path of least resistance

Design, Small Business

9B9C3395-7EF0-4224-9EA5-166802320763Speed bumps make you drive slower. Water doesn’t go uphill.

Sometimes all it takes to turn customers away is the smallest obstacle.

One of the best things you can do is put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Go through the entire sales process.

What can be made easier? What can be tweaked? What can you do to make things clear and concise?

Take it step-by-step. Write it all down. Hammer out your process. Ensure that getting the customer to say “yes” is the path of least resistance.

Take out anything in the way of a sale. Let the calls come flooding in, like water down a hill

COMMUNITY VS COMPETITION

Small Business

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt ⠀

Running a small business with a social media presence can be hard. You’re constantly met with people who have more success than you. They have amazing pictures of their products.

The have gorgeous photos of their family.⠀

They have a follower count that dwarfs your own.

You may be tempted to mutter something under your breathe and hit that unfollow button.

But before you start comparing their work to your own, try to appreciate what they’ve done.⠀

Find something positive and leave a comment.

Choose to see them as part of your community. Try to learn something from them. Let them inspire you to try something new. ⠀

Because your feelings won’t affect them, it will only impact you. Don’t let their success make you forget about your own.

DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR PROMOTING YOUR BUSINESS

Small Business

It can be hard sometimes to put yourself out there and promote your business.⠀

Sometimes you feel like a used car salesman trying to hassle someone into a deal.⠀

You should never feel that way. ⠀

If you work hard to provide a quality product or service then you owe it to yourself to promote. When you know you are offering the best solution for customers, then NOT promoting yourself is the real disservice!

SUCCESS IS NEVER MADE OVERNIGHT

Small Business

OVERNIGHT

“Champions aren’t made in the ring, they are merely recognized there. What you cheat on in the early light of morning will show up in the ring under the bright lights.” ⠀-Joe Frazier

It can be hard to stay motivated, but those putting in those extra few hours after the kids are in bed will make a difference.

There may be dirty dishes in the sink and a load of laundry that needs to be folded but they can wait. Spend some time on your business. Those late night investments will pay off.

Don’t refer customers to your website

Small Business

It’s no longer a question if your business needs a website. It does.⠀

But what most people have lost sight of is the fact that your website is a tool for your business and not your business. ⠀⠀

Think of your website as a business card. It’s used to refer business to you.

You are the most important part of your business. No matter how interactive or well-designed your website is, it could never do more than you. ⠀⠀

The next time someone asks if you have a website, don’t just give them the address. That should be your cue that this is a lead. ⠀

Open with a question and close with sale.

Define Success, Work Backwards

Design

Define

To be honest, I’ve never been very good at setting goals. Goals always seemed too far away. It takes too long to get there.

But I love making lists for everything. Everything. Lists you can accomplish one at a time. You can see your progress.

That’s what you have to do with goals. Break them down to the smallest level.

What do you have to do this month?

What do you have to do this weekend?

What do you have to have done by the end of day to reach your goal?

Define what success means, then work backwards. Make a list. Start knocking it out.

 

How to Pick the Right Sign

About, Design

CARDS

The thing we hear most often is that people have trouble deciding what to get. We continually talk to people who would like to get something for their home, but they have trouble picking one.

Here’s a guide to help you figure out exactly what you need by covering a few basic points.

Step One – Who are you buying for?

You may think you know who you’re buying for but that’s not what this means. What I’m asking is think about the type of person you are buying for.

This makes a huge difference. Someone moving into their first home will likely want something large to fill any key, significant places first. These are only a few places of importance in a home such as over the master bed, over a crib, in a dinning room, or the center of the mantle. After these are filled, most people begin finding smaller items to hang around the house.

A newlywed couple or expectant parents may have a need for larger signs. A person with an established home would probably need something smaller.

Step Two – Size

The size of a piece will determine so much about what type of sign it will be. A large sign will usually go on a very significant space in your home, as mentioned previously.

In contrast, a smaller sized piece can go in several different and unique spaces. They can be an addition to a smaller bathroom wall or an empty space in a kitchen. They can be placed above a dresser or console table or added to an existing gallery wall. Smaller items have a wider range of use which allows them to be moved several times in your home.

Step Three – Text

Now that we’ve established the type of person who is getting the sign and thought of a size that would fit them best, it’s time to begin thinking of what it will say.

Those places of prominence can immediately create a comfortable atmosphere. A large sign should be something very personal and not generic. It should be a last name or a favorite song lyric or Bible verse. Seeing something unique and special to a person reinforces the feeling of ownership over a space. That large custom sign over the fireplace was made just for them. As soon as they see it, they feel at home.

A small sign can be moved in several different areas and serve in many different ways. This means it may be better to use text that is a little more generic. It can still be a Bible verse or saying, but it needs to be versatile.

You wouldn’t want to put something from the Song of Solomon on a small sign in the hallway to your guestroom; Save that for the spot in master bedroom.

Instead think of something you can move around your house but will still fit in with everything like arrow or popular saying such as “be brave.” You could add this to a gallery wall or just as easily place it next to the coffee maker. That’s the versatility a small sign needs.

So there’s a few options to help you decide on the right sign for yourself or someone else. It’s best to think of the type of person you’re buying for and what size may fit their needs. Then you can come up with the text that may be best.

And keep those verses about two fawns and twins of a gazelle (Song of Solomon 7:3) where they belong!

Gallery Wall Guide

Design

Guide

Gallery walls have long been an interior design staple. They can be used to display professional photos in an office or kids artwork in a living room. They fill up a large wall or make a cold room a littler warmer. Here’s a few tips to help you set one up yourself.

FROM THE FLOOR UP –A great place to start is on the floor, literally. Gather up all the pieces you want to use and spread them out on the floor. Give yourself lots of room. Stand on a chair to get a better view.

WHAT’S YOUR COLOR – Having an idea of the color palette you’d like to use goes a long way. Sometimes this can seem daunting, (there’s a lot of colors out there!) so start with an emotion. If you want to keep things light and happy, add in some bright colors and pastels. If you are going for a professional look go for contrast like black and white with small splashes of color. Don’t let your palette be too rigid, just use it as outline.

TAKE A PIC – Don’t feel awkward to have a mini-photo shoot with your stuff. Move things around and snap a quick picture with your phone. Then try another lay out. It’s so much easier to compare your options when you can swipe back and forth.

ANCHOR DOWN – Pick a large piece to build out from the center. If you only have several smaller pieces it may seem too scattered and messy.

MATCH THE MATS – If you are using pictures, match the matting on each one to give feel of a collection. Several pictures with no matching characteristics will seem too chaotic. White is great clean choice for most pictures and adds to the feeling that everything belongs to a collection.

MIX IT UP – Changing up the size and orientation of the items used gives the feeling of variety. Once you have your largest items established fill in the gaps with smaller pieces.

CHANGING ORIENTATIONS -Changing up horizontal and vertical arrangements adds a lot of variety. Sprinkle in some items standing up or spread out across the wall to a bounce the eye around a little.

BRING OUT THE ODDBALLS – You might have some weird items that you just aren’t sure what to do with. Gallery walls are a great place to put those unique pieces. They may be a little too bold to stand on their own but tossed in with a gallery wall allows them to add a small touch without being too much.

GIVE ‘EM SOME SPACE – If you go too close it looks crowded. If something is too far away from everything else it looks like an anti-social loner. Try to give everything three inches of clearance and change it from there as you see fit. If you’re going for a more formal look then you may want to hang things keeping a strong symmetry in mind.

STICK IT UP – Before you go nailing holes all in your wall, you may want to consider alternative hanging methods. There are several ways to hang wall décor without creating a hole. Gallery walls tend to change when you find something else you like or something you’d like to add to it. Wall adhesives give you the chance to play around with things a little easier.

ENJOY THE VIEW – Take a step back and enjoy a job well done. If your new gallery wall is above a loveseat or a couch, then kick back and relax. Read a good book and enjoy your new look.

We hope you enjoyed this little checklist. We’d love to help make a custom piece to go on your own wall. If you have an idea in mind or already have an example of what you’d like, send us an email and we’ll get started!

How to Sell at Shows

About, Design

howtosellatshows

If you’ve stood next to your products watching people walk past you as you “hello” then you know the torture that can come from having a booth at a craft fair. You’ve worked hard on your product, decided to do a show, and have your booth set up just the way you’d like. Now you just have to wait and let the customers roll in, right?

What happened? Where are the customers? Where are the wods of cash you were hoping to bring home with you? We’ve all been there. Here’s a few tips we’ve learned that will hopefully stop this from happening to anyone else.

  • PUMP IT UP -Most list you’ll read will start off by talking about your booth. Don’t start with your booth. Start with the event. Start with building it up on your platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. If you’ve got followers that live in the area let them know where you’ll be. People like connecting. That’s why social media works. If they have a chance to check out your product in person or meet you face-to-face they’ll likely make an effort to do so.

 

  • DRESS IT UP – Nobody walks onto a car lot and asks to see the ugliest car there. People go to what catches their eye.  Put as much effort in your booth as you do for your product. Make it stand out. DO NOT use one of those neon plastic table cloths you picked up from the dollar store on your way to the show. Those are ugly. It’s like going to the prom in your pajamas.

 

  • ASK YOURSELF – With most small businesses, you are your customer demographic. Meaning the type of people that will buy your products probably have a lot in common with you. It’s unlikely you’re a Northwestern lumberjack selling pink crochet doilies (if you are, contact me because you are awesome). So what would you like to see at a booth? What would draw your attention? Do that.

 

  • USE WHAT YOU HAVE – Once you decided that your booth is a priority and you have ideas swirling in your head, you’ll probably do a Google search or check out Pinterest to see tons of ideas. Unless you just have gobs of money to throw at a booth, don’t waste your money on purchasing a lot of decorations. Use what you have. Make some stands from leftover wood. Grab some furniture from the thrift store and dress it up. Use that same resourcefulness that made you a maker and focus it on your booth.

 

  • DON’T BE LATE – Just don’t do it. Don’t be late setting up. MAKE yourself be there early. Be the first one setting up. It will give you more time to get comfortable and get those confidence-juices flowing. Being late is very inconsiderate to the people hosting the show. Show up early and stay the entire length of the show. It’s just good manners and should go without saying.

 

  •  GET OUT THERE – Do not sit behind a table. You’re not giving out raffle tickets. You’re not selling something at a concession stand. You’re selling something you work hard at and believe in. Don’t hide behind a fold-up table! Stand up and get out there. Meet people. Enjoy yourself and make sure other people do too.

 

  •  YOUR STOCK WILL NOT SELL ITSELF – We all have this sort of internal scenario where we just put out our stuff and flocks of people gather around to “ooh & ahh” at what we’ve done. Guess what – that’s not how it works. People walk around a craft show and slow down at booths that catch their eye. They’ll pick up something that looks appealing. They’ll buy it if they feel it’s worth the price. Do anything you can to help that process. Help customers look at your items as something of value. If they perceive the value of your item is greater than the price, then you’ve got a sale on the way. This won’t happen by itself though. You’ve got to work for it. Don’t be pushy, but don’t let your customers walk away without an interaction from you.

 

  • DO NOT GIVE OUT YOUR BUSINESS CARD – I know this sounds insane, but hear me out. If you are speaking to a customer who is interested in your business, DO NOT GIVE THEM A CARD. Giving someone a card signifies that the transaction is finished and they are free to move away from your booth, like telling them they’ve got what they came for. You are effectively killing the conversation and the opportunity of a sale. Don’t close by giving a card, close with a sale. If they ask for a card of course give them one or if there is a particular reason like to do a custom order in the future. Overall goal should not be to hand out cards. Your goal is to make a sale.

 

  •  DON’T SEE COMPETITION – If selling just doesn’t come natural for you, holding your own at your booth can really be a challenge. Here’s a tip – do not compare yourself to others. You are not competing against anyone there. You should only be competing with yourself. Focus on doing a better job at this show than you did at the last.

 

  • EMBRACE THE COMMUNITY – You’ll meet some of the friendliest people at shows. Every other maker there is going through the same thing as you. Make an effort to talk to the folks there. If you like something, give a compliment. Gather ideas for your next display. Ask them about their products. It won’t take long for you to realize that sometimes the best customers you’ll have are other crafters. They’ve spent the whole day looking at your booth and as soon as they get a little cash for themselves, they tend to shop.

 

  • DON’T PANIC – There you are – the show is wrapping up and you’re left with a ton of stock you didn’t sell. It happens every time and every time you’ll be tempted to start slashing prices just to get a sale. DON’T. Don’t start selling things from a scarcity mindset. When you reduce the price of your products you de-value your own work. Just because you still have it at your booth doesn’t mean it’s any less valuable or has any lower quality. If you really want to get rid of something then give it away. Free goes so much further than discounted.

 

  • LEARN FROM IT ALL – After the day is over and you’re all packed up make sure to take a moments and write down the experience.
    • What worked?
    • What didn’t?
    • What did you feel good about?
    • What do you think you struggled with?
    • What do you think you need to work on?
    • What caught customer’s eye?
    • What items sold the best?
    • Are my prices too high or too low?

Take a moment while the events are still fresh and make some notes for next time. Learn each time and you’ll get better and better.

These are a few tips I hope other makers will find helpful. If you’ve got a great product you owe it to people to put it in their hands. Don’t let a few simple mistakes at a booth keep that from happening.

 

 

The Unspoken Value of Handmade

About, Design

SawHorse tag

Handmade things are just better.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a butcher block or the weird looking coffee mug your kid made you in art class. There’s a value that goes past the quality materials or the maker’s detailed craftsmanship.

recent article suggested value can be broken into categories of functional, emotional, life-changing, and social impact. FitBits are a good example. FitBits aren’t just wearable technology. They’re motivation and a signal to everyone else that you’re taking your fitness seriously. That’s life-changing.

When I read this I  thought of the value associated with handmade items like ours at ScrapMills.  While we can’t promise much in the side of weight loss, our items carry an emotional value that can’t be found in other products. Handmade items have greater value.

You won’t find emotional value in something you picked up from Target. After you’re gone, no one will hope you left them that clock you got on clearance from TJ Maxx.

No matter how much you paid for it, products picked online or pulled off a shelf will never have the emotional value that clings to  a handmade piece.  After something passes through the first set of hands it starts to lose value. Your grandparent’s may have paid good money for some candlestick holders, but unless it fits your décor, you’re going to stick it in storage or sell it online. Regardless of how much is spent, mass production pieces don’t have a long journey before they end up in someone’s yard sale.

Functional items tend to depreciate faster than anything else. It doesn’t matter how good they look or how expensive they originally were. If you can’t use them, you’ll get rid of them. It’s because there’s no emotional value.

That’s where handmade makes a difference. These things may be functional, but the also serve an aesthetic and emotional purpose. They remind you of something or someone. They’ll remind you of your wedding day or that Bible verse your grandfather always said. They can motivate you to be adventurous or to take equal doses of coffee and Jesus.

They speak to you every time you walk past them. Before long they grow a voice of their own. It’s unspoken, but it lingers and it lasts.

Balancing Three Boys and a Business

About

scrapmillsstand

Running a business and raising small children is a struggle most people can understand. ScrapMills may only be a side-job for us, but it is far from “part-time.” We both work full-time jobs outside the home so that leaves late nights and weekends to work on anything else.

Through the course of doing this I’d like to think we’ve learned a few things worth sharing. Here’s three:

It’s Not Easy

Of course operating your own business, regardless of the scale, can be tough. I’ve always felt that for makers it is especially difficult. Unlike retailers or wholesalers or independent consultants, everything you sell has to first be designed, built, assembled, or crafted, creating entire workloads that add hours to the process. Like all things, it becomes harder when you add small human beings that can’t care for themselves. You can’t cut wood and chicken nuggets at the same time.

It may sound obvious, but you have to accept that raising a family and building your business is not easy. Everyone who does it will tell you the same, no matter how good their Instagram page or Etsy shop looks. Know you’re doing your best and that’s all you can do.

It’s About Your Priorities

Getting orders out and delivered on time is important. Making sure your customers have a good experience and enjoy their interaction with you is a must.

But at the end of the day, your customers aren’t the ones you’ll be putting to bed each night. Your customers don’t need help with their spelling words or need a story read to them.

Silence that voice deep down that accuses you of not spending enough time with your children or your spouse. Don’t feel guilty about the work piled up in the other room.

Be honest at the beginning that orders take a little bit longer than you’d like, but you are working on getting that time down. If there’s a two month backlog, own it. There will always been another order, but there will only be 52 chances in a year for a Friday night slumber party in the living room floor. Decide what your priorities are and don’t apologize for them.

It’s Worth It

Growing your business and growing your family will take a toll on you. You’ll probably be tired  as soon as you wake up or stay up too late and question your choices along the way. But know that doing something you enjoy and providing a little extra income while you do it is great path to take.

The best part is that it really isn’t even about the money you’ll make. Sure it helps, but the most significant thing is that your children will see you working towards something. They’ll see that the right way to achieve success is through hard work and commitment. It’s late nights and weekends. It’s getting up early and staying up late.

It’s a value they’ll carry with them.

And that makes it all worth it.

Lincoln (almost four), Noah (four months), Sawyer (five)

Lincoln (at age three), Noah (at one month), Sawyer (at age four)

Community Over Competition

Design

“There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.” | Zig Ziglar

Wood Background

When we started this business a short time ago we learned very quickly that we aren’t the only ones in the game. We were just launching our message and already I felt drowned out by everyone else. Etsy, Shopify, and Instagram are for full of people who make hand-painted  reclaimed wood signs like us. And like everyone else who is insecure, I would size up the competition at every turn.

“Eww that’s ugly.”

“That looks like a third-grader did it.”

“I mean it looks nice, but they are charging way too much.”  

It was almost a little game to critique everyone’s work I saw. I know, it sounds awful, but what’s worse, it was fun. It made me laugh and made me feel better about my own work.

Here’s the thing though; It didn’t make my work any better. It didn’t get me any more sales or any more orders. It wasn’t constructive. When you don’t have a lot of spare time you realize anything that is not constructive can easily become destructive.

So I stopped.

Instead of looking at other people’s work with the critical eye of competition, I started looking at things through the welcoming lens of community.

I’d try to find something good in any work I saw and if I had a chance, I’d let the maker know I liked it.

Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s also is constructive. When you open yourself up to seeing other people’s work in a positive light you open yourself up to learn. You see new techniques, new setups, new ways to market products.

You also get more business. If you follow a business similar to your own, their followers will likely to do the same. They’ll see your work and explore your page. With increased traffic comes the higher likelihood of orders. It’s a win-win.

I still feel competition often breeds the best work, but the best place for it is with yourself. Compete against your own high standards. Compete against your own past works.

You have to decide to run the race like you are running against yourself and see everyone else as the crowd at the finish line.

Our Process

About, Design

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” | Pablo Picasso

TAGS

In the short time since we’ve started we’ve realized one thing about the creative process; it can be very difficult.

A quick scroll through our Instagram page shows the hundreds of signs we’ve created and delivered. It doesn’t show the literal hours that go into creating each and every single one. So I thought I’d take some time and share how our process works.

First Contact

Nearly every item we create begins as a custom order. Since we decided at the very beginning that we didn’t want to use order forms, we usually begin by receiving a message in our inbox. It’s an idea or an inquiry from a customer asking if we can do something. Here we discuss what the sign will say, the exact words, layout, size, design proofs and corrections, colors, and expected date of completion.

The truth is this can be a lengthy conversation where the customer usually apologizes at least once for being so picky. Our response to this is always the same – “BE PICKY!” We want you to be picky. Pickiness gives us direction. It provides specifics for us. We want to create something just for you. It’s going to be something we spend several hours over standing in front of and something you’re going to pay money to get made. We want to get it right for you, as much as we do for ourselves.

Stands1BW

Construction

After the details are hammered out and invoices are sent (and hopefully paid), the real work begins on the piece. Depending on the order this can mean sanding down planks of reclaimed wood or sawing up pieces of construction-grade scraps.

StandsBW2

It’s all measured and assembled in our own garage. Each plank of wood is hand-sanded and run over with bare hands to make sure it’s smooth for sketching and paint.

Stands3BW

Sketching

When the piece is built to its specified size and all the wood is painted or sanded, it’s time to sketch. There are several ways to do this and everyone swears their way is the right way. Some sign painters do theirs free-hand and some just use vinyl cut-outs. To each his own.

We have our own process of creating a digital image then “tiling” the image to be printed. Then we sketch the image onto the sign using carbon paper.

Be aware, this is a lengthy process. The layout alone can take some time as each item has to be measured and moved several times before it is ready to sketch. Every line and outline is gone over by hand to leave its impression on the wood underneath.

Paint

After the paper is removed and the sign combed over to ensure the impression is the exact replica of the digital image, it is ready to paint.

For my wife and I this means settling in somewhere comfortable with a brush and plastic cup of acrylic paint. This part of our process is usually reserved for late nights after our kids are asleep. We’ll binge watch a series or catch up on our DVR’d episodes while we paint.

This is my favorite part of it all, where the most dramatic change happens. Where once there were just a few pieces of wood screwed together, there now starts to appear shapes and lines and a message. It’s no longer just raw materials but becoming something with meaning.

 After the final brush strokes are added we let it all dry then get it ready for delivery. We add a tag and ship it off. Hopefully someone enjoys it in their home as much as we enjoyed making it in ours.

Stands4

One Thing

Design

image

“I just haven’t decided what I want yet.”

It’s the thing we hear the most from potential customers. They’ve decided they’d like to order something, have a place picked out in their home, and they’re ready to put something there, they just can’t decide what it will be.

It’s a tough decision. There are several factors to consider. What will it say? What color? What size? What font? Not to mention the variety of items that can be made. In a little over a year, we alone have made over 400 signs. That’s not even taking into consideration the thousands of designs available on Pinterest and Instagram.

We’ve seen these factors and others hold potential customers back. The thing is, this isn’t just a small issue, it’s a documented occurrence in our culture. It’s called The Paradox of Choice. It’s a phenomenon studied by psychologist Barry Schwartz and it basically is summed up by the following:

We assume that more choice means better options and greater satisfaction. But beware of choice overload: it can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run it can lead to decision-making paralysis.

It’s the difference of walking into a store trying to find a pair of jeans you’ll be happy with by going through a rack of 100 pairs or three pairs. It’s easier to find the one you like the best in a smaller rack.

The good news is that you can easily avoid this dilemma with one quick thought.

What are the most important things to me?

It may sound cliché, but it works. Is if your family? Is it your faith? Is it the fact that before you do anything else you really need coffee? Think of those things then let us do the rest.

If it’s your faith, tell us your favorite verse or the one you know you need to see everyday. If it’s your family, just think of what you want them to know. You can commemorate the day your family started with a sign and your wedding date.

And trust us, if there were a Bible verse about faith, family, and a cup of coffee, we would have made that one a long time ago.

The main thing is just think about what’s important to you. We’ll  walk you through different colors and sizes and fonts. That’s what we enjoy the most. We love helping our customers create something that’s just for them.

Think of one thing and let us find a way to say it.

Handmade Means High Quality

About, Design

“Quality is not an act. It is a habit.” | Aristotle  

Handmade

For the longest time handmade items were the normal way of producing goods in our society. When you wanted a dining room table, you ordered one from a carpenter. When you wanted a nice cut of meat, you visited the local butcher. When you wanted the best quality, you had to meet the maker in-person.

Of course as technology advanced products became mass produced. As costs were lowered, quality soon followed and handmade items were no longer the norm. Handmade soon became synonymous with “arts and crafts” projects from Hobby Lobby.

In recent years handmade items have made their trend back to the center. With the help of the internet and most notably Etsy, makers are able to create a brand and personal touch with their products and services. Now it is just as easy to add a handmade product to your shopping cart as it is to order an item out of a mass-production warehouse.

The one glaring advantage handmade has over other options is the promise of quality. Because that’s what it is, a promise.

You see makers create because we have to. We have to get it out of our system. If the things we make aren’t at the highest quality, then we won’t be able to do it for very long. Each item we make is the most significant piece of our business at that time. Each package we deliver becomes its own little “make or break” promise to our customer. In most cases makers simply can’t afford not to do a good job.

So in that way, handmade means high quality.

Because it has to.

-Tyler