Watch the video below for an introduction to this post and to learn why I’m featuring Jenny for Follow Friday:
Mini Interview: Jenny discusses how she chooses her materials, a challenge that she’s faced in her creative business, and how she established her own eCommerce site.
1. One of the things that sets your lovely jewelry apart from other jewelry is the materials that you use. Can you tell us more about how you choose your materials?
Sure! I use natural materials wherever possible. The whole passionate driving force behind my business is authenticity. I feel that the closer we get to authenticity, the more meaningful and fulfilling our life experience becomes. Real gemstones carry a geologic history that you can’t feel from manufactured glass beads. The natural pebbles in my Rock Collection necklaces share that geologic history, but kick the fulfillment factor up a notch because I get them from a fellow handmade artisan. The pebbles carry the meaning that their natural history gave them and my purchasing them helps to support another authentic, handmade lifestyle. Then there’s the magic of my own, home grown job’s tears beads which comes not only from the fact that they’re a beautiful natural seed, but also from my experience in growing them and from their thousands of years of ancestral experience in being used as rosary beads, beads for African shaker gourds and as a grain crop! I’m ridiculously interested in exploring the reasons why these natural materials create this greater sense of fulfillment and I’m passionate about sharing that sense of fulfillment and meaning with others.
2. Starting a creative business is hard–a lot more difficult than most people imagine. What has been the most challenging thing that you’ve had to face with your creative business and how did you move past it?
I think the greatest challenge has been taking good photos. I haven’t moved past it, but I’ve definitely gotten them to an intermediate stage. I read a lot of articles which helped some, but what helped most was when my brother suggested I read my camera’s manual and play around with the settings. I take pictures in a big north window, with morning light, a white paper underneath the jewelry and white cardboard standing up on two sides to reflect light back on the jewelry. With my particular camera, it seems to work best to set it to the “little snowman” setting, up the exposure between +1/3 to +1 (depending on the light), choose the “little flower” setting (ie. macro), turn off flash and set the timer to 2 seconds (that gives me a little time to hold my breath and keep the camera steady). I’ve tried using a tripod, but I can’t get it into a good position and I just hate it, so I steady myself against the window and hold my breath. Even so, I usually have to fix the exposure and contrast and color balance in photoshop a little. Maybe a fancier camera would help, maybe not. It would certainly cost money, though, so I’m going to wait to find out.
3. You recently put together your own eCommerce site–CONGRATS! Is this something that you think most creative entrepreneurs can do or do you think you need to be pretty tech-savvy in order to make this happen?
Yay! Thank you, I’m really excited about it!! Yes, I think most creative entrepreneurs could make their own eCommerce site. I am fanatic about the idea that anybody can accomplish whatever they want to, but that they have to be dedicated to making it happen and believe in themselves. If you’re already getting the hang of running your business (taking awesome photos, writing engaging descriptions, making amazing things and people have started buying them regularly) then you’re the sort of creative entrepreneur with the determination and drive to learn the little bit of tech stuff that you need to know in order to get an eCommerce site up and running!
Here’s an outline of what I did to start my own self-hosted, WordPress eCommerce site: First, you need a web address and hosting service. You can buy both of these from the same company. (I highly recommend site5.com! I started out with godaddy and got the site all set up and it wasn’t working and they wouldn’t help me fix what the WordPress theme’s developer said they could fix. I switched to site5 at my theme developer’s suggestion and their excellent customer service and superior tech knowledge fixed it up lickety-split. More than worth the price difference!!) Anyway, then you need to install the free WordPress.org platform on your hosted site. A lot of hosting companies have a “WordPress app” which makes the install easier (so you don’t have to figure out how to ftp files back and forth, which is what I ended up doing because I didn’t know about the app!) Then you’ll be able to log in to your WordPress admin area to install plugins and themes and add content. You’ll need to buy a WordPress eCommerce theme (I’m very happy with mine from Roy of Splashing Pixels, he has great customer service, too!) The theme developer should have instructions on their site for installing the theme in your self-hosted WordPress site. I had to ftp mine up to my website on site5. You should be able to find easy to follow instructions for how to ftp the theme to your site from your theme developer. You’ll also need to install a free eCommerce shopping cart plugin (like WP-eCommerce) probably before installing the WordPress theme. Again, just read the theme developer’s instructions! 🙂 Then you get to do the fun stuff! Add new products, import your blog (another crazy adventure for another time!) create menus and stand-alone web pages. After you get it set up, adding products is just as easy as adding posts to a WordPress blog! (Also, always keep working back-up copies!! I changed a page name that I shouldn’t have and completely messed up my whole site! Luckily, site5 makes back-up copies of my site every night, unbeknownst to me, and, thanks to their amazing customer service, a working copy of my site was back up and running within 12 hours. *phew!*) Like everything with this creative business-owner shtuff, it’s all so scary, but super fun and rewarding, too!!