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.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fighting eBay for My Own Copyright

The last three weeks have provided a painful lesson in copyrights. I have been cleaning out some production over runs in the stamp shop by selling them off on eBay - with even cheaper prices on my rubber stamp website. And they sell there on eBay (Always do your research before buying there and check out your sellers... they probably offer the same item cheaper elsewhere!) which is fine. I charge enough there to pay my eBay fees and make a little more than I do on my site.

It all started last year when I got several large wholesale orders in a row from a studio in New York. I have a policy against selling my stamps below retail on eBay. It makes it hard for other retailers to compete and wholesale orders fall off and so do my retail ones. Much to my surprise, I started getting emails from customers finding my stamps there. I looked and found it was this customer in NY! And she was barely selling over wholesale, clearing trying to just cover her eBay fees and cost of the stamps! And... she was using my images and text from my project sheets!

I yelled, I emailed; we went back and forth. I couldn't afford to buy the stamps back from her only to have them sit here. At the time, my thinking was, let her sell them...she won't get any more! But I had no idea what that would do to the rights to my own images and text  further down the line!

Times being what they are and wholesale orders being non-existent and the fact that I have thousands of images made by the previous owner sitting here, I decided to sell them myself on eBay. Some money is better than none, right?

And then the trouble: 

Three weeks ago, I got a notice that two of my auctions were being pulled due to copyright violation. Wha???? I thought it was that I had copied the auction format from a customer of mine who had been sellign the same stamps on eBay against my wholesale policy... I checked and I had accidentally linked to her auctions. My bad... I fixed it and relisted the stamps.  And they got pulled again.

Each time I would call eBay and get the Trust and Safety Dept in the Philippines (although they are not allowed to tell you they are in the Philippines). I was told I was violating a copyright but given no information about what exactly I was doing wrong. I looked over the html file for my auctions and assumed that because I was linking to MY OWN website (I needed a web address of an image so that my customers can see the image while reading about it and not have to scroll up to see the pics... one of my pet peeves with eBay.). So, I moved the image to Picassa and relisted it... and again it was pulled.

I uploaded new images: one of the recipe stamped on a cookie and one straight from my catalog in black and white... and it got pulled again! I got Trust & Safety Philippines again. This time the idiot told me that since someone had used MY image on eBay before, I could not use it!???? That's like saying, "Since John Smith sold an iphone on eBay first, NO ONE can ever sell one again with a photo of an iphone!" The logic defies reason!
Our rubber is a food grade and can be used to stamp on pastry.

 Over two weeks in, I finally managed to be connected to Trust & Safety in Utah. Sweet Mother of God! America has tech support! There I finally got the truth.

"Someone" claimed I was using both their image and text.  I was certain this all led back to the customer in New York. But she had no product to sell... so WHO would make such a claim??? While Trust and Safety Utah would not tell me, I suspect it was a large auction hosting service who my customer uses to list her auctions. Regardless, they've made my last three weeks very difficult!

Because the text was also part of the complaint, no matter how many times I changed the photos, I had to change the text too. I pointed out that the text was stolen from me as well as the photo. One of the things the Philippine office had wanted me to do was to write eBay's VeRO to complain my image had been stolen... on an auction over a year old! What good will that do?

I pointed out I had changed the text more than 10%... which is the threshold for copyright law but that it was hard to change it more as we are talking about rubber stamping on cookies, a technique my company invented!  But to list a fall themed stamps, I would deleted the text. Fine! I relisted and took the steps to notify eBay of my legal claim to both the images and the text as advised by the Utah rep.

Fighting for my rights:

I sent eBay Trust & Safety Utah a lenthy fax to prove I was the owner of the images and text in question. It included:

  • The history of the image: who drew it and when, who wrote the recipe on it, who colored it (ME!) using what techniques. (Let the claimant to that image provide all that!)
  • HUGE scan files of the original image I colored in. Anyone with some photo experience knows you can't take a tiny file and make it bigger... it just won't work. The pixels aren't there! By giving them a huge image, they again would have something the claimant could not provide!
  • Bill of sale to the customer in NY, & her eBay user id.
  • A copy of the project sheet where she stole the text. 
While it took a few days, I won my case and my actions are finally up and running. And I'm spending way too much time water marking all the photos on my stamp site so this can never happen again. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Rio Ribbed Rounds Necklace

I haven't done an Inside My Jewelry Box post in some time. I really should do more of these as my collection is extensive!

Back in the spring when I was making so many Rio Ribbed Rounds, I knew immediately I had to have some jewelry made from them! I whipped this cathedral length necklace up in an evening using scraps of two of my favorite kinds of chain.

 I just adore heart links:

and cable chain.

Each bead is separated by three inches of chain. I used a variety of vibrant Swarovski crystals to keep the party feel going.

I love the feel of the swinging long chain but, you know I have my klutzy days! I can just picture myself getting it caught on a swinging door or the arbor in my backyard! For those times, I shorten it with a pearl shortener.

I've found this piece to be so versatile in my wardrobe! It's a great design for any combination of beads or stones that work together!

Rio Ribbed Rounds are still being made to order.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Have You Seen My Muse?

I have been at an exceptional creative low. This low usually hits me in July. But this past July, I was riding high, creating and selling like a whiz! The stuff I made was getting snatched up right off my glass beads fan page, much to my delight! And rubber stamp sales were booming too!
New designs inspire... but an artist needs some "likes"

And then August hit and everything seem to grind to a halt! No sales to speak of, no classes and way too hot to torch! Add in a series of catastrophes I've had to deal with in the past month (new fence construction, car issues, a/c busted THREE TIMES, no internet connection for days, two printers died), it's been an expensive and trying month!
Thank goodness for my pup... she makes me smile all the time and calms my ragged nerves!

Now September is here and my muse is still MIA... I've got lots of new fans on the fan page... but no one even hits the like button on my latest work! And forget about sales... thank goodness the restaurant sales for my food safe stamp business has kicked in otherwise I would be in total panic mode.

I feel like I nee to run away and clear my head. I would dash down to Laguna...
My sister watching the sunset at Laguna Beach - last day of radiation 2003.

 but the tank of gas is more than I can swing. So... I'll just have to keep looking for my muse in the usual spots. Classes are starting and I have a packed one for wire wrap this weekend! New students always bring fresh eyes. And with shorter days our sunsets at the creek are spectacular! So, I'll keep looking for her...  I just hope she turns up soon!

Sunset at the Creek always inspires!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Blog Giveaway

Crystal Gayle Photography is hosting a blog give away for many of our Promo Frenzy Team members! Crystal has rounded up lots of prizes so there are plenty of goodies to win!

Here are the prizes:

Prize: Dark Chocolate glass bead truffle earrings with lemon accents. Wire wrapped with sterling silver and Swarovski crystals.
Value: $30. First class shipping.

Prize: Union Jack stud earrings
Value: $10.00

Prize: Newborn bonnet
Value : $28.00

Prize: Black Onyx Round Gemstone Earrings 
Value: $24 - free US and Canada shipping 

Prize: Any 3 patterns from RAKJpatterns
Value: $12.00

Prize: Flower 4x4 print
Value: $7.00

Prize: LIP BALM Organic Beeswax Hydrating Pina Colada .15 oz. Tube
Value: $3.25+ 1.95 s&h = $5.20 Total Value

Prize: Blue Cultured Freshwater Pearl and Swarovski Crystal Bracelet
Value: $25 (shipping included within USA)

Prize: Antiqued silver leverback earrings 
Value: $42.00

Prize: Printable Mini Cards
Value: $12.00
Prize: Set of 2 handmade emoticon smiley face pens handmade in polymer clay by MagicByLeah.  The smiley face design comes from a polymer clay millefiori cane designed and created by me these smiles will never 'die' when the ink runs out, simply remove and replace.
Value: $20.00

Prize: Calico Cat Figurine.  Brown calico cat figurine made with 4mm swarovski crystals. Measures about height 1 1/4 inches and width from tail to head is 1 5/8 inches Value: $30.00  (Shipping is Free to US and Canada. International will be flat rate $2.00)

Prize: Diaper clutch. These pouches are large enough to fit all your little ones essentials, great for short trips. Will fit approx. 5 diapers (measured with size 4), a travel pack of wipes, small toy, a soother and plenty of space to spare! Each pouch is fully lined and interfaced for added stability. Measurements: Height: 9",
Width: 12", Flat bottom: 2". Strap: Extends 6" from pouch. Machine wash in cold water. Hang to dry. May be ironed but please avoid ironing over the label as it will melt.
Value: $22.00 Canadian and shipping.

Prize: Dark Chocolate glass bead truffle earrings with lemon accents. Wire wrapped with sterling silver and Swarovski crystals.
Value: $30. First class shipping. 

Prize: Newborn Size Snoopy/Woodstock baby booties.
Value: $14.50 plus $3.80 shipping

Prize: This delicate necklace features faceted Czech glass in three graduated shades of pink along with glass pearls. It would be ideal for a wedding - or for a young lady. The necklace measures approximately 17 inches in length and closes with a lobster claw clasp.
Value: $22.00

Prize: Leaf nacklace and earring set
Value: $9.49

Crystal Gayle Photography
Prize: 1 5x7 loose page calendar (print style to be determined)
Value: $30.00 plus shipping
TO ENTER, VISIT  Crystal Gayle Photography