Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

To what direction to take my business....?


#1

Hi,

I have just signed up to this list but have often visited to sift
through the archives which I have found immensely helpful. I now find
myself in a position where I want to make a fairly significant change
in direction for my work and could really do with some guidance.

First, a little about me to set the context. I majored in gold and
silversmithing at college. I fell in love with metalwork under the
guidance of a very kind and extremely talented teacher who
specialised in raised vessels. After getting to do only one raised
piece myself, this teacher had to leave due to the powers that be
deciding his position could no longer be afforded. I ended up then
being taught by another teacher under a changed curriculum based
soley on jewellery making. It felt like a tough break but I went
with the flow and learnt what I could hoping to get back to what I
loved about gold and silversmithing. After some time I had
accumulated a lot of jewellery tools and it seemed logical to make
jewellery. I spent a couple of years putting together some jewellery
stock before being forced out of my day job by injury. Following this
my partner and I decided I should take a leap into trying to make
some income from my jewellery. I spent the time doing the necessary
paperwork and setting up a business structure and then we hit the
markets with my wares. This brings us to now.

Well, we havent had much luck selling at the markets and its been
disappointing but very educational. We think that we have a lot to
learn in the way of sales skills and are willing to do the hard
yards. We also think trying to sell wholesale could be a good move
and we are arranging to swap services with a friend who specialises
in advising businesses. But, at the end of the day we feel its a
tough market out there because its fairly easy to aquire equipment
and learn how to make jewellery and every man and his dog is doing
it. Added to this we have noticed that we are competing with a lot of
imported cheap costume jewellery and that the vast majority of our
potential customers cant recognise quality (or have no interest in
it) but can easily compare prices and always go with the cheapest
one. Im sure there are people out there who would buy what I make if
I could find them but there is still a lot of competition. I dont
mind working hard to be competitive and we dont have a problem with
learning more about sales and marketing but when I consider just how
hard we will have to work I reflect on the work itself and see that
my heart isnt really in it - not as much as it needs to be.

I would like to change directions and start to work on hollow ware
items & small scale sculptural pieces. I feel that whilst these
pieces may have more time and materials invested in them they will
have more of a chance to get noticed and be sold than any of my
jewellery items. I feel this is the case because so far I havent
attended markets where anyone was selling hand made raised and forged
hollow ware - not even anything similar. At the same time, Ive never
attended a market where less than 5-10% of the stalls were occupied
by vendors selling jewellery. Ive also had no luck getting my
jewellery into gallery stores on consignment having been constantly
told my work is beautiful and high quality but they have no spaces
left to display jewellery. I hope that these stores might be more
open to taking on raised vessels as they are probably not so flooded
with these types of items.

I feel that with my jewellery if I had done more research before I
started I could have saved myself some time and disappointment. At
the same time I do feel that doing is one of the best ways of
learning about anything. Still, before I drop what Ive been doing and
invest in yet more equipment to do a different type of work I feel I
should do my research. But… I dont really know how to do this
research when I dont know of anyone in my area, or stores in my area,
selling this type of work. I am also thinking I need to be more
focused in the type of customer Im trying to reach. For example,
perhaps I could market my work as wedding gifts, make christening
mugs etc and try to make some inroads into the “gift industry”. On
the other hand, perhaps I need to reach the same customer base but
somehow by-pass the gift industry so that Im not competing with
cheap, mass-produced, imported items.

I realise theres a few ways to approach things. I could say “if I
make it they will come (and buy it)” - but I know this not to be
true. However, some people can sell ice to eskimos and maybe I should
look at it as “if I make it then I will find a way to sell it”. Or, I
could perhaps try to find out what they want and provide it - find a
need fill a need. On the other hand, there are those that argue that
in business some ideas are simply not viable. Im not sure how to work
out which approach to go with and am always nervous at the back of my
mind thinking “maybe handmade goods are just not viable” in this day
an age, in this particular location, at this particular price point -
etc, etc - never knowing which variables I might change for the
better.

Also, as I consider changing directions on the items I make I am
starting to become deeply interested in working in a different metal

  • pewter. As I look at the prices of cast and spun pewter goods I
    feel like my own work in pewter could be devalued by potential
    customers making the price comparison with no concept of the
    differences. So… maybe this would be a bad move… but it would be
    a pity to avoid this metal I think as it would be very suitable to
    use in tableware items as a metal that doesnt require the same level
    of upkeep as sterling silver.

If you have stayed with me this far - thank you kindly - I had hoped
to be able to explain myself in fewer word but apparently I cant. I
am hoping that you can share whatever opinions, thoughts and ideas
pop into your mind from the story I have told about myself - where I
have come and where I am looking at going. Do you think I should keep
going with the jewellery or take a stab at the holloware Id like to
do? Why? Do you think I should do something else? What do you think
of how I have been trying to sell my work and what selling
opportunities do you think I should pursue? What do you think of
working in pewter? I would really appreciate answers to any of these
questions or other you are willing to share and think Id
find helpful. Thank you for your time.

TD


#2
Added to this we have noticed that we are competing with a lot of
imported cheap costume jewellery and that the vast majority of our
potential customers cant recognise quality (or have no interest in
it) 

you have the wrong clientele. Somehow you have to find the right
audience. Might look at your price points and how they relate to both
your existing and prospective customers and the venues you might use
to reach each.

more of a chance to get noticed and be sold than any of my
jewellery items. I feel this is the case because so far I havent
attended markets where anyone was selling hand made raised and
forged hollow ware 

I’d be careful with an assumption like that. You’d really have to
size up the people that attend whatever venues you’re talking about.
If their driving force is price points, a more expensive(even its a
fair price) item may not move any better than your jewelry.

If the competition is imported stuff, that suggests to me that your
venues are not geared to the type of customer who is actively
looking for something different and willing/able to pay for it. It
might be enlightening to observe how the attendees are dressed. Even
very casual attire can be telling. The person who spends the
money/time to look a certain way might be more likely to appreciate
your wares that the one in a ragged tshirt and walmart flipflops. (is
this discrimination? yes, its exactly what you need to do though) And
look in the parking lot. Beemers or Buicks?


#3
we havent had much luck selling at the markets and its been
disappointing but very educational. We think that we have a lot to
learn in the way of sales skills 

Oh, You’ll get lots of feedback, I’m sure Aylien…

I’ll keep mine generic - I certainly don’t know you and more
importantly, your work.

One of the major models in American Jewelry in the last few decades
is jewelry schools of all kinds pumping out graduates with 40 hours
of experience who jump into a business thinking they know, and their
work is really cool. And not many succeed - several (many)here on
Orchid have been in that very spot.

“Selling” is important, but it’s true that our kind of product
mostly sells itself. Meaning that if people aren’t buying, they
probably just don’t like your product. So change your product to
something they DO like. Ditto for stores. Every schoolboy knows that
"I have to wash my hair" means “No, I won’t go out with you.” If a
store wants your product, they will MAKE room.

You’re not competing with cheap imports - that’s a common fallacy,
an excuse, really. You are competing with ME, and Neil and David and
Daniel and Noel and the chain stores and the mom and pop jewelry
stores and the art ists and the craftspeople from all over the world.
You are entering a competitive business in a competitive time. Don’t
blame it on China, though of course that’s a factor…

The only real solution is to be better if not the best. To be the
person people call and the one they go particularly to see at a
crafts show. You do that by being better - learning more, being a
better craftsman/woman, having bettter designs, all at prices people
will pay.

Nobody said it was easy. If they did, they lied to you.

You seem to have a wide variety of interests and skills - my
particular advice would be to choose the one you are best at - if
not that, then the one you love the most, and concentrate on that.
Be aware that the sculpture and custom holloware business is maybe
the toughest of them all… That’s a smaaaalll marketplace… And
don’t expect to get there overnight or probably longer than
that…

Truth: People buy what they like, and they don’t buy what they don’t
like. You have to make what they want to buy to be successful in
this business.