Saturday, February 14, 2009

business planning - products and services

saturday's child works hard for a living....

now that i'm done the crazy bliss business plan for 2009, it's time to get back to work to implement said plan!  i've got some blog catching up to do so let's get to it!

a couple of saturdays ago, we discussed starting the business plan with business overviews.  

today we'll talk about our products and services and how we can start to think about standing out from the crowd.

this is a very straightforward section of the plan - or at least should be if you know what you're selling.  this section will inform the reader exactly what the products and services are that your company provides.

key points to include in this section are:
  • are you the manufacturer 
  • what stage of development is your product/service in
  • is it a new idea or an improved established idea
  • what additional customer service will accompany the product/service
  • are your prices within, above or below market value
  • what is your after sale customer support
  • will you provide guarantees or warranties
  • discuss future developments/plans for products/services
  • discuss any copyright issues (artists hold the copyrights in most cases)
begin the section by discussing the general features of your product/service and what stage of development you are in.  below that paragraph, list the individual products and or services as the example below:

product: list the details of your individual product here 
(eg. crazy bliss offers a variety of styles of greeting cards suitable for framing or sending)

unique feature: this is what makes your product different from the competition - this is pretty easy for artists as our work is unique in nature 
(eg. each crazy bliss card includes the "story" of each image on the back of each car for the recipient to gain further enjoyment from the image and message the sender contributes)

benefit: this is the emotional reason people shop.  this can be a tricky one to wrap your head around but is the most important to know for advertising purposes...  
(eg. able to express themselves uniquely and having the choice to send to a loved one or frame, clients feel closer to their loved ones adding their personal handwritten touch on a tangible greeting)

cost: this is the retail cost to the client

after you list all of the products in one group, do the same for any services you may provide as well following the same structure above.   i also included my future products that i'd like to develop within the year.  this gives the reader even more idea of where your company is going - even if the only reader is you!

next, list your additional customer service, after sale strategy, payment options and briefly discuss how you compare to the competition (you'll have a chance to discuss the competition in detail later)

lastly, make references to any product samples you'll include in the appendix at the very end of the whole document.

then this section is done!  that was easy!

next, the dreaded market analysis!  never fear though, there are some tricks and fun things to make it less painful!

Friday, February 13, 2009

an inspirational story (hopefully)

friday's child is loving and giving...

it's freebie friday and today i thought i'd share a story with you while i package up the free goodies to the good folks that filled out the survey for my market research.

i had posted this story in my last blog and thought i'd share it again.  i originally posted it in response to a friend who was having a rough time finding their path.  i believe this is a journey all of us travel and below is a glimpse into my experience in finding my path... to crazy bliss.
(originally posted june 21, 2008)
i thought i'd share a personal artistic journey with you all and tell the story of the birth of crazy bliss.

it happened quite by accident and totally on purpose. it was the end of 2003 and i was stuck in a rut. i hadn't done much artistically in a very long time and decided to paint some christmas presents in various different media. as usual with my art projects, i was happy but not thrilled with the results and the flaws i noticed glowed like a neon sign to me. it didn't look as it appeared in my head. the paint wasn't smooth enough. the perspective is just a bit off. the lines weren't crisp enough. it was a familiar song and dance of critical and negative thinking toward my own art, prohibiting my growth as an artist. i really wanted to do something creative to support myself but felt inadequate at what i was doing. i was all over the place and didn't feel i had a particular style in any of the media i worked in.

i decided enough was enough and set out to do some art therapy to conquer the internal criticism. i decided to do exactly the opposite of what felt natural - take me out of my comfort zone (that i had made pretty prickly anyhow) and do something completely "not me". i figured i can't be too critical of my work produced for therapeutic reasons, right?

so i took inventory of my usual artistic habits. i enjoy painting small - so i took out a HUGE piece of illustration board to start. i take comfort in working in pencil (and eraser!) first so i can perfect the shapes before i commit - so out came the sharpie permanent marker. i would strive for realism so that was the next principal thrown out the window - good bye reality! i wanted the paint to be smooth and blend perfectly - so i decided to use contrasting, bold blotchy colours. armed with some new rules for creating, i set out to do some girls drinking tea with cats - i decided that the subject matter was the only thing i'd keep from my comfort zone. the result was wildly unlike anything i had ever done yet it felt wonderful and free! i did a series of 4 more girls with tea and cats and the new rules came more naturally. i felt giddy and blissful. i think i just found my style!

i was so excited to be painting again so i joined an online gallery of incredible artists at in january 2004 as CRAZY BLISS and got some positive feedback - people actually liked this new nutty style from me! the crazy bliss style as seen today took a very short time to evolve from those first paintings of cats and tea. the style that was born from something completely "not me" now feels so natural and has become very, very me.

so one self-prescribed art therapy session sparked a new perspective on my art for me by challenging each element that felt natural. i abandoned all of the fodder for my critical internal attack and as a result, i was free to do what ever i wanted! i'm still quite critical of my own work, as most artist are, however i stop and remember perspective and attitude are everything - and that if other people like your work, as the artist, your opinion doesn't really matter! just keep creating!

so if you're feeling hard on yourself in whatever field you're in, take the opportunity to step out of your comfort zone, do/think/feel the opposite of what comes naturally and check out the view; you'll have a new perspective and perhaps an answer or two.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

28 days of random kindness

tuesdays child is full of grace...

do you ever run across ideas or actions that make you think "i wish i had thought of this"?  28 days of random kindness is one of those for me.

we have talked about social grace, how important it is and it's resurgance.  well, this is a story about a person whose actions are the epitome of social grace.  she has simply captured my heart and admiration.  i did wish i had thought of her idea, yet realized very quickly that there is much more joy for me in following her blog as she updates it daily.

nancy wallis is a jewellery artist and interior decorator, who has her own shop nancywallisdesigns where we can all admire her beautiful jewellery creations.  but, that's not the story.  nancy had been trying to come up with reasons for liking february (in canada!).  the exercise only brought negative thoughts and made her feel that she might be a pessimist.  while i don't see her that way at all, those thoughts gave way to nancy's idea of daily randome acts of kindness.

so far, nancy has done things like twice donating clothing to charities, helping a friend, making the first purchase from a new shop on etsy, plus several others - and it's only february 10!  i can hardly wait to see what wonderful random acts of kindness are in store for the next 18 days.  and, guess what?  we all have the opportunity do just that by visiting nancy's blog where every day she modestly writes about what she has done.  i guarantee it will make you feel good.

nancy, i so admire your thoughts and actions.  in taking on what many see as a huge challenge, you may not even realize the best part - and that is, every single person who reads one your posts leaves enriched, inspired, and on the receiving end of your 28 days of random kindness.  

now that is really something!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

we have winners!

saturday's child works hard for a living...

i'm taking a break from posts about writing your business plan to share two bits of exciting news with you...  

winner #1 is me!  as you probably know, i've been working hard at writing the crazy bliss business plan for what seems to be ages.  well, guess what?  it's done - yay!  with that ready to go, it was time to move on to the next big step. off i went to city hall, the hub for all business-related services.  why, you ask? to register my business.  that's right...crazy bliss is now a registered company with a master business license.  sharing the excitement with you, my on-line friends, makes the experience that much sweeter.  
the next winner is one you've been waiting for from ...and the survey says!  first, though, i want to say a great big thank you to everyone who completed the survey.  you helped me so much and i really appreciate it. those of you who opted in and left contact information will soon receive a little gift in the mail. thank you, again.  

winner #2 receives the the survey's grand prize.  (yes, i am drawing out the suspense to tease you.) the prize is a 5x7 original custom crazy bliss painting. 

...and the winner is (drum roll, please)...

amanda fall from south dakota!

amanda is also known as persistant green.  she is an artist, writer, thinker, dreamer and a wanderer.  (i wonder where her dreams will have her wandering next.)  Amanda has a website i think you will enjoy looking at:

congratulations, amanda!  i will be in touch with you via email to let you know how to claim your prize.  in the meantime, you might want to visit my etsy shop for ideas on what you would like me to paint for you.

thanks again to everyone who completed the survey. ♥♥♥

Saturday, January 24, 2009

starting your business plan

saturday's child works hard for a living...

last saturday we discussed getting ready to write your business plan, gathering information, setting goals etc. and today, we'll get started!

the outline of a business plan looks roughly like this:
  • executive summary
  • business overview
  • products and services
  • market analysis
  • marketing strategies
  • operational plan 
  • financial plan
  • appendixes 
executive summary
most people do this last because it's an overview of the whole plan.  a few people use it as an outline to get their thoughts out but you'll have to clean it up at the end anyhow to ensure it matches all of the points you've made throughout the plan.

so, that leaves us with the business overview to start with.

* it's important to remember as you're writing these sections, who your audience is.  this plan is as much for bankers and lawyers as it is for you to refer to *

** keep in mind also that business plans can be revised and rewritten at any stage of your business **

business overview
this section is pretty easy if you have a clear vision of your company.

1. business history
  • why you started this business
  • give the history to date of the company (if you're just beginning, your history will be short)

2. company profile
  • state the legal structure and who the owners are of the business (proprietorship, corporation etc.)
  • what is the name of the business and the briefly list the service or products you'll provide
  • is it a wholesale or retail company
  • who is your support team (list bankers, accountants, mentors and other human resources)

3. vision and mission statements
do a bit of research and google vision statements and mission statements of strong companies.  you'll see that they provide the following:
  • core company values
  • what the company does and why they exist
  • what the company beliefs are
  • what opportunities the company addresses
4. objectives
in this section you'll outline exactly what you'd like to accomplish in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year.  going beyond the 3rd year when you're just starting out is a waste in my opinion as you'll likely change direction within that time.

objectives are the large business and financial goals you have.  your dreams for your company.  make sure they're realistic and achievable.

you'll be discussing briefly media and advertising strategies, how many sales you forecast, your financial growth plan etc.

this is a synopsis of what you'll be active doing in the next couple of years.  in the sections to follow you'll be adding details to these goals to ensure they can be carried out.

most business plans are written in the third person and are very formal but when we're artists, we can get away with a little bit of creativity.  just make sure that if you need to take your plan to the bank it's professional enough to be taken seriously.  otherwise, have fun and make your business plan your own.  it is, after all, your very own handmade map! 
next week we'll discuss writing about our products and services and how we can stand out from the crowd!

Friday, January 23, 2009

...and the survey says!

friday's child is loving and giving - it's freebie friday!  

i'm giving away some fun promo gifts to anyone who completes the survey below.  

participants who opt in for the gift will be entered in a draw for one 

custom 5x7 original illustration!

the survey results will help me with my business plan and your input would be much appreciated.  your information is anonymous and will ONLY be used for my market research.  survey results remain anonymous regardless of signing up for the free gift and draw.

the thank you gifts to participants who sign up will be sent out within a week of their completion.

the survey will be closed at midnight-ish on february 5th.

the grand prize winner will be announced here on the blog february 6th!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

coffee with high on craft

i had the pleasure of meeting ms tanya gleadall of high on craft in person in october 2008 at a craft show.  hands down the best introduction ever:

"hello, are you crazy?  i'm high." 
i liked her instantly!  we met through, an 
online handmade marketplace where we both belong and have shops.  she's got some exciting things in the works so i asked her if she'd be my first interview on my new blog.  here's what she had to share with us...

how would you describe your art?
I would say that my art is fun, cute, and whimsical.   

what drives you to create?
My own life force drives me.  Creating is so much a part of who I am that I find inspiration everywhere and I feel compelled to create constantly.
 who or what influenced you in becoming an artist?
My grandfather was a super talented artist, as is my mom.  Their medium of choice was/is oils which, oddly enough,  I've never really felt the urge to try.  Growing up, my mom was always very crafty.  She made our Halloween costumes every year, she sewed clothes for us and decor for the house.  She also knits and has her own little "corner" in my etsy shop.  

when did you know you were an artist?
I knew I was an artist the day someone wanted to give me money for one of my paintings.

where do you look for creative inspiration?
I look everywhere for inspiration.  Not just at shapes and "things" but also at shadows and highlights and the shapes and patterns that can be found in them.  The work of other artists inspires me as well.  Seeing the greatness in others brings out the best in me. 

what is your favorite piece of art that you've created?
That's a really tough one.  I am loving all the fabric designs and digital art that I've created recently, but I would have to say that my favorite is still the little baby hugging the earth that you can find on a greeting card in my shop and on baby items in my CafePress shop.  

what projects are you currently working on?
Well, there is always my etsy shop.  I've also recently opened a shop at for which I am working on some new Cuddlewee™ designs.  As well, I'm always working on designing images for Stamping Bella where 15 of my stamp designs are currently available.  

what's in store for high on craft in 2009?
Good question!  I'm still trying to figure that out myself.  At lot will depend on the new  Consumer Product and Safety Improvement Act that is being passed in the U.S. next month. 

what are the top 5 tools or supplies you could not live without?
1.  My Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet!!
2.  My sewing machine
3.  My watercolours
4.  My paper trimmer
5.  A black fine-tip felt marker 

what would you eat paint for the opportunity to do?
I would love to develop Cuddlewee™ into something huge.  Dolls, books, website, games, merchandise - even cartoons. 

any advice or words of wisdom to fellow artists?
Do what you love.  Your passion comes through in your work and that is one of the things that makes "handmade" such a priceless thing.  
Be part of a creative community.  A collective mind can be very inspirational and contribute to some of your best work.  It also helps to have a sounding board if you get stuck somewhere in the creative process. 

many thanks to tanya for being my first interview.  she's one to watch this year... 

you can find her work in the following places:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

networking - what it's all about

i have networking woes and not because i don't like to network.  

i'm a social critter and curious by nature and am interested in just about anything.  i belong to twitter, a really cool networking site where you can follow posters you find interesting.  i was following this guy who was discussing some neat science when i got a sweet little message from him... "why are you following me?  you haven't tried to sell me anything.  most unusual".  it made me laugh at first then realize what a terrible reputation small business has made for itself!

networking is about selling the people you network with on your business, not your products or services.  networking contacts are business buddies not a pool of customers.  i'll say it again because i feel so strongly about it - sell your business, not your products/services while networking.

develop an elevator speech - meaning a 30 second synopsis of what your company does and how it can benefit others.  (benefits are the reasons people buy eg. security, time-saving, confidence building)  this is what you offer when networking with others.  

think of networking from a shopper's point of view, not a seller's point of view.  learn about your networking buddies, really listen to what they have to say, store their skills and experience to refer to later on.  you're collecting people to use per se and they're collecting you.  do your job and promote your company well and you'll have others recommending you to their other networking buddies based on the skills and knowledge you've displayed. 

this will work a lot better than hard-selling in this type of situation.  you'll meet some very interesting people you can pull into your circle to benefit from and find yourself quite popular.

so please, don't hard-sell under any circumstances at networking events.  like spam, it just turns people off.  be alluring in your comments, make people want to see what you're about then hit them with your prepared 30 second elevator speech.  far more effective and every one's happier.  

Monday, January 19, 2009

no new products to share yet...

i'm still writing this wretched business plan!  i was hoping to be done by now and getting back to normal but nope, still writing...

sorry everyone...  


Saturday, January 17, 2009

i'll say working hard for a living!

it's saturday!  while most normal people have saturdays off, entrepreneurs know there is no such thing as a day off!  anyways, who wants to be normal?!

so let's get down to business...  

if you're already in business or just starting out, you'll have heard chatter about how important business plans are.  you'll likely have heard the comparison to a road map.  it's a good one that's why it's used so often.

who needs a business plan?
  • short answer: everyone wanting to succeed in business! *
  • long answer: everyone who wants to reach their goals on a reasonable timeline and budget and measures business success by how large the profit margin is. *
* financial institutes require a formal business plan before they invest in your company

the plan really is like a road map.  i live in canada and if i wanted to get to florida, i could probably do it without a map but i would spend a lot on gas, probably have to ask a lot of people for directions and it would take a lot longer to get there.  that actually sounds like a nice vacation to me and i'd be happy to run a business like that but it's much less secure and the bank doesn't want my illustrations as payment for the mortgage!  i don't understand why!

with a road map, i could find the most efficient way to get there saving on gas, hassle and time (and the bank is happier).  this is what a business plan does for the business.  it shows you clearly the route you should take... now the downside of this realization is that you are the one who has to draw the map!  the upside is that you can draw new roads and find secret bridges too!

getting started
you'll need to have a clear vision and some solid goals before you start.  admittedly writing the business plan is daunting and i found making myself notes in a journal helped a lot.  once i started writing i had to refer to my notes to remember what the heck i was doing!  

start by keeping these questions in mind:
  • why did i choose this business?
  • what do i want to accomplish with my business in the first 2 years?
  • what opportunities or needs can my company address?
  • who is drawn to my company?  what makes them tick?
  • who are my competitors and what makes me different from them?
  • who do i need to include to make my vision work?
  • is my industry in an upswing or downswing? (gaining in popularity or fading out)
  • where can i advertise to reach my customers?
  • how will i pay for all of this?
the business plan puts a lot into perspective when it's all on paper.  this is the most valuable part of this tool in my opinion.  once you've completed it, you'll see exactly where you stand within the competition, how you differ, who purchases from you, how much you'll have to sell to break even, what your best advertising options are and more.  

while researching and writing your business plan, you'll become hyper aware of your competition and target market.  don't let your findings discourage you - use this to your advantage!  stepping out of our comfort zones lets us see missed opportunities left by others content in their comfort zone.  keep moving forward and never get too comfy!

in the coming weeks we'll break down each section and i'll share my results and journey with you.  that's why i've been a bit behind in blogging... i'm about 3/4 of the way through and it's been tough but a great learning experience.  i hope to benefit grately from it!