More than 350 crafty entrepreneurs (along with yours truly) gathered in Ventura last week to ignite their entrepreneurial business spirits and strengthen their skills in a creative (and fun!) three-day conference on all things makeable and saleable. With a schedule packed with panel discussions and DIY workshops with leading industry professionals in art, craft and food-centered small business, there was an embarrassment of riches to choose from.
One of the best workshops I attended was by Nancy Soriano, former editor of Country Living Magazine, co-founder (with Jo Packham, another dynamo who was also at Craftcation) of the Creative Connection Event, publishing director for craft at F+W Media, and currently an editorial/content strategy and brand architect consultant for media, commerce, and creative businesses, with clients like One Kings Lane and Etsy. The title was “Launching a Creative Business,” but much of her advice was equally useful for those who are already in a creative business.
The number one thing—which seems painfully obvious but surprisingly isn’t, is “love what you do.” Soriano advises, “to be successful in business you have to differentiate. Know your market, engage them and tell your story.” She also covered topics like finances, pricing, market research, marketing and social media, legal business structure, branding, the importance of creating a supportive network of friendships and colleagues, daily schedules, and most importantly, staying focused! All in all it was an impressive amount of useful information in just a couple of hours.
Also interesting was a panel discussion titled “Backstories Behind Successful Entrepreneurs,” where life coach and author and “the when I grow up coach” Michelle Ward talked about topics like knowing it was time to ditch the dreaded day job (“trust yourself and your own passion and motivation”) and DIY home decor website Curbly.com owner Chris Gardner suggested getting rid of debt if you want to go into business for yourself. “Think about how little money you think you can get by on,” he advises. Nicole Stevenson—co-founder of Craftcation as well as the Patchwork Show and her own clothing line—suggests bartering for services early on. But the biggest thing in running your own business, she says, “is knowing yourself and what you feel comfortable with.”
Keynote speaker Lisa Congdon—an author and illustrator whose clients include the Museum of Modern Art, Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Chronicle Books, the Land of Nod, Harper Collins Publishing, the Obama campaign and Simon & Schuster, among others—gave a very inspiring talk titled “Embrace the Abyss and Other Lessons.”
There were also plenty of opportunities for people who weren’t interested in business to spend the entire Craftcation weekend cooking, sewing, cheese making, canning, preserving, playing with washi tape and jewelry making with crafty celebrities like the Food Network‘s Aida Mollenkamp, Mighty Ugly creator Kim Werker and epicuring.com co-founder Susie Wyshak, among others.
The conference plans to be back next spring, so stay tuned for details. Meanwhile, for more information visit craftcationconference.com.
.Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on April 9, 2014.