Being in business for oneself - WarmGlass.com

Being in business for oneself

The forum for discussion on business aspects of working with glass.

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kbarbour
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Being in business for oneself

Postby kbarbour » Wed Apr 07, 2004 1:08 pm

I am in the process of setting up my business primarly in fused glass jewelry but plan to continue in stained glass as well as mosaic glass functional items. Just wonder how many of you out there do this full-time or part-time. I'm also looking for any advice before starting this venture. I plan to continue to work full time, and do this part time to see If I can make a go of it.

Also any advice on marketing your product other than craft shows, galleries, and the internet?

This has been a goal of mine for several years and I'm now ready to "go for it" so to speak, so let me have it good or bad :D

Karon

Kelly Burke Makuch
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Postby Kelly Burke Makuch » Wed Apr 07, 2004 4:14 pm

Bravo and Good Luck!
Your desire will keep you on the path. There may be some pebbles on the way but if you can keep good spirits and the "go ahead" attitude you should be fine. The success of your prospect depends upon how much time you can donate to it.

I started this venture 2 years ago, also trying not to do shows. I advertise in The Artful Home and do local gallery shows. I have had jewelry in some coture shops but it seems people don't mind dropping $250.00 on a shirt and skirt, but $80.00 for a necklace is too much.(sales were so-so. I market my work by hosting other artists in my home around the holidays with great success. But is this enough to cover all of my expenses to date--no. (okay --I like glass toys) I'm currently struggling whether to concentrate just on my art or marketing. There are many hats to being a business owner. I should tell you I have 3 children 12 and under....that still require time. Marketing takes you out of the studio and on the road..as I'm sure you're aware. I'm thinking maybe a show or two is inevitable for me.....

What I've learned so far.... Keep organized. Make sure you establish accurate records of inventory, spending vs. sales vs. in stock. Give much thought to how you price your work. If you start with a system --when your sales are through the roof --you won't be bogged down by how to inventory.

Another thing to consider -follow what you want to do and stay on your path. Everyone is different, so advise that works for one may not be true for you or the area in which you live. Get out there and talk to a lot of people. I'm sure many people on this site will give you great advise.

"Nothing ventured--nothing gained."

Good luck!

Kelly

ellen abbott
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Postby ellen abbott » Thu Apr 08, 2004 9:56 am

You might find it difficult to succeed in your glass venture when you are working full time at another job. Any job or venture, to be successful, needs your full attention. when we first started our architectural etched glass business, my partner would take the occassional pert-time job to help suppliment our income. But we finally stopped doing that as it prevented us from getting some work done in a timely fashion since half the shop was working elsewhere. sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go for it.

E
The only religion I subscribe to is sacreligion.

read my blog: http://ellenshead.blogspot.com/

Pam
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Postby Pam » Thu Apr 08, 2004 11:27 am

I had been planning for a couple years to turn my hobby of glassmaking into a biz. One strategy was to buy as much of the tools and other expensive stuff while I was still a "suit" working in technology management. That way when the income went away I wouldn't be faced with so many expenses.

I had to shorten the timeline recently because my husband has become very ill and needs more assistance than I could provide while working 40 -50 hrs/wk plus 10 hrs of commuting. So I took early retirement and have been having the best time of my life doing glass and setting up the biz. Without going into a lot of detail, the key things that have helped are having enough $$ stashed away to live on because it always takes longer than you think it will to get the biz side together. Also, going from a weekend hobbyist to production work where you must be fast, frugal and efficient is a real transistion as well.

Good luck!

gone

Postby gone » Thu Apr 08, 2004 2:41 pm

Great advice so far. I think it was Sara who posted awhile back about paying as you go. Reinvest as much as you can back into glass and equipment and expect to "work" your butt off. I was told that 40 hours per week is considered part time. When I first went to glass full time, I met with a SCORE volunteer, who helped me set up a chart of accounts and taught me about basic book keeping. I love my QuickBooks program. After almost 4 years of doing glass full time, I'm starting to feel pretty secure that I can make a living on it. It's still a scramble though, since I'm doing shows for income as well as wholesale and local consignment. I'm finding out that being good at marketing (I suck at it :oops: ) is almost as important as doing good work. Still, being able to stay home and do what you love is the greatest!

Dennis Brady
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Postby Dennis Brady » Thu Apr 08, 2004 4:27 pm

I've been teaching people how to launch small business for almost 30 years. My approach is unconventional - some claim outrageous. I'll pass on some unconventional suggestions.

BUSINESS PLANS are useful only to accountants and bankers. Ignore them. Creating a new business is like exploring a new trail. You make a map after the trip - not before.

FAILURE IS INEVITABLE. When you try something new, you'll fail more often then succeed. Just keep trying different things until you discover the ones that don't fail.

FINANCIAL INVESTMENT should be minimized. If you start with a lot of capital, you just spend it making mistakes. If you don't have it, you're forced to learn how without making those mistakes. The business is supposed to support you - not you support it.

MARKETING is an overblown concept. You make a product and sell it. If it sells, make more. If it doesn't sell, don't make any more. If your product is good, selling it is easy. If your product is poor, marketing won't help. Spend you efforts on making a good product.

BE ORIGINAL. Don't try to work cheaper than others and don't try to work better. Make something others don't make.

PERFECTIONISM IS A DISEASE. Perfect is never achieveable and trying for it needlessly consumes time. Learn to identify and accept a professional standard of "good enough". Then practice reaching (but not exceeding) that standard as efficiently as you can.
DeBrady Glass Ltd http://www.debrady.com
Victorian Art Glass http://www.vicartglass.com
Glass Campus online classes http://www.glasscampus.com

gone

Postby gone » Thu Apr 08, 2004 4:32 pm

Dennis Brady wrote:MARKETING is an overblown concept. You make a product and sell it. If it sells, make more. If it doesn't sell, don't make any more. If your product is good, selling it is easy. If your product is poor, marketing won't help. Spend you efforts on making a good product.



How can you sell it if nobody sees it? It does take some effort to get your work out there.

Jackie Beckman
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Postby Jackie Beckman » Thu Apr 08, 2004 4:37 pm

. . . and don't try to work better.


Ahh now there's something to aspire to. :roll:

(Warning, warning - This is one of those times when the newbies need to take Dennis' advise with a grain of salt . . . )

Marty
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Postby Marty » Thu Apr 08, 2004 4:43 pm

Well, I was going to go first but Els beat me to it:

Dennis Brady wrote:I've been teaching people how to launch small business for almost 30 years. My approach is unconventional - some claim outrageous. I'll pass on some unconventional suggestions.

BUSINESS PLANS are useful only to accountants and bankers. Ignore them. Creating a new business is like exploring a new trail. You make a map after the trip - not before.

--Business plans are essential if you're going to put any money, yours or someone else's, into the venture. It needn't be detailed, or even correct: best guesses or estimates will give you an idea of what you're getting into.

FAILURE IS INEVITABLE. When you try something new, you'll fail more often then succeed. Just keep trying different things until you discover the ones that don't fail.

--Failure implies jumping off bridges or putting that tie back on and returning to the cubicle. Sometimes you just keep working and one good thing leads to another. It's not like blundering around in a maze.

FINANCIAL INVESTMENT should be minimized. If you start with a lot of capital, you just spend it making mistakes. If you don't have it, you're forced to learn how without making those mistakes. The business is supposed to support you - not you support it.

-- You start with as much or little capital as you need to. If you are slowly turning a hobby into a business, then you need little. If you're buying an existing business- lots (and that useless business plan).

MARKETING is an overblown concept. You make a product and sell it. If it sells, make more. If it doesn't sell, don't make any more. If your product is good, selling it is easy. If your product is poor, marketing won't help. Spend you efforts on making a good product.

--Marketing is essential if you want to sell your work. There may be a market for your widget or not but it won't sell if it sits on your shelf and no one knows you make really cool widgets.

BE ORIGINAL. Don't try to work cheaper than others and don't try to work better. Make something others don't make.

--For once I partly agree with you, Dennis.

PERFECTIONISM IS A DISEASE. Perfect is never achieveable and trying for it needlessly consumes time. Learn to identify and accept a professional standard of "good enough". Then practice reaching (but not exceeding) that standard as efficiently as you can.


--Perfectionism is a goal, not a disease or a religion. Strive for it and any work you make will be better for your effort.


Honestly, Dennis, I think you come up with this stuff just to liven a dull day's posting.

Marty Kremer

Marty
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Postby Marty » Thu Apr 08, 2004 4:45 pm

Jackie got there too. Brock?

I've got to figure out the fine points of posting replies. Somehow my ripostes got included in the quote.

Marty
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Postby Marty » Thu Apr 08, 2004 4:47 pm

Oops, I missed one- "don't try to work better"? What the hell does THAT mean?

Jackie Beckman
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Postby Jackie Beckman » Thu Apr 08, 2004 4:52 pm

Marty wrote:Oops, I missed one- "don't try to work better"? What the hell does THAT mean?


That's one of the things Dennis says when he's trying to pick a fight - he can't possibly believe it.

Kitty
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Postby Kitty » Thu Apr 08, 2004 5:23 pm

pretty much in agreement with some of dennis brady's remarks. i've been at it for about 7 years, and have not worked a part-time job -- IMO it's not feasible to work full-time building a business, and go somewhere else during the day and spend time & energy on another enterprise. the first 2 years were hellish.

getting the right product developed is key. the "marketing" angle can be more about presentation of the product in each store than a geographical sales effort. in the beginning, working the stores in your own area is better than long-distance efforts. i've gotten some great ideas from my customers, so those personal contacts with owners ares important, 'cuz they get to tell you what they're thinking about, and you get to tell them how you'd like to see your work shown.

building a business i find to be very synergetic ... it picks up momentum. for an informative & amusing read, check out
Growing A Business by Hawken, of Smith & Hawken fame. that's a fine little book about how a dozen or so entrepreneurs succeeded, from Ben & Jerry to Midas Muffler.

Dennis Brady
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Postby Dennis Brady » Thu Apr 08, 2004 8:31 pm

I not only believe everything I said, I practice it. It's central to how I created and operate my businesses. It's also central to how I teach Entrepreneurship.

It works.
DeBrady Glass Ltd http://www.debrady.com

Victorian Art Glass http://www.vicartglass.com

Glass Campus online classes http://www.glasscampus.com

Carol B
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Location: Olympia Washington

Postby Carol B » Thu Apr 08, 2004 9:21 pm

Dennis Brady wrote:I've been teaching people how to launch small business for almost 30 years. My approach is unconventional - some claim outrageous. I'll pass on some unconventional suggestions.

BUSINESS PLANS are useful only to accountants and bankers. Ignore them. Creating a new business is like exploring a new trail. You make a map after the trip - not before.

FAILURE IS INEVITABLE. When you try something new, you'll fail more often then succeed. Just keep trying different things until you discover the ones that don't fail.

FINANCIAL INVESTMENT should be minimized. If you start with a lot of capital, you just spend it making mistakes. If you don't have it, you're forced to learn how without making those mistakes. The business is supposed to support you - not you support it.

MARKETING is an overblown concept. You make a product and sell it. If it sells, make more. If it doesn't sell, don't make any more. If your product is good, selling it is easy. If your product is poor, marketing won't help. Spend you efforts on making a good product.

BE ORIGINAL. Don't try to work cheaper than others and don't try to work better. Make something others don't make.

PERFECTIONISM IS A DISEASE. Perfect is never achieveable and trying for it needlessly consumes time. Learn to identify and accept a professional standard of "good enough". Then practice reaching (but not exceeding) that standard as efficiently as you can.


Dennis,I work for a very sucessful businessman. What you have stated is pretty much the way he built his business and I respect him very much. I know some people are uncomfortable with your statement about not trying to work better, but the reality is the more you do something the better you become. So there is no reason to focus on that.

If I have read this thread properly it is about how to make a living working in a medium that you love. I think your business advice makes great sense.
Carol B

Dennis Brady
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Postby Dennis Brady » Thu Apr 08, 2004 9:41 pm

I think you've read it perfectly. You may the first to have read what I actually said - without applying a personal slant.

There are many that disagree with this approach to business. I argue constantly with the profs teaching Business Administration about the difference between what works in textbooks and what works in the real world.

I've been making and selling glass for 25 years - other things before that. It has ALWAYS been my experience that if you make a good product, and price it reasonably, there are numerous people anxious to buy it. Gift shops, galleries, and collectors are screaming for new product - and travelling ever far afield to find new suppliers. If you make a product and it doesn't sell, YOU are doing something wrong. It might be the location, it might be the price, but most often it's the product. Identify the mistake, correct it, and your product will sell.
DeBrady Glass Ltd http://www.debrady.com

Victorian Art Glass http://www.vicartglass.com

Glass Campus online classes http://www.glasscampus.com

Debinsandiego
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Postby Debinsandiego » Thu Apr 08, 2004 10:04 pm

Crafting as a Business, by Rosen, was recommended to me.

There are many that disagree with this approach to business. I argue constantly with the profs teaching Business Administration about the difference between what works in textbooks and what works in the real world.


I totally agree. That always seemed a bit like an oxymoron to me. Some fields of study in the University lend them selves to "academia", but business should ALWAYS be based on the real world. It's BUSINESS for crying out loud, not Plato.

Also, a small tid-bit of information. I do some business with a gallery owner here locally. I meet with her today to refresh my inventory. She got a call on her cell phone and had to take it. She went to a whole sale show and was promised some other goods from an artist. That artist said they would get their work to her in 4 weeks. It's been 8. She cancelled her order. I've heard, but wouldn't know from my experience, that if you are going to do those shows, that you should have some calendar system as to avoid that. She was really nice, she really didn't have to explain WHY she took the call. She is MY customer, she can take a call! As long as she still likes my art and is buying!! But I can see her point. She is paying rent and isn't going to keep her shelves empty for this artist that can not give her product. Worked out for me, perhaps that's why she bought more of my work!
Deborah

Amy on Salt Spring
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Postby Amy on Salt Spring » Thu Apr 08, 2004 10:08 pm

I can't believe I am actually going to say something supporting Dennis...but you know what, I am. Karon's original question was "I am in the process of setting up my business primarly in fused glass jewelry but plan to continue in stained glass as well as mosaic glass functional items." Dennis runs this kind of a business and if he does it successfully then his advice is a totally valid approach to this kind of business that works. I have no earthly idea what it takes to run a business of this sort so I completely bow to Dennis' far greater knowledge on the subject.
I believe this is the same apples and oranges conversation that has gotten many hot under the collar (including myself). Dennis is talking about how to run this kind of business but often comments on threads discussing how to make and market high end art work. If I wanted to start a "jewelry and mosaic glass functional items" business I would take advice from Dennis in a NY minute and take it all to heart. If I wanted to know how to grow as an artist or to market myself in the completely different arena of high end art I would ask for advice from Marty, Catharine, Steve Klein, Brock etc. They have the experience and they obviously know what they are doing. Its two different subjects for two completely different things. To try to give one set of business advice for two "products" that should be made completely differently, marketed completely differently and will have completely different purchasers is ridiculous and lowers the credibility of the person giving it on either side if they try and make it all encompassing.
If we just made it clear that one person's advice is for one kind of art market and others are qualified to give advice on the other kind of market, there would be less toes stepped on. High heels and lingerie totally sell my product to my husband but I would not feel the same way if he marketed his very different goods to me similarly, if you know what I mean. Completely different products, completely different clients require completely different business strategies.
Amy

ellen abbott
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Postby ellen abbott » Fri Apr 09, 2004 9:01 am

I gotta say, I agree with Dennis for the most part too. When we started our architectural etched glass commission studio we had an idea, not a business plan. No one else was doing it. We had a dinky compressor and a gravity feed sandpot. We marketed by doing a few local art shows a year and calling on architects and designers but got and still get most of our work through word of mouth (although the web site is helping now). We didn't borrow any money. We ate a lot of crackers and cheese. We persevered. And finally got over the 'perfectionism' which I believe is a destroyer of confidence. Don't confuse perfectionism with always trying to make the best most perfect thing each time. We do that. But if it doesn't come out perfect, only fabulous, I can now live with that. Over time we bought equipment when we could afford it, marketed in more costly ways occassionally, even had employees for a while. Been doing this for 30 years now.

I've seen a lot of people fail in business over the years...in etched glass and other. they are the ones for the most part that had the grand plan, borrowed the money, got the fancy equipment. Mostly they couldn't stick out the rough years.

E
The only religion I subscribe to is sacreligion.

read my blog: http://ellenshead.blogspot.com/

Gabriel
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successful businees or starving artist

Postby Gabriel » Sun Apr 11, 2004 1:32 am

I normally disagree with Dennis on other boards, but he has good business sense. Do not confuse perfectionism with producing garbage. But, just how perfect does something have to be. Study your house, car, or any other piece of equipment and you will find flaws. Every item has a tolerance and you just have to learn to set your own. Not matter how much you try, your work will never be 'flawless' unless it is 100% automated, and if it is the Chinese will do for 25% of the cost.

You can either be a successful business or a starving artist, and the world has enough starving artists.


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