As someone who makes art of any kind, you can appreciate how frustrating it is for other artists to see their work knocked off, made oversees and sold for much less than the original..
Whether you bake, sew, throw pots or blow glass, your buying habits can make a difference.
Wherever I travel, I always try to identifying indigenous craft and support local artists. On a recent trip to New England, I scoured the shops for a handmade birthday gift to bring back to a friend. With the rich heritage in the Northeastern US, I felt confident that it wouldn’t be hard to find some unique local pieces. From my years shopping the Buyers Market of Contemporary Craft in Philadelphia, sourcing for my own gallery and others, I knew that the buyers on the east coast were discriminating and valued Made In America.
So, imagine my disappointment when all I could find in the local shops were imports. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since in so many areas of the country, the shops feature gift items imported from China, imprinted with the names of local destinations. I finally found one shop that had exclusively American made items. I purchased a pair of earrings made by a New England metal smith and a couple of small prints by a local artist. There was only one other shop in the seaside village that carried hand-made work but as I read labels, I learned that much of the inventory was imported.
I do understand the reasoning behind the shop keepers decision to carry imports. The mark-up is huge compared with the small profit margin on products made in the US. I also understand that most buyers don’t read labels and even if they do, they don’t want to pay the higher price for something that is made locally, when something that looks similar costs less. I think there is also a common misconception that if something is in a pricey boutique, it is not made in China. (If you believe that, check the labels on designer pieces in Nordstroms.)
If you want the American public to continue supporting you, it’s your duty to make it a point to buy hand made in America and to educate your friends and family because chances are, they are buying the cheapest items unaware that they are supporting companies that will eventually put you and your artist buddies out of business. MOST PEOPLE JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. But you, as an artist yourself, want others to support your work so PLEASE don’t rationalize abut buying imports because they are cheaper.
How can you tell? First, check items for a label. If you don’t see anything identifying where it is made, ask the shop keeper for the name of the artist. If it’s in fact handmade, they will have that info. Don’t assume that everything at a craft fair is made domestically, either. Only juried shows control where the items come from and you’d be surprised how many mass produced pieces show up at craft fairs. If you have difficulty finding locally made gifts, seek out an artists’ co-p. These are generally owned and operated by a group of artist and you can frequently meet the artists and even watch them at work.
Remember, if you want the public to buy your work and support you, commit to buying handmade when you have the choice.
Marilyn is a renaissance woman or what Barbara Sher terms a scanner. A multi-talented creative with as many certificates and degrees as she has interests, in the four years I’ve known her, she’s “almost” started twice that number of businesses. Just as something is beginning to take shape, she panics and asks, “What if this isn’t my life purpose? What if I put all my time and energy into this and then discover it’s not my true calling?”
Unlike “bright shiny object syndrome” this isn’t about being sidetracked by each new opportunity. It’s actually based in unreasonable fear that “if I do this and then realize there’s something bigger calling me, I’ll have wasted all that time doing the wrong thing.”
No life purpose or calling is going to disappear just because you’ve put your all into something else. In fact, you’ll never “waste time” working towards something you’re passionate about.
You might not want to hear this but maybe you aren’t meant to do one thing for the rest of your life. Maybe the project or career you are pursuing now is what will guide you to a path that will call even louder. Changing course doesn’t mean you’re a dilettante. It means you’re growing and you can’t grow if you live in fear of doing the “wrong” thing and do nothing.
What if the purpose that’s calling you now isn’t meant to be your life’s work? What if your callings are numerous? Maybe you are meant to do several possibly even unrelated good works? Even Mother Teresa followed several callings.
Consider this: most people find their greatest work when they stumble on an obstacle while pursuing something else. I promise you that if you put your whole heart and self into whatever is calling you now, you will not miss out on your life purpose. What you’re feeling drawn to at this moment is likely to lead you to discover your next meaningful work.
- Make your wrapping part of the present. Wrap a hand painted silk or knitted scarf around the gift. Tie a piece of scrap yarn around it instead of purchasing ribbon or make your bows out of something you would normally throw away like the shiny foil bags coffee comes in.
- Out-of-date road atlas pages or used road maps make fun colorful wrapping as do pages from the past years calendars, particularly if they have images or quotes.
- A lot of parents wrap every tiny stocking stuffer separately but that’s a lot of waste and the kids just want to get to the toy. Consider bundling all the gifts for one child together in a single wrap or if you want to make the opening last longer, make it game like an Easter Egg Hunt with clues.
- Kids love cereal boxes. They make a fun container for books and games.
- Use real popcorn to cushion your breakables for shipping.
- You know those burlap or canvas wine bags that the grocery stores send home? Why not splash a little fabric paint on them to bring beverages to a party rather than purchase a paper wine bag?
- Make or buy reusable cloth market bags out of cool fabric and wrap your gifts in them. If you are not in the habit of bringing your own bags to the grocer, paint or stamp the brown craft paper bags and use them for gift wrap. (Trader Joe’s makes this extra-easy by using festive holiday-themed brown bags.)
- If you still get a physical newspaper delivered to your house, save the comic section. It makes fun gift wrap.
- If you’re hosting a company or family gathering, make creative wrapping part of the fun. See who can be the most resourceful. If guests do use commercial wrapping, take a lesson from Nancy and save to reuse. It might even be fun to see who gets whose paper next year.
This morning a client was asking for guidance on how she could turn one of her hobbies into a meaningful business. As I listened, I realized that she wasn’t speaking as passionately about her many interests as she was about what she had learned from dealing with a recent tragedy. As she talked, it became apparent that the most terrible experience in her life had prepared her for a meaningful new career. She’d recently helped her life partner through the long course of a terminal illness. The ways she compensated for the lack of compassion, resources and communication she experienced in dealing with the medical community had prepared her to do patient and family advocacy. Her need to raise money to pay for her partner’s medical bills had given her the experience of planning fund raising events, soliciting donors and raising public awareness. Like many people who’ve had to be innovative during difficult times, her creative solutions to a crises situation could meet the needs of a whole population facing similar challenges. My friend found it hard to believe that people would pay her to do for them what she had figured out how to do for herself, but as we reviewed all the time spent researching and implementing creative solutions, she realized this was a viable business that could help people solve an urgent dilemma.
Sometimes the best business ideas come from something we’ve found lacking . While no one wants to think of a tragedy as creating opportunity, sometimes the skills or wisdom we gain during a crises prepares us for a career helping others deal with a similar situation.
After our phone conversation, I thought of John Walsh, host of “America’s Most Wanted” and of the horrific experience of losing his six year old son to abduction and murder. Determined to not let Adam’s death be in vain, Walsh began a lifelong career helping to apprehend over 1,050 dangerous fugitives and bring home more than 50 missing children in the past 22 years. He’s authored best-selling books and DVDs on stranger safety and internet safety, and has been instrumental in getting stricter laws passed to crack down on sex offenders, all as a result of the most horrendous loss a parent could face.
What experiences have forced you to create solutions that others might also benefit from? Have there been times when you wished there’d been a product or service to help you deal with a situation that felt nearly overwhelming? Did you ever wish someone had written a manual to guide you through a difficult time in your life? What did you learn from handling and getting through some of life’s toughest challenges? How could that be turned into a service, manual or “roadmap” to help others? The answer to those questions just might be the key to your more meaningful career.
For more ideas on how you can make a living and a difference in the world, go over to the right of this page and sign up for one of the gifts. You’ll then receive periodic updates and articles on finding more meaning in your work.
This is a repost of an article I dug out of the archives in response to a comment the lovely Pam Slim posted on Facebook about being too busy to write a post on being too busy to serve more clients.
Many years ago, my partner and I started a furniture business in Tucson. We were successful right off the starting block and paid for our first shipment before we ordered more inventory. We loved to travel and didn’t want to be in one place all the time so we hired and trained a manager and staff, then moved on to open store number two and three in Phoenix. We also knew we wanted to live on the coast eventually so we opened store number 4 in San Diego. Then things got tricky because with us out of state, 2 of the 3 store managers in Arizona got lazy and didn’t maintain the level of integrity we’d hoped. We knew we couldn’t be in more than one place so we basically cloned ourselves by training the best Az manager to supervise the others and promoted him to district manager. We continued with this scalable model as we built the business throughout California and it enabled us to take extended family vacations and continue to earn even when we weren’t present.
Whether you have a brick and mortar business selling physical items or you do individual or group coaching or consulting, you will find yourself in the same position eventually. More people want what you have than you can service by yourself. You either hit a maximum earning power, raise your rates according to demand or figure out how to serve more people. Since there are a finite number of hours in a day and you have a limit to how much energy you can expend before you need to recharge, the scalable model is the best solution. But how do you do that?
Let’s say you’re a coach or consultant. The first step, if you haven’t done so already, would be to document in detail everything you do to help your clients. This will become your training manual. Now, find people who have the personality type AND experience you possess but may not have the organizational or marketing skills. Work closely with them for long enough that you have complete faith in referring your overflow to them. You can charge for training or “certification” or take a percentage of the revenue from clients you refer to them.
NOTICE I said EXPERIENCE and PERSONALITY, not skill-set. There are lots of coaches out there who are doing certification programs simply to get the fee but you should NEVER refer your valuable clients to someone who has never done the work themselves that you are “certifying” them to do.
Let’s look at a couple of other examples. Do you do a particular modality of body work that is your intellectual property? Your clients are so happy with what you do that they refer their friends and suddenly, you have more people in need of your services than you can physically serve. I recommend you go to a massage therapy school and find those graduate therapists who have the quality of touch, presence and energy that your modality requires and then teach them your specific techniques. You can certify and refer clients to them. Again, you can either charge a training and certification fee or accept a percentage of the revenue from clients you send to them.
Do you make a craft, say jewelry or textile art, that is very popular and there’s demand for more product than you can produce on your own? A great way to scale that would be to find some stay-at-home moms who can create their own cottage industries doing piece work for you. There are lots of tips on leveraging your income from your craft at craftbizblog.com.
Regardless of what kind of work you do, you can expand beyond what you can do on your own by leveraging the power of teaching others to serve in the same way you do. And always, always be sure to choose people who you feel absolutely confident about representing YOU.
Have you done this in your business? If so, please do share with us here in the comments below.
This vibrant college town has crafters making art for a cause. See what Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University is doing HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsvRPwmWRhc
What is all this talk about “work-life balance” anyway? If you are a corporate employee who spends your days dreaming of the weekend, OK-I get it-you’re stuck. Or you’re holding onto that JOB because you need the income while you start-up your dream livelihood, kudos to you. But the self-employed seeking work-life balance? I don’t understand it. Here’s why: if you are feeling like all you do is work and you need to find more time for fun, YOU ARE IN THE WRONG BUSINESS. Period.
Once, only once, in my decades of self-employment, did I consciously dream of time off. I justified intense times of stress and long hours in business with the knowledge that my work was footing the bill for frequent lavish vacations. But you know what? That level of work/play balance was not sustainable. Because my heart wasn’t deeply connected to the greater purpose in my business. There wasn’t enough personal meaning in what I was doing to keep me fully engaged.
Are you feeling that way? I’m not talking about taking enough time off. If you have to tell yourself to keep your office door closed on the weekend and not take work on vacation, then the truth you must face is YOU ARE IN THE WRONG BUSINESS.
Sure, if you aren’t making time for your fitness routine or you’re gobbling fast food at your desk, you do need to re-think your time management. But if you spend all your at-home hours holed up in your office and ignore your family, it isn’t work-life balance you need to address. It’s work-love balance because if you are truly, completely in love with your business and you are in your right livelihood, you engage your family and your enthusiasm is contagious.
Do your kids know what you do for a living? Do they talk about it with their friends?
Do you talk about your work at social and family gatherings?
Do you find yourself on vacation coming up with ideas for your business? Or taking field trips to other businesses that inspire you?
If you answered “yes” to the above questions, then you are likely in your right livelihood but if you find yourself disappointed when it’s time to get back to work, it’s time to do some serious soul searching about what your business means to you.
Is your business just about making a living or are you making a difference? Do you feel connected to a deep purpose in your business? Or are you searching for more meaning?
As always, you are invited and encouraged to share your experience, thoughts and opinions below.
What do you do when your business is making money but not feeding your soul? Are you feeling confused because the business you’ve spent time building suddenly feels like “not enough”? Like you need to find more meaning and purpose in your business? If so, before you throw out “the baby with the bath water’ (sorry for the cliche), consider how you can add an element of purpose or social good to your existing business.
I love to help entrepreneurs design a business based on their values and purpose. Starting with a clear mission is in some ways easier but there are advantages to already having a profitable business and then finding the deeper meaning. You have the confidence that you know how to make money so that piece is out of the way. It does, however, take a lot of hard work to tweak your mindset from strictly a positive net profit to the multiple bottom line of a social enterprise. So, how do you transition your for-profit business to a mission driven venture?
First, know that you do not have to change the business entity to a non-profit. You absolutely can make money and make a difference.
Let’s look at a few examples from big businesses that made the transition to ideal-driven. Dove, the soap manufacturer, has made a big part of their mission to improve the self-esteem of girls. Instead of using the tried and true stereotypical thin girls in their ads, they are using models of all body types to show that beauty doesn’t look just one way. Paint company Akzo Nobel is now focused on using more sustainable packaging and speaks to enriching people’s lives through color. We are seeing a trend in business to stress environmental or sustainable benefits but it has to be authentic, not some marketing trick or ‘green-washing’.
The best place to start when trying to create more meaning in your existing business is to ask yourself a few key questions. What is the passion behind my company? Why does it exist? What can my business contribute to my customers and society? How can I realize this ideal at customer and society level?
As always, you are invited to comment below. I would love to know what it would take to make you fall in love with your business again.
Every time I teach a class I learn something. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve had two powerful light bulb moments as a facilitator.
The first lesson came from a workshop attendee at the Obstacle-buster Mastermind that I co-facilitated with Barbara Winter in Las Vegas. Barbara and I have questioned why someone would follow self-employment newsletters for decades but never take the first steps to start their own business. During a group discussion about why someone would follow us if they had no interest in being self-employed, one attendee spoke up and said, “Some people just want to dream. Sometimes it’s enough just to watch others doing it and know it’s possible.” That was a huge awakening for me.
My big lesson: My job as a guide is to show you the journey without attachment to final destination.
A couple of nights ago during the first meeting of my “Design a Regret-free Life” workshop in Cincinnati, I took away another valuable lesson. While I was writing the curriculum, I had a vision of the course attracting boomers. People in their 50s have enough years behind them to have learned from poor choices and enough years ahead to still create more meaning in their lives. The course work was geared toward late mid-lifers so imagine my surprise when the circle filled with young women. My initial thought was, “Damn, I have to re-write all the material”. I was honest with the students that I wasn’t prepared for such a young group. With some spontaneous revision, we dove into the writing and discussions. Tears flowed as the women commented on how quickly they gained clarity and insight from the exercises. Rather than feeling stressed that I’d have to re-write the curriculum for the next three meetings, I was thrilled that these women signed on to do this deep work so early in life. That meant less past regrets and more time to accomplish their dreams.
My big lesson: Never make assumptions about your audience. Be flexible and open to improvisation.
What assumptions might you be making about your customers or clients? How can you remain more flexible in meeting their needs? As always I would love to hear your feedback and comments below.
If you have been following me for awhile, you know that I am a big believer in social entrepreneurship but if you are like most people, you may think that means non-profit. It can, but for-profit business for the purpose of solving a social problem can actually help more people than charity.
“How can that be? “you might ask.
First, you need to understand that people who run non-profits DO actually make money. In fact, the director of a not-for-profit foundation frequently draws a six figure salary. The non-profit part refers to what the organization actually nets AFTER salaries and expenses are paid and the rest is used to further the cause.
When a for-profit business is set up as a social enterprise, there is a multiple bottom line with the intention of solving a social issue and making a profit. But, because it operates on business principles, the owners only make money if the the business is successful at the helping component as well as profitable.
For comparison, let’s look at this example. If I set up a non-profit to buy hearing aids for hearing impaired children, I would need to raise funds. I’d start by asking everyone I know for donations and possibly apply for some grants. Once I’d exhausted those sources, I would constantly be scrambling for funds to help the people who had come to depend on my for aid. But, if I set up a a for-profit social enterprise, I would be able to help more children because it would be based on business principals which means making sure there is a continuous flow of income. I could set up a “buy-one-give-one” model and for every hearing aid I sold, I’d give one to someone in need. Yes, the profit margin would be slimmer than a typical for-profit business but this sustainable business model would mean I would continually be able to help more hearing impaired children.
Think about the organizations that feed hungry children in underdeveloped countries. If we set up a charity bringing formula to babies in a developing country and then for whatever reason we could no longer deliver, those babies would starve. They would have come to depend on our help and the mother’s breast milk would have dried up so they could no longer nurse their babies. But if we set up a business teaching those same women a craft that they could wholesale to us and we could turn around and re-sell, they would have a livelihood that provides the resources to continually feed their children without our help.
Is there an injustice or lack that pulls at your heartstrings? You can set up a charity and find volunteers to help but if you run short of people willing to give their time or resources, you can no longer do your good work. Or, you can set up a business that addresses that problem AND makes a profit so that you can sustain the level of aid and thus help more people.
If you need help figuring out how to develop a business that can bring you income and solve a social problem, click HERE to learn about my “idea generator” fall special package of three consultations. We will examine who you want to help and how you can set up a business that both makes a living and a difference.