If you are a handmade artist, every decision you make helps strengthen your brand identity.
From the packaging customers see when they open the box to the colors, textures and materials that make your items stand out, every element of the items you sell is unique because they’re chosen by you.
Buyers want to know where and how your products are being made, and they appreciate when sellers provide that kind of information in the shopping experience.
Each of those decisions is also an opportunity to create a business that reflects you as a person.
Here are some tips to help you find and use responsibly-sourced materials:
1. Quality Supplies
Before you think about your supplies, reflect on the qualities that matter to you, your brand and your buyers.
Here are a few questions you need to ask to your self:
- Have you considered the impact of your supplies on the environment?
- What about the working conditions under which they are being produced?
- How much information do your buyers expect you to know about each of the materials that make up your final product?
Reflecting on these types of questions will help you prioritize the factors that are important to you as you make sourcing decisions.
A good starting point is to define what responsibility means to you and your business.
Remember that this is a time for you to think not just about what your business currently is, but what you want it to be. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious and bold when you’re asking yourself these questions.
2. Research Information Of Your Supplies
Now that you’ve identified what really matters, it’s time to dig in and do some research. Many people think this research is difficult and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The creativity that you channel through your business can be easily applied here.
Start by taking a holistic look at the lifecycle of your product and imagining each step of the process. Be honest with yourself about what you do and don’t know — this will help you identify areas of focus and opportunity.
For example, do you know how the materials used to create the supplies you use are grown, processed and assembled? These processes often take place separately and in vastly different geographical locations.
A simple cotton T-shirt, for example, can be broken down into the following processes: farming, ginning, spinning, knitting, finishing, cutting and sewing. Do you know where your cotton is grown and by whom? What types of processes do they use? Now that you’ve identified each steps of the process, you can begin to ask and research these questions.
If you want to transition from traditionally-grown cotton to organic cotton, make sure you have thoroughly researched the pros and cons of using organic cotton. Organic cotton greatly reduces the use of pesticides and fertilizer, while helping maintain soil fertility. These benefits come at a cost, though — organic materials are sometimes more expensive. All of the choices you make will have advantages and disadvantages like these.
Thorough research can help identify these differences and guide you to the right decision for your business.
Understanding how your materials go from conception to completion is essential to making educated decisions. Sometimes your research may even change your opinion on a specific material and take your process in a new and exciting direction.
3. Tell Your Story
Once you’ve done the steps above, now it’s time to put it in motion and tell your product story. If you, say, set a milestone of understanding how an organic material will change the production methods for your products, now is the time to order samples, experiment, try new equipment and talk to other makers in the community.
Don’t forget to update your About page and listings to include these changes. What you’re doing is challenging and complicated — shine a light on the thoughtfulness you’ve brought to these decisions. Many buyers appreciate the openness that you can bring to the supply chain. It’s a great way to engage with your buyers and social media followers.
Integrating more of your brand values into the sourcing decisions you make is an exciting opportunity, but it’s not without challenges. Being realistic about where you can start and celebrating your accomplishments as you go can make these challenges easier to overcome.
With enough planning and patience, you can source supplies in a way that aligns with your values — and make running your creative business even more rewarding.