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Tami E Tami Eveslage Original Teddy Bears
Milford Ohio
Posts: 2,367

I am so pleased with my bear business this year. I have had steady orders and purchases from the first of January on. But I'm having a wee bit of trouble keeping up with it all. I don't want to disappoint loyal collectors, and new internet collectors, but how does one make custom orders, keep fresh work on your website, AND build up stock for shows? I am sending some work to a couple of shops for September shows they are having, and I will be in Hunt Valley in November, but I keep getting calls and emails and selling my stuff. I'm afraid if I say I can't sell any bears until after my November show, new collectors who are just finding me may be put off. But having a really small selection at a new show could be off-putting too. Do you think so? I just want to make all my collectors happy, but there are only so many hours in a day.

wazzabears Wazza Bears Australia
Bulli
Posts: 623

OHH Tami, This is the question I want answered too. I know where you are coming from. There isn't enough hours in the day. Hope someone will fill us in soon.
Bear hugs
Peta

RaggyRat The RaggyRat Company
Weymouth
Posts: 1,214
Website

do you have a 'join my mailing list'?
i think it makes people happy to join a queue
and feel they will get their turn ?

i would love to know more too tho, i juggle my babies too !

cat xxx

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413
Website

I had JUST that issue...and in the end I drew a line right through all my orders..and stopped. Then I stopped saying YES all the time. I am running a business first and foremost and I have to set myself boundaries over which I will not cross. I realise now that it was agood idea because...though some may disagree...I feel that the one bear at a time approach (though I often have up to 10 on the go) is best for me. I just decided one bear at a time, better quality..less quantity.

I finish two bears a week..and by some peoples output that is 'mass production' but for me it's a good pace...I get to the 'finishing stage' fairly quickly...it doesn't take me long to machine a whole bear...but a head can take 2 days. They may not look complicated but I spend ages on each one..and I enjoy every minute. So that is my output and that is what I stick at.

I then decided that I can sell two bears a week on my own so I don't do shops anymore..only an occasional bear or two...maybe 5 bears a year...not worth doing I hear you say...but I just don't want the pressure of shops..and while I like to keep my spoon in the pudding I don't see a reason to cut my profit margin by 30% by selling half what I make to shops.

Fairs...I now do only 2 to 3 per year...and I prepare about 6 weeks ahead taking 14 bears with me..and in that time I don't sell bears..which kills me.
Commissions...I don't do them now...... because I just CAN'T...it is so hard to be creative anyway and coming through with a bear similar to one I made a year ago is impossible...so now I sometimes offer a person first option on my next 'white' bear ..or girl bear..or whatever they are looking for. But I don't hold them to it...if they don't like it they don't buy...but at least it gives them something to look forward to..and gives me the freedom to carry on creating and following where the wind blows me...which is a joy, let's face it.

All Bear All Bear by Paula Carter
Kent
Posts: 5,157
Website

Well, I work in the same way as Jenny and I too aim for just two bears a week.  Anything more than that steals away the pleasure of bear making for me.  Bear in mind though Tami, I don't work at any other job ... you have a whole lot on your plate with teaching already!  AND my kids are full grown!  Incidentally, I keep a mailing list and send out regular newsletters announcing new bears to my website, for sale on a 'first come/first served' basis.  It seems to work well for me.

Once Upon a Time, I kept a forward order book, making limited editions of up to ten bears for each edition ... that book ran months and months ahead and I was completely tied into fulfilling my orders.  To say it almost killed it stone dead for me, wouldn't be a lie.  I decided times had to change but for that to happen, I would have to take a chance on being able to sell each new bear as it was created.  I wanted to stop replicating limited edition bears and have the freedom to start creating new designs ... it wasn't an easy decision because financially, the regular income from a full forward order book was so reassurring!  However, I felt as though I was on a treadmill, so eventually I took the plunge and started to make one-off pieces for sale direct from my website.  I still accepted the occasional order if it was something I was happy to work on, but I cut right back on shops (like Jenny, I was confident I could sell a couple of bears per week myself at full retail). 

Not all my decisions came about on a creative whim.  I had recognised that the market was changing ... there were far fewer specialist bears shops willing to buy big bears either in the UK, or overseas (in fact, the exchange rate hit big bear trade sales overseas pretty hard in places like the US and Japan and more overseas customers were finding their way onto the internet to buy direct from their favourite artists ... a trend which has continued) so it became important to find a way to replace those trade sales.  Not to mention the fact many bear shops were going out of business.

Also, bear shows were taking a massive hit in the UK at the time and I quickly realised they were draining my coffers rather than filling them.  When I started selling at shows back in the mid 90's, I was sucessfully exhibiting at between nine and twelve shows a year and they were my main selling focus, but over time, the market weakened and so I cut them back to about six shows and eventually, to just the two major London based shows.  Occasionally I would add in a new show to the mix, give it a try, but be ruthless if it didn't work for my bears - I just can't see the point in working towards shows for a couple of months, with massive outlay for materials and no income in the meantime, only to struggle to sell on the day.  These days other outlets, such as the internet, can work more effectively for far less 'up front' outlay.

It's a tricky balance that's for sure!  I'm saddened that the market has changed so much in some ways, because it has worked to isolate bear artists, but in other ways, it has changed forcus, opening things globally and I think it's a great thing ... I mean, these days, selling overseas is so achieveable via the internet for example.  When I started out selling bears that wasn't even an option!  I would love to see shops feeling more confident about buying from quality bear artists again ... there are some who have managed to remain buoyant, which is great, but so many more have fallen by the wayside over recent years ... and I'd love some exciting new hands-on projects to get involved with, something to give bear artists the opportunity to connect in person with one another and also with collectors. 

To balance your work schedule isn't easy.  You need to be focused on what you want to achieve and how best to make the business of selling your bears work for you.  Unfortunately the potential to earn often undermines the potential to keep control of what you want to do with your creativity!

Marlys Waggle Bears
So Cal Desert
Posts: 4,089

Great question, Tami and I wonder how many of you keep up. I'm glad to know that Jenny and Paula, whose bears I adore, aim for two bears a week. That's about all I can handle and sometimes not even that. I'm feeling like trying to keep up with everything leave me little time to try new things because I can't afford to get behind right now. Good to know that many of you have the same feelings.

Aleta - The Silly Bear The Silly Bear
Portland, Oregon
Posts: 3,119
Website

Tami asked:  "how does one make custom orders, keep fresh work on your website, AND build up stock for shows?"

Lots of coffee and no sleep, of course!!  bear_laugh

Warmest bear hugs,  :hug:
Aleta

Tami E Tami Eveslage Original Teddy Bears
Milford Ohio
Posts: 2,367

Thanks everyone! I knew I could count on TT folks for good advice and support.
Paula and Jenny, I was particularly hoping to hear from the both of you. Since I read your blog, Paula, and I'm on your mailing list, Jenny. I know that you guys do manage about a bear or two per week and that you both do Hugglets as well as your website, so you seem quite organized (balanced!) to me. I  guess I am kind of on the right track--I  made two bears per week throughout the summer and with school back in session, I am aiming for two, some weeks it will be just one and I'll be fine with that.  BUT, I will have to say "no" to custom orders for now and not sell anything  until after my November 2 show, and I hope my internet collectors can wait a bit.

Ellen wrote

Also....I know that I am extremely fortunate to be having this problem, because I have of course been truly blessed with the way my bears are now selling. This has not always been the case....When I start to really struggle with my juggling act I put a sign up on my desk which says ''grateful'', which then reminds me again to not just focus on the pressure that I might be under at the time...

Ellen, you are so right!!! AS soon as I get off this computer, I am making my "grateful" sign! :hug:  :hug: Glad you are having a  bear_grin beary good year too!

Aleta, your plan just might work...but I don't like coffee!!  bear_tongue (And I'm sure I would get really grumpy with not only my own children but my students at school too)

THanks and hugs!

bearsbybeesley bears by beesley TM
Tofield Alberta Canada
Posts: 6,818

I hear you Tami. You know for Garnet and I we have just had to slow down. We were so busy a year ago with custom orders and trying to keep the web site fresh we almost had a break down.

Garnets health this year has been a huge issue for us so we have had no choice. We unfortunately no longer take custom orders as we found the stress took all the fun out of it. Now we try to have a new little one every few weeks or so and that has brought the joy back into our hearts of making bears.

I had to remind myself what our goal was when we started doing this and we decided that goal was to become better at our craft and enjoy every minute of what we are doing.

Hugs Louise and Garnet

thumperantiques Newcastle, Ontario
Posts: 5,638

Tami,
     I found that once I quit custom orders, the joy came back as I could make whatever I wanted to.  That has a lot to do with it for me - if I'm having fun, then I'm productive.  If I'm not having fun, I procrastinate LOL!

                                      hugs,

                                      Brenda

KJ Lyons KJ Lyons Design
Seattle, WA
Posts: 1,413
Website

Good! I'm not alone  bear_wacko
I do work long weeks, 7 days, no days off. I still can't keep up. I have to learn from everyone's advice, here, and I have to learn to say NO  :doh: I have collectors that send me money in advance for an order. I love my collectors but I think a few have learned how to push my button. A heartfelt story will get me every time, I say yes before I realize I'm doing it. I always think, I'm strong, I can fit another order in for this special person. But it's true, my new designs fall by the wayside and my days are really stressful. Just remembering all the time tables is stressful! Maybe I have to hire someone to stand by me and say NO  bear_whistle  since I don't seem able to do it.
Karen

Laura Lynn Teddies by Laura Lynn
Lexington, KY
Posts: 3,647
Website

Laura Lynn Banner Sponsor

thumperantiques wrote:

......if I'm having fun, then I'm productive.  If I'm not having fun, I procrastinate!....

Oh my gosh Brenda, you hit the nail on the head for me!!!!  Sometimes I need to hear someone else say it before I realize it about myself.

thumperantiques Newcastle, Ontario
Posts: 5,638

Laura Lynn,
     Sometimes the easiest answer really IS staring us in the face!  I wouldn't do a custom order for 10 times the money - honestly!!  For me, creativity is having fun and you can't have fun if you're stressed!

                                                      hugs,

                                                      Brenda

Jellybelly Bears Jellybelly Bears
Australia
Posts: 4,066
Website

haha, age old question, for bear artists anyway hehe, I've just been going through the same dilema myself, tried a show and found out that I had to close up shop on the internet...its sooo hard, but you gotta try to learn what works the best for you and what you'd rather put time into.  Bascially I had to say I have to focus on what I enjoy the most, the net, even the TT chatter has to be included in my time otherwise I go bonkers. and the bottom of the list stuff, has to go....  I'm making sure I spend some time on new designs now too, which has been neglected for so long....the waiting list is a good idea, I have due dates for my custom orders, so I give myself enough time as they come in to get them done.  hugs!!!

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568
Website

I found I had to stop taking custom orders... they were so debilitating for me. I wouldn't let myself start on a bear for a show or my website if I had custom orders, yet I wouldn't be in the mood to HAVE to make something so I wouldn't get ANYTHING done. And I started resenting the whole bear making thing. Now I take them VERY occasionally with certain conditions... like freedom to create the face the way the bear wants.... not to look exactly like another bear I made AND I have a 6 month lead time. Even then I'm usually STILL rushing to get it done the week before the 6 month mark! Pathetic, I know!

When I'm "good" I can get two bears done a week... usually it's only one. And I don't have kids or an outside job other than show planning so I have no excuse..... I simply lack self-discipline and am easily distracted. Using day planners, writing myself notes, lists, hanging reminder notes in front of my face... none of it helps!!! And to think that for 15 years I very successfully managed a district of retail stores!!! :crackup: Ever since I tapped into the 'artistic' side of me it's been downhill in some ways!!

Paula and Jenny are indeed the best role-models we could ask for.... being effecient and organized and still an artist CAN be done... they are the amazing proof!

All Bear All Bear by Paula Carter
Kent
Posts: 5,157
Website

Sarah said: Bascially I had to say I have to focus on what I enjoy the most, the net, even the TT chatter has to be included in my time otherwise I go bonkers. and the bottom of the list stuff, has to go....

I couldn't agree more Sarah, I think it's important to work all aspects of bear-making into your time equation and that includes allowing yourself time to work on admin, websites, blogs, advertising materials, forums etc etc.  Bear making as a business isn't just about making bears!  It if was, I'd have a greater output! 

It's also important to recognise what time of day you are most effective at which areas of your business, so that you can plan your week.  After many years of trying to convince myself otherwise, I have come to accept that I work much better in my sewing room after lunch and that my mornings are best spent working on everything office based (with a little time for household chores because I can't bear to work in a mess!)

Daphne, that's a lovely compliment!  Thank you!  I guess I am a pretty organised person, what I sometimes find more difficult is to work that organisational ability towards motivation!

jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413
Website

Blimey what a COMPLIMENT...I need to say though...That I am not really organised...I am OBSESSED!! I can't stop making bears...I even got my sister traipsing round a car boot sale in Jersey last week looking for beary bits and bobs and I wasn't even THERE!! So the whole family has to be obsessed with me!!! I love it but it does mean my house is a tip most of the time and my salon clients have to listen to me banging on about teddy bears...I have yet to do a teddy haircut on a client though....HEY that's not a bad idea!

Laurie Laurie Lou Bears
Norfolk
Posts: 3,245

I do make bears 7 days a week-can't help myself bear_tongue
I have 6 children to look after and horses so it can be hard to fit everything in.I hate having a messy house so housework has to come first and the rest of the morning is spent doing household chores with a break around 11 o'clock on the computer.My bear making time is in the afternoons after school and this is when I make the heads cutting out etc and then in the evening I do all the handsewing as it is easier on the brain bear_laugh
I would love to sit and make bears all day and would love to get up in the morning and just make bears all day but I would feel too guilty about the housework and if it isn't done everything plies up so quickly.Any other things like listing bears,photos etc are fitted in whenever there is time.I think everyone needs more hours in a day but you just have to prioritise what is more important to you and do those things first and anything else just has to be fitted in whenever there is time.
Laurie :hug:

Tami E Tami Eveslage Original Teddy Bears
Milford Ohio
Posts: 2,367

Thanks. Great responses everyone.

Brenda, you are so right. I too work faster when I am having fun with new designs. There is that anticipation, "what will he look like?" that moves you a little faster.

I am not overly stressed (yet--wait til show week bear_whistle ) and I am still having fun, I just want to try not to get stressed. I enjoy custom orders for new designs, but even those move one way from your idea list. ( I gotta keep a book or I'm afraid I'll forget. The first piece I did with the Teddy Roosevelt doll was in my head for two years before I made him. The TR was going to be a cloth doll, but while I was waiting for time to do him, I discovered I could sculpt faces, so it worked out!)

About figuring when you work best...that is my problem I suppose!! I am a regular night owl. I'm ready to work at 7:30 or 8 PM and work into the wee hours of the morning, but that just does not mesh with my kids school schedule or mine now that I am teaching again. I should mention that my teaching job is only two days per week and I love teaching art, but since I teach those two days it seems there is always other pressing business which I must do on the days my kids are at school and I am not.

I have to stay positive. I can do this!!!

Melbear Melbear's Quality Collectibles
Spruce Grove, Alberta
Posts: 527
Website

I really don't know how I use to do it..... BUT it's probably why I am totally burned out now. I am lucky to get a bear done a month... I do work full time though and we are renovating the house. I use to have a years worth of orders and did 2 shows a year.. with my full time job.. lol. I am now planning on taking all my order bears off my website and just making a gallery and "bears available" page. The orders just make me procrastinate and then I get nothing done at all.  I have one show coming up in 5 weeks and only 5 new bears made for it so far. Bah. It is VERY difficult to say no to a customer who wants one of your bears. AND I am very bad at it.. lol. But It's better to say no then to get yourself stressed out.
Hugs,
Melanie

thumperantiques Newcastle, Ontario
Posts: 5,638

Tami,
     I'm also a night owl, but don't have kids at home anymore, just a grandson to babysit about two days a week, so that's would be like your having to teach two days a week.  I sometimes work in the afternoons, but mostly evenings and on into the early hours of the morning. I do my best work at night, as I don't have interuptions! 
     I find it hard when I know I have to babysit, as I can't work late and I have a horrendous time getting to sleep.  It's an ongoing problem, not just the nights I have to go to bed early.  My brain doesn't shut down easily and I know it's my ADD, so I usually end up taking a half gravol.  Anyway, we sound similar!

                                         hugs,

                                         Brenda

Jellybelly Bears Jellybelly Bears
Australia
Posts: 4,066
Website
jenny wrote:

my salon clients have to listen to me banging on about teddy bears...I have yet to do a teddy haircut on a client though....HEY that's not a bad idea!

bear_tongue  bear_laugh  Now that would be interesting teehee
Jenny another familiar about your bear obsession too, my sister has just told me that I am too enthusiastic LOL  I didn't think I was that bad lol  I still don't think you can overdo bears tho  bear_tongue
Isn't that funny that so many of us like the night...I love the sun set time onwards...  bear_wub  thats when I work my best, my head is clear, I'm calm, eyes in focus....day is just too bright lol
Tami, good luck  bear_thumb  I just read your TB&F piece too, very inspiring  bear_innocent

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568
Website

I work best once the dinner dishes are loaded in the diswasher and the dogs have been out for the last time. Then I know there is nothing else I HAVE to be doing and I can work on bears uninterrupted into the wee hours! I've always been a night owl anyway.

Jenny - I'd much rather listen to you go on about teddy bears than listen to some of the chatter I hear in salons........  bear_wacko I always leave thinking how great my life is compared to the woman's in the chair next to me! :crackup: I should think your teddy chatter would be a nice break from their reality!

Tami E Tami Eveslage Original Teddy Bears
Milford Ohio
Posts: 2,367
Daphne wrote:

Jenny - I'd much rather listen to you go on about teddy bears than listen to some of the chatter I hear in salons........  bear_wacko I always leave thinking how great my life is compared to the woman's in the chair next to me! :crackup: I should think your teddy chatter would be a nice break from their reality!

Just got my hair done today and I agree---I'd love to hear Teddy Chatter. But today my stylist did bring me some polar bear photos she'd taken at the zoo since she knows I am into bears! bear_grin

RaggyRat The RaggyRat Company
Weymouth
Posts: 1,214
Website

jenny - do you feel like trimming muzzles when you are in the salon ? hee heee !
cat xxx

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