Featured Friday: Inspiration, Information, Instruction

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, so for those who aren’t familiar with the concept,  “Featured Friday”  is a reincarnation of the “Friday Blog Round-Up”  which came from the EmbroideryTalk Blog and basically was a post where I linked to interesting items I’d found that I thought would be helpful to our readers.  “Featured Friday”  allows me to share all the neat stuff I find with all of you and hopefully provoke some discussion or new projects you can share with us all.

First up,  some tips on optimizing your production space for all you people who offer sublimated goods.  As we all know a well organized and regulated shop will often have a higher production rate than one that has to search for supplies,  or work in a disorganized mess.  These tips will help you get the most out of your workspace and your supplies.

Second on the list,  an introduction to a quilting technique that may seem quite familiar to some machine embroiderers.   The technique is called trapunto.  It involves two layers of fabric are embellished with hand stitching and then wool batting, cords or yarn are inserted between the two layers creating a raised surface.   The result looks very like 3D embroidery.   You can see examples of this type of work and get some instructions on creating the effect at the CME Blog.

Third at bat,  a post from Erich Campbell,  discussing that age old problem,  what to charge.   He approaches the issue from a different way in this blog post,  pointing out ways to make your embroidered product stand out or how to increase the product’s perceived value.  The approach makes a lot of sense,  and could be very helpful to those who are struggling with how to justify the prices they charge.

Fourth at the plate,  a post from Peter Shankman on why fear can be good for you.  No,  he’s not talking about fear of snakes or alligators or psycho killers approaching your shower,  he’s talking about the type of fear that stops you from giving a speech,  or approaching the new business prospect or buying that new piece of equipment.   Fear of that type,  according to Shankman,  is a sign you should go forward,  and serves to keep you sharp and focused on your goal.  It’s a good way to think about this type of fear, and may be a way to get past it,  and move toward your goals.

And finally,  just because it’s fun,  an ode to screenprinting written by Marshall Atkinson.  First it was my “Night Before Christmas” sublimation parody,  who knows what will be next.  An embroidery epic?  A rhinestone rant?

5 Tips for Better Communication With Customers

I tend to do a lot of my communicating via e-mail.  Yes,  part of that is because I’m not overly fond of talking on the phone,  but a bigger part of the reason why I resort to e-mail is because I want to have a record of what was said.  E-mail is something that can be referred back to later when I’m told,  once again,  that I never said what I actually did say.

If I had to make a guess,  I’d estimate that at least 75% of issues that occur with customers occur because someone in the conversation wasn’t listening.  Maybe the person who took the order was in a hurry.  Maybe the customer was in a bad mood and just wanted to place their order and be done with it.  Perhaps the customer wants what they want,  and what they don’t want is to take no for an answer.   There are a lot of reasons why communications can fail,  but part of your job as a decorator is to make sure they don’t.  Here are some tips to help you achieve that goal.

Tip #1: Listen – A recommendation to listen sounds basic,  and it is,  but it’s also something a lot of us don’t do well.   People tend to equate listening with being silent and not talking,  but that’s not always true.   Real listening means giving your attention to the person speaking, and not being distracted by your phone or the paperwork on your desk or the employee you can see goofing off in the next room.   Real listening requires focus,  which isn’t always an easy thing to accomplish.

Tip #2: Get It In Writing – Verbal communication is often vital in forming relationships,  but it can also be detrimental when it comes to a business collaboration.  When you’re discussing an order,  there’s often a lot of boxes that need to be checked to be sure both sides understand what’s expected. Putting things in writing,  either by using an order form, or by sending an e-mail summing up what was discussed,  helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding what was agreed.

Tip 3: Question – Often times customers won’t know exactly what they want and it will be your job to help them figure that out.   One of the best ways to do that is by asking questions.   Make sure your questions are specific and build on the answers you’ve gotten previously.   The goal behind your questions is to help your customer refine their request and hopefully eventually arrive at an understanding of what it is they want and what it is you can do for them.

Tip 4: Educate – While customers often don’t know exactly what they want,  they’re equally unlikely to understand exactly what it is you can do.   Part of your job is to teach them what is and isn’t possible when it comes to the decoration techniques you offer.   Some businesses do this by having a sample book or a sample wall.   Others will simply explain,  on a case by case basis,  why what the customer wants is or isn’t possible.  Some companies create Pinterest boards to showcase work they’ve done in the past and to help potential customers generate ideas.   The method used isn’t really important,  the goal is simply to help the customer understand what can and can’t be done.

Tip 5: Be Positive – We’ve all had the day when the phone has been ringing off the hook and everyone seems to be in a bad mood and we just want everyone to go away and leave us alone.  On a day like that,  it’s easy to answer the phone with a snarl,  or to be short with a customer who wants to discuss an order,  but that’s exactly what you need to avoid.  Work to keep every interaction you have with a customer positive,  be attentive and smile,  and give the impression you have all the time in the world for whatever customer interaction needs to occur.   At the bottom of it all,  customers are the people that keep all our businesses going, so they deserve our A game every time they interact with us.

Marketing Monday: The Art of the Upsell

Everyone who’s ever sold anything has probably been told,  at one time or another,  “You have to upsell if you’re going to make money!”,  which is good advice if you’re comfortable with selling and not so great if you aren’t.   Basic selling can be difficult for those who work in creative fields,  so upselling may feel like trying to do advanced algebra when you’ve just mastered 2 + 2 = 4.  Fortunately for us all,  upselling isn’t as difficult as it seems,  and mastering the technique can bring huge benefits to your business.

First,  let’s talk about what upselling means.   Upselling is essentially convincing your customer to make a larger purchase than they had planned to make.  If the customer planned,  for instance,  to spend $50,  you can use upselling techniques to get them to spend $75.  The idea is to offer the customer such great options in such an honest and helpful way that they can’t resist purchasing based on your suggestions.

Let’s say, for example, that you own a quilt shop and primarily sell fabric.  Customers come in and buy fabric and go home and make quilts,  which is great,  but if they’re only buying fabric from you,  they’re spending money other places to get thread and needles and rotary cutters and all the other supplies and equipment they might need.  So,  start small.  Bring in some thread you really like. (This,  for instance, is a good choice.)   When your customer comes to the register with their fabric,  ask if they’ve heard about this great thread.   Talk about why you sell the thread you sell.  Pick out a color that works well with the fabric and hold them together.  Talk about how thread can add or detract from a quilt,  and how poor quality thread can ruin a quilting experience.  Don’t be pushy,  just be helpful and be an evangelist for whatever you’re offering.  Not every customer you upsell will leave with fabric and thread,  but more will leave with both than would if the thread was simply sitting on a shelf.

One thing to remember when upselling is this:  relevance.  The thing you’re upselling has to make sense with whatever the customer has already committed to buy.  Relevance is why McDonalds asks if you want fries with that burger,  or the oil change place asks if you need a new air filter.  The trick is to add value with the upsell,  giving the customer something that will enhance what they’ve already decided to purchase.

Understanding what the customer’s goals are is also important when you’re attempting to upsell.   Time can be at a premium for any business owner,  but it’s often worth taking the time to chat with customers.   Ask why they’re making the purchase they’ve already decided to make,  and what they hope it will accomplish.  Try to pinpoint any needs they have that aren’t being met,  or goals they’re pursuing with which you can help.   Yes,  doing this takes time that could be spent on other tasks,  but it will hopefully result in a bigger sale.  Upsell enough customers in this manner and the extra time more than pays for itself.

One thing to keep in mind when upselling is that the focus has to be on helping the customer,  not on generating more profit.  Pushy upselling will get the same reaction any kind of pushy sales technique does,  an unhappy customer who may not come back.  Successful upselling comes from a place of service,  you’re letting the customer know about something that will enhance their existing purchase,  not just mentioning something you want them to buy because it will increase your sales total.

Essential Stock for an Embroidery Shop

Every year,  when we do trade shows,  we always meet some newbies,  people who are just starting out and looking for advice. Often,  they’re swimming in a sea of possible equipment and supplies and mystified about what they need and what could be useful. For those starting out,  or for those who are looking to get their shop equipped with the basics,  we present this embroidery starter kit list.   This list details the items we think a well stocked shop should have.   For the purposes of this list,  I will provide the name of the product and a brief description of the reason we believe it’s an essential item.  The aim of the list is to help those who are stocking their shops get the basic items they need to do almost any embroidery job.

The List

Thread – We sell Iris UltraBrite Polyester Machine Embroidery Thread  and recommend stocking at least your core colors in large cones.   Your core colors are the colors you use regularly,  the ones you replace most often.  For most shops that’s generally between ten to twenty colors.

Stabilizer – Yes,  a shop can get by with just one type of backing,  a lot of shops do that successfully.   We recommend,  however,  taking advantage of the specialty backing options that are available.  Here’s what, in our opinion,  a well stocked shop should have when it comes to stabilizer.

  • Cutaway – A medium weight cutaway will get you through almost any situation when cutaway backing is required.   Medium weight,  when it comes to stabilizer is generally considered to be 2.5 ounces.
  • Tearaway – Two types of tearaway will generally appear in a well stocked shop.  One would be a light weight tearaway suitable for use with shirts.  The other would be heavy weight tearaway that can be used with hats.
  • Poly Mesh – Yes,  this is a lightweight cutaway,  but it’s designed to be used with lighter weight fabrics and to hold a lot of stitches.   It can greatly improve the appearance of embroidery on flimsier fabrics.
  • Adhesive Backing – A must for the times when you want to embroider items that are hard to hoop.  Can also be useful to hold stretchy or slippery fabrics in place.  Adhesive on one side topped with release paper.
  • Water Soluble – This is a topping,  but a must have if you’re embroidering anything with a pile like towels or fleece blankets.   Used to stop stitches from sinking into the fabric.

Bobbins – For commercial embroidery machines bobbins generally come in L or M sizes.  Paper sided and MagnaGlide magnetic bobbins are two popular types.  Some people prefer magnetic bobbins because they say they hold tension better.  When purchasing bobbins,  don’t forget you’ll also need bobbin cases.  Plain works with magnetic bobbins,  a no backlash spring bobbin case is often great with paper sided bobbins.

NeedlesNeedles come in sizes from 65/9 (smallest) to 90/14 (largest).  Many people use a medium size needle,  a 75/11, for most jobs.  Keep in mind that needles also come in sharp and ballpoint options.   Sharps are for thicker fabrics.  Ballpoints are great for fabrics which are more delicate and which have fibers that could tear easily.

Accessories – There are a ton of accessories out there that can be purchased,  but these are the ones that we think every shop should have.

  • Thread Clips – For clipping jump stitches and making things look nice
  • Seam Ripper – Yes,  at some point you will need one. For ripping out stitches gone wrong.
  • Cleaning/Lint Brush – You’re doing your daily machine maintenance, right?
  • Machine oil – Really,  you’re keeping the machine cleaned and lubricated, right?

The main thing to remember,  when stocking your shop,  is that there are a lot of options out there.  Trial and error might be required to find out what options work best for you.   Don’t be afraid to ask for samples or advice.  We’re always happy to help.

Why It’s Fun

youth-active-jump-happy-40815Anyone who has had anything to do with running a business knows the pain of the days when nothing about the experience is fun.   Equipment breaks.   Supplies don’t arrive in time or arrive too soon.   The customer doesn’t like the artwork you produced.   The customer has ideas that aren’t really possible unless you had a time machine and an army of shirt decorating robots.  Your price is too high.   You turn time is too long.   Your employees don’t show up.   There’s a lot of reasons why having a business can be tough day to day.   So why do we do it?

There are a lot of reasons, but,  sometimes,  it’s just because of the days when it’s fun.

Because of the days when a blogger tries a string art kit you created and likes it.    Or the day when a crafting guru does a video demo of the new Color Your Own Mug Kit that is just perfect (and positive).   It could be the day when one of your many lovely Facebook friends, unprompted,  speaks up and recommends your company or your products to another who is asking for a recommendation.

Perhaps it’s the day when someone takes some products of yours and does something totally new and awesome with them.    Or you get a note or an e-mail in which you’re told that a product you carry inspired someone to do something they’d never tried before, and the result was better than they’d ever dreamed.   It’s definitely fun the day a you get to solve a problem;  recommending a product that helps someone out of a jam and makes their life easier.

Fun is always in the mix in when new products and possibilities arrive on the dock.   Maybe you come up with a kit that could help quilt shop owners sell remnants of fabric in a fun (and adorable) way.   Or perhaps you add some markers that extend the possibility and creativity of sublimation to a new customer base.    Maybe, one day, some cuddly rag dolls show up on your dock,  and suddenly there’s a whole new range of cute with which to play.    The almost best part,  when something new shows up,  is wondering what your amazing customers will do with these new products.   The best part is finding out.

It’s certainly a good day when you can solve a problem and help someone out.   Maybe you’re at a craft or trade show answering questions for someone who is just starting out.   Perhaps you share your knowledge and expertise in Facebook groups or on Twitter.  Maybe you write a blog, or two,  where you share knowledge and information gained from years of experience.   Some days it’s just taking a minute to encourage someone who is experiencing one of the tougher aspects of being in this industry.

So,  yeah,  running a business can be tough,  and there are days when you’re going to wonder why you’re doing it and if it’s worth it.   Those days aren’t the ones that matter though.   The days that will stick in your memory are those days  when everything goes well and you feel like you’ve done good work and made a difference.  That’s when it’s fun,  and worthwhile.

We’ve told you about some of the days when running EnMart has been fun,  but we’re more interested in hearing about your best days.   What has made running your business the most fun?   Share your answer in the comments.    We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

New Products

Every once in a while I like to go through and showcase some of the new products that have been added to the website,  just in case anyone has missed something.   We have some fun and exciting new things to show you;  some great products that could be either great ways to get new business for your company,  or just things that would be a fun way to pass the time on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

The first category of new items,  as our graphic shows,  is the Pretty Twisted Craft Kits that were added in 2018.   We added three fabulous new string art kits,  Dancing DragonflySenorita Sugar Skull and No Drama Llama.  We also added Color Your Own Mug kits,  giving you the opportunity to decorate a mug that has been sublimated with an abstract design.   If fashion is your thing,  you might find our Decorate Your Own Patch Kits interesting.  These kits combine pre-made patches and pins with patches you can decorate yourself,  and also give you supplies to do the decorating.  All the Pretty Twisted Kits are designed to be fast and fun,  most can be done in a few hours,  even if you’ve never done a craft kit before.

Another fun crafting product we’ve developed is the Felting Fun Needle Felting Starter Kit.  If you’re familiar with needle felting,  this kit should be perfect for you.   It comes with everything you need to create a needle felted project,  including 10 colors of wool,  but leaves the design to your own imagination.  Felt a purse,  felt an animal,  felt whatever you like,  it’s up to you.

For those who machine embroider,  the new blankets and scarves we’re stocking would be the perfect addition.  From fleece (perfect for tailgating before the big game)  to minky (soft as a kiss,  and in baby and throw size) to scarves to keep you warm on a cold winter day,  our blanket blanks are just waiting for monograms and team logos.   The fleece blankets would be great for team booster sales.  The minky blankets, especially the baby blankets,  would be adorable when paired with a Cubbie for a lovely new baby gift.

Speaking of Cubbies,  if you’re a quilter,  you might find our Quilt-A-Cubbies intriguing.   Each Cubbie comes with a specially designed quilt pattern that is suited to the theme of the Cubbie.  Perfect for using up scraps that you’ve never been sure what to do with,  or for shops that need ideas for how to package and sell remnants and bolt ends,  the Quilt-A-Cubbies are both adorable and useful.

Finally,  don’t miss the new backing we’ve added – R2000.   It’s a cutaway that’s perfect for performance wear.  If polymesh backing doesn’t work for your production schedule or your pocketbook,  R2000 is a less expensive option that can accomplish a lot of the same goals.  We brought the backing in after having embroiderers test it and tell us how great it was for performance wear.  Since we’ve been selling it,  we’ve had even more customers tell us the exact same thing.

Core Colors

Let’s face it,  most embroiderers do about 80% of their embroidery with a few core colors.   Black, white,  maybe a red and a blue,  maybe some colors specific to logos in their area,  but most embroidery is done with a fairly consistent palette.  The rest of the thread embroiderers buy is for one offs,  jobs that may only happen once,  which are special requests from a customer,  or which may be small jobs which won’t use an entire cone of thread.  That thread may never get used again,  and generally forms what we call the “thread museum”,  the colors that are always on display,  but rarely,  if ever, used.    With care and proper storage,  that thread can last forever,  which is nice,  but not vital.  What really matters is the thread that accounts for the most expenditure of budget and stitches per garment.

We know that, for many embroiderers,  converting from one thread manufacturer to another is like going to the dentist.  No one really likes doing it,  and you may not do it at all unless you’re in pain.  Our parent company has gone through a conversion process a few times,  so we understand it can be a big undertaking.  We also know it can be very worth the time and effort.  Because we understand what conversion involves,  we’ve also developed some tools to help make the process easier.

One tool is our online thread cross reference converter.  We’ve already done the conversions for a lot of the popular thread brands in both polyester and rayon.   All you have to do is access the converter and search for the brand and number you want to convert.   If we have an acceptable match,  you’ll find the number you need and can click it to see the Iris Thread match.

Another option for conversion is to contact us directly and ask for our help.  We have decades of experience in color matching and can easily help you convert your colors.  All you would need to do is get us a list of the core colors you currently use and want to convert, and we would do the rest.  We even understand digitizing and setting up colors for embroidery machines,  so we may be able to offer advice and support in that area too.

Remember,  too,  that converting your core colors is less work than converting your entire thread museum.  Since your core colors account for roughly 80% of your embroidery work,  those are the colors that will turn most frequently.  If you are interested in obtaining a sample of Iris Thread to try or in converting your current thread inventory to Iris,  talk to your account executive or our customer service staff about what programs may be available.

Time Travel Tuesday: Four Benefits of a General Store

Once upon a time,  when America was young and expansion was moving westward,  most newly created towns had a general store or a mercantile.   Most of the towns were small,  and the cost of getting goods to the town was usually high,  so the general store tried to carry all the merchandise a person might need.   From guns to nails to pans to dresses and boots,  the general store was often the one place in town to buy goods and it sold everything.

As time went on,  the general store became less relevant.  Goods were less costly to move and easier to get,  so stores started specializing.  People went one place to buy dress shoes and another place to buy athletic shoes and yet another place to buy boots.   Sure it was more trips, and wasn’t always convenient,  but the selection was better,  or the costs of an individual purchase were less, or so it seemed,  so people convinced themselves it was worth the extra time and effort.

It is true that,  in some cases,  it is worth to move from store to store.  A store that specializes in one particular kind of item might have more brands or styles available.   Stores that specialize will hopefully have employees that have a more in depth knowledge of the brands and products sold.  A single product  store may have better prices because they’re buying more of that product from fewer suppliers.  There are advantages to specialty stores but,  in our opinion,  a general store, like EnMart, still offers more benefits.   Here’s a few of the reasons why we hold that opinion.

Benefit 1:  Time is precious – A lot of people who decorate are people who are running their own businesses,  who are tasked with management, production and many other things in addition to ordering.  Shopping with a supplier that offers products for a variety of decoration disciplines means you can get everything you need in one place,  in one visit.  Time spent visiting multiple stores or sites may save you a few pennies,  but it will cost you in productive hours lost.

Benefit 2: Merchandise that sells – Every store has space constraints,  whether it’s the physical constraints of a building,  or the monetary restraints of the cost of inventory.  When you shop at a general store, the items in every category are items that sell,  because they have to be.   Just like the general stores of days gone by,  the current one stop shops have to offer inventory that produces,  they don’t have space for items that are so-so.  The product offerings in a particular category may be narrower,  but they’ll be ones that sell because they get their particular jobs done.

Benefit 3: Easy Expansion – Say you’re an embroiderer and you want to add sublimation.  Or you’re a quilt shop owner that’s interested in adding craft kits.  If you’re working with a one stop shop,  like EnMart,  you can find what you need, get your questions answered and purchase your supplies easily.  As an extra, added bonus,  you’ll be dealing with a company you already know and trust.

Benefit 4:  Easy to Remember – It seems, nowadays,  that shopping is about remembering passwords, and where your credit card numbers are stored and where they aren’t,  and keeping straight which information matches with which store.  If you’re working with a general store,  you only have to remember one set of information.  There’s no stress about forgetting or confusing a password,  no worries about what thing gets purchased from what store.  It’s all in one place.

Obviously,  EnMart doesn’t yet carry the supplies for every decoration discipline,  we’ve always focused on decoration techniques like machine embroidery and sublimation in which we have an expertise.   Our goal is to give you the benefit of our knowledge, experience and connections,  so you can get quality products at reasonable prices while also receiving knowledgeable support and fast shipping.  We may not wear white aprons and sweep the front porch of the store in the morning,  but we follow in the footsteps of those men and women who once operated the general stores.  Our goal is to get you what you need, with a maximum of value and a minimum of stress.

Happy Thanksgiving!

EnMart will be closed Thursday,  November 23 and Friday, November 24 to allow our employees to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families.   We will re-open on Monday,  November 27.

Among the many things we are thankful for this holiday season,  we must count you,  our loyal customers and friends.   Thank you for supporting EnMart.  We wish everyone the happiest of Thanksgivings.

 

How To Apply for Wholesale Pricing from EnMart

Like many suppliers,  EnMart offers wholesale pricing to those customers that qualify.   In our case,  wholesale pricing is a percentage off the public price,  the price anyone can see if they came to our homepage and click the start shopping button.  The public prices are freely visible, and can be seen without logging in or creating an account.

Wholesale prices,  on the other hand,  can only be seen once a customer has applied for a wholesale account and been approved.  Once a customer has been approved,  wholesale prices are visible only if the shopper is logged in.  Otherwise all pricing will reflect the public price.   This keeps our wholesale prices private,  so that any of our customers who wish to resell any of our products will not have to worry about their customers seeing the prices at which the goods being sold were purchased.

The application process works as follows:

  1.  Go to the EnMart homepage.   On this page,  you’ll see four buttons.   The one on the far righthand side says, “I need a business log-in”.  Click that button.
  2. Once the button is clicked a form will appear.  There will also be a text box which explains the steps we had to take to get around our $25 minimum order requirement.  The upshot of the explanation in the box is that you will not be charged $25 for applying for a log-in.
  3. After you’ve read the explanation,  go ahead and fill out the form.  MAKE SURE TO INCLUDE YOUR TAX I.D. NUMBER.  Applications for wholesale pricing without tax i.d. numbers will not be considered.
  4. Complete the form and click the “Submit Order” button when done.
  5. Once the form has been submitted,  we will review your information. During normal business hours,  most people are notified of approval or denial within an hour or less.   On weekends and after normal business hours,  approval and notification will take longer.
  6. After your account has been approved,  you must remember to log-in before shopping.  This will allow you to see wholesale prices.  If you shop and fill your cart without logging in,  you will not see wholesale pricing until you log-in at checkout.

NOTE:  You can also reach the wholesale account application form from any page by clicking the “Wholesale” button on the top menu.

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