Creative Entrepreneurship

I recently heard from one of our newest members, Melissa Griffo of Lovely Lyla Jean. I met Melissa in July at the Brainery Bazaar, in which we both participated. This is a high quality show held at Rochester Brainery on the 2nd Saturday of each month. (I recommend visiting it to see for yourself – the next one is Saturday, Sept 14.)

She recently messaged through Facebook with a question. As I typed out my answer, it occurred to me that others might be interested in the nuts & bolts of my answer. And then I thought this might be a nice occasional feature of this blog. Not that I have all the answers by any means, but I’m always happy to help as best I can. And feel free to leave comments about your experience with the topic, in the comments. It takes a village. 🙂

If you have a question, use the Ask Stefani button over in the sidebar on the right. I’ll use any questions (with your permission and links) that I think might be of general interest to others.

I’m hoping for some guidance:) I am interested in attempting to carry some of my items inside of local retail stores but I’m a little overwhelmed at where to start. I notice that you sell your art at several establishments in and around Rochester. How would I find out who carries local artisans work and once I find that out, what is the best way to approach a shop about carrying my items?

Thanks so much for any advice you can give!


There’s a page on our website called Shops – which has a sizeable list of artist friendly stores. I would start by reviewing those for which ones you think might be a good fit.

If it was me, I’d go to the shop to see it in person, to see what kind of vibe it has. You can’t usually get vibes from a website! You can also gather other intel: Do they already carry similar product? Are there customers in the store? Is the store clean and items nicely displayed? Is the staff friendly and knowledgeable about the artists and their goods?

If you visit a store and feel good about it, ask an employee if they take artist goods. If yes – how does that work – consignment? co-op? wholesale? If you are interested, ask if you can leave your business card for the owner and when would be a good time to call to set up an appointment to show her/him what you make. If the store is small, chances are good the owner is there and might ask you if you have your stuff with you. At which point you run out to your car and bring in 5-6 things to show him/her.

I wouldn’t walk in with your stuff, like you expect the owner to drop what they are doing and speak with you on the spot.

Wholesale is where the store buys your product from you outright, then resells at whatever price they see fit. The traditional “rule” is you price your work to sell wholesale, then double it to sell retail. I think this is a sticky wicket these days, especially with the economy in flux, as it always is it seems. Personally, I sell to my wholesale accounts at 30% off retail. That seems like a good compromise that store owners and I have felt comfortable with. Right or wrong, that’s what I do.

Consignment is where you own the product until it sells to a customer, and only when it sells do you get paid. The store keeps a percentage for selling it for you. I’ve seen splits range from 20/80 to 50/50. (That would be 20% to the store, 80% to you.)

A co-op typically involves you working in the store for a specific number of hours/month in addition to a consignment agreement for your sales. I’ve been in a couple of co-ops that I think ranged from 4 hours per week to 1 or 2 days per month. I long ago decided that wasn’t workable for me so I’m not sure of current conditions.

Hope some of that helps!

As I told Melissa, I think I’ve only approached 3 of the stores that I sell through. Because my hand stitched paper art is fairly unusual, store owners and managers usually approach me (at shows, typically). For 2 of the 3 stores that I approached, I had a “lead” from someone else selling in that store, so that was sort of a nice intro in that it gave us something to talk about and hopefully served as a good referral from someone the store already knows and respects.

Wait – I just remembered there’s a 4th store I approached, Village Gifts, in Fairport – long out of business now. It was the first time I ever did anything like that and I was a nervous wreck! So I understand how intimidating it can be. But now experience has taught me that, like craft show organizers, store owners needs us artists as much as we need them. If you get turned down, it just wasn’t a good fit or the right time. They just freed you up to find an even better opportunity!

As I say to myself damn near daily: Nothing is ever as hard as it is the first time. In fact, I look forward to getting the first whatever under my belt so I can get on to the better/easier times.


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