My new end cap came out in Michaels this week!
This post is for all the people that ask me, “How did you do it?”
I look at licensing kinda publishing. It reminds me of having a baby. Everyone has a unique story of how the connection happened, the process of preparing, then anxiously waiting to see how it will all turn out. I wish I could say there is a straight path to follow, but there isn’t. It’s a combo of variables, energy, timing…and luck!
What really helped me was having my web site and posting all my craft tutorials. That’s how I was noticed by editors, which led to book deals. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, they noticed a distinct design and theme style and voice, which was grounded in the platform of my blog. They could see by posting regularly, that I was serious about my craft. Through my books and my craft column at the newspaper, I was able to attend the Craft and Hobby trade show, meet manufacturers (and give them samples!) and the next year I was asked to come speak. It was at the end of that presentation that my life changed! I had more than a few companies ask about launching a Crafty Chica line. I ended up going with my DREAM favorite company, iLoveToCreate, because they had all my favorite products I used in my projects! It was truly a rockstar moment to get called into their private meeting room to talk. I’ll never forget that moment!
Within a few months, I had left my full-time job at The Arizona Republic to do Crafty Chica full-time!
Now in our eighth year with Michaels for the fall season, it is nail biting action. We get sales reports once a week and I get goosebumps looking at the “units sold” column for each SKU, it’s very exciting! I am so grateful because I know endcaps are golden space and we have to deliver! I can’t even imagine what it is like for singers or actors who release new albums/movies and wait to see how it ranks on the charts. I would chew all my nails off! Regardless, it is an amazing experience and I do my best to let out a deep breath and enjoy every second!
1. Plan ahead. Once your business is going strong, and you’ve invested in building your platform (a must these days), think about what your product line would consist of. I’m not talking about a tool, I’m talking about a fleshed out 25-sku pegged presentation. If someone approached you today and said, “Let’s do a product line!” what would it consist of? To get to that point, you really have to do some homework. Think of the places you want your line to be and sketch a program specifically for those stores. Have a different program fleshed out for each store that fits their personality. Visit those places and see where your brand would fit, what they have, and most importantly, what you can bring that is different and innovative. Think of a program with items that can work well with each other and are a physical extension of your brand and your vision. One more tip – don’t just have one program idea, have several. Walk around the craft store in the different departments and think of what you can come up with.
2. Make a short list of who you want to partner with. Think of your line’s defining attributes and pinpoint what companies would be smartest to partner with. If you do fabric, you may not want to pitch to a paper arts company. That would be a risky move on their part, you would REALLY have to bring the goods to prove why it is a good risk. So stay with companies that are in your general market, but don’t have what you have. That sounds odd, I know, but you have to have something to fill a niche. Once you have that short list of companies, follow their social media, use and blog their products. When you are ready and confident, reach out to them and show your work. Ask for endorsement programs. See if they already have lines with other artists. If it is a company that only works with movie stars, it might be a long shot.
3. Know your WOW factor and signature style. Why should people want to work with you? Is your line technique driven or design driven? How do they stand out from everything else? If you have an idea for beads or paint, those markets are already stocked. If you want good advice, watch Shark Tank, at least six episodes! It’s a great way to learn how investors think, and the mistakes/home runs that entrepreneurs make.
4. Test your line so you know the winners. Put your line together in a tangible way. Make your labels, all of it. Sell it locally or online and see what items get the best response. Whittle everything down to the winners! Your line/idea has to fill a need or a untapped market, and you need to provide proof. These numbers can help support that.
5. Educate yourself and let go of emotion when it comes to business. Call out your business alter ego to think straight and strategize. Educate yourself on merchandising, pricing, packaging, brand strategy and more. The more you know, the more you will understand the process! ALSO – be your own devil’s advocate. Pick apart your ideas and products of all things that could go wrong or what a buyer might question. Take care of those issues early in the game!
6. Be ready to adapt and evolve. There’s you, the manufacturer and the retailer. It has to be a win for everyone, and the three of you have to work together for success. If you want to have your line in store chains, you have to really consider the price point, the season, the production and timing. Your original vision will likely be altered, you always have to have an open mind to adapt and still stay true to who you are! ALSO, really devote yourself to the companies you are working with. Learn all you can about them, see how you can bring them into what you do. That’s one of the things I love best about iLTC, is there are always new ideas flowing in of ways to change the game!
7. Options. There are a few options when it comes to launching a line. You can do it all yourself, which will take a lot of time, energy and money; design it and use a distributor; or partner with a manufacturer. The last option was a perfect fit for me. iLTC already knew about the industry, sourcing, merchandising, legal matters, etc. Honestly, there was no way I could handle all that myself. I’m an artist and designer, I want to focus on creating and let the experts do what they do best!
8. Pitching. When you are ready, find out who is in charge of product development or marketing and ask about the process of setting up a meeting. If you get that meeting, make sure to sign a confidentiality agreement. They are pretty standard. Be ready for anything, it’s a long process, you have to be patient! And be ready for rejection. Keep in mind that you may not be the first one to come up with a certain idea, it could already be in development! Or maybe your idea isn’t strong enough, or it is ahead of trend, or too late on a trend.
9. The deal. There are several ways to make money. Some companies will offer and advance against royalties, others a flat royalty and others a flat fee upfront/no royalties. I would work with a lawyer or agent to walk you through this process. Again, it reminds me a lot of a book deal!
10. Alternatives: You don’t have to go with big stores. These days it is easy to design and launch your own stamp or paper line and sell online or to indie stores. Google craft product distributors and see what it involves. Or you can run it yourself!