The following is a guest post from Julia Marden of UncommonGoods.
At UncommonGoods we love seeing new and creative designs. Our buyers are constantly looking for the next big thing, and each week, we get to bring new items to bring into our assortment. We see a lot of amazing ideas, clever designs and beautifully made products, and it’s really exciting to be able to help bring a new artist or designer’s work to market.
Last week, I had a great talk with Erin Fergusson, our Jewelry and Accessories Buyer. I asked her what she looks for when she’s ordering new jewelry for our website and catalog. What she said really surprised me.
I expected her to talk about innovative design and craftsmanship. And she definitely is looking for the most creative and new ideas on the market. But when Erin goes on the hunt for creative new jewelry designs, what she’s really looking for is a long term creative partnership with an artist or designer like you.
So you’ve got talent and you’ve made something great. What’s next? If you want to take your creative work from craft fair to wholesale, here are five tips to help you succeed.
1. The Customer Is Always First
You might be pitching your collection to a buyer for a retail company, but don’t forget about your ultimate customer. Make sure you know who they are.
At UncommonGoods, for example, our customers are gift givers. And that means we’re looking not just at your skill and creativity, but how your product might make a great birthday or holiday gift.
When Shari Dixon approached us with her idea of birth month flower necklaces, we knew it was a perfect fit. Beautifully crafted jewelry that’s perfect to give as a gift.
2. Be the buyer
Buyers have pretty busy jobs. At UncommonGoods, our buyers come in early, stay late, and often travel on the weekends to craft fairs and gift shows. Erin and our other buyers look carefully at every single sample that comes to us, and read every single entry that comes from our website. Don’t get me wrong — they love to see your work! But they can sometimes be pressed for time.
Before you send off a sample, think about what’s going to help your product rise to the top. Make sure you’ve answered every question a buyer might ask—details like an item’s dimensions, materials and backstory will all help a busy buyer make an informed decision about your body of work.
Remember, our buyers are thinking about our customers and what will make the product stand out to them. In fact, we often share products with our customers via our Community Voting App to get their feedback on cool new designs as we’re making our decisions. Telling the story of the product effectively is essential in getting our customer community to connect with and approve of an item.
3. Do your homework
We want to make it easy for artists and designers like you to share your work with us. We just added a webform to our homepage to help you share your designs. But with many retailers, you might need to push to get your foot in the door.
Do some research about your target company’s business model. Identifying the customer is a great first step, but look a little deeper.
Think about why your designs are a great fit for that retailer’s business, or why a retailer is the right choice to promote your work. You want to find a good home for your work, so look for companies that match your aesthetic and your business ethics. If you’ve found a great match, be sure to tell the buyer why when you’re sharing your work with them.
You’ll be sure to impress when you can demonstrate that you understand what a company’s looking for, how they operate, and how you can help. It’s not too different from applying for a job, when you think about it.
4. Think Big
When you’re starting to switch from small production to supplying enough inventory for a retail catalog, your perspective often changes.
Last year, our favorite crocheted headphones got picked up by Real Simple’s holiday gift guide. All of a sudden, artist Traci Madeiros-Bagan found her headphones flying off the shelves. If she hadn’t been prepared, she might not have been able to make enough. As an amateur crochet enthusiast myself, I can’t imagine how much her fingers must have ached when January 1 finally rolled around!
So when you’re getting ready to pitch your collection to a buyer, think about how consistently and for how long you can produce your work. Can you make enough to satisfy customers? Do you have enough materials? Do you need to hire some help? Make sure your work is scalable. Because if we like it, we’re going to want to make you a star!
5. Think Ahead
We want you to think about your future. Like Erin said, buyers are looking for long term business partners and we want to support you in what you do.
If you show us one great product, and our customers love it, we’re probably going to want to work with you to create a successor and maybe a whole collection. For example, when we first saw Lori Burley’s fire hose belts, we knew that we’d want to develop a line of wallets with her as well.
If you’ve got buyers interested in your work, don’t hesitate to let them know if you’ve got a lot of development ideas in the works. We like to look to the future—and we want to help you dream up new creative projects too.
Good luck getting your work out there!
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Before I sign off, let me just add that if you’re a jewelry designer looking for a chance to launch your collection, we’re hosting an Uncommon Jewelry Design Challenge. Enter by August 31, and you could win $500 and a vendor contract!
Julia Marden is the Community Organizer at UncommonGoods, the place for unique gifts and creative design. She loves knitting, trying new things, and Google Reader, and is glad that her job allows her to pursue all these interests. Keep tabs on her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.