The Tonka Profit Project: Adding Digital Products To A Craft Brand

How do you scale up a craft business?

How do you take a craft related hobby and turn it into a business?

How do you go from selling one-off products on eBay (or Etsy) to a larger business? 

These are all common questions for artisans and crafters. Over the next few months I’ll share my results as I work to accomplish these goals with my business partner John Venheim. In this first post I’ll explain what we are doing and walk you through our approach to growing his business.

The Backstory: Last October I was asked to share our story (about Liberty Jane Clothing & Pixie Faire) at an event in Portland. When it was over a guy came up to me and told me about his passion – restoring vintage Tonka Trucks.

65 Tonka- Cool Picture

John’s story was oddly familiar. He had a hobby he was great at, and could sell items on eBay successfully, but he didn’t know how to scale up the business and take it to a higher level – a six figure level.

His story sounded familiar to us because that was the exact same spot we were in with Liberty Jane in the summer of 2009. Back then we could sell everything Cinnamon could make, but she was exhausted – sewing until midnight to fill orders. But we figured out how to scale up from there by using her unique skills to build a brand and a business. We went from being a $1,000 a month seller on eBay, to now selling over $2,000 a day on various sites including our own.

John wondered if I could help him figure out a similar path forward.

So over the last few months I’ve had a blast partnering with him to help figure it out. Here is our strategy and how we are implementing it.

Product Strategy

John is amazing at restoring vintage trucks and he can do that job day-in-and-day-out making on average $40 an hour. That’s actually really great for a craft based business. Lots of crafters make much less than minimum wage! But John needed more (and different) product ideas if he was going to scale up his business.

So we focused on looking at his work from another angle – the ‘make money online’ angle. Why? Because there is a hungry market of people trying to figure out how to make money online – and John’s good at it and sharing how he does it didn’t worry or concern him. Why? Because John can only find and repair so many Tonka Trucks – and their is a very large world out-there filled with old Tonka Trucks waiting to be restored and re-sold.

So we decided to focus on this new market and approach it with a few information products. John is also focusing on a few new physical product ideas as well. We are releasing,

  1. A book in both Kindle and Paperback form.
  2. 14-part video series.
  3. A Be-On-The-Lookout Guide.

Here is what some of that looks like:

real book image

Tonka Profit

 

Tonka Flipping V1 Ipad copy2

Price Strategy

One thing you might notice is that we are leading with ‘Free’.

  • The Kindle version of the book is free for the first five days, (from April 14-18) and we’ll continue to offer it for free occasionally over the months and years to come.
  • The paperback version of the book is free for those who are willing to cover shipping & Handling.
  • The Be-On-The-Lookout Guide is free on the website we well.

Placement Strategy

Placement refers to your strategy of where you’ll sell. We are focusing on using Amazon and our own website for these new products. Of course, John continues to sell his physical items on his eBay account. We are also exploring ideas related to other locations where we can sell custom trucks – and feature the books alongside the trucks.

  • Using Amazon, a huge marketplace is a natural location for the kindle and paperback books. This will allow us to have continues exposure to a large community of potential buyers.
  • Using our own website, www.tonkaprofit.com, also has advantages. To accomplish this we used the Shopify platform. In addition to Shopify, to deliver the ‘Free+Shipping’ offer for the paperback book we used ClickFunnels, an amazing ecommerce tool that gives you a nice set of options related to how you structure your offers.

Promotion Strategy

We have a fun promotional strategy we are trying. We are giving away a custom box truck – that can have YOUR logo on. (Feel free to enter if you’d like). John has offered to do a few of these as part of our promotion strategy and so we are running a raffle from the 14th of April through the 30th to see how it goes. To enter you have to join our newsletter list and there are a few other ways to enter. To do this we used www.rafflecopter.com. Here is what that looks like:

box truck promotion

 

Will Any Of This Work? 

The early signs are good. We are already #1 in a category on Amazon (For Free ebooks).

So that’s fun! Here’s what that looks like,

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 12.24.29 PM

[Update, we reached #1 in the Antiques & Collectibles Category, which is exciting. Here is what that looks like… ]

IMG_0413

 

But as with anything else – we are learning by trial-and-error. I’m honored to partner with John on this project and it will be fun to see how it all works. As a lot of you know I’ve been helping Cinnamon with the marketing of doll related products for a long-time, so playing with Tonkas is a fun change! Stay tuned – we’ll keep you posted on how this all goes.

Of course – if you know people who might be interested in the topic of Tonkas – feel free to share this blog post with them and/or the website, www.tonkaprofit.com

Jason

Ps. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you click on them and decide to purchase something I will earn a commission. The commission comes at no additional cost to you. Please realize we only include these types of links for companies we know, like, use, and trust. But please never purchase anything from a company if you can’t afford it – or if you’re not sure it is right for you. Do your research and decide carefully.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Tonka Profit

4 Layers Of Profitability

The goal of any business is to make a profit. Whether you are earning $1,000 a month in sales, or $100,000 a month in sales – there is only one vital statistic for business health – how much do you keep as profit?

How To Get Profitable

This chart is loosely based on the work of Jagmohan Raju – he calls it 4 “levers” of profitability. I’ve oriented the 4 ‘levers’ to include an income and expense view of things:

4 layers of profitability chart

 

Let’s quickly review the 4 layers of profitability outlined in the chart. On the income side of the ledger you have:

Pricing: how much you charge for your items. Of course this can include fixed prices, variable prices and even auction pricing.

Sales Volume: This includes the total of all units sold. Some small businesses have 1 product and sell a lot of it, some have many products and sell a few of them.

On the expense side of the ledger you have:

Fixed Expenses: These expense items are fairly stable and include things like rent, salaries, property tax, insurance, and utilities.

Variable Expenses: These expense items change based on sales volume and other very flexible business decisions and include things like advertising cost, material cost, credit card processing fees, and shipping costs.

At the end of the month (or day or year, etc.) the math is very simple:

Total income from sales minus expenses equals profit. At the end of the day it is up to the entrepreneur to creatively increase income while holding expenses flat or lowering them.

Widening The Jaws

I once had an old boss who always talked about “widening the jaws” and would always draw a simple little chart when doing budget reviews with his managers. He would use that phrase to always remind his managers that we COULD grow expenses, but they had to grow at a slower pace than income in order for our total profit to continue to improve. Here is what that looked like:

widening the jaws finance chart

Some business make plenty of sales, but they suffer from poor profit because they have out of control expenses. In those cases – you can improve profit substantially by cutting expenses.

Other businesses have poor sales – and the best way to improve is to increase the income side of the equation. That might take a new product, a new pricing strategy, or a revamp of the existing product strategy.

But most businesses reside somewhere in the middle – okay sales – and average expenses. In those cases success is made in the margin. In finding the little, incremental improvement in sales or expense optimization, and continously making those wise choses.

I hope 2016 is a very profitable year for you!

Ps. Am I right in my analysis? Are there more than 4 layers of profitability? I’d love to know what you think!

Posted in Grow, Make Tagged with: ,

2016 Planning Worksheet

Hi everyone,

More of, Less Of Goal Setting worksheetThis week I’m working on my 2016 planning using an old method I learned somewhere along the way. It’s called “More Of, Less Of, Different”. I thought I’d make you a little worksheet so you’ll have a good resource to use as well. I’ve added it as an 8X10 PDF file so you can print it out easily. Here is what it looks like. Let me describe each section briefly.

More Of: The more of category is the section where you list the things or activities you want more of in 2016. I generally look back at 2015 and ask the question, “what went well in 2015 that I want to make sure happens even more in 2016”

Less Of: The less of category is the section where you list the things or activities you want less of in 2016. I look back on 2015 and ask the question, “what happened in 2015 that I want to happen less (or not at all) in 2016?”

Different: The different category is the section where I list what things that worked okay, but should be done differently. I look back on 2015 and ask the question, “what worked okay in 2015 that could work better in 2016 if we did it differently?”

HH Goal: The High-Hard Goal section is where I list my big aspiration for 2016. The phrase “high hard goal” comes from the book Bold by Peter Diamandis the famous creator of the Ansari X Prize. It’s a book that really inspired my in 2015. The HH Goal is where I ask myself, “if there was one thing I could imagine that would really be a break-through, what would it be?”

What’s my outcome? Here’s how I used this tool to plan my 2016. I won’t bore you with the details related to each concept, but I have specific plans and details for each of these.

More Of: Partners and products. I’m excited about launching several private label brands in 2016 – and several new product lines. You’ll hear more about these over the next few months.

Less Of: Teaching and online classes. I’ve decided that I’m going to limit my online classes (just sticking to the few that I’ve already committed to). I’m also going to limit my public speaking to just truly exceptional (and fun) events that Cinnamon and I can enjoy together.

Different: I’m going to focus on team building, hiring, and partnership development.

High Hard Goal: I’m going to try to push for a 7 figure year (revenue exceeding 1 million) for our core business Liberty Jane/Pixie Faire and a 7 figure year for Sew Powerful as well.

I hope you have an amazing 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in goal setting

How We Sold $14,544 Worth Of Craft Products On Black Friday

black friday blueprint

Hi everyone,

In this post I thought I’d share how Cinnamon and I sold $14,544 dollars worth of craft items on Black Friday – and over $21,000 in the four day period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday – and how we achieved it without putting all of our products on deep discount or damaging our long-term sales. Read more ›

Posted in Sell

Can I out-give my mentor?

Hi everyone…

Read more ›

Posted in ebooks, Email Marketing

Sewing Camp Power Q&A



Recently we announced the launch of a new class (Sewing Camp Power) in partnership with Jennifer Serr. Lots of people have had questions so we decided to put together a simply Q&A. Here’s the promo video we put together as well:  
Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized

Five Etsy Hacks Everyone Should Know

Hi everyone,

Last night in our Etsy Intensives webinar with Nancy Alexander she shared SOOO much good content. I quickly realized that the replay will be very helpful for me (so I can go through it slowly, hit pause, and then implement the “hacks” (or tips) that she recommends. I’d encourage you to do the same thing.

Watch The Replay Here (and learn more about her full Etsy Intensives Program).

My Reflections on The Etsy Intensives Webinar: While she was talking I tried my best to look at my Etsy shop – and evaluate what she was saying – and how I was (or wasn’t) doing compared to her recommendations. Here are five hacks (or tips) that stood out to me:

1. Etsy Search Engine Optimization:

Definition: How does Etsy serve results to people who are looking for items?

Etsy Hack Search Engine Optimization

2. Etsy Keyword Usage:

Definition: Understand, review, and write your descriptions and related text information to use Keywords and Long-Tail Keywords (Keywords that have more than 3 words) effectively. When you do – your results will show it.

Etsy Hack: Keyword use

3. Etsy Search Bar Related Terms:

Definition: Etsy begins to reveal related searches as you type. Use this information to understand what people are searching for and how to organize your keyword strategy.

Etsy Hack: Related Terms

4. Etsy Shop Description Purpose:

Definition: Use the Shop Description and “About” Information to focus on bonding with the prospect. Work to ensure they 1) Know 2) Like 3) Trust … you and your work.

Etsy Hack: Shop Description Strategy

 

5. Etsy Shop Images:

Definition: Etsy recently added the “Info Image” that most sellers still haven’t used yet. Be sure to add your logo to the Shop Info image box and your personal (smiling face) to the Shop Owner image box. Etsy uses these in various places so it’s important to add them properly so you help Etsy help you.

Etsy Hack: Shop Info Image and Shop Owner Image

 

Regardless of whether you sell a little or a lot on Etsy – I think it’s important you get these elements set up properly. As I mentioned previously, these were just my “in the moment” ‘ahas’ … as I watch the reply I’m sure I’ll get much more. Then as we go through the full course – we’ll learn even more.

I hope you enjoyed this special training session as much as I did.

Remember the closing date for Nancy’s full Etsy Intensives program is Tuesday, August 25th, at Midnight!

Jason

 

Posted in Etsy Tagged with: , , ,

The New Liberty Jane Main Street Store

Today we pick up the keys to our new main street store. We are freaking out a little – since this is the biggest business step our little company has ever taken. But it feels right – and this new leg of our journey is going to be an exciting one. I guess I’ve got a new blog topic!

In this post I’ll share the rationale and approach we’re taking to the new location.

Here are some pics of the space that we took last week:

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 6.58.51 AM

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 6.59.07 AM

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 6.59.48 AM

 

Our Need For An Office

Our business started at our kitchen table in 2008. And over the years that has worked remarkably well even as we’ve gone from a two person operation to a larger team. Honestly – it does feel like a circus sometimes – we have 2 rooms in our house that are pretty much dedicated business spaces and our garage is filled to the brim. And of course we still use the kitchen table for our team meetings, (pretty much all day on Monday). But we were okay ‘as-is’ until a year ago – when we launched Pixie Packs. In the last year that effort has grown too big for a garage operation. It’s time for a real office.

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 8.31.20 AMOur Hunt

We began looking for spaces about four months ago and started by narrowing the location down to the right city. We had 3 local towns to choose from – and although we debated each – we went with downtown Auburn since it’s the most convenient and the best of the 3 choices. We wished we lived closer to downtown Seattle (or San Francisco for that matter), or a few of the upscale cities east of Seattle, but we don’t. We live in small town America where the main street has a fair number of empty stores, little foot traffic, but still a very cute overall vibe. We knew we didn’t want to be in some gross business park, or a warehouse type location. We needed something more fun. When we saw the former “Love Travel” office we immediately liked the vibe it put off and could imagine our operation in it. We could imagine it feeling like a two story version of Britex (Cinnamon’s favorite store of all time).

Here’s a video Cinnamon did of one of our visits to the Britex Store:

Our Use

But the funny part is – although we now have a main street store (that feels very weird to write btw) – we really need it for offices, storage, work-space, not the retail aspect. So we’ve decided to go with a 90% office, 10% retail approach. But we want that 10% to be mind-blowingly awesome to doll enthusiasts. We will be open to walk-in customers, and carry a very limited supply of items for sale, but the primary purpose of the space will be to support our business, which is 100% online. How will we do that?

Our Vision

We are going to create something that we’ve never seen before. Maybe you have – and if so – feel free to shoot us a message with some pictures or links. Our vision is for a mixed up version of…

  • A doll atelier (workshop) that has active “artistry” happening for visitors (and customers) to see. This will include doll clothes designing, fabric cutting, construction, photography, and shipping – everything we do every day – on display for people to see. Of course the design work will all be modern, not historical. So think Euro Libby, Tokyo Libby, Outback Libby, or Malibu Libby.
  • Imagine the color and fun activity of a candy store where the workers are making the candy for people to watch, except it’s doll clothes.
  • Crash all that into the visual appeal of Britex Fabric.
  • Layer on a high-tech Silicon Valley styled corporate office upstairs – with the marketers using their online skills to pay the bills.
  • Sprinkle in artist/employees downstairs focusing on the product at a level of artistry that makes Dior In Miniature proud. Like this:

Our Branding

At first we struggled over how to do the branding because our primary business focus is Pixie Faire, (now with over 1 million patterns downloaded). But then we got clarity on the issue. The store will be Liberty Jane in branding and overall presentation. It will be “doll couture – custom fitted fashions rare and beautiful.” That’s who we are. But we will also run both Pixie Faire and Sew Powerful from the location. They’ll be upstairs and less ‘on display’ visually.

Our Dream

If we can master the business model we are envisioning, then we believe we can begin opening retail locations in more fertile locations in the future as our online business continues to grow. Our online business under-writes this effort of course – and it is the main focus of our lives, but retail feels like our destiny. Auburn will (probably) always be our home base, but having additional stores in more mall-centric locations seems like a fun dream – if we can pull it off.

Grand Reveal

We are going to try something very different and launch a kickstarter campaign to help raise the funds for the set-up. We are working on the details now and hope to launch it in September – it will include rewards that our fans will (hopefully) go crazy over. We plan on having a grand openning party after things are up and running – with friends and family, (and any Seattle area fans that would like to attend). Of course – I’ll share pictures and stories along the way.

Every step on our journey has led us to today. We are so insanely grateful for our growing group of fans, followers, and customers that loyally support Cinnamon’s work. It’s amazing to see it continue to grow.

Leave us a comment and tell us what you think, (are we crazy?). What are your suggestions for how to do this right?

Posted in Main Street Store

Lesson From The Lusaka Tourist Market In Zambia

Hi everyone,

Last Sunday I was in the Lusaka Tourist market and made you a quick video.

As I wandered around I pondered how amazing it is that “location creates pricing power” is just as true in an online marketplace such as Amazon (or other online marketplaces) as it is in a small city-level ‘real-world’ marketplace in a town in Africa.

The sellers in this marketplace come from rural villages as far away as 8 hours each Sunday! The reason? They can buy an item in their village for 7 Kwacha (about $1) and sell it in the Lusaka Marketplace for $3, $4, or even $5.

Lesson for sellers: sell at the big marketplace in your industry or region, (this is true for both off-line and online sellers). 

Enjoy the sites and sounds of Lusaka:

Posted in pricing

Special Price: Craft Business Power

Hi everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know that Amazon currently has the Craft Business Power ebook on sale for just 99 cents until midnight on the 26th. Be sure to snag a copy before the price goes back up. And if you’ve never seen our little promo video for it – here it is:

Ps. If you get the book, then you’ll also want to be sure to join our Facebook group so you can discuss it with us… https://www.facebook.com/groups/makesellgrow/

Posted in Uncategorized