Shalom's Cottage Home Blog

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Rock Island, IL, United States
Hi, I'm Shalom. Artist, crafter, gardener, flea market enthusiast, bargain hunter, and lover of flavor. Welcome to my journey!

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Holy Butterflies!

Today, I happily stumbled upon Real Butterfly Gifts etsy shop and before I knew it, I had spent nearly an hour, marveling at the beautiful specimens from all over the world. They have other insects too, but I loved the butterflies the best. The color and the detail evident in God's creations simply cannot be matched. And the artist in me is nearly moved to tears, by the majesty of it all. Here are some of my favorites.

Blue Morpho Butterflies from Peru and Brazil

White Rice Paper Butterfly from Indonesia

Catagramma Butterfly from Peru

Green Philaethria Dido from Peru

Mother of Pearl Morpho Butterfly from Peru

Peacock Butterfly from Europe

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Customer is UN-Happy: What to do?

It happens. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, for an endless array of reasons, (some valid and some not) the customer is NOT pleased with their order wants you to know it!

Based on experience, here's what I recommend:

1) Calm down. Take a walk. Make dinner. Watch some TV. Whatever gets your mind OFF the problem for at least an hour. But, whatever you do, do NOT react immediately.

2) Re-evaluate. When you are ready to deal with the problem as a BUSINESS matter (and not a personal one), go back and read their comment/feedback/email several times. Make sure you understand exactly what it is they are unhappy about.

3) Think like the customer. What would YOU expect a business to do for YOU, if roles were reversed. Realize that, no matter who you feel is "right" and who is "wrong" in the situation, if the customer is disappointed with their purchase, they are entitled to their feelings. Period.

4) Think beyond the problem. Try to see how this could be a good thing for business, long-term. Have they brought up an issue that you were not aware of before and now have a chance to remedy? If so, be grateful. You may never know how many other customers did NOT voice their disappointment (but also never returned to your shop).

5) Contact the customer. Say you are very sorry to hear they were disappointed with their purchase (this does NOT necessarily mean that you are admitting blame - it just lets them know that you DO care about their feelings).

Thank them (yes, thank them!) for bringing the issue to your attention and let them know that you are going to look into it future business purposes. Think about it. Who doesn't like to feel that they are contributing to a greater good? I guarantee your thanking them for their complaint will knock them completely off guard - in a good way.

Finally, ask the customer how you can make it up to them. I like to offer free product or a replacement as the first line of defense, since it's less of a monetary hit for my business. But, if necessary I will refund. Funnily enough, I've never actually had an unhappy customer outright ask for refund - most are satisfied with free product and a few have told me it's not necessary - they just wanted me to be aware of the situation. I've even had some of these customers leave positive feedback, praising me for my "professionalism" in handling the situation.

Above all, don't allow a setback like this to get you down for too long. You may feel like a failure for a day, but realize that it will pass. It is an opportunity for growth. Nothing else.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Quick Tip: Do Less Make More

Want to know how to make more money by doing less? Don't be alarmed. This is not one of those "work at home and make zillions" scams. It's a very simple concept, actually. It's about changing the "perceived value" of a product or service so that you can charge more, without increasing inventory costs or production time.

For instance, this year I started designing and selling wedding invitations. I use the same paper to print my invitations as I do for my note card sets. The wedding invitations use about 25% LESS paper than the cards do, yet I have them priced at 40% MORE per piece than the cards. And they SELL. Very well, I might add.

There are a few things I attribute to this success model:

1) The invitations are a unique design that you can't get anywhere else.

2) I offer customization options and a level of personal service that is simply not an option with the "bigger" companies.

3) My prices are very competitive compared to similar invitations found elsewhere.

4) Wedding Invitations have a built-in higher perceived value (in the customers' eyes) due to the nature of their importance.

5) It takes me less time per piece to actually make the invitations (as opposed to the cards) and so I'm able to put that extra time savings to use elsewhere - designing new products, taking more orders, etc.

It's that simple. Think about it. How can YOU "do less and make more" too?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Among the Flowers in the Breeze

It is "high summer" and for the past several weeks, I've been a little distracted when driving by billowing patches of Queen Anne's Lace flowers that have cropped up on roadsides all over town. I love the way they just seem to float above the ground.

A few nights ago, when perusing a new bridal magazine for invitation design ideas, I came across this photo and something clicked.

So, today, I decided to brave the 90 degree heat and humidity to wander about with my camera and get some inspirational shots. I wasn't aiming for amazing photos, but rather those that I could take back home and use as the seeds for a new piece of art. Unfortunately, Queen Anne's Lace only seems to grow by the side of the busiest roads, so I had to endure being a bit of a spectacle as I knelt in the grass in varying awkward positions to get the job done (one car honked!).

(mockup of the idea board in my brain)
Even with my not-so-cutting edge digital camera, I was able to get some fairly detailed photos (despite the fact that the breeze kept blowing the darned things all over the place), so I am pleased. I'm envisioning silhouettes of white flowers on green (for Spring and Summer!) and chocolate (for Autumn) backgrounds. Now the real work begins...

Just another day in the life of this designer.

Thursday, July 8, 2010