Wednesday, September 5, 2012

PITFALLS OF SELLING HANDMADE

I was supposed to write an entry about promoting your products on Facebook but since I am a believer of writing something about what interests/intrigues/boggles my mind most at the moment...I am sharing my two cents first about some of the most common problems faced by creators-innovators-crafters.



I woke up today to the message of Nikki Abs, the brain and soul of another quirky local shop called Junk Studio.

I first met her a few years back at a Global Pinoy event. It's an annual bazaar that showcases Pinoy-made items. 
Like us, Nikki was among the few local crafters then who upcycle junk and transform them into one-of-kind quirky items.
She was the first one who we saw carry accessories with charms made of old keyboards and piano keys.
Today, she laments how others find it so easy to replicate another crafter's creation and sell these knock offs at much cheaper rates.



Some of Nikki's latest handmade items
Photo from here


The first time my sister and I saw other shops carrying their own quirky handmade shirt pins and lego accessories, we were so devastated.
I was so pissed... I wanted to cry right there and then at our booth.
My sister though works for an ad agency so she's more used to the reality of creative ideas being stolen by others.
She told me that even big brands get ripped off, what more small businesses like us.
Though it was difficult, I swallowed back my tears and accepted the sad reality.



Popjunklove's DIY pouch from an old pair of jeans and used lego bricks :)


WHO HAS LICENSE OVER A CERTAIN IDEA?
With Pinterest and DIY-related posts plastered all over the world wide web...it's hard to pinpoint who really is the brain behind an idea.
Who knows someone may have already thought of making accessories out of old legos before, right?
It's possible my sister and I are actually the knock offs (I really hope not!)
Also, since we are what we see, feel, hear about everyday, our idea may actually just be a re-invented idea of what we have seen, felt or heard before. 
It may be different and new but it still has to come from or inspired by something, right?

This sad but true reality is elaborated further here in a TED Talk video shared by another local entrepeneur, Shainna Tantuico.
In the video, Johanna Blakely shared lessons from fashion's free culture.
She said that copying in the industry doesn't only happen from bottom-up.
She insisted that even renowned designers get ideas from the streets.

If you want another take on the "copying dilemma" in the fashion industry.
This is a great video to watch.


         Thanks Shainna Tantuico for sharing this. :)


Acceptance of this reality though does not make the experience of seeing copycats and competing with them less painful.
As pointed out by Nikki, "it still stings."
Especially for crafters whose products are born out of love, sweat and personal hours away from friends and family, yes people...it hurts.
Just recently I had a customer who had the nerve to voice out her disapproval about the price of my items.
She blurted out that the 'unreasonable price of my products' is probably the reason I'm able to afford an IPad.
I smiled 'til she walked away but I was so close to telling her that the reason I have an IPad is because while she was sleeping, I was still up, working on my products 'til the wee hours of the morning.
Yes, I know that people are entitled to their own opinions but can't they just walk away from the booth first before blurting out their rudeness?
We spend time and emotions on our items.
Time is life, people.
WE ARE OUR ITEMS.
An assault to our items is a personal assault to us.
Please be a little considerate.



In case  you haven't seen my sister's word art yet :) I posted this already in a previous entry

SO HOW TO RECOVER FROM THE PAIN?

From copycats, I just say to myself that I can sleep better at night. That no matter how hard they try to copy my work, I will always be a step ahead.
Why? Because while they're still trying to figure out how we created our item, we are already moving on to our next masterpiece.
As taught in most business schools, no matter how hard you try to copy the system of a successful franchise...let's say a milk tea...it will be hard to compete with the very first company who brought the idea here.
They've been around longer and have already solved out the kinks of their businesses...they've gotten most of the market share already...and they've established a brand in the process.
I'm not saying it's impossible for second, third or fourth runner ups to compete because there are a lot of successful milk tea companies here. What I'm saying is that it will be REALLY difficult for them.

From those who are unable to appreciate handmade items, I just remind myself that they are not my market. 
Why would I try to please people who complain about a 50p accessory. I'll let shops which carry mass-produced items deal with these shoppers instead.
There are people who understand the work behind handmade items.
They are the people who will not complain about your price...some even want to pay more.
These individuals  are OUR MARKET.





Oh my.
This entry is so long already. :(
Sorry.
Hope I didn't bore you though! :)

TO ALL MY CRAFTER FRIENDS AND SOON-TO-BE FRIENDS...
Good things happen to deserving people.
Just stick to your craft long enough to experience these blessings! :)


Handwritten word art by my sister again.. :D
Good job sister deary!

Love you all,

Pin It Now!

24 comments:

  1. I love this post. Am a crafter, independent designer myself so I totally understand where you're coming from. Sadly, Filipino buyers in my opinion are not quite there yet when it comes to understanding the concept of a handmade work unlike people in say Europe or Japan and even Korea. But someday soon...I could only hope. I also wish that craft bloggers would also soar on the world wide web much like fashion bloggers. There's just too much beauty and love in the handmade world that I wish the world could see. Best of luck to us!

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    1. yes, aiz kim..filipinos are not there yet but there is hope. :) The increase in arts and crafts fair in the philippines is an indicator. It means there is a market! :) Let's just be patient and wait for them to bloom. :)

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  2. How rude of that 'customer'! x___x

    I like this: "From copycats, I just say to myself that I can sleep better at night. That no matter how hard they try to copy my work, I will always be a step ahead. Why? Because while they're still trying to figure out how we created our item, we are already moving on to our next masterpiece." Don't mind them, Roma. It's true that there are lots of copycats around. I also hate those people who pass off other's photos as their own. Tsk. It's good that you have adopted a positive stance about it. More power to your business! :)

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    1. Yes Krissy! :) I actually am oess affected nowadays. There are just moments that hurt more than usual! Good words from people like you help keep us going! :)

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  3. Awww. My heart goes to you. I remember when I saw this other site/brand making the same stuff as you and I immediately told my wife to inform you. I remember being so pissed and defensive that you guys were being copied.

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    1. Yes michee! :) I know! I remember Allah.lshe even posted the link on my page! hahaha :)

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  4. AWWWWWWWWWWWWWW AGREE WITH EVERYTHING ROMA! I saw you at the ETC bazaar and love your handmade stuffs! see you on the next Alabama event! :) let us chat more alright? And just a thought, a handmade item, is made out of love, out of creativity from a person who thinks different than the rest, that's why it is priced a bit higher than mass-produced ones.A crafter spends a lot of effort, energy and love just to make a piece, but a machine, can make a thousand pieces in an hour. and it really hurts to hear rude comments from some buyers who says, handmade crafts are cheap. my cobweb necklaces are always been called pangbikti my some buyers. and hearing them right then and there, para akong sinampal and binugbog. My crafts are my babies and whoever say not so good about them, it will really be painful for me.
    More power to us crafters! ;)

    see you soon Roma! :)

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  5. Hay nako denise! Your necklaces are far from "pangbigti" ah! Hay, people talaga...

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  6. Thank you for the blog visit Roma and for following me. I was rereading my old posts when it hit me that the very first post I made was about "Reasons to Buy Handmade." I got it from a site of Indie Designers (unfortunately I forgot to get the link back). I hope we crafters in the Philippines could make a similar video...sort of a "Handmade Awareness Campaign"....hahaha. Here's the link:

    http://thehouseofislablog.blogspot.com/2010/03/many-reasons-to-buy-handmade.html

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  7. Wow! I was really surprised about that customer's comment. The reason why we price our items the way we do is because it takes into account not just the raw materials we use but also our creativity, time, effort, tears, and like you said, EVERYTHING WE ARE. We make these things out of ourselves, parang nanganak na rin tayo!

    BUt regarding the copying, I wouldn't prefer it, but I'd like to think that even if there's a copy of our work somewhere or whether we got our ideas from someone else, we still make it unique by putting ourselves into it. Just like people, even each item, even when made by the same crafter, comes out unique. So, in the end, I guess it shouldn't be such a downer because that just means we need to always keep up with the times and make our crafts better and hone our skills more.

    Forget the nega and focus on the positives! :D

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    1. Oh don't worry Lorra..I've been in this businee for 5 years...we're used to comments like those :)

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  8. I can honestly say "been there, done that." My boyf is an artist and he's had other people rip off his work in more appalling ways. I'm now quite immune to the idea of people banking off your ideas. At some point, I decided that I should just continue making things I love and sharing ideas along the way and not care that much about people who don't appreciate handmade.

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    1. Yes meream! Yan ang advanatge natin..while they're still trying to copy us, we're moving on and making new stuff! :)

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  9. I admire innovators! I admire people like you who are bold enough to bring their ideas out. Grabe naman comment ng customer, kabanas! I know it's different pero it's kinda part of it eh noh? I get problems like that in the clinic too with patients who love to complain a lot, hassle!

    Hayaan mo sila! Keber!

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  10. The thinking within big business is you don't have to be the first one with an idea, you just have to do it better. They've completely lost touch with the personal and creative side of business. Stealing someone else's ideas is never okay. My former blog friend Amy makes jewelry and had a former friend steal her ideas. It was awful.

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    1. I never thought of it that way Rick! Yeah, you're right...big businesses do it all the time! Hmmm...this puts crafter-entrepreneurs in a dilemma... haha...do we want to think big or do we want to be original? Great insight Rick! Thank you!

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  11. I've talked about this before, only it was about local fashion designers/startups who ripped off designs from foreign designers and brands. Now, although copying is the same thing all across the board, in some ways it's inevitable to do it in DIY and crafts. Especially when the reason for DIY is getting yourself a piece of what should otherwise be an unreasonably priced product.

    But then again, it all boils down to integrity; DIY/making things by hand allows us SO MUCH creative leeway, why copy someone else's creation? Unfortunately, when people are invested into what they are going to EARN rather than what good thing they are going to CREATE, integrity pretty much goes out the window. :( This unfair competition, however, poses a tough challenge, but let's take it. :)

    Anyway, all that rambling aside, I just want to say hi, Roma! :) I'm not sure if you remember me (I used to have a blog called Paradiser, which I shut down after going back and forth about what I should do with my life and the things I make), but I just wanted to let you know again how inspiring you are. :D

    I've been in a creating slump last week and then I remembered your blog and then I read your posts... and now I'm ready to go making more things out of nothing! :) It just makes me happy, and it would be a waste to let this talent/skill go stagnant. Have a great day! :)

    - Weyn

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    1. Of course I remember you Weyn...that's why I can't seem to view your blog anymore. I thought you blocked me because I was rambling too much about you and you wanted you're crafting journey private. Haha. Me and my theories. :) Happy you're back Weyn!

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  12. oh man, that is so tough! there's part of me that wants to say, well maybe you should take it as a compliment that they like your stuff and want to copy it. but then, i know it sucks. i write and it kills me when i've seen stuff i've done end up in someone else's script. cuz ideas are hard to copyright sometimes. but a lot of times the writing stuff is just that two people had the same idea.

    anyway, you are so talented and i really appreciate your crafty works!!!

    Claire
    http://spinning-threads.blogspot.com

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    1. Yes some copycats insist that they are just great admirers of our works and that they were inspired by us...Sounds great but it neither feels nice nor right...

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  13. Hi Roma. Again, i share the same sentiments with u. Being in the handmade invitation hobby-turned-business for 11 years, i can say that i've been there and done that. But, still, it hurts and sometimes affect me when people would make comments like "handmade LANG yan e bakit ang mahal?!?" or the worse, i saw one of my invites posted by someone as her work in her invitation business! :( but thanks to what u have shared here: original crafters/innovators are always one step ahead of the copycats. Just create and create. :) let us make Filipino handmade products & crafters be known and appreciated more esp in our own country! Hope to meet u soon. :)

    And one more thing, its just sad that when i was starting out and until now, i can say that mostly Americans & Europeans appreciate more my invites and

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  14. In our experience, and we've been in business since 1967 and have had many people copy our things, if we talk to those who copy, they stop. Not many people are aware of rights of artists or writers, take the latest brouhaha about plagiarism. Even our lawmakers are not familiar with it! As artists, we just have to continue using our gifts to bless others and for us to grow as artists and business people. :^) Patsy from
    HeARTworks and
    papemelroti

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