About 5 years back, when we curated the first Crafter's Expo, it was imperative and kinda novel, because it hadn't been done before.
The platform was founded to give home to all craftpreneurs who did not have the dedicated arrangements or arena for craft based work offline. Kinda like a meet and greet for the hands behind handmade.
Exhibitions have been around forever. I took part in several of them before identifying what was lacking in them and hosted my own.
While today, there is grave awareness, lots of competition, and a general need to be out there, I feel it is integral to understand your own brand, your own work and be dedicated to your own cause or craft.
Step One. Identify why you're doing this.
Over the years, I've worked with over 500 individual brands. Yes. 500. Alhamdulillah. Out of this number, however, a good number of these brands do not operate today, or feel they haven't their mojo. Which brings us to an important question. Why are we here and why are we doing this? So often we hear stories about why someone began their endeavor. Sometimes it's because times were hard, they needed to earn extra income, other times it's because they wanted to overcome a loss, grief or void. Some even began entrepreneurship because 'everyone was doing it'.
With 'Happiness Is Handmade' we realized that crafters in general had a different energy and dedication as compared to other commercial endeavors. Each of them has had a heartfelt story to tell and a reason to stand.
Whatever YOUR REASON... Be consistent. Your passion resonates in the work you put across on platforms. If you don't recall why you're here or what your motivation is, you lose focus. That's when all the nitty gritty details start weighing you down, why you become discouraged and why it becomes easier to toss your hands in the air and say, forget it.
Keep your mind and heart on your ambition, dedicate yourself to your craft. Don't leap into the market to compete with others, do it to make things better for yourself, to improve YOUR understanding of a craft, a product or passion.
Step Two. Identify whom you're catering to.
It's really simple when it comes to deciding where you want to place yourself. If there is a showcase of floral arrangements and beautiful decor, you're not exactly going to go exhibit your meat cutting skills or the finest cold cuts. That is such an odd place for your product. Target your market. Is it segmented. Is it a niche. Who are you creating for? Are they going to be there, where you plan to display or exhibit? Can they pay for your work?
If you can clarify these points within your thought process, you don't really need to go around worrying about your work being a misfit.
Step Three. Pull up the socks. It's all or nothing.
Often times we are overburdened with opportunities that we feel compelled to leap for. Slow and steady is alright. Every venture, every event, every project should be important and given it utmost attention. Only take on commitments you know you can fulfill. A lot of times we fear the What If factor. What if we had said yes. What if we had gone for it. What if we pushed ourselves then. In this fear, we end up downplaying our value as an individual and as a crafts person at times. Being dedicated does not imply you exhibit every weekend. It also means you spend ample time researching. Creating and innovating. You also seek opportunities that are correct for you rather than just 'opportunities'.
Took me a good 7 years to identify some for Firefly. It works differently for everyone that's why it is imperative we identify what sort of work we are producing and whom we wish to cater to. I will not lower the costs or time I invest in a photo book just to create more and to cater to more customers. I am definitely comfortable producing fewer pieces and catering to customers who value what I have put together for them. This allows me time to create and explore other things..including outreach projects, workshops, seminars, and more.
You also do not need to piece together a party in 10k or a goody bag in 75 Rupees just cause the client wants it. Do something and do it well. All or nothing doesn't mean hop-scotching, it means you work diligently for each of your set goals and in making your mark.
Personal Experiences and Tips
A lot of craft based brands create more for the sake of creative exploration and 'art'. That is perfectly fine but you have to remember that the work you produce will sit within a Niche. Lilla Rogers, a representative and agent for numerous illustrators and independent artists actually has a workshop program called Make Art that Sells. This actually is integral to growth and understanding the market by producing work that is actually marketable, sellable and has utility.
Some of us create for the sake of aesthetic. What if that aesthetic also incorporated purpose? Product design is important and a big reason why local consumers will lift or drop your creative endeavors.
This does not mean you create to please others, but it does mean to create sensibly especially when you're preparing for an upcoming exhibition. Create items that people will actually purchase and use rather than items they'll admire and then walk away from.
This is why at the end of some events, there is a good variation in the number of sales reached by different participants.
You also need to be your biggest salesman. You cannot leave it to others. Market your brand, share it with loved ones. Believing your work is good and people are plenty to talk about it... It isn't enough. You have to talk about it. Maybe not spam everyone's Facebook timelines, but share your projects.. What you're up to. Share behind the scenes. Share the finished result. It's exciting and engaging. It also brings you feedback. This hype creates a platform to launch new ideas and to get pre event publicity as well if you're gaming for an event.
Please also do not produce work or items that can easily be replicated by someone else. Creativity may not always be tangible but you can produce work that has your signature. Anyone who'd recreate it would have to wonder 50 times on how they possibly can.
Remember that less is more. Not everyone goes through art school, but the general public has a fairly decent aesthetic that allows them to decipher from what's horrible and hideous vs composed and beautiful. You don't need to stuff the flowers, the butterflies, the locks, the keys, the shells, the hearts all in one composition. And if you do, study principles and elements of design to help you understand layouts that work better. Some colors and techniques mixed with the above are over kill and may appear unappealing or gaudy. No doubt handmade work is hard work, it's also important to create items that fit well aesthetically and can offer utility.
Don't undermine or devalue yourself. And don't use social media to vent on others for it. Hold yourself together, dignified. All of us have down days and are struggling. But negativity, nay say and criticism does not always need the front seat in your life. You are your best cheerleader. Believe in the work you're doing, the magic you're creating and maybe the lives you're impacting. If you don't have that sparkle in your eyes when talking about what you're most passionate about, you cannot expect the person across the room to either.
Never be discouraged by 'sales'. As an entrepreneur, that is always a question mark. Keep exploring. At events, do not go with an intention to break records, but tell yourself this is a part of introducing yourself to new people, prospect new opportunities and being a part of what you love. Rizq comes from Him. Remember to be content always. ❤
I've shared all this as there's so much need to speak of it, yet no one does. We should constantly be on the search to better ourselves but not at the comfort of putting down someone else or disrespecting another person's efforts. This also implies the need for ethics and integrity as absolute pillars for whatever you're doing. The person you are copying word for word, plagiarize flower by flower or stalking event by event is not blind, nor are they unintelligent. They know you and what you're doing. Just because you haven't publicly been called out on it, doesn't make it okay for you to keep doing so.
Anything founded on the base of deceit, lies, envy or vengeance will not flourish or bloom. He helps those who help themselves, and we're all answerable for our actions, whether its justly dealing with vendors, customers or even competitors.
Hope this comforts some of you undergoing dark clouds. Smile Sunshine.
PS: registrations for #INDIE17 are open. Email firstname.lastname@example.org