Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Looking to Consign in a Shop? Read This.

So you have been painting for a while and have decided to take the plunge into consignment.  
This is happening out there quite a bit apparently, as the number one question that I get asked on a daily basis is some form of this:
"How do I consign in your shop?".

There is nothing wrong with asking this, of course, but as we all's not always what you say but how you say it.   
I can't speak for other owners, but here are some tips from the other side of our counter.

The thing to have foremost in your mind is that you are attempting to sell yourself and your product.  Act like it by treating the conversation as such and following some of these guidelines:

1.  Introduce yourself.  Whether via email or in person, introduce yourself!  Who are you?  
2.  What do you do?  Again, whether by email or in person, show your product.  Have your portfolio ready.  Send it if you are emailing your request to consign.
3.  Show interest in the shop you are asking to sell your product out of.  Know something about the place.  Come in a time or two.
4.  Be polite.  ...Duh.
5.  Check your timing.  Ask if this is a good time to discuss your line.  For example, a busy special event is not the best time to approach a harried owner about what she can do for you.  Introduce yourself and express your interest in coming back at a more opportune time.  This goes a LONG way.  Trust me.

Now these five things seem extremely basic but literally these things have happened only a handful of times.  In all of the times I have been asked.  Not surprisingly, those few people are now designers here.  

Every shop is different.  We, for example, don't do typical consignment.  I personally have three main furniture designers aside from myself that contribute to the shop and a rotation of local artists that contribute their wall pieces, jewelry, soap, and other items.  Our lineup of contributing designers are part of the family, and I like to keep it small.  Our shop is small, and we want to invest in a few people that we know well.  It's about the stuff, of course, but even more so about the relationships we have with our family of contributors.  You can have the prettiest stuff in all the land, but if you don't show, don't follow up, and show no interest or support in the business we are thanks!  That may sound harsh, but this is not a one way street.  It's a partnership, and will be no matter where you go.

When you start hitting the shops looking for a place to call home, make sure you are prepared and do your homework.  This is a business, ya'll, and there are a lot of people doing it.  Make sure you talk to others that consign, get a feel for the general environment.  Set your sights on where you want to be and set yourself apart from the crowd by following the five tips.  Build your brand on a foundation of not just great work, but your business prowess and willingness to be a valued member of a shop's family.  

Now, get on out there and wow 'em!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bullies: Turds in the Punch Bowl

Disclaimer:  I use the word TURD in this post.  If the title has already upset you, please do not read on.

You and I both know, it only takes one person to ruin it for everyone else.  I call this unwelcome person "The Turd in the Punch Bowl".  You may call them lots of things, and the word "bully" might be one of them.  

I will spare you the majority of the gory details behind why I'm choosing to share this post, but if you're a painter you might guess.  For those of you who don't know, a paint company is claiming trademark infringement on many small businesses and painters for using certain descriptive words.  Um.  What?  Can you imagine losing your livelihood over something like that?  Those two five-letter words rhyme with "talk" and "saint" and describe the texture or nature of a type of paint with certain additives.  For that, you must PAY.  Apparently.  (UPDATE:  this is not happening to us and God forbid it does, but it is something happening to many folks and we wish it wasn't.)

This is not something I will discuss further publicly.  I'm not saying the words.  I am not even typing the words.  I mean, my husband and I work here.  This is all we have.  There is no other job to help support us.  People are getting their Facebook pages taken away, their blogs, their Etsy stores...their businesses are being taken away from them.  This is actually happening to people.  For the use of those two five-letter words.

I have run into a small-time bully or two since starting this business and even they suck the life right out of you.  You are swimming in the calm cool blue waters of the awesomeness you created, your very soul poured into every minute your eyes are open each day,  and out of nowhere you get kamikaze jellyfish stung by a turdy bully.  It could be someone you trust, a total stranger, or even one of the big names of the decorative painting industry.  It happens in this and in any business. It happens all over the place all the time.  People have insecurities that lead them to a life of turd-dom.  They try to squash others with their clout, money...sure, they CAN do this thing in order to help themselves but SHOULD they?  When it destroys others?  

Let me share a personal story about being bullied.  Gather around.

Way, way, waaay back before Mean Girls was even a glimmer in a director's eye, I was tormented and bullied in high school.  From the middle of Junior year on.  I was not unattractive.  Didn't bother anyone too much.  I was a Diamond Girl for the Seattle Mariners for crying out loud.  That just made me more unlikable to these people.  Like these businesses, my sheer existence was enough to make the bullies mad.  The very idea of me was was apparently so horrible to others that my mom had to use her sister's last name on her checks (remember when people had checks?) for fear people would recognize our last name and find out where I lived.  By the end of my senior year, a school counselor walked me to my afternoon classes.  That's not horrible at ALL.  Thanks to the administration taking these ridiculous steps and my true friends I graduated high school...though I missed more school than I attended.  But I didn't ask for the way I was treated.  These innocent businesses aren't asking for it either.  Was I called names because I was darker skinned, was my hair pulled because I looked a certain way?  I don't know.  I do know that it scarred my whole life for many years and the way I viewed others for a long, long time.  Not to mention the way I viewed myself.  Still do sometimes.

Those early experiences and later experiences with negative turds in the workplace drove me to cultivate a positive business of my own.  I would guess many others have done the same thing for similar reasons.  When I opened the shop I thought, "I refuse to let anything that is not positive enter this space".  Easier said than done but we try.

My heart hurts that people may lose their livelihoods for using two five-letter words.  The decision to do this comes from the top, and puts the retailers of the product who are also small business owners in a weird space.  They do not get to decide these things and should not suffer the repercussions.  This decision comes from a place of ugliness.  Not business.  And it needs to halt.

If bullying of this or any kind is happening to you:  most importantly, you must know that you are worth far more than silence.  ALSO REMEMBER THIS:   before you ask these people if they ate bowls full of paint chips as children, or before you become the hysterical lunatic harpy no one wants to be around, use your adult words. And honestly, I am guilty of not always using my adult words.  Like, really guilty. Example: the excessive use of the word "turd".

There are so many wonderful people in this business and in this life and in this world.  I have reached out to so many...asked them questions, answered theirs.  Do the same.  Don't let one bully ruin you, tarnish your view, stunt your life.  Reach out to the others.  I did and I owe so many so very many thanks.  I am consistently surprised at the goodness and kindness of others, and just as surprised when people are not who they say they are. I could and should be more adept at reading people but I'm not. I believe people are good.  And I won't let my "I was a bullied kid" past change that.  Don't change your positive ways either...just don't say the word TURD, it's disgusting.  Or two five-letter words that rhyme with "talk" and "saint".

If you are being bullied, no matter your age or circumstances, please know this: It is not your fault. Reach out for help.  You'd be surprised who has been there and is willing to lend a hand. 

Keep being awesome and stay out of the punch bowl, k?