One of the hardest parts of owning a business is deciding what to sell. Where does one start? How do you come up with a “best seller”? All of my greatest sellers have come about by accident, and so, I have named them “happy accidents.”
As an embroiderer, it can be scary to embroider someone else’s belonging. It is even scarier when they want you to try out a new design on their item.
Most of my business is embroidering on ‘blanks’ that I carry in stock. Customers will tell me what name or design they want to put on the blank. I will occasionally embroider on an item that is brought to me by a customer. If I am embroidering a new design on a customer’s item, I always do a test stitch out on an item that is a similar material.
One of our best sellers are hand towels with a nautical theme, as shown below.
We came across these by complete accident. A customer brought us a nice (and expensive) set of beach towels she wanted to give as a house warming gift to her friends. She requested “some anchor design with their last name on it.” We found a beautiful split anchor design; however, we had never used it before and did not know how it would stitch out. So, I found an extra hand towel in our inventory and decided to test out our design on the hand towel before applying it to the beach towels. On the test towel, we used our customers last name. The towel was not only the test, but we could give her the towel as a “gift with purchase.”
After the test, we loved how the hand towel looked, so we decided to take a chance and list it. It cost very little to list an item on Etsy, which is a great deal when looking to test market a new product. Within days, we were getting several inquiries and orders for our hand towels. Customers would order them to use on their boats with their boat’s name on it. This was a new market for us that we didn’t even think of! We have sold thousands of dollars worth of these hand towels in a wide variety of colors and it was all from something that we just happened upon.
Our other big seller is dog stockings. These came about from scrap materials! I was sewing together some Christmas tree skirts and there was a large excess of scrap materials. One of the scraps was similar in shape to a stocking. I had been wanting to make a stocking for my dog, so I made one and hung it up at my house. After seeing it, many friends and family members asked me to make one for them. We created stockings for a wide variety of dog breeds. The following Christmas, we made a few stockings to bring to a craft fair to see how they sold. To make these stockings, the only thing I used was the scraps from my tree skirts – and the time it took me to make the stockings. To our surprise, we sold out of them within the first couple of hours of the show! Since they did so well in person, we put them on our website. To date, this item is my best seller; both at craft fairs and online.
Before I promote a new item that I have made, I make sure that I can easily reproduce what I have created. Both the nautical hand towels and the dog stockings were great additions to my shop, not only because of their financial success but because of how easy it is to create these items. I can make a set of the nautical hand towels using the large hoop on my Entrepreneur Pro X PR1050X 10-needle embroidery machine in under 30 minutes. The dog stockings that I make use a lot of colors. Making these has been expedited by my 10-needle machine. I can set up all the colors, and then work on something else while it’s embroidering.
Every time I think I have found the next “WOW” item for our shop, I’ve been wrong! It is the things that you just happen to come across that seem to have the largest impact on your business.
Moral of the story: promote everything you make, even if it is just a “test stitch out” for another project. You never know where it will take your business.
by: Courtney Faga