Category: Grow

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):

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

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’.

Register Your Pretty New Logo

So we recently wrote an article about how to get a nice logo made. You might be wondering how official trademarks work, and how you go from where you are now, to an ‘official’ registered trademark. Great question. It’s a question we had to investigate and learn about too, and you might want to as well. There is a process, and it’s outlined nicely on the Fashion Law Blog. Rather than re-phrase the article, we’ll just share the link here. If you have aspirations of going from ‘home-made’ to a formally recognized brand, then follow these 4 simple steps outlined in their article.

Ah, for those of you who are putting this all together – then YES it’s probably wise to start the entire Naming/Branding effort with one simple question in mind – “Can I formally register this name as a Trademark, or does somebody else already own it?”. Going thru the 4 steps in this process will help answer that question. Obviously it would be a waste of time to create and launch a name and logo, only later to discover that someone else already has a legal claim to it.

Let us know how we can be of help!


2 Ways To Get A Professional Logo


Let’s talk logos. A logo is important for a few reasons:

  1. If done well it conveys professionalism.
  2. If done really well it conveys deep meaning.
  3. Overtime your customers see it as a symbol of all they think and feel about YOU and your work.

I know what you’re thinking – ‘oh man another thing that I need to figure out’. The good news is that there are online tools that can help you. And if by chance you think the ‘big boys’ have this all figured out – you should realize they don’t. For example, GAP just went thru an epic screw up, which should comfort all of us – they’re human too. If you haven’t heard about this GAP fiasco, you can read this article by Marka Hansen, the GAP President. Then read the second article about how the logo change was a huge disaster.

Okay, so how do YOU get it right and check this important issue off your list. Here is exactly what we did to get our logo, and 2 resources you can use.


Tips For Creating A Brand Name


Hi everyone,

Let’s talk branding! This is something I’m super passionate about, so if you ever have any questions, comment below and we can chat about your issues. In this article I’ll outline 10 techniques you’ve got to know about. Here are my top 10 branding building techniques.

1. Unique. When choosing a potential name consider using your name, (or a unique proper name), that when Googled, doesn’t have too many similar results, if any. In other words, choose something unique, and use Google to confirm it. It’s not impossible. Keep trying. If you fail to do this, you’ll be sorry. Wouldn’t you be horrified if you found out later your fun new name was already associated with something yucky, or gross, or morbid, or totally inappropriate. Finding a unique name is rule #1. The best book resource for this topic is Branding for Profit (Audio Business Course) by Trump University, (please don’t hate me, leave political comments, or get upset, just trust me when I tell you that this is the best resource I’ve ever found on this topic – and no – Trump isn’t even the instructor, it’s an amazing marketer named Jon Ward).

2. Abstract. If you’re not going to use a proper name, then instead of trying to be ‘cute’, go for something rather meaningless. (Example Nike). This is counter-intuitive, but you don’t want a brand name to have very much mental or emotional ‘baggage’ when you start your business. That way you can convey the deep meaning of your brand elements over time, and in peoples minds those elements will become the prominant memory, instead of any built in implications. If you use generic words, it’s like trying to stake a claim on a spot in your prospects mind that they’ve already assigned to someone else. You cannot have it. Think unique, like, “Smith & Hawken” or “Nike”. The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding is the best book I’ve found on this topic. This is what we did when we worked to create Pixie Faire! Avoiding generic or pre-positioned words is rule #2.

3. Avoid using the category as a default portion of your name. “so and so Doll Clothes”. If you use that name, you’ve used 2 generic words in your name, and you want to avoid generic words because they’ll never be associated with you. You cannot have them in your prospects minds, they are permanently muddled. They are associated with the concept, or the category. Not good. As a side note, lots of the mommy coupon bloggers are getting this all wrong right now. They are tacking on the category words in the hope that they’ll be remembered, but just the opposite happens. The entire category is growing, and some will be winners, but it will probably be the ones with the strongest brands. For example, as I’m trying to think of an example right now, the one that comes to mind is (uniquely named) “Northern Cheapskate”. No “Mommy” or “Coupon” anywhere in there. And that is part of why I remembered it. The best book about this is Positioning by Al Reis and Jack Trout. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. Avoid the category words is rule #3.

4. Create deep meaning. Don’t just choose a name. Choose a name that conveys attributes that are helpful to your cause. Attributes that reinforce what you’re trying to convey to the world. Nike means champion. That’s cool, right?! “Northern Cheapskate” makes it sound like the writers aren’t New Yorkers or from La La Land. They must be from someplace cold, harsh, rural, and frugal. Deep meaning. When we were brainstorming the name for our little company, we knew that it needed to relate to American Girl in some way. We kicked around lots of names, then realized our daughters name fit perfectly, (at least we think it does). It conveys americana. It does that because she was born around 9-11, and we were feeling particularly patriotic back then, and we deliberately chose a name that felt ‘American’ when we named her. In fact, we considered naming her ‘America’ at the time. Years later, we were looking for a good brand name to support the American Girl ecosystem and the stars aligned around “Liberty Jane”. Deep meaning. Harry Beckwith has great information on this in Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing. Rule #4 is – keep thinking until you find a name that accomplishes rules 1,2, and 3, but also allows for deep meaning.

5. Clarify your brand attributes. What do you want people to remember about you? Boil it down. Boil it down to like 1 word. Then try to have that word reinforced by everything you do. But here is the critical part… the attribute must be available right now in the minds of the consumer. It can’t just be what you want to ‘be’ it has to be what your customer can appreciate, recall, and attach to your brand. Ideally what they want and cannot find. Our words are ‘trendy’ & ‘exclusive’. It’s our guiding light. Brand attributes don’t just say what you ARE about, they also say what you AREN’T about. If we’re trendy and exlusive, how could we compete on price, or sell on Amazon? Nope, not exclusive enough. If we’re trendy, how can we do historical outfits? Nope, not trendy enough. Al Reis’ classic book does a deep dive into this issue –  Focus: The Future of Your Company Depends on It. Rule #5 is clarify your brand attribute and reinforce it in everything you do.

6. You can always own a niche if you go small enough. If you’re still reading this, and you’re thinking, but all the good attributes are taken, then there is one simple trick you need to consider – think narrow and deep. In every category, (as you search on Amazon or Ebay for example), there are category leaders. But part of the power of internet marketing is that if you want to own a single attribute, and become known for it, there is almost endless open territory available for a good solid brand. This is so incredibly true, we’ve listed a few business ideas we don’t have time to do, but you could easily dominate under ‘cinnamon’s updates. The most interesting new thinking on this issue that I’ve found is from author and video blogger, Gary Vaynerchuk in Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion. Rule #6 is niche thyself.

7. Your biggest brand attribute is your price. New custumers have an amazing sorting function in their brain, and the first filter is price. You will either be thrown into the expensive or inexpensive bucket. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like it, that’s how it works. Companies spend millions of dollars trying to manage their way aroud this, or convey deeper attributes of their brand, but most successful brands are very clear about this fundamental issue. They’ve chosen to go either high or low. Staying in the middle is a hard place to live as a brand. If you want to go deep on this issue, the best new book is Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It). It’s amazing. Rule #7 is choose high or low, and stick with it. (And as a word of encouragement, if you’re making items at home, think long and hard before choosing low.)

8. Be real. If you’re going to be an exclusive hand-crafted artisan, then don’t act bigger than you are, or overly corporate. People buy from people. Your brand, after getting a high or low price tag in the minds of prospects, will get a ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’ tag. And the single most important element in getting a ‘cool’ vote is authenticity. Be authentic. Tell your story. Have a really nice picture taken. Present yourself in the best light possible, (both for the picture and the overall message). You don’t have to be young and pretty to be considered cool. Just be yourself. The important part to understand here is that once people see your brand, and answer the ‘high’ or ‘low’ question, then they’ll start to judge you on the merits of what you’ve presented, and they’ll quickly make a determination about whether you’re ‘cool’ or ‘uncool’. In ‘Focus’ Al Reis and Jack Trout say that

“somewhere in the corner of the prospects brain there is a penalty box for brands they decide are loosers”.

Don’t be in that box. Rule #8 is be authentic, it’s cool. My favorite business book of all time has a great section on this. It’s Growing a Business by Paul Hawken, the founder of Smith & Hawken. It’s pre-internet, but so solid, it’s a must read for anyone interested in starting a successful business.

9. Polish it up. Now days, there is no reason you can’t have a professional looking website and logo. Check out our Get Started page for our list of recommended tools. Remember your brand is your most important craft product (and ongoing project). Make your brand a masterpiece.

10. Don’t be afraid to change! This is outlined beautifully in the Trump branding book. It taught me a lot about the true brand equity. Bottomline, if you need to change your name because it’s not effective, don’t be afraid to do it. If you do it carefully and systematically so customers are along for the ride, you won’t loose anything – and you’ll gain a lot.

Have fun building your brand!