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MR and MS Clothing PTY (LTD) – Business Advice from a South African Handmade Business

A big thank you to Catherine from the beautiful Mr and Ms Clothing PTY (Ltd) for her insights and advice into running a handmade business. Be sure to visit Indie Mode where she sells some of her items online once you’ve read more about her and her clothing line below.

How it all began 

Mr and Ms is the result of a life-long aspiration. I was born and raised in Cape Town and began my formal training with a qualification in Fashion Design and Pattern Making. I travelled in Europe gathering inspiration. This combined with over five years of practical production experience,  at some of the fashion industry’s leading design labels has culminated in Mr and Ms, the realisation of a dream.

I officially Began Mr and Ms in May 2011. With a small amount of money that I had saved and was given, pure determination and A LOT of sacrifice (no shopping, socializing well anything actually). I created my 1st collection and showed it to a few boutique owners and they liked what they saw (thank goodness) and that’s how it all began and has slowly grown

Biggest Daily hurdles

There are many challenges behind running your own business; I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

To plan and plan and when you think you have planned enough something unexpectedly comes up and changes everything. It’s really more about how you deal with the unexpected and unplanned things that will make you succeed.

Mr and Ms Non-Negotiable’s 

Making sure that every style that is designed compliments every shape and size (I do sizes from a 31- 42). Attention to details is very important, giving basic items a unique twist. The most important of all is Quality, I hand check all the items myself (yes this take a lot of time but is worth it in the end).

Marketing

There are a few things that I would recommend when it comes to getting your brand out there.

  • Word of mouth ( happy customers are the number one most important marketing tool.)
  • Facebook, Pinterest , Etsy and most importantly a website that it all is linked to that is very user friendly
  • When using Facebook or any of the other Social media tool make sure that you have a weekly plan that you keep to and keep your fans interested with posts , that are relative to your product.
  • Have a book keeper from day one!!!

Suppliers 

I supply really lovely boutiques throughout Western Cape that I am very proud to be associated with, like:  Coco Li, Smitten, Nap Lifestyle to name just a few … also soon to be on an online store called Indie Mode.

My Favourite part of my job

I love taking a simple idea and bringing it to life and my most favourite part is when somebody tries on an item that they like and seeing their expression on their faces as if they are really seeing themselves for the 1st time.

About Mr and Ms 

Mr and Ms is about individual expression.  Mr and Ms is not primarily about chasing current trends, but rather about taking inspiration from beautifully designed clothing from the past and applying that inspiration to today’s context.

Mr and Ms is about quality. An emphasis on quality is maintained throughout the process, from inspiration, through design, production and sales, to delivery. Mr and Ms specialize in well-made and well-fitted apparel with a touch of vintage individuality to complement the classic style and beauty.

Designer’s Background

Mr and Ms is the creation of Catherine Nebe, the result of a life-long aspiration. Catherine Nebe was born and raised in Cape Town and began her formal training with a qualification in Fashion Design and Pattern Making. She travelled in Europe gathering inspiration. This combined with over five years of practical production experience,  at some of the fashion industry’s leading design labels has culminated in Mr and Ms, the realisation of a dream.

“Mr and Ms is my own creation. My focus is on design for the individual. Acute attention to detail at every stage is crucial to me. So I have deliberately held back on growing my brand beyond what I can maintain. I pride myself on the fact that each item is a special creation.”

Contact

MR and MS Clothing PTY (LTD)

Catherine

Contact No: 082 7079 721

Emailinfo@mrandms.co.za

Websitewww.mrandms.co.za

Top 10 Tips for your Creative Bizz website

Whether you’re selling products online or offline, you need to have a website which not only lets people know who you are and what you do, but which establishes you as the go-to person in your field.  It’s no longer good enough to have a few static pages.  The more you build relationships through your site, the more people will buy what you have to sell.

Here are the 10 tips to rock your bizz online:

1.  Write a blog – there is no better way to attract a following and it’s a great way to consistently add new and fresh content.  It’s really easy too.  Just download WordPress and install it via your host.  And use a real domain name, not a .blogspot address.  Give yourself credibility.

2.  Have an email subscription sign-up form.  You want to have the email addresses of your greatest fans.  Why?  You can stay in regular contact, provide them with great information and they will also be the people who buy your stuff.

3.  Kick ass with social media – make sure you have ample opportunity for your visitors to hook up with you on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest (and any other social media platforms you belong to) on your site.  Also, include the option for them to use these platforms on your blog posts.  In other words, give them pictures to pin, content to like and comments to tweet.

4.  Good design is everything – visitors to your site will decide if they like it or not in under 3 seconds.  Yup.  That quick.  So before they’ve even started reading your content and what you’re about, they’ve decided what they think of you.  And this is all based on your design.  Get a professional, simple WordPress theme that suits your brand.

5.  Steer clear from fancy fonts, too many colours, background music, flashing ads and pop-up videos.  You want the reader’s entire focus on your content – don’t irritate them or force them to click away.

6.  Give away goodies.  Have a freebies page, or give all your subscribers a free gift when they sign up.  People adore free stuff.  And make it good – this will be their first impression of what you have to offer.  If they like it they will pay for your other stuff too.

7.  The most visited page on any website is the About page.  People like to know who you are and what you can do for them.  Be sure to include a photo so that you become a “real person” to them, not just an online company.  Also, even though it’s an About page, it isn’t all about you.  Start off by telling your readers how you can help them, then share some social proof (testimonials, rave reviews) and finally more about you as a person.

8.  Share content that is valuable, provides solutions and has the potential to go viral.  People don’t really want to hear about your shopping trips, what you ate for breakfast and why your dog Molly is the best in the world.  They want content that can help them solve a problem they have or that will improve their lives.  Use catchy headlines, do your research and give our readers stellar content.  This will make them share the info with their friends and come back for more.  Don’t ever be boring.

Give your readers an experience, appeal to their emotions.  If you’re talking about the new necklace you made, share high quality photos and perhaps discuss how you did it or where you found your materials (if your market includes fellow crafters), or how your customer can wear it, what the stones represent and so on.  Make it meaningful and personal.  Don’t make it all about “the sale.”

9.  Only publish content that you have edited and re-edited.  Nothing drives people away faster than typo’s and bad spelling.  Project professionalism.  Check your work. Then check it again.  Only click publish when you know it’s your best work.

10.  Have an online store.  Although people don’t necessarily mind going through a brochure and ordering via email, they really do prefer going through a one-click process and paying immediately online.  You can set this up really easily on your site through EJunkie and PayPal, or you can set up a store on sites like Etsy and Jamtin.  The easier you make the shopping process, the more people will be keen to buy from you.

 

For more tips, you can download a FREE sample module from Michelle’s digital program, How to Create a Killer Website, here:

http://www.michelleainslie.com/freebies/

Michelle Ainslie is the go-to expert for aspiring creative solopreneurs who want to quit their jobs and make money doing what they love.

www.michelleainslie.com

Creating a lucrative business from your craft

The dream of many crafters is to turn their hobby into a full-time business.  What could possibly be better than making the things you love, every day, all day?

The only problem is that making enough money is often the only thing that holds us back.  Sitting in a small cubicle at flea markets every weekend and selling the odd product on a website isn’t going to bring in the big bucks, however.  You need to kick this game up a notch if you want to create a real business.

Here’s how:

1.  Create multiple streams of income.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  You have beautiful products, right?  You want as many people as possible to see them and you can’t do this by having a shop on one website or one stall at a flea market.  You need to ensure that you have your products for sale in as many places as possible:  Online shops (be in at least 5 different ones), craft shops, various flea markets, shows and home parties, to name a few.

2.  Go where your market is.  Where do the people that really want your products tend to hang out?  If you sell African crafts for instance, go where international tourists go…the hot spots.  If you sell children’s toys, go where new mommies go – baby showers, pediatrician’s offices, etc.  And if you sell things like prayer beads, consider yoga studios and meditation centres.  Think outside your box.  Think like your ideal customer.

3.  Expand your product range.  Don’t stick to just one item or even a type of item.  For example, if you make earrings, why not source earring holders or stands too?  Not to mention the matching necklace and bracelet.  Try to make it as practical as possible.  If you are into quilting, why not expand your range into quilted teddies, upholstered furniture and cushions?  Or if you sell handmade clothing, you could create some pretty and unique hangers that go with the range.  Or possibly complementing accessories.

4.  Get a web presence and blog

These days you cannot get by without a website.  You need to show the world who you are – showcase yourself!  If you can connect this to your own online store, even better.

You also want to keep your website new and fresh.  The best way to do this is to keep a blog.  You can write about your products, your creative process, your business – whatever you wish.  The more you share online, the more people will be driven to you and your crafts.  And be sure to have a newsletter so that you can send your followers news about your new products!

5.  Drive traffic

Once you have your website, you need to get as many people there as possible.  Start commenting on other crafters’ blogs, do some guest posts, interact with people online.  Get social on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

6.  Become the expert

The big money these days is in information and skills training.  Digital products such as ebooks, videos and online courses, as well as things like in-person workshops.  Think about what you do really well – for example, your particular craft.  Now think about how you could teach that skill in a unique way to a larger audience.  You can write an ebook on how to create a quilted teddy bear, for instance.  Or you could host a workshop on the same topic.  Or both.  People don’t just want to go buy a book on beading anymore.  They want someone to show them in person – so create a video series online, or have a home party in your area where you show them how to do it – and sell your own products at the same time.  Or turn that entire concept into an online course that runs over 6 weeks.  The options are endless.  Brainstorm some ideas – you’ll be amazed what you come up with!

Now go make some money!

There is so much to talk about around this topic, so feel free to send me your comments and feedback.  I love brainstorming ideas and will help you come up with some for your unique product and/or service.  For free!  Email: michelle@michelleainslie.com

Michelle Ainslie is the go-to expert for creative solopreneurs who want to quit their day job and live their dreams – and make tons of money at the same time!  Visit her website and download a free Creative Solopreneur Manifesto poster that will inspire you to create every day:  www.michelleainslie.com

Your Handmade Business 101

As part of the Jamtin revamp, I’ve been spending quite a lot of time reading online articles on running your business – in particular handmade businesses, and online businesses. I’ll try and share as many of the articles I find useful via our Twitter account as I go along (so please do follow us if you’re interested), and will be doing a weekly post on our blog offering what I hope is some useful advice. As always, we welcome any feedback or questions that we could perhaps research and try and answer in this space. We’re not experts, but we do like to learn and share what we’re learning as we go!

Selling 101

Sell a unique product

This sounds pretty obvious, but it does need to be noted right up front. You don’t need to recreate the wheel with every product you make, but do make sure you put your own unique touch on each item, as this is very much a key part of what will differentiate your product from the next. I believe this is particularly true if you are hoping to use the immense power of the internet to showcase and sell your handmade products. As powerful as the internet can be for you to use, it is also used by millions of others doing the same…. Either way – if you’re selling products at your local crafters market or online, making your product somewhat unique is going to be to your advantage.

Convince the buyer to purchase your product by describing it well

1) Attract the customers attention, 2) describe the product in detail so that the customer knows exactly what he or she is purchasing. Remember online the customer doesn’t have the opportunity to touch and feel the product – something many of us do subconsciously when deciding whether or not to buy something. By describing your product well enough, your customer can feel as if they have felt and seen the product in real life, and that they are fully aware of what they are purchasing. Make them feel comfortable making the purchase. 3) It’s also not going to hurt to give the customers some reasons why their lives won’t be the same without your product!

Sell your products in an attractive environment

Whether you sell your products in a retail shop, online, from your blog or a stall at your local market – invite your customers into your space by making it as attractive as possible.

We like to think Jamtin is a pretty attractive environment that we’ve created for our users. We always like hearing feedback though on how we can make improvements – please feel free to leave comments for us below to let us know…

Display your product professionally

Make sure that all photographs that you take of your products are taken with a good camera and in good light. The background that you shoot on should also be as plain (and light) as possible. There’s nothing worse than a busy background to distract your eye from the actual product, or a photograph where the product is in a bad shadow. A good photograph of your product can really be the difference between a sale or not.

It’s not just the initial photo that display’s your product. A wonderful way to promote your brand is to ensure the packaging that your product is received in is also done beautifully. This doesn’t have to add a large expense to your product, but can really go a long way in creating a great customer experience.

Jamtin listers have space for 2 ‘listing’ photos and then depending on which level you chose, a choice of either 16 or 32 photos ( – displaying 8 or 16 products). See for yourself – go to our homepage where individual products are showcased and see which products you are first drawn to, and then take note of the quality of the photos that are used.

Keep interacting with your customers

Any good business is maintained through keeping relationships with your fans and customers. Keep talking to them, reply to queries as soon as possible, keep them updated with shipping times, rather communicate any delays or problems with your customers – most are understanding if something does go wrong – but would rather know than be kept out the loop. Keep talking!

Use Social Media as a successful marketing tool

Sign up for your Facebook page now if you don’t have one already for your business. Get onto Twitter, start reading and interacting on people’s blogs. It’s all about filling up the pipeline – the more you put in, the more will come out the other end in the form of sales. And don’t forget  Social Media is exactly that… Social… don’t expect anything profound to happen just because you have these platforms (though signing up for them is of course a step in the right direction). You need to be making friends here, talking to different people etc.

Once you’re on Facebook and Twitter, don’t forget to let us know – we’d love to be a part of your online community and you in ours!

Share customer feedback

I think many of us find this difficult to do, but it’s an important aspect of promoting your business. Find ways that you are comfortable with – ask customers to click on the ‘submit review’ link on your Jamtin listing, other options are to invite customers to give their feedback on your Facebook page. If you’re sending newsletters out include a quote from a happy customer. It’s important for your  clients and potential clients to feel the confidence that others already have in your products.

Original source for this post is from Oh My Handmade,  a truly delicious site.