cutting board crafter seeking niches
hi all...i'm doug, aka gristleburger, and im new to this forum., i have been building art-spun and unusual geometry cutting boards for ten years or so now. i use a mix of north american and exotic hardwoods. i am always looking for interesting patterns and methods of producing bds. have been doing craft fairs for about a year now with limited success.
I was curious if anyone else would like to share some of their experiences in the craft show market, what has worked and not worked for them. Pricing issues? or what types of patterns might work in your area.
my experience has shown that people like in-laid stars, some in- laid parquet floor geometry, and darker woods as substrates like sapele and walnut. i've also realized that the cheapest customers expect PERFECTION for their small payment. And i'm almost embarrassed to admit how low i sell these things for!
Whats been your experience?
ps. if you promise not to hold it against me, i'll admit im from new jersey, lol
Welcome to the forum, Doug! Add your location to your profile so it shows in the side panel. Add your first name to your signature line and it will show in each post.
Those look really nice. Do you have an Etsy shop or other online presence?
to deal with as professionally and pleasantly as possible.
if it reaches the point that it bothers you and it affects your business personality
in a negative way, open markets may not be the best venue for you.
if you are selling cheap, then you can compete with the other cheap people on Etsy
you will have to find your own niche for your area yourself. (keep notes, records and
photos of what your top sellers are).
what may work well in Minnesota may not work well at all in Florida.
best of luck in your adventures !!
as a followup:
do you provide a letter with your boards that cover care, cleaning and washing instructions?
I would find some nice gift boxes on the internet to fit your boards and provide the
customer the board in a nice box with a nice letter of instructions and a few business
cards. cutting boards are often given away as gifts. so the more attractive you can
make the gift - the better your fledgeling business will be.
[and the gift box should fit inside the standard USPS Flat Rate Box for that size].
(jus my Dos Centavos)
Now that that is out of the way...........When I had my first shop in Arkansas, I knew nothing about business and probably lees about woodworking. But, at the time, I didn't realize it. Shortly afterward, I realized I was in deep s**t. I knew the other woodworkers in the area and they were pretty well established. They warned me about several things, but did I take their advise? Noooooooooooooooooooo.
Keep in mind that this was around 1984 or so and there was no real internet. Anyway, they advised me to go to craft shows and look at quality and prices. Also advised me to never pass up a large quality furniture store without going inside and checking it out. After this, I should evaluate the 'look', price and quality of the "others" and compare it to my stuff.
Then come to the realization that I am not in competition with just other woodworkers and furniture stores. I am in competition with the entire world for dollars not just my products. Would they pay $3,000 for my entertainment or spend that money on a deposit for a new car? That kind of competition.
Given all of the above, you will have to figure out the rest by yourself. Start with your cutting boards and see what others are charging and then see where you fit into the whole scheme of things. This is not an easy choice.
Charging too little is just as bad as charging too much. If you charge too little, people wont take you or your product seriously. If you think that you spread your product gradually raise your prices, you are seriously wrong. You will establish a base clientele within a certain price range. When you raise it say from $5 to $7.50, you will lose your entire base and actually have to find new customers from scratch. As little difference as it may be, that is a reality i found to be true. My buddies were right. Start charging the price you want from the very beginning. If you really had to, you can go down in price without losing old customers.
And now to address the cheapskate problem. I was dating a psychologist at time, and no, it had nothing to do with being from Brooklyn even though on a clear day I could see NJ. Anyway, once in a while during a slack period I would under-price a job just to get some extra work in the shop. And..........every single time I did that, those jobs came back to haunt me. I used to call them the 'give-away' jobs.
I asked my psychologist GF why this was so. And here is her answer. People tend to make an eye and a brain connection and if the two are not in sync, they will unconsciously rationalize the thoughts until they are in sync with each other. For example, your eye sees a piece that looks like it is worth $100 and the price tag is only $50. So you say to yourself, "self, something here ain't right". So then you will scrutinize the piece to make it worth only $50. You will look for anything and everything wrong with it until you have resolved the eye and brain thing. And this is why the cheapskates tend to be a pain in the ass.
The moral of the story is price your piece on what you the product is worth based on cost of materials, time to make it, rent, utilities and everything else including time lost going to shows. If your dont include everything above, that's up to you. Your work is very creative and should sell for a good price. I think someone here already mentioned Etsy. There are other resources to look at also.
Good luck in your venture.
first up, thanks for your time and comments and strategy here....you speak some real wisdom. I've surveyed whats out there at the craft shows, and selling on Etsy..(if their actually selling), and generally whats out there in the one-off original craft market. I know my current quality work should sell for 50-60% more that i charge at shows. And with exposure to an audience that understands the market..i think I'd be competitive on etsy. i haven't tried etsy yet, i think thats a next year thing for me.
i have committed myself to giving the craft show and tent circus a chance for the rest of this year, doing a few a month. Note: my "business" is less of a business and more of a favorite pastime subsidizer. But i do want to get more out of than i do now.
Because of the pressure to "make table , and thensum.." my prices are lower than they should be. I just don't want the weekend time to be a waste. After studying my customers closely, i realize that my type of buyers are only making up a small percentage of the traffic at these shows. And you and your GF psychologist are dead on-correct in the scrutiny that an undermarket price invites. I had never realized it until you explained it so clearly.
Given the upmarket shopping that etsy buyers seem to be seeking, and the simple power of large numbers of potential buyers, i think i will do better at etsy next year. i also have some friends i can tap as social media experts, to help drive customers there. .
i truly value the wisdom of people like you that have been there. I also have to tell you--i'm jealous as hell you had a GF psychologist, lol.. I was hot on the tail of a hot psychologist many years ago; never caught her, but trading wit and wisdom with her was a joy! What can i say? intelligent women ring my bells.
to quote an old salt...may the grain be with you.
i'm a woodworker and craftsman first, a businessman a distant second. So take my annoying customer complaints lightly. I mentioned it, partly because i didnt underdstand their scrutiny, which, fortunately..tony b. explained very well. At the end of the day i generally enjoy the craft show experience. And when you weigh the difficult customers against the large number of...albeit..non-purchasing passersby that tell you how wonderful and beautiful your work is, its not a bad day.
I will increase my prices. part of the problem has been that the quality of my work has improved over the past 2 or 3 years. And ive got a mix of new and older stuff on the table. I generally know where every minor defect is in any of the pieces i've produced. And im proud to say that many of the boards ive been producing over the past 4 or 5 months are spot-on. I have a good eye for QC, and i cant find any defects AT ALL in some of these recent ones. Perfect as far as im concerned.
this top shelf stuff i will likely post on etsy some time in the near future.
Ive taken some of your advice already. i use gift boxes, colorful photo business cards, and care and use tags with a breakdown detailing the types of wood used, I also give away sample vials of mineral oil, repackaged as "recommended by Millhound wood art" with each board sale to encourage good care and long board life.
thanks for your comment....doug
no etsy shop yet...i think thats a next year thing. At the moment, my only net presence is a facebook page showing pics and inventory for sale, listed as www.facebook.com/millhoundwoodproducts .My company is Millhound Wood Art.
i will work on my profile; thanks for the nice comment, and i will check out your etsy shop sometime soon too......doug
Your work is very distinctive and should sell on Etsy.
Most people that I know that do nice work and tried to get their price have not had much luck at craft shows, including myself. Most towns have a Christmas craft show usually in November or very early December and your style work may do well especially if you raise your price to what u think they are worth. Friends are the worst source for pricing. They tend to be fans of yours and their pricing guesstimate may be a tad high. Just look at similar quality on online stores and look at the price range (including shipping) and price your stuff somewhere in that middle range. The hardest part for most new starters is getting over their shyness for price. You must ask for what it is worth and oftentimes that is more than you think. This brings back memories of the start my woodturning years
Best of luck
One other thing to consider is perceived value, the majority of people believe that something priced high is of better quality or is just better
I heard an interview with the founder of Gray Goose vodka ( I think it was Gray Goose) anyway they asked him how he got to be the biggest vodka maker he said "When I first started marketing my vodka the distributors would ask how much I wanted for my vodka, I told them a dollar more then anybody else's product"
And it worked
very nice designs!
I wonder if a change in marketing would help. those really are not typical "kitchen cutting boards" - I'd bet a survey of the passing crowd would reveal
"oh, those are too pretty to cut on!"
plus it's thin, it's face grain construction - which is the least stable for long term use.
and the size is quite small for a "cutting board"
if I saw those at a craft fair I'd be attracted to the designs, but I'd not consider them for a cutting board.
think serving board / cheese board / charcuterie board.
that's where the pretty factor is a big advantage.
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