Wholesale is a big leap in business for many makers. It can signify the feeling of going "big." So, we thought we'd ask artist and #ahasmember Susan Elliot of Neptune Creations about her experience of stepping into the world of wholesale for the first time. Do you remember your first experience with wholesale? We'd love to know! Please share in the comments below.
Q: Tell us about yourself and what you make!
A: My name is Susan Elliott from Seattle WA and I am an artist focusing on the illustration and creation of nature/animals and Dia de Los Muertos girls.
I love combining cute, a bit strange and vintage so I draw beautiful skeleton characters that exude a certain odd quality that I like to produce onto tote bags, art prints, greeting cards and more. My Dia de Los Muertos girl portraits are one-of-a-kind creations with a whimsical, dark twist.
My Nature series comes from a place of pure amazement and admiration for the animal kingdom. Creatures great and small inspire me to create unique works of art using only my imagination, inks and pencil.
I have been creating my entire life but I officially launched my handmade business in May 2015. I used to own a graphic design firm for almost 16 years, but wanted to get back into drawing and painting (my true passion) so I left the business and made the leap!
Q: How and when did you decide to make the first leap into wholesale?
A: Wholesale has been a topic in the back of my mind since I decided to pursue this handmade business. For me I knew I wanted to diversify my art and put strategic products out into the market. It wasn't enough for me to just create an original piece and see it stop there. I am always imagining my art on many products. Especially when it is something unique and truly one-of-a-kind - people want to buy this sort of thing. Plus when thinking about different ways to produce income this is an avenue that I saw as a winner.
Q: What did you learn from that initial experience?
A: The initial experience was very eye opening!! I had never ventured into anything wholesale before so hearing about all the hard work that goes into it was a bit scary at first. I did some research, asked fellow artists in the community questions, and soaked every bit of information up like a sponge. Then I came across Katie Hunt's Paper Camp (also an #ahasmember!) seminar - this was a game changer. It is a very comprehensive two-day seminar on everything wholesale. This is where I learned the most and when I realized this is something I want to pursue.
Q: What changes have you made to your approach to wholesale?
A: After participating in Paper Camp (read our post on it!), I had the tools I needed to move forward with selling wholesale. Once you know about all the materials needed, industry standards, buyer requirements, tradeshow specs, etc it really helps in figuring out what's next. I literally made a list of the things I needed to create - wholesale catalog, order form, online ordering system, photoshoot, setting terms/pricing, vendor research, etc. and I am checking them off one by one. It is definitely not an overnight process. It is a very detailed, thought intensive process. I am pretty picky about the products I put out into the world so for me it makes sense to have all my ducks in a row before approaching buyers so that I look as professional as possible.
Q: What impact have these changes had on your business?
A: I think the biggest impact for me was finding vendors who match up to the wholesale pricing standards needed. Before I decided to get into wholesale my price points were ok for retail consumers - but once I learned about wholesale pricing I saw a huge problem with what I was currently paying for my products to be produced. I had to get my pricing WAY down!
This was a very time intensive search for vendors who both matched the new wholesale price point I needed as well as the quality I was used to (again, very picky about what I send out into the world). I am still researching vendors as I have not secured my core partners yet. I would say this has had the biggest impact on my time and sanity at some points :) But it is starting to fall into place so the light is at the end of the tunnel. Once I have all vendors secured and my pricing where it needs to be for wholesale I will be able to move forward full steam ahead.
Q: You mentioned that you initially approached wholesale feeling scared and misinformed: what is the biggest piece of misinformation you encountered?
A: For me it was the whole tradeshow experience. It looked so intimidating and scary - traveling to New York, the expense, how to display your work at the show, booth design, marketing materials, taking orders, making connections, etc. But once all of this was broken down for me in sizable chunks, I saw that it really isn't that bad.
After Paper Camp I felt I had all the knowledge I needed to add attending a tradeshow to my goals list. If you do your homework, prepare like mad and believe in yourself and in your abilities great things can happen. I am seeing this as I move through the wholesale learning process.
Q: What lesson do you want to share with fellow creative business owners about wholesale?
A: It is not cheap and it is not fast. You really have to plan out your product line and know what you want to sell and promote. I highly recommend seeking out consulting or a seminar to learn ALL the ins and outs of wholesale.
Without professional instruction a lot of steps can be missed over overlooked. This helped me get to a point where I felt confident moving forward with this large but rewarding endeavor.
Q: Where can we find you online?