Perspectives on Different Selling Platforms: Square, Aftcra and Made Freshly

This year our awards show featured three awesome sponsors that all have selling platforms that are tailored for small, creative businesses. We thought you might find it useful to get to know what actual sellers think about these options and what their experiences have been like selling on them. What platforms have you enjoyed selling on? Let us know in the comments or participate in our next "Where I Love to Sell" blog post.

Square // Rosalie Gale of Ugly Baby

Introduce yourself and your businesses.
I'm Rosalie Gale (#ahasmember). I like potatoes, free motion embroidery and German board games. My husband, Douglas Gale, and I invented Shower Art - waterproof art you can hang in your shower with a suction cup. They are made out of rubber, glitter, discarded toys and a fair amount of sarcasm. 

I also run Unanimous Craft - a website that organizes resources for the indie craft community.

In my spare time, I opened a retail shop in the historic Pike Place Market called Ugly Baby and La Ru. I share the space with another artist (La Ru) and we sell our own artwork along with D.I.Y. craft kits made by other independent artists. 

How do you you use Square for your businesses?
When we first started our business in 2007, there were no really good options for credit card processing. We started with an old knuckle buster and those terrible credit card slips. They are still somewhere in our studio collecting dust. 

When we started doing craft shows regularly, we realized that we just needed to accept credit cards. We had to. That was all there was to it. I think initially we tried to tell ourselves that we couldn't afford it but over time we realized that we were missing out on so many sales that we were crazy not to offer credit cards as a payment option. 

At the time, the lady we shared booths with at a lot of shows had a more traditional merchant account setup and she would drag a big machine to all the shows. It would invariably run out of batteries or go crazy or cause some other kind of problem. On top of that, she paid a huge (to us at the time) monthly fee and a rental fee for the monster machine. No thanks. 

Since we only needed to process transactions once every month or so (at the most) we didn't want to get roped into a crazy contract. 

We tried something else first - before we heard about Square - but I can't for the life of me tell you what it was. I remember it had a pretty low annual fee and allowed us to swipe cards at shows and save an encrypted version of the card number (but didn't authorize the transactions until later). We kept this system as a backup for Square until this year when Square started offering offline transactions (thank you - by the way!). 

We switched to Square as soon as we heard about it. We signed up on the wait list and checked every month or so to see if they were up and running yet. I've never looked back.

I think I may have lost track of the question. Oh yes, "How do you use Square for your business?" -- not "What is your life story?" Sorry. 

We use one Square account for our craft show sales for our business Ugly Baby. That account has very basic products set up. 

Because we share our retail space, Ugly Baby and La Ru, with another artist, we also have a separate Square account for those transactions.  That account has most every thing we sell in the shop set up as a separate product with a description and photographs. We sell those products online on our own website by embedding our Square store into a page on our site. We didn't want the hassle of dealing with separate listings and having to remove things from multiple sites if it sells out. Square does all that for us now. 

We use the Square Register in our shop instead of a traditional cash register. The best feature: It swivels. Hands down the most impressive thing to all of our customers. If you've never seen people "ooh" and "ahh" over a cash register - get a Square Register - it's guaranteed to happen. 

Why has Square worked for you?
When we started using Square, it was really the only alternative to a traditional merchant account. It worked for us because we didn't need to process transactions every single day - just once every month or so. Since Square doesn't charge a monthly or annual fee, it was the obvious choice. If I remember correctly, we would have to be processing upwards of $5k/day before it makes sense to use a more traditional credit card merchant account that charges a monthly fee (I think we used $40/month when figuring out our math). 

Are there any special tools or apps you need to make Square work?
You need a phone or an iPad. You need a Square reader or a register. You need to download the Square app. Then you're pretty much ready to go. You CAN hook up a receipt printer or a cash drawer -- but they're not essential. So yes, there are a few things you need to accumulate in order to use Square, but they are easy to acquire. 

What's your favorite Square feature for your businesses? 
I love, love, love, love, love the new inventory tracking ability. It makes me weep. Honestly. I've cried from sheer joy since they implemented that feature. 

Anything else?
On two separate occasions representatives from local banks have stopped by my brick and mortar shop to try and convince me to switch to their merchant account. They come in, take one look at Square and say, "Oh, yeah, you're probably better off to stick with them." I didn't have to say anything. They just knew.

Made Freshly // Shella Romey of Sweet Threads

photo credit: Megan Welker  

Introduce yourself and your businesses.
My name is Shella Romey, owner of Sweet Threads. Sweet Threads sells new and vintage children’s clothing online and at our local store in Long Beach, CA. We opened our cyber doors in April 2012 and have been a beloved provider of children’s clothing ever since. We offer a unique blend of hand- picked, vintage and modern clothing for kids. 

Sweet Threads carries girls’ and boys’ clothing ranging in sizes from infant to 8/10 years old. We provide many desirable and on-trend brands. We also carry our very own line of clothing called PAUSH, created especially for you by Sweet Threads. With everything we put into the shop and online store, you are sure to find beautiful children’s clothing that will always be cherished. 

How do you you use Made Freshly for your businesses?
We use Made Freshly to build our online store where it allows us to easily create our brand image the way we want to. There are many features Made Freshly provides that we can utilize to analyze the progress of our business on a weekly and monthly basis such as the statistical data.

We not only can provide access to our products to customers worldwide but we  can also offer special sales and promotions to them as well.

Why has Made Freshly worked for you?
It gives our customers outside of our local area to view and shop our products by click of a button.

Are there any special tools or apps you need to make Made Freshly work?

What's your favorite Made Freshly feature for your businesses? 
I really enjoy the Design feature that has many themes, fonts, text colors and Page options that easily allows us to create our site the way we envision it. 

Store website

Aftcra // Renae Alexander of American Craftsman 10

Introduce yourself and your businesses.
My name is Renae Alexander. My little leather shop is called American Craftsman 10. I started making men's biker and hipster leather wallets in 2010. Late in 2014 I joined AFTCRA.

How do you you use Aftcra for your businesses?
AFCRA is a great online store, I linked my AFTCRA online store page to my website.

Why has Aftcra worked for you?
Because everything on AFTCRA is handmade in the US.

Are there any special tools or apps you need to make Aftcra work?
Overall I'm very satisfied with AFTCRA.

What's your favorite Afrcra feature for your businesses?
The Administrator's page (Manage Products) is really easy to use.

Anything else?
Aftrcra site: