This is a new feature on ACCROchet : artist interviews. These interviews will not all be with crochet-related people : even the very 1st interview isn’t! However, they will all feature people whose products I’ve purchased or tried or tested. I want to encourage indie, handmade, real hands-on stuff, but I also want to know that I’m not promoting shoddy shops!
For the time being, I’m not committing to a schedule for these interviews. I know the hectic lives these people lead to make a living and I’d rather not add to the stress by forcing a deadlined-answer.
I am buying handmade and promoting the shops I like – when a post is sponsored, I will be very transparent about this.
That said, I want to feature as many shops as possible so if you have a business to promote, and would like to be featured here send me an e-mail (email@example.com) and we’ll work together.
(Version française ici.)
The very first artist to be featured on ACCROchet is Melanie Audet, creator of Curious Little Bird. Melanie creates beautiful plush monsters, each with its own name & personality, as well as unique art dolls. I recently purchased a monster named Berry for Miss ACCROchet; I think that the fact that Berry now sleeps with Miss ACCROchet every night can be taken to mean that she’s been accepted into the family.
For my part, I appreciated Melanie’s craftsmanship – Berry’s seams are super solid and the materials are soft and plush – and the fact that she is super sweet in person, and very very present online, ready to answer any questions about her products or her business.
You can find Melanie, Curious Little Bird, and a ton of adorable monsters here :
(Note that there is a cool promo going on through August @ Curious Little Bird. When you spend 100$ or more, your entire order is shipped free (promo code Summer12), anywhere in the world! Offer ends August 31st. Plan ahead for Christmas!)
Here is the interview =) Hope you enjoy!
What made you start the Curious Little Bird adventure?
My business started in 2011, but the idea of making monsters came long before the business did.
I am a graphic designer and illustrator. I attended art school and graduated in 2004. For 7 years I worked in this field, and as a freelance designer as well.
In 2008 I moved from Edmonton, Alberta to Montreal, Quebec to be closer to my family. Finding a job proved to be more difficult than I thought, so I started creating monsters. At the time they were hand size, and completely hand sewn. The idea was to create a designed mail out project, complete with a Wanted poster for each monster describing their crime, and reward for their capture. Suffice it to say, after a month of making these I had found a full time job in January 2009, and put the project aside.
Two years later, January 2011, I lost my graphic design position due to the recession, and was once again out of work. During this time, I had a lot of time to myself. After 5 months of still no work, I decided to open up my Etsy shop with the monsters I’d made in 2008. A few months later I attended my first craft fair as a vendor. The response to my monsters was so positive and reaffirming, that I decided to build on this.
How did you come up with the name?
When I chose my business name, I went with the advice given to me by my cousin:
"Dont pick something that will lock you in to one product. For example there is a shop called bittie clippies on etsy. They started making hair clips for babies originally. But now they do jewellery, I think the name does not suit at all."
With this advice, I wanted something that was cute, easy to remember, and could be anything in terms of business. I had used a random business name generator, and with a combination of a few words came CURIOUS LITTLE BIRD. The logo was clear, a cute, fat bird perched on a stylized branch. The feedback I got from my new name was also very positive, and it’s stuck. I had even found the perfect font!
Is there one creation you are most proud of, that you most like?
Sadly, the one creation I fell in love with that I wish I hadn’t sold was Elie, the very first of my long legged monsters (insert photo). I posted him on Facebook, and within 10 minutes he was sold. I loved his long legs, mostly because they’re the perfect kind of rainbow and they were made from a bathing suit belt. I’ll never, ever find that fabric again.
Another creation I loved was my rainbow bellied, hand painted owl. But it sold as well. I haven’t made something and not sold it.
What other creative activities do you pursue other than monsters?
I used to host craft parties back in 2011 when I was still trying to figure out what to do with my unemployment, but now I’m too busy to even do that.
Recommend one handmade boutique you really like.
Galerie Zone Orange was my first though.
And if someone were to want to throw themselves out there, what one thing would you tell them is a MUST do, or a MUST NOT do?
(Melanie is a super generous entrepreneur; she wants people to know what they are getting into, and has loads of advice for those who want to take the plunge).
-Be prepared to be broke, have sleepless nights, [be] stressed, lose your social life a bit, [be a] hard worker, and live, breathe, and sleep work 24/7.
-Must put your blood, sweat and tears into your business. If you don’t put all your energy into it, you might not go anywhere.
-Must take business courses on how to sell, and to write your business plan. A plan is essential for someone who’s serious, and it helps to guide you. Plus, if you need a bank loan ever, you’ll need a business plan.
-Always invoice stores when they send you money.
-Customer service is #1. If you provide terrible customer service, well…. you know the rest. :) Listening to a customer is the best you can do. Learn from their comments to improve your business.
-For fairs/expos, I like to buy a small box, and always keep $120 float in there, even if there isn’t an event. This way when it comes time to the event, I’m not scrambling to the bank for change. Once you open that business account, a trip to the teller is going to start costing you, and it adds up fast.
-Never assume you know everything about running a business. If in doubt, find a successful business owner, and ask them questions. If they won’t answer them, move on to the one who will help you. :) I started out knowing nothing, and only by research, attending conferences, seminars, and talking to others did I learn what to do. In fact, almost a year later I’m still learning, and I don’t think the learning will stop.
-It’s nice to have one of a kind items, but when you go into business for yourself, think about a few things. Do you want to make more than $5000 a year? If you answered yes, you need to re-evaluate your process. Perhaps you need to have a pattern for your products, and be able to reproduce them to any number. Yes, it’s nice to offer one of a kind, but the time and energy it takes into doing that isn’t going to pay your bills, let alone anything else. Unless you can produce an insane amount in a short period of time.
-You must register your business name if it’s not your own name.
For example, if my business was Melanie Audet’s Monsters, I wouldn’t have to register it. But because it’s Curious Little Bird, I must. Also, you should (not an option) open a business bank account when you are officially registered, because it is essentially illegal to run a business using your personal checking account. There are so many things wrong with this, that you want to separate your personal money from your business money as soon as possible.
If something were to happen to your business, you wouldn’t want your personal bank account to be wiped clean (or something to that effect, right??). I know you’re probably thinking "But I work alone, in my home and not in a store situation." That doesn’t matter. A business bank account is crucial for keeping your business and personal expenses and income separate, and getting your new business’s record keeping off to a good start. It also gives you credibility with customers and creditors. However, they cost more than a personal bank account.
There are a few places you can get an account started without paying anything per month. I opened an RBC Small Business e-account. Since most of my transactions are online, there is almost no fees. This is good for me (for now). :) The other banks that offer low fee accounts are HSBC. If you were to open a business account with your current bank, you might even get a deal, so it’s best to talk to a bank business representative.
Must not :
-Think that starting your own business gives you the freedom to have more time for yourself (this information is not true, especially when you leave a paying job, and you’re the sole bread winner, and your work determines whether you get money or not).
-Must not think that you’re going to make big bucks. Owning a business is going to be tough. You might go an entire year without making more than $500 a month. Are you prepared for this??
For the first 5 months I perhaps made $100, and then it climbed to $350, and some months are superb, others are so dead it can be depressing, but you can’t let the downs get you down. It’s going to happen. It happens to everyone. The essential part is that you’re willing to keep going, because the more you work at it, the better it will be.
But speaking from experience, taking business courses with SAJE have helped. Sure, you can do it without classes, but I’ve met people who didn’t (or don’t) know how to sell their product, and when it comes to a fair or expo, don’t even pay off the cost of their table, let alone make a profit. This is not a business, it’s just a hobby at that point.
-Do not compare yourself to someone who’s been in business longer than you. It can sometimes bring you down. I know, I try not to do it all the time. But, there’s nothing wrong with seeing these people as a goal that you’d like to achieve…. to be as successful as them! :) Perhaps you can adopt some of the habits your favourite artists have, and try to incorporate those in your work habits too.
If you want to know more, see the links above : Melanie shares a lot of her business insights on her blog.
Again, you can find Melanie, Curious Little Bird, and a ton of adorable monsters here :