December 2009 Reclaimed Threads’ Business Update; Current Events, Lessons Learned and Looking Forward

Hello world!

I hope that by reading through what I have been going through the last few weeks. running my small business, that it will help anyone going through the same ordeals! If you have any suggestions, helpful links or words of encouragement never hesitate to leave a comment or email me! I love hearing from people and frankly have a few things I am struggling with and would appreciate all the help I can get!

Well, there has been a lot happening with Reclaimed Threads over the last month or so. While I was still in Pittsburgh (3 months total), I worked my butt off building up a holiday inventory that exceeded my expectations in terms of the amount I was able to produce while maintaining the high quality I demand of myself.  Now the challenge lies in my being able to continue being as productive at home (MA) where there are many more opportunities to socialize. I maintain optimistic though, now that I see what I am capable of!

Currently In The Reclaimed Threads’ Etsy Shop:

So about this holiday inventory I mentioned before… I have lots of Christmas products currently up in my shop (www.reclaimedthreads.ets.com)! I had such a great time creating unique ornaments, gift bags and accessories! Make sure to have a look, grab what you like and let me know what you think!

What Is Coming Soon To The Reclaimed Threads’ Etsy Shop:

I have about 20 bags of all shapes, sizes and colors as well as many (MANY!) more accessories finished a ready to be photographed for my Etsy shop. I was originally holding onto them because I had a few shows lined up and thought I would sell them there. This did not end up being the case (story to be shared under the “Reclaimed Threads Out and About” Section) and I am really looking forward to sharing them with a larger group of like-minded people through my shop! Make sure to stop by while you are finishing up your holiday shopping, you won’t be disappointed! My goal is to have all of these items in my shop by next Tuesday, December 15th.

TIP: I have become such a firm believer in setting deadlines for myself lately! It truly does help and when you tell your friends and family (and Facebook and Twitter followers) about your deadline then you are forced to follow through! If you don’t follow through then there is bound to be at least one person who says, I thought you said that you were going to have “X” done by today? I hate disappointing people and looking like a bad business person so this keeps me in line! I will say, though, that despite all of my planning I am missing a total of THREE Etsy Shopper Features that I had planned for the past two weeks and this week. But Thanksgiving, travel and settling back home really messed things up. I had only set loose deadlines in this case so now I am all about full disclosure and am going to put up some sort of schedule of upcoming posts in this blog so that I am locked in!

Material World:

I am soooooo happy that I found a great fabric supplier! Two actually and they have been right under my nose this whole time and I wasn’t even aware of them! There is a home consignment store in my town called Still Life (http://www.stilllifeconsignmentshop.com/) and they have a lot of fabric samples from stores as well as vintage fabric and yardage that people simply didn’t want. I want it though!! I am so happy that people are bringing these items here instead of just throwing them away!

Upstairs in the same building is a designer fabric store called Zimmans (http://zimmans.com/). NOTE: When you go to this website there is music that I can’t figure out how to turn off so be careful if you are reading this at work! haha but back to what I was saying, I was almost overwhelmed with the bins of remnants and bolt ends available here! I am a huge fan of when products, literally no matter what it is, are color coordinated. I got weak at the knees when I saw the rainbow of colors as I walked through the back of this store!

I am definitely going to become a VERY good customer of both of these businesses!

A family member also stumbled across an estate sale recently and found boxes FULL of vintage buttons!  So I have about 9 or 10 Ball glass jars full of buttons, I’m in heaven!

Reclaimed Threads Out and About:

Okay now to my big blunder of 2009. I had a  few shows the last couple of weeks but none were very fruitful. One was a holiday shopping boutique which was a lot of fun and I met many great people but traffic into the boutique show wasn’t very high so there weren’t a lot of sales. I also was at a flea market for two Sundays in a row but I had a sharp gut feeling when I agree to sign up for this (which is a long story in itself including my brother and his friend and all of us splitting a booth, which didn’t happen, etc) that a fleas market might be the most inappropriate place to try and sell handmade, one of a kind, high-end sustainable products. My gut feeling was right and I did not generate many sales but, again, met some nice people. One thing that I gained from both experiences, which I find indispensable, is face to face feedback on my products. I am thrilled to report that people’s reactions and comments were overwhelmingly positive! It makes me very happy and proud to have people, unsolicited, tell me how impressed they are especially when they are seamstresses and other handmade craftsmen which a few were!

TIP Through The Lesson I Learned From This Experience: From now on I am going to be photographing products and uploading them to my shop every week. This is no matter what events I have lined up because by hoarding my inventory for these shows instead of uploading them to my Etsy shop as well, resulted in my missing out on all the post-Thanksgiving exposure. This was poor planning, and in my opinion, plain laziness on my part because I was too naive in thinking that everything I made would sell at these three events. I have learned that you can never assume anything when it comes to how your product will do at a show or event.  It is alright to think positive but always utilize every tool you have available! I should have uploaded all of my inventory to my Etsy shop so that they would be there for people looking specifically for high quality, eco-chic handbags AND for people who left the show with my card and could have decided to check out the shop later that night and see if the bag they liked was still available, possibly even buying it then. Even though feedback was very positive, the flea market was not the place to sell my products, so I would have to advise everyone to be very careful as to what sort of places you try to sell your products. If it is obviously the wrong venue then don’t waste your time and money because both are valuable!! Woops! Lesson learned!

Katherine, What Else Have You Learned So Far About Selling Your Kind of Products (handmade, sustainable bags and accessories):

Over the last few months I have learned a few things about selling my products:

-Customers tell me that my Etsy listing photos do not do my products justice! When they receive their bag they are surprised by how nice it really is! I am still working on taking crisper photos that also give the views that replicate how people look at bags in a store: front and back, inside, over their shoulder, etc.

-Even though I am working on my photos in my Etsy shop, there is still nothing better then having people see my products in person. I sell more bags when people ask me to come to their house while they have company over than anything else that I have done. This has sparked two initiatives that I will be working towards in the next few weeks: I want to get my products into handmade and eco-conscious stores in my area and I want to make a game plan for how I would launch a series of Home Trunk Shows (or home bag parties) to decide if it would be “do-able”.

-People are very much into one of a kind bags but they really like to pick out their own fabric and design elements. I played around with the idea of doing custom bags but with my production crew being made up of me, myself and I, I just do not have the capacity to venture into something like this yet. I am considering making this an exclusive offer at house trunk shows as well as these parties acting as a chance to have first dibs on a selection of new products.

-I need to get more Press Coverage for Reclaimed Threads! I would definitely appreciate any suggestions when it comes to this topic! I love seeing my products reviewed by people and would like to continue with this as well as have features written about the company as a whole! Up to this point, I’ve relied on networking with people and them offering to feature me here and there. I appreciate all of this and am now aiming to be featured more often and by a broader range of media (blogs, magazines, newspapers and TV)! Who isn’t aiming for this?!

FUN FACT: I was going to be featured in the Unofficial Etsy Business Blog as a “green business” recently. This turned into Justine (the editor) asking me to become a contributor to the blog instead. So I will be taking the driver’s seat for a “green stories” series on her blog, this is coming soon and will be a monthly feature. I am working on the questions and finding people to feature at the moment. I will be sure to update everyone once the first feature is ready! I am excited for this, it will be a fun to be a part of what I think is a wonderful blog!

Well, this pretty much sums up my last month or so! I’d love to hear your feedback about my products, the progress that I am making and definitely any suggestions that you have about things that I should be doing that I am not! Thanks for sticking with me through this long update! Remember that you can subscribe to my blog and get updates without even having to think about it!

Best Wishes,

Katherine

About Reclaimed Threads: Reclaimed Threads is a sustainable bag company launched by Katherine DeSantis. Katherine is  a 20-something entrepreneur who combined her love of being creative and sustainably conscious to form Reclaimed Threads.  Every item is handmade by Katherine from reclaimed/repurposed, vintage and organic/sustainable materials. There are a variety of bags and products in her shop: www.reclaimedthreads.etsy.com.

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