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Bead Biz

Welcome!
Here we'll share some tips to help your young bead business thrive. Our suggestions are orginized by the five topics listed below. Click on the link to access each area. If you have other questions, please let us know through Contact Us. We will do our best to get you an answer soon. Check back often for new tips.

Advertising & Publicity Creativity & Design Dispaly & Presentation Getting Started
Organization Pricing & Profits Records & Taxes Selling

Advertising & Publicity

Defining Your Style
If writing advertising copy comes easily to you you've got a head start on the rest of us. For everyone else, I suggest just start with words that evoke the feelings and/or information you want to convey about your jewelry. The sentences will then more easily follow. Here are some examples of ways to define different kinds of style: classic, edgy, fun, fashionable, professional, vintage, upscale, funky, casual, sporty, hip, hot, whimsical, organic, recycled, country, western, flashy, sparkly, affordable, contemporary, ethnic, retro, etc.

You might then start pairing these descriptive words with ways you want your customer to feel when she wears your jewelry: comfortably casual, confidently professional, daringly hip or edgy, playfully whimsical, boldly contemporary, etc. Those are some of the "benefits" your jewelry can offer. But don't forget to mention the "features" as well: sterling silver clasps and earwires, strung on super strong high tech cable wire, all natural gemstones, Swarovski crystals, hand-made glass beads, etc.


Creativity & Design

Play to Your Strengths
If you are starting out in the Bead Biz you are probably better at some techniques than others. If you particularly like seed beads, focus on working with them, don't force yourself into wire-working. It's better to be a master at one thing than average at many. It is always more fun to do work we enjoy with materials we love, and fun is one reason we want to go into this business, right? As your experience and skills expand you can always incorporate new techniques gradually and organically into your work without losing your identity or your customer base.

There are many ways to stand out from the crowd. You might have amazing technical skills with wire, you may be the goddess of color, you may have an uncanny feel for the next hot trend, you may have access to sources of materials nobody else knows about, you may have infinite patience for working with tiny beads. Whatever you naturally gravitate towards or excel at should be the niche you build your business around. Once you have established your niche you can more easily define your target customer and the venues where you can best reach her.

Creating a Line
Creating a line of jewelry has several advantages. It helps define your brand and your niche. It builds loyalty as customers learn what to expect from you. It can save you design time and money on materials when you buy in bulk. For example if you decide all of your earrings are going to have the same style of earwires you can save when you buy the pack of 100 and you only have to keep that one style in stock instead of monitoring supplies of several different designs. Once you choose a palette and materials for your line and design the basic pattern all you have to do is modify it slightly for long or short, single- or multi-strand styles, etc. Having a line also encourages customers to buy sets.

Most designers create at least four lines per year, one for each season. Let's say your niche is gemstones and silver. In the spring you might have a line of lightweight necklaces in two or three lighter color combinations. For each palette you would design necklaces in choker, 20", 24" and 32" lengths along with single or multi-strand bracelets and an assortment of earring styles. Your displays will look appropriate to the season's fashions, be harmonious because all your pieces work together, and you will only have to invest in a limited palette of stones for the season. You should always have a few one-of-a-kind "show stoppers" that coordinate with your line.

Identifying Your Niche
The dictionary defines niche as "the place or activity in which you are best able to thrive". For your business that means the place where you best fit and can prosper. For small businesses it can be a small niche. For example you might specialize in jewelry featuring your school's colors or mascot. This would help you identify your target market as students, parents and alumni of your school.

Expanding the focus a bit, your niche could relate to subject like jewelry for pets; material, polymer clay; function, healing gemstones; technique, wire working; or form, hair jewelry or mothers' baby name bracelets. Each of these niches offers the opportunity to sell in specialized venues in addition to the usual shows and stores. Cat and dog necklaces in pet shops, hair jewelry in salons, healing gems in spas and yoga studios, mothers' bracelets in maternity shops. Think about other possible niches including weddings, religious or spiritual groups, sports fans, holidays, food and wine themes, travel, astrological signs or birthstones.

Fads and Fashion
One advantage of being a small business is that you can quickly change course to stay on top of fads. You are making jewelry today that you can sell next week. The multi-national conglomerates place their orders a year in advance so they can't easily adjust. Fashion forward shops, magazines, websites, and TV shows can be good places to spot the latest fads. Younger customers tend to be more sensitive to fads than mature women who have developed their own style.

You can ignore fads if you want to, but fashion trends do impact almost everyone in the jewelry business. Trends take a little longer to manifest and have more staying power than fads, often lasting several years. Trends include shifts from big and bold jewelry to small, delicate or minimalist styles; from long to short necklaces; from bright colors to subdued; from formal to casual, etc. Even if your niche is out of step with current trends, you will have some loyal customers who like your style no matter what. But if you make some concessions to trends, you will have more customers. Trends are especially important if you are wholesaling because store buyers are trend watchers.

Defining Your Style
If writing advertising copy comes easily to you you've got a head start on the rest of us. For everyone else, I suggest just start with words that evoke the feelings and/or information you want to convey about your jewelry. The sentences will then more easily follow. Here are some examples of ways to define different kinds of style: classic, edgy, fun, fashionable, professional, vintage, upscale, funky, casual, sporty, hip, hot, whimsical, organic, recycled, country, western, flashy, sparkly, affordable, contemporary, ethnic, retro, etc.

You might then start pairing these descriptive words with ways you want your customer to feel when she wears your jewelry: comfortably casual, confidently professional, daringly hip or edgy, playfully whimsical, boldly contemporary, etc. Those are some of the "benefits" your jewelry can offer. But don't forget to mention the "features" as well: sterling silver clasps and earwires, strung on super strong high tech cable wire, all natural gemstones, Swarovski crystals, hand-made glass beads, etc.


Display & Presentation

Creating a Line
Creating a line of jewelry has several advantages. It helps define your brand and your niche. It builds loyalty as customers learn what to expect from you. It can save you design time and money on materials when you buy in bulk. For example if you decide all of your earrings are going to have the same style of earwires you can save when you buy the pack of 100 and you only have to keep that one style in stock instead of monitoring supplies of several different designs. Once you choose a palette and materials for your line and design the basic pattern all you have to do is modify it slightly for long or short, single- or multi-strand styles, etc. Having a line also encourages customers to buy sets.

Most designers create at least four lines per year, one for each season. Let’s say your niche is gemstones and silver. In the spring you might have a line of lightweight necklaces in two or three lighter color combinations. For each palette you would design necklaces in choker, 20", 24" and 32" lengths along with single or multi-strand bracelets and an assortment of earring styles. Your displays will look appropriate to the season’s fashions, be harmonious because all your pieces work together, and you will only have to invest in a limited palette of stones for the season. You should always have a few one-of-a-kind "show stoppers" that coordinate with your line.

Creating desire
Although some people may claim they "need" a new piece of jewelry, buying jewelry is more about wants than needs. That means we have to create the desire to own what we make. How? Step one is to set the stage: create an environment for your work that supports its style, price point, and the desire you want to evoke in your customer. Consider the following examples and then create the environment that best supports your work.

If you sell jewelry made of frosted beach glass and shells wrapped with silver wire you might want to create the desire to remember a vacation at the beach. Your display would consist of jewelry draped over driftwood, earring cards standing in trays of sand, with a few shells and some little paper drinks umbrellas. If you want to create the desire for a bargain you might set up your booth to look like a bonanza of close-outs with bright colored tags screaming low prices. And if you want to create the desire to shop at Tiffany's your display would be clean and understated with upscale one-of-a kind pieces showcased on velvet busts and classical music softly playing in the background.

Be Professional
When you start your own home-based business you can work in your pajamas if you want to, but when you meet your customers you will do much better if you present yourself as a professional. This means appropriate clothes and grooming for the environment. You wouldn't wear a suit to sell at an casual summer craft fair, and you shouldn't show up to an appointment with a store buyer in a dirty T-shirt. Know the environment you are going into and always make sure your outfit also serves as a pleasing backdrop for your jewelry. Wear a necklace that is for sale, because whatever you are wearing, someone will want to buy it!

And professionalism goes beyond appearances: Arrive early to set up for shows and on time for appointments with buyers. Practice exuding confidence, even if you don't feel it yet. Smile, make eye contact, speak clearly, and be upbeat. Why should anyone take a chance on your work if you are complaining about poor sales? Give pertinent information about your jewelry or business, but also allow some silence so the buyer can think. Be organized and respect the buyer's time. All your prices should be clearly marked and have your policies in writing. See other tips for more info on these subjects.


Getting Started

What It Takes to Run a Business
Starting a business is easy. Succeeding is hard, but doing what you love is rewarding. Studies show that a strong work ethic and responsible attitude are the two most important qualities needed to thrive in your own business. I would add the ability to make decisions quickly. Other useful attributes include willingness and ability to learn and change without losing your identity. People skills are a big plus, and in the bead biz creativity and technical skills play a role. You may be surprised to know that all these qualities can be developed if you are sufficiently motivated, but some will come easier than others.

There is no getting around the need to work hard and be personally and financially responsible and disciplined, but you can tailor your business around your natural strengths. For example, if you are very comfortable with people you will probably enjoy selling your jewelry at retail directly to your customers in social settings like home parties and craft fairs. If, on the other hand, you are shy you will probably prefer to sell wholesale in high volume and let the retailers sell your work directly to their customers. Explore other Bead Biz topics to discover more options.

Your Business Image
When you ask people to buy your work, you are basically asking them to trust that your jewelry is well made, your materials are what you say they are, your designs are original, and if they have an issue with any of these you will still be around to take care of it. People will be much more likely to trust you and buy from you if you present a confidence-inspiring business image. The first step toward creating this image is your business card.

You can get limited quantities of business cards free on the internet, print your own on your computer, or buy a whole box for about $20. Your card should include your company name, a phone number, e-mail address or website, and an address. Be sure the company name matches your bank account so you can cash checks made out in that name. If you only have one phone, change the greeting to a professional one. Your friends will understand, but if the greeting is “Hey it’s Suzie, call me back!” with barking dogs and screaming babies in the background, the Nordstrom’s buyer might not call back. Using a post office box is a better choice than giving out your home address. If you don’t have a post office nearby, many UPS stores and other shipping or business centers rent mailboxes.

Play to Your Strengths
If you are starting out in the Bead Biz you are probably better at some techniques than others. If you particularly like seed beads, focus on working with them, don’t force yourself into wire-working. It’s better to be a master at one thing than average at many. It is always more fun to do work we enjoy with materials we love, and fun is one reason we want to go into this business, right? As your experience and skills expand you can always incorporate new techniques gradually and organically into your work without losing your identity or your customer base.

There are many ways to stand out from the crowd. You might have amazing technical skills with wire, you may be the goddess of color, you may have an uncanny feel for the next hot trend, you may have access to sources of materials nobody else knows about, you may have infinite patience for working with tiny beads… Whatever you naturally gravitate towards or excel at should be the niche you build your business around. Once you have established your niche you can more easily define your target customer and the venues where you can best reach her.

Identifying Your Niche
The dictionary defines niche as “the place or activity in which you are best able to thrive”. For your business that means the place where you best fit and can prosper. For small businesses it can be a small niche. For example you might specialize in jewelry featuring your school’s colors or mascot. This would help you identify your target market as students, parents and alumni of your school and possibly get some publicity for your school spirit.

Expanding the focus a bit, your niche could relate to subject like jewelry for pets; material, polymer clay; function, healing gemstones; technique, wire working; or form, hair jewelry or mothers’ baby name bracelets. Each of these niches offers the opportunity to sell in specialized venues in addition to the usual shows and stores. Cat and dog necklaces in pet shops, hair jewelry in salons, healing gems in spas and yoga studios, mothers’ bracelets in maternity shops. Think about other possible niches including weddings, religious or spiritual groups, sports fans, holidays, food and wine themes, travel, astrological signs or birthstones…

Order Forms
The order form is the document you use to record what your customer is ordering from you. The order can be from an individual who wants you to make her wedding jewelry or a wholesale buyer who is ordering several of your designs for her gallery. You can produce these forms on your computer or have them printed. You will need two identical copies, one for you to keep and one for the buyer. In case a copier is not available, use carbonless sets or carbon paper.

An order form must include the following at the top: your company name, address, phone, and e-mail; spaces to write in the customer’s complete name and contact information, the date, an order number, and the date the order is to be delivered. Next come column headings for Quantity, Description, Stock number, Price and Extension. Extension is the quantity times the price. Below these headings will be 10 to 20 rows for you to write in the items ordered. If you are selling to a store the description will be brief. If you are doing custom orders you may need to allow extra space for description. Leave space at the bottom for a Subtotal of the merchandise, Tax (only if you are selling direct to the customer), Shipping (if applicable), Total, Deposit Received, and Total Due.


Organization

Creating a Line
Creating a line of jewelry has several advantages. It helps define your brand and your niche. It builds loyalty as customers learn what to expect from you. It can save you design time and money on materials when you buy in bulk. For example if you decide all of your earrings are going to have the same style of earwires you can save when you buy the pack of 100 and you only have to keep that one style in stock instead of monitoring supplies of several different designs. Once you choose a palette and materials for your line and design the basic pattern all you have to do is modify it slightly for long or short, single- or multi-strand styles, etc. Having a line also encourages customers to buy sets.

Most designers create at least four lines per year, one for each season. Let’s say your niche is gemstones and silver. In the spring you might have a line of lightweight necklaces in two or three lighter color combinations. For each palette you would design necklaces in choker, 20”, 24” and 32” lengths along with single or multi-strand bracelets and an assortment of earring styles. Your displays will look appropriate to the season’s fashions, be harmonious because all your pieces work together, and you will only have to invest in a limited palette of stones for the season. You should always have a few one-of-a-kind “show stoppers” that coordinate with your line.


Pricing & Profits

Start Small
Everybody makes mistakes and it’s a lot better to make small mistakes than big ones. If you are new to business, don’t quit your day job or max out your credit cards before you even start up. Transition your hobby into a business gradually, reinvesting your profits as you go. Experiment with home shows and other inexpensive sales channels to get customer feedback and refine your designs and selling skills before incurring hefty show fees and travel expense to attend big shows.

Many things will change as your company evolves. The tools and supplies you thought you’d need might not be the right ones, so buy only what you really need and add items gradually. The market you end up in might not be the one you aimed for, so be cautious about jumping on “great deals” for large amounts of inventory. It’s only a good deal if you can sell it. Grow your inventory of materials in sync with your sales. You might move, so print stationery, invoices, business cards, etc, in sensible quantities. You may decide you hate shows and would rather wholesale, so be creative and cost conscious when designing your first booth rather spending lots of money on the latest high tech tents, lights and fixtures.

How Much Inventory?
When you are starting out it’s really hard to know how much to make, how much to bring to a show, etc. An odd rule of thumb I’ve found to work is that at a good show you can expect to sell about half of what you bring. That means, of course, that the more you bring the more you sell. However, this is only true if the show is well attended and is a good fit for your work. Your goals must also be realistic.
Ideally you would have an idea what the average vendor makes at a show. Some shows and guides publish these statistics or you may get a friend in the business to share some information—your best bet is someone in non-competing media.

Let’s say the 100-booth show attracts 5,000 visitors and the gross sales are $200,000. That means the average attendee spent $40 and the average vendor made $2,000. That’s not bad for a local weekend show. So if you were planning to do this show, your average prices should be in the $40 range and you should have at least $4,000 worth of inventory made and ready to take to the show. If your location is good, your booth is attractive, your style matches the customers, and your sales skills are effective you could make far more than the average. On the other hand, if you did this show with only $1000 worth of inventory you could not realize your potential even with the best jewelry, displays, and selling skills.

Custom Orders
There are several reasons why you might want to take custom orders. Your niche might be service, you will adapt or create anything for anyone. You may have limited inventory and cash and need to take orders and get paid up front for multiples or modified versions of a few sample designs. You might be unsure of your own design and color sense and want the customers to help you out by telling you what they want. You might enjoy the collaborative effort of working with your customers to create unique designs.

The main reason you might not want to take custom orders: Communication about what is desired is often not clear, so you can end up doing it over and over without getting paid adequately for time and materials. To help avoid this situation be sure you get at least a 50% deposit up front and create a written work sheet to document the customer’s requests regarding materials, length, style, price, etc. Also include your and the customer’s contact information and specify a delivery date and balance due. You and the customer should both sign the agreement and each keep a copy.

Understanding Your Customers
To sell effectively you need to know some things about your customers. Why do they buy your jewelry? Your sales approach could be different depending on whether the item is for themselves or for a gift. What is their budget? What can they actually afford versus what do they really want to spend? If you know the answer you can better tailor your suggestions. Asking outright might not work, so you can show her pieces at various price points to find out where her comfort zone is. Don’t underestimate your customers’ resources, start high and work down rather than starting at the bottom and working up.

Ask open ended questions: “Who will this necklace be for?” rather than “Is it a gift?” The former gives the customer a chance to tell you about themselves or the recipient, while the latter just gives you a “yes” or “no” and puts the ball back in your court. The more you can get your customer to talk about what they want and why, the better you can help them make a selection that will work and bring them back for more. Just remember not to keep the conversation related to the jewelry, especially if other customers are waiting for your attention.

Fads and Fashion
One advantage of being a small business is that you can quickly change course to stay on top of fads. You are making jewelry today that you can sell next week. The multi-national conglomerates place their orders a year in advance so they can’t easily adjust. Fashion forward shops, magazines, websites, and TV shows can be good places to spot the latest fads. Younger customers tend to be more sensitive to fads than mature women who have developed their own style.

You can ignore fads if you want to, but fashion trends do impact almost everyone in the jewelry business. Trends take a little longer to manifest and have more staying power than fads, often lasting several years. Trends include shifts from big and bold jewelry to small, delicate or minimalist styles; from long to short necklaces; from bright colors to subdued; from formal to casual, etc. Even if your niche is out of step with current trends, you will have some loyal customers who like your style no matter what. But if you make some concessions to trends, you will have more customers. Trends are especially important if you are wholesaling because store buyers are trend watchers.


Records & Taxes


Selling

There’s a Market for Everything
Sometimes we think our work is not good enough to sell. Let’s look at how you define good. There is a market for almost everything if the price is right. Granted you will not be able to get the big bucks for your earrings if the design is simple and the materials are cheap. But guess what? There are a lot of people out there who would just love to buy a simply but trendy pair of earrings for a low price on impulse. The trick is to match your work to the market.

No matter how exquisite you gemstones and how detailed your gold wirework, if your earrings are priced at $300 you are just not going to sell any at the local flea market or church bazaar. On the other hand, the high-end gallery is not going to be interested in your simple plated hoops with plastic beads even if they showcase the latest hot colors and sell for only $4.99. Pick the venues, including homes or offices, shows and fairs, shops and galleries, that best match your style and price points.

Be Professional
When you start your own home-based business you can work in your pajamas if you want to, but when you meet your customers you will do much better if you present yourself as a professional. This means appropriate clothes and grooming for the environment. You wouldn’t wear a suit to sell at a casual summer craft fair, and you shouldn’t show up to an appointment with a store buyer in a dirty T-shirt. Know the environment you are going into and always make sure your outfit also serves as a pleasing backdrop for your jewelry. Wear a necklace that is for sale, because whatever you are wearing, someone will want to buy it!

And professionalism goes beyond appearances: Arrive early to set up for shows and on time for appointments with buyers. Practice exuding confidence, even if you don’t feel it yet. Smile, make eye contact, speak clearly, and be upbeat. Why should anyone take a chance on your work if you are complaining about poor sales? Give pertinent information about your jewelry or business, but also allow some silence so the buyer can think. Be organized and respect the buyer’s time. All your prices should be clearly marked and have your policies in writing. See other tips for more info on these subjects.

Creating Desire
Although some people may claim they “need” a new piece of jewelry, buying jewelry is more about wants than needs. That means we have to create the desire to own what we make. How? Step one is to set the stage: create an environment for your work that supports its style, price point, and the desire you want to evoke in your customers. Consider the following examples and then create the environment that best supports your work.

If you sell jewelry made of frosted beach glass and shells wrapped with silver wire you might want to create the desire to remember a vacation at the beach. Your display would consist of jewelry draped over driftwood, earring cards standing in trays of sand, with a few shells and some little paper drinks umbrellas.  If you want to create the desire for a bargain you might set up your booth to look like a bonanza of close-outs with brightly colored tags screaming low prices. And if you want to create the desire to shop at Tiffany’s your display would be clean and understated with upscale one-of-a kind pieces showcased on velvet busts and classical music softly playing in the background…

Identifying Your Niche
The dictionary defines niche as “the place or activity in which you are best able to thrive”. For your business that means the place where you best fit and can prosper. For small businesses it can be a small niche. For example you might specialize in jewelry featuring your school’s colors or mascot. This would help you identify your target market as students, parents and alumni of your school.

Expanding the focus a bit, your niche could relate to subject like jewelry for pets; material, polymer clay; function, healing gemstones; technique, wire working; or form, hair jewelry or mothers’ baby name bracelets. Each of these niches offers the opportunity to sell in specialized venues in addition to the usual shows and stores. Cat and dog necklaces in pet shops, hair jewelry in salons, healing gems in spas and yoga studios, mothers’ bracelets in maternity shops. Think about other possible niches including weddings, religious or spiritual groups, sports fans, holidays, food and wine themes, travel, astrological signs or birthstones…

Understanding Your Customers
To sell effectively you need to know some things about your customers. Why do they buy your jewelry? Your sales approach could be different depending on whether the item is for themselves or for a gift. What is their budget? What can they actually afford versus what do they really want to spend? If you know the answer you can better tailor your suggestions. Asking outright might not work, so you can show her pieces at various price points to find out where her comfort zone is. Don’t underestimate your customers’ resources, start high and work down rather than starting at the bottom and working up.

Ask open ended questions: “Who will this necklace be for?” rather than “Is it a gift?” The former gives the customer a chance to tell you about themselves or the recipient, while the latter just gives you a “yes” or “no” and puts the ball back in your court. The more you can get your customer to talk about what they want and why, the better you can help them make a selection that will work and bring them back for more. Just remember not to keep the conversation related to the jewelry, especially if other customers are waiting for your attention.

Price Sheet
If you produce multiples of jewelry in your line, a price sheet or line sheet can come in handy for soliciting orders. If you sell wholesale it’s almost indispensable. You can produce these on your home computer, get them copied at the local copy shop, and eventually your sales may justify getting them professionally printed with full color images of your designs. Don’t print more than you’re likely to need. If you are confident that your designs will keep selling, but worried the prices might have to change, print two sheets, one with the color images and stock numbers, and a separate price list you update more often.

At the top of the sheet print your company name and contact information. Depending on whether you are selling retail or wholesale title the sheet accordingly: “Wholesale Price Sheet” for example. Then in an orderly way list the items in your line with brief description, stock number, and wholesale price. For example: Lapis necklace 24 inches with silver beads / NLS24 / $225. At the bottom of the sheet spell out your terms relating to order and reorder minimums, returns, turn around time, and forms and terms of payment accepted. 

Invoices
An invoice is the form you use to bill your customer for merchandise you deliver or ship. This could be an individual with a custom order, or a wholesale buyer who is ordering multiples of your designs for her gallery. You can produce invoices on your computer or have them printed. You will need two identical copies, one for you to keep and one to send to the buyer. Customers will write checks to the name on your invoice, so be sure it matches your bank account.

An invoice must include the following at the top: your name and/or company name, address, phone, and e-mail, spaces to write in the customer’s complete name and contact information, the date, an order number, the date the order is shipped or delivered, the terms and forms of payment accepted. Next come column headings for Quantity, Description, Stock number, Price and Extension. Extension is the quantity times the price. Below these headings will be 10 to 20 rows for you to write in the items ordered. If you are selling to a store the description will be brief. If you are doing custom orders you may need to allow extra space for description. Leave space at the bottom for a Subtotal of the merchandise, Tax (only if you are selling direct to the customer), Shipping (if applicable), Total, Deposit Received, and Total Due

 

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