Happy Easter

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Phew! Holy moly! We had a super busy weekend... but, I am so happy to report that I finally have a real living room / dining room and a separate work area! I snapped some photos on my (crappy) phone to show. I finally am getting the house the way I always dreamed of.  

Finally have a real living room with seating for more than 2!

We got rid of a few old pieces of furniture, and finally went through some boxes that had never been unpacked when we moved last winter.  We cleared out a ton of space, and made a combined art studio for Dan / Sewing Studio for me.  The little room fit a lot more than we thought it would.  It's still a little cramped, but in a way, it's great.  Everything is close by.  Everything finally has a place.  We got new bookshelves for the living room and some fancy new lights.  We will get a new tv stand next weekend and retire the 1970's record player we are currently using as a tv stand to the basement.  The only other thing we are on the lookout for is a nice dining room table and chairs, which I will probably pick up at an auction.

yup, that's my finger in the shot!

I was very, very grateful to have the help of my little brother (who is actually a big guy, but will always be my baby brother) to help Dan move the furniture upstairs because there was no way in hell I could have done it. We basically worked all day Saturday, and most of Sunday morning, but everything is done! I am so happy to have a separate work area, and an area where I can relax, and have people over, without having to explain the factory workroom that took over the main floor of my house.  I will take better pictures once we have everything complete.  I already made a big mess in my sewing room today...

We couldn't have done at it a better time too.  I still am a little behind on orders, but am catching up.  I think this will help increase my productivity.  I also have Abbey coming up again this week to help out for 2 days this time, so we can lock ourselves in and work into the wee hours...

Dan and I just got back from dinner with my family.  Easter is a big get-together for us, all of the extended family comes.  We have lots of little ones in our family, and I got to have a little time with my cousins kids (who are as dear to me as nephews).  My family is also full of dog lovers, so it's kind of like a big dog party. My little Oliver is the wimpiest of the bunch, and spends most of the time snuggling on my lap.

SO, YOU WANT TO START A BUSINESS...? Be the kind of place you would like to shop!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I like to shop on Etsy, especially for jewelry, supplies, and for gifts.  There is always something unique to find.  However, I am sometimes scared off by sellers whose policies include statements like "No Refunds / No Returns!" or sellers with no shop policies whatsoever.

Your shop policies say a lot about your store and you as a business person. When I first opened my Etsy shop and set up my shop policies, I thought to myself, "What would I expect as a customer?" 

I'd want to know that if a package gets lost in the mail, it will be replaced or my money refunded.  I'd also like to know that if I buy something that doesn't fit, the seller will make it right for me.  A seller who offers an awesome exchange / return policy shows that they are confident in their work. And, let's face it, it is impossible to always sew something that fits perfectly the first time every time.  Being prepared for when things don't go as planned will help you deal with the issue with grace and calmness.  Returns, lost items, etc, are all a part of doing business.

As you grow, it is important that you continually update your shop policies.  When I first started, I could get an order out in a few weeks.  Now that business is more steady, it takes me some time, but it is important that your customer clearly understand the nature of your turn around before hand.   

Have clear shop policies

Writing shop policies is actually pretty easy.  We all know what we expect as customers.  If you are unsure of what to write, check out other shop's Policies Pages for inspiration (but do not copy).  Etsy makes it really, really easy.

Once you have your shop policies written, the second part, which can be the more challenging part, is living up to them.  It's no fun dealing with a customer who has a package that's been lost in the mail, it's disappointing and frustrating! But, the faster you deal with issues, and more prepared you are, the happier your customer will be.

Moving work spaces...

Monday, March 25, 2013

One of my goals for this year was to have more of my items photographed on models.  This can be really challenging when you live in a small town, it's just hard to find people who are able to do what you want! But, I was really fortunate to be in contact with the lovely Emily, from emilystudios.com, who was able to provide me with some stunning photographs of some of the new items that will be in my shop when I reopen.  It is really fun to work with models and photographers this way.  You get to see your garments in a whole new light.  I absolutely love these!

New Lace Cami coming soon... image courtesy of emilystudios.com/

I am just about caught up on my orders and am feeling more confident in my ability to get it all done.  I've still been working weekends trying to get ahead, but I'm getting there. This weekend was pretty busy, between doing my regular boring weekend stuff, like grocery shopping and checking out the new Target which just came to town, a trip to Ikea, and of course, sewing.  I am going into work today to help train the new employee at on old 'day job.' I am hoping she catches on quickly so that I will have one less responsibility to worry about.

Stripes! Coming soon... image courtesy emilystudios.com/
Next weekend, Dan and I are doing a major re-arrange of the house.  When we moved in I set up my sewing stuff in our living room. When I was working 4 or 5 days a week, and sewing on weekends only, I wanted to be able to be somewhere close to where Dan was so we could kind of hang out a bit.  But, now that I am home sewing pretty much every day, I'm finding that my work space is a) constantly messy c) I now have a large stockpile of supplies to deal with and b) constantly looking at my workspace stresses me out when I'm trying to relax.  So, we are combining Dan's art studio with my sewing space into one of the spare bedrooms upstairs  We picked up some bookshelves at Ikea on Sunday, and have a whole plan laid out. Our Living room is moving to our front room, the stuff in the front room is moving upstairs, the dining table is moving back up from the basement to where the living room is now. It's actually going to be  a ton of work and I'm really hoping my brother will kindly come over and help move furniture, but I'm really looking forward to not having to constantly look at my work and having a real living room / dining room area.

Happy Spring Everyone...

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Apparently yesterday was the first day of spring.  You'd never know it, looking out my door.  We haven't accumulated much more snow, but it feels like it's been snowing steadily for the past 10 years... There's no grass to be seen anywhere.  I normally survive winter ok, but this year is really getting to me.  It's been really cold, really snowy, really... depressing!  I just desperately want to be warm!!! 

Here's hoping you are somewhere nice and sunny!

Sample Sale

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sample Sale is Here!

It's that time of the year again.  I'm having a sample sale! Getting rid of old samples, "oopsies", and things that just didn't make the cut.  Everything is $30 and under!

So, you want to start a business...? Start with a great idea

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I get quite a few emails and questions from people who want to start a business - specifically in lingerie or clothing design - but are unsure where to start.  While I am by no means an expert, I have learned a thing or two through my experience on Etsy.  I've made lots of mistakes along the way, and continue to flub up here and there, but I've also learned a lot of valuable lessons.  I thought it might be fun to share some basic tips with those who are interested.  I know that many of my readers also run creative-type business, so I am hoping some of you will chip in as well!

I'm going to touch on some basics of selling on Etsy specifically - starting with choosing what to sell, photographing your items, writing shop policies, and writing product descriptions.

If you want to start a business, the first and most obvious thing you need is a really unique product to sell.

Before I even opened an Etsy account, I had a general idea in my head of a the type of product I wanted to sell.  I wanted to get into Lingerie.  For me, lingerie was a fun thing to sew, something I personally really enjoyed, and I thought would be a rewarding challenge to try!  We touched upon foundation garments in school, mostly corsets and bustiers, but other than that I did not have much experience with lingerie.  I gathered up resources; books, vintage patterns, vintage pieces, I sewed lots of samples. I sewed things that sucked, I sewed things that I threw in the garbage... I sewed a lot.  And I continue to sew a lot. I still have piles of items that just don't make the cut.  I still sew things that get tossed in the garbage! I continually am trying new technique and trying to improve.

Practice your craft over and over... your style will evolve and your techniques will improve!

It is also important that you do some market research.  While there is hardly such thing as a completely original idea in this world, it is important that you, as a designer, have a unique aesthetic, something new and exciting to bring to the table.  There are hundreds of thousands of other sellers out there on Etsy alone, so imagine how hard it is to stick out?  Lingerie can be tricky because there are really only so many styles of knickers you can sew, but there are things you can do to make your garments stick out of the crowd.  Do you use top of the line, natural fabrics? Do you silkscreen your own designs on them? Do you add some kind of funky embellishment? Were you taught to hand sew by a fancy french couturier? Whatever it is, do something that makes you unique, so that people will instinctively look at what you do and think, "Oh! That must be *insert your brand name here*!" I think of brands that I admire, like Hopeless.  Hopeless has a very unique aesthetic, and I can always tell from a photo if it is Gaby's work.

How well do your designs stand out?

What you sell is the most important part of your business (obviously), so it is important that you show creativity and integrity with your designs.  While it can be tempting to jump on a bandwagon or a trend, creating a distinct image that is your own will serve you better in the long run.  Incorporate trends, if that is something you like to do, but make them your own.

On the note of being unique, I just read this article this morning, The Technology Trap: Fashion, Copying and the Speed of Technology. From the article,

"“The US is the only developed country without copyright protection on fashion designs,” Banks noted, “France, Japan, India and even China have some level of copyright protection for fashion designs.”  
Institutions such as the Fashion Law Institute and the CFDA are actively lobbying Congress to pass the Innovative Design Protection Act (IDPA) that would allow copyright protection on fashion designs for a term of 3 years." 

 I would love to hear your thoughts on the ability to copyright a fashion design.  Would it stagnate designers? Or, would it encourage more creativity? The fashion industry largely thrives on copying one another.  While larger brands can compete with that type of competition, I always have concerns for smaller brands who do not have the production power to compete on the level of say, H&M or Urban Outfitters. You hear horror stories of Etsy Artisans being ripped off by mass producers overseas.  While I personally would try to avoid purchasing from brand that I knew was outright copying someones design, I know there is a high demand for fast fashion.  We have made such a sticky situation for ourselves. We want high end designer garments at a minimal price.  We practically begged for knock offs.  But now it makes it hard for new small designers to make a real break because their designs are being knocked off before they get a chance to make a name for themselves.  It's a tricky situation, and I'm not sure what the answer is.  I do think that if we, as designers, make integrity a strict design policy, it would definitely help.  End Rant!

If you run a creative-type business, how did you decide what to sell? Was it an obvious skill you had, or did you have to think long and hard about what you would sell?  How do you keep your designs unique?

Good Week

Friday, March 15, 2013

On Wednesday, I picked up my best friend, Abbey at the bus station. I haven't seen Abbey since the summer.  I didn't realize how much I missed her until I dropped her off again...

It was a huge help having someone come in and I made some great realizations.  I basically had Abbey do some of my grunt work, like fold and put away "fabric mountain." I've been so behind on orders, I've been taking fabric out of my neatly organized boxes and tossing it on to "fabric mountain" after I finish cutting what I need.  "Fabric Mountain" was really stressing me out... Abbey folded it all, got rid of any unusable scraps, and organized it again for me by type.  After that, she cut out my "Thank You" cards, stamped my wash instruction tags, packed up a few orders, unpicked some stitches for me, emailed customers who were waiting for photos of custom orders, and generally just took a few things off of my to do list.  That alone was a huge stress reliever.  We worked until about 8:00 on Wednesday night.  It was so, so, so nice to have someone to work with.   I got about 10 or 12 orders out over the last couple of days, so I am starting to feel much better.  I have 2 more that should be ready tonight. If I can keep up pace for another week, I'll be sittin' pretty!

So, I guess what I really need is a person to come in once a week, or as needed, and help me with that kind of thing.  Abbey is going to come up again and try to get an inventory system set up for me, so that I have a list of where I purchase from, how much my bulk items cost me, etc, so that anyone could come in and see what I am running low on and potentially order more for me.  I'm realizing that it's all the other things that keep be distracted from the actual production of garments, and that those things are generally things that anyone could come in and do if I have a system set up.

It was great having a friend come in and help out, it gave me a much better idea of what I need a helper to do.  I knew I needed a helper, but I wasn't entirely sure what kind of helper I needed. I have a much better idea now.

In all, it's been a good week.  A busy week but a good one.  We got a new hot water heater which means I can finally have a hot bath in more than just a puddle of water. In bad news, I have been having the worst time with Canada Post! It's a long, convoluted story, but the moral is, I am changing shipping methods to the US.  All packages will be shipped via Canada Post / USPS Expedited Mail (which is Priority in USPS speak), which is more expensive, but comes with tracking and insurance. I also opened a UPS account and can now show that way upon request.

I am going to do some house keeping around my shop and change a few things within my listings. I'm going to offer general sizing for my panties, XS-XXL, but will also continue to work from your measurements if you are a tricky fit.  I also am going to have that sample sale that I keep talking about! I have a bunch of items that need new homes.  Sometimes I'll finish sewing something and realize I made it a little to small, or have forgotten that the customer wanted a small change.  Those items get set aside, and I start forms scratch. I have samples, items I made that never made it to Etsy because I didn't love them... I have a variety of sizes and will be sure to let everyone know as soon as the sale is posted.

Fitting it all in

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Having my shop on vacation has been kind of nice, life feels slightly less hectic.  I might extend it one more week so I can breathe, then go back to craziness again.  The thing that I find most challenging about running a business is being pulled in several directions at once.  I feel like I am at my best when I can focus on one thing.  I guess it's a matter of learning how to filter out the noise, and focus on what is important.  It's really challenging  but I am getting there.  It's hard to believe I've been going at this full time since November... maybe it's hard to believe because I've still been going to "work" two days a week? :)

I am really excited at the thought of expanding my business.  My best friend, Abbey is coming up from Toronto for the day tomorrow to help me out.  I have a list of things for her to do, and it will give me a good idea of what kind of position I am in to hire an assistant.

Part of the struggle I have with hiring an assistant is financial.  While my prices aren't as inexpensive as La Senza or Aerie, they aren't La Perla ether! It has always been important for me to keep my line accessibly priced.  However, it is a lot of work per garment, and I'm not sure I've really priced accordingly.  I don't want to raise my prices, but I don't want to have a 10 week wait time on a pair of panties either.  But, if I hire someone to help reduce my wait time, I might have to raise prices.

Pricing is such a hard thing for me.  Its probably the thing I dislike the most about running a business, is anything to do with money. Having never really had much money myself, it can be hard justifying charging $50 for a pair of knickers.  Especially when it's something I do myself... I always undervalue my work, I think a lot of artists/artisans/creators/seamstresses do.  At the same time, I want people to be able to enjoy my work so I don't want it to be inaccessibly priced.  Annnnnd, at the same time, I want to make a decent living and have a good work / life balance, just like everyone else. So, it's a challenge!

Though, maybe I'm over-analyzing everything.  I don't know if you've noticed, but I do that.  I hardly get complaints from my customers about the wait time.  Most people are understanding, and I am clear about it in my shop policies, listings, and receipt.   What I do need to do is relax... and not rush, take my time, it will all get done... Eventually.

So, it's a tough call.  I think once I get ahead again, I will feel more confident about whatever decision I make.  I am actively looking into garment producers in my area, and have found a few who sound promising.  I think as a long-term plan, it really makes sense.

In other news, I've heard that Google Reader is going to be no more.  You can continue to follow my blog and other blogs you love through Blog Lovin. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Planning for Spring...

Monday, March 11, 2013

You may have noticed I have put my shop on "vacation." Unfortunately for me,  I am not laying on a beach somewhere warm and sunny, I am just trying to catch up on a backlog of orders.  My goal has been to deliver under 8 weeks, but to be honest, it's more like 10 right now, which is a long time!   I am an impatient person, so I understand how annoying that must be for my customers!  I'll probably reopen next Monday, and I do plan on having a sample sale at that time as well. Finally!

Yesterday Dan & I started talking about doing more planning for some changes around the house, which has gotten me excited about something again!  We have a list of things that have to be done and a list of things that we would like to do.

Our "Have To" list consists of fixing our chimney, and at the same time, seeing about having a gas fireplace insert installed into our wood burning fireplace.  Our chimney is currently on a bit of a perilous angle.  I am really excited about a gas fireplace.

Our "garage", and I use that term loosely, is desperately in need of a bulldozer.  I've been a little afraid of even thinking about this project because the whole thing needs to be rebuilt.  Last night we looked at some prefabricated garages, and they are totally realistically priced for us! I was so happy.  Our "garage" really looks like it's ready to fall down at any minute, so getting it fixed would be really wonderful.  Depending on the cost of the chimney, we might try to do it this summer.

Scary, huh?
I'm not sure if this is a "have" or a "like," but our main entry way, stairway, and upper hall are all finished in this bizarre, tiki-style wood paneling   I actually don't hate it. When people come here for the first time, they always walk right up to a wall, touch it, and say "wow... I've never seen paneling quite like this before." I don't know if they are just trying to hide their horror, or what... The problem I have with the paneling is there is virtually no insulation behind it.  I guess folks back in the day weren't so concerned about their heating bills.  So, I would like to take it down and drywall.  The thing I dread is it is lathe and plaster underneath, which makes a real mess when you take it down... We discovered that when we changed our side door.

Our "High Gloss" Paneling
As for the likes, I want to give a go at painting our bathroom tile & harvest gold tub.  Anyone ever done this before? My parents have painted their tub, and it looks awesome, but I'm not sure about painting tile.  I've read a few blogs where people have done it. While it's not the worst bathroom in the world, it's still pretty ugly.  I also want to replace the vanity and re-tile the floor.

Harvest Gold Bathroom
My biggest "like" involves removing the wall between our kitchen & living room, adding a kitchen island for more counter and cupboard space, changing our counter tops (there are currently 2 styles of counter tops in our kitchen! oh the joys of purchasing a rental house...) and putting the dark wood flooring throughout the remainder of the main area of the house.

I'm still really happy with our house and I think out of all of the houses we looked at in our modest price range, we got the most value for this one.  It still has a some issues, but so far it hasn't been anything we can't handle!

Over the next few weeks Dan and I are also going to do some changing around on the main area of our house.  I currently have my sewing room set up on our dining room, which worked for a bit but now that I am working from home I really feel a need to have a space I can go into in the morning and leave in the evening.  So, we are going to make a combined sewing room / art studio that Dan and I can both use.  I hope to do that soon, because as hard as I try to keep my sewing area neat, it can be really challenging, and I find it really stressful staring at the mess.

So, I am very excited about the next few things we will be doing to the house.  It's been really fun to see it go from a gross old house to something kind of cute, and it's probably been one of the most fulfilling feelings, fixing it up ourselves.


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Quelle Surprise.  It's snowing again   I really love Canada, such a beautiful, vast country.  But somewhere permanently warm sounds really appealing right now... My dog is loving the snow, I must say.  He has really become obsessed with digging in it.  I hope he doesn't think he can continue to do that in my lawn come summer!

Summer will come... eventually. And then I'll be complaining about how hot it is!  

Anyway, enough complaining about the weather! The other week, Anna (A Few Threads Loose / Mrs Depew) shared with me these amazing photos of her in my Lumberjack Knickers, taken by Desiree (Rivets & Roses / Desiree Photography)!  I just love them.  I love the couch, I love Anna's make up, I love that she looks like she's having such a great time! That is what lingerie is all about.  It's about feeling great, being playful, having fun! I feel like these photos capture that perfectly!  A very big Thank You to Anna & Desiree for sharing these with me.

Via Rivets & Roses

Via Rivets & Roses

Via Rivets & Roses
Speaking of feeling great... I have not been feeling great about my hair lately.  It is in need of some desperate help. It's almost down to my butt, and I am growing out bleach-blonde, so I inadvertently have that trendy ombre thing going on.  My hair is naturally dark blonde, but I found a pure white strand in there the other day!  I hate getting my hair cut, which I guess is why my hair is in the state it is in today... So, I'm not sure what to do.  I have to admit, I'm slightly afraid to go to a salon.  I feel like such a dummy when it comes to my hair.  Does anyone else feel this way?  I never know what to ask for.  I need someone to tell me what to do with it!!!

Growing Pains

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

As you may have noticed, the blog has gotten a face lift, and a new URL! I am pleased to announce you can now visit me at www.ohhhlulu.com! How exciting! Getting my own domain and a more professional looking website has been on my to-do list for some time now.  Another thing to check off the list!

I like this layout.  Things are easier to find.  Simpler.  Lets the posts stand out more.  

My business is growing really fast.  It's incredibly exciting.  I'm at the point now where I am considering one of two things.  

Thing #1: Carrying on as I have been, but hiring someone to come in a day or two a week to help me sew.  Right now my turn around is not what I want it to be and it causes me major stress.  I have actually put a call out on my facebook page for seamstresses in the Orillia, Ontario area who may be willing to come in for a day a week on an occasional basis to help me get caught up.

Thing #2: Maintaining my made to order line, but also including a Ready Made line that can be purchased in stores and through my own website (not Etsy).

I am leaning towards Thing #2 but would love to hear your thoughts. 

Monday Morning...

Monday, March 4, 2013

This weekend flew by.  Mostly, I sewed, trying to catch up! I have a few rush orders to work on this week, then next week I hope to get back to a more manageable pace.  This morning I have a belly ache... too much delicious pot roast last night...

I made this solid black Ginger Bodysuit for a customer yesterday.  I forgot how much I like this pattern. I can just imagine it with a pair of skinny jeans, a cardigan and chunky necklace.    I want one for myself!

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