Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Being True to Myself...Again!

Sometimes my customers pick up the phone and call me out of the clear blue Hawaiian sky!  It is so nice when I have an opportunity to chat with customers.  I think about the designers who are "too big" for that and wonder if one day I will no longer answer my own phone.  Doing what you love isn't a bad way to spend your day.  I have to admit something though.  It almost feels like a dirty little secret!  Being a self employed maven doesn't come without a dose of stress.  It seems that the more stores I have added to my "ohana" the less "self employed I feel and the more it feels like I am working for someone else.  Someone with their own opinions on how I should run my business, what fabrics I should be using and what prices I should be charging.  You would be surprised (or maybe not) at the number of people who feel compelled to tell me how to make a bag!  ("If only it was leather...if only it had the burlap on the bottom instead of the top...if only it was just like Vera Bradley!...)  Would you ask a hibiscus why it wasn't more like an orchid?  Some people would!  But wouldn't it be better to accept each for their own beauty? 

As much as I respect others opinions, I also have to be true to myself.  I believe that the whole reason why Sasaki Bags has experienced the growth that it has over these past six years, is because I make things that I love and would personally use.  When I start straying away from that, in an effort to please EVERYONE on the planet, well, I believe it is a "lose, lose" situation. 

I have been asked,  "Can you make diaper bags?", or even "Can you make a bag for doggie poop bags to fit inside?"   Although many of my bags were born from the great minds of my customers, I have found that sometimes, my answer has to be "not at this time".  The reason?  For example, diaper bags.  Yes, I am a mom.  But my kids are 30+ years old!  I am not familiar with all of the current doo-dads and do-hickeys that the modern mom wants to carry. It needs straps carefully positioned to attach to the new stroller designs and hooks and such for all sorts of things for the modern baby.   Also I believe that a great diaper bag must have oodles of pockets and I would want it to have vinyl on the inside so that I wouldn't be caught "crying over spilt milk".  I COULD do all of that, but my pricing would have to be too high and I couldn't mass produce them due to the time it would take to make them.  It isn't cost effective for me to design a bag that I only make a few of.   So I admit, I have recently purchased diaper bags from companies who specialize in just diaper bags.  I invite you to do the same. 

My experience has been that when I start saying yes to too many styles or types of bags, I don't have the time to perfect any of them.  At times I enjoy making a custom request because I learn something each time I make a bag.  As many of you know, I am a goal oriented gal.  With that in mind, one of my new goals is to be listed as one of the top bag sellers on Etsy.  (just puttin' it out there!) To do so you have to have over 1000 sales.  I have been studying the top sellers and found something interesting.  The shops that sell the most, are concentrating on their Etsy stores, not on wholesaling to all of the brick and mortar stores.  Also, they have a very limited number of designs.  One gal strives to make the best iPad and laptop bags out there.  Another is famous for her coin purses.  That is all she makes is 1000's of coin purses. 

Now, mind you, I love variety and don't have plans to eliminate my tried and true designs.  But I do believe there is a lesson in there somewhere that I could learn from.  Do something, do it well and don't second guess your gut.  I know I will make mistakes.  I only hope to live long enough to make some doozies!  ha!  But that is how each of us grows, by seeing what works and what doesn't for us.  Listening to our OWN voice before that of others.  Being ourselves. 

a hui hou
A stepping stone I made out of hypertufa with the Japanese images for "Peace". 


Joe Trent said...

Great post Barb! Buyers are liars... a friend of mine in sales used to say all the time.

To thine own self be true... but I ain't telling you nothing you don't already know. But it's nice to get a little confirmation once in a while.

I changed the name of my shop a few years ago to Trent's Automotive, well I just changed it back about a month ago, so I totally get where you're coming from. Specialization is still king.

All I get when I try to be all things to all people is both of us pissed off.

In & Out Burger in California is a great example of keeping it simple. They only sell a handful of different meals. They only use fresh potates, beef and lettuce that they control.

Guess what? People line up and wait as long as it takes because they know they're getting something special.

Your core buyers will love you no matter what, strive to keep them happy and the rest will take care of its self. But I think you already know that.

Suzanne said...

Go, Barb! I'm delighted you have returned to blogging, and it was wonderful to read where you are in the process of growing your business. Of course, you must do everything in the way that is true to your personality and to your heart. That is the whole point of being self employed.

Wishing you many more years of success and satisfaction in your endeavors.

Van said...

Excellent post Barb! and precisely what I needed to read right in this moment to shake off my "should I?, shouldn't I?" about not offering different kind of bags, and instead specialize in an specific line... I like variety as well, but I guess right now is part of my own process of finding "the one"... I have a clear image of what I want to do..... and I will go for it!. Btw, soooo true what you said about people daring to tell you how to make a bag! or the comment of "oh if it was leather" (grrrr).. I won't make leather bags, it is my decision and if someone wants leather bags, go to a specialized leather bags shop. (I might use faux leather in some cases, but not the main body, the core of my bags is fabric, cotton if possible). Thank you for your words as they are really the "wake up call" I needed ;)

Sasaki Bags said...

Thank you for your support, each an every one of you. It means the world to me that my words resonated with you.