Author: Sara Tams

Spring Cleaning for your Shop: Keeping your Product Mix Fresh

by Sara Tams of sarah + abraham

a few of my new products that have been well received

Last year I shared a timeline of how I started and developed sarah + abraham over the past three years, and last month I talked about a few collaborations that I’ve been a part of. In both of those posts I mentioned several new products that I’ve begun offering along the way.

Product development is a lot of work (deciding what options to offer, product photography, creating listings, etc.), but also a lot of fun. Every time I decide to begin offering a new product, I feel really energized and enjoy promoting it. When it’s time to send out my monthly newsletter it’s so much more fun to write when I have a new product to share, especially one that I think my customers are really going to love.

But I also try to keep the products that I offer on my website limited to only the ones that are really good sellers. I want to keep my site clean and not cluttered with items that no one is buying. When someone visits my website I want them to immediately see the best of what I have to offer and not see any products that I don’t feel great about.

a few of my favorite items that I no longer offer

Sometimes the products that don’t sell well are items that I wasn’t too sure about to begin with, and it’s easy to let them go. Other times I realize that something that I absolutely love and thought would be a big hit just isn’t selling. It’s much harder to let go of those items, but I’m ruthless about it. When something isn’t selling (like the cute stationery items pictured above) or isn’t working for me (such as icing decals), it has to go.

Over the past couple of years I’ve added 570 items to my website and deleted 380 of them! I’d hate to know how many hours that adds up to for developing products I no longer offer, but until I put something out there, I won’t know how well it will do. For several months I was hesitant to begin offering plates and bowls, but once I did, they quickly became the top selling items in my shop. So I keep that in mind any time I start to question the time I’m spending on new product development, and when I decide to get rid of something, I get rid of it and don’t look back.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on adding new products and getting rid of the duds. Have any of your products surprised you with how well or how poorly they’ve sold?

Growing your Business through Collaboration with other Small Business Owners

by Sara Tams of sarah + abraham

When Jessika announced this month’s theme, I knew right away that I wanted to write about three successful collaborations that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of over the past few years.

sarah + abraham gift labels, calling cards, and return address labels available at honeybunch

The first was with Nicole at Honeybunch. Nicole and I met online shortly after I launched my Etsy shop in 2007. We got to know each other a little, and she expressed an interest in selling my products in her shop. Unfortunately, my pricing structure doesn’t work well for wholesale accounts, and Honeybunch is based in Canada, which meant higher shipping costs. Over the next couple of years we tinkered with products and pricing, continually trying to work out arrangements that would be mutually beneficial.

In August 2009 Nicole had a great idea. She was in need of a new color printer, and she asked me what I thought about her buying the same printer and materials that I use so that I could email PDFs to her instead of printing and shipping products to Canada. This has worked out beautifully. I’m happy selling PDFs to her, and she’s able to make a decent profit and deliver the products to her customers faster by printing them herself.

a few items from the olliegraphic collection at sarah + abraham

Later in 2009, as I was looking for new product ideas, I came across Meg’s Olliegraphic shop on Etsy. I fell in love with her illustrations and noticed that she didn’t offer printed items, only printables. I contacted her to see if she’d be interested in working together, and we were able to work out a royalty-based arrangement that has been great for both of us. The Olliegraphic line that I offer has been well received by my customers, and in addition to paying Meg royalties, I provide a link to her website on my Olliegraphic product pages so that my customers can contact her for custom designs and/or printables.

My latest collaboration was with a friend, Jen Doerzaph, who approached me with an idea to make high-quality, completely hand-sewn pillows featuring Olliegraphic designs. I ran the idea past Meg, and once she approved the designs, Jen made a bunch of samples to photograph, and we were quickly able to begin offering the pillows.

I’ve been so pleased with all of these collaborations. I think that they’ve worked out so well because all of us have been respectful of each other, flexible, and truly interested in creating arrangements that we can all be happy with. None of us are trying to get the better end of the deal or succeed at someone else’s expense. I believe that when two (or more) people enter into a collaboration with honest intentions and a desire to create a win-win situation, they can accomplish so much more than they’d be able to on their own.

Have you collaborated with other small business owners? Please leave a comment and let us know about your experiences!

Building A Local Handmade Network

by Sara Tams of sarah + abraham

The items pictured above are offered by six talented women living in the Chicago area who I’m very lucky to be able to get together with in person a few times a year.

1. Meg Bartholomy, olliegraphic

2. Stacy Amoo-Mensa, Name Your Design

3. Debbie Lee, Penelope’s Press

4. Julie Chen, Life Verse Design

5. Megan Nutley, Silhouette Blue

6. Dacia Gravlin, Lima Bean Kids

Since launching sarah + abraham in 2007 I’ve made a lot of online friends who are amazingly willing to answer questions and offer feedback, but nothing compares to getting together with fellow designers/artisans/entrepreneurs in person.

The first time I got together with a local entrepreneur who I had met online, we were both a little hesitant and unsure of what to expect. She had gotten to know a little about me through my blog, and we exchanged several emails before deciding to meet at a library with our kids. It was amazing how much we had in common and how much we had to talk about. Since then it’s gotten easier and easier to suggest getting together in person after meeting local entrepreneurs online, and every single time I get together with someone new I’m so glad I did.

Every few months I get together with the group of women that I mentioned above. We all work from home and spend most of our workdays in front of a computer, so it’s really nice to get away from our computers and talk with each other in person. We’re able to bounce ideas off of each other, vent our  frustrations, offer encouragement, and share resources and contacts. We all speak the same language of Etsy, PayPal, blogging, etc. so we’re able to have conversations with each other that we sometimes can’t have with our friends and families who aren’t a part of this online community. Every time we get together I leave feeling energized and full of new ideas.

If you don’t already know any local women who share your business interests, I can’t say enough about what a valuable resource it is. An easy way to find local Etsy sellers is through Etsy :: Shop Local. If there are any sellers who you’re interested in meeting, a great way to get to know a little bit about them first (or for them to get to know a little about you) is through blogs and Facebook fan pages. And then don’t be shy – send an email introducing yourself, get to know them a little through email, and then suggest getting together.

Do you have a local group that you meet up with? Have you met up with any local Etsy sellers in person? Please leave a comment and let us know about your experiences!