Monday, April 23, 2018

Effectively Organized: Bead Button was the best way to shift to production mindset

In 2017, I attended my first big trade show, Milwaukee Bead & Button as a vendor. Doing Bead & Button for the first time and not ever having been to the show helped me switch into production mode. Not seeing what other artists were doing, I didn’t have any pre-conceived ideas about how I should produce work for the show, set it up, display it, etc. I have been to bead stores and bead shows so I thought of what the bead vendors did. 

The lampwork artist I encountered at past bead shows gave me some ideas for a production approach, Grace Beads, but her business and production model is different than mine. Her beads are also beautiful and reasonable. I made a few necklaces pairing my simple beads with her decorated beads. 

I ended up creating a business model where I am somewhere between the artist and the mass bead sale vendor. I make lots the of the same beads, in collections. I also personally produce all of my beads. I do have a little help with the cleanup and presentation. 

I handmade all of my beads but I did large batches of the beads. I increased my efficiency and can make hundreds of beads in a session. I also keep it simple and focus on making spacers. Lots and lots of spacers. I took lessons I learned from 10 years of working as a hobby that the majority of my customers like the simpler beads. The spacers.

Blue Ocean Strategy

Not having been to Milwaukee Bead & Button before also allowed me to go blue ocean strategy instead of looking what the other artists were doing. I have been doing small craft and art fairs and keeping my production mindset small and geared toward OOAK work. 

In prepping for B&B I set a target sales goal. I broke out my trusty Excel and started figuring out how many beads I needed to make to achieve that goal. The biggest goal was to pay for the booth fee and travel expenses. I had already started making beads. When I did the math backward from my sales goal, I realized the way I was working and pace I was working at wasn’t sustainable and I wasn’t going to be able to make enough beads to even attempt my sales goal. Constantly “creating” has its limits. Not only does it create a mental drain for me, from the customer perspective, if everything is OOAK, it creates overwhelm. 

I then started doing collections. The same type of bead in different color combinations. I thought of the others in the art category and started with each set of beads being slightly unqiue. I checked my production plan and it still wasn’t fast enough. Then I defined 16 separate bead designs, 8 designs for glass and 8 designs for polymer and executed that plan in different color ways. Simplifying allowed me to scale up my production and I produced 10,000 beads for the show. 

Even my display ended up being unique. I wanted a card like a jewelry card to display. I saw an earrings display board on Rio Grande that was sort of like what I had in mind. I bought one as a sample and had my brother in law build out my display on risers and to my specifications. It’s a great modular display and I get a lot of compliments on it. It’s easy to see everything and browse. 

That plan was a success. I scraped out a teeny tiny profit my very first year. 

Creating cohesive collections with multiples of the same is a key to growth. However, my thinking is still too broad, as I’ve learned from this recent free training. I love simplifying the plan even more! I 

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