Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fabric Travel Clutch Review

I'm so excited to share an independent review of an OSD Fabric Travel Clutch! I contacted The Lost Girls World several months ago about advertising on their website. The website is addicting, by the way. Tons of awesome travel articles that had me adding Places to Go and Must Sees to my Long Term 'To Do' List!

So the ladies I've worked with, The Lost Girls, could not have been any kinder or more professional. And you can't help but wonder if you'll even be given the time of day when you contact someone with such a successful website while they were in the midst of promoting their book as was the case when I first contacted them. But all were very down to earth and nice which put me at ease enough to ask if they did product reviews.

As a rule, I do not send any of my products out for review. Namely because if I receive something for free, I sort of feel obligated to give it a good review even if I'm not that crazy about it. The second reason I never send anything out for review, is because it's not reviewed at all! I'd like to say this hasn't happened to me, but it has. Earlier this year, I sent out a travel clutch for review on a popular blog and not only was it not reviewed, but I never heard from her again. As in, she continues to post on her website (popular blog, lots of followers) but does not answer my emails. If your dog eats my travel clutch, just tell me. Really, I'm pretty nice. I'll understand. JUST ANSWER MY EMAILS because I put a lot of time and effort into that little bit of chew toy and I'd like for you to acknowledge that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth! Alright, so now that that's off my chest...

So Jen from LGW, let me know that Cailin O'Neil would be reviewing my Travel Clutch. What was so exciting about Cailin reviewing my clutch is that she travels and this is, well, a Travel Clutch. What I've been searching for is an independent, field-tested review of my travel clutch. I mean, I think it's great and functional. My friends and family think it's great and functional. But what does someone who doesn't have me on their Christmas List think about it?

See for yourself by going here to read her review.

Fun fact concerning this review: Cailin's background is in Film & TV Industry. Apparently, my Travel Clutch (and Cailin of course) visited the set of Sarah Polley's new film Take This Waltz. I'm not saying that Ms. Polley or any other famous person coveted my Travel Clutch. I'm just saying it's possible. Right?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ponytail Holders - Limited Time Only

Sometimes I can't help myself. When I was buying magnet parts for my Button Machine a few weeks ago to  make samples for The Little Black Box, I came across a new way to use my Button Machine - to make Ponytail Holders.  

So, right or wrong, most of my day is spent with my hair in a ponytail. This goes for pre-momhood too, by the way. It's just my thing. If you'd like to sign me up for What Not to Wear so I can get a free $5000 new wardrobe because I'm addicted to the ponytail, please feel free. $5K can buy some really snazzy ponytail holders and hair clips!!

I'm thinking these will just be a limited edition in my shop. They are a  really cute idea, but I only purchased about 25 or so to make. I can, of course, purchase more if they start flying off the shelf. For now, I have a few listed and as usual in my shop, you can have one made from any fabric or paper you see listed.

Business Tip # 3 - Track Your Progress

Ok, so Etsy and Metricly has made the post I had been agonizing over how to adequately explain, so much easier. When I originally intended to post this, Etsy first introduced Metricly and I wanted to check them out - crossing my fingers that they would be user friendly and provide all the info I wanted to discuss.

When you have a variety of products you sell with a range of prices, it's important to not only track your sales/purchase dollars, but also which items sell the best. Also helpful to know is your average sales dollar, your average sales per week, and what percentage of which product do you sell the most. For instance, passport covers remain about 40% of my business while Travel Clutches are about 15% (and rising). Adding the Travel and Portfolio clutches have raised my average sale dollar about 35% - this of course, depends on the month.

Tracking your sales also helps you to visually see which products aren't working. For instance, I invested in a 2-1/4" Button Maker Machine last year. I purchased a snazzy one because, as is I'm sure is the case with every entrepreneur, I just knew this was the next big thing. This idea was a perfect way to use up scrap paper and fabric and would be great 'add-ons' to my orders (would you like fries with that?) It was a great idea, but I didn't market it properly so it was not the next big 'Money Maker' I thought it would be. I was able to realize this by tracking my daily sales as well as views for my Pocket Mirrors/Bottle Openers. So I scaled back this section of my shop to alleviate what I had determined was a bit of  clutter. Magnets, on the other hand, are pretty popular so I'm planning on expanding this section of my shop.

I did the same thing with my Vinyl Book Covers. I sold them very rarely and because I sold them rarely, I could never really gain enough buying power to buy a lot of supplies to make the profit I wanted. They were a great idea and when people bought them, they loved them.  Want to know something else? I really did not enjoy making them. They were a pain to make, a pain to package and a pain to ship. When I eliminated them completely, I did not at all notice a dip in sales. If anything, my sales rose.

So my point in all that, is you have to pay attention to what sells.  Not every idea you have will be a good one-and this is a topic all to itself! Paying attention helps streamline what you offer to your customers and keep your online business looking cohesive.

So, if you have an Etsy Shop, Metricly is an awesome new function that helps you do all that. To explain it better than I could, check out this link and set up your Metricly account!

What I love about Metricly, is it is SO user friendly. So much more so than Google Analytics and it provides information more directly related to your shop. PLUS, you can incorporate GA into your account as well as Mail Chip to see if your newsletters have an impact on sales.

Which reminds me, I set up a Mail Chimp account weeks ago and have not yet sent out a newsletter!! I have to move this up on my 'To Do' list since Holiday Season is approaching.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fabric Travel Clutch Improvements

Ok, I've been so hesitant to write this post. When you design a product, you never want to have to admit it could use improvements. Who doesn't want to believe their product is perfect without need of change from its inception? But, the truth of the matter is as you use a product, you do come to realize such and such might be better if....  And that's the case with my otherwise perfect Fabric Travel Clutch.

When I designed the clutch, I went through several prototypes. I laid out different designs, used different fabrics, and most importantly tried different interfacings to apply behind the fabric. Interfacing is basically a sewn-in or ironed-on web like material that makes fabric have more body or makes it more stiff. It's what makes the collars of dress shirts stiff. A lightweight interfacing can give a skirt more body. It's most definitely required on almost all craft projects involving fabric. Otherwise you'd have a flimsy, droopy purse that could not stand up under its own weight. So, you might say it's the most important aspect of a fabric craft project.

When making my Fabric Travel Clutches, I determined I'd have to use one of the most stiff interfacing available. It's Pellon 809 fusible interfacing. And each piece, front and back, of my FTCs is mated with a piece of Pellon 809. Even though I use one of the strongest interfacing available, I still had an issue with the spine of my FTCs. With repeated opening and closing, the linen would start to bunch in the spine and the spine would weaken.

Ok, so I knew this was an issue, but I wasn't sure how to fix it. When I received a couple of emails from customers saying they loved the design, but wished the spine was a bit more stiff, I knew I had to find a way to resolve the issue. I'd go over this time and again with my husband (the engineer) and he kept telling me I needed to add something behind the linen. But how? When my brother and sister-in-law were here for A's 3rd birthday, I showed them my concern. My bro (also an engineer), said what my dear hubby said, add a strip of fabric behind the linen. But he added  that he thought I needed to sew a line down the middle to bind the linen to the strip to the outside fabric. And this is where he explained a bit of physics to me.  (This is my little brother, mind you)

When I sew the front of the clutch to the back, the pieces are equal in length. I leave an opening at the top to turn the clutch inside out. When I fold the clutch in half, the outside fabric is stretched and the inside linen is bunched a bit. A little bit of this is actually good because this helps give you the room you need to fill up your wallet. Too much makes the linen bunch unattractively down the center. This spine area is also the weakest part of the wallet. So, now, fix it already.

And I did. The new design has a 4" strip of heavy duty twill backing heat bonded to the back of the linen and interfacing. I use heavy duty heat bond (just try peeling it off - it withstands non-sewn appliques on the world's greatest product tester t-shirts - my little munchkin).  I also sew down the middle to bind all those pieces together. You can see the difference in how clean and non-bunched-up it looks here:

Here's more of a close up picture:

So far, the response to the change has been awesome. I made the change on all outgoing FTC's in late July/early August. I've been carrying one around in my purse since the first of August and I can tell it is certainly an improvement over my previous design.

So, while I was reluctant to admit my design needed any changes, I am honest enough to believe you shouldn't keep selling something when you know it needs a fix. I want my customers to love their purchase. I don't want anybody to get something from me and think, "It's nice, but I wish it were more sturdy".  Most importantly, I want my customers to feel like they can come to me if they have an issue with their purchase or if they have an idea for improvement on any of my products.