Meet the Maker: Hana Brewster of Quiet Clementine

Hana Brewster of Quiet Clementine

For several years, Lucky Break hosted a “Meet the Maker” series featuring inspiring makers and product designers we though you should know. We were honored to host dozens of artisans, from Kristen Pumphrey of PF Candle Co to Meg Sutton of Belle & Union. Each one graciously offered inside peeks of their entrepreneurial journeys, while sharing some of their favorite resources, and dishing advice for what they wish they’d known when launching their own brands.  After an extended hiatus, we’re excited to reignite the “Meet the Maker” series, and we hope it helps you stay engaged, empowered, and inspired.

 

We’re kicking things off with Hana Brewster of Quiet Clementine. Hana creates whimsical and playful pieces from ceramics that include sculpted jewelry pieces and statement dishes. Thanks so much for joining us, Hana… we’re thrilled to share your story!

 

Hana Brewster of Quiet Clementine

 

download-3

 

LBC: What inspired you to take the leap as an entrepreneur?

Hana: Prior to Quiet Clementine, I had two polymer clay focused businesses, one for jewelry and one for decor. I wanted to be a part of the handmade world, making something, and being able to work from home. I started with jewelry, because I had made some ceramic necklaces for my bridesmaids and enjoyed the process. Living in a small apartment with no space to make messes or to put a kiln made the choice to work with polymer fairly obvious.

Also, when I was in 6th grade, I went through a macrame jewelry making phase where I stayed in from recess to craft and try to sell necklaces to my teachers, so jewelry just felt like a natural fit to me. A few years into those businesses, my dad (who is a retired art teacher and amazing potter) encouraged me to make some ceramic pieces. I resisted for a while because I didn’t feel I had the skill to work in ceramics, but when I finally gave in, I was hooked.

Once I saw the first finished pieces, I think I knew I was done with polymer clay. I started making more pieces and posting them to Instagram. Then I started figuring out a plan for transitioning my business and how I was going to buy my own kiln. My business officially became Quiet Clementine in the spring of 2015 and I haven’t looked back since.

 

MEET THE QUIET CLEMENTINE COLLECTION

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Hana: I create playful ceramics for color enthusiasts. I make small items, such as ring dishes, earring holders, mini planters, statement earrings, and necklaces. Each piece is inspired by vibrant color palettes and playful patterns and is handcrafted to bring fun and happiness to everyday life.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Hana: You can find my products on my website, my Etsy shop, and at some amazing shops around the country, as well a couple international, which you can see on my stockist page.

 

download-1

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Hana: Even though I had a couple of shops prior to Quiet Clementine, I still didn’t know that much about business, so I’m not sure if I really thought about how it would be defined. I just enjoyed making colorful, happy things out of a material that had so many possibilities and, as things went along, I started to understand my aesthetic more and more and what kinds of products I enjoyed making.

 

THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A TYPICAL WORKDAY

LBC: Walk us through a typical workday.

Hana: I don’t have a typical workday. I’m not a morning person, so I usually sleep in and then check emails and Instagram on my phone, which I know is a bad way to start the day!  After that, I start the kiln if it’s a firing day and I might do some computer work or answer/send emails if I need to or do a little product work.

After lunch, I go back to whatever the task is for the day. Each day is so different, depending on what products I’m currently working on and which phase of the process they’re in, but there are 3 different phases my pieces go through to become a final product. Some days I’m in the making phase, where I work in wet clay, creating the forms of the products. After that, I move on to the glazing phase, where I hand paint 3 coats of multiple glaze colors on each piece. For some products, that would be the final step, but I also apply liquid 22k gold to most of my pieces, so some days I’m applying gold and firing the kiln for the 3rd time.

For jewelry, there is yet another phase, so some days I assemble earrings. In between each phase are firing days, where I fire the kiln and then wait for it to cool. On those days (or whenever I need to), I might photograph or list new products, do computer work, start making more products, finish up a wholesale order, or just take a day to rest. My husband is my unofficial shipping assistant, so any orders that need to be packed up will happen after he gets home. I spend time with my husband in the evening and end the day by watching TV or reading a book.

 

BEFORE YOU START YOUR BUSINESS

LBC: What are 3 things entrepreneurs should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Hana:

Make sure no one else is making your specific product already and if they are, figure out how you can make it unique and different from what’s already out there. Obviously, there are already a ton of people making jewelry or greeting cards, but you can determine what sets you apart from the rest. Having an idea of the feeling and aesthetic you want for your products will be helpful in understanding what makes you different.

Figure out pricing at the start and if you’d like to eventually do wholesale. You won’t want to have to dramatically increase your prices when you start wholesale. Of course, your costs and process will probably change from when you start versus a year out. You’ll find more cost-effective suppliers and your process will become more efficient, but having an understanding of pricing, in the beginning, will be beneficial.

Be aware of all the other roles that come with owning a small business. You won’t just be making the products you’re passionate about everyday. You’ll be the photographer, packager, shipper, admin, and many other things. Make sure you’ll be able to perform all of those tasks, at least in the beginning until you can, or want, to outsource those roles.

 

download-5

 

(more…)

#LBCWantsToKnow >> January 2019: Breaking Business Bad Habits

product development planning for makers

beginning+of+year+planning

 

Today we are talking about breaking business bad habits. Each month, I ask my Instagram community to join me in a focused, crowd-sourced discussion on a specific subject.  For the month of January, we’ve been rolling up our sleeves to chat about beginning of the year planning. This blog is part one of three… I’ll be collecting your thoughts and sharing them here all month!

 

Breaking Business Bad Habits

 

image_from_ios_720

 

 THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…

  • shoprarejoule: Not being organized. I’m learning how to streamline this year.

 

  • smallcompanyartworks: I want joy to be the litmus test for more of my business decisions. Not just the direction to take my art, but what to outsource, sales channels, etc.

 

  • bobodesignstudio: Planning and being less reactive. Even if that means planning one quarter ahead.

 

  • starblastco: Poor cash flow management and budgeting. Read Profit First last month so I got all my systems in place to never let that happen again!

 

  • bubblesbabez: Trying to leave behind procrastination, but it won’t leave me alone.

 

  • mistybluebotanicals: I’m going to embrace wholesaling this year!

 

  • maiookshop: I’m striving to be more consistent, more brave and more proactive this year.

 

  • trulyblessedmaneke: I’m leaving my perfection cloak in the dust! It was SO heavy & it slowed me down in 2018.  I’d much rather wear my cloak of accomplishment when I tackle my to-do-list like a BOSS!!!! I know I can always improve.

 

  • kidessenceshop: I want to keep a positive mindset and be better at follow-through on my plans. Towards the end of last year, I was so burnt out from focusing on my fears in my business that some of those fears became a reality. If I keep a positive mindset 100% and take those failures and turn them into successes this year, I know I can meet some great goals.

 

HERE ARE MY THOUGHTS…

I’ve noticed a few habits that many of us lug around, though they aren’t really serving our businesses. My goals for Lucky Break clients are to eliminate clutter (both mental and physical), to establish parameters that help encourage solid, focused work habits, and to help them build a support network. To that end, here are my top tips for calibrating yourself for success in the new year.

 

MUTE YOUR NOTIFICATIONS. You know all those things that buzz, ding, and whirl? The constant inundation of alerts and notifications contributes to mental overwhelm and they break focus every time they make noise. You needn’t be notified when someone places an order, sends an email, favorites a picture, likes your page, or shouts you out on Twitter. Remove all audible notifications and ensure that your email isn’t auto-checking throughout the day. Recalibrate these systems so that you’re in control of when you review information, not the other way around.

Along those same lines:  Flipd is my new favorite app. It prevents me from constantly peeking at my phone and indulging my ADD when I should be focusing on other work tasks.  Give it a try… it’ll change your life!

 

(more…)

#LBCWantsToKnow >> July 2018: Pricing

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Pricing

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Pricing

 

Each month, I ask my Instagram community to join me in a focused, crowd-sourced discussion of a specific subject.  For the month of July, we dove head-first into pricing… one of my favorite topics. Often worried about, but seldom discussed, I welcomed an opportunity to roll up my sleeves and see how I could help.

 

When was the last time you implemented a price increase? How did you roll it out? How was it received?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID…

 

lillabarnclothing: Ah! I need to do this now. I’m going to up prices by 10%. Rolling it out next week after my summer sale.

 

stellachroma: At my rebrand a year ago. Just did it. No one batted an eyelash. Granted, it was at a rebrand. 🙂

 

yukonsoaps: A year and half ago. I just did it. No questions asked! And sales increased!

 

cocosabon: I increased on two products last year. I informed my customers prior to the increase and explained why it was necessary. No problems at all. 👍🏼

 

MY THOUGHTS: I recommended that my clients carefully monitor their costs and review them at least once per annum. If a nominal (3-7%) price increase is needed, it’s better to roll those out once a year as opposed to “saving them up” for years and then hitting your buyers with a large jump in pricing every few years. Anything less than 10% is typically received well by buyers, provided that the rollout is properly framed. Price adjustments on the order of 10%+ require more of a brand re-positioning (connecting with a new audience) and are decidedly more complicated, but totally possible.

 

I find that the very subject of price increases unnerves many makers + product designers, but this doesn’t have to be an anxiety-inducing affair. There’s definitely an art to framing the announcement, but we’re usually far more worked up about it than our wholesale partners and retail customers. Need some help in this arena? My instantly-downloaded price increase workshop can build confidence and guide you through the process of designing an elegant announcement. And Price-O-Matic, my product pricing software, can help you keep an sharp eye on costs and profitability, too.

 

Do you feel like you’re currently charging what your products are worth? If not, what’s holding you back?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

 

westcoastleslie: I’m not mostly because I feel like it will hold me back from making sales. And I know you’ll say “those people aren’t your customers” which is true to an extent. But tell me who is going to buy a $200 scarf?🤷🏻 Honestly, point me in their direction!

 

idigyourhair: No, but I want to. I feel unknown and feel I need to grow my brand in order to do that. I have made them slightly higher online.

 

normalish_: Nope. I don’t feel like I am because I’m stuck in this crazy Facebook bubble of small businesses that all feel like we can only charge so much. Even the customers in this bubble complain/dictate if your prices are higher than the average. I’m desperately trying to work my way outta there.

 

focsimama: I wasn’t but I will be once this new brand launches.

 

scentshomebodybaby: Agree with all these comments!! Just trying to charge enough for people to purchase to make my brand known. It’s so hard.

 

sasaloo.living: There is the never ending question!…. among others, lol.🤦🏻

 

MY THOUGHTS: Pricing is decidedly complex. It brings together many elements (brand presentation, audience awareness, consumer psychology, distribution strategy, tricky math… blech!) and we must take all of those elements together to create a narrative and a presentation that both taps our people and keeps food on our tables. That’s no simple task!

 

Finding the right people, crafting a capable narrative, and increasing your company’s ability to communicate value are all pillars of strong brand development. If you haven’t laid the critical foundation for your brand, then it’s virtually impossible to command the prices you want or need. I echo the sentiments above: we must break out of our bubbles by becoming aware of the larger competitive landscape and staying tethered to the players in that market. As to the $200 scarf question, I ask: Are there $200 scarves on the market? If so, there are $200 scarf people out there!

 

Not everyone can afford a $200 scarf, and not everyone who can afford it wants to spend that sum, but pricing runs along a spectrum. You could buy a new car for $12,000 (Smart cars) or a new car for $260,000 (hello, Ferrari!), and virtually every price point in between. The Ferrari peeps know their audience and they aren’t worried about the Smart car audience. It’s up to each of us to decide where on the pricing spectrum we want to play, and the key is to build value that’s commensurate with the price tag we attach to our work. You can’t sell a Smart car at Ferrari prices, but you can sell a Ferrari at Ferrari prices. And you’ll need to create a Ferrari-worthy experience for buyers at a premium price point.  Think: flashy showroom, attractive salespeople in elegant suits, champagne as you shop, etc.

 

We can all take the reigns on our pricing by doubling-down on our attempts to control costs and create efficiencies. In this case, every penny saved really is a penny earned. I’m often tasked with helping my clients develop more efficient production strategies, seek new suppliers, and offer a “bird’s eye” review of expenses to help trim things down. Once we’ve become as efficient as possible, then the work pivots to cultivating the customers we want, becoming more aware of the market, and sending the right signals to show that we’re creating premium products for a specialty audience.  It’s possible, I promise!

 

If you want to work on becoming more intimately aware of your audience, broadening your view of the marketplace, and upp’ing your brand presentation, then I invite you to explore Brick House Branding, my 9-week brand mentorship. Enrollment for the first live semester of 2019 opens on October 2, and the program is now available in an instantly-available “On Demand” version, too.

 

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Be sure to stop by the Lucky Break Instagram, where every month we chat about all things business. I’d love to hear your thoughts and hope you’ll lend your voice. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in! In August, we’re chatting all things website.

#LBCWantsToKnow >> June 2018: Holiday Wholesale Outreach

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Holiday

LuckyBreak-LBCWantsToKnow-Holiday

 

Every month, I ask my Instagram community to lend their voices to a focused business conversation so we can crowd-source meaningful discussions. I call it #LBCWantsToKnow and it’s one of my very favorite things of 2018! Though the mercury is peaking and all the wee ones are out of school at the moment, I’ve got the holidays on my mind… because the wholesale march generally begins in mid-summer.

 

When do you start planning for holiday wholesale outreach?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

  • canardlabs: July 1st. Our Holiday Catalog Insert is launched and sent along to our reps and rep groups! We order the Fall/Winter ingredients in May. Make the products and photograph them in early June, then release them to our peeps by July 1.

 

  • olivemyskin: August is when I start. Keeping records from prior years helps tremendously. It make order placing easier.

 

 

MY THOUGHTS: The holidays often catch makers and product designers off guard and our holiday game plan needs to kick off much earlier than many new business owners realize. Buyers for most categories start scouting for new merchandise in late July and August.  If you’re ever perplexed by when they’re on the prowl, look towards the trade shows for your product category.  Those always occur in at the start of prime buying seasons, so it’s an way way to remember when you need to turn up the heat.

Many of us experience an annual retail slump in the summer months- retail consumers (both those that shop online and those who flock to brick + mortar stores), are otherwise distracted with summer plans. They’re out of rhythm, focusing on other endeavors, and we don’t have the benefit of any major gift-giving holidays in June, July, or August.  Though it’s painful to see revenues wither in these months, that also makes this period “prime time” for holiday prep. Finish up any new product development, tee up your fall releases, polish marketing materials, and line up a concerted push for wholesale attention. Then launch those efforts in August and keep the heat on for new buyers straight through late October.

 

In my experience, December is pretty much a ghost town in wholesale, but that’s generally a blessing as most of us are swamped with retail orders. November typically sees a steady stream of orders, but they’re generally reorders from stockists who are selling out inventory or existing accounts who are a tad late to the game on holiday ordering. But August? September, and October? Prime time to get on the radar of new shops you’re itching to get into.

 

 

Will you be releasing new products for the holiday season?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

 

  • olivemyskin: Holiday scented candles and warm, spicy soap

 

  • woodenheartdesigns: Adding new products now based on my best selling items and revamping some things so I don’t feel so overwhelmed right before the shopping season starts. My biggest challenge is always finding work/life balance during the peak season.

 

MY THOUGHTS: “New” is the lifeblood of wholesale, and seasonal launches are essential to this market segment. But that doesn’t necessitate that you launch 87 new products or jump into an entirely new product category! Seasonal fragrances for those in the apothecary or candle space, fresh colorways or prints for textiles, a thoughtful jewelry collection of several capsule pieces…. that’s really all you need. And for those in the gift space, bundling existing products into gift sets in ready-to-go packaging is always a smart idea.

 

Ideally, those products are ready to launch in July. I recommend using that month as your benchmark, then doing some quick reverse math to map out deadlines for each step of the development process.  Whether your product development takes 3 months or 6 months, the process usually starts months ahead of when we imagine it would!

 

 

Black Friday + Cyber Monday promotions: Are they a blessing or curse to your business?

 

THE LUCKY BREAK COMMUNITY SAID: 

 

  • lillabarnclothing: We do a small biz Saturday online event with one of a kind pieces and other unique items that aren’t usually available. Trying not to do too many discounts, but this seems to be a fun event especially for our insider group.

 

  • stellachroma: Thanks to you, we don’t do percent discounts often at all and I think business is better because of it. We may do a free shipping and gift with purchase deal this year rather than a price discount.

 

  • horsefeathersgifts: We use Black Friday to clear out any inventory we no longer want on our site. It’s always been a big hit with our customers.

 

  • lotionbarcafe: I am closed on both those days. I am an ambassador for small biz Saturday and that has been the best!

 

  • zhibathandbody: Bundles and free gift wrap is what I do most; occasionally free shipping. Deep discounts were never effective. I set up automation for Black Friday & Cyber Monday, then work up a nerve to do a live event on Small Business Saturday.

 

MY THOUGHTS: It’s terribly easy to let discounts be the death of small business.  A steady stream of percentage-or-dollars-off promotions or occasional deeeeeep discounts serve to hamstring creative brands. They move the needle away from value and center the discussion on price (which really isn’t what you want to focus on, unless you’re a discount brand). They train you customers to only shop when your products are on sale.  They undercut your wholesale partners, which jeopardizes those relationships. All the way around, they get a hard “no” from me.

 

With that said, I’m keenly aware that these are the biggest shopping days of the year and consumers are accustomed to a buffet of offers during Thanksgiving week. I recommend a few things…

 

  • Starve your customers a bit. Not literally, but figuratively. Pull back on your sales throughout the year to make your holiday promos more special.

 

  • Consider adding value rather than deducting dollars. There are are many creative ways to structure offers and incentivize ordering. Consider offering free shipping (or a lower free-shipping threshold than your usual), adding complementary gift wrap, increasing loyalty points on purchases made during a promo period if you offer a loyalty program, etc. Bonus product (buy this, get that) or deluxe samples are always welcome offers, too.  Essentially, do anything other than give people what they often get for less dollars than they usually pay for product. Ideally, you collect the same number of dollars, but those dollars stretch further.

 

  • Transition to a 2.2x wholesale pricing structure. If you create a $22 candle, then offer it for wholesale at $10, rather than the typical keystone of $11. That means that your recommended retail price (and the price your charge on your own website) is 2.2x wholesale, rather than 2x. If you pivot to this type of pricing structure, then you’ll attract wholesale partner like bees to honey and you give yourself a 10% off cushion when you run sales. So your $22 candle can sell for $20 during a sale, and you’ve still protected your stockists by not charging your own customers less than 2x your wholesale. Everyone wins! An occasional 10% off, especially when coupled with a value-added promotion is far better for a brand than a temporary 20, 30, or 40% slash in price.

 

Want to chat more about the power of smart promotions and how you can structure them? I’m offering a free business workshop via FB Live in September to chat about this very thing! Join me on Lucky Break Consulting’s Facebook page on Thursday, September 27 at 2pm Eastern/ 11am Pacific for a live conversation and some rich Q+A.

 

Also, I invite you to join me on Instagram in July I’ll be hosting a conversation about pricing and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in!

 

 

The Lucky Break Calendar – May 2018

May2018

Am I the only one who had to do a double take when I flipped the calendar and it said May? 2018 is rolling along and it’s already time to begin thinking about holidays for the wholesale market. Time – and the holidays – wait for no one my friend.

 

This month the LBC team is busy attending The HSCG Soap Conference where we can’t wait to give hugs and mingle with our favorite alumni. Will I see you there? Be sure to stop by the booth to say hello to me and the team and pick up some Lucky Break swag while you’re at it.

 

Whatever you’re up to this month, know that I’m cheering you on!May2018