Jeffrey and Amy Johnson's online craft business, Handmade Family, is filled with fun family-oriented goods, from kids’ superhero capes to baby wraps to original illustrations. Jeffrey spoke with IndieMade about juggling a craft business along with parenthood and other aspects of life, and the benefits of being able to showcase, sell, and promote one’s work all on one site.
What attracted you to your handmade business? How did Handmade Family get its start?
We met in college where I was studying studio art/printmaking and Amy was studying teaching. We decided to join our love of making things and working with kids to start going back to basics: toys, games, comfort items and decor for families. We started with individual shops on Etsy. One of our crafty friends was a partner in a local artist co-op, Fusion, and encouraged us to join. Feeling that we'd be stronger as a team, we formed Handmade Family, and have been expanding from there!
What advice would you give someone starting out in a handmade craft business?
Be kind. You never know who you're going to meet and what kind of impression you will make on them. Be honest with yourself about what you want to create as well as what story you want to tell, and be friendly and reliable to your customers.
Besides on your website, where do you sell your stuff?
We still have an Etsy shop, because they've been good to us and it's a great community. We also have work in a few local shops here in St. Louis, MO: Fusion, I Am What I Am On Main Street, and E.L. Riley. This year, we're participating in several farmer’s markets and a couple of pretty large local craft shows.
Why did you expand Handmade Family off of Etsy?
The downside of Etsy is that it's an established community, and it's easy to get lost in a sea of voices. By having our own space, we have an opportunity to focus on our brand. There's a sort of "home base" to herd viewers towards.
How are you promoting your craft business online?
We talk a lot about the business on Facebook. Beyond that, we have a Pinterest board, which is an excellent way to show potential customers things that interest us and projects we'd like to work on. Of course, we have a couple of boards that focus on the work we create and link back to our blog and website. We have an Instagram account. We also have a Flickr and DeviantArt account and a Blogger account that mirrors the blog on the IndieMade site.
Do you blog? How does that work for you?
Honestly, I love to blog. Partly it's wanting to share what's going on in our lives and partly just that I like to talk. Because I like to talk so much though, my posts take a lot of time to put together. This becomes a bit of a problem when I get too busy to stick to a regular blogging schedule. One thing I've started doing is to post a photo roundup on Mondays and artwork from the week on Fridays. At least then, there's always fresh content and it doesn't feel like I'm slinking back for an apologetic post after three months on the town.
Why did you decide to try IndieMade for Handmade Family?
One of our friends mentioned IndieMade on Facebook so I went over to check it out. The things that made me decide to give it a go were gallery pages, integrated blog and shop, and an interface that was simple enough that Amy could also update pages. Having it all in one place is a compelling reason for being here.
What is your favorite part of using IndieMade?
The user interface is easy to work with. There have been a couple times when I wanted to do something, but couldn't figure it out. Support has always been really prompt when I needed help!
What's on the horizon for you and your craft business?
We're excited about the coming year and growing as a family and a business. We've applied to craft organizations and look forward to meeting crafters. We have a ton of ideas for new products and are working on some now, so we're pretty excited to start showing them.
What question should I have asked, but didn't?
I get asked a lot, "Where do you find the time?" Usually my answer is along the lines of "I just don't sleep." Juggling the different aspects of our lives can be tough, and leisure time, sleep or both are the price we pay. That's why being honest with yourself about what you want to create is so important. If you don't truly want it and have passion to use as fuel, it's harder to break atmosphere and get into space.