Don’t the weeks come around quickly? Tuesday again already! So rolling back the hours, where were we last week? Ah yes, last week I was telling you about my very first product, the Victorian Rhyme Chart. So the old boy, the sales rep, encouraged me to open up other product doors:
Magnets, Stickers or Stamps;
those were the logical follow-up options at that time with ye old Rhyme Chart.
For me, it made sense to be able to move the letters around, so stickers weren’t an option, which left Magnets and Stamps. Now stamps appealed to me, because stamping sounded much more creative for kids than slapping magnets on a fridge door! At that time, all stamps were wooden. So how did we arrive at transparent stamps? In a moment of Clarity.
I remember it so well. It was my birthday, and my brother, Steve, the kids and I took a drive down Highway No. 1 to Santa Barbara for a weekend. Let me go and dig out a photo or two...
Have I ever told you I have a gorgeous brother? Well, he was instrumental in getting Clarity off the ground, and he is still always somewhere very nearby. I love him dearly.
So there we were, wandering around Santa Barbara in the sunshine. Check out Baby Mark in the backpack! My God! He's 6'6"" now! And little Princess Grace. She always was a doll.
And there was this shop, called Stampa Barbara. Well, we had to go in, didn’t we? It was amazing. A whole shop, full from ceiling to floor with stamps, wooden stamps.
And the conversation ran just like this:
“Blimey, Steve, look at this lot!”
“What are they?”
“Stamps. Wall to wall stamps.”
“It would make more sense if you could see through them”
“Maybe we should make see-through stamps”
And that was it. Claritystamps were born. Or at least the idea was. But there’s a big difference between having an idea and taking it through to product completion!
So we set about converting that thought into a transparent stamp, which took a while, because people thought we were a bit mad. But we did it! We designed a perspex handle which children could easily hold; we still use them today. In the beginning, we used to line-bend them - each and every one. That meant bending the acrylic over hot wires. What a job! Every stamp came in a little box. Why? To shield it from the California sunshine! I also hand-stamped every single box-sleeve. Why? Because it was cheaper than printing!
In order to fund production, we kept on selling Rhyme Charts, and I started a very lucrative little sideline once I had a set of stamps, making children’s handpainted name plaques. I would stamp out the name, paint the letters, mount and frame. You could buy them unmounted or mounted, and I charged by the letter. So I took commissions and sold loads. All I did was paint letters for a while! But it made good money and it was a means to an end; it paid for the materials we needed to make the stamps. I cannot believe I have found these old photos!
Where did we sell? Well, the old boy, the sales rep, still got us orders from shops, but we also did street fairs and art shows. Hey! It was sunny California! When shops first wanted our charts and stamps, it was so very flattering, but it soon became clear that they wanted everything half-price, and only ever paid us when they wanted more! Flattery wasn’t paying the bills, but the street fairs and markets were.
I used to spend hours on setting up little tents in the streets of San Jose, San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Monica. It was hard, hot work, but Steve and I did have a laugh.
I would tell him to stop frightening the customers! He would say they fancied him.
If he got fed up, I would tell him to go for a walk
or look after the kids!
and I would take over. Check out blondie!
I soon figured out that ladies wanted other designs, so I drew a line of flower stamps, too. Many of you recently bought the fuchsias, the maple leaves and the gerbera!
Those were the days, eh. But with the power of hindsight and a business hat on, one of the best things that happened to the young Claritystamp Company was that a Sales Rep took us on first. Quite aside from getting us into a load of shops, he also helped us establish our prices sensibly.
Since we are opening our can of P's each Tuesday, and today is P for Price, let’s just look at that. Because the rep was selling into shops for us, and then adding his cut, that forced us to charge more than we would have, had we started out selling directly to the public. The reason I mention this is not to divulge any big pricing secrets, but to simply advise anybody reading this who wants to sell their products, that they should always factor in the possibility of a potential shop account AND a rep. Let’s say you make a doll. The doll costs you £10 in materials. So you charge £20 and you’ve double your money. Well, yes and no. If the price tag is now £20, and a shopkeeper comes along and wants to sell the doll in his shop, he will only want to give you £10 for it, so he can sell it at £20 - the same as you were. At this point, not only have you only just broken even, you haven’t even paid yourself for making the doll! Then imagine the shopkeeper wants 20 of them! Then he’ll want bulk discount, too! How are you going to pay anybody to help you? Gasp. SO. A factor of 4 will always cover you. It will cover costs, labour and wholesale prices, if you get to that place. Oh, and taxes. If you just price the doll at £40, you always have price leverage; you can always do a deal. But if you are working to the absolute rock bottom price, where can you go from there? Know your worth, know your market, but always think the film through to the end.
I have so enjoyed looking back to the market days in California.
We are all the sum of our experience, right?
Next Tuesday let’s talk about P for Placement.
Remind me to tell you about the Chilli Cook-off in Folsom!
Don't forget to leave a lovely comment,
because there's a £50 Clarity-Blog Candy Prize draw on Friday!