This is a follow up story for 2Puggles. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published almost 5 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
2Puggles is a woodworking business I started five years ago. The business began after purchasing a table saw and making some snowflake earrings. I am a high school marketing teacher and I showed the earrings to my students. They encouraged me to sell them. I took their advice, attempted to sell them and brought the students along for the experience. The business has evolved over the past five years and student engagement has remained high using 2Puggles as a teaching tool.
Over the first three years of the business, I worked a plan of year one learning how to run a craft business, year two working on brand awareness and exploring product possibilities and year three increasing brand awareness and niching down to my most profitable products. I am now in year five and my brand awareness in my local area is very strong and I have narrowed my product offerings to wooden clocks, wooden earrings, and wooden bookmarks. I have developed a style of finding interesting wood patterns and letting nature shine through my work.
I have developed a target market of local buyers to my home who appreciate natural wood earrings, clocks, and bookmarks. Emphasis has been placed on developing in-person sales and word of mouth advertising. 2019 has been a breakthrough year for my brand. I have purposely narrowed the selling season for 2Puggles to May-December. Although I make occasional sales, I take a break from emphasizing the business from January through April. For the 2019 selling season 2Puggles averaged $2000 per month and finished with $17,000 in revenue for the year.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
2Puggles has been about addition by subtraction and one successful new product launch in 2019. In 2019 I reduced the number of in-person shows I attended. Narrowed my products down to three product lines. I completely reworked my display booth and added a line of wooden clocks. All of these changes resulted in less work to generate more revenue!
There are as many ways to be successful in an art-based business as there are art mediums but if it is not done purposefully it will probably have the staying power to be successful.
In 2018, My product line was an eclectic mix of products including earrings, necklaces, bracelets, cutting boards, coasters, wine boxes, and bookmarks. I also introduced clocks in the fall of 2018. I had a lot of different products with very different target markets and very crowded booth displays.
At the beginning of 2019, things were feeling stale for me. My revenue was stalled at a little over $1000 per month and I was putting in pretty long hours to make that money. I took a long hard look at what I was doing and decided to make some significant changes. I reduced my products to earrings, bookmarks, and clocks and decided to cut down on shows I attended and completely revamp mine in-person booth setup.
Earrings have always been my best selling most profitable item. The other jewelry was there to accompany the earrings but the bracelets and necklace were more time consuming and did not sell nearly as well. I stopped making all wooden jewelry except for earrings. I took a look at my most popular styles from the past and developed similar but different styles that would attract existing customers already a fan of my brand. I created two new displays for the earrings. They featured the earrings with more space between each pair and I graduated from a rustic looking display to a more elegant six side display that was visually appealing and inviting to browse.
I spent the winter months developing a complete line of clocks. I created two clock styles featuring inlaid dots and inlaid numbers and then created various sizes ranging from 6” diameter to 30” diameter featuring various wood combinations. My goal for 2019 was to sell a few clocks, do some in-person market research to figure out the most popular clock designs and to figure out a pricing strategy. I devoted one half of my booth to displaying the clocks. At the time, I felt this was a bit risky to take up that much booth real estate with an unproven product.
Bookmarks have been in my booth since the first year but they have always been hidden away in my jewelry display as a filler product. They have sold very well on Etsy for the past two years but I have never featured them prominently in my booth. For my new booth layout, I created a stand-alone display for the bookmarks that allowed them to be displayed at child height nestled among my clocks in the front of the booth.
With a booth that featured clocks and bookmarks on the left and two earring displays on the right my booth was much simpler and much more successful. 2019 was a breakthrough year. 2Puggles brand awareness hit a tipping point. I attended ⅓ fewer shows than in previous years, worked much less and increased my revenue by 13%. Although not eye-popping numbers, for a business that is a very part-time one person business this was a huge leap forward in progress. I sold $4000 in bookmarks, $5000 in clocks and $8000 in earrings. It was a very good year and it has me energized to set a goal of $20,000 for 2020.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
My biggest lesson in the past year is simply to constantly reflect on what is working and what is not working and embrace change. I have a self-imposed restriction of keeping 2Puggles a one-person business. I also keep my overhead as low as possible and do not make any commitments that require a repeated outlay of cash. I want to be as flexible as possible so that I can increase my business efforts or reduce as I see fit based on what else is going on with my life.
As a result of these restrictions, I have to be creative in how I use my time. My most effective promotion is in-person selling. I have been doing the same shows for five years. This year has seen a significant increase year over year in my revenue with a significant amount of repeat business. My 3 biggest shows all doubled in revenue from last year.
I have learned that for my business a website and social media presence are nice but it has not been necessary to make that a focus. I have a pretty good website and I post regularly on Instagram and Facebook but it has not been a significant factor in my business.
I have learned that the presentation for my products makes all the difference. With fewer products in my booth, traffic actually decreased a bit. Shoppers could see my products as they walked by and did not need to stop in if they were not interested. However, my conversion rate on shoppers entering the booth was very high. If they came in to browse it was highly likely they would leave with a purchase. When I placed the bookmarks prominently in the front of my booth, sales went up dramatically. Shoppers stopped to enjoy and frequently took advantage of the 3 for $10 special. The display was effective and I loved sharing in the joy people found in browsing the bookmark display.
I learned that you need to pick your spots to sell online. 2Puggles sold $2500 worth of bookmarks in 2019. It has become a nice little niche that requires very little time and creates nice cash flow, particularly during the Christmas season.
On the opposite end, I was given the opportunity to be part of the eBay Retail Revival for Greensboro, NC. It was a great opportunity that I was able to share with my students and I will always be grateful that I was able to do it. That said, I spent a significant amount of time creating my eBay site and I only made 4 sales in a year. My $150 clocks routinely showed up in searches adjacent to $14 clocks. There was no way to effectively promote my handmade status making it very tough to compete. I will not be on eBay for 2020 but I did learn a lot about how to create an effective listing that I will use in my plans going forward.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
For 2020, I am planning on sticking to the playbook from 2019. I am increasing my shows by a few weekends this year. I will have the same three products with new products within each category.
My biggest new emphasis for this year will be to add a store to my website. I believe that my brand awareness through word of mouth has now reached a point where it will be worth the effort to create a store on my website. I will start with my clocks and eventually list my bookmarks. I will not list my earrings as I have found that creating a bit of scarcity for that product has motivated shoppers to buy on the spot because they are only available directly from 2Puggles at a show.
In five years, I will be 65 and retiring from being a teacher. My goal is to have built 2Puggles into a viable business that I can continue to operate either full or part-time. I will never actually retire and I am excited to use this business as a teaching tool and as an outlet for my creative side. I have no specific aspiration for size or revenue goals. It is my passion and if I can continue to make enough money to buy more tools and fuel my passion I will be very happy!
Have you read any good books in the last year?
My favorite business book so far this year is Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. Although I think the book takes way too long to get to the point the concepts are solid and it is a good financial plan for someone trying to make a living from a startup business.
Two podcasts I listen to that definitely add value to my business are Without Fail and Household Name. Both podcasts have a lot of great information on people and businesses that have interesting unintended consequences. I teach my students that you can’t control everything but if you show up every day regardless of what happened the day before eventually, something good will go your way. Both of these podcasts reflect that sentiment often.
This podcast is not business-related but has given my business a jumpstart for 2020. “The Ketokamp Podcast” In July 2019, I switched to a Keto diet. So far I have lost 90 pounds, got from most of my medications and supercharged my energy to get stuff done! This podcast has been a good guide on the journey to better health.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
As I like to joke, I am in the 5th year of my 3 year plan. I started out with a three-stage plan. The first year was a learning year. All of my emphasis was on learning as much as possible. I did not worry about revenue, only business knowledge. The second-year was about creating brand awareness and exploring possibilities with my newly acquired knowledge. My third year was about taking the first two years of data and focusing on maximizing revenue.
As I am entering my 6th year, I am still using this 3 stage plan when I implement new products. I meet a lot of other artistic entrepreneurs like myself at the shows I attend. Most of them are not very purposeful in their business. They are passionate about their craft but not about their business. I enjoy teaching them that creating a successful business from their art is in fact a creative outlet as well. There are as many ways to be successful in an art-based business as there are art mediums but if it is not done purposefully it will probably have the staying power to be successful.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am planning on staying a solopreneur at least for another year and probably more.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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