An Indie Biz: Planning 2012

As I sat musing about personal resolutions for 2012 this past weekend I couldn’t help but melt in Pierogi Picnic’s as well. Naturally, during this season of reflection, all of us our contemplating our dreams for the next year. But how do we keep these goals sorted while still retaining a passion for our creations?

Last year I compiled a set of questions for indie business owners to answer following the end of a fiscal year to help center their goals for the next twelve months. Keeping the 4 Ps in mind, product, presentation, passion, and plan, the queries below help to structure ideas and ambitions into bite-sized pieces. To help keep my own business resolutions focused, I’m going back to these questions to help me frame my thoughts for Pierogi Picnic in 2012.

1. Before anyone can take on the arduous task of planning 365 days of their future, one has to look back to see what worked and what didn’t in the recent past. What were your greatest successes of 2011? 

One of my hopes for 2011 was to really streamline the creation of items for the Pierogi Picnic Etsy shop. I was tired of making items in multiples, be it colors or sizes, only to find that the online audience was not receptive to that particular design. What I started to do instead was make ‘samples’ of new items, take photos in multiples, and then list the items as custom orders. A shift within the Etsy listing structure helped to enable this further by providing a ‘made to order’ field in which to categorize a listing. The result was fantastic! I was able to come up with basic designs like the “Green Girl” bathing suit, and then let the customers choose their hue via a color wheel. One of the biggest surprises was that many Pierogi Picnic shoppers chose a color I least expected – green! I wouldn’t have had the insight to make the swimwear in advance in this shade – so having the custom listings available proved beneficial to me and fans alike!

Another 2011 success involved my lack of traditional marketing knowledge. Instead of sending out press kits (see this as a failure in the question below) I relied heavily on social media to announce sales, contests and new designs. Utilizing Hootsuite and Facebook I was able to provide updates on what I was up to in my studio to fans and for people who had not yet discovered my work. By far the most pleasant part of using social networking is also being able to interact and share my own discoveries, like fellow crafters, fun 

One of my greatest successes this past year was preparing in advance – for everything! I am a born procrastinator and spent many a night writing papers at the last minute, doing taxes on the 14th, and waiting until the 11th hour for prepping for shows or the holidays. 2011 was the year I broke myself of this nasty habit! I began my sewing for Renegade almost 2 months in advance. I scheduled blog posts to allot more time for order fulfillment. I planned website and Etsy appearance changes weeks before an upload. I extended my custom order creation time – but continue to finish them early. All of these seemingly simple planning tasks have resulted in me finding more pleasure in my business while also remaining stress-free even in the most tense of seasons – the holidays.tutorials or tasty recipes. I know that keeping your online business presence ‘real’ is social media 101 – but I genuinely enjoy this form of interaction and found it to be incredibly beneficial to my business. 

Collaboration was a huge theme in 2011 and I hope to take that even further in the coming year. Partnering up with Caitlin Peters from Wanderlustings, doing demos for local events, selling at private parties, working with non-profits, and pulling opinions from my artist husband all proved both beneficial and educational. Keeping myself open to the prospect of working alongside other creatives is an intriguing prospect for the coming year. I already have one collaboration in its infancy and hope to push even further in 2012.

Something that I almost forgot to add, but remembered upon reading my 2011 business resolutions, was my success at this year’s craft fairs! I resolved not to participate in any of the smaller events, even though I think that what some local groups are doing is amazing and do support them as a shopper. Instead, I only applied for heavy weight shows which all proved better than I anticipated! Even the DIY Trunk Show, which last year was a huge let-down, surprised me this year with better than expected sales. This has shifted my framework to potentially considering participation in some other regional shows in 2012. Maybe Madison, Milwaukee or St. Louis?

2. Once you get your feel good list in place reflect on the things that let you down, could be improved, or need reinvention in your business.What was left to be desired in 2011?

By far my biggest ‘fail’ in 2011 was neglecting my traditional marketing (again). Actually, it was more than neglecting, I didn’t have any at all! This is something I have been putting off for way too long as a business owner. In my resolutions for 2011 I wrote “Some other things I dropped the ball on: actively seeking out wholesale accounts, publishing a look book, and making press releases.” Once again, for this year’s resolutions, I will be including these marketing basics and will not abandon them! My hope is that by February I’ll have a press release and general marketing kit put together. There’s really no excuse for me not having this in place. I need to finally prioritize it this next month so that come Valentine’s Day I’m ready to roll out the press.

Something that I definitely need to reinvent is Pierogi Picnic’s physical presence. In 2011 I pulled out of all my consignment shops for various reasons. For some it was the boutique’s business failing while for others it was simply not the correct demographic for my items and so they ‘sat’ much longer than I would have liked, prompting me to remove them from the stores. I still very much like the idea of participating in pop up shops and craft fairs. What I’ll need to decide is how to approach consignment (if at all!) in the future and see what other in-store options may be open to me. With the weak economy I don’t want to hold myself out for wholesale orders just yet. 

3. At the end of the day these are the reasons you even bother to follow your craft instincts. What inspires you?

I feel that 2012 is going to reveal a major shift in Pierogi Picnic’s designs. I’m already bursting with ideas thanks to inspiration I’ve absorbed from street style blogs, recent shows, folk costumes and my new addiction, Pinterest. This, combined with the recent implosion of designs in my mind, has made me really pumped for my spring collection – which will debut in late March (hopefully).  

The most recent Renegade show in the beginning of December was incredibly encouraging to me as I saw so many vendors doing beautiful, unique things, with their craft – and doing it well in a devastating economy. Though this is not inspiring in a design sense – it does propel me forward in my ambitions for PP, despite a gloomy forecast for the nation’s finances.

4. Now that you’ve given thought to 2010’s successes, short-comings, and what keeps you going, make a list of what you’d like to accomplish in 2011. Make a list.

The things I would like to accomplish in the coming year include:

1. Create a press kit seasonally

2. Hold an official fashion shoot with which to create a look book

3. Increase the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers

4. Create a video tutorial series

5. Land wholesale orders

6. Look into a potential line of items for pets and maternity clothing (who’s going to model for that one!?)

7. Participate in a regional craft fair

8. Collaborate on a housewares line

9. Land a feature in a mainstream printed magazine

10. Develop a bride-less wedding line

11. Increase Etsy sales 

12. Reorganize studio

13. Develop swimwear line further

5. This last step takes your goals from dream to reality.Plot things out.

1 + 2 To help prep materials for the coming year I am going to take a sewing break in January (which does not include custom orders) and focus on creating my press kit, upcoming marketing and a potential spring look book. Hopefully everything but the photo shoot itself will be completed by February.

3. Research social networking tips and tools to see how to best increase fanbases on both Twitter and Facebook. Potentially hold contests on pages and giveaways.

4. Set a goal to have a tutorial created and posted by the 20th of each month. Nothing fancy necessary – just something that will improve my Youtube presence, and therefore, traffic to the Pierogi Picnic sites.

5. Update wholesale catalogs each season and send via snail mail to selected boutiques twice yearly.

6. Develop prototypes for maternity line for the Spring and pet line for the fall. Maternity designs to be complete by April and pet products by July.

7. Research regional fairs for Spring or Summer participation. Have a list of shows drafted by March.

8. Connect with local print artist to launch a limited edition series of housewares, i.e.. napkins, runners, and other table wear by August.

9. Send press kits out by the 5th of each month to at least 4 different publications.

10. Create prototypes for bridesmaid dresses, groomsmen accessories and hair items for custom order wedding line by March.

11. Take inventory and refresh item photos bi-monthly to keep items looking fresh. Potentially create clothing ‘subscriptions’ via Etsy, as well as grab bag listings to move older merchandise. Focus on Etsy’s merchandising newsletters for upcoming trends but continue to push original designs. Create more treasuries of other seller’s items to increase profile exposure. Use strategic tagging to create better relevance. Stalk the ‘trending’ tags page like never before.

12. Find a way to reorganize studio for easier fabric sorting and to decrease propensity for messiness as it clogs my creative arteries! Have the new and improved studio ready by February for the beginning of my sewing season.

13.  Create an additional 2 designs for the swimwear line.

Now that I have my plans and goals drafted above I feel at ease moving forward into the new year. My motto for 2012? Work smarter – not harder!

Here’s to a blessed and prosperous year!


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