2016: Year in Review

2016 was quite the year for Once Again Sam. After taking a much-needed break during the holidays, I had some time to look back over the last 12 months and reflect on all my little handmade business has been through this past year. I felt like I barely crossed the 2016 finish line – I’ve never been so busy before, but it was a phenomenal end to a phenomenal year, and I’m celebrating big time. I’m so grateful for everything about 2016, and feel overwhelmingly blessed by each and every thing that made up this chapter.

Many of my business goals were met this year – I became an LLC, printed my first catalog, participated in my first tradeshow, graduated from Etsy’s “SAM Program”, grew the wholesale side of my business, invested in advertising, and nearly doubled my Etsy sales. I have LOTS of goals for 2017, but I’ll wait to share those after The Maker’s Summit in March, because no doubt I’ll have twice as many goals after the 2-day conference.

The significant spike in business this year certainly had to do with a lot of hard work and a little luck, but there were several specific changes I made in 2016 that might be something for you to consider as you grow (or start) your handmade business. I have learned so much from other Makers over the years, and am happy to share what I know in return. That’s the beauty of the handmade community!

1.     Promoted listings on Etsy & Google: I was skeptical to try this, but looking at what I spent vs. what those promoted listings earned, it was well worth my daily $5 budget. It takes almost no effort once you set it up, and the payoff can be big.

2.     Launched 5 new collections: it seems like it should be pretty easy since I love to experiment and create, but getting my act together to launch 5 cohesive collections is a lot more involved than you might think. The previous year, I hardly launched anything new, only 2 small collections, so having 5 completely new series to share within a 12 month time period is something I’m very proud of and hope to continue in the next year. Several new collections came about during the 30 day #CreativeSprint challenge (April & October). If you want to grow, you have to keep coming up with new ideas – those tried & true best sellers are fine, and by all means keep making them if they’re selling well, but always be working on what's next.

3.     Graduated from the “SAM” Program on Etsy. The “Seller Account Management" Program was something I applied for back in 2015, and my year of one-on-one coaching started last December. I was teamed up with an awesome Etsy staffer who coached me, answered questions specific to my shop, and helped me set goals for the future. I highly recommend applying for this program, even if you’re an Etsy veteran like me. I’ve been selling on Etsy since 2009, been very pleased with my sales for the last 4 or 5 years, but there’s always room to grow. In my case, there was a TON of room to grow, way more than I thought, and I earned nearly twice as much on Etsy this year compared to last year, all thanks to things I learned in the SAM program.

4.     Grew my wholesale business: I started out 2016 with a brand new product catalog, a booth at my first tradeshow, and high hopes of developing new retail relationships. The focused effort worked! Wholesale is something I know I can grow even further in the future, so I’m investing in tools & making a game plan for how to improve my wholesale outreach going forward.

5.     Tried 5 new events (craft shows, art fairs, pop up shops): some of that came out of necessity because two of my biggest sales days from 2015 didn’t happen in 2016, and I felt I had to make up for them or my financial projections for the year were shot. Just to give it some context, these two sales days from 2015 accounted for over 20% of my income that year, so it could have been a big big problem for 2016, but everything turned out incredibly well, despite all my needless worrying. One event (Artisphere) did not accept my work in 2016, and the other (Indie Craft Parade) moved to a different model for their holiday event, which significantly changed things for me. This was out of my control, and I learned the hard way you can’t always plan your season around shows you love or have done in the past, because they can change or go away, and it's not up to you. However, I did learn another valuable lesson here – I applied for several new shows, ones I didn’t know much about, or that weren't as well known as others, and they turned out to be really great events that I will definitely plan on doing in the future. You never know how you’ll do at any given event until you try it for yourself!

So that’s it – that’s 2016 in a nutshell. Can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store. As always, if you have any general or specific questions about running a handmade business, selling on Etsy, doing craft shows, etc., please drop me a line. I’m always willing to help fellow entrepreneurs in any way I can (as long as you pay it forward when someone asks you for help in the future!).  

Past "Year in Review" posts can be found in my blog archives:



The Makers Summit: 3rd Annual Kick in the Butt

Earlier this month I attended a 2-day conference for creatives called The Makers Summit, put on my Indie Craft Parade. This was the 3rd annual gathering, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything. People from all over the country come to Greenville, SC, to be a part of this event. There's workshops to attend, the chance to meet one-on-one with industry experts, hear keynote speakers share their story, and get to know other makers.

Each year, I’ve gotten something completely different out of the conference. It’s true the workshops and speakers change every time so the experience is never going to be the same, but I think a big reason why my personal takeaway is vastly different year to year is because my business is in a completely different place each time. A lot can happen in between one Makers Summit and the next!

The first year (2013), I was really wanting to improve my Etsy shop, so I signed up for one-on-one sessions with experts related to that, and made big changes in the following weeks to my tags, descriptions, and photos. At the time, I was also toying with creating a personal website where my jewelry, fiber art, interior design, and writing could come together (THIS website, the one you’re reading right now!). Lastly, I was inspired to pitch to a magazine for the first time after hearing Amy Flurry, author of Recipe for Press, speak at the conference. Backstory on my first magazine pitch & feature can be found here:  

Last year (2014), I was focused on re-branding and giving my business a better overall appearance, so by the summertime I was finally ready to take the plunge and get serious about this major overhaul. It was a huge thing to check off my Makers Summit to-do list, and now I can finally say I’ve never been happier with my logo and branding. Backstory on my re-branding can be found here:

This year (2015), I found myself tuning in to advice related specifically to wholesale. I already do a fair amount of wholesale business as it is, but I really need to step it up a notch (several notches, actually). Most of my big goals for this year are for growing my wholesale reach even further, and making that side of my business significantly more professional.

Post Makers Summit To-Do List:

  • Create a printed catalogue to showcase my linesheet

  • Develop SKU’s for all wholesale inventory

  • Launch my own e-commerce website with wholesale section

  • Simplify custom ordering process: color chart, setting options, designs, etc.

  • Exhibit at one tradeshow in the next 12 months (which is way different than a craft show)

So there it is, my official list. Now that it’s posted here, I really have to be accountable! 

The conference was, as it always is, a kick in the butt to take the next major steps of this entrepreneurial journey. My brain is still processing everything I heard. I’m still buzzing with inspiration, even several weeks later.

After the Makers Summit was #thebestcraftpartyever - which is exactly what is sounds like. Click through the album below for a peek at how crafty people get crafty just for fun, when they’re not making things because it’s their job.