Workshop Preview | Retail Readiness with Rena Tom

Guest post by Rena Tom

Hi, everybody! I am really pleased to head north to Vancouver (first visit since 2003) and teach my Retail Readiness workshop to the area’s designers, makers and crafters.

A little background on me: I have been a giant fan of Poppytalk for years, and after I sold Rare Device, the store I owned with Lisa Congdon, I started to do some business consulting. I was so thrilled when Jan asked me to write a business column for Poppytalk, which I did until things got a little too busy here in San Francisco.

Since selling Rare Device, I have started a new business but I still do business consulting as well, primarily to small business owners who are also makers. There are myriad tasks that need to be done when you have a business - marketing, photography, writing, bookkeeping, interacting with stores and customers - besides designing and producing work, of course. It’s completely daunting and overwhelming, especially if you are doing it alone.

I can’t promise to help with all of those issues but I have a lot of experience in one area: selling your work wholesale. I have had my own jewelry business and got to nervously send my linesheets out to stores, and I’ve spent many hours in craft show booths. On the other side, I’ve been a brick and mortar retailer for over 6 years and have seen what feels like a million linesheets and worked with hundreds of makers.

The key thing, as with most things in life, is the relationship you can build. A vendor and a reseller can and should have a good relationship. Besides the monetary value you can bring to each other, there is so much more there, and going in with that mindset is going to smooth over many of the fears and questions, for both parties.

That’s just one of the things we’ll be talking about at Retail Readiness on September 27. We’ll also be looking at great examples of branding and packaging, discussing how important voice is to creating a distinctive identity, talk about the best ways to get your work in front of stores these days, and look at linesheets, catalogs and pitch letters so that you have the confidence to approach stores without wasting your time or theirs. See you next month!

Jan Halvarson

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