Creating A Collection – Make Lemonade Shop
Five months ago the Make Lemonade Shop didn’t exist. At all. Not in thought, theory or my wildest dreams. Now I can’t imagine life without it. Everywhere I go I’m looking at the world through a creative eye. Shapes, colors, feelings. These are all being fed into my brain, the left and right sides are processing the information and churning out options for new ideas and a new Collection.
We move from season to season, redefining our home decor, how we want our environment to feel and function. The Summer Collection was full of bright, fun fabrics. Lighter feeling, full of joy and play. Just like the summer. The sun is shining bright, the kids are on school break, life feels more like a vacation. We smile more, play more, and get togethers are more laid back and full of laughter. I really wanted the Collection to reflect those feelings and emotions.
Make Lemonade Summer Collection – Inspiration Fabric
The idea of the Shop came through a brainstorming session with my friend Sarah. We were trying to come up with ideas to generate more income in order to keep up with our family’s growing medical bills. Sarah has a gorgeous home, owned a successful Bridal Shop, a frequent visitor to Fashion Shows-either to gather ideas or to take part in the shows as a business owner. She has fabulous taste and she “gets” me.
At one point Sarah threw out the idea of “pillows”, it was just a small piece of the conversation, but it niggled at me. Over the next few weeks and months the thought stayed in my mind; growing, adapting and changing.
I began visiting Fabric Stores, trying to either flesh out the idea or nix it. Then I ran across the floral fabric above. It was just a yard of fabric in the remnant bin at Hobby Lobby. I picked it up several times and put it back. This piece was calling my name. I looked through the full bolts, trying to find a more yardage, but it was no where to be found.
I bought it anyway, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It spoke to me. It was just a whisper at this point, I could barely hear it. I wanted to take it home and spend more time with it. Perhaps it would talk louder.
This sounds a bit odd, I fully understand that, I haven’t lost all my marbles! But this is part of my thought process. The ‘View From In Here’. I’ve learned to feed my brain tons of information and then let my subconscious work on the issue, sorting through to find an answer. Sometimes it takes longer than other times, but as I move through my days a plan forms, or at least the framework of one. Then I can pull that thought or idea out and work on it further.
This fabric embodied Summer to me. It felt happy, fun, laid back – it didn’t take itself too seriously; I could envision this pattern used to brighten up a room or to accent a lovely patio or pool area. Having this fabric near me made me smile, it was light and playful. Just like summer. And who doesn’t want to feel lighter, brighter and happier?
This fabric became the cornerstone of the Make Lemonade Shop Summer Collection. The niggling thought blew up into a full blown plan.
Collection Creation – Fleshing out the Plan
Once I found, and fell in love with, the Inspiration Floral Fabric my mind began moving faster than I could. The thought had a energy of it’s own and I was tagging along behind trying to keep up. The Inspiration Fabric was a Duck Cloth it had a nice weight and feel; it was bright and colorful and would hold up well as a decor item.
Duck cloth or Duck Canvas is a woven cotton fabric and comes in many weights. The heavier weighted Duck can be used as tarps, tents, hammocks or boat covers. The Inspiration Floral is a lighter weight duck, typically used in home decor. Perfect for pillowcases.
Before I called in re-reinforcements for another brainstorming session I wanted to develop a loose plan. So I pulled out my paint and fabric samples and began to play. Pulling together ideas and color to reflect the feeling I wanted the collection to embody.
Eliciting Opinions for the Collection
Before I sunk all my time, energy and resources into this idea I wanted to get opinions from a wide grouping of people. Was this worth pursuing? Or was I grasping onto anything that I felt would help us out of our situation? Our medical bill pile was taller than I was, I couldn’t afford to develop a plan that would add to our bottom line. Yes, I do realize that failure is just a step in the process to success, but I couldn’t afford to fail. Not this time.
So I took my “loose plan” and began to ask for input, from those I trusted. I wanted opinions from a variety of people so I could mash them all together to come up with a business plan. Warning: when you ask for opinions you need to be open to the answers. Not everyone will agree or see your vision. You need to step away, not take things personally. Easier said than done-as I found out. But like everything else, this is a part of the process. Gather knowledge and use it to form your next steps.
Gathering Opinions to Help Form the Collection:
ONE: Blogging Friends.
I reached out to my Tribe, group of bloggers that I am close to, we work together on projects, promotion and development of our sites. We interact daily. These are bloggers from all over the world, but we are not logistically close enough to hang out in person. We all blog about different topics, but the premise of blogging is universal.
This was a bit of a bust, but only because I took the advice personally. I didn’t step back and take the advice for what it was. I didn’t take it in, absorb and analyze the “why” of it. Huge mistake.
Although the “Blog Advice” category on my site is just one section, this is the topic, or area, that other bloggers use to define my site. To them, going into the Decor arena was a departure from my entire niche or specialty arena. None of these friends felt that I should take on this project, some even expressed that it could do irreparable damage, causing me to lose my online following.That I needed to keep my focus on Blog Advice.
At this point, I scrapped the entire idea of the Make Lemonade Shop. Retreated and licked my wounds.
I failed to “Get out of MY own way.”
(BTW, keep reading, this was actually some of the most valuable advice I received. This post is not about their advice, it’s about my inability to separate myself from the Business. Once I got over the hurt feelings. LOL I should have given the group more to go on, fed them more information. Not only did I learn to Get Out of My Own Way, I learned that I needed to ask the right questions. It’s so hard to give advice when you don’t have all the factors that are going into the Plan. And they were absolutely correct, in order to make things work I had to institute some changes. PRICELESS! )
TWO: Close Friends, who know me personally, with knowledge in Sales.
After a few weeks of licking wounds and pouting, the idea was still there. I needed to find a different source for advice because I couldn’t let this idea go. I decided to contact friends who not only knew me well in real life, but also possess a background in sales, promotion and decor/fashion.
Sarah: The friend who I brainstormed with earlier in the year, she is the one who tossed out the idea of pillowcases in the first place. She has so much knowledge about fashion and what products people purchase. She has been working in this area for her entire life.
I showed her the Inspiration Fabric, paint colors and described the feeling I wanted the Collection to have. We ended up talking for hours, putting together a more cohesive decor plan. Sarah and I have spent a lot of time together and she is aware of my decor background and all the DIY projects I have completed. She is also a reader of View From In Here and felt that this was a great option for my Lifestyle Blog. She’s not a blogger so she didn’t come to the table pegging me as strictly a Blog Advice site.
Dawn: We’ve been friends forever! She actually introduced me to Bruce, who became my husband 17 years ago. I’d say she knows me well! Dawn has a history in Sales. A long history that includes Home parties in jewelry and decor, and corporate sales-advertisement, furniture and decor items, office equipment. This girl knows her stuff. She knows people, what sells and what doesn’t. And she has a gorgeous home.
We sat down and went over my loose plan. She loved the Inspiration Fabric and Colors and we went on to plan promotion for the products. Best of all, she also knows me well and was as excited as I was.
Nancy: This woman has known me my entire life. She’s my Mom. LOL I learned to craft, create and sew from her. She has a brilliant mind and nimble fingers. And she doesn’t peg me as a Blog Advice Blogger. In fact, that’s a foreign concept to her. Me as a blogger. Or what a blog actually is. Completely foreign. My Mom is not a computer user, unless she is Face-Timing her children and grandchildren. <Best use of a computer, eh?>
Mom picked up the idea and ran with it. Tossing out more ideas, for form and shape of the product. How to make the Pillowcases not only pretty but easy to take care of and use. My Mom is a quilter and she has a great eye for color and pattern. How to mix and match different fabrics together to create a cohesive look. This was invaluable information.
Bruce: My husband. He was going to play a part in the plan, if we moved forward with it, so I needed his input. And he knows me inside and out. When I was redoing furniture he was my carpenter. I would tell him what I wanted and he would make it happen. Years later he told me that he stopped questioning my ideas, and just did what I asked. While we were in the planning stages he couldn’t see where I was going with my wacky ideas. But he learned, over time, that although he couldn’t see my vision everything always worked out to be beautiful in the end.
He knows me, my strengths and weaknesses, he knows my talents even better than I do. Although he didn’t have any decor advice he could see that the plan had merit and was willing to do whatever he needed to do. Even sew a few seams or cut fabric.
Processing the Opinions:
Like I stated above; when you ask for opinions you need to be prepared for the answers. Stay open, listen, then evaluate. But don’t take the advice personally. <Note to Self> Take in the information, let it sit together, the good and the bad, and then come to a final plan.
I finally reached this point, but it was a painful process. First I allowed business advice to affect me in a personal way. Huge blunder and it almost stopped the entire process. I should have sat down, decided who I was going to ask for advice, making sure that these people were qualified in the area and that I was going to use all the advice to help me formulate a final plan.
But, as this was the first Collection, my first products and my first online store I refuse to beat myself up for my Beginner’s Mistakes. But perhaps this will help you not make the same ones! LOL
After receiving the first round of opinions I allowed myself to be crushed, I should have detached myself from the advice and moved on to gather more advice from the others. Instead I let it stall me. Big mistake, these opinions were actually invaluable and I almost ignored them because I chose to have hurt feelings. <UG>
Luckily Sarah, Dawn, Nancy-AKA Mom, and Bruce know me a bit better as a whole. I took their advice, but still didn’t see the value in the words of wisdom I had received from my Blogging friends. Sorry Ladies!
When I had a bit more time and distance I was able to look back on the advice given and see that if my Tribe did not see this as a good move, then something needed to change. If my blog did not give off the impression of Live Life Better, in all ways, I had a bit of work to do. It didn’t mean that I shouldn’t move forward with the Make Lemonade Shop, it meant that I needed to figure out a way to make it work with what was already on my site. <DUH>
I should have handled this more like a Business Owner, instead of a tired, emotional, spent, drained mother and wife. Oops! This is a case of ‘Do As I Say’, not as I did. Take in all the advice and evaluate it, whether you like it or not. For this business to be a success I needed it to do well locally as well as an on-line storefront. My blog and social media platforms are the ideal vehicle for promoting the Shop, but obviously I needed to do some work.
If others couldn’t see my website as one where they could receive more than Blog Advice, I needed to fix that. Instead I chose to discount the message they were sending me, Boo Hoo, I got my feelings hurt.
Boy, do I hate admitting that!
Once I pulled up my Big Girl Panties, I realized that this was some of the best advice that I received. As long as my site was perceived this way it wouldn’t be conducive to online sales via the Make Lemonade Shop. I really hate that it took me so long to come to that conclusion. The women in my Tribe were giving me their thoughts, truly stellar advice, finally I learned to take in their opinions and use it all to tie together my local and online circle.
Adding pattern, color, texture and wisdom to the Collection:
Now that I had a direction I needed to take action. I spent hours online and walking the aisles of our local craft, decor and fabric shops. Researching what was being sold through online sites such as Etsy, Pinterest, Overstock, Wayfair, Joss and Main, domino, Uncommon Goods. So many fun stores!
I also began Pinning and Sharing the decor posts already on my blog. And working out a plan to write more of these posts for the future. If my site was giving off the wrong impression I needed to make sure that I was rebranding myself. Taking steps to alter that opinion. View From In Here is a Lifestyle blog, all about living life better through health, gardening, food, blogging and style/decor.
Next I began adding color, texture and graphics, taking the Inspiration Fabric from a single product into a multi-piece, mix and match Collection. Keeping the feel of entire Summer Collection light, bright, fun and happy. Gold, turquoise, orange, yellow, black, white and burlap. Pillowcases that could be used seasonally to alter the look and feel of your home.
Sarah, Dawn, Nancy, Bruce and I set a target date for a Home Show, to introduce the Business to local friends and family. I had three weeks to design and create the entire line. Three weeks! LOL I sent out a Facebook Invite cementing the deal, so I couldn’t back out. The party was set for May 8th.
During this time we had many brainstorming sessions and I made many frantic phone calls. Thank Goodness for my support system, online and locally. When the big day arrived I was a mess. Cleaning house, finishing up details, making food and drink, imbibing copious amounts of coffee to combat the sleepless nights.
We also promoted the “Pillowpalooza Party” online. , For the week prior to the event we promoted on Facebook and Instagram, to show the designs and promote the launch. Although we didn’t have a huge turnout that day, we took orders for 20 pillows at the show and sold 30+ more through online sales. I hadn’t even created a site for the store yet!
One of the first sales made through Facebook came as a total surprise. A gorgeous little boutique in Auburn, Indiana messaged me to order 2 pillows, I had never heard of the store before. The black and white damask pillow with the large fuchsia Dahlia matched her shop’s decor and she had to have them. This made my day and gave me encouragement, this could really work! Thanks Emma! You are the best!
Over the next few weeks the orders rose to 75 pillowcases, and we’ve created more than 150 in the 4 months we have been in operation.
Wrap It Up
If you are working on a new project asking advice from those in the “know” is a great way to flesh out or formulate a plan. But you need to go into the planning stage with an open mind. Here are some final tips from someone who learned the hard way!
- Know your strengths and trust yourself.
- Make a list of the people you are going to ask for advice-who have experience in the area. Use various sources.
- Listen to the advice, but don’t take it personally.
- Put all the advice together and evaluate it.
- Decipher how the advice can help you.
- Put a plan together and either act on it or plan more sessions to brainstorm.
- Use all your resources; local, online, word of mouth.
- Continue to evaluate during and after the launch.
- Get out of your own way. Be willing to adapt and make changes.
Now that I’ve been through the process, I’ve learned. A LOT! First, I learned to trust myself and my instincts. We had more than 30 original designs when we launched the Pillowpalooza party, although we sold most of them, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. (At least for that Collection) I learned to listen to advice, not take it personally, and figure out how to make that advice work for me and my site and business. I took the opinions I was given and adapted it to my circumstances-locally and online.
Most of all, I learned that I needed to Get Out Of My Own Way! The business is not me and I am not the business. It is simply that; a business. If I would have continued to be offended, harboring hurt feelings, the Make Lemonade Shop would have remained a niggle in my brain.
And that would have been a shame.