First it begins with the product. Is your product one of many similar products available. I am fairly lucky at my market. No one has else sells crocheted toys exclusively. There is one other person, and she crochets 3-foot long snakes, finger puppets, a few other toys, preserves, dish clothes, etc. A sort of mixed table. Every week Tara selling her croissants, sells out, and my competition, expands on to two tables. Sure this may seem like an advantage, however, our style of dolls is very different: I have sewn on limbs, hair, bright colours, and a wide variety of options (just look to the right to see some of the items I have for sale on ETSY). But I also must point out her finger puppets are amazing (about $1 each).
We also target two different markets. Her prices on average are half the price of mine, but more basic. Her cotton dish clothes are 3 for $5, averaging $1.66 per cloth. Given that the yarn in each costs a minimum of $0.60, her profit on each is about $1. I charge for time, not materials, at about $5-$7/hour (still below minimum wage in our area, but I take breaks, watch TV, chat while crocheting, so I am not as efficient as I could be), and I ignore the cost of yarn.
I am using Red Heart acrylic yarn for less than $4/ball. I can make about 10 toys from that ball, putting my base cost close to hers. But for me to find selling crocheted toys worth the time, and perhaps make a small business out of it, I need to be compensated for my time. While my competition, probably sells more items than I do, we probably make the same overall profit.
Other competition I have include, other crocheters, although they are no longer direct competition, since I no longer make blankets, slippers, etc, and the baby products table which has toy cubes, but again don't really make toys. I probably lose some customers to the baby table, but our prices are very comparable, so I don't worry about it.
I don't make jewelry, but at my market, there are probably 7 or so jewelry vendors, comprising about 15% of the market. There mostly assemblers, some (3-4) can sell a pair of earrings for about $5, one specializing in chunky jewelry selling sets for $20, and one selling handmade glass beads and using sterling silver who because of the quality and time of her work sells her earrings for $20-$25, a fantastic price for the amount of work and cost of production. At first it looks like the different jewelers are targeting different markets, but this is not always the case. Probably only 3 jewelers do extremely well. Many people don't. I have chatted with some of these vendors and some are considering changing their specialties- much like I had to stop with the purses, slippers, clothes, and blankets, but keeping the parts they love: making beads, matching colours. Some of the areas of change that are being considered include, making stitch markers, selling individual beads, paper weights, etc.
Being successful selling means being flexible and finding your own unique niche! (an old picture showing the variety of items I was selling, at this point I was making the shift towards toys)
Seeing that my main source for sales is at my local farmers market and in the next few weeks local fresh produce will be coming with the farmers, I have started to make a line of produce and food: beginning with carrots. They seemed like the most logical place to begin.
Carrots begin with a basic cone shape, something I have been using for the past year for my mermaid tails, although the carrots are larger than Maude's tail and smaller than Mira's tail. The leaves are made using a central chain for the stem and loops of chains off of either side. I worked the carrots using the back loop only to give it the characteristic rings. I must say that I have been quite impressed with how well they have turned out. If possible I am going to add something to the inside to turn them into rattles. I'm thinking that bells might work. I will keep you updated.
On another note, today is fudge making day! I make two double batches of fudge and a batch of peanut brittle on Fridays before the Farmers' Market. Lately the number of people selling fudge has increased (I used to be the only person, now there are 5 or so), I have loyal, regular customers. Why make fudge if I am a crocheter? Crochet sales are not as high enough to make me particularly confident so I make fudge each week to offset the cost of renting the table. Crocheted toys will last almost forever, limiting how often the same customer will buy something, but fudge is something people will come back for each week.
Hmmm... if there are mermaids, then there are probably mermen as well. Barbie had her Ken, afterall (although now she is a liberated woman). The mermaids are much more popular items at the market, there is a small niche for the men.
I had a great day at market. Today I sold mermaids, lions, monkeys, and horses. I thought I would blog which items I sold in case there is anyone following my blog that is trying to find out which toys are popular. I also have an order for next week. On May 2 (I will not be at the Dartmouth Farmers' Market that weekend) the market will be opening at 7am and the table fee will be increasing. The earlier start time generally means that the farmers will be bringing in their produce. Hopefully it will also signify an increase in customers.
Today was our first truly beautiful spring day. We had sunny skies and warm temperatures. Much nicer than last weekend's flurries and rain. The market was busy from 9:30am until 11am, but it greatly died out after that. I imagine most people were wanting to spend the afternoon outdoors.
Where will I be on May 2? I will be attending a craft fair at a school is Muscadoboit. There is also a Spring/Summer Farmers' Market in this community that I hope to be attending on Sundays beginning in June.
Success! I have been meaning to write the pattern for Maude the Mermaid for a long time now- finally it is done and available on ETSY. I currently have one copy available at a time of any item on Etsy, and they are relisted as they are sold.
Maude was the 4th mermaid that I made. The first two were hideous. I know mermaids are imaginary, but a strong imagination was needed for the first two. Number three was very similar to Maude, with the only variations being the eyes, thumbs on the hands, and using a smaller hook size for the fins.
Along with Maude, there is Mona with her large, loopy hair, Mona who is 5 inches longer than Maude and Mona, and a yet to be named 3 inch smaller mermaid. Any M name suggestions are welcome for the smaller mermaid.
Now that this pattern is finished, I'm not sure what my next focus will be. Tomorrow is all about getting ready for the Dartmouth Farmers' Market and getting ready for a visit from my future in-laws :) I'd better start working on tidying the spare room/yarn room. Yup, the yarn stash has grown to the point where it gets its own room.
I've wanted to have a blog for a while now, but until now, I didn't know what to write about. Crocheting has been a hobby of mine for the past 20 years. In the past 18 months I've become a crochet addict. At first, I found many free patterns from Crochet Pattern Central. For the past year, I have been working on my own patterns. Many prototypes were horrific and became toys for my two cats. Finally I am getting the hang of it.
About a year ago I began selling my creations at my local farmers market. At first I sold a hodge podge of items (blankets, clothes, pins, toys, dish clothes, etc). Eventually I settled on toys- they are relatively quick to make and a great creative outlet. This picture was taken before the market opened on a Saturday morning before Easter. I have recently started a frequent buyer programme for my clients. I am fortunate to have fantastic regulars for both my toys and my sweets (fudge and peanut brittle)
To expand my homebase, I also sell my toys on ETSY. It is a fantastic website specializing in handmade products.
My future goals are to expand my toys to include produce (so far, I have made carrots and eggs) and to begin selling my patterns. I've been hesitant to sell my patterns for fear of copying. Hopefully having a clear copyright on the patterns will help me there.