Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Women Are Too Stupid to Run a Business?

Yes, I am a woman and yes, today I feel that way. Maybe not ALL women, but a Godawful lot of  them most certainly are too stupid for their own good and certainly have no idea how to run a business.

What has set me off is pricing on Etsy. I have long suspected that my lack of sales is largely due to my prices. This week that reality slapped me upside the head TWICE.

Needing something to list for my PromoFrenzy Team's New Listing Thursday activity, I moved one of my made to order sets over to Etsy, keeping it on my site for the same price, but adding few bucks to cover the Etsy fees over there.  I sell this set for $56 or $8 a bead:

I feel that that is a fair price for the set considering the time, skill and materials involved. The set made a big splash, getting lots of hits and into two treasuries that day! As I perused one of them... clicking on all the lovely items to support the treasury, I noticed that much higher up in this treasury was another set of rainbow big hole beads. They were not as nice as mine and there was one less bead. But the maker was selling them on a chain (my Pandora bracelet is only used as a prop.) and they were $22 LESS! OUCH!

Then the next day, a beadmaker I know fairly well... we belonged to the same artisan beadmaking group... casually mentioned on Facebook that she returned home from a trip to orders for 64 big hole beads!  SIXTY FOUR! I've never sold 64 of anything! So I go to her Etsy, the only place she sells. She sells her big hole beads for $5 plain, $6 decorated and, get this, $7.50 for a set of FIVE! Somebody explain the math on that one! 

Breaking it down....

Let's just take a look at that, shall we? Many of the better-known glass workers I know feel that charging a dollar a minute of torch time is a fair price. But in recent years, I know many, myself included, have cut that in HALF...

Glass: My beads of that size weigh about a gram apiece. So five grams of glass and the cheapest glass is around 9.60 a pound.  9.60/ 453(grams / pound) = .02 per gram. Add in the breakage / popping to be generous. So we'll say the glass cost her 15 cents.

Kiln:  My kiln uses 1.4 kilowatts / hour  and runs for 12 hour cycle when I make beads for a total of 16.8 kilowatts. and I know from looking at my ginormous electric bill that I spend 13.3 cents per kilowatt hour + a 10% surcharge / bend over fee to the great shitty of Los Angeles, so we'll call that 14.63 cents x 16.8 kilowatts =  $2.46 per session to run the kiln.  Boy, that took a chunk out of her profit!

Cleaning: Once cool, the beads are soaked in warm water and cleaned with an electric dremel with a diamond bit. Let's just say the electricity and water cost is negligible... 2 cents.

Listing fee: .20
Sales fee: .23
PayPal: .22 + .30 = .52

So far, that set of beads for $7.50 has cost our artist 3.58 for a profit of 3.92. But we have not considered several things here. 

Tools... Glass tools are VERY pricey but I'm going with the bare minimum here to make those beads.  Granted, they can be used over and over but they still have to be bought and often replaced!
  • Mandrels: 1.66 per mandrel. This makes the bead hole and you use one per bead or maybe two beads if you rock your heat control.
  • Kiln - digital kilns start at $700
  • Tweezers  $10 To move glass around when you have a little too much on one side and not enough on the other. 
  • Donut mold- $60   Ensures consistency in sets.
  • Decent camera - at least $200
I'm not including a computer since that seems to be a given for selling online but... what about photo editing software??   We've got close to a thousand dollar investment in those beads and it seems only fair to say a buck of those beads should go into "overhead."  So now we are down to a profit of 2.92 for her most precious investment...

Making the beads 5 x 5 - 7 minutes each. Let's say six. 30 minutes
Cleaning:  8 minutes
Photography: 10 minutes
Editing: 10 minutes
Description Writing: 10 minutes

That's an hour and eight minutes assuming everything goes according to plan... For $2.58 an hour (2.92 / 68 minutes = 2.58) , I'm wondering if I should call her state's labor board and report her for slave wages??? 

While that is the bottom line, she's still not considering other factors... My God, we play with FIRE. It's dangerous. It's also a costly skill to learn. I've spent thousands on my education in books and classes and tutorials! What part of that 2.58 an hour is she putting back into her education to keep her business and skills growing???  China pays on average 1.36 an hour... so I guess she's just trying to keep an eye on her competition!

How it should be...
Let's look at those same costs:

3.58 raw materials costs. Every pricing study I've ever read says you should be charging three times raw costs + overhead + labor = retail sales price. But as artist we also have to allow for wholesale! 

I would say 25% of the materials  cost is a fair overhead fee and according to our Bureau of Labor Statistics the median income for an artist in this country is 27.91 which seems a bit high to me so I'll round down to 23.00

3.58 materials + 25% materials  .90 for overhead  + labor 26.07 (1 hour 8 minutes)  = 30.55 is the WHOLESALE price of those beads!

If we were calculating for actual retail, that price would be 30.55 x 2.5 (conservative) = 76.37 making my $56 seem like a bargain!

But we're not in the real world. We're in Etsyland....

That's not all folks...

I know from this woman's post that her big order will take her four days based on the tools she owns. Let's assume that 60 of those beads are  12 sets sold at  7.50 and 8 are singles for $6. That's $138 dollars - Etsy's portion 8.14 and Paypal $8.50. Her takeaway before considering costs is 121.36 for nearly a week's work. Can YOU make that little and survive??? I can't.

But then, she's had over 700 sales on Etsy. I probably haven't had 200 on Etsy / Artfire and my own site. Would I be better off with some money instead of none???

So, how do you compete with STUPID WOMEN??? Women who call it a "hobby business" or who have husbands that support them and "just want to make enough to buy materials?" I've read more than one article where the powers that be at Etsy feel that as much as 60 and up to 70% of items on the site are UNDER-PRICED! And yet these stupid women still persist and it hurts everyone!  And the fact is, it will not change!

I'm not worth that much...

Why won't it change??? Because glass beads is field dominated by women and WOMEN ARE STUPID!

A family member of mine is an educator. He has managed oil field operations and has been a politician but sports and education are his heart. When I was a teen and we were loading kids up to go to some event, a group of moms started chatting with us and the subject of how little we pay our teachers came up. My relative simply nodded and said, "Yes, teachers will always be underpaid because the field is dominated by women." 

The mothers in that group gasped audibly and started to get defensive when  he added... "Women always undervalue their time."

Back to that buck a minute scenario mentioned above: A dear friend of mine offers her beautiful intricate beads for way too cheap! When I asked her her formula for pricing, she admitted she charged  about 26 and hour or about .43 a minute and she felt that was high but she discounts her beads to anyone spending over $100! She felt she was high to anyone wanting just one set! When I asked her about the sage advice of our leading bead-makers, she actually said to me, "I don't think I'm worth $60 an hour!"

Phah!!! NOT WORTH THAT MUCH??? ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? She wasn't. 

Well, this chickadee has made as much $150 an hour in previous careers (that are ageist and I cannot return to...) and you know what??? I WAS WORTH EVERY PENNY AND MORE!

And I truly wish EVERY woman would begin to realize what she is worth. You know those government surveys that come out every year itemizing how much someone would pay to do all the things a woman does around the house, cooking, cleaning, driving kids, etc.? It's always some tremendous number. Most women I know poo-poo that. But we shouldn't. WE are ALL worth so much MORE! 

The bottom line...
I'm not willing to cut my prices. And I'm not going to give my beads away.  I'm single, live alone and have a mortgage. And I'm NOT too stupid to run a business like many of my fellow artisans apparently are. I'm stepping up my job search. The writing is on the wall. I cannot make a living doing this, I can't compete with idiots and simply must move on.

I will still teach and my plan does involve beadmaking... but you'll have to read about that tomorrow.


Stacie White said...

Wow Harsh but True, we also have to keep in mind (Im not saying anyone i know does this but some people buy in bulk and selling saying they made the items. I agree with you

libbi shorts said...

I feel your anger. Just one thought. Just because something is worth something to you, does not mean it is worth the same to another. Don't you think that an artist almost has to sell to other artists (classes, tools and supplies) to really make money?

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Thanks Stacie! I appreciate that!


Libbi, you are dead on right! The only real way to make money in art is a business model that included teaching and tools! It's one of the things I'm working on in the stamp shop!

AliMc said...

Kudos to you for bringing this up! This is coming up more and more in the blogs lately. My feeling is whether you are a hobbyist or do this to make a living DO NOT undervalue your time. When one person or a group of them undervalues their work it hurts us all. People will pay what art is worth if they understand it's value and it's difficult for them to understand if similar products are being sold for pennies on the dollar.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Thanks AliMc... Glad you got it... so many of my friends are bogged down in the harsh language and can't see past that to the real lesson here.

Romantic.Treasures said...

After reading all the discussion on the team thread, I had to come and read your blog post. I totally agree with what you are trying to say. We are all attempting to build a business and are all artisans to some extent or another on Etsy and we need to respect and value our work.

The time and risk and talent put into developing your art and business require lots of effort and research.

Oh, and I love that collection of beads in this post! When I saw it, my first thought was that it looked like Life Savers!

Take care and Don't give up!

Romantic.Treasures said...

Oh - one other thing. Most anyone would feel terribly abused if their work were undervalued by their employer! So, why would anyone do that to themselves???

Ariella Carver said...

While I'm not a fan of the title or the sweeping gender stereotypes (a lot of men undervalue their work as well), I completely understand where you're coming from on the pricing issue. Undervaluing one's work doesn't necessarily make one stupid though. As you allude to towards the end, it's a matter of confidence - people think that if they raise their prices no one will buy things from them because their items are good enough.

You make a very good point about women in general learning to value themselves more and realize how much they're worth. That's the biggest reason there's still a disparity between the salaries of men and women.

Ruth said...

After reading all the posts in the thread, I also had to see what all the racket was about.
I totally agree with you, and I also think that is one reason why my shop wasn't doing anything til I added the supplies to it. I too can not compete with these people that make quilts the same size and almost the same intricate patterns selling them for hundreds less then I was. I WANT to know where they are getting the supplies for these quilts. Fabric is going for eleven dollars a yard now, and I can't even compete with them when I pay that for fabric.
I have had to put my dreams of turning this into a viable business and settle for it being a hobby because I can not compete with them, so I truly feel your pain. You had the guts to truly say what you felt about the situation and I commend you for the courage :)

Janet G said...

I don't think I am bogged down in harsh language. I get your point, but due to the sweeping generalizations, and calling out one of your friends (easy to find the treasury with two lampwork bead artists from your profile to determine who you are referring to)... putting them on blast in a negative light... and insulting women.... I almost don't care about the point.

I think your point could have been much more powerful, and effective if you had taken this as a teaching moment instead of a bashing moment. To help lift women up instead of bashing them. Give useful information on how one could learn their value, give formulas or links to valuable information on how to price. Educate.

There are many jewelers out there, many are selling dollar jewelry! Go look at some of the top sellers on Etsy (craftcount.com) I wonder how can they make any profit like that? Their profit comes from LARGE sales. This is NOT my cup of tea, to work so hard for so little. BUT it is not for me to tell someone else how to run their business or to insult them for their choices. If they are doing this as a hobby they aren't looking for a profit they are looking to feed their hobby.

I think the key point here should be that as artists it is our job to educate our customers on why our work holds the value we have assigned to it. Why should they buy our product over the dollar jewelry? Because it will last longer, won't turn their finger green.... more unique/one of a kind value? Your time, experience knowledge = a superior product. It is OUR job to handle OUR business and to create opportunities for ourselves.

Krystal said...

I don't agree that it's just women in general. There's also men who have the same "stupidness" when it comes to selling. The issue with Etsy (and in any business) is people are looking to undercut the others... and when you're adding hundreds of people in the same place undercutting you're not left with much as an end result.

It's unfortunate... there's those who don't know their value and those who don't believe they're worth it.