It's been a busy week and I kept looking longingly at my yarn and Crochet Ever After Pattern book by Brenda K B. Anderson sitting on my coffee table. I have been wanting to make the Thumbelina Doll and Dragon Neckwarmer. It's hard to find blocks of time to crochet when I'm busy raising a small business!
This past summer I found some time to crochet scarves and texting gloves for holiday gifts. I used the basket weave stitch and popcorn stitch to make both traditional and infinity scarves that my daughter is shown modeling.
The stitches came from a 1987 Leisure Arts Leaflet by Darla Sims, "63 Easy To Crochet Pattern Stitches Combine to Make An Heirloom Afghan". I've had the book since the 80's when I was learning how to crochet. I remember agonizing for hours trying to figure out the popcorn and basket weave stitches. When I finally figured it out; the stitches became my favorites. Believe it or not, you can still find this 1987 leaflet for sale in the Lonestarblondie Etsy Shop.
Now, I can go on the internet and get free video tutorials to help me when I get stuck on a pattern.
Brittany at B.hooked Crochet shared a wonderful video tutorial for the basket weave stitch.
Also, check out the popcorn stitch video along with other tutorials and yarns at
newstitchaday knitting and crochet video tutorials.
Emily was also crocheting this summer. She had received a special request to crochet a Thomas the Tank Engine. She had been unable to find a pattern that she liked so she created her own and documented it with photographs and step by step instructions. She decided she would like to sell her crochet pattern on Etsy to help with college expenses.
I did some research about selling crochet patterns and learned that there are many things that Emily will need to consider. If you have been thinking about selling your crochet patterns; check out these articles.
Emily is currently looking for 5 people to test her Thomas The Tank Engine Pattern. If you are interested in testing and critiquing her pattern; let us know in the comments below and we'll send a PDF of the pattern to you.
5 Things I Learned About Writing Crochet Patterns From My Tech Editor: Guest Post By Sara Duggan
Listing a Digital Item-Etsy Help Article
How to Sell Your Crochet Patterns by Melissa Mall
I am continuously looking for ways to improve our business. I read articles, take online classes, and talk about ways to make it better with friends and family. I view shows on TV and read articles about looking at processes, people, and the work environment when trying to improve a business. This blog is about my "behind the scenes" experience with improving one aspect of our business, Shipping.
I felt like we were putting alot of hours into shipping. I mapped out the process as you see in the photo and kept track of the time it takes for certain tasks. Jerry was manually entering about 70% of the addresses into the Endicia postage system we were using. We were also both spending about an hour or more each evening changing the status of an order to shipped and manually entering tracking information into each online store.
I was discussing my findings from mapping out the steps in shipping with my daughter. She described a software shipping program that would download the address and change the shipping status in the stores automatically. She works in e-commerce and her company used this type of program. She suggested I do some research on Shipworks, ShipStation, and other shipping programs.
I did the research and decided that I would test out ShipStation. They offered a free one month trial and appeared to have the options we needed for automating the manual entry of addresses and order updates. Jerry was skeptical about making a change; so he also kept the subscription with the Endicia shipping program as a backup.
One year later; we are using ShipStation and continue to have Endicia as our backup shipping program. Jerry no longer manually enters shipping addresses. We don't spend an hour or two in the online stores changing the status of an order to shipped and entering tracking information. It has completely automated the data entry part of shipping. As a result, we have more time for a date night and more energy for many other creative aspects of the business. Jerry can paint more eyes and build more tools. I have more time to update photographs and listings, read articles and take online courses to improve my small business skill set.
If you read my last post "My Five Aha Moments..." you know that we recently moved GlassEyesOnLine. Before the move; the physical space of our shipping department was located in less than 20 square feet. It consisted of a desk; two computers, a scale and printer located in the same room as inventory, packing, and painting. Packing and shipping materials and supplies were put where ever we could find space. It was crowded, unorganized and prone to disruption and errors.
Now, GlassEyesOnLine has a 100 square foot room designated for one activity, Shipping. The Shipping room includes one computer with 2 monitors, a postage scale, and printer. Packing and shipping materials are now very easy to find on shelves located in the same space. The environment is more conducive to concentrating on shipping without disruption caused by other business activities. The space also is a time saver for locating packing supplies and monitoring the inventory of these supplies.
Over the past year we have made some significant changes in Shipping at GlassEyesOnLine. It started with those Workflow Process Charts I posted above. We continue to look for ways to work faster and smarter.
I am always interested in talking with other small business owners about ways they have improved their small business. Do you know about a new app or other tool that helps with running a small business?
You can e-mail us or better yet; comment below. We'd love to share information and exchange ideas for other ways to save more time for more date nights!
We have been running glasseyesonline in approximately 600 square feet of space for the past few years. That included inventory, packing, shipping, painting eyes, building craft tools, and office space. We have been bursting at the seams for a while now and really needed more space to grow. After a long search we found a new space and spent the last week moving in to it. Is your small business growing out of it's current space? Are you thinking about moving? I jotted down some notes during our move of the things I wanted to share with you. These are My Five Aha Moments: Five Things To Do when moving your small business.
#1 Transfer Utilities Before Move In Day
That old saying that the devil is in the details is so true! Jerry and I had planned to move in starting at 7am. We found out on move in day that the electricity was turned off by the previous tenant. That meant there were no lights and air conditioning. We had to re-group and get over to the electric company to get the power converted to our name before we could begin move in. That took a day out of our schedule and brings me to #2.
#2 There are hidden expenses with moving.
We planned for the increase in rent and utilities. The other expenses such as deposits for utility conversion, lock changes, a new security system, internet access, and shelving were an after thought that certainly impacts the bottom line for the year. Moving really is a project to manage and there needs to be a timeline, budget, etc. We did save a tremendous amount of money on security and internet upgrade and installation labor. Our friends with expertise in that area volunteered to get everything set up for us during the move.
#3 Feed and Water Each Other.
Jerry and I both can get so focused on managing a project that we forget to take care of ourselves and each other. If we are getting short tempered it usually means we are hungry or tired. We were blessed with friends and some fellow congregants from our church that volunteered to help with painting and moving through out the week. I tried to make sure we all had breaks and were fed and hydrated. Sometimes we fixed the meals; and sometimes we went out to eat. One evening, Jerry, David and I took a break and went to Hunting Island State Park and sat on the beach in zero gravity chairs. We watched the Pelicans and Dolphins while the sun was setting. It was a relaxing moment in a week filled with unexpected challenges.
#4 Get The "It's an Exciting Adventure" Mindset
I can be a little bit like the Rabbit character in Winnie the Pooh at times. I don't really like moving or unexpected challenges that inevitable come up during a major project. I realized about day two that I needed to change my mindset and experience the move as part of that exciting adventure of Being Married and having a small business to raise.
#5 Take Some Before, During, and After Photos
We did not take photos of the organization of the inventory before disassembly for the move. We had to rely on our memory of the organization of the inventory when reassembling the shelves in the new space.
Fortunately, I did remember to take a few photos of our friends that volunteered their time and expertise to help us move. I am so thankful for the gift of wonderful friends that rallied around to support and help us during the move of our small business.
I am looking forward to working in our new space. I expect to see improvements in several areas of our business including our speed, efficiency, and accuracy with picking, painting and shipping orders. In my next Blog I will be focusing on our wonderful new shipping area.
If you have had experience with moving a small business, we'd love to read about it. Any challenges? Any similarities or differences in your move experience from ours? Anything you noticed that was different with your business after you made the move? It's your turn to comment below.
We have gotten some e-mails and phone calls from small business owners and inquiries from friends and family.
What is this GlassEyesOnLine Customer Creations Site All about?
Why did you decide to start it and is it worth the effort to have one?
How Customer Creations Site Started
I was taking an online class in 2009. I was learning to work with a template based website called Weebly. During this time, Jerry was getting photos from his customers that he would proudly share with me. He would say
"Look what this customer made with our eyes!!"
I offered to post them on a weebly site for Jerry. I thought it would be a great way to practice the new skills I was learning. That is basically how GlassEyesOnLine Customer Creations Weebly Site was born.
On the home page I posted our vision for the site.
This website was created for "those of you who like to buy and sell, learn and grow, design and build, create and display, consult and teach..."
We invited artists and crafters to share their creations, ideas, tips, and tutorials for using glass eyes and plastic safety eyes. Anyone could e-mail photos, links, and other information that they wanted to share and with their permission we would post it.
My experience posting on the site has grown in six years. My first post was of a photo e-mailed by a customer of her Kitten. She used Glass Eyes with Wire Loops. I was not yet familiar with how to create a link to a product or another website.
Over the next few years I built some new skills posting on the website. Now, when I receive photos from customers; I can create a slide show and link the photos to their shop or website as you can see in the example above of photos sent in by Carla Stey from the Netherlands posted in August, 2013. The photos above are directly linked to her Etsy Shop.
Customer Creations Around The World
We have customers living in Australia, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Germany, Russia, Iraq and many other places around the world. When I am looking at photos of their creations, I feel hopeful for the future of our world because I think of art and crafts as a bridge that connects us to each other.
How Tips and Tutorials Solves a Problem
Jerry's Tips and Tricks page on the customer creations site also solved a business problem. Jerry would get similar questions from different customers asking for help and information about various topics. It was taking time from his day to answer all the questions and slowing down his ability to get the products packed and shipped in a timely manner. It was also cutting into our marriage and family time. We came up with a plan to post information in the customer creations site that would answer some of the recurring questions. Jerry can now copy and paste the link to the page that answers some of those repeat questions. This saves so much time and gives the customer a well researched response to their question. Now, when we see a trend in a question coming up repetitively; we will do some research and post information that both our current and potential future customers can use as a reference.
How Customers Find Us
Some of our customers found our products while searching on the internet for examples of arts and crafts of interest to them. A photo we had posted on the customer creations site would show up in their search results. They would see links to our products and other photos of creations. Other customers found our products while searching for how to tips and tutorials. While the site involves time, money, and labor; we also view it as a way to show what our customers create and sell with our products. It also solves problems for our business and gives us a tool for social marketing.
Choose Your Favorite Page on Customer Creations Site
What do you think about having websites and blogs that are designed for the customer?
Do you have a favorite page on the Glass Eyes On Line Customer Creations Site?
Is there a page you would like to see started?
Vote for your favorite page of the customer creations site in the comments section below by October 31, 2015 and Jerry will send you a complimentary set of 12 Pair of 6mm Black Plastic Safety Eyes.
Etsy customers are giving Jerry's Insertion Tool for Safety Eyes Five Stars.
"The item shipped very quickly. As for the item itself, it's magic. It snaps the backs on to safety eyes very quickly and securely with much less work than having to use pliers and hammers and such things. I highly recommend both the seller and this item."
You can read more reviews on the Insertion Tool in our GlassEyesOnLine Etsy Shop.
Some of our customers with arthritis and other muscular or neurologic conditions that impair their ability to use their hands have e-mailed to thank Jerry for making a tool that helps them to be able to continue working with their handcrafts.
Jerry has been building every Insertion Tool by hand for over six years.
In January, 2014 Abby Glassenberg wrote a review of the tool. Read Abby's review of the Insertion Tool For Safety Eyes complete with step by step photo tutorial of how to use the tool.
I also love Abby's 1 minute video tutorial How to Use Safety Eyes. I refer customers that are new to using safety eyes to this video because she demonstrates installing safety eyes by hand.
The Two Inch (50mm) Wood Ball Handle is a Comfortable Fit in the palm of your hand. The Small Insertion Tool is designed for small plastic washers that fit on 6mm and larger Plastic Safety Eyes OR 5mm and larger Plastic Safety Noses. You can also use this size with the MW-1 Metal Safety Washers.
The Large Insertion Tool is designed for plastic washers that fit on 9mm and larger Plastic Safety Eyes OR 11mm and larger Plastic Safety Noses. You can also use this size with MW-2 Metal Safety Washers.
The holidays are coming and we'll be freshening up the Gift Sets Section of the Etsy Shop.
What kind of sets and assortments would you like to find for yourself or give for gifts?
Have you used Jerry's insertion tool?
Are there other tools that you like to use when working with your craft?
It's your turn to share. We'd love to read your comments! ;-)