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!

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)

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

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

Let Us Know

About

LetUsKnow

Who do you look up to?

Who makes you grateful?

Who inspires you?

Who in your life needs to know they are loved?

Let us know. We want you to let us know who these people are. We want to make something for them, FOR FREE. This is a gift from you to them by us. Your only cost is your time. Take your time and tell us who deserves something and why. Each month we’ll pick the recipient and let the person who nominated them decide what they will get from us.

This is not a give-a-way event. This is not a raffle or a stunt to get more followers. There will be no winners. There will only be people we get to meet in an awesome way. This is an honest attempt for us to recognize people for who they are, what they’ve done, and the impact they’ve made on those around them.

So let us know.

Halfway There

About

“Show up every day for two years.”  | Sean McCabe

Planks

When my wife and I launched ScrapMills Signs & More we really didn’t have an idea of where it would take us. We had goals that we wanted to reach and only knew of one way to get there; By continuing to work hard on each order we received.

Growing this type of business was something neither of us had ever done before so we sought out as much information as we could find. A great resources we came across was seanwes.com. I read all his blog posts and started listening to his podcasts.

Out of all the advice we found the piece that resonated with me most was show up every day for two years.

So that’s what we’ve been doing. We show up.

It started out slow for us but by the end of last year we couldn’t believe how many signs we had made in our first nine months.

It’s now been a little over one year since we started. In that short time our business has thrived. At only three months into this year, we had already received half of the orders we had in 2015.

We’ve now reached one year but we think of it more like getting halfway. We are looking ahead to the two-year mark now. We aren’t seeing it as a finish line. Just checkpoint on the road, reminding us to keep showing up, every day.

-Tyler

 

Problem Worth Solving

About, Design

“Problem solving is hunting. It is a savage pleasure and we are born to it.” | Thomas Harris

book

“I know I want to get something, I just can’t figure out what I want yet.”

“I had a few ideas but wasn’t sure how they’d look.”

“I was looking at getting them something but wasn’t sure what they’d like.”

At least once a week we speak with someone who says something along these lines. People will have an idea of what they want, but not really sure how it would work.

And the truth is, we love that.

We love using our experience to offer a solution. We love the opportunity to take an idea a customer has and finding ways to make it happen. We want to stretch ourselves and our abilities and coming up with a unique design for a customer is the most enjoyable way to do it.

We hope that you’ll continue to come to us with an idea, a song lyric, a thought, a verse, a saying, a name, a word, a shape, or a quote. We’ll come up with the rest.

The Tagline

About

Wood&Concrete

Since our launch, our tagline as been “hand-painted custom signs” and it’s worked. It’s short and to the point. But while it’s been accurate, it’s been uninspired.

Sure we make hand-painted custom signs, but I think we do more than that. We want to be more than that. It was time for a change.

We wanted to change it not because we wanted to separate ourselves from everyone else who makes things from reclaimed wood. We wanted to share what makes us who we are, why we do what we do, and why we like doing it for others. We came up with this:

“Making who you are, a part of where you are”

You can buy things from any store and hang it on your wall or put it on your shelf, but we want to offer something more than that for our customers. We want to take a little piece of your individuality and allow it to make wherever you are, reflect who you are.

-Tyler

On Simplicity

About, Design

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”  | Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

As our business has grown, so have our tastes and preference for the work we do. There are a ton of websites and online stores where you can purchase reclaimed wood signs. We want our work to be different. We have discovered that when given the option we would most always lean towards the feeling of simplicity in our projects.

And there’s a reason for that.

Our goal is to allow our work to occupy a space, not take it over.

We enjoy letting our signs be discovered, rather than be something that jumps out for attention as soon as you walk into a room. We hope anything you get from us becomes apart of your home and feels organic, like something you’ve owned for years. We work hard every day to make this evident in each thing we create.

The greatest thing about this work is that we enjoy the process as much as the finished product. Thank you for supporting us along the way!

MasonJar

 -Tyler

In the Shop

About

Square&Gloves

We’ve been spending more and more time in our little shop. For me this means the garage and for my wife it’s on the dinning room table. We have been cranking out some orders and getting to work on the last few items before Christmas season really begins. We are excited to say that we are expecting to be very busy for the next few months. We have several upcoming shows including Oktoberfest in Cullman, AL and Crafts for Clean Water in Meridianville, AL.

We hope to have tons of work to post soon. Until then here’s a few of a most recent favorites.

Thanks again for checking us out. Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

Working Away

About

work table

We first want to say Thank You! We’ve had more success than we really believed we could. Since the time of our launch we have had a consistent stream of incoming orders. We’ve been busy working on everything from weddings gifts and anniversary presents to commercial signs and nursery decorations.  You’ve kept us busy and we love it.

We’ve been growing our Facebook page and Instagram accounts everyday. We’ve done several craft shows and have more on the way. We’ve met a ton of new people and have gotten to make some great things for the folks we already know.

We just wanted to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who has followed us so far. We are excited to see where it takes us and glad to have you with us!

Thank you,

Tyler & Lauren