flyers at a print shop, I figured that it was cheaper to buy a new colour cartridge just for this purpose.  I got 50 copies, and there was still lots of ink left.  Of course, this is economical only if your printer's cartridges aren't atrociously expensive (mine, thankfully, aren't.)  The flyers look great, and the whole thing cost about $30.00. If you don't want to buy Microsoft Publisher, you can download a trial version that lasts for about a month. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

First Sale!

I finally got my first Etsy sale!  About a week ago, I was listing my new Trinkets charm bracelets, at about 10:00 or so.  When I was done, I signed out of Etsy and signed on to Facebook to feed my Frontierville addiction.  Just before midnight, as I was about to go to bed, I made a last minute check on  my email, and found an email from Etsy telling me I had a sale ! Hallelujah!  Will wonders never cease?  I was so excited, I was tempted to wake up my husband and tell him.  Then, I came to my senses.  Waking my husband from a dead sleep is, let's just say, ill-advised.  The order was from Ohio, and it was for one of the very Trinkets charm bracelets that I had just listed.  Woo-hoooo!  Of course, I packaged it up and sent it off the very next day.  No feedback yet, so I hope they got it. Maybe I'll email them and ask them if they got it. Would that be stalker-ish?  Let's hope this is the first of many!

This is the bracelet that I sold.  It's called Purple Trinkets Charm Bracelet.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Inspiration from Henry

Sometimes I find myself at a loss when sitting in my studio (kitchen table) for inspiration--what should I make today?  Earrings, necklace, bracelet?  Dangly earrings, long necklace, choker, pendant, no pendant?  Copper, silver, get the idea.  This week, I got some inspiration from an unexpected source--the TV.  This week, I watched an episode of CBC's "The Tudors" for the first time.  I knew a bit about Henry VIII from reading a couple of Phillipa Gregory novels, but I'd never been interested in watching the Emmy-winning series, which is in its final season on CBC.  I tuned in, to be honest, because I couldn't find the remote, and was too lazy to get up and change the channel (heaven forbid!)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Jewellery Repairs

It's been a couple of weeks since I wrote anything here. Frankly, I couldn't think of anything to say. But, thankfully, a thought has occurred to me. On the weekend, while I was enjoying the first of my two annual Thanksgiving dinners, one at mother-in-law's, and one at Mum's, mother-in-law presented me with a bag of jewellery that her friend from work wanted repaired. The stuff was inexpensive, and the repairs needed were mostly broken clasps or restringing. Mum-in-law said, "Now, Diana, you make sure you charge her for this!" It occurred to me at that time that I have no idea what a fair price for jewellery repairs would look like.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Jeweler's Block

I've been spending a lot of time promoting Bead Planet lately.  I've been blogging regularly, handing out business cards and flyers, telling everyone I know about my Etsy shop, updating my shop and my Facebook page as often as I can, participating in newbie chats on Etsy, and reading every article I can on how to promote your small jewellery business.  With all this and teaching full time, tutoring part time, and raising two kids, I have very little time left to actually make any jewellery.  When I do get a few minutes to bead lately, I find I'm blocked.  I look at the plethora of stones and beads in front of me, and I just feel paralyzed.  Other artists must feel this way sometimes. What do you do when you're experiencing a creative block? How do you get the creative juices flowing again?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Girls' Night Out Beading Party

Just got back from my first beading party booking. It was a Girls' Night Out party, hosted by my friend Rita. There were 5 guests, which was a good, manageable number for my first party. Before the party, we set up a long table and chairs in her basement, and put out a beading board, tools, and a laminated picture reference card at each place. The findings and some of the available beads were in the middle of the table. There were too many beads to fit on the table, so there was another area where the rest of the beads, organized by colour or type, were set up. My inventory of finished pieces was set up at one end of the room for people to browse, or to get inspiration.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Preparing for My First Beading Party

Four days left until my first beading party.  In the interest of giving me a little nudge (kick) to get the word out about the party service I offer, my friend has offered to host a Girls' Night Out beading party at her house.  She's providing the place, the food, the mimosas, and invited her work friends, neighbours, and cousins. We were planning on six guests.  As of Monday, only two people had confirmed, so she suggested I invite my friends from work.  I felt really uncomfortable because I felt like I was asking for money from my friends. I felt like I was selling Amway or Tupperware.  But, my friend had gone to a lot of trouble to plan this thing, so I bit the bullet and asked.  And to my surprise, several people accepted, and even seemed to be happy to be invited.  I felt encouraged, even excited.  I guess, if I think about it, I'd be happy to be invited to a party where I'd be taught a new skill and provided with the materials and tools to make something for myself, and at the same time get to eat nibbles, drink, and socialize.  I'm looking forward to this Saturday, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Jewellery Booth

The first craft fair I participated in was organized by my neighbourhood Lions Club.  It was a Christmas craft fair at the community centre.  The table cost $35.00, and the sale hours were from 9:00 to 5:00.  I spent three weeks before the sale furiously making inventory, not sure how much I might sell, or even how much inventory I would need to cover my table.  A 6-ft. by 3 ft. table and two chairs would be provided.  My booth design left a lot to be desired.  For a table cover, I had a piece of black felt that I'd liberated from one of my bulletin boards at school.  I didn't know until it was too late that black felt is a magnet for lint, hairs and fibres.  I fashioned a necklace display from a huge piece of plywood that I covered with a layer of cotton batting and some black and green crushed velvet.  The plywood was propped up on the table with another piece of wood behind, like a picture frame.  I pinned necklaces to this display.  I also had a matching black and green velvet bracelet t-bar sort of thing, and a silver hand towel holder, from which I hung more necklaces. Finally, I had a copper rotating earring rack with holes for the earrings to be put into. The rest of my jewellery was strewn over the table. Even with a friend helping, it took us a good hour to take all the jewellery pieces out of the little plastic zip bags in which I was storing them, drape them onto the racks, and pin the necklaces on the necklace display. Repeat at pack-up time. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dealing With Rejection

I just got an email in response to an application I made to a juried craft show a couple of months ago.  Unfortunately, it was not the response I wanted.  The coordinator was nice about it--she said that there were 7 applicants for every one spot, and they had had to turn down work they didn't want to turn down.  I don't know if that's true or not, but it made me feel better, anyway.  This was the first juried show I've applied for.  On the one hand, the rejection smarts.  On the other hand, I know that for most craft shows, there are dozens of jewellery applicants for every one potter or stained glass artist who applies.  I also take comfort in the fact that even the most talented artists and writers experienced their share of rejection. I'm in good company.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Eternal Question - What is My Stuff Worth?

When I first started selling my jewellery to friends, co-workers, and at a couple of small local legion craft sales, I used this formula for deciding what to charge for my work:  What would I pay for this?  The problem with this method of pricing is twofold. First, I'm extremely frugal (read cheap.) Secondly, I tend to undervalue my work and my time.  When I decided to register my business and really make a go of it, I began reading other jewellery designers' thoughts on the matter of pricing your work, and I began to realize that I was selling myself short.  I used to concern myself only with covering the cost of the materials, and maybe make a little bit of profit.  I didn't consider all the other costs of running a jewellery business, like marketing costs, website fees, packaging, shipping, displays, show fees, a tent for outdoor shows, tables, replacing and upgrading tools, computer software for accounting and tweaking photos, and classes for learning new skills.  If you're not pricing your stuff to cover these costs, and making a bit of profit on top of that, you're not going to be successful.

Friday, September 10, 2010


It's been a month now since I opened my Etsy shop, and I've had no sales as of yet. I read on the Etsy community blog The Storque that the average time before the first sale is one month, so I won't take it personally yet. In the meantime, there are other things I'm doing besides my Facebook page and this blog to promote my shop. I made a business card on Publisher. Now that's a program that takes some time to master. If there was ever a reason to buy a Dummies book, that program is it. But I managed to figure it out, and the business card turned out really nice. I got 500 made, and I'm handing them out to anyone who comes near enough. Since I'm a teacher, I work with mostly women and have access to many moms, so I've been able to give away tons of cards. My business card also has info about the beading parties I do. I had my first booking recently, for a Girls' Night Out beading party with a bunch of women. I charge $30 per guest, and the guests can make either a necklace or a bracelet and earrings. That includes your choice of beads, gemstones, spacers, findings, use of tools, and instruction. The hostess for this party is providing the munchies and drink. If this were a regular booking, I would offer her a choice of some of my inventory, or maybe something custom made for her. I wonder what percentage I should offer? I would appreciate feedback on this, and any advice or hints anyone can offer on this topic.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Back to Work

First day of school today, for the kids and for me.  I've got a nice bunch of kids this year--it should be a good year.  The disadvantage of going back to work is that I now have less time to build my business, to make jewelery, and to develop my "web presence". 

I must confess, I've never understood the appeal of social networking sites.  I can see the value for those who live far from family and friends; it's a good (and free) way to keep in touch.  I always said that if I wanted to keep in touch with people from high school, I would have kept in touch in the first place.  Also, I don't want to know what my acquaintances are doing during every waking moment.  But every handcraft guru whose books, articles or blogs I've read says that you have to build your "web presence".  So, I bit the bullet and created a Facebook Fan Page.  In order to do that, I had to create a personal profile first.  Maybe I'm just from the wrong generation, or maybe I'm doing something wrong, but I just don't see how this is going to help my business.  To add insult to injury, I'm now hopelessly addicted to Farmville..

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Store is Born--Part III

I didn't manage to take any photos today.  I normally set up my portable photo studio (point and shoot camera, patio table and slate tile) on my balcony, but today we seem to be experiencing a bit of Hurricane Earl.  Winds are gusting strong enough to blow the BBQ cover off, it's raining, and it's damn COLD!  Try taking pictures while your earrings are shimmying to beat the band.  I don't think the motion stop feature is THAT effective.

Last time I blogged (I love that verb--it sounds like a euphemism for clogging the toilet by vomiting into it too much) I had figured out the ins and outs of Canada Post, written my shop policies and a bio, and signed up for PayPal.  As luck would have it, my kids, (I'll call them Rampaige and Helliam,) were being spirited off to the ancestral family home in rural New Brunswick by the grandparents, bless their misguided souls, for two whole weeks!  That meant I would have extended periods of uninterrupted time to concentrate on setting up my Etsy shop.  Pure luxury! 

A Store is Born Part II

Classroom finally ready!  Bulletin boards decorated, deskplates on desks, lockers assigned--all ready for Tuesday.  I'm hopeful that I can get some photographing done this weekend so I can list some new items on my Etsy shop. 

Back when I was preparing to open my Etsy shop, one of the things I had to research was shipping. Before I could write my shipping profiles, I had to figure out how I was going to ship items to the buyers.  Up to this point, my experience with Canada Post consisted of sticking a stamp on an envelope and dropping it in the mailbox, or opening my crammed mailbox and struggling to extract the bills without destroying them.  I needed to know how to wrap the packages, how long shipping would take, and how much to charge buyers.  I tried to navigate Canada Post's website, but it was about as easily navigable as a meerkat family's den.  Instead, I went to the post office with a sample of a typical package, and asked the clerk how much shipping might cost to mail that package anywhere in Canada, the U.S., or internationally.  Apparently, the package has to fit into a 2 cm plexiglass slot, or it costs more.  Armed with this knowledge, I was ready to fill out my shipping profiles.  All that was left was to sign up for a PayPal account, write a bio, hammer out my refund and exchange policies, and write some descriptions for my jewellery.

I'm falling asleep at the wheel here, so I'll continue this thread next time.  Good night, all.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Store is Born

Hello, blogreaders.  Just got home from work, where I spent twelve hours moving my classroom, organizing my stuff, and setting up for the first day of school.  I don't understand why, despite the fact that I've been doing this for fifteen years, this process never gets any easier or quicker.  I must be working hard, but not working smart, as they say. 

Last I blogged, I had just done a business name search and chosen the name Bead Planet.  I paid for and received my Master Business License, Business Registration number, and Vendor Permit.  Now everything felt official.  The next step was to figure out sales tax.  Before July, 2010, Ontario businesses had to collect and remit 8% sales tax as well as 5% GST on taxable goods, such as jewellery.  If your annual sales will be less than $30 000.00, (ha, ha) you are exempt from the hassle of collecting and remitting GST, but not PST.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

When the notion first entered my head about starting my own home-based jewellery business, I went online and read all I could about starting a business in Ontario, which is where I live.  The very first hurdle was deciding on a name.
 I trolled through dictionaries, thesauri, collections of sayings and proverbs, names of plays and books.  I tried so many names, covering pages of notebook paper, like a lovestruck teenager linking her name to her boyfriend's last name.  I wanted a name that was distinctive, didn't use my name or the word "creations," (I just don't like that word) and that implied a focus on natural materials, which I tend to use in my jewellery.  After settling on a likely possibility, I would Google it, and invariably find it was already in use. I was beginning to despair of ever finding a name, when my friend emailed me a few suggestions.  One was Bead Planet.