When I first started crafting handmade jewelry, I had no idea what that hobby was going to become! Since my childhood, I loved DIY before the term became mainstream. These days, I’m “cooking” new, handmade products in my kitchen. Once per month, you can smell all the sweet spices radiating while I create air freshener sprays and soy candles.
Opening up a wholesale division wasn’t quite my initial plans for any of the GEHATI products. Initially, I had mainly structured to sell online. But, in business, you have to be open to your sales plans changing.
If you’re at all like me, the ultimate dream is to see your handmade products turn into a brand. But, if you’re in the early stages of business, you may be unsure how to get there.
Along the way, I’ve learned that retail stores have helped me take my business to the next level. You may be wondering one critical point, though. How is it possible to do that if you’re still making your products at home or in a small studio?
Well, I’ve learned a lesson or two along the way that I’d love to share with you. This is the story behind GEHATI, and how I’m selling my own handmade products in local businesses.
How to Sell Your Handmade Products Locally in a Non-Salesy Way
The ultimate goal is to land that dream account with several stores nationwide. However, realistically, you should start locally to get your feet a little wet. There are a few reasons why it’s wise to start out small and local first. It’s better to make your mistakes on a smaller scale than larger.
There’s a huge difference in dropping the ball on one account versus 100 stores under one umbrella.
So, one day, a friend of mine went into her local gas station. At the time, she smelled like a scent from a fragrance that I offer. The owner loved the smell and asked her what fragrance she was wearing. From there, they started a conversation about my company and scented products. The marketing course for GEHATI changed forever!
After that, the owner was interested in having a meeting with me to carry my line of multipurpose air freshener sprays. Ultimately, that’s how I landed my first convenience store.
As easy as that sounds, it’s far from easy.
From that first retail experience, I had to learn to be extremely strategic. Everything you say and do matters because it can make or break your business. I’ll go into more detail but here’s a quick summary: you need to do your research, you have to keep the bigger picture in mind, and you have to be confident in yourself and your products.
In other words, I’m using an old school method of getting into local retailers.
It may sound really bold, but this is what I do. I simply walk into the business with samples, wholesale line sheets, and any other information I believe is important. These components of my business help retail business owners learn about the GEHATI brand and products.
I’m going to be very honest… business owners will either be very resistant or receptive to hearing you out. It really depends on which mood you catch them in. If they aren’t interested, don’t give up! For every business owner that rejects you, there are 5 that will say yes! They just have to know that your products exist first.
So, you’re walking into your first local business with your handmade products in hand… now what?
Never stop at sales associates or cashiers.
You always want to speak to a manager or owner. Owners give their managers buying power. Sometimes, they will take their managers word on picking up products to sell in their store.
The best approach is to have more of a conversation style than a sales pitch.
The key here is to avoid sounding salesy. Retail business owners see so many people a day trying to pitch to them, that it will appear that you're another number. It’s important to creatively think of a subtle approach you can use.
Instead, you should be confident and explain the story behind your business:
- How did you get started making handmade products?
- Why are you still making them now? What’s lighting you up?
In other words, what’s the story behind your brand? Why does it exist? And why do you think customers are buying your handmade products? Most importantly, you want to present a marketing strategy that'll show the owner how you sell your products. For any owner, they are in business just like you to make money.
Don’t forget your handmade products in the process.
You want to make sure your price points can be as low as possible without compromising quality ingredients used. However, every opportunity isn’t an opportunity. You want to make sure you’re still making money. There will be times you feel anxious for a retailer to pick up your line, but they want to pay a price so low that you are barely making the cost back.
Let it go and move on to the next retailer that will pay your price. Only make adjustments if you can really afford to. For example, if your profit margins are high and you can knock off a few bucks, then do so to get the ball rolling.
In order to grow your business, you have to build real, authentic relationships.
It doesn’t stop at landing the account, you have to then nourish the relationships with everyone involved from sales associate (who could push and promote for you) to owner. You want to make sure they see your face a couple times a month— this includes checking in on them, refilling your display, and getting any necessary feedback.
And don’t forget to keep pushing!
You’re going to hear a lot of no’s. At times, it can feel very discouraging! I’ve learned to not take it personally. Every business owner is different, and they have a right to work their business as they fit, just like I’m doing with GEHATI. Like I said, for every person that tells you no, there are more people out there who will give you an enthusiastic YES!
At the end of the day, I get to recharge with some amazing shower bombs. Sometimes, a long, hot shower is the best way to relax and clear the mind! As an entrepreneur, I'm sure you have your own ritual that works for you.