Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Mind Mapping - the Best Entrepreneurial Tool for Creatives…Ever

Have you ever used Mind Mapping as a way to "brain dump" all of your ideas onto a surface so you can sort, categorize, prioritize, and pick through them?

I have known about mind mapping over the years but never explored it until now. It is not only fascinating, but also so very easy for the creative mind to grasp. It actually pushes your creative thought and gives all ideas a place to live!

I encourage you to try out Mind Meister - a free online mind mapping tool that also has a pro version if you want a lot of mind maps (you get three maps free).

But, for me, I only need one for now. I am developing my entire GalleriaLinda jewelry business strategic plan in one map. I find it easy to update it with those "flash ideas" that come to me with no where to go. I keep my mind map open in my browser the entire day and I put those ideas in my mind map for a later think tank session. 

Some of the categories I have created for myself are things that help me dig deep into why I love my GalleriaLinda Contemporary Handmade Beaded Jewelry business and ideas to strengthen it:
  • Why customers buy jewelry
  • Why Linda makes jewelry
  • Why Linda sells jewelry
  • Distribution channels
  • Online marketing channels
  • SEO channels
  • And much more specific to GalleriaLinda!
 Here is a view of my "in progress" idea board. I have blurred the map (it is not you) due to proprietary information but I wanted you to get the idea that it is OK to be messy, but important to document all your ideas as they come to you!

Check out the MindMeister free mind mapping tool and try it out. This is a perfect way for creative people to develop their business plan or to focus on only one aspect of your business, such a promotion.

I would love to know what you think if you use it. And, how you use it. Leave some comments!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Important $6000 Grant for Bridge Jewelry Designer Business

Update: February 2, 2013

It is time for 2013!! Think about it....getting a grant to start your jewelry fun to dream and bring it to reality.
Halstead Bead, Inc. awards a business grant to a new jewelry designer in the bridge segment each summer. The grant awards $6,000 in start-up capital and merchandise to a new design company.

If you are starting a new jewelry design business, please check out the 2013 jewelry grant application and eligibility details!

Get answers to your questions on the Halstead Grant FAQ page.

Get the Halstead Business Development Grant applicatio

Deadline: Postmarked between April 15 — June 9, 2013.
Winner notification: August 2013 

 Original post from January 14, 2009

Have you ever thought about applying for a jewelry business grant? Anything is possible! The more you apply to, the better chance you have. If you qualify for this grant, it is time to get your application submitted.

Applications are due between April 15 and June 17, 2009 and focus on business skills as much as design talent. The jewelry design business they are looking for is one that creates "bridge jewelry."

"Bridge jewelry spans the gap between fine jewelry and costume jewelry. Bridge items are high quality accessories that can be worn every day. Primary materials are silver, copper, gold composite products, crystal and semi-precious stones such as lapis, onyx, turquoise, malachite, quartz, freshwater pearls etc. Bridge work can be strung beadwork or castings."

Halstead Bead Grant AnnouncementCall for Entries! Halstead Bead Sponsors $6,000 Jewelry Business Development Grant Prescott, AZ – January, 2009

Halstead Bead, Inc. is calling for entries to its fourth annual Business Development Grant competition for new American jewelry designers entering the bridge jewelry trade. The grant will be awarded to a winning candidate in August. The winner of the 2009 Grant will receive $6,000 in cash and merchandise as well as other benefits. All finalists will be eligible for a mentorship program that matches new designers with established and successful jewelry entrepreneurs.

The Halstead Bead Business Development Grant differs from other jewelry industry competitions and awards because of its emphasis on business skills. Entrants must demonstrate not only extraordinary design, but also a strong business strategy. The application experience promotes the business planning required to make a jewelry brand commercially viable at the national level in today’s competitive market.

Designers utilizing a wide variety of fabrication techniques including casting, lampworking, precious metal clay, beading, or metalsmithing are eligible to enter the competition. Candidates must be US citizens who began their businesses after January 1, 2006. Their design companies must focus on “bridge” jewelry which is the segment between costume jewelry and fine jewelry that includes accessories in sterling silver, semi-precious stones, crystal, freshwater pearls and other similar materials.

Complete application details can be found at
Candidates must submit a design portfolio, business plan, resume and answers to several questions. Applications must be received between April 15 and June 17, 2009. The grant website also includes several helpful articles on launching a national jewelry brand as well as information on past winners and finalists. Previous grant winners include
Bridgland Studios, Belle Brooke Designs, and Ananda Khalsa.

The grant sponsor, Halstead Bead, Inc., is one of North America’s leading jewelry supply importers and distributors. The firm was established in 1973 and now supplies thousands of component resellers and jewelry manufacturers around the globe. Halstead Bead, Inc. is wholesale only and sells findings, chain, wire, sheet & beads for the bridge jewelry segment in sterling silver, gold filled, copper, freshwater pearls, gemstones, glass and Crystallized Swarovski Elements.

~~end of announcement ~~

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

You're Gonna Have to Stand Out from the Crowd

Dec. 27, 2010 - NYC’s Polish-born Agata Olek
hit up the Wall Street Bull and encapsulated it inside crocheted neon.

Holiday Marketing 2012: The holidays are upon is – can you believe it? And, it is still September! Every year, the frenzy starts earlier as savvy businesses want to be the very first in front of you for marketing their products.

With the exploding number of Internet businesses of all sizes, a buyer can find any product they want online. For those of us with very small businesses run by us, solopreneurs, or by limited staff, the din of  our competitor’s “buy me, buy me” can be overwhelming. Now, in September, is the time to work out the plan to market our products online and off.

I cannot give you a plan specific to your business to follow. You will need to study your competition, your targeted buyer demographic, your distribution channels, and your goals for your business.

However, I can give you some strategic ideas on how to approach your holiday buyers. You might want to ask yourself these thoughtful questions:
  • Why is my product special or better that my competition’s? Or is it?
  • Would I want to buy my product over my competition’s product? If so, why? If not, why?
  • What extras can I offer my targeted buyer this holiday season? Could that be an extra free service, free gift wrap, or other? What would be valuable to them?  
  • What would be a trigger for my targeted buyer to seal the deal? Price? Design? Extras? Usefulness? Quality? Local?
  • What are the challenges that my targeted buyer faces during the holiday rush? How can I solve that problem for them?
Answer these questions and you will have an outline of your core marketing strategy. From there, craft your marketing message to include these points and get the message out there!

By the way, to add to my own holiday strategies, in addition to GalleriaLinda's shop, I have reopened GalleriaLinda's jewelry shop on Etsy. Please take a look! I am loading in over the next two weeks so please check back. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When Your Blog Goes "Poof" - It Can Happen To You!

When your blog goes poof - it can happen to you.
Earlier this year, I opened my browser and went to this blog. Horrified, I found a message that said the blog had been deleted! I was stunned and I tried to log into the blog's back office but to no avail.

Frantically trying to find some sort of Blogger tech support (there is none), I ended up in a Blogger forum and posted my problem.

The moderator was quite helpful and said that there are times that the Google bot will erroneously tag a blog as a spam blog or as a blog that is breaking the TOS, none of which this blog fit. He started the Blogger reinstatement process for me to get the blog back online.

I was livid as the days went by and no blog. I knew my scant traffic would be non-existent when I finally did have a blog again. And, my ads would be totally trashed.

It took almost two weeks to get it back online. Even then, I had a lot of work to do to make certain links and widgets got back to working, do some things to get a little traffic back online, and then to jump-start the Project Wonderful ads again.

When a blog goes down, the decline in traffic, rankings, klout, and everything else beneficial  is quick and very tedious to get back when it is back online.

This was an eye-opener. Of course, we don't think this will ever happen to us, but since we are using a free blog platform, we are at the mercy of the owners of that platform.

Since that day, I have been working on a self-hosted blog. Work is slow as I have a day job, but soon I will be able to control the fate of my own blog on my own web hosting.
Free Tutorial  to Install a Wordpress Self-Hosted Blog!
I took a FREE ecourse on how to install a Wordpress blog onto my own web hosting from The lessons were so easy and step-by-step that the installing onto my web hosting amazingly simple. Check it out if you want to go that way for your blog.

In the meantime, just be aware that this happens all the time. If you use your blog for income in any way, it is smart to create your own self-hosted blog.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tips for Branding Your Online Business

A lot of us started our handmade businesses from humble beginnings of creating items for ourselves, family, and friends. After much encouragement from this group, we took the plunge into the world of online selling.

With so many handmade/supplies/vintage selling venues available today, it is no wonder that we might be watering down our own brand and not even know it. We should not brand our business with the name of the venue where our products are at this time. This can change over the years.

Why have a brand? Why protect that brand? Branding a business is one of the most important strategic marketing tasks that you can do.

A brand is your reputation, your recognition, and the soul of your company. It is that split-second understanding of who you are and what you do. It matters not if your business is "just" a hobby business - if you are selling online, you will benefit from a brand.

A brand can consist of the name of your business, a logo, and/or a byline motto, slogan, tag line. As your business grows, your brand becomes your reputation.Your brand can be known for excelling customer service or stellar quality. A brand is more than a logo. It can be the essence of your business practices.

The most important thing with growing your brand, is consistent use of your brand at all times and in all ways.

Here are some tips for you about branding your handmade business:
  • Create a visual that resonates with your business name and/or product. This can be your business name in fancy fonts, iconic logos, or a tag line that you consistently use.
  • Once you create your visual - use it everywhere, such as on your online banners for your shops, banners for your networking pages, business cards, avatar, blog headers, packaging, invoices, signs at craft shows, etc...
  • If you choose to use a tag line, use it always when you use your business name. An example, would be "Susie's Pet Apparel - for Stylish Pets Everywhere!"
  • If you send out press releases on new products or other business news, be sure to be consistent with your brand decisions.
  • Purchase a domain name with your brand name and point it to your venue shop. This is very important to use YOUR domain name in all your branding efforts and not the links to the venue shop. 
  • Use YOUR custom domain link in all your materials, online, and business cards. 
  • Another tip is to create your domain name with words that tells us what you are all about. An example of what not to do is my domain (LOL) - - I need to change this because it tells us nothing. It would be better as instead. 
  •  If you have your own website, utilized consistency with your strategic brand decisions.
I read a lot of forums on several of the most popular handmade selling venues. I always see that some sellers are branding the venue and not their shop. Your venue shop is just a rental space and is not "yours." You want people to search for YOU and not just find you accidentally through the venue. Your business is who you are and what you do, so brand your business - not the venue.

These tips just scratch the surface of branding your business but is the most basic start to a good relationship with your business!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

We Seem to Have it Backwards - We Must Find Our Own Online Traffic

Infographic from SEOmoz

We seem to have it backwards! Most of us that sell online on Etsy, Zibbet, Artfire, Shopify, Bonanza, and a zillion other selling venues - we have it wrong.

So many times I see in forums that there are no views, asking what they are doing wrong, and wondering when the traffic will kick in. "Build it and they will come" is not what happens online. You have to work at it hard and consistently if you want to reap the benefits of traffic.

It is OUR responsibility to drive traffic to our own shops or our own websites. The venues will bring a certain amount of traffic, but it is like thousands of people milling around a mall and your shop is way back in a dark corner.

I found an excellent article titled 11 Ways to Drive Gobs of Traffic to Your Website

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A Point of View

Have you ever watched Project Runway? (My favorite TV Show)!

It is a challenge for fashion designers, who are given specific criteria each week to produce the best fashion creations. Recognized industry leaders and designers judge the efforts to come up with a winner.

Throughout each week, the term "point-of-view" is used. It is important to each designer to clearly state their fashion point-of-view through their creations.

I have pondered that for a while, as I never heard that term relative to design work. However, I have come to the conclusion that the term helps us to understand and to define who we are as artists and designers. Our work needs to shout out that point-of-view.

We each have a unique style. I remember one of the greatest compliments I ever had about my jewelry was someone saying "I knew that necklace was GalleriaLinda!" At the time, I did not consider that the person had recognized GalleriaLinda's Handmade Jewelry design point-of-view.

This all plays into your marketing message. Think in terms of your own point-of-view in art and design. In your marketing, tell people about what makes you unique and what makes your creations recognizable as your unique work. Not features and benefits, but true design uniqueness.

How would you explain your own design point-of-view? Step back and look at your work. Likely, there is a unique style that emerges. Start writing down keywords to describe that style. Not all keywords will fit all of your products, but you know what you want to attain in each design.

 For example, the keywords I would use for my GalleriaLinda handmade jewelry designs are:
  • Chunky
  • Contemporary
  • Modernist
  • Minimalist
  • Colorful
  • Geometric
  • Vintage beads & components
 This point-of-view will evolve and change over the years and so should your marketing message!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Color Inspiration

GalleriaLinda Handmade Jewelry Design Process

As artists, designers, and artisans, we all find inspiration in many places and from many things. I am an avid Pinterest surfer and it recently dawned on me that when I see these vibrant and gorgeous photos and pictures, I think in terms of beads!

For each one of these photos, I can envision lovely jewelry with rich bead colors. So, I started a board just for "Color Palettes" that I can view to start the design process. Each of the photos or items are gorgeous in their own merit and their beauty does not escape me for what they are. After squinting at them (yes, squinting! A technique to get the strategic look) I see clearly the color palette.

Try it! Then go design your artistic creations from this inspiration. And, follow GalleriaLinda Handmade Jewelry on Pinterest!

For great vintage beads, Czech glass beads, be sure to stop by GalleriaLinda's Bead Shop.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Be Real!

It is the new year and the traditional time to review the past business year so we can look forward to a successful new year for our handmade and artisan businesses.

This is not going to be a post about making strategic plans, updating your business plan, or other brain-twisting exercises to implement.

It is a post about reality.

I am, by day, a strategic marketing communications professional, who works with small businesses to help them push forward with their branding and market recognition. The core component to my consultation is.....reality.

Be real with your expectations of your business and the expectations of your customers. From there, all else falls into place.

I could stop there and leave you with that wise message, but I will explain a bit to grab this concept.

Be Real with YOUR Expectations of Your Business
Take an audit of what you do within your business framework. For example:
  • How much time did you give to your business last year:
  • How much time do you have to give to your business in reality?
  • How much money did you put back into your business last year?
  • How much money do you really have to put into your business?
If these are out-of-balance, you should readjust your thinking and expectations.

Time and money may make a business.
But, it is HOW you spend your time and money that makes success!

Be Real About the Expectations of Your Customers
You should know your customers well enough by now to know what they expect from you. If you have sold one, two, or 202 items, you can see a trend.
  • Much of what customers expect from you is driven by you! 
  • Now is the time to figure out if your customer interaction and service process is working best for both of you.
  • If not, change it so it works best for the customer AND for you. 
The expectations of your customers are set by your communication messages and your actions. What do you tell them? (policies, shop announcements, advertising, blogs, etc...) And, what do you actually do? (shipping times, quality of goods, exchanges, packaging, etc...)

Once you align your expectations for yourself based upon realty with the expectations of your customers through communications, there will be much smoother sailing in 2012.

Seek out small business owners who exhibit this balance. Network with them and let them share with you how they do it!

Let's make 2012 the year of balance and being real. Best to you all for 2012!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do I Really Need Social Networking for My Artisan or Handmade Online Shop?

As a follow-up to an IndieCEO post on social networking, "Social Networking: Time Waster or Business Builder...," I received a couple of excellent questions from Infused Moments. Be sure to check out her very cute shop!

In my original post referenced above, I talked about networking sites like ning, IndiePublic, and other handmade and artist communities outside of Facebook and Twitter. Infused Moments asks:
  • What about social networking sites like Twitter? Would that be a good one to have and maintain?
  • What if you have an account on one of these social networking sites, could you just use that one or should you create a whole new one that is all about your online store?
  • What kinds of edits should you make everyday on your networking sites? Like about sales, new products, etc..??
This may be a long blog article but it is important information to consider, especially if you are new to online selling and social networking.

As an overview, I present these marketing subjects from a strategic level, since that is my profession. However, there are many articles on the web that discuss the tactical efforts for social networking and specifically for Twitter and Facebook for handmade. Search and you will find some great and useful information. A good start is to search on

It is important to look at your business from a strategic, big-picture viewpoint. It is the difference between being in the clouds or being in the weeds

If we step back and look at the big picture of what we are doing with social networking, how much time it takes away from creating, and how it might affect our overall sales in the future (clouds), we can decide what to do on a daily basis to get each individual sale (weeds).

Social networking accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have come to be expected for a business presence, both in the handmade community and in the corporate community. When our market niche expects something, we need to be there no matter the level of activity. I would suggest that a handmade shop needs to be branded on these sites with at least account profiles for business pages, even if consistent participation is not possible.

Business or Personal?
  • What if you have an account (personal) on one of these social networking sites, could you just use that one or should you create a whole new one that is all about your online store?
Because the strategic objective is to brand your business shop and bring in “likes” and followers within your targeted customer base, your “business” activities need to be in your “business” name.

There is nothing wrong with inviting your personal friends to like and follow your business pages/networks and there is nothing wrong with deploying business information through your personal channels to a small degree. However, keeping your business just that…, is the professional way to manage your shop’s branding. It also allows you to actually target your niche customer demographics.

In other words, if you make cute widgettes for young women in the 19 to 26 age range, then those are the people you need to find online and bring them into your networks. If you make children’s items, find the decision makers - moms - and participate in “mommy” networks.

Another example is that of my GalleriaLinda brand handmade jewelry, I know that my buyers tend to be in the 30 to 60 age range and are usually career women or highly active in local communities. I have joined several online networks for local businesses and career women because that is where I will find this demographic.

Which Network is Best to Start?
  • What about social networking sites like Twitter? Would that be a good one to have and maintain?
It is my opinion that Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are the first and best strategic networking sites to have a profile account because these accounts are expected by consumers when they discover your business. They want to go somewhere online to find out the whole story. If you have a branded website like my GalleriaLinda Jewelry website, they will look for that first. If not, then they will go to these others.

Consider your profile on these accounts as a mini-business card that, depending upon the site, can expand into your mini-brochure. This will provide branding SEO and can bring in friends and followers from your niche community of sellers and buyers.

If you had to only choose one, my opinion is to have a business page on Facebook. Facebook provides a platform for you to have a mini-network all your own.Many selling venues have Facebook page code so you can even sell from your Facebook account. You can interact with people, invite them to like, and generally be the friendly chatty shopkeeper, while branding your business and nurturing potential customer relationships.

Twitter is a good way to get your links in front of a lot of people quickly, especially if you use hashtags. If you send out a tweet about a new listing with a link, just put #handmade or #yoursellingvenue to push your link out to hundreds of others over and above your own numbers of followers. Just be mindful of the 140 character limit. Twitter is social so be sure to "talk" to others to nurture relationships, comment on their links and retweet information.

With shop RSS feeds, you can set up feeds to Facebook and Twitter so every time you list one or two items, it feeds automatically to both with links to your item. Pretty nifty! I use that can feed to a variety of networks. There are others as well.

Why Update Profiles?
  • What kinds of edits should you make every day on your networking sites? Like about sales, new products, etc..??
When I talk about updating your profiles frequently, this is to make sure that your profiles and branding are more SEO friendly to come up in searches. Google loves new content and ranks it higher than stale content with no activity or change. Any minor change you make to the content or by switching out photos refreshes it and deploys it out into Internet land one more time.

If you are active on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you will not need to update your profile itself if you are tweeting and posting, which is your updated content. If you are inactive, then it is a good idea to tend to your profile once a week.

It is an SEO strategy to be found more readily online and in searches. These updates can be minor tweaks, a series of planned tag lines you switch out, an introduction to a new type product, or just a mention of what you are working on and when customers can expect to see them in your shop. It does not need to be extensive – replacing a sentence or an avatar or photo is fine. Consistency is the key. 


Now for the big question that we all want to know!
Will these social networking sites bring in sales? 

The quick nutshell answer is….yes and no. It depends!

It depends on so many variables, such as your product, your followers’ demographics, and your consistent network activity. Many sellers say they do get sales through Twitter and Facebook and they work them hard. The key is having people follow you who are interested enough in your product to buy in the first place (your niche customer demographic). And THAT is the puzzle.

Thank you Infused Moments for the great questions that can help all of us!