Jane advises a specialty fashion designer - a wool artisan - how to tweak her Web site, brand image and sales tactics to rake in more money. Tips for fashion designers for when you don't have money, but want to make more!

It’s that time of year again.  When everyone’s scrambling to finish out the year with more dough in their fashion business than they had last year.

But what if you HAVE no dough and you want to learn how to MAKE some dough?

This was a question brought to me the other day by Karyn Anne Belknap of Ten Good SheepKaryn is “an enthusiastic fiber artisan from the ground up and the from the sheep out.”  For Karyn, it’s all about the sheep (10 of them) and the wool.  She makes women’s and men’s hats, shawls and scarflettes, and really cool felted soaps and accessories. But no matter how enthusiastic you are, no matter how creative, you (and Karyn) are in the fashion business to make money so you can keep doing what you love to do. Karyn has a great story to tell… (The rest of the story is below.)

But first:  I have two seminars coming up if you are in Chicago:

Want to make more money for yourself next year?
Ready to launch your line or tweak it so more dough comes piling in?
The shortest path from IDEA to SALES for your fashion design business:

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011, Chicago
2 Seminars for Fashion Designers

#1 Before You Launch Your Line
Presented by Jane Hamill
9:00 am – 11:00 am
#2 Local Fabric Sourcing
Presented by Jay “Mr. Zipper” Arbetman
11:00 am – 12:00 pm

We’ll tell you WHAT you need to know HOW to do it and WHERE to get it!

Register by December 31 and you can bring a friend absolutely free.
Nope, its not a type-o.Bring a friend for free!

Click here to get the deal and reserve a spot at these essential seminars for fashion designers.

Now back to Karen…she came to me with the following questions:

  • How do I move my business forward with very little money?
  • My costs are such that if I sell my hats to boutiques they are priced too high, so how can I sell them to make the mark-up I need?
  • I get visitors to my website but they don’t always buy, how can I change that?

Now, ‘tis the season and all so Karyn and I didn’t have much time to spend with each other. As a matter of fact, Karyn filled out my questionnaire and then we spent about 45 minutes on the phone discussing her business.

45 minutes

That’s all it was. And we did it last Friday. Here’s what she had to say after our call…

Hi Jane,Just a quick note (am I capable of that?) to thank you so much for your call on Friday.  I am energized!  I’m in a time pinch…but I’ve started implementing!Karen With Her SheepYeah…I’m big into the idea of branding, but that hadn’t caught up with my website.  My business cards have changed in the last few months and that coincided with my show sign that I am creating for my booth display. The ‘brand logo’ is the picture you see on the email…of me and Merry.  So, it only makes sense to get the web site reflecting what people see everywhere else.  Duh.  I KNOW these things…just didn’t DO these things.

But you made it so clear for me.

Totally love your advice about bottom lining it for people just visiting the site…grab ’em quick.  So I did.  Cut some verbiage…added some obvious picture links.  More tweaking to do on interior pages but the home page is quite different.  And I’d love for you to take a look if you have a second.

You’ve given me soooo much to think about…I think you’re very smart, and generous.  Thank you.

Best to you,

Karyn at Ten Good Sheep

Here’s what we did. First, I gave her some low cost options to get the word out about her product.  For Ten Good Sheep, I think it’s worth selling to a few top galleries and shops even though she’ll make less money.  A few only and I do not generally encourage this! Just her 5 – 6 top picks.  MOMA would be nice.  From what she told me, when a customer sees her product and “gets it”, they track her down and place an order.  Her sheep/wool/spinning wheel has that effect on people.

Next, the message on her website was very confusing. So confusing, in fact, that when I went to it I didn’t even understand what she was selling.  Not good.  It was also too story-based and needed to be more product-based.  We discussed ways to be CRYSTAL CLEAR about her message, which is no easy task.  Much harder than you’d think, in fact.  Karyn is very smart, energetic, and open to suggestions so she jumped on this advice.  She found that she was “too close” and that my perspective cleared up the fog for her.

After that, we talked about how customers need to feel and hold the hats before they’ll buy.  It’s not something easily bought online.  Ten Good Sheep is located in what most would consider “the sticks” and Karyn doesn’t have the budget to travel to a lot of shows to sell her stuff.

My suggestion was (for now, hat season is basically over) to focus on the wool felted soaps.  They are VERY interesting and colorful and much easier to buy without seeing in person.  And the margin is better than the hats, so she can afford to sell them at wholesale prices.  We decided on a grass roots sales technique – contacting stores (in a clever way, not your average I-want-to-sell-you-something-email) and sending them a sample of the product.  Or even sending them a whole box of soaps for them to check out.  There are ways to do this and ways to screw this up, however.  Karyn will be careful here.

The best part of the story is that Karyn learned what to do and is taking real action. And as a bonus, she’s doing it fast.  And we only talked for 45 minutes! Imagine the progress Karyn will make in the next few months.  She’s heading fo’ mo’ dough.

If you’d like to give your creative idea or design business a boost like Karyn did, consider a private Strategy Session! Click here for all the details.

Have a terrific and joy-filled season,


P.S.  Don’t forget about Fashion Brain Friday! Check the blog on Fridays for a new business question every week from a designer.  I made a video for last Friday’s topic: “The 1 thing successful fashion designers have in common.

And don’t forget, reserve your spot at these fashion business seminars before December 31 and bring a friend for free!



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