It’s Time for a “Come to Jesus” Moment…

Lela Barker

Focus Is Your Friend


Most of the makers that I work with come at their work from a creative perspective rather than from a business perspective. And that can be an intrinsically beautiful thing as you push the edge of your work and continue to innovate.


But that approach can simultaneously hamstring a growing brand. The desire to create, create and then create some more often evolves into a product collection that resembles a many-headed-beast with little focus. And- at the end of the day- your product collection must tell a cohesive story that your target audience can understand. Creatives often have an low-level, perpetual tension between their inherently innovative souls and their need to button things up and make decisions that increase efficiency and product a profit.


If you’ve been…


    • Building volume in order to gain traction on Etsy


    • Launching every product your neighbor/ mama/ best friend asks you to create


    • Creating a steady stream of new products because you’re smitten with the latest raw material or design trend


…then there’s a better-than-even chance that you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel that’s breeding exhaustion while simultaneously evaporating profits. You’re in good company, but man… is that hamster wheel frustrating.


The need to edit a product collection to be succinct + cohesive is one of the biggest mindset shifts that must happen when you move from “hobbyist” to “professional maker.” And while I understand that it’s the Achilles heel of intrinsically creative souls, it also very necessary if you want to build a sustainable creative brand.




The more products you create…


    • The more raw materials you’ll need to have on hand,


    • The more storage + work space you’ll need at your disposal,


    • The higher the likelihood that you have to DIY your product packaging (it’s more challenging to professionally print a large variety of labels/ boxes/ tags since printing costs drop as you reach higher numbers of a single design),


    • The more divided your marketing efforts + attention span will be,


    • The more products you’ll need to photograph (tying up your time + making it more challenging to tag in a pro),


    • The more products you’ll need to program into your website (again: tying up your time + making it more challenging to tag in a pro),


    • And the higher the likelihood that you’ll need to create everything “to order,” which kills efficiency and drives your costs of production sky-high.


More is not more. Say it with me, now: MORE IS NOT MORE.  I propose that we all get that tattooed somewhere on ourselves as a daily reminder that editing is a critical task of successful businesses. Heaven knows that I have needed it on my journey as maker…




1. Focus on what you want your brand to “own.” What do you want to be known for? Which of your products are out of alignment with that vision?


2. Think about the target audience you want to serve. What story are they telling themselves when they purchase + use your products? Which of your products fall outside that narrative?


3. Look at your sales numbers. Which of the products that survived cuts #1 and #2 (above) are eliciting a positive reaction from your audience?


4. Review your costs of production. Which of the remaining products that survived cuts #1, #2 and #3 are financially viable?


Review the products that are left standing and edit once more for cohesion. If something doesn’t fit, remove it. If there’s a gaping hole, fill it.


Remember that seeing beloved products on the cutting room floor will be an emotional experience for you. There’s nothing to say that you can’t continue making  these products (as gifts for those you love or on a specially commissioned basis).  Be gentle with yourself: I can attest that wine + long, hot baths help.


And no matter what you ultimately edit out of the collection, someone somewhere is going to be less-than-thrilled. In the ultimate display of irony, several of the brands I work with have made decisions to cull a product from their collection, only to see an almost-immediate surge in the product’s popularity right before the guillotine drops. Don’t be dissuaded! Make the cuts, frame the announcement in a positive light, project confidence, suggest other products you believe will please the devoted fans of whatever is going by the wayside and raise a glass to flexing your entrepreneurial muscle.


“Be as close to your singular purpose as you can. Gandhi knew who he was; he was at perfect peace with himself. Nike, for instance, knows what it is; regardless of the product or sport, everything has its clear and common purpose. You get in trouble when you get split against yourself. Like when Microsoft cranked out the Zune, just because it thought it should. Or that kid who comes back from spring break with fake dreadlocks. Or athletes who rap. (Sorry, Shaq.)”   -Marc Ecko


About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

2 responses on “It’s Time for a “Come to Jesus” Moment…

  1. Sumam

    I feel like you are speaking to me in this post. I literally sat up when I was reading the part where I’ve added items to my line up for exactly the reasons you mention. ((sigh))

  2. Frank M Vigneri

    day one of 2020 / spot on; now here’s some clear vision.

    Square Bought (our) Weebly, and now I have to Rebuild/ Convert the old, heavy weebly site into the new Sq. Store.
    Great Time to Cull, Baby, Cull.
    Frank and Anne Vigneri
    Award Winning Artists and Product Design Team since 1970

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