What’s cuddly and cute, easily personalized and a great gift or souvenir? If you answered a Remembear, you’ve obviously already seen the adorable new embroiderable stuffed animals that EnMart now carries.
Like the popular Cubbies line, which has been a staple at EnMart for the past several years, Remembears have a zipper in their bottom and a stuffing pod which can easily be removed for decoration. The material of the animals is suitable for embroidery, as well as sublimation and vinyl. The tags on Remembears say they are hand wash only, but we tested one in washing machine on the delicate cycle and it came through without an issue, so the Remembears can be washed, albeit gently.
One characteristic of the Remembears worth noting is their large size. These animals are 16 inches tall and offer a larger sewing field. As the picture with this post shows, the size difference can be quite striking. Remembears are definitely a good option for any sort of display or memento, as the size of the animals makes them stand out noticeably. Theyre also a good option for larger size fonts or more wordy quotes, as there is more space on which to work.
You should also keep in mind that Remembears offer some specialty items like the angel bears, which are bears with wings and gold or silver noses. The angel bears are an ideal option for a memorial, as they contain a small pocket which could be used to hold a portion of a loved one’s ashes, or a small memento of that person. An angel bear could be a lasting memorial to someone who’s gone, that not only can be displayed, but also hugged.
The variety of Remembears available means there are a lot of options for sales to different groups and organizations. The cow could work for a dairy or ice cream shop. The moose or the wolf could work as school mascots or to commemorate a graduation. The giraffe and the zebra would be great offerings for a zoo. A natural history museum would love the green triceratops. The possibilities for these animals are limited only by your imagination.
Since Remembears can also be decorated via methods other than embroidery, they offer a flexible personalization option. Buy some sublimation supplies and sublimate a photo or complicated design. Get a heat press and try some rhinestones. And, for those that work with embroidery, Remembears are a great blank canvas just waiting to be decorated with your favorite thread. The possibilities are endless, and the Remembears are here, at EnMart, waiting for their furever homes.
Fashion, a few people don’t care about it at all, some people are absolute slaves to it, and most are probably somewhere in the middle. They want to be fashionable, but aren’t dedicating huge portions of their lives to this quest. Fashion is fun, but it can also be a problem for decorators, particularly when they’re asked to decorate something that’s trendy, but not easy to embellish. I’m sure you all have your own lists of fashion trends you’d be happy to never see again, but today I thought it would be fun to share ours.
Trend 1: Performance Wear – Yes, you’re an athlete. Yes, you’ve worked hard to get your body in shape and this type of clothing shows that off. Yes, performance wear can have moisture wicking capabilities and other traits that make it great for wearing when you’re exerting yourself. What performance wear doesn’t have is the qualities that make it easy to decorate. It’s stretchy and hard to hoop which makes embroidery difficult. It’s thin and often made of polyester or a poly blend, which can make it unsuitable for screen printing and and decoration techniques involving heat. Performance wear is pretty much a combo platter of decoration difficulty.
Trend 2: Excessively Distressed Denim – We’ve probably all seen the photos of the pair of jeans for sale that were primarily seams and nothing else, which is an extreme case. Still, excessively distressed denim pretty much showcases what decoration was designed to cover up, which is holes in the garment. Holes worn into a pair of jeans through wear and time is one thing. Holes that are pre-made before the garment is even bought or worn is quite another.
Trend 3: Rompers – Guys may not even know what these are, since the last time they probably wore one was when they were infants. Women, however, may be quite familiar with the romper, which is basically a jumpsuit where the legs stop at shorts level. They’re most likely not that hard to decorate, honestly, they’re just not really a good look for any grown-up person to wear, and that’s why they made the list. (Note: Apparently there are rompers for men – which is just wrong on so many levels. This trend definitely needs to die!)
Trend 4: Logos On Everything – Yes, putting logos on shirts or jackets or bags can be the life blood of a decoration business, and having one logo on something isn’t committing a fashion faux pas. It’s when there are multiple logos everywhere, on every piece of clothing or accessory, that it becomes too much. Mixing logos isn’t the greatest fashion homerun either. Logos are like spices, a little adds some interest. Too much, and you’re turning red and reaching desperately for something to cleanse your palate.
Trend 5: Cold Shoulder Tops – Another trend that guys may not be as familiar with but something that seems to be showing up everywhere from formalwear to t-shirts. Basically, a cold shoulder top is one that has cutouts that leave the shoulder bare. This style interferes with monogram or logo placement and just isn’t really a look that works for most people.
So, those are the fashion trends we’d like to see ended, but I’m sure there are many that we left off the list. What’s your biggest fashion pet peeve as a decorator? Leave a comment and let us know what fashion trend you really dislike.
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.
For whatever the reason, I seem to be having a “you kids get off my lawn!” sort of day, in which I’m finding everything a little annoying. Given my state of mind, it seemed like a good day to write about a few trends within our industry that I think need to end, immediately. Some of these are social media related, and some deal with the industry as a whole.
Trend #1: Posting multiple pictures in a row of the same design/your work – This drives me nuts, mostly because it tends to reduce the impact of the work, which may be great, but isn’t going to hold people’s attention if they have to scroll past 13 pictures of the same or similar things. Don’t flood people’s feed with images of your work. Choose one picture that you think represents your best work, and provide a link where people can see more examples if they’re interested.
Trend #2: Under charging – This is a particularly insidious trend for new business owners. Often people don’t really know what they should be earning per job or what they need to be earning per job. Some decorators (women seem to have a particular problem with this) also undervalue their work because it’s “sewing” or “a hobby”. If you’ve invested time and money in equipment and learning your craft, you’re a professional. Set your rates accordingly.
Trend #3: Changing artwork to avoid copyright infringement – There is a long-standing myth that changing copyrighted artwork by a certain percentage will negate the possibility of copyright infringement, but that’s not so. There is no such rule. The best way to avoid copyright infringement is to get permission to use artwork that you did not create, or to create your own original works.
Trend #4: Video because you can – Facebook Live, Snapchat, smartphones and sites offering video creation tools mean that almost anyone can be a star. That’s great, up to a point. The thing, however, to ask yourself before making a video is whether or not you should. Do you have a plan for content? Do you know what you want to say? Are you comfortable on camera? Particularly for businesses who are talking to customers, videos need to have a reason to exist. Just because you can is not that reason.
Trend #5: Hard selling on social media – As I’ve said before in seminars, the first word in the phrase “social media” is “social” for a reason. Social media is not about selling, it’s about creating community. Despite this, some decoration companies insist on setting up profiles where all they do is post links to product and pricing. In order to sell on social media, you have to build trust and a community. Social media is about soft selling, where the sales messages are mixed with value added features. Doing nothing but a hard sell on your profiles will soon insure that you’re selling to no one.
Trend 6: Complaining about the “guy down the street” – It may literally be the competing shop down the street, or it may be an online site, but there’s always that one business that seems to inexplicably do well while either using underhanded tactics, or doing shoddy work. It’s tempting to blame those companies for the state of pricing, or the fact that you didn’t get the big job, and it’s equally tempting to complain that those companies should change. The reality is they won’t, and another reality is that there will always probably be people who will buy from them. What really matters, however, is not what the other guy does, it’s what you do. If you do your best work, offer fair pricing, and treat your customers honestly and with respect, who cares what anyone else is doing? Focus on how you can be better, not on stopping these other companies from being worse.
“How would you veterans price this job?”
“What would you charge to do this?”
The questions that are asked may differ, but the intent behind them is the same, someone please tell me how to price this stuff. Make me feel that the price I want to charge is reasonable and correct. Give me some guidance on how I should be pricing my work. Let me know that what I do is valuable and worth what I want to ask people to pay for it.
We all know that setting a price for something can be difficult. The dictionary defines price as “
In reality, it’s anything but easy. First, you have the fact that decoration work is creative work, and creative work has, historically, been undervalued. Second, you have the fact that decoration businesses can range from a one head machine run out of a home to a company with multiple locations and hundreds of heads, with each business having different income needs and pricing requirements. Third, you have customers who are looking to get the best value for their money, and may have unrealistic expectations of what your work should cost. Add in the problem of determining the value of one’s own work, let alone telling other people what you think that value to be, and you end up with wildly fluctuating price scales, and good decorators doing quality work who most likely aren’t making nearly what they should.
So, how do we reverse this trend?
Reversing the trend, in my opinion, comes down to playing the twin roles of educator and advocate. Education starts with your company’s customers and, really, continues anywhere your work is discussed either verbally or in writing. The goal is to inform your customers and potential customers about what it costs to make the items you make, cost not only in actual dollars, but also in time and training. Your work should always be presented as something done by a skilled craftsperson, someone who has dedicated time and effort to learning their craft and who should be paid accordingly. The more the general public understands what goes into the work that is being done, the more likely it is that they will value the work more, and expect to pay a higher price for it.
Advocacy also starts at home, or in your shop, and extends out to the rest of the world. Being an advocate for the decoration community means charging a fair price for your work, charging artificially low prices depresses the rates that all decorators can charge, and also teaches the marketplace to expect quality, painstaking work for mere pennies. Advocacy also extends to how you talk about what you do. Emphasize the skills involved and the work it takes to learn the craft. Speak out when you hear or see people complaining about the price of a decorated garment, explaining why the cost that is being charged is fair. Be aware of those who will try to get you to do work for exposure, as exposure can’t pay the mortgage or keep the lights on. Make it a point to call out the people who underestimate the value of what we, as an industry, do, and keep pushing for the respect, and the fair pricing structure that the industry deserves.
Pricing is always going to be a controversial issue. A fair price for you might not seem like a fair price to me; there will always be differences in how things are priced by different decorators, just as there are differences in where and how individual decorators do their work. The thing to remember is that a rising tide lifts all boats, and doing a little pricing research in your market before setting prices can help assure that every decorator gets a fair price for the work that they do.
Business: Black Duck Embroidery and Screen Printing
Anyone who knows anything about machine embroidery probably knows about Erich Campbell and Black Duck Inc. He is the digitizing guru who creates the fabulous works of art for which Black Duck Embroidery and Screen Printing is known, as well a sharing his expertise at www.erichcampbell.com. He writes for Printwear Magazine and for Mr. X-Stitch. Erich is a huge advocate for the industry and always willing to share his knowledge and abilities to help others. I’m honored that he took a bit of time from his busy life to answer some questions about the work he does, the company for which he does that work, and why he does business with EnMart.
Please describe your work.
EC: I am primarily an embroidery digitizer, but our company does everything from small to large scale screen printing on manuals and automatics, all manner of embroidery, heat-printing, sign-making, sublimation and digital transfers, all in house and with our own art staff.
What do you like best about what you do?
EC: Creating solutions that delight people; creative problem solving is satisfying in itself, but being able to do so in a way that allows us to both exercise our love of commercial art and design and supports people in our local community makes our work an absolute joy. We have customers tell us that we are seen as the shop to seek out if no other shop can handle your work or is willing to try. We are artists, experimenters, and we work well together.
What is the biggest challenge you face in doing your work?
EC: Doing the work that we want to do and are good at doing and making sure to keep it profitable and responsive; probably the hardest thing to do is pull away from the work of production to make sure our business is current, keeping up with technology and promoting itself to the right audience.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your industry as a whole?
EC: It’s a massive cultural shift that’s causing challenges for all of us – the shift toward individual personalization is difficult, but doable, whereas the continuous pressure to deliver more quickly, almost instantly, and to produce a better product with a high-quality decoration at a commodity price can be tough.
Were you always creative? Did you make things as a child?
EC: I would say that I come from a long family history of makers – I wasn’t always enamored of the visual arts, though. I can draw passably well, but I didn’t while away my time drawing when I was young. I did, however, carve wood, build things, play with construction toys, work on machine and cars with my mechanic father, help my mother who at times worked as a seamstress, and last, but certainly not least, I was always a writer. Language was my first creative venture, and remains a favorite outlet to this day.
What one tip would you give people starting out in your field?
EC: Be ready to fail and forgive yourself, then learn to control your variables and test. You will destroy a garment. You will have to sample things more than once, and you will make mistakes. Accept it, then learn by degrees to let it go. Analyze your failures and take what you’ve learned to heart; measure everything, and apply what you learn. You will grow by leaps and bounds once you do; you will be a sponge at first, absorbing everything, but it’s in the experimentation and doing that it will all solidify and become real.
If you could travel back to when you started in this industry, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
EC: Never get comfortable. Try more, execute faster, and be less conservative with your ideas. An idea is nothing until it is executed, and there is rarely a “perfect” time to try. Get more things to market and give them their season; you never know what might stick.
What is your favorite leisure time activity?
EC: That’s a tough one; I’m a big movie watcher and reader, but I also love hiking, drawing and teaching where I can. When you do what you love, leisure and work sometimes bleed together, even when they are tiring or difficult. In truth, I do work quite a lot though. I often joke that there’s just a break between my first shift (work at Black Duck) and my second shift (writing and teaching for the industry).
Why do you buy from/work with EnMart?
EC: EnMart has tested quality product and the best customer service; I’ve never had a problem ordering by any method of contact, and I can always trust the products that I ordered will come in, as ordered, on time. EnMart is reliable and saves me time.
What EnMart products do you use most?
EC: Sublimation inks and papers, blank patches, and Q-104/102 water soluble topping and backing.
Why do you use these products?
EC: EnMart has always been our sublimation partner, and they carry top quality Sawgrass products as well as their own tested brand of transfer paper; their added service and support is fantastic and makes the difference. Q-102 is great for making our own in-house custom shaped emblems, so it’s a natural fit for us as well.
You can find Erich and Black Duck Inc. on the following social media sites:
Samples cause a lot of questions among decorators. Who should receive them? What impact does a sample have on bringing in new business? When should samples be offered? Where should samples be offered, online, only in brick and mortar shops, only if a customer is in front of you and asks? Why should samples even be offered at all? How should samples be used to increase business?
That’s a lot of questions, and there are probably just as many answers, depending on who is supplying them. Some companies elect to offer no samples at all. In some cases, instead of samples, a company will offer a sketch or a design mock-up. Other companies will offer a standard sample, but won’t do custom samples. Another option is to offer one custom sample for free, but charge for additional samples. In some shops the rule is, if you want a sample, you pay for it. The answers tend to depend somewhat on the philosophy of the shop being asked for a sample, somewhat on what the competition in the market in question is doing and, often, on the size and potential profitability of the proposed job.
So, given all the questions, and all the potential answers, how do you decided what your company policy should be regarding samples? The final decision will have to be based on the realities of your business, but here are some things to consider while making your decision.
How does your competition handle samples? Do a little research and see if you can determine how your competition replies when asked for a sample. If customers are conditioned to expect a “yes” when they ask for a sample, it makes business harder for your company if you’re the only “no”. Finding out if and what everyone else charges for samples is useful too. Knowing the norms for your market can help you decide what your company will do.
Can your shop do samples without sacrificing production? – Smaller shops that are one man bands, which have a single head machine or a manual press may not have the ability to produce samples the way a larger shop would. If making a sample is getting in the way of work that is producing income, it’s fairly easy to see what needs to be running.
Do you track the ratio of samples to actual jobs? The purpose of a sample is to convince the customer to give your company the job, so you want to know how many times that actually happens. Your tracking can be as simple as a spreadsheet, but there should be some way to see what samples are going out, and what percentage of those samples are resulting in jobs and money coming in. If you find you’re making a lot of samples, but not getting a lot of jobs, it may be time to reexamine your sample policy.
Standard samples vs. custom samples – Standard samples are samples of a product that are generic or were made simply to allow the customer to see and feel the product in question. Some companies will have a look book or a design wall that allows customers to see and touch the work so they can understand what their particular job might look like. For many customers this will be enough.
Custom samples, as the name implies, are samples created for a specific customer, generally using that customer’s artwork. A custom sample takes more time to produce and is generally only done for larger jobs. While customers may insist on custom samples at first, often their questions or concerns can be addressed using a standard sample. Creating custom samples also demands a high level of tracking, since you want a high ratio of custom samples turning into jobs. If you find you’re doing a lot of custom sample work and not getting a lot of orders in return, this is another sign that your sample policy may need some thought.
I’ve been mulling over writing a post about pricing creative work for a while, but it seemed especially appropriate to write it on “Time Travel Tuesday” since the problem with prices, for most people anyway, probably started back when their business started. When you’re first starting out as a business owner, it can be tough to sit down and compose a price list. First, you may not have any idea of how long a job will take. Second, you may not be conversant with the prices your competitors are charging, or the costs of purchasing supplies. Most likely, you haven’t yet heard the tired tropes of “do this small order for cheap and I’ll bring you a huge order”, or “if you do this cheaply for me, my husband, club president, soccer league etc. will give you tons of work”. Finally, when you’re just starting, you may be so unsure of your work’s value, and so eager to bring in business, that you’ll do work at almost any price, simply to be doing the work.
Doing the work is important, but even more important is doing the work at a price that makes you a profit. If your shop is constantly busy, but you’re struggling to keep the lights on and the bills paid, then your pricing structure is not doing you any favors. There are always going to be people who will tell you your prices are too high, who will ask for a favor, who will trot out the tired “do this for me and I’ll bring you orders bigger than you ever dreamed”, who will expect a friends and family discount, something they would never ask for at the grocery or the hardware store. There will always be people who say decoration is a hobby, not a business, who will think that the time and effort you put in to making their shirt or bag or quilt shouldn’t cost them anything. There will always be people, and that’s the important thing. The trick is to find the people who understand what you do and are willing to pay for the investment of skill and effort and time you make to do it.
So, if you’re new to the business, or even if you’ve been in the business a while, but have realized your pricing structure isn’t where it should be, here are some things to consider when setting new pricing.
- Calculate what you need to bring in not only to keep the business open, but to pay yourself a decent salary. Make sure you calculate all your costs, business expenses like machine leases and maintenance, electric, supplies, education, as well as personal expenses like mortgages, food, clothing, car payments, entertainment etc. Don’t forget to set a value on your time as well. Get a clear picture of what you need to make to have the sort of lifestyle and business you want.
- Do some research on what your competition charges. Some of that can be done on social media, following your competition can be a marvelous source of intel. Don’t rely on what your customers say your competitors charge, try to get info from as close to the original source as possible. Customers may sometimes embellish the truth to try and gain an advantage.
- Next, spend some time figuring out what makes your shop special. What skills do you have that your competitors can’t match? Do you offer superior customer service or exceedingly fast turn around times? What makes it worth doing business with you and why will customers be willing to pay the prices you’re going to set? Make sure you preserve this list in writing, because you will, at some point, most likely use it to explain why you charge what you charge.
- Finally, set your prices. Keep in mind you want to find a balance between fairly compensating yourself and pricing yourself out of the market. Make sure you’re clear on why your setting your prices at the levels you’re choosing, and make sure you also set a rock bottom price beyond which you won’t go. Once you have your prices set, sit down with a friend or family member and explain why your prices are what they are. Do a little role play, and have the other participant in the discussion throw some common pricing objections at you. The idea is to be able to concisely, clearly and smoothly explain what your price structure is and why, without hesitation.
Setting pricing is as much a matter of belief, in yourself and in the work that you do, as much as it is a function of supply and demand, or the marketplace. If you take the time to figure out what you need and want, and take the time to understand why your work has worth and what that worth is, you’ll be prepared the next time a customer asks incredulously “That’s your price”?
You’ll know why your price is your price, and that there’s really only one answer to that question.
Whenever you see a picture of an embroidered stuffed animal, it is primarily shown in the arms of a delighted looking child, or placed near the crib or seat of a cute as a button baby. Since these are stuffed animals, it isn’t all that odd that many people who sell them tend to think of babies and children, or the parents of the babies and children, as a natural market. The problem starts when that market is thought of as the only market for these animals. Embroiderable stuffed animals are far more versatile than most people realize. Here are some other ways they can be used.
Like the adorable penguin in the picture above, stuffed animals can be embroidered with the names and dates of local festivals. There are enough different types of animals that one of them should be able to be made to fit the theme of the event for which they would be made. If a festival happens every year, it could be a fun idea to have a new animal for every year, so frequent festival goers can form their own collections. Since almost every town or city has at least one festival of some kind during the year, this could potentially be a very lucrative market.
Local attractions or businesses are another great market for these adorable embroiderables. A lion or an elephant for a local zoo seems like a no brainer, but what about an owl for a local college (an animal that’s supposed to be wise and learned) or a hedgehog for a local self defense class ( hedgehogs are supposed to be calm and collected and know how to protect themselves in a crisis). The trick is to come up with a connection between the animals and the attraction or business in question.
Don’t underestimate the value of these using these animals as advertisements as well. The body that surrounds the stuffing pod inside the animal is large enough to hold a variety of items, or even to hold a hot or cold pack to soothe a child’s injury. If you know of a snack mix or candy that uses a particular animal as a theme, you might sell them animals embroidered with the company logo that also hold a sweet or savory surprise. Pediatricians might love animals embroidered with the name of their practice and equipped with a reusable hot or cold pack to put on little sprained ankles or broken arms. An embroiderable stuffed animal is also an advertisement that keeps on working, since most people will keep the animal much after its initial use has expired.
Finally, don’t forget these cuddly animals are perfect for holidays and life events. Embroidered stockings will be hung by the chimney with even more care. An embroidered reindeer is an adorable memento of baby’s first Christmas. A bear with “I love you” embroidered on his stomach is a great way to deliver an engagement ring or a Valentine’s gift. An embroidered duck makes a perfect addition to an Easter basket. An owl embroidered with a high school or college logo and graduation date could make a lovely keepsake for a new graduate.