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A Glass Blower’s Companion with Jason Michael -Helping Today's Glass Artist Think Like an Artistic Entrepreneur

Oct 26, 2016

In todays episode we will be discussing the topic of Getting etsablished in  a new territory. This topic came to my attention from an inquiry by John Gonzalez whom you can find on the social feeds @probies_treasures on instagram as well as his business page on Facebook  Have you ever moved to a new city, state or country and felt lost when it came to reestablishing yourself in the local market place?  This episode is going to cover some simple ideas to introduce yourself to your local retailers, figure out what your local market is like and create long lasting relationships that will help support your business now and in the future, even if you move again. 
As an artists we have the ability to pick up and move to almost anywhere in the world. Having a bag of tools to use when getting yourself reestablished is the key to a successful transition. Many times the idea of having to become re established can cause many to not want to move at all due to the fear of having to start all over.
Having a clear understanding of where your business is now and where you'd like it to go will make it easier to approach your new territory with your product line in a confident, proud manner. You dont want to be cocky and over confident as this can turn off a lot of shop owners. Having a humble, proud attitude will pay dividends for years to come as your line of work grows with your techniques. With todays technology its easier then ever to promote and sell your work internationally, however the relationships you develop on a personal level with your local retailers and their customers will be a more rewarding experience both spiritually and financially. These 5-steps will ease the stress that can lead to sales paralysis. These can be implemented now to begin the process of establishing and selling in new territories whether your new to glass, new to the area or just new to selling your own work.
before we begin lets remember first and foremost that you much know your local and state paraphernalia laws.  Every city and state has different laws when it come to cannabis and this is crucial to not only help you fine tune your product lines but also to keep your ass out of jail.
1- locate at least 6-smoke shops in your area..
     Try to keep these shops under an hour drive, time equals money. Not every town or city has a bundle of smoke shops so this may be a challenge  however if this means you need to travel further then an hour do it.. once you get a good relationship with a smoke shops you can always take orders over the phone or through email. this i why its important to have a consistent, well developed line of work. Once you have located your local smoke shops its time to  go on a re-con mission.
2- the re-con mission  
    Step 2 will give you the chance to visit these shops and get an idea of what type of shops they are. Not everyone is going to be high end or low end. This will help you to figure out how to fine tune the needs of each shop. Take mental notes. as well as create a note in your phone... before walking in the door you should have prepped a note for each shop you're visiting with the name and location written down.  ask to see products and take notes in your phone of pricing with being obvious about it and don't let them know you're an artist. This may seem deceptive at first but of you walk into a new smoke shop and start talking about yourself you'll more then likely  cause them employee or shop owner to put up a mental block and not be as "open" to show you prices.  BY finding out the retail of their items you can do the math and figure out the wholesale  most shops will mark up their items 2-2.5 times. some mark up 3 times but don't let this discourage you. If for instance you see a bubbler priced at $55.00 then you can assume that the wholesale was around $22-$25.00.  Really take notice of what the shop carries and if customers come in while you're there pay attention to what they are asking for and potentially purchase.Ask questions about the artists they purchase from and jot their names down. this leads us to step 3..
3- talk to other local artists.
     The local artists in your area that have been their for a while will be able to give you a heads up about sops that they've dealt with. not every artists is going to be willing to spill the beans so take their input lightly bit still pay attention. ask about what they sell and how the owner or mgr of the shop buys.. DO they haggle prices?  do they buy in bulk? discounts for bulk?  are they a higher end gallery/retail that isn't afraid to drop god money on great glass.?  if you're a newer artist ask other artists in the area if they collab   if so the artists you collab with cold sell the piece to the local smoke shop and help introduce you to the area through your work.   ask your local artists f they ever demo at the shops? etc..  Most artists in your community are willing to share info compared to 10-years ago so don't be afraid to reach out.
4-Meet the buyers
     Once you introduce yourself to your local artists and have a decent idea of what your local shops offer and what their prices are like its time to introduce yourself as an artist to the shops   This can be intimidating and keep you from even leaving your studio. The fear of rejection can be debilitating but just remember that if you make this part of the process fun, not only will you find that your fears can actually fuel your fire but also that few every"no" you get you will be one "no" closer to a bigger "yes".  Learning how to deal with rejection is going to be key to your success as a sales person but it will also create a confidence in yourself that will lead to other successes in life. heres how you can make this a ton of fun... Give Your Glass Away!!   yep   thats all you have to do....  make samples of all your work.. no mater how big or small your line of work is make up a case full of samples. Now if you've been following the podcast for sometime you'll remember that as part of figuring out your base line calculations for your lines of product one step is creating a timed sample which you should keep for a reference. These samples are ideal to carry with you when you go to shops to show them what you make. Along with the sample make sure you have a price list with a high quality colored photo of each item next its respective price. That way you can leave this with each shop so they can call you when they need to reorder of when you call they have a reference to know what you are talking about.  Now as far as the giveaways go heres what you can do.  Make Pendants and spoons.  These will be your freebies. When introducing yourself make sure you keep the names of these contacts in the note file you originally created during your re-con mission. If the shop is a franchise or is run by a manager and not the owner make sure to get their name and contact info. They may be open to give you their personal cell number which will make it easier to get in contact with them but don't abuse this. If upon your visit you only have an employee working make sure to still get the info of the buyer but also create a good repor with the employee, they can be your best advocate when it comes to getting your work in the shop. If you do just have a employee then bring them 1- pipe sample and 2- pendants. 1 for them and 1 for the mgr/owner. If you can give the shop owner or buyer one of each it will give them a physical reference and a gift to boot.  tell them the pendant is for them to have and the pipe is for them to sell and give them your MSRP for both. The MSRP is the manufactures suggested retail price which if you did your research of that shop, your pricing will fit right in with other items that are similar in style and pricing.  Try to keep your prices consistent across the board but yo will fin that some shops that r higher end and have a higher end demographic in their area will be willing to pay more for your work then say an area that isn't a financially wealthy. Along with your glass gifts and samples, its important that you also have marketing material which leads u to number 5..
5- stickers, fliers and business cards
       Along with your gifted pendant and sample hand pipe you will also need to bring along your marketing material   This is the best way to spread the word through out your community that YOU HAVE ARRIVED.  When it comes to stickers one thing I recommend you get made is a larger sticker that the shop can put on their front door or cases. Besides smaller stickers for the shops customers the larger stickers have the ability to become a semi-permanent marketing strategy giving you a longer advertising effect when it comes to branding yourself. If you don't have a logo or brand yet just a simple sticker made using a high quality photo of your glass and add your artists name will suffice.  There's many outlets for purchasing custom stickers which as aways I recommend going local but if you cant ill post links to several companies you can choose from That I recommend an use..  along with your stickers make sure you have business cards made. This is a cheap and simple way to give the shops and their customers a way to get in touch and follow you on your social platforms. its important to include your website or marketplace(if you have one)contact info including email.. if your on a social platform don't forget to include everyone of them from your titter handle to your IG acct.  this will give your followers a chance to stay up to date with you and your newer items along with a personal side to you and all your wackiness.   In a past episode I discussed why you should use your social media platforms as tool and to not rely on them to sell your work.  
If you follow these tips you will find that you'll create a strong foundation in your local community and these relationships will be ones to nurture and grow. These can lead to demonstrations at the shops and even the ability to sell work that is experimental as you learn and develop new techniques.  Make sure to stay in touch with these shops monthly If you set a call schedule to check in with these shops in a rotation you'll be able to keep consistent orders flying out of your studio and help you grow as an artists while increasing your profits!!