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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hard times are Coming....are you the Ant or the Grasshopper?

This is going to be a more personal know, the "pull up a chair, pour a glass of wine, and share a moment" kind of post that would embarrass friends and family if they were to read it....but a gal has to do what a gal has to do and recent events have me in need of a brain spew. goes........

I live in Florida. The economy is bad here.  My family feels it.  Most people I know are feeling it.   Of course, your little pocket of the world might not be feeling it as acutely.   Better yet...perhaps you have been preparing for it.  That is, you might be the Ant to my Grasshopper.   Remember that?  One of Aesop's fables.  I like the cartoon version from 1934.  The grasshopper was playing and frolicking throughout the spring and summer while the ants dutifully prepared for the coming winter.  It has been my tendency to play the Grasshopper in that scenario.   I was never a saver.  I was always a consumer.  A rabid, frenzied, "gotta have it" kind of consumer.  Shopping is something that I did for sport.  I hardly even know that person any more and thank God for it.   I have scaled back.  Doing more with what I have on hand.  Enjoying the process of creating more than the process of consuming.  Several years ago I had a pivot point in my life.  I had  too much debt with too little income--in business and at home.   I had some serious decisions to make and I made them.   It was not pretty.  It was not fun.  Yet...after a lifetime of overspending, I finally "got it."  I had to stick to an austerity budget to make headway with the debt and although it hasn't been easy, it has been joyful.   It is good to feel in control of your life.   If you are not a shopper, substitute your own personal secret vice and imagine the delight in kicking it.

 The deal is....I honestly (and PAINFULLY) looked in the mirror to examine what I had done to bring me to the bed I was so uncomfortable laying in.  I did not blame my partner, my husband, my customers, or my accountant.  I don't control them, I only control me.  I was brave enough to own my personal dysfunction,  figure out what I had done to contribute to the mess and  make it better.  Cool, huh?  It isn't perfect....I still have some debt and income is down, but it is better. I am in control.  I have power.  ROAR!

 The glory of "getting it"  three years ago is that I have had some practice to prepare me for what is coming our way.  Hard times are knocking at the door, folks.

We had dinner with some friends recently.   They are good people and we have known them and loved them for years..  They are like me...Flawed, happy, solid people fighting the good fight and trying to keep it all together.  Like many Americans, they lived right to the edge of their means.  The husband is an incredibly hard worker.  They have a small family business that has afforded them a luxury lake front home and nice vehicles.  Unfortunately, their house is in foreclosure.  The husband is depressed, the wife is trying to keep him glued together.  She finds herself spending money they do not have because shopping is what she does to calm her nerves.  She isn't spending much money at all...a nail polish here, a $10 shirt there.  No, it is not much, compared to what she was spending when times were flush, but it is more than they can afford.  The business income has slowed to a trickle.  The are in the dental industry and sell what for many is now a luxury, not a necessity.  Tactics that worked before to bring in new business are not working now.  They are eating a lot of cereal for dinner because that is what they can afford.  The husband is feeling hopeless.   Hard times are coming.
I see it in my neighborhood.  Lots of  "for sale" signs are now dotting the lawns in my  community.  My favorite restaurant is always half empty and the owner's fear is showing.   There are more empty stores in the strip center down the street.  Times are tough.   I get it---I am living it, too.

My husband is in a state of 2009 he sold his interest in his business.  He has 7 months remaining on his Non-Compete Agreement.  He has to stay out of the only industry that he knows until November.  We have lived through this sort of thing several times in our marriage.  Nonetheless, it is always a bit scary and unsettling.     We watch the bank balance go down, while we figure out WHAT COMES NEXT.  We have never done it while facing such a grim economy and don't want to sit around and wait.  So....after much deliberation we bought a business in an unfamiliar industry because we are determined to BE THE ANT.

This week-end my husband and I went through our budget. [BE THE ANT]  There is nothing quite like trying to slash 20% from the budget to get the love flowing in a marriage.  [Was it good for you, dear?]  It is exactly the sort of thing that we avoid talking about because it is so unpleasant and presses so many buttons.  [BE THE ANT]  We got through it without an argument because we are on the same page.  [BE THE ANT]  It is not about power is about survival.  [BE THE ANT].

The cuts we made three years ago were luxury cuts. An Excessive Clothing Allowance became a Reasonable Clothing Allowance.    A Ridiculous Entertainment Budget became more appropriate for our reality.  The cuts this time are going to cause some real bleeding ---both inside and outside of our home.  We still have the money for our NEEDS, but our WANTS have been hit hard.  Rosie the Wonder Dog has had medical bills that have left me weak in the knees.  I pray that she is on the mend because there is a limit to our ability to pay the extraordinary bills required for high falutin' medical care.  The cuts we are making are deep.  I have a housekeeper I adore.  She and her husband have worked for me for years and I care about them. My kids are grown and I can certainly deal with the house myself.  Yet, I have been loathe to end the service.   They have a daughter with serious medical issues.  I worry about the economic impact on the family because I know that they have lost a number of other accounts recently.  This is what puts food on their table...yet, I can no longer afford the luxury.  It makes me sick to my stomach.....but I gotta BE THE ANT.

  We cannot control the economic tsunami heading our is coming whether we want it or not.  We are going to live though it either way so I am going to do everything in my power to keep my family safe, happy, and secure.  We can come through it new and improved or we can come through it broken.   How about you?  Are you doing what it takes --in business and in your personal life--to BE THE ANT?

Debbie Huntoon of Alada Beads is one Crafty Retail Superstar who is all about BEING THE ANT.  This woman never stops and she has the success to prove it.  Her bead store is in Michigan.  The economy there is even worse than the economy in my home state.  Yet, Debbie's store is thriving.  She is totally self supporting and cannot afford a failure, so she makes sure that she doesn't have one.  Is it easy?  Hell, no!  Is it rewarding?  Absolutely.

Debbie told me that she is the Queen of the Gimic and cannot imagine how she would get the rent paid if she was not so focused on promotional events.  She has events going on ALL OF THE TIME.  The photo at left came from PET-A-PALOOZA where customers were invited to bring their four legged pals into the shop for a photo session.  the photos were "shrunk to size" and used to create one of a kind charm bracelets for the doting owners.

 Next week she is offering Mom-a-Palooza in honor of the Crafty Moms that support her business.  There will be a number of Make and Take tables set up with special projects so that kids can make a present for Mom while she makes something  a bit more sophisticated for herself.  The photographer will be back in business so that photo charm bracelets and pins can be created for Grandma!

 Last week Debbie  hosted her 11th Carnival Event.  It is always an impressive event...Debbie works with her teachers to create some stunning make and take projects.  There are 10 different stations, each manned by a different teacher dedicated to assisting with a particular project.  The one day event resulted in $9,000.00 in sales.  Not bad for a Saturday in Michigan in a bad economy.  Debbie has a knack for entertainment.  She is willing to co-opt a good idea if she hears one and tweak it so that it becomes hers.  She took our idea for a "Sparkle and Spirits" night and it has become an important part of her crafty community.  The concept is simple:  invite customers for a free night of beady comraderie.  They all receive a nice gift to go along with the alcohol and munchies.    When I say a "nice gift" I mean it....Debbie recently spend $300 with me for the gifts for one week.  However, this is not to say that she does not have an evil capitalist plan working in the back of her little blond head.  Miss Debbie always has two samples made to highlight the gift item:  one relatively simple and inexpensive, the other more elaborate with a higher price point.  Guess what?  She sells lots of beads as a result of that little free gift.  She regularly has 25 people show up for the party every month.   She is building community and having fun.  Oh...and she is making money.  Yup, Debbie is truly a Crafty Superstar.

So, get busy....there is work to be done!


Finally, a fiber challenge for all of you "jewelry challenged" readers!  We have enough product to send out 12 kits as pictured below--for FREE--for the first 12 volunteers!  Kit includes a huge Swarovski hot fix transfer (apply to fiber with an iron), some Swarovski yarn, and assorted crystal and seed bead embellishment.  Show us what you can do!
Think outside the box!  A purse?  A jean jacket?  A journal cover?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Crafty Retail Superstars know that moving inventory is the key to success!

One of the primary benefits of writing this blog is that offers me a chance to connect with some amazing people.  Creative, smart, driven, focused women who inspire and delight me---women like me and women like you---business owner/ busy  mom/good wife/creative  types.  We are kindred spirits...just trying to keep the balls in the air and the smiles on our faces.  Oh.....and the extra ten pounds off of our asses.  I had a chance to interact with two such women this by design and one by chance.  Both brightened my week.

The first is a Crafty Retail Rock Star who is managing to get it all done.  Jackie Goff is the owner of Uptown Fibers, a fairly new yarn shop near Toledo, Ohio.  You first heard about Jackie in a November post when I happened across a copy of her June 2009 newsletter.  Jackie's newsletters are always chatty and informative, but this one caused my mouth to hit the floor.  

Several of her competitors had closed and customers were asking her if she was going to be following suit.  Jackie told them that it was up to them.  No fairy tales.  No sugar coating.   No slick marketing twist.   Instead, she gave them the following economics lesson:
To honestly answer your questions, I am not PLANNING on going out of business, but it all depends on sales. Plain and simple. And, quite honestly, sales are significantly below what was expected and what is needed for long-term survival of the shop as it exists today. The last thing I want to do is break your heart. . . and mine, and I’ll do anything to try to keep that from happening. Which is why I have information to share with you.

Last week, one of my yarn distributors told me that 3 out of every 5 shops in his territory have closed since September ‘08, and that probably one out of every remaining two will not survive this summer. His territory is Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and, I think, Minnesota. It includes Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati and other cities bigger than Toledo. He reports this trend happening across the US.

Why Shops Don’t Survive
1. Customers stop buying. No explanation needed.
2. Profit margins fall below what is needed to re-stock. Example: a skein of yarn is sold at $10. The first $5.00 is needed to pay rent, taxes, salaries, utilities and the remaining $5.00 is left to re-buy another skein of the same yarn to restock. If the yarn goes on sale, the first $5.00 still has to pay rent/salaries/taxes, and now there is not enough money left to re-buy yarn because it still costs $5.00. Suddenly there is less to sell, customers get bored or already have it, and stop
buying. (not all “sales” create this condition, but most do, unless the item was greatly discounted to the LYS at the time the shop purchased it)

The above is a very simplistic explanation, and there are things a small shop owner can do to increase the profit margins somewhat, but the two items listed here are the major components to success or failure for retailers.

Jackie then went on to ask each of her customers to spend $40 a month with her. She was referencing the 3/50 Project, the brainchild of retail consultant Cynda Baxter of Retail Speaks, which encourages consumers to spend $50 per month with the three independent retailers that they would be miss the most if the stores disappeared. Jackie spent some time running the numbers and decided that she didn't need $50 per customer since $40 could keep the lights on.

Jackie's letter was impressive...That gal has brass cajones, to be sure.    Most sales people are conditioned to avoid anything that could be "uncomfortable" so I found her forthrightness quite refreshing. Fortunately, her customers agreed. Most had little insight into the retail experience so Jackie's newsletter was a real eye opener for them.  Read Jackie's entire newsletter.

It has been almost a year since Jackie published that newsletter and I rang her up recently to see how it played out for her.  I was tickled to hear that she is "cautiously optimistic" about the future of her almost two year old store.  The average sales ticket is half of what she projected it would be in Year Two, but the fact that she has doubled her customer base has helped to make up the difference.

As Jackie is "not good, but good enough." Jackie is working aggressively to refine her business and make necessary changes to enhance her chances of success.  She recognized -- and rectified -- one early mistake that was standing in her way.  She made the typical new store error of buying "too deep and too wide."   HA! I hear ya, sister!  We have all made that mistake.  It is easier to deal with when times are flush, but if you don't deal with it when times are slow, dead inventory will kill you.  Well...not really kill you....but it will probably make you eat too many chocolate bars and yell at your husband.  At least that is what I have been told.  By other people.

Jackie was looking at shelves filled with inventory that was one and a half years old.  So were her customers.  They wanted New Stuff and she wanted to give it to them.  Unfortunately, the money was tied up in all that Old Stuff.  Jackie took care of the dead inventory brilliantly in a two part strategy.

First, she did not take the easy route of a generic mark down.  Customers are deluged with "SALE!" signs everywhere and Jackie wisely noted that she does not want to encourage "sale only" buying habits.  However, she wanted to generate fast cash and unload that pesky stock.   This Crafty Retail Superstar designed a fun and engaging store promotion that went a long way toward helping her reach her goal. 

She used a "Brown Bag Sale" to spur activity.   She did not advertise ahead of time because she did not want customers cutting back on buying activity in anticipation of the event.   Rather, she sent out an email blast a few days before the weekend of the event.   Customers were encouraged to stop in to fill up on yarn.  Purchases that fit into a lunch bag were rung up at 20% off.  Once the customer had exceeded the limits of the lunch bag, they were offered the opportunity to move up to a larger shopping bag, with a 25% discount.  Finally, the true bargain hunters were awarded a large grocery bag for 30% off their purchases.

The  response was huge....Jackie rang up half of her monthly sales numbers in just two days.  She followed up with a postcard mail out to those customers who do not use email, offering them a two week window to make purchases.  The response has been strong.  Jackie handed out extra postcards to customers, relatives, and friends offering them the discount yet again if they brought in a buddy.
There is no doubt about it...creating an EXPERIENCE  will do more for you than a simple mark down.   Every time.

The second thing that Jackie did was reach out to other yarn store owners via Ravelry's LYS forum.  She offered to sell them the excess yarn at 20% off her cost.  She included the shop model (the sweater/scarf/etc. made from the yarn that serves as a promotional display)  with the yarn.  What a deal for the yarn shops and what a Godsend for Jackie.  She raised the money she needed and her customers are delighted to see the new inventory that she has put on the floor. 

Jackie didn't just sit around bemoaning the economy and wishing that things would be different.  She got busy and made 'em get different.   I have a feeling that Jackie will be around for her second anniversary and many more to come.  WAY TO GO, JACKIE! 

So...what about you?  What are you going to do differently to increase your odds of success?

I often hear store owners complain about classes...the need to develop an exciting class calendar, the difficulty in finding teachers, etc.  Consider conducting an Etsy search for your teachers!  

Etsy has a  "shop local"  search feature that makes it easy to find Etsyites in your area.  What a great way to identify some local talent!    I did a quick search yesterday and was pleased as punch to find "Glowstoes."   Glow Greenfield-Duarte is the second bit of crafty goodness that brightened my week.  Glow is a Tampa gal who makes incredible jewelry and wearable assemblages from found objects  and I was curious as to her buying habits and experience with Etsy.  She was nice enough to agree to a telephone interview and was generous and engaging.  Unfortunately, I learned that she is not a shopper, per se.  In fact, she does not shop at the local bead stores (Ouch!) because she worries that she will blow her budget.  Rather, she finds most of her materials from her personal stash of found objects, as well as estate sales,  Etsy, and online from Ornamentea [note:  owner Cynthia is another Crafty Retail Rock Star!].  

Glow has no formal training and has never used a crimp bead, or any standard bead store item for that matter...yet she has a very successful Etsy store that affords her a steady little income.    She described Michael's as a "sad place."   She is an "out of the box" kind of gal who is all about problem solving as she deconstructs vintage pieces to painstakingly reconstruct them to serve a new life.  

A vintage silver salt shaker becomes a pendant, while tiny books from a doll house become beads.  It was a treat to talk to someone who has no preconceptions about how things "are supposed to go together" and just follows her instincts.    She is a generous spirit who willingly shares the "thought processes" behind her artistic choices.   A fresh perspective can change everything.   After all, sometimes the best lesson is simply to step back and learn how to look at the world a little bit differently.  Glow does it and does it well.  Central Florida Bead Stores take note:  Glow is a former pre-school teacher who would welcome a chance to teach others what she does.  

Gotta go!  I have some vintage bakelite salt shakers that are crying out to morph into a necklace.  

Thanks, Glow!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

YIKES! Many Crafty Retailers are working for free! No Salary. Nothing. Nada. Zero.

OK, people...we need to talk.  There is an elephant in the room.  Seriously. I know that it is a touchy subject, but...we cannot ignore it any longer.  No Ma'am! 

It is about money.....

    ......and  the value of your time.

So lets put our big girl panties on and deal with it!

I have been talking to many Crafty Retailers lately as part of my research on Crafty Retail Superstars.  Folks have been incredibly candid, sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly.  A real pattern has might well be the biggest UGLY of all.....


There.  I said it.  Out loud.  In bold space type. ITALICIZED!

It is true.  These hard core retailers draw no salary or hourly wage. Yikes....

Of course, some are holding back as part of a concrete plan.  For example, the business is a start up and owner salaries are not in the budget until the second year.  I get that---after all, the decision is part of a thoughtful, well reasoned plan.  Perhaps the owner is aggressively paying down debt to put the business on more stable financial footing.  I certainly get that--been there, done it myself.  The painful decision was part of a solid business plan to get my company on a path to profitability.  The point is....there was a PLAN, a method to my fiscal madness.

Unfortunately, the majority of Crafty Retail Slaves are not sacrificing to meet a lofty business objective.  Nope, most of those who are "income challenged" are abstaining because the business is not profitable enough to sustain any sort of salary.  AT ALL.  Worse yet, there is no concrete plan to change the status quo.  YUCK.

When I first heard the sad tale it was the result of a retailer's verbal spew.   She volunteered the information during a casual conversation.   I  nodded and delicately changed the subject, assuming it was inappropriate to poke the wound.  I shouldn't have worried.  I ask the question of virtually everyone I talk to these days and most of the folks I ask are happy to respond to the question.  The Crafty Retail Slave is much more common than you would think.

So...I have to know...

Why are you doing it?

I have heard more than a few say that they do it because they have personally guaranteed their leases.  OK...but  then shouldn't you make the changes necessary to get profitable?  Many of these retailers are the same shopkeepers who know they should send out newsletters, but do not.  They know they should do more marketing, but don't.    Geez..... Do you love retail so much that you are happy and fulfilled to do it for free?

Really?  I don't believe you.  Your time is worth something and there are a million other ways to spend that time.  Reading, Gardening, CREATING!  What is motivating you to stay the course?    I mean no disrespect AT ALL.  I have shared many of my own weird proclivities in past posts.  Anyone remember the sock bucket?   Moreover, I too have been a Crafty Retail Slave.  But I didn't like it and I didn't want it to go on forever.

....So...just between us.....why are you doing it, really?  Share your thoughts, wisdom, perspective....there is a big sisterhood out there!  You can post comments anonymously---we would all love to hear from you!

In Other News


Calling all ETSY JEWELRY DESIGNERS, and by popular demand, ALL CRAFTY RETAILERS!

The "Crafty Retailers Create" Challenge series has proven so successful that we are launching a new Challenge geared to Etsy Jewelry Designers as well as Crafty Retailers.  We have 24 kits identical to the one pictured above.  The kit has a retail value of over $100 and is free to the lucky participants who will be chosen in a random drawing on April 15.  Send an email with your Etsy or Retail Store identified and we will enter your name in the drawing.  Check out contest details.


Short on cash?  Inventory looking peaked?
We just uploaded some yummy new sale items----BUY WIDE AND BUY SHALLOW!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Economy Be Damned....Many Crafty Retailers are Beating the Odds!

For those of you looking for the post on the Craft Industry's "Dirty Little Secret" is here.
For those of you who want to read about Crafty Retail Rock Star Paula on!  

My family took a quick week-end trip to visit Nana Eileen this past week-end.  Nana is my husband's 86 year old mother and she is truly the Matriarch of the family.  It is a gift to have her around and it has been too long since I visited my old hometown of Columbus, Georgia.  My son was in rare form as he tormented Nana by walking around flexing his muscles.   She does not like muscles and he thinks that she is funny.  My 17 year old daughter found adequate mall time, my husband considered a toupee and even Rosie, our newly three legged dog was clowning around.  A good time was had by all.

One extra treat was a chance to pop in to one of the finest bead stores in the country:  The Bead Cage.  The Bead Cage was established 7 years ago and is owned by Paula and David Rosenberg.  I have known the pair for several years, having first met them at the Tucson Gem Show  a while back.  The duo is incredibly business savvy.  David, a radiologist, designed the killer acrylic bead bins used in the shop and Paula is a talented artist whose tiny size and sweet southern accent belie the business savvy she possesses.  A winning team, to be sure.  I was delighted ---but not at all surprised---when Paula reported that 2010 was up by almost 100% over 2009.

What makes them different?

When I got to the shop late on Saturday, the place was busy.  Very busy. Nonetheless, within seconds of my arrival a friendly staff member approached me and immediately commented upon a piece of jewelry I was wearing.  She "Oohed" and "Aahed" in a genuinely interested manner.  She asked knowledgeable questions about the technique used to make the piece. I was impressed and the exchange made me feel good.  Our shared interest gave us something to talk about.  I was already into the experience.   How does your staff compare?  When I commented on the excellent staff, Paula smiled and said that she has an outstanding team.  She employs 8 employees, 4 part timers and 4 full timers.  When I visited David was away on "doctor" business.  He called in to report on his side trip to 4 different bead stores in the town he was visiting.  He noted that out of the four visits, only ONE SALESPERSON GREETED HIM!  Hmmm......  He also observed that the shops were low on basic inventory...with empty bins announcing the fact to all who were looking.  Bad Service.  Sad Inventory.  Coincidence?  What do YOU think?

Paula has worked aggressively to maintain a reputation as "the" place to go for beady education.  She regularly brings in national instructors which draw students from much larger cities, such as Atlanta (100 miles away).  Additionally, this year will mark the second annual Southern Bead Retreat, which will be at Callaway Gardens.  The instructors are industry rock stars:  Sheri Serafini, Cynthia Rutledge, Diane Fitzgerald, Laura McCabe, and Huib Petersen.  Paula carries an impressive selection of the basics which are often utilized in the classes.  However, she knows that a beader willing to drop cash on quality instruction will be equally inclined to splurge on an unusual bead---so she has plenty of them, as well.


Despite the name, the The Bead Cage sells much more than just beads.  Paula told me that although she is a passionate beader, the city's demographics are such that beads alone would not sustain her retail store.  Accordingly, she made the decision to incorporate several different lines of fun and unusual gift items.  Beads take up about 1/3 of the shop's 5000 square feet, while gift items take up the remaining 2/3, with proportional sales revenues.  The Bead Cage is a great place to go for a wedding gift, birthday present, or a special gift for yourself!  Paula noted that most beaders are women and all women wear shoes.  Yup...that explained the expansive selection of "Switch Flops."   I want a pair for summer!  They are cute and functional and have little interchangeable snaps:  plain/festive/sparkly/etc.

Paula and David use the Microsoft Retail Point of Sale system.  Every item in the store is bar coded so inventory is a snap.  Additionally, Paula has a plethora of valuable reports at her fingertips and most of her work day is spent working on the business, rather than on the sales floor.  In a hilarious side conversation, Paula explained to me that it is better for everyone if she is not on the sales floor, noting in the cutest little accent that she does not have "the friendliest face and tends to roll her eyes or make a face if a customer says something stupid."  Note to readers:  Paula has a very friendly face and is an absolute delight.  My guess is that she simply prefers the strategic side of the business!   Her ability to establish systems and processes enables her to make decisions based on logic rather than emotion.  If a product is under performing, she can quickly identify it and get it out the door, which brings us to her next attribute....

GET RID OF DEAD INVENTORY QUICKLY AND RUTHLESSLY.  Paula identifies her deadbeat inventory before it has a chance to strangle her cash flow.  If a product is on the floor for six months without selling, it is marked for termination.  Month 1:  sale at 25% off.  Month 2:  sale at 50% off.  Month 3:  donated to her favorite local woman's charity. 

Paula also knows that the gift buying, shoe wearing, bead loving gals who shop in her store probably like their homes smelling fresh and fragrant. She offers the Lampe Berger lamp line.  The "common" fragrance oils found at the big box stores will ruin this fuel based lamp, so her customers must come back to her for refills.  The residual sale is a big part of Paula's overall strategy.  She likes to stock inventory that requires a follow up purchase from her customer.  Buy one pair of Switch Flops and spend lots more money on the snaps.  Buy one Lampe Berger and come back often for the fuel and for new scents. She offers great product lines so her customers are happy to return.  Win-Win! BRILLIANT! 

Impressed?  I am!  Paula is an inspiration to see...a veritable Steel Magnolia!  You will learn more about her and some other retail success stories in the coming weeks.

In other news
 We have been getting in wonderful pictures from our MARCH CRAFT CHALLENGE volunteers.  The participants were given several colors of Swarovski cup chain and asked to play with it in whatever manner tickled their fancy.  The cuff bracelet pictured at left makes it easy to see why Kelli Burns of The Hole Bead Shoppe has had her work featured on two separate covers of  Bead Unique magazine!  We were blown away by the breadth and scope of the talent!  Click here to see the other equally creative contributions!


The April Challenge kits have been mailed to the lucky participants and we are looking forward to seeing what they can do with the components pictured at right.  Pictures are due on May 1.


The "Crafty Retailers Create" Challenge series has proven so successful that we are launching a new Challenge geared to Etsy Jewelry Designers.  We have 24 kits identical to the one pictured above.  The kit has a retail value of over $100 and is free to the lucky participants who will be chosen in a random drawing on April 15.  Send an email with your Etsy Store identified and we will enter your name in the drawing.  Check out contest details.


.... I want to talk about more important my current crafty personal projects!   I have been spending a whole lot of time in vet waiting rooms of late, so I needed some easy lap work.  Nothing complex, nothing that required thought.  I was looking for soothing, repetitive, "thumb suck" kind of work.  I found it with this great ripple afghan project.  The pattern is from Attic 24 and the instructions are absolutely fantastic.  I chose unusually bright colors, but plan to use it to bring some color to a dark leather couch.  Although the summers get wicked warm in Florida, my daughter loves cozying up on the couch with a blanket regardless of the temperature.  This cotton afghan will be perfect!

 I seem to have been bitten with the crochet bug again and am considering a granny square ensemble for my bed.   I saw this wonderful patten on Wonderland5, which is from a retro Better Home and Garden publication.  I was able to score the book from an Amazon affiliate for only $3 and should have it this week...I am very excited!

So...what is on your crafty agenda?