Craftcation Recap

It’s been almost a week and I’m still not sure I’m fully recovered from the Craftcation conference.  I was scheduled to run three sessions in three days, but then added a fourth at the last minute when another speaker had to cancel.  Having been a middle school teacher for six years, where you teach 4-5 hours a day, I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but I was exhausted at the end of every day.  I forgot how tiring it can be when all of your down time between sessions is spent networking, even meals!

Moving your Business Beyond the Kitchen Table panel at Craftcation with me (moderator), Angharad Jones, Delilah Snell and Nicole Stevenson

Despite my exhaustion, I had a really good time.  I love helping other creatives (especially women) get their businesses on the right track, and I got to spend a little quality time with other energizing crafty business ladies.  I had one particularly raucous dinner with Steph Cortes from NerdJerk, Rosalie from Unanimous Craft, Marlo Miyashiro, Danielle from Etsy, Ashley Jennings, and Rena Tom that I will not soon forget.  I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

Marlo, Rena and me

I was really pleased to see such great attendance at Craftcation, though some of my sessions didn’t run quite as smoothly as I’d hoped.  The session on pricing was so popular that the room became a fire hazard and we had to start turning people away.  We also didn’t have a working projector, but the attendees all rallied their technology so that each table could view the slides on a shared iPad.  The marketing session was also a full house and we ended up running out of handouts halfway through, but my helper for that one, Stephanie, was freaking amazing.  I understand that you can never quite predict session attendance, and besides, shit happens, but I want to make sure that anyone who couldn’t attend or take home handouts has a chance to access the materials.  Y’all paid good money to attend the conference after all, so here are the links to the materials from my three solo sessions (the panel didn’t have materials):

Full house at the Marketing on a Budget Session at Craftcation

One thing I’m having trouble with is measuring the ROI of this conference to my own business.  The benefits are so intangible for the most part that it’s tough to tell whether offering three days of (essentially) free teaching will pay for itself in the long term.  I really like teaching, so there’s that intangible benefit right off the bat, but does it make up for the three days I couldn’t work on any of my own projects?  Right now I’m leaning towards “yes”, but I couldn’t give you any hard evidence for why I’m leaning that way.  Right now it’s just a gut feeling surrounding the concept of “networking”.

How do you figure out when to take on projects that are peripheral to your creative business, like speaking, writing and teaching?  I could honestly really use some help with this one.

Ventura, Here We Come!

Headed down to Ventura this morning to spend the weekend at the Craftcation Conference. I’ll be teaching three four sessions there:

  • Moving Your Business Beyond the Kitchen Table (panel)
  • Marketing on a Budget
  • Pricing Your Handmade Work
  • Accounting/Bookkeeping for Crafters

I’m excited to see far-flung friends Jenny Hart (at a conference I’m NOT organizing, for a change!) and Danielle Maveal (see this video Q&A we did together last month), and to spend time with fellow SF crafty-business ladies Stephanie Cortez from NerdJerk and Rena Tom.

For a little pre-conference recommended reading, please peruse this article I recently posted to design*sponge on approaching other business owners for advice.

Looking forward to trading business cards with y’all.

CCE 2011

I realize that I haven’t posted much lately, nor will I get through the mountain of no-longer-relevant items that I meant to post until mid-August at the earliest.  Why?  Because I have been eating, sleeping, and breathing the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs.

Not to toot my own horn, but our schedule and speaker line-up has tuned out pretty kick-ass, don’t you think?  I’m especially excited to hear Jeff Rudell’s keynote address.  He is one of my personal heroes and it felt like a real coup to get him on board.  I’ll be posting an interview and sneak peek with him in the next week or two.  Other amazing speakers include:

  • Meg Mateo Ilasco, author of Creative, Inc. and Craft, Inc. and creator of Anthology magazine
  • Diane Gilleland, Editor-in-Chief of Craftzine.com
  • Erin Loechner of DesignforMankind.com and Uppercase magazine
  • Christine Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop
  • Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith of The Curiosity Shoppe, authors of two Show Me How books, and creative directors of the Pop Up Magazine events
  • Artist and Illustrator Lisa Congdon
  • Cathe Holden of JustSomethingIMade.com
  • and more than 40 other generous and helpful experts

But seriously, check out the schedule and then register for all three days because it’s going to rock the free world and I want you all there with me.  You can RSVP for the CCE 2011 event on Facebook (and invite friends as well) or “like” the conference page.

Last Chance for a Free CCE Ticket!

The free ticket giveaway on design*sponge ends tomorrow at 8AM for the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs, so if you want a chance to win, act quickly!  The rules are at the bottom of my latest “biz ladies” article, titled “Maintain Confidence in a Competitive Market,” which is all about keeping it together as a creative professional when everyone else in the world seems younger, skinnier and more talented than you.

If you’d like to remove the element of chance altogether, you can get your ticket at the CCE site, which has day passes and full weekend passes available for extremely reasonable prices.

Etsy 101 Class at Workshop SF 6/24

On Thursday, 6/24 I will be teaching an Introduction to Etsy workshop from 7-10pm at Workshop SF (corner of Baker and McAllister).  I’ll cover everything you need to know to be a success on Etsy, as well as lots of general business and branding tips.  This is a pretty hands-on and interactive class, where we’ll address issues specific to your business, not a big, boring lecture.  If you’re considering testing out the waters of entrepreneurship on Etsy, this is a great little class to start with.  April’s class was a huge success and sold out completely, so if you’d like to attend, I recommend signing up early.  As of this post, there were only five spots left!

CCE on Kickstarter!

Hey Folks!  Remember how I told you all about Kickstarter a few weeks ago?  Well, I drank my own Kool-Aid and put up a project to help fund the CCE!  It took a lot of work, including 12 hours just on the video portion, but it was well worth it.  Even if we don’t get funded all the way I’ll still be proud of this proposal.  It’s the first video I’ve ever shot and edited, and though the sound isn’t great (all the footage was shot in crowded and windy outdoor spaces), I thought I handled the background music pretty well. Please go watch it and tell me what you think!  Oh, and if you were to help support our little conference with a tiny donation, I will love you forever.

Do you have any tips or stories to share about a grant, loan application, or other funding proposal you put together?  Please share them in the comments!

Plush 101 Class!

Do you live in the Bay Area?  Would you like to learn how to design and make your own plush toys?  You’re in luck, because I’m teaching an Intro to Plush class on Monday night at Workshop SF!  Just in time for Valentine’s Day, learn how to make a unique gift for your sweetie.  Hey, it’s how the Uglydolls got started….

Update: this class just got moved to the week of the 2/15.  More details when I have them….

NorCal SBDC Offers Small Business Classes Online

I’ve written before about how awesome the San Francisco SBDC’s accounting workshop series is, but it’s really no help to those of you who live outside the Bay Area.  Well today I discovered that the Santa Rosa SBDC is running a ton of classes online, so now you can take them from anywhere!  Unlike the workshop series, which was just four full days of instruction, the online offerings appear to be full six-week courses, but the pacing is considerably more manageable than the intensive workshops.  They put the full syllabi online beforehand, so you can decide which class (if any) is right for you.   Most classes seem to be really specific (i.e. Quickbooks 2007, 2008 and 2009 are all separate classes) and they cost under $100.  Sweet!

Happy New Year

Fall is the beginning of my year.  It always has been.  In the first place, I’m Jewish, so I celebrate the new year in the fall rather than in January.  I take stock and make my resolutions in the fall.  Fall is also when school starts, and when people come back after having a long break.  Fall is when I naturally feel compelled to start in new directions and when the economy begins to ramp up again.

This year my main goal is to take those new directions and make them more, um…directed.  I’m trying to set clear, achievable goals for each of my current projects, which I am trying to cull and focus in service of a greater professional goal: an independent and sustainable career as a creative professional.

I’ve decided I need help with this, so I’ve been in contact with Lisa at the Renaissance Business Center here in San Francisco.  Renaissance is a non-profit dedicated to helping people start and/or grow small businesses.  What makes them different from SCORE, SBA and the SBDC is that they are much more focused on providing intensive, long-term assistance.  Two programs I’m currently looking at are their 14-week business planning course (which has been described as a mini-MBA program), and their 1-3 year business incubation program (probably the virtual incarnation).  I’ve got a tour and orientation on Wednesday.  Hopefully they can help me focus and kick my ass a little.

In the meantime, I’ve been applying for some holiday shows, and trying to create new wares for them.  The one I’m currently most excited about is DesignerCon in L.A. (formerly Vinyl Toy Network).  It’s sort of a combo trade fair/cash-and-carry for folks who make the kinds of things you see in designer toy and comic shops — plush and vinyl collectibles, limited-edition prints, and character-driven art of all kinds.  At $125 for a one-day booth, the cost is comparable to your standard craft fair.  I’m planning on showcasing/selling Sweet Meats on one side of the booth, and presenting samples of my plush design work on the other.  DesignerCon is on November 21st, which gives me a concrete deadline by which to have my new web site and business cards done, as well samples of next year’s toy line.

A little bit further down the list is a book proposal.  I’ve heard from fellow crafters that writing an instructional book is extremely difficult and takes about a year of full-time work to complete.  According to Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo, just writing the proposal takes a week.  Things being what they are in publishing, writing a book is often not very lucrative, assuming that your proposal even gets picked up a by a publisher in the first place, which is unlikely.  On the other hand, authoring a successful book significantly increases your profile as an expert in your field, leading (hopefully) to press, more clients and higher rates.  What doesn’t get picked up you can always publish on your own, so I’m keeping it as an option for now.

As for making a Thing-A-Day, I’m still doing it, though I’ve fallen back on the “work on an existing project for 30 minutes” net a couple of times this week.  Yesterday I made and decorated a cake for my friends’ 26th/30th birthdays, but I didn’t like it enough to photograph it.  Otherwise I’ve mostly been working on re-making my pieces for the Plush You show next month.

It’s going to be a busy fall.  I’ll keep you posted about what I learn along the way.  Happy New Year, everyone!

Worth Its Weight: Top Ten Typography Mistakes

Maybe it’s because I just saw that “Helvetica” movie, but I thought I should share this with you: Brian Hoff’s “10 Common Typography Mistakes.” This is a great primer for anyone DIY-ing the design of their own marketing materials.  Even if you have no professional design training, using these tips will get halfway to having a professional-looking brochure or web site. via swissmiss

typographymistake