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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Improve your Leadership Skills to Improve your Bottom Line!

I have never had a problem being the boss of me.  It is  being the boss of  others that has caused me  turmoil over the years.   I don't like telling people what to do.  I have trouble delegating.  It is not my nature to follow a process.  Oh...and I hate conflict.  I avoid it at all costs.  Um...and I want everyone to like  me.  Yikes....not good qualities for a leader.

Fortunately, it is possible to learn how to be a better leader.  It hasn't been easy and it hasn't been fast, but I am slowly maturing into a half decent Boss Lady.  
Crafty Retail Rock Star Cynthia Deis, the creative force behind Ornamentea,wears her Boss Lady Pumps a bit more comfortably than me.  She laughed when asked if she  had a hard time making her expectations clear, noting that as the oldest of  three children and  a former middle school teacher, she has the ability to get you to do things you don't want to do.

Cynthia has a clear vision of what she wants for the business and she communicates that vision effectively.   For example,  she might poke a bit of fun at herself  by noting "I am not trying to be a Diva, but I am gonna be a Diva.  This is how I want it done."   Humor works--it takes the edge off.   She has almost thirty employees and knows that it is critical for everyone to be on the same page.  Accordingly,  there are monthly staff meetings which she describes as "raucous."    There is lots of laughter and silliness in the mix, providing a wonderful opportunity for bonding as well as education.

Cynthia has created a culture of "keeping busy" so there is not a whole lot of wasted time at Ornamentea.  She leads by example.   There is always something to do to reinforce the brand and her staff knows to do it!  Tidy the beads, clean the fingerprints off the glass bowl that is home to the Hershey Kisses, call a customer to touch base, etc. 

 DIY is only fun when it applies to crafting.  Successful leaders know that delegation is critical to growth and Cynthia is no exception.  There was a period in Ornamentea's infancy when she would take on a task more properly borne by an employee because she could complete the task in less time than it took to create a
process or fully explain the project to her staff.  I can certainly relate to that---  been there, done that, still have the tendency.  A refusal to delegate might be expedient for the moment, but it is almost always inefficient for the long term.  Ornamentea grew and Cynthia ran out of hours in the day.  She now entrusts people to do the things she has neither the time nor the inclination to do.  It takes focus --and more time than most small business owners have available-- to create a process for staff members to follow.  However, once you have a system in place it can be replicated again and again, saving you time in the long run.  Efficiency is a beautiful thing.

Employees are your ambassadors...make sure that they have the tools necessary to shine!   Classes are a big part of the Ornamentea brand, with 40 different class offerings each month.  Although her staff members are talented crafters, Cynthia recognizes that being a gifted artist does not necessarily guarantee an equal knack for teaching.   After all, a good teacher teaches, but a great teacher will INSPIRE.   Since Ornamentea is all about inspiration, Cynthia holds a "Teach the Teachers" retreat every year to ensure that her vision is shared by her team.

Moreover, Cynthia's employees are encouraged to take any class offered at the shop for free, insuring that everyone has broad expertise.  What a great way to keep the staff up to date on current trends and techniques!   She further promotes creativity by offering her staff a VERY generous discount.  Employees come into the shop wearing their killer creations and customers buy the product to make the same necklace.  It is a win-win.

The Take Away:  Channel your inner middle school teacher and do what you gotta do to become an effective leader.  Your business is counting on it!

Ready for a challenge?  Try our Fiber Earring Throw Down!  You can sew them, you can knit them, you can felt them, you can weave them, you can string them....technique is irrelevant.  They can be pierced or clip-on, dangling or post, flashy or demure.


Send me a picture of your fiberlicious creation on or before Monday, February 28, 2011!

You supply the ingredients and I will supply the prize---a fantastical, mouth watering, envy inducing box of Sparkling-N-Fibery Goodness with a retail value of  $150.   There will be prizes for the second and third place winners as well as a special gift for every participant who blogs about the challenge--just send me a link to your blog post to be included in the fun.   Help spread the crafty word!

I have been concentrating so heavily on crochet that I forgot how much I loved to felt!  I just finished the green cuff pictured at right, and have just pulled the components to complete the second in what is apparently my GREEN series.   I guess the lovely weather we are experiencing in Florida has me thinking of Spring.

My daughter and I foster rescue dogs.  The result of this volunteer work is that we have a tendency to adopt foster dogs.  DUH!  

Meet the newest member of our wacky family!   He is five months old and, until last week, his world was limited to a tiny crate.  He was a sweet, timid, cowering thing who has morphed into a rowdy, confident, perpetually dirty ball of furry fun.

We will never replace Rosie, but have found room in our hearts for this little guy.

Any suggestions for a name?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Embrace Technology to Grab your Share of the Retail Craft Dollar!

Every "industry" has its Rock Star.   Regardless of your passion -- Fibers, Beads, Politics...whatever...there is someone in your tribe who is the leader of the pack---you know, the one who sets the pace.  The one we want to be when we grow up.  The cool kid.

You know who has my vote as the Crafty Retail Rock Star of the year? 

Cynthia Deis of  Ornamentea. 

She and her husband Galen run the business--which consists of a brick and mortar store as well as an internet store---together.  Cynthia is the creative genius, while Galen is the operations guru.  Although I have never met Cynthia "in person," I have been a secret admirer for many years.  Not the weird, creepy, stalker kind of fan; rather,  the  appreciative  "Damn! She's good!"  kind of fan.  At a time when more than a few retailers are bemoaning the state of the economy, Cythia and Galen employ 28 folks and are looking to hire.  Mind you, most of employees are part-time, but c'mon!  I'm impressed!  Ornamentea's success is no accident.

 I first came across the Ornamentea website while researching sites for my own fledgling business almost a decade ago.  Most retailers were still in the dark ages...we were only just starting to recognize that a web presence was a business necessity.  Ornamentea was way ahead of the curve--the site was total eye candy in a sea of standard "stock" templates and lousy visual imagery. Today it sets the standard for the industry.

I asked Cynthia what set her apart at a time when others in the craft industry are experiencing sluggish sales.  She observed that her team is all "pretty techie" and that Ornamentea  embraces technology.  Galen is a former IBM executive who took a leave of absence to help Cynthia during her busy season.  His leave of absence soon became permanent as Ornamentea grew.  Moreover, Ornamentea employs two full time web designers to keep the site in tip top shape.  Web sales make up a significant potion of her retail sales, so the investment clearly pays off for Ornamentea.  While very  few specialty craft stores can afford a Tech Team, it certainly underscores the need for every retailer to make her website a priority.  Take some time and peruse the site.  Make sure to click every link.  It is stimulating both creatively and professionally.  You are bound to leave the computer bursting with enthusiasm and ideas for your own shop.

In addition to the website, Ornamentea leverages technology to capture the very best of what is wonderful about the  brick and mortar experience --- that yummy sense of being part of a larger crafty community --- and then carries it over to create a warm and fuzzy online community.  It is all part of the Ornamentea brand experience.   Cynthia encourages her staff to walk the floor with their cell phones/cameras so that they can grab customer photographs as appropriate.  It is fun for her team, it is fun for her customers. The pics are then quickly uploaded to Facebook or the store website.  Customers know to check in with Facebook often, because something exciting is always going on. 

Whether she is sending out her latest weekly craft tutorial, or simply sharing the details of her recent battle with the flu, it is a delight to be part of Cynthia's circle. Hop on over here here to sign up for the Dot Com Dispatch, her weekly free e-tutorial.   Cynthia has the pulse of the industry and you are sure to learn something.  She also emails a weekly newsletter to her brick and mortar customers.   Although store owners  know that "they should" have store events,  many fail  to host even one a month.  Not Cynthia! This week Ornamentea has six separate events going on!  Read her newsletter and be inspired!   

There is always a whole lot of free going on at Ornamentea.  Cynthia sells a great deal of inventory by exposing her customers to new products, techniques and ideas..FOR FREE.  She has free templates available for download and some of the best jewelry tutorials on the net.

In addition to providing the goodies listed above, Cynthia and her team cultivate several different "micro communities" within her customer base.  For example, she has a "Metals Club" which meets --for free-- at the shop.  There is a monthly  metal  project for anyone who chooses to make it.  Ornamentea is currently sponsoring a juried metals competition for group members.  The club even has its own separate newsletter!  Other free clubs include the Altered Book Club and the Beadweaving Club.

Are your school kids bored on half day Wednesday?  Ornamentea welcomes them  for Kids Work Wednesday, when your child can make a project for only $2.00!  The shop hosts an open air market five times a year for customers to sell their handmade wares.  Did I mention that Cynthia and Galen have two small children?  WHEW!

Honestly, it is easy to see where Ornamentea would have to employ at least 28 people!  Every business owner knows that staffing is one of the biggest challenges in retail. Tune in next week as Cynthia shares some tips on being a good boss!


 My current earring addiction?  Felted hoop earrings!  Get the tutorial here.  It is the ultimate "upcycling" project since it features tarnished "throwaway" hoops for the base and just a few grams of Ashland Bay wool top for the felting.   I am just finishing up a blue and silver set which will be perfect with denim.  I used mismatched hoops, which adds to the playfulness of the medium, and embellished with seed beads and Swarovski sew on stones.


You can sew them, you can knit them, you can felt them, you can weave them, you can string them....technique is irrelevant.  They can be pierced or clip-on, dangling or post, flashy or demure.


Send me a picture of your fiberlicious creation on or before February 23, 2011!

You supply the ingredients and I will supply the prize---a fantastical, mouth watering, envy inducing box of Sparkling-N-Fibery Goodness with a retail value of  $150.   The winner will drool on it when she opens it...guaranteed!  There will be prizes for the second and third place winners as well as a special gift for every participant who blogs about the challenge.  Throw Down judges will be independent, with no business connection to either The Crafty Retailer or Aussie Threads and Fibers

Time's a wastin'!  Need some inspiration?  A quick google image search for "fiber earring" generates 1.9 million images!   Sort through your craft stash, get your creative muse flowing, and help me spread the crafty word!