Author: MSG Team

Jason & Cinnamon Miles founded Make | Sell | Grow as a resource for sewers, crafters, and artisans. The goal is simple - give tools, tips, and training in a simple to understand way.

Battling An Expense Explosion

Hi everyone,

We are working on an article for a coupon blogger site called Obsessive Coupon Disorder – and we thought we’d share it with you here…We hope you enjoy it. It’s more of our personal story than we’ve shared before. We hope it inspires you.

I’ve used coupons my entire married life – almost 17 years. It’s a Sunday morning ritual. But in 2008, we hit a financial crisis that coupons couldn’t rescue us from. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say our fixed expenses shot up by almost $2,000 a month. To meet the challenge we looked at our budget and made some changes, but we knew we’d need at least $1,000 a month of new income if we were going to make it. My stay-at-home mom days seemed numbered.

My husband encouraged me to think long-term, and avoid doing dead-end jobs, or worse, taking a job that would require me to work long hours into the evenings and weekends. He proposed we take one of my skills, and build a home-based business around it. So with the goal of earning $1,000 a month, and a lot of prayer, we started two part-time businesses: Cinnamon Miles Photography and Liberty Jane Clothing.

Being a professional photographer wasn’t for me, so that was short-lived. But my talent for making doll clothes started to get people’s attention, and when combined with his enthusiasm for online selling, Liberty Jane Clothing took off. Our $1,000 a month goal was achieved.

Fast forward to 2011 and we have a thriving business, which will finish this year with revenues in the six figures. I’ve also become an official brand ambassador for Bernina, the world’s premiere sewing machine maker. And in many ways, we are just getting started.
Here are my 3 suggestions if you need to increase your income quickly:

First, embrace the desperation. I’m convinced that most people fail at money making ventures because they aren’t desperate enough. If failure is not an option, you probably won’t fail. Get hyper motivated to reach your first income goal.

Second, take your best skill, and brainstorm ways it could make you money. Try your best to develop a solid business concept associated with your passion or hobby. Become a student of business models.

Third, as they say, ‘find hungry people and feed them’. Don’t make a product and then try to convince people to buy it. That’s really hard. Instead, go to the sites where people are buying daily, look at what is selling well, improve upon it, and jump in. You’ll be a sensation. Sites to look at include EBay, Etsy, Craigslist, and Fiver.

Tell us your story – Have you had an expense explosion that required money making, not just money saving? Leave a comment and tell us about how you did it.

Cinnamon Miles

Liberty Jane Clothing

Camera Upgrade Story…

Hi everyone,

We got this great email from Robyn of Hadley’s Modern Doll Fashions (etsy) and here she is on EBay, and Facebook.

We thought we’d turn it into a little article to encourage you to consider upgrading your camera… Here is her story in her own words:

Hi, Cinnamon!

I bought a Sony Alpha 100 used on Ebay about 3 weeks ago. I paid $285, and a huge smart card (I think 8 GB) was included on the deal.

The deciding factor in going with the Sony was the reported ease of use for people not familiar with using a DSLR (which is 100% true) and also that you can use most older SLR Minolta lenses.

So after I bought the Sony, I bought an old 50 mm Minolta lens on Ebay for $59.

The difference in picture quality is shocking! I’m almost embarrassed to say what I had been using, which were a couple of Fuji FinePix point and shoot cameras. There’s really no comparison. It’s the difference between steak and hamburger. LOL. With the Fujis, I would go outside with the white tag boards for the best lighting, as I do now, and the pictures would turn out OK, but the new camera & Lens almost give the pictures a 3D quality.

My LJC experience has been so much fun and rewarding! I love the patterns, and really, everything having to do with selling on ebay. I’m remembering a lot of HTML I’ve forgotten, and now I’m getting hooked on photography. Oh, yeah, and my sewing skills have really improved too. LOL. Just the challenge of the sell is very exciting, and I’ve actually met a couple of fellow enthusiasts that I can talk shop with. I had hoped I might make a little extra fun money doing this, and this is happening, but I’m gaining skills that are way more valuable! So anyway, just wanted to tell you that because you really tapped into a creative outlet for a lot of people. This is way better than selling Avon. LOL.

Thanks again,


Here is a picture showing before (left) and after (right):

Prada Makes An Anchor, Say What?

In Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It), author William Poundstone describes Prada’s business model for us. He says,

“Prada believes in engineering the context”

By engineering the context he means creating a context in which a $300 purse seems like a good deal. How do you do that? You set it next to a $2,400 purse. The $2,400 purse is the anchor, the $300 purse is the one they really wanted you to buy all along.

He goes on to say:

[Prada] paid over $1,700 per square foot for its Rem Koolhaas designed store in SoHo and is forking over equally stratospheric rents. It would not devote floor space to goods that hardly ever sell unless there was a reason for it. Trade-off contrast, (the system of setting a high priced item next to a low priced item), is part of the cost of doing business… It’s not unusual to find items similar to the high-priced anchor selling for a tenth as much. Anyone who can’t swing that can always try the $300 sunglasses. Or the $110 mobile phone charm.

What exactly is anchoring in the context of pricing? It was first described by two ‘behavior decision’ theorists named Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman. They described it like this:

“An initial value (the anchor) serves as a mental benchmark or starting point for estimating an unknown…” The unknown is the true value of an item.

Do you have an anchor? Can you create one? It might be a wise strategy.


The Power Of A Partner

We believe in the power of partnership!

Some people say business is all about crushing the competition, but we believe it is much more common that collaboration creates mutual success. In fact, if there is one foundational business principle we believe has helped us grow Liberty Jane Clothing, it’s the partnership between us as co-founders, (Jason + Cinnamon). Cinnamon brings the technical design skill, and Jason brings the marketing and sales skills. But it doesn’t stop there. We’ve become comfortable working with other people too. We view the business world as a place for lots of collaboration – and less often cut-throat competition. Other people see it differently. If you have a competition mentality, we’d encourage you to consider migrating to a more collaborative approach. We believe that in the long-run it will serve you better.

As I write, this, we are working with the following people to accomplish several specific things, including:

  • Shirley & her partners in India – Our wordpress consultant who has helped us build several of our websites. (this one and our patterns website).
  • The Tax Ladies of Auburn – our book-keepers.
  • Jess – our Social Media Consultant who is helping us with our social media marketing.
  • A dozen cool pattern partners.
  • Dawne – our amazing seamstress.
  • KitzyKK on Youtube – she does pattern tutorials for us.
  • Jeff, Ron & Chris – mentors to Jason on marketing and business issues.
  • Alice – our corporate contact at Bernina.
  • You! Over 300 partners who are working to build cool businesses using our patterns and resources.

Of course we want to be a great partner to you – but if you are trying to do everything alone, and you’re struggling, then we’d encourage you to seriously consider expanding your list of partners. We’re excited that you’ve taken the first step to partner with us – and we want to be the best partner we can be, but you probably need more than just us. There is a terrific saying from the Bible about the power of a partner…

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up… Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

There are several great reasons to partner:

  1. A good partner brings skills that you don’t have – and together you’re more complete
  2. A good partner brings energy that you might be lacking – and together you operate more intensely
  3. A good partner brings perspective that might challenge yours – and together you’re wiser
  4. A good partner brings enthusiasm – so that when you’re down – their encouragement will keep you going

Of course, partnering with people can have it’s down side too. Sometimes you partner with people who turn out to be less than trust-worthy. We’ve had that happen. We’ve had people try to get close to us just to learn enough about what we’re doing to go off on their own. That hurts. Maybe some of you are actually just reading everything on our partners site so you can figure out how to compete with us. That would be a bummer, but it’s not a sufficient reason for us to abandon our collaborative approach.

When considering partnerships, we’d suggest you keep these things in mind:

  1. Is the new partner trustworthy?
  2. Do you share the same (or at least similar) values and goals?
  3. Are you and the partner clear on the terms related to money involved? The worst partnerships are vague. The best are written clearly – even if just via email.
  4. Is there a ‘test period’ where you try out the arrangement and agree to end it if things aren’t working?
  5. Does the new partner bring a specific skill that adds value to the business?

You might be wondering how partnerships work formally – legally. The answer is – it depends. There are lots of ways to partner with people – from a simple vendor relationship where you’re buying a service from someone – to a formal business partner where you are in business together. We won’t go into the tax implications of these choices, but if you wonder, ask your CPA. Here are a few:

  1. You can pay people per ‘piece’.
  2. You can pay people a percentage of sales.
  3. You can split net revenue, (50/50 or at any agreed upon percentage).
  4. You can have people pay you to partner with you, (like you’re doing as a premium partner).
  5. You can have people give you products or services so that you’ll partner with them, (that’s our deal with Bernina).
  6. You can have people give you an affiliate commission for partnering with them, (that’s how we get money from Amazon).
  7. And I’m sure there are lots of other ways.

If there is any way we can be a better partner to you – let us know.

And tell us what you think of this post!

Jason & Cinnamon

2 Powerful selling tools

If you’ve got a product that you think is attractive to customers, and you’re operating in a niche that you think has potential, and you have a brand that you think is exciting to people, then there are 2 critical tools that you need to focus on developing.

#1 Copy writing

Copy writing is the art of describing your product in the most compelling way possible. It is the single most important skill you can develop to effectively sell online.

Here is an example… Our daughter Libby has started to sew, and wanted to sell her outfits on Etsy. But she didn’t want any help – she wanted to do it all on her own. We thought that was admirable. So, she made a cute skirt, and took pictures herself, and put them on the computer, and after a bit of help with getting an Etsy account set-up, she listed the item herself. She wrote the description very acurately. It was a good and straight-forward description of what she was selling. But her listing didn’t sell. Days went by, and there was no action. So, finally, depressed, she asked me for help. We changed her listing description slightly to include the following openning sentences, (this is a paraphrase, we can’t remember the exact wording, but it was something like this),

“Hi, I’m Libby, from Liberty Jane Clothing – my mom named the company after me. This is my very first outfit I made to sell, and someday I’m going to be a big time designer. So, if you want to be able to say you bought my very first outfit, then you should buy this”.

The outfit sold the same day we made this change. What did we do? We created a story – that the buyer could be a part of. It’s a classic copy writing technique. An engaging story gives the potential buyer a reason to finish the transaction. Another example of storytelling is when we started our “International Collection” for our Fall and Spring lines. It was a ‘framework’ for the stories that allowed us to create ongoing small stories as we launched new outfits. Now instead of listing a “tan dress” we could list it as the “Outback Libby – Faraway Downs Dress”.

The best copy writers that we’ve found are 1) Bob Bly and 2) Craig Garber. They are true masters. If you want their tips just sign-up for their emails and you’ll get a TON of free advice every few days, (they publish their emails almost daily). And of course, every once in a while, you’ll also get a terrificly written ‘pitch’ for one of their books. And you should buy them if you need help with copy writing. And make sure you read all our articles about wrting.

#2 Product Photography

If you can take a very good picture of your product, then online selling will become almost effortless. I know, that’s a bold statement, but we’ve found it to be true ourselves, and seen it to be true for many other sellers. If there is 1 skill that most online sellers fail to fully perfect, it’s photography. But all things being equal, it’s a huge game-changer. When it comes to photography there are two basic issues:

  1. Equipment. We’ve outlined what we use on this post. And we’d encourage you to seriously consider getting a DSLR and Portrait Lens. It will change your life.
  2. Technique. Once you have the right gear, you can learn the basic functions of your camera and lens pretty quickly. There are tons of free as well as paid online resources. Here is a post.

These two powerful selling tools will be a huge benefit to you if you learn to do them well. Go ahead, get obsessed with them. Spend a little money, and become a pro. You won’t regret it.

Doubters, Read This

[This is an excerpt from Price It Like Picasso – our Auction Blueprint. If you haven’t read it yet, you really should…]

“A thing long expected, takes the form of the

unexpected, when at last it comes”

Mark Twain

There are three key reasons an online business is an amazing opportunity. Let me outline them:

#1 Infancy

The Internet is in its infancy. It’s a baby. It’s an enormous, amazing, talented youngster. It basically started in 1995, with a user-group that was relatively small, but grew quickly and continues to grow at an astonishing pace. If you think the online universe is fully populated, or all the apples have been picked, then you’re really wrong. This thing is just getting started, and there is plenty of room on the bus for you, and your new business. Here are three metaphors that might help you understand the magnitude of this opportunity.

A Whole New World: Imagine it is 15 years after Columbus discovered the new world. Manhattan is filled with forest, not skyscrapers. Boston has a few Indian tee-pees erected, and looks more like a KOA campground, than a thriving city. Treasure Island in the Caribbean has never had anyone step foot on it, and it is waiting for someone to come and lay on its beaches. But now imagine you can travel to the new world for free, without leaving your home in England, without it costing you anything. You don’t have to quit your job. You can go to the new world on evenings and weekends. You can find your piece of it, and build your new kingdom, then, magically, with the click of a mouse you can be back in time for dinner, or to tuck your kids into bed. It’s the new world, minus the risk of crossing the ocean.

Head West Young Man: Imagine the Internet is like “The Wild West”, and this is fifteen years after the Lewis & Clark expedition. The Napa Valley doesn’t have any vineyards yet; want to plant some? Anaheim doesn’t have any orange groves, let alone Disneyland, interested? Las Vegas is not even on the map. San Francisco? What’s that? And instead of jumping on a wagon train, buying a horse, kissing your family good-bye and leaving everything behind, you get to click into it during evenings and weekends. You can travel west, stake your claim, and work the land. Then with the click of a mouse, be back in time for church, or to leave for work on time at 7:15.

There Is Gold In Them There hills: Imagine it is fifteen years after the Gold Rush started. Those nice folks at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma saw shiny gold in the bottom of the creek, and the world changed. But you don’t have to move to California or buy a physical shovel or pick. You can jump into the creek, work all day picking up your gold nuggets, and return home in the blink of an eye. Get your feet wet every evening for two hours without sacrificing anything. Bust your pick on the weekends, and never worry about getting bonked on the head by thieves or claim jumpers.

Is it really that big of an opportunity? Like the new world? Like the wild west? Like the gold rush? It’s bigger – financially – way bigger. Get the picture? This thing is big, and it’s just starting out.

#2 Accessibility

The Internet has changed how business is done. Why? Because anything online, (aka digital), like digital products, and processes, and tools have something called “near zero marginal cost.” That means if IBM builds an amazing tool for selling something, it costs them almost nothing to add another user. They know that and that user can be you. And there are millions of companies that are building systems and processes, and tools. So guess what happens? There is a classic ‘race to the bottom’. Where one company makes something and charges $99, then another company makes it and figures out how to charge $9.99, then a third company figures out how to make it and give it away for free to enhance another part of their business. What does that mean for you? It means people start offering you tools, and processes, and products for free, or nearly free, and although that might not make any sense to you, it makes sense to them, and their accountants. Score.

Remember when you used to pay for America Online? Or Prodigy? What happened? Netscape came along and offered the same service for free, and figured out how to make money doing it. They ‘demonetized’ that product. Remember when door-to-door salesmen used to sell Encyclopedias? Then Microsoft introduced Encarta on CDROM? Then Wikipedia started? That was an industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year – and it got vaporized by someone using the principles of ‘near zero marginal cost’. That same situation is occurring over and over throughout every corner of the current Internet. You are getting amazing tools offered to you, all for free. The only thing you have to do is learn to use them.

I recently heard Mark Suster, a very successful entrepreneur, share at a Stanford lecture. It was a great lecture. He explained that this first business cost him about 2 million to build, in terms of the tools and systems necessary to run it. His next business cost him just a few hundred thousand to basically build the same thing. Today, he could build the same business for just a few thousand dollars. Why? Because the tools and systems that used to cost a lot of money are now offered for free, or nearly free because of this magical near zero marginal cost.

Hey guess what, I don’t go to Stanford, and I don’t live in California. I watched the lecture for free on their website. So let me recap the situation for you: I attended a Stanford lecture for free, listening to a guru guy talk about near zero marginal cost. I didn’t pay anything for the lecture. I didn’t get on a plane and travel to Palo Alto. Stanford is happy, the guru is happy, I’m happy, and now you’re happy. Was that possible fifteen years ago? No way!
The online marketplace is offering you more free products than ever before, and making more money off of you than ever before. How is this possible?

I realize this will sound like I’m contradicting myself, given the fact that I just shared all about how things are getting ‘free’. Yet there is an amazing flip side to the free coin. While things are getting free people are spending more money online than ever before. But it’s not just people spending money online, its companies, and churches, and the government. It’s commerce at the broadest level. Google is not going broke, yet it offers almost all its services for free.

#3 Scalability

All of us have experienced going from a small town to a big one and back again. It’s fun to be ‘awed’ by the differences. Some of us grew up in a big city and are most comfortable there; some grew up in a small town and are most comfortable there. When you’re a small town kid, the big city is a weird and wonderful place.

We were small town kids in Northern California, so San Francisco was the big city for us. One year (before the Internet) we were newly married, and we got into photography. So for our anniversary we went to San Francisco to visit the camera stores and try to find a lens that we were interested in. Wow, we spent a whole day visiting all the camera stores, and pawnshops. Our little town back home didn’t even have 1 camera shop. San Francisco had more than we could visit in one day. There were so many options, so many cool shops, and so many things to see. It was like a wild goose chase in a giant maze. We had a blast. I’ll never forget driving to one pawnshop and as we got closer, we realized it was in a really rough part of town. Suddenly we realized maybe this was dangerous, we got nervous, but it made it all the more fun. We even debated whether or not we should stop and go in, but we did, and it turned out fine. I’ll never forget that shopping experience. It was with my amazing spouse, we had so much fun, and we had never indulged in a hobby that much before. Guess where I’m going with this story. Fast-forward a few years. Camera enthusiasts have endless options online now. The whole industry has migrated to an e-commerce existence. The options we found in San Francisco are like a drop in the ocean compared to the options we could find online.

Something weird happens to topics and hobbies when you have a billion people online. Topics that used to be so marginal and ‘out-there’ now have huge forums and communities that you can participate in. Imagine an ant that is the size of a dinosaur. Imagine a dinosaur the size of Texas.

So the online marketplace is growing to an unfathomable size and scope, and with it, information, products, and opportunities associated with very small topics, or niches, are growing at this rate as well. Your ‘thing’ just got put on steroids. Your hobbyist group of 4 local friends just got expanded to the size of a packed out Wrigley Field. Do you know how many people want to buy a coke at Wrigley Field? A lot. Sell coke. Small things have become big, and big things have become utterly unrecognizable. If you’re interested in selling, this is the arena for you.

But you probably already figured this out if you’ve been online for any length of time. You searched for your hobby, and had your mind blown away. It changed you forever. Great.


Now the question is simple. Can you turn that little hobby, that craft love affair, that passion, into a profitable business? These three factors, infancy, accessibility, and scalability, all add up to one truth: You can do this! You can do it from your home, and you can do it cheaply. The barriers have fallen, and the opportunities really do exist. It’s a whole new world.

Our auction system is designed to help you learn one part of the online selling puzzle. It’s not the total solution, but it is one key part. If you can consistently run a successful and profitable online auction, then you can do something that most other online sellers cannot. Having that tool in your toolbox will help you for years to come, and serve as a great onramp to bigger and better selling strategies. And the cool part, the really awesome part, is that the process you have to go through to create a successful auction business will require you to lay the groundwork properly for long-term success. In other words, it’s a great place to stake your claim.

Why a few pennies matter

You probably like Subway, (the sandwich shop), right? The founder has some advice for you.

His name is Fred Deluca, and his advice might surprise you. He’s a true entreprenuer, and started out very humbly at just 17. He opened the sandwich shop as a way to earn money for college. So he knows something about being where you’re at. Being at the kitchen table, hoping and dreaming about growing a business. His advice…

“Earn A Few Pennies First”

Pennies? Earn pennies? I know, right?! His advice seems sort of funny, but here is his point. He says to start with the goal of just making a few pennies. And as you set that simple goal, and raise the ante, you develop a goal oriented approach to your business growth. Incrementally improving over time to bigger and bigger goals, but never stressing yourself out with a crazy goal. Just take the next simple step. Then build from there.

As Joe Vitale says,

It’s easier to make dollars if you’ve made pennies first.

It’s easier to make hundreds after you’ve made a few dollars.

It’s easier to make thousands if you’ve made hundreds.

Get the idea? Don’t stress. Just build on your successes and strive to make the next logical step. Napoleon Hill once wrote,

“A goal is a dream with a deadline”


Note: Fred Deluca is the cofounder of Subway, and author of, ‘Start Small, Finish Big’.

How To Make Labels

A key part of developing a brand is to include tags or labels in the clothing that you sell. This adds value to the item in the customers eye and adds a level of collectability to the product. I make my own tags using white ribbon and printable  iron on transfer paper for dark t-shirts. Do not use the transfer paper for white t-shirts, it requires you to print a mirrored image and won’t work for this project. There are links below to the products on amazon, I’ve included these links so that you can see exactly what I’m using. You can buy this sort of paper through Amazon or at Wal Mart, Target , or an office supply store as well.

If you have any questions just post them below, I’ll try to get back to you asap with an answer.

Etsy Overview From Inc. Magazine

Hi everyone,

In case you haven’t seen it, the April cover story in INC. Magazine is all about Etsy! The key take-aways:

1. Etsy sold $340 Million in goods last year.

2. The average Etsy seller made less than $800 on the site last year.

3. There are 400,000 Etsy sellers now.

4. The jury is out on whether you can make significant money on Etsy.

Here is the link to the article:

And here is the video they made:

Tell us what you think about Etsy! We are eager to understand how it is working for each of you. Jason is working on a new report/webinar called, “Etsy Income Explosion – How To Grow Your Business Beyond The Etsy Platform” and we are curious if it will be helpful to you, and/or what your main issues are related to growing your business.


12 Common Digital Photography Mistakes

It takes more than a camera to take good pictures. It takes a certain eye, a way of seeing things, to take pictures that make people go “Wow!”. Fortunately, it can be learned. And the more you practice, the better you’ll get.

If you’re interested in becoming a good digital photographer start by taking a look at these most common mistakes people make when taking digital pictures:

1. Not knowing your camera. If you never read your digital camera’s manual and learn its features and how to use them, you won’t be able to make the most of it.

2. Not using a tripod. Tripods allow you to take the sharpest pictures even in low light. Use one as often as possible.

3. Not giving the camera time to focus. Digital cameras need time to properly focus and get the right exposure. It can take a fraction of a second or a couple of seconds. Account for this when taking pictures.

4. Relying too much on zoom. Using the camera’s zoom feature makes the picture grainier. Get as close to the subject as possible.

5. Taking pictures against the light. This makes the subject dark and the background too bright.

6. Relying too much on the flash. Natural light gives the best pictures, so use it as much as possible. Flash tends to make images look harsh.

7. Not taking enough pictures. It’s almost impossible to take the perfect shot at one try, so take many pictures. With digital photography, this doesn’t cost you extra. Try different angles and compositions.

8. Always putting the subject dead center. Learn the rule of thirds in composition, and you’ll have more interesting pictures.

9. Forgetting to check the horizon. When taking pictures with the horizon showing, make sure it’s level.

10. Selecting a low-resolution setting. Your camera will allow you to select different resolutions. Don’t be tempted to choose a low resolution just to save on memory space. Instead, buy additional memory for your camera and always take your pictures in high resolution.

11. Trying to take too much. Don’t try to include too many things in one picture, such as people and scenery. A picture is more effective when it’s focused on a single subject.

12. Not using the camera enough. You’ll never know when a good photo op will come up, so have your camera with you at all times.

It may seem like a lot to think about, but with practice, these things will become second nature.

For those who want to learn even more digital photography techniques, check out Karl Taylor’s stuff on Youtube – tons of great free tutorials.