In my article “Business Basics” (CRAFT 04), we take a look at the ins and outs of starting your own indie business. I interviewed around a dozen crafty entrepreneurs about how they got started and how they keep at it, but there were many valuable insights I just wasn’t able to fit into the article. So for the next several Tuesdays, I’ll be sharing these extended interviews with you here with the hope that they might inspire those of you looking to take the leap from hobbyist to small business owner. We’ll also be talking with Meg Mateo Ilasco, who penned the book Craft, Inc. (out now from Chronicle), so stay tuned for that too.
This week’s interview is with The Little Friends of Printmaking. The Little Friends are Melissa and JW Buchanan, a husband-and-wife art duo based in Milwaukee, WI. Their fresh and playful silkscreened posters, notecards, and other treats have become sought-after collectibles, and their booth is a crowd favorite at events like Renegade. They also provide the memorably cute artwork for Milwaukee’s own Art vs. Craft indie craft fair. Read on to find out what doing it yourself really entails.
Jenny: Do you run your indie business full time, or do you have a day job to help keep you afloat? BONUS: If the latter is the case, how do you balance things and still make time for crafting?
Little Friends: We both work in addition to what we do as Little Friends. We’re still out there, crafting that perfect CV for a job that couldn’t possibly ever exist. The good news is that our freelance business gives us the independence to take work that is interesting to us. For example, Melissa runs a print and publishing lab at a museum and James just accepted a position teaching graphic design at a university. We have difficulty with balancing our time. The best we can do is try our hardest to create a daily routine for ourselves and not overbook ourselves. We’re not awesome at this. We did just put up a little sign by our computer that says “LEARN TO SAY ‘NO’.”
Jenny: How important has the internet been in relation to the growth of your business? Also, would you say the bulk of your business comes from your own website, or from wholesale accounts and/or craft show sales?
Little Friends: Without the internet, Little Friends wouldn’t exist in the same way that it does. The internet accounts for the vast majority of our sales, which is important to us because we want to keep our prices low. A lot of our sales come from overseas and without the internet that would be an impossibility.
Jenny: Is there anything you wish you’d done differently when starting your business, knowing what you know now?
Little Friends: We wish that, when we were getting started, we did a better job at keeping an inventory. We’re still really bad at this. The other thing that we wish we did and we still don’t do is create a long-term business plan.
Jenny: How would you compare the challenges of working for yourself with working for “The Man”?
Little Friends: It’s a little lonely. You feel a little unsocialized. It’s easy to get into a funk. You don’t get vacations or holidays and there’s no free coffee. The vacations thing is a major issue. We can barely go to the movies without feeling enormous pangs of guilt that we should be working instead. Also, when you need a sick day it’s awful instead of an indulgence.
Jenny: Any tips on how to keep your business fresh, thriving and growing?
Little Friends: Focus on who your core audience is. People make a big deal over diversifying, but on a small scale it can be suicide. There is such a thing as growing too fast. You do have to stay a little ahead of the demand. You also have to create the demand. We just make what we want to see and we don’t worry about what else is out there on the market.
Little Friends on Livejournal – Link.
Inkblot Academy Silkscreen Classes – Link.
Art vs. Craft Totebag by Little Friends – Link.
From the pages of CRAFT:
CRAFT: 04 – “Business Basics for Crafty Types” by Jenny Ryan pgs. 42-43. Digital Subscribers can read the full article here. – Link.
Don’t miss an issue! Subscribe to CRAFT Magazine today and get 4 quarterly issues delivered to your door. – Link.
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