The federal government defines a household of 4 persons (my family) with a combined income of more than $24,000 per year, as over the poverty line. As a silversmith, to break through this line, I need to sell about $50,000 in jewelry or make and sell 5 unique pieces each and every day. After paying expenses (silver, tools, festival booth fees, taxes, etc.), I can earn a profit of about $24,000 per year. Yay, no more poverty!
As I close out Year One of Backyard Silversmiths®, I’m celebrating not only breaking the line, but at times crushing it. And in tribute to Small Business Saturday on Saturday, November 26 – let me share some learnings of how my small jewelry business designs, creates and aims to sell at least 5 unique pieces of jewelry each and every day.
1. It’s better live. Whatever you’re selling it’s always better to share your creations with potential customers in person than online. Art shows or small open-air markets enable people to pick up your product, feel the weight of the piece, try it on, look in the mirror and perhaps get instant reactions from family and friends. Art shows, festivals and pop-up markets were the life-blood of our business this year.
2. Be unique. Customers like being unique and different, and giving unique gifts. If you can help your customers stand out as the best gift giver in their family, they will value your contribution and seek you out! This is important because we participate in shows that have more than 200 vendors and there are more than 500,000 jewelry stores online.
3. Be a dreamweaver. Create dream pieces for clients. You may not make a lot of money on these custom projects, but you could make a loyal customer for life. By being flexible and willing to try to capture their vision, you may also stumble upon a new design or technique that will help your craft evolve.
4. Go global. In this global economy, you must be able to sell items to potential customers from a multitude of countries. While we have a shop at BackyardSilversmiths.com, the online marketplace Etsy makes it easy for the small business owner to ship their creations worldwide. Etsy helps you figure out VAT taxes, shipping and all that good stuff. Now, I’m not sure why, but my double-rings are a hit in one small area in England. Over half of my double-ring sales were made to one town over there!
5. Remain flexible in pricing. If the customer is standing in front of you and they ask for a discount on multiple items, I gladly give it. The same flexibility should apply for your repeat buyers as well. These customers become your fans (what the marketing folks may call influencers), and they will proudly share them with their friends if you’re able to provide them new pieces at a great price.
6. Enable Customer Recycling. Jewelry is personal and for some customers, recycling an existing silver item into a new item makes the piece even more special. I give customers a 50% discount off the price of a piece if they provide the silver for me to create the piece. (Note: I still remit the full retail value for state sales tax, but it’s still a win!).
The key to 2016 was doing more of what worked and less of things that did not. My goal for 2017? To reach a point where me and my hammer can’t keep up with orders and we’ll get a larger workshop and hire silversmithing apprentices. In our own small way, bring manufacturing jobs back to America and help additional families break through the poverty line.
Heading back to the Backyard…
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