Putting Ideas Into Production

We're in the home stretch of completing designs, production, and other preparations for relaunching our own shop.

The past month was all about putting ideas into production. We've been keeping some notes along the way to share with you, so you can see what decisions we're making and what hurdles we have to overcome. Sometimes it can seem like good shops and great products come out of nowhere, but the truth is they're the result of months of planning and work.

August

Big Cartel Stay Indie Notebook

Finding the right manufacturer isn't always easy, but we learned last month the importance of taking our time. One thing we're looking to sell in our shop is embroidered patches, and finding a manufacturer has been a test of our values. As we mentioned in an earlier update, we always try to work with local, independent makers when we can. It might be easier to go overseas and move on to the next part of the process, but it matters to us to practice what we preach.

Sure, Vanessa's been able to find a lot of companies that make patches, but it's been tough to find a manufacturer that actually makes the patches within the United States, rather than outsourcing their production. After emailing with at least 10 different companies, she's only found a couple who manufacture in the USA. We haven't yet made a decision of which vendor to use, but just getting to this point has been weeks of researching, emailing, and waiting.

When it comes to making things we're proud to put our name on, there's no compromising our values. While this might mean the patches won't be ready on day one of our relaunch, selling a low-quality, mass-produced item doesn't benefit us or our shoppers. The wait will be worth it.

What have we learned from this? Be direct, upfront, and as specific as possible when you communicate with vendors. As things unfold and more questions arise, be clear and friendly with responses. If it's just not working out, don't be afraid to move on.

Play nicely with others

Inspired in part by our friends at Fuzzco, whose Pretend Store lets them collaborate with artists they love, we wanted the Big Cartel shop refresh to feature a couple collaborations. It's a fun way to get others involved, to promote their art, and to create products and designs that have their own personal touch.

If you're looking to work with other artists to create a product for your shop, follow these three rules:

  • Start early. There's never too much time.
  • Have clear ideas. Leave room for their creative input, though.
  • Pay them. Simple.

All along the way, think about things like:

  • Pricing. And how it works with both you and your collaborator getting paid.
  • Branding. Make it feel special, and make sure everyone gets some love.
  • Promotion. Tell your collaborator what you have in mind early on.

Stay focused

This week our first products started arriving at HQ. While it's easy to get excited (and we definitely took a few minutes to geek out over the new designs we've been working on), it's important to remember that there's a lot left to do before we can list those products for sale. We have to coordinate a photoshoot, start writing engaging product descriptions, and wrap up additional prep before launch like deciding on packaging.

What's next

If it seems like the to-do list never ends, break it down into smaller tasks with specific things you can accomplish each day or week. There are a lot of phases to running a shop, and as you put the final touches on the product side, start to shift your attention to how you're going to promote your goods.

Would a behind-the-scenes look at your product photoshoot be something people want to see? Yes! Should you start a newsletter to announce sales and new product launches? Definitely! The possibilities are endless, but just like your to-do list, don't let that overwhelm you. Pick what you're good at, whether it's writing, photography, video, or something else, and build your marketing plan around that. Find the social networks that suit your strengths and pour your energy into them. It's a long road, and step by step is the only way to make progress.