One year ago we stormed the grocery stores, stock piled the toilet paper (or in my case, the polymer clay), and prepared for the hardship that we thought a two week lock down would be. This year has been agonizingly slow in some ways, just plain agony in others, but also filled with sweetness and wonder and joy and lessons learned. I suppose hitting this year has made me reflective. I don't think I have ever had a year where so much has changed.
We've moved. We had another baby! We've lost family and friends. We've changed how we interact, and even our language has adapted to reflect our new realities. Some of us worked from home, some of us shifted our businesses to a virtual platform. One of the most common things I've heard from others is that they are clearer on their priorities, whether that's family related or work related.
So here are 5 things I've learned this year about my handmade jewelry business.
One. It's possible to create community online
I love in-person craft fairs and vendor events. I'm in my element talking to other makers, discussing process with customers, and showing little kids how to crochet. Right at the point where my kids were old enough that I had decided to start pursuing in-person events again, the world shut down. So I took to the internet! I started the Royaboya Bazaar online - created a facebook group that grew and grew, and every event I watched astounded as not only the vendors sold record amounts - but as I got to know the customers in the same way as I would in-person.
In fact, the Royaboya Bazaar provided a place for even better community and engagement for a few reasons! Instead of saying hi, and walking on, people stick around. People play games, tell you about themselves, and comment on items they love in a way you don't get in person. They show up for the vendor live videos, share pictures for inspiration, and add their friends. It's a dynamic, interactive, engaged group of people who are all there because they truly want to support these small businesses.
Two. People want beautiful things in their lives
Maybe it's the reminder of mortality, or the clearer image of my priorities, but I know that this year I've decided not to settle for as much mediocre - in relationships, in work, and even in what I buy. I'm much more dedicated to buying the items that bring me joy from businesses that I want to support. My sales went up by 4000% this year. You read that correctly. In a year of worry and isolation, the sale of my handmade polymer clay jewelry skyrocketed. I truly think it's because people value beautiful things. When I make a pair of earrings, each one is unique. I often get inspiration from my customers, who send me pictures of their favorite plants or landscapes. They get to have a wearable work of art, and people are here for it.
Three. Consistency is key for marketing
I truly would make things out of clay even if no one was buying, but then I'd be crushed by an avalanche of earrings in my own home. I appreciate my customers so much - they allow me to keep playing and keep creating. To have customers, I need to reach people. I was feeling stuck, last year, before the shut down - feeling like I wasn't making progress fast enough. Did you notice that your sense of time changed this year? Mine did. I did less things out of the house, of course, and so it became easier to establish some quieter consistencies. One of those was posting more on instagram. Boy oh boy does consistency matter when it comes to online marketing. Little step every day, y'all. They're as important as the big lightning-bolt moments.
Four. Having my own space is a game changer
A few months ago we sold our home to buy one that fit our growing family. I am incredibly grateful that as part of that move, I now have my own dedicated office space. Being able to have all of my materials organized and available all the time, a long desk for working, and a beautiful view out my window - it's life changing. I want to cry with gratitude every time I walk in there. The walls are lined with cubbies, the earrings are all organized, my favorite art work is on the walls. Having my own space also allows me to leave projects out longer - and when I can leave a project out, I often make connections or use materials in ways I wouldn't have if I had to start over each time. My processes go faster too when things are organized, my shipping material is always available, and I don't have to put my crinkly packing paper out of reach of toddler hands!
Five. If you build it, they will come.
Ok first I have to admit having never watched the movie that line is actually from. Sorry. But I do know the sentiment is true! I wanted community. I wanted a place to share my ideas. I wanted to support other small business owners, especially hand crafters and mom owned businesses. I wanted to give youth entrepreneurs training and support like I wanted at their age. I wanted to sell jewelry. I wanted to be able to connect with people who also valued the things I valued - art, handmade items, supporting small businesses.
So I started the Royaboya Handmade Bazaar - and at our first event we had a whopping 30 people. And it was still awesome. It energized and galvanized me - and the next event had at least double. I went from being the only person selling to providing virtual booth space to dozens of other businesses over the course of this year. I've launched a youth booth program for younger entrepreneurs. The group has grown into the thousands. The sales have grown into the tens of thousands.
The growth of the Royaboya Handmade Bazaar shows me that this was a need - there were other people out there looking for this, and when I built it - they showed up. And they showed up spectacularly, with their handmade masks and magic wands and epic kid activity sets and so many other wonderful products.