Should you start a shop selling crafts, gifts and souvenirs?

Business

This article is meant for crafters and creatives who are considering setting up a business selling their creations or other artists work. As a person who gets energized and enjoy the creative works of others, I would advise you to reconsider your decision or perhaps go on a lesser risk route, such as setting on an online business instead of a brick and mortar shop.

I have seen a number of physical craft shops going out of business.

Herein I wish to share my experience on how I am able to use make use of my creativity to earn a living doing what I enjoy.

When I was in my young teens till twenties, my ambition is to ultimately become a businesswoman and starting a craft shop. I’ve also planned to empower the disabled, employing and teaching them to make crafts so that they are able to make a living for themselves. This was my dream and I’ve devised strategies to get where I wanted to go, coming up right after high school to obtain a certificate in secretarial studies, work for a boss and learned the ropes of operating a business. Then when I save up enough, I plan to open a business for myself.

But my plan was not to be. I got relatively good results in my high school exams hence my mother, at the urging of her friends, forced me to study pre-university. Eventually when I got accepted into a public university, she insisted I pursue my degree.

I was working in between holidays and with work experience, I figured out that I wanted to go into the service industry even though I was studying to be a chemist. After I graduated, I got a job at a well known organization famous for its excellent service.

When I was not working, I dabbled back in crafts. My dream of setting up my very own craft store selling my creations refused to be denied. I continued making crafts, most specially beaded and ribbon roses hairclips. I  spent many weekends searching for stores and suppliers to sell the items I needed. I believe over the span of few years, I handmade hundreds of craft items.

Ribbon roses I use to sti

Above are some of the ribbon roses I used to stitch, ready to be added to fridge magnets, hair clips, photo frames and other decoration pieces.

In those early days, internet and the world wide web was at its infancy.  Many businesses still do not have a web presence. Instead, crafters all over the world were active on forums to discuss about their work and profession. One of the most active forums were the Arts and Crafts forums in About.com. As a crafter on my own, I often felt lonely because no one I knew shared my interest hence I always visited the forums when I dialed up the internet.

I read and learnt a lot from these forums. Many of the active contributors there were full time crafters who were making a living selling their crafts.

However, many crafters have started to voice their grievances over the flooding of mass produced, made in China products.  These items were sold at a much more cheaper price due to availability of raw materials and cheap labor. Crafters were finding problem to compete with these items that were flooding the market. Soon, craft malls were filled with mass produced items instead of handmade products.

These mass produced items sold well because most of the time, consumers were not able to differentiate the mass produced items from the hand crafted items. And even if they were able to differenciate, there were lots of choices and designs to choice from and the price is very competitive.  Slowly, the real crafters were going out of business. No matter what they did like complaining to the mall management or confronting any sellers who are selling mass produced items, they are not able to stop it.

The trend continues till today. Mass produced craft items are getting better quality and mostly can also be customized hence majority of the people still choose to buy them because they are much cheaper than hand crafted items. Sometimes they are even prettier.

Shops that used to sell haberdashery and craft supplies are not having the brisk business as they used to enjoy. In the past, the only way you can learn knitting (except from your family members) is to go to a shop to pay for the items and sometimes for classes. Now, various tutorials are available for free at YouTube. What’s more, many craft items are available at a much lower price from hypermarts and wholesalers.

With all this, does it means that you cannot earn a living being a creative?

I believe being creative is a gift to be treasured.  But you need not use up your creative energy producing crafts which may not sell as you have hope. Channel your creative energy to other outlets- for example if you are good in art, then pick up graphic design where your artistic skills come in handy.

Do not make the mistake that I have done. After years of making my hairclips, it finally occurred to me to tally up the labor cost and how much I could make. I spent a few hours to make a single hairclip and it could not even be sold for 10 bucks. I realized if I were to go into the route of craft making, I would be earning below minimum wage!

Eventually, my interest turned to building websites because I was so impressed with the sites that were shared by other crafters. The interest spilled over to my day job and I moved towards online customer service (which that time was also at its infancy). Eventually, I moved to managing my company’s intranet and communication.

The job paid many times more and gave me much more satisfaction because each day I am able to help hundreds of people. Rather than making crafts that no one appreciates.

The reason why I want to share this is because I sincerely hope you will explore alternative ways to channel your creative energy. I am grateful that because of my love for crafts and creativity that I am able to branch out into a satisfying career and into blogging.

Never stifle your creative energy. You can always channel your creativity into other forms- and if you open up your heart, you would eventually discover many other alternatives such as:

  • being a vlogger/ blogger writing in subjects of creativity
  • you can also teach and do tutorials on your crafts and promote affiliate products of craft supplies
  • channel your creativity to design websites or graphic design
  • apply your creativity in your day career
  • offer classes to teach others- for example becoming a part time art teacher to teach students on art or using art as therapy/creative outlet for children and adults
  • start an Etzy store or an online store- less risk and more cost effective to start an online instead of a brick and mortar store.

If you start a physical store to sell your crafts or other people’s crafts and the business does not do well, you would feel sad and felt that your dreams are being squashed. It would negatively affect your self confidence and your believe in yourself when in reality, there are a lot of things you can achieve with your creativity if you know how to channel the energy.

I plan to write more articles related to using your creativity to build a career or venture into something you totally love.

 

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