I understand, in theory, the way to really make money.  Invent something and manufacture it-  meaning- hire someone else to actually produce the goods and handle distribution.  This approach to making money doesn’t have much of a limit beyond the potential market size.

Or, invent something digital and build it, usually with the help of venture funding.

basically, invent something and then remove your personal body self and time from the process of building and distribution.

The artisanal approach is limited-  by working hours in the day.  Artisanal manufacturing; whether it’s bread or pottery or handmade clothing-  isn’t very scalable.  If you are good at developing the market, products can sell for multiples the price of a mass-produced item, but even there one will find limits.  For instance-  local market.  Big cities support higher prices than small cities.

I’m always amused by how differently people view the prices in my shop:  people from Boston or New York will say “wow, your prices are so low!”  and people from maine will whisper to each other “this stuff is really pricey…”

I actually, honestly, think my pricing is very low for what the product is.  I’m probably just not so great at finding the market. :)

One thing that has happened over the past year is that my online sales are far better than my retail sales.  Now I like having retail store some of the time.  It’s certainly taught me good things about fit and body types, watching different shaped people try on garments.

but, the introvert in me often doesn’t want to deal with strangers-  even if they are nice and friendly, which everyone is.  I don’t love making small talk.  I’ve answered the question “do you make these things?”  a thousand times now. And, you know what, the sewing machines aren’t for show.

We’ve laughed about how to add signage to the front door explaining my sales approach.  In addition to the ‘hours by chance or appointment’ might it make sense to add:

“I’m working here.  I won’t bother you as you browse, and please don’t bother me unless you need help. If you want to buy something, that’s lovely, but I certainly won’t pressure you, or even say anything more than hello, unless I’m in a (rare) outgoing mood. And please don’t be offended, it’s not you.  I just don’t like making small talk. – the taciturn garmenter.”

I’ve tried quite a few approaches to selling in the years since I’ve been making clothing.  some work dramatically better than others, no surprise.  Right now selling on etsy.com works the best.

And I’ve also, quite consciously, made the choice to produce artisanal clothing.  When I started my business, I had visions of growing it, manufacturing via sewing contractors, having employees, etc.  And I tried those things, and found, simply, they didn’t suit my personality.  I actually LIKE making things, by hand.  And I DISLIKE managing people, managing external production, and, the thought of selling via tradeshows makes me cringe.

So, were I to desire to grow this business, I’d need to find someone else to at least do some of the stuff I like doing, and I’d have to spend more time doing things I dislike. Can I reframe this somehow? what am I missing?

Posted by:brook delorme

8 replies on “artisanal living

  1. Hi Brooke
    Great post. I would say you’re not missing anything. You actually get what it means to be a small business person for so many of us. We’ve been told for eons that growth is crucial, treat your business as though you would want to franchise it, and that working “on” your business is more important than working “in” your business. To all that, I say rubbish. Michael Gerber contends that most small businesses aren’t started by true entrepreneurs but by technicians who’ve had an “entrepreneurial seizure.” So what’s wrong with that, if you enjoy doing what you do more than managing other people doing it? I think that what too many business consultants don’t get is that so many of us find our real joy in the making. They would have us all making for someone else – a boss – and that’s missing the point. And let’s face it, if you make something that can be mass produced it will be mass produced in China eventually.

  2. I don’t think you necessarily have to find someone who likes to do the things you like doing and you have to do the things you dislike doing. If I were in business and had a storefront where customers came off the street, I’d make sure I had someone in the store who ENJOYED interacting customers and making them feel special. People pick up when they are considered an unwanted intrusion. A lot of people won’t spend a dime with someone that they don’t feel treated them like they wanted to be treated.

    It’s wonderful that etsy works best for you.

    1. Mary- specifically, one of the things I would prefer to avoid is having an employee! This is both due to my introverted nature and a resistance to day-to-day obligation. I think the thing about business I dislike the most is managing people at ANY level- even non-employees…and this is the aspect I’m trying to reframe/ get some new perspective on.

      I do understand that potential customers can sense my mood. That was actually where the discussion regarding additional signage started…as my sweetie said “good prosody makes any message palatable.” probably haven’t figured out good prosedy for this one yet ;)

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