Making the Most Out of Artshows, Festivals & Craft Fairs

By: Charlene Davisphoto

With the arrival of sunny skies and warm weather, outdoor festivals and gala events are springing up all across the country. Many artisans prefer to display and sell their work at art shows, craft fairs, and farmers’ markets for exposure and networking opportunities. And often when an artisan participates in the same shows year after year, he or she will develop a following. Some do this year-round on a full-time basis, while others may do it seasonally.

Participating in shows and festivals gives potential customers the opportunity to see your work up close and personal. People develop a better appreciation if they can touch and feel the products. Jancik Arts International (http://www.jancikarts.com/), is a world-renowned artisan studio specializing in stained glass ceiling domes and vertical flat glass for travel and leisure. They typically exhibit in large, national expositions such as the Hospitality Design Expo. Their original stained glass pieces are too large for display purposes; however, show attendees can still view authentic material such as a curved glass panel sample of their stained glass dome product, a small scale 3-D model of one of their infamous ceiling domes, and a sample of their new faux casted glass. Angelique Jackson, Chief Designer and President, says, "It's important to appeal to the aesthetic sensibility of designers (and people) and to present actual product, as they are very tactile driven.”

New exhibitors typically start with local level events sponsored by schools, churches, and community groups. Once you have some experience with setting up booths and are comfortable showing your work, you can move on to bigger festivals and shows in your state or region. After your application to a show or festival has been accepted, the next step is to find out what will be provided and what you need to bring. For outdoor festivals, exhibitors generally supply their own tents or canopies which can be purchased, rented, or borrowed. Depending on what products you are displaying, you will also need to provide dividers or walls to hang pictures on, tables to display jewelry, and/or shelves to showcase pottery or other types of crafts and handiwork.

Before participating in a show or festival, it would be wise to visit a few to see what other artisans are displaying and how their work is exhibited. Constance Mettler, publisher of the Art Fair Calendar (http://www.artfaircalendar.com/) recommends taking lots of notes on the booths you see. "Things you want to look for are types of display equipment such as tent, tables, chairs, walls, weights, lights, and shelving inventory,” she says. "Which booths are getting more attention? What is the pricing on products similar to yours?” Mettler also suggests even when you are exhibiting in a show to set up early, then go out and look over the other booths while taking notes and making plans for your next show.
You will also need to consider how to present your work to its best advantage. You may be in a line with 100 other booths, so think about how to draw visitors’ attention to yours specifically. This tiny little area will essentially be a mini-showroom, so curb appeal is important.

Amy Kalinchuk of Olde Crone's Bewitching Bath Soap (http://www.soapcrone.com/) says that it’s important for vendors to make their displays multi-leveled. "All of my products are rustic and meant to be used, so my display reflects this approach,” she says. Kalinchuk makes clever use of denim and vintage tablecloths, wine boxes, tangerine mini-crates, and baskets to display her handcrafted soap, sugar scrub, body butter, lip balm, and other items.

Often, new exhibitors make the mistake of wanting to show off everything they have, which can be overwhelming if you have a large variety of colors, styles, and shapes. Luanne Udell (www.luannudell.com), designer and sculptor of ancient and tribal art, cautions vendors to leave room for customers to browse around. "A cluttered booth that is overcrowded with stuff will make people nervous,” she warns. "They will not want to come inside your tent for fear they will knock something over.” If possible, keep the sides of your booth open so that people will not feel intimidated about walking around inside.

Barbara Stanton (http://www.barbarastanton.com/) is an artist who specializes in miniature oil paintings and recommends demonstrating your work. "People love to see artists at work,” she says. "With my work, sometimes people don't believe I actually painted something that small unless I'm working on one.” Even if you are not comfortably creative in front of people, you can still set up a small demonstration area that looks like something is in progress.

Stanton also advises exhibitors to pay attention to people coming into their booth, but cautions them not to overwhelm them with a big sales pitch. "Ask them about themselves and what they might be looking for,” she says. "Is this the first time they've been to this show? Do they live in the area? This can help break the ice a little because people generally like to talk about themselves.”

Have a guestbook, notebook, or pre-printed index cards available so that visitors can sign up to receive email or direct mail notifications from you. This gives you the opportunity to keep in touch with existing and potential customers to let them know what shows you will be participating in and/or send out postcards and newsletters alerting them about new products, sales, and discounts.

Get to know your fellow exhibitors. You can learn a lot from someone else who has been in the trenches. Become involved with your Chamber of Commerce and local art associations. Often these organizations provide discounts to members who are registering for a show. Plus they can provide information on upcoming events.

Participating in art shows and craft festivals provides many networking and marketing opportunities. Although this can be a demanding process requiring traveling, setting-up, and surrendering weekends, it can also be a gratifying one.
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CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.cdavisfreelance.com/) is a nationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Social Networking Benefits

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"Time is money” is an old cliché with a lot of merit because time spent networking online will help your artisan business grow and expand. Social networking (a/k/a social media marketing) is undoubtedly the fastest growing form of online marketing. This low- or no-cost marketing strategy is ideal for building brand awareness for both online and offline businesses that can have a global impact.

Advertising through social media has seen a significant increase over the past few years with business owners spending anywhere from five to twenty hours per week building their networks. Users submit news, photos, videos, and comments to their preferred social networking sites that reflect common interests with other individuals who have similar interests. These forums cultivate relationships of trust and help you become known as an expert in your field, which eventually increases interest and awareness in your artwork, craft, or services.

Jay Rodriguez (http://www.jayrodchicago.com/) specializes in social media marketing and feels that during these tough economic times businesses need affordable options to promote their businesses. Social networking and marketing fits the bill perfectly. "The way I see it, individuals, or sole proprietors such as artisans, are no different than any other business,” he says. "It takes about three months to climb search engines in the most affordable way – free.”

Rodriguez advises linking to your work on your website from such social media sites as LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Digg, Mixx and many others. This not only helps give you exposure, but also improves your site’s ranking with search engines. "The more they see your site linked with other powerful sites, the more credibility it gives you and the higher you get on their engine.”

Of course, the number one benefit of social media marketing is generating exposure for your artisan business. Other benefits include:

• Increased traffic to your website

• Potential joint venture partnership opportunities

• Establishing yourself as an expert in your field

• Growing your contact list

• A rise in search engine rankings

The most significant cost of social networking is the time involved. Discipline and time management skills are necessary to avoid getting sidetracked by the novelty of the sites. It may help to designate a specific time each day or week to participate and interact in online forums. Just remember that it takes time to establish relationships and see the results of your efforts. The end result, however, is worth the time.

There are many social networking sites and forums to choose from. However, the top three that generate the most traffic are: Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Twitter

Twitter is a very popular, free micro-blogging service that allows users to send brief messages (140 characters) or "tweets” that can be viewed by the general public. You can choose to make your tweets viewable by select people only, but this will not help to promote your business.

Your profile and tweets can be keyword optimized for your business, interests, or profession so that others can find you easily. Twitter allows you to add links to your messages, hence, one of the reasons for the increase in search engine rankings. And there are many services that allow you to shorten long URLs such as TinyURL.com and Bit.ly.

Facebook

On Facebook, it all starts with your profile page. You can set it up to reflect your business, interests, and passions. Facebook Groups are a way to build a community around your business or for branding purposes. Once you create your group you can locate individuals or other groups with similar interests to join. You can then broadcast your marketing message to group members. Facebook Pages are another option for small businesses and freelancers to establish an online presence.

LinkedIn

Think of Linked as the Facebook for professionals. It’s a more formal type of social media marketing where new contacts are typically made through an introduction from another member. There is the option of asking someone to be a contact; however, this is not always an effective strategy unless they know you through a group or have an interest in your business.

Whatever networking site you choose - whether its one or two or several – the goal is to increase your visibility by contributing to topics and providing the benefit of your expertise. As with most types of networking, you have to give of yourself before you reap the benefits. Establishing yourself as a trusted professional and valuable contact is the best strategy for procuring business. The best way to do this is by participating with other members and providing helpful tips and advice. Before long people will look at you as an expert and will want to take a closer look at your business.

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CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is an internationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Social Networking Benefits

By: Charlene Davis

Building a Brand

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According to Dr. Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys, Inc., (cited onhttp://www.brandingstrategyinsider.com/), several factors will contribute to branding and marketing efforts in 2010. He projects that "social networking and exchange of information outside of the brand space will increase.” Websites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites will see an increase in marketing one’s business, along with the increased number of social interactions.

Dr. Passikoff predicts: "Look for more websites using Facebook Connect to share information with the friends from those sites. More companies will become members of LinkedIn. Twitter users will spend more money on the Internet than those who don't tweet.”

In today’s uncertain economic conditions, business owners are finding it necessary to become even more creative in order to successfully brand their products and services. Money is tighter in many households due to job loss and/or reduced wages. As a result, consumer expectations are rising as they seek newer and more advanced tools to meet their desire for the latest and best, despite financial limitations.

Dr. Passikoff says, "Conversation and community is all; eBay thrives based on consumer feedback. If consumers trust the community, they will extend trust to the brand.”

A basic business principle has always been that the most successful businesses are those that know how to anticipate their customers’ needs, and then fill them. In some ways, narrowing rather than expanding one’s brand has become the target of today’s marketplace due to conservative spending and meeting the wants and needs of customers who are able to pay.

It is possible to thrive in a seemingly down market. A savvy business person knows and practices the secrets of success, which includes redefining their brand when necessary. Practice these TIPS to keep your brand strong:

1. Create a website that states precisely what your products and services represent, one that is grammatically correct and technically accurate. Your brand should be reflected in your logo and tagline. Make them focused, sincere and "alive” in order to turn your prospect into a consumer.

2. Use various methods of advertising that include newsletters, cards, and/or personal phone calls. As part of your ad budget, select nominal cost items as giveaways that include your branding logo, such as a tote bag given at live events or mailed along with your book.

3. Develop and conduct teleseminar and webinar programs, and use marketing tools like audio/video to promote your presentation. Upload your photo and contact information that's easily visible when watching the promo.

4. Inspire customer interaction by asking questions and posting surveys, open a forum, or invite participation through blogs, again, clearly displaying your branding information.

5. Post customer testimonials, either written or recorded, with or without photos. Personal statements make you and your product or service more REAL.

6. Always provide excellent customer service and excel at what you do.

7. Always over-deliver.

Most business owners use strategies that undergo revisions to meet current trends and speculate about future projections. They remain flexible in their approach to business, because they have learned that building a brand that's sound takes time, attention and care, and that it is absolutely doable.

When you contact truly successful business owners with a high visibility and sound reputation, you find that many are often more than willing to share their trials and tribulations, and that their stories contain similar learning curves. This removes their mystique and gives comfort in stressful or lean times.

A quick search into their history might reveal one or more failures. However, those who become readily recognized as a success frequently become mentors, because they have learned the art of survival and longevity, and they want to share their knowledge, especially with those who may be struggling in business. Having tried and refined sometimes numerous branding techniques, they know first-hand the real secrets of successful branding. Many have written books and articles and give seminars to share the wealth of their knowledge.

Building a brand that works means having an informed, dedicated and disciplined attitude to do your homework until you get it right, and then keep doing it. Brief rest periods are allowed, but if you're successfully doing business, it challenges you every day to exceed what you think are your limits. What are the prospects? The future looks bright.

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CYNTHIA BULL (http://www.cynrje.com/) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Building a Brand

By: Cynthia Bull

Why You Need a Press Release

Why You Need a Press Release

By: Charlene Davisphoto

One of the most important – and underutilized - publicity tools in a marketing campaign is a press release. Basically, this is a news story about a significant event regarding your artisan business. It can be about a new product or website launch, to announce an art show you are participating in, or tied into a special date such as the holidays. There really is no limit on the reasons for a press release; however, it should be of newsworthy interest to anyone who needs to know about you or what you’re offering. A few benefits of a press release are:

• Promotes your artisan business to a wider audience.
• Shows you are a leader or expert in the artisan industry; specifically your niche.
• Keeps customers and prospects aware of new products or services.
• Allows you to rebrand an old product.
• Online press releases allow for links that help increase your website’s search engine rankings.

Press releases are an excellent way to make important information about your business available to interested readers. If it is a particularly eventful revelation, newswires, websites, and blogs may pick up the feed. However, too many press releases can become annoying like spam emails, so use them wisely and sparingly.


How to Write a Press Release

A press release (also known as a news release) should be written in the style of a news story. This means it should be informative and factual while avoiding peppy sales jargon and superlatives. Provide interesting information that gets straight to the point by letting readers know how this announcement will benefit them. Although you are essentially advertising your business or specialty you want to avoid this type of slant because self-promotion is not considered newsworthy. Ask yourself the following questions when preparing a press release:

1. Who is your target audience?
2. What is your key message to them? In other words, what do you want people to know?
3. How will existing or prospective clients benefit from your product or service?
4. What is your main objective? Increase sales? Enhance your reputation? Bring you or your business more exposure?

An attention-grabbing headline is essential when writing a press release. You only have about three seconds to snag a reader’s interest and this can be accomplished with a compelling title. Follow that up with an engaging opening paragraph that includes the key ingredients below and you have the makings of a successful press release:

WHO is making the release

WHAT is the purpose of the release

WHERE this is taking place

WHEN this will happen

WHY you are writing this release

HOW this news release will benefit the reader

Press releases should be written in the inverted pyramid style. This type of format summarizes the content in the opening paragraph with relevant details to follow in subsequent paragraphs. This will allow for any editing that may occur due to space constraints. For example, if an editor needs to pare down the number of words in a release, they generally work from the bottom up in the process of elimination. So it’s important to keep the main points at the top of the press release for the greatest effect.

Keep the length of the press release to one or two pages – approximately 400-600 words. Be sure to include relevant keywords so it will be optimized for search engines. At the end of the press release you can add a short blurb about you and your business, but no more than two or three lines. Also provide contact information including your name, address, phone number, email address, and website.

Press Release Distribution

For local distribution, put together a list of media contacts including television, radio, newspaper, and relevant community organizations. Again, be sure to add your contact information, including your cell phone number and email address. Journalists work on tight deadlines and if they can’t reach you right away for more details, they may be inclined to drop the story and move on to a more accessible one.

Many online websites offer free press release distribution that works pretty much the same way as article directories. Simply post your press release on the website in the required format and hope that it will get noticed by interested parties.

Other press release distribution websites offer paid services and a wider audience. A combination of both types of services is ideal depending on your budget.

• PRWeb (http://www.prweb.com/) offers various fee-based packages depending on your budget and distribution requirements.

• PR.com (http://www.pr.com/) offers free and paid services for press release distribution.

• MarketWire (http://www.marketwire.com/) is a full-service press release portal.

• OfficialWire (http://www.officialwire.com/) is press release distribution service that offers budget-friendly options.

Your website should also have a media section specifically for press releases. This increases your exposure to search engines and allows visitors to read interesting and newsworthy stories about you.

A well-written press release that is properly distributed can have a positive impact on you and your business. It’s an effective and affordable marketing strategy that you can use again and again to generate interest and increase sales.

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CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is an internationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Steps to Creating a Successful Online Portfolio

Steps to Creating a Successful Online Portfoliophoto
By Marcia Passos Duffy

Artisans are visual people who instinctually know that a picture can be worth a thousand words when trying to sell products. And those pictures, when expertly arranged in an online portfolio, can be worth thousands of dollars in sales – that is, if you have an effective online portfolio.

However, just slapping up random photos of your work does not make for a successful online portfolio. In fact, a poorly designed online portfolio can do more harm than good with the loss of potential customers who click away from your site in frustration.

A good portfolio, however, can make the difference between faltering sales and a successful web presence with robust sales, says Hope Gibbs, founder of Great Handmade Gifts of Arlington, Va., (http://www.greathandmadegifts.com/), an online e-commerce website that sells the art and crafts of more than 60 artists, artists and authors. "[An online portfolio] gets the word out about your work… in this high-tech environment not having an online portfolio is the equivalent of not having a business,” says Gibbs.

How can you make sure that your online portfolio is making a lasting impression that ultimately leads to more sales? Here’s how:

Position Your Portfolio Front and Center

Kate Lister, the co-author of the book, Undress for Success – the Naked Truth about Making Money at Home, says that the success of an online portfolio starts with where it is positioned on a web site. Make it the centerpiece, says Lister. "This is what your customers want to see,” she says. "Don’t make them dig for it.”

You should also make sure the pages load quickly (avoid Flash, JavaScript and HTML frames, which slows loading down). Also avoid any broken page links, spelling and grammar mistakes, extreme political or religious commentary, or, Lister says, "…anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see.”

Make Sure Your Photos – and Your Pieces -- are First Rate

Provide good quality photographs of your work in your portfolio. If you are a good photographer and know how to frame a photo and capture the details of your work, you may want to take the shots yourself. But your best bet is to hire the services of a professional photographer, particularly one who is skilled at staging and photographing artisan’s work.

Also make sure that you are displaying your best – and most current – work.

"If you have older pieces that are lower quality or don’t represent your current approach, leave them out,” suggests Tim Aldridge, a San Francisco-based web designer and fine artist who sells his work online.

Don’t crowd your portfolio with every piece you’ve ever done. "Showing every piece will create confusion. Only show your best work and try to group in a series if possible,” says Aldridge. Also link your portfolio with your online shopping cart. "Make it easy for people to either buy online or provide clear information on how they can purchase your work,” he says.

Words Count

Not only can photographs make or break a portfolio, but words are also important. Don’t keep the visitor guessing about what is in the photograph: add descriptive and interesting captions for each photograph. But don’t overdo it.

"Avoid a lengthy analysis of each piece,” says Aldridge, "Let people discover the nuances on their own.”

The goal of your portfolio should be to start a ‘conversation’ with a customer…and to get a phone call or an order. If customers want more detail, give them a forum to ask (either via email, or a chat room, or by phone). Once you have the conversation going, then you can answer all their questions, give as many details you have and share more examples.

Technical Details Also Count

On the technical side, make sure that you – or your Web designer – make the portfolio search engine friendly, suggests Josh Freedman, of Web 1 Marketing (http://www.web1marketing.com/), a Seattle, Wash.-based web marketing company.

* Each piece should have its own web page. Make sure you include descriptive text captions since search engines can’t "read” pictures.

* Use keywords. Make sure that you know the major keywords for your product. For help with keyword ideas visit: Google Keywords:https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. Make sure that these keywords are used in your image’s alt tags, caption text, and the page’s title tag (make sure your Web designer does this if you do not know what this means).

* Resize photos for the Web. Digital camera shots are too large for the Web and will slow the process of uploading, says Freedman.
* Use Web traffic reporting. You can use Google Analytics (which is free), or Yahoo! Analytics if you have a Yahoo! store. "What’s key about this is that you can find out so much about what happens when visitors come to your site,” says Philippa Gamse, an internet strategist from Capitola, CA (http://www.websitesthatwin.com/). "If you don't check out this traffic information, and act on it, you can't really know what's happening with your online portfolio, and how effectively it's representing you and promoting your products,” she says.
Include a Call to Action

Even if you have gorgeous pictures, engaging content, and the site is perfectly optimized for the Web, a portfolio will not help your sales if you don’t have one more thing: a call to action with a phone call or email for more information or a free consultation.

Make it easy for the visitor to find all your contact information – including your name, physical address, email and phone number.

Do add your credentials. Put a photo of yourself and a short resume or biography. This is the place to put your awards, certifications, etc. And don’t forget connecting with your customers via social media. Have a YouTube video about a project? Add a link. Do you have followers on Twitter? Have a fan base on FaceBook? Add those links to your contact page.

Treat Your Online Portfolio Seriously

The biggest portfolio mistake, experts agree, is having your portfolio quickly slapped together in an unprofessional manner because it is "just online.” The real selling, you may think, will happen face to face in a retail or consumer show setting.

But this is a mistake that can cost you business. Consider your online portfolio as a virtual showroom for your business – and make it as professional and easy to maneuver as you would your real life showroom and reap the rewards with increased online sales.

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MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY (http://www.backporchpublishing.com/) is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire and is a member of the state's artisan and business organization, NH Made. Marcia's articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Bankrate.com, NFIB.com, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. She also publishes two online magazines, Home Office Weekly.com (http://www.homeofficeweekly.com/) and The Heart of New England.com (http://www.theheartofnewengland.com/). Marcia wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

How Can I Balance Work and Family Life?

How Can I Balance Work and Family Life?photo
By: Cynthia Bull


Trying to meet dual work/life demands in today's environment (especially in the U.S.) frequently results in feelings of being unbalanced. If one's general focus and sense of balance becomes clouded, it affects an overall sense of peace. When focus is blurred and peace succumbs to anxiety, unfortunately, it can lead to chaos. This article offers steps you can take to maintain balance both in the workplace and at home.

Psychoneuroimmunology, the study of mind and body, explores how mental and emotional health affects physical health. An article by WebMD feature writer Sherry Rauh (cited on http://www.webmd.com/) lists five practical steps toward better work/life balance. Here are excerpts:

1. Figure Out What Really Matters to You in Life: Personal coach Laura Berman Fortgang says getting your priorities clear is the first and most essential step toward achieving a well-balanced life. The important point here is to figure out what you want your priorities to be, not what you think they should be.

2. Drop Unnecessary Activities: Fortgang recommends dropping any commitments and pursuits that don't make your top-five list, because "unnecessary activities keep you away from the things that matter to you."

3. Protect Your Private Time: "Carve out hours that contribute to yourself and your relationship," says Stevan Hobfoll, Ph.D. psychology at Kent State University. Guard this personal time fervently and don't let work or other distractions intrude. "Stop checking email and cell phones so often."

4.Accept Help to Balance Your Life:Allow yourself to rely on your partner, family members, or friends - anyone who can watch the kids or run an errand while you focus on other top priorities. "Tag-teaming is a great way to create extra free time," Hobfoll says.

5. Plan Fun and Relaxation: "Remember, you make time for what you want to make time for," Fortgang says. If something is important to you, don't brush it aside with a dismissive "I don't have time for that." You are in charge of your own schedule - it's up to you to make time.

Jim Bird (founder and CEO ofhttp://www.worklifebalance.com/) champions the value of achievement and enjoyment in four areas of life: business, family, friends, and self. He suggests that these two aspects are "critical to the success of a leader, his or her organization and the community and culture of which they are a part."

Here are seven more steps to help balance work and family life:

1. Create and maintain a written or electronic work schedule and use it each day on the job. Try as much as possible to stay within those time commitments. An occasional exception is to be expected but need not be disruptive.

2. Keep a home schedule with everyone's activities listed. As much as possible support each other as a group and make certain no member is left unsupported in any activity, remaining tolerant of each other's differences (schedules, preferences, personalities).

3. Share as many family meals together as possible during the workweek. If nightly gatherings are not possible, commit to a specific number of meals together and consider sharing or alternating meal preparation by family members, either individually or in teams. (Establish and keep a "come home time" in order to honor evening commitments.)

4. Spend quiet time together as a family (reading, hobbies, homework or games) where each member can enjoy an individual interest. Everyone appreciates quality time together regardless of the activity, and it's not always necessary to have a group activity going.

5. Make a date with your partner on a regular basis, if not weekly then as frequently as possible, but make a commitment and keep it.

6. Prioritize plans as much as possible, but remain flexible and open to change. When necessary, say "No!" and avoid adding pressure to everyone.

7. Take a break from dwelling on the mistakes of the day and Have Fun Together.

The ability to identify realistic, here-and-now goals and to minimize or eliminate unrealistic goals lessens work/life drama and helps to keep life under control. Circumstances will always change (and often when least expected), and certainly being flexible and amenable to changing times is absolutely necessary. Being an active participant in one's life, following and practicing steps to preserve balance creates balance itself.

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CYNTHIA BULL (http://www.cynrje.com/) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Managing Stress During the Holidays

Managing Stress During the Holidays

By: Charlene Davisphoto

Statistics overwhelmingly indicate that stress is the root cause of many health-related issues including heart disease, cancer, obesity, depression, memory loss, high blood pressure, and diabetes. And with increasing demands on both your personal and professional life, learning how to effectively manage stress is more important than ever - especially with the holidays right around the corner!

The first step to stress management is identifying what factors in your life are causing you to feel anxious. Some people have physical symptoms such as headaches or high blood pressure while others may get internal symptoms like panic attacks or depression. In either case, recognizing the source can help you find methods that will help decrease your stress level.

Other steps you can take to manage stress is decreasing the amount of caffeine and alcohol you drink. Eat healthy snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar elevated. Deep breathing and meditation are easy techniques that require very little time. Also, exercise is a good way to manage stress that has many other health benefits by lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight.

Dr. Kathleen Hall, internationally recognized stress and work-life balance expert, and founder/C.E.O. of The Stress Institute, Mindful Living Network and Alter Your Life (http://www.stressinstitute.com/) recommends artisans use her renowned S.E.L.F. Care program during the times of holiday stress to help stay cool and collected:

-Serenity: Listen to calming music before bed, do a short meditation, use guided imagery picturing leaves floating down a water stream or balloons floating off into the sky.

-Exercise: Take a walk, ride your bike, dance, practice yoga or play. Exercise is essential is stress reduction!

-Love: Maintain close relationships with friends and family members; look at the holidays as a time to take advantage of quality family time, even if you feel stressed at first. Healthy relationships contribute to healthy minds!

-Food: The holidays are full of wonderful food. Let yourself indulge a little bit rather than forbidding yourself from enjoying holiday treats!

Amy Stone, a pottery artist who does baby hand and feet impressions, and personalized baby gifts (http://www.mittspiggyspaws.com/andhttp://www.fairysandfrogs.com/), recommends organizing your time and getting plenty of sleep. "Set time goals for yourself and try to get in bed at a decent hour," she says. Stone admits this was hard for her to do initially because like a lot of artists she is most creative at night. "I learned to map out my time better and sleep at night instead of keeping owl's hours."

Stone also recommends keeping a calendar of deadlines so that you can clearly communicate to the customer when they can expect their finished order. "This is paramount, especially with Christmas fast approaching," she says. "I'm usually done much earlier than the allotted time frame, but this keeps customers satisfied and helps my sanity as I take on more projects."

Internationally recognized artist and designer, Pablo Solomon (http://www.pablosolomon.com/), encourages fellow artisans to not stress out by putting themselves into debt buying big, expensive presents. "My wife and I shop yard sales and junk stores year around to find unique items that our friends might cherish such as old books, art, vintage purses, and other collectibles," he says. "Often our gifts are the most appreciated because they show we put time and thought behind them."

Another gift-giving idea comes from Connie Mettler, publisher of the Art Fair Calendar (http://www.artfaircalendar.com/), who recommends that instead of spending hard earned money on gifts, start trading/bartering with other artists/artisans early in the year so that you are ready with gifts for the holidays. "Usually these are gifts you would have a hard time justifying paying retail for."

Remember to be good to yourself during this stressful time of year. While you cannot completely eliminate stress from your life, you can take steps to effectively manage it. Take some time on a regular basis to check all systems and regulate stress levels; your body and mind will thank you for it!

__________________________

CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is an internationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Customer Testimonials: How Important Are They to Your Artisan Business?

Customer Testimonials: How Important Are They to Your Artisan Business?photo
By: Marcia Passos Duffy

You're doing all the right things to market your product. Your Web site is search engine optimized. You have lovely brochures and sales flyers. You're Twittering. You're networking on Linked In and Facebook.

But you may be overlooking the most important marketing strategy that can make or break a sale: customer testimonials.

Customer testimonials are not just for diet or beauty products. These third party endorsements, when used correctly, adds credibility to you as an artisan, and your work.

"For artisan businesses, whose products often have a much higher price tag than mass manufactured products for the same use [customer testimonials] are a big factor," notes Shel Horowitz, a marketing consultant based in Hadley, Mass., and author of six books on frugal, effective and ethical marketing (http://www.frugalmarketing.com/). This is particularly true if the product is purchased over the web or from a catalog, "...where you don't get to see and touch and smell the product," he says.

Testimonials are one of the most powerful tools artisans have for marketing themselves, says Sarah Nelson, a marketing consultant based in Portland, Maine (http://www.npressnewsletter.com/) "Testimonials move you from saying, in effect, 'I'm great and you'd better believe it!' to 'I'm great and here are real people who say so,'" says Nelson.
Susan Martin, a business coach and consultant from Brooklyn, NY who works frequently with artisans and creative professionals (http://www.business-sanity.com/) notes that creative people often have trouble tooting their own horn. "Testimonials are a great way to get others to do that for you," says Martin.

How to Get Testimonials

But how can you get testimonials? Sometimes raves about your product come unexpected through your email or snail mail. Perhaps you already have collected a stack of this kind of "fan mail."

The only thing left to do is to email or write the person thanking them for their kind words and asking their permission to use their quote and name for your marketing materials. Most people will agree.

But what if you don't have any usable testimonials? Then you will need to ask your customers. But it doesn't have to be a request for a long-winded testimonial - and it doesn't have to be formal.

"Many people are under the impression that a testimonial should take the form of a complete signed letter on company letterhead," says Nelson. But you'll get more usable quotes if it is an easier, less formal process. "...simply go after two sentences from each testimonial-giver."

These short testimonials can be found in any letter of thanks (use the strongest two sentences for your promotional materials), when someone spontaneously utters quotable praise (grab a pencil and ask, "Can I quote you on that?" and write it down). Another approach Nelson recommends is to call your best customers and say you are collecting success stories from customers and if they would like to be included. "Putting it that way flatters [customers] and presents the idea to them as a compliment rather than a burdensome request," says Nelson.

What a Testimonial Should Include

1. Full name and location. Make sure you get permission to use any quotes in your print and online marketing materials. Don't add partial names or information, which makes the quote look dubious, such as "Joe S. from the mid-west."

2. Short sentences about specific benefits. Make sure that the testimonial is not vague kudos, such as "Your hand-crafted axe works great!" Instead, suggests Horowitz, make sure that the words convey the benefits received, such as "I get so much enjoyment out of using this hand-crafted axe that I can't imagine ever using a chain saw again."

3. Emotion. The ideal testimonial should be a heart-felt sentiment in a customer's own words. It should contain some kind of simple explanation of a situation that existed before the customer did business with you, and the problem you helped them to solve with your product, says Martin. "Now an artisan may be confused about the 'problem/need' scenario...but even if you are selling a beautiful object, the problem may be that the customer wanted to add beauty to a drab apartment," says Martin.

How to Use Testimonials

There are many creative ways you can use these testimonials once you have gathered them. They can be added to your Web site, brochures, advertisements, blog posts, postcards, catalogs, email and more. They can even be used during a presentation at a trade show.

When posting testimonials on a Web site many people chose to create a separate section, but Martin prefers to place testimonials in a text box into the content of an appropriate page, "...so that when they're reading the description of your work, that specific chosen testimonial can lend credibility without having to click to another page," says Martin.

Pablo Solomon, an artist and designer based in Lampasas, Texas, (http://www.pablosolomon.com/) says that testimonials - and showcasing them -- are one of the great joys of doing good work.

"As artists, we often do not get feedback that we really consider to be meaningful. Usually our feedback -- good or bad -- is from other artists or art critics that should not be taken too seriously. However, when paying clients give you good feedback, this should be treasured," he says.

Testimonials are a powerful tool you can use to gain credibility, trust and generate more sales. But you ought to know there are FTC guidelines regarding testimonials.

Testimonials that you use in marketing materials must reflect typical experiences of your customers and must be able to be substantiated. You also must make it clear that you did not pay to obtain a testimonial. For more information on FTC rules regarding the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising click here:http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/guides/endorse.htm

___________________

MARCIA PASSOS DUFFY (http://www.backporchpublishing.com/) is a freelance business writer based in New Hampshire and is a member of the state's artisan and business organization, NH Made. Marcia's articles have appeared on Yahoo Finance, CNBC, Bankrate.com, NFIB.com, Smart Business Magazine, The New York Times Lifewire, The Weather Channel, among others; she is the author of the book, Be Your Own Boss. She also publishes two online magazines, Home Office Weekly.com (http://www.homeofficeweekly.com/) and The Heart of New England.com (www.theheartofnewengland.com). Marcia wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Steps for Launching a Successful "Free Sample" Promotion

Steps for Launching a Successful "Free Sample" Promotion

By: Marcia Duffyphoto

The best way to entice new customers to buy your product is for them to try it first - for free. But offering free samples takes more than simply giving something away for nothing.

It takes good planning before, during and after the free sampling if you want to reap the full potential of this kind of promotion. After all, if you're giving away your product you will want - and should expect - some kind of return on investment, i.e., more customers and more profits.

Here are steps to creating a successful free sample promotion:

1. Decide on the Freebie

There are three criteria for a good giveaway:

• Keep the cost low. "It has to be a reasonable marketing expense," says Shel Horowitz, a marketing consultant/copywriter and author of six marketing books including Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World and owner of FrugalMarketing.com.
• But not too low. Don't offer stuff that has so little value that it's a "throwaway."
• Make it attractive to the sampling audience. Enough for them to want to purchase the full priced product.

"Food and beverage artisans, of course meet all three criteria, but plenty of non-food artisans can do so as well," says Horowitz. For instance, someone who works in textile arts could give out doll blankets, a metalworker could do single spoons and encourage people to buy a complete cutlery set, suggests Horowitz.

2. Don't Call it "Free" but "Complimentary"

Each promotion needs to be tailored to each artisan type, adds Colleen Leader, owner of Loose Thread Stitchers (http://www.loosethreadstitchers.com/), a marketing and public relations firm for the needlework industry.

"[The giveaway] needs to be something that enhances their brand while not taking away from their current business stream and it needs to [labeled] 'complimentary' not a 'free sample,'" says Leader.

The reason is that "free" means a product that has little or no value - even if it has taken the artisan many hours to create the giveaway.

One of Leader's clients, Just Another Button Company, which sells handmade clay buttons that are used a embellishments to needlework designs, gave away "complimentary" needlework design samples that would showcase the company's buttons.

"The designs are 'complimentary' but the consumer pays for the buttons," says Leader. "They give away something of perceived value that creates a demand for their product...now that's a great promotion!" says Leader.

3. Do Face-to-Face Giveaways

Leader says the business owner - or a trained salesperson - be the one to hand out the complimentary samples. "You are your own best salesperson," says Leader. Leaving the giveaways with marketing material or product information is the second best thing; worst is leaving the giveaway alone in a basket at a show for passersby to help themselves.

"Don't let the sample speak for itself," agrees Debbie Gokhan, vice president and COO of Oil & Vinegar (http://www.oilandvinegarusa.com/), an upscale culinary specialty shop with international and U.S. franchise operations, which frequently promote their product with samples with salespeople at the ready to answer questions.

"Someone needs to be there to explain the product...if the customer hears the whole story the product becomes more interesting and chances are you can sell them the full product," she says.

4. Work the Giveaway to Your Advantage

These giveaways are not just passive advertisements of your business, but must require a little bit of "work" for the receiver, says Larry Bennett, a professor of entrepreneurial practice at the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University www.whitman.syr.edu/eee.

Items that are consumable are often forgotten once the wrapper is gone. A way around this is to make sure that the receiver has to do something to get more benefits. For example, a free food sample might be accompanies by a request to sign up for email coupons.

"If, however, your free food sample was to try and directly sell your product(s) at that moment/event, you would not want to create this kind of a barrier," says Bennett.

Giveaways for higher cost items can require that the customer go to your Web site, for example, and sign up for a newsletter, with the full customer contact information.

For example, if you are an oil painter and you wanted to provide interested customers with either a downloadable screensaver (or a CD) containing images of your works you might request information, in advance.

"This helps to identify customers that are shoppers and not "lookers" or freebie packrats," says Bennett.

5. Include Your Contact Information & Follow Up

Don't forget to include your contact information with your complimentary sample.

"I would go one step further and make it include a call to action," says Leader. This could include, for example, a request for a phone call for more information, a mail in card for coupons, or written URL to a web page with a "limited time offer."

"If someone is taking a complimentary sample they are interested in your products, services or offerings," says Leader. Don't drop the ball, but continue to move the recipient through the sales cycle. Create a plan of action (or a marketing plan) to move a consumer from complimentary sample to an actual product sale.

"The [giveaway] promotion is the beginning of the relationship not the end," she says.

___________________

MARCIA DUFFY Marcia wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Dealing with Customers

photoDealing with Customers
By: Cynthia Bull

Whether your business involves direct or indirect customer contact, a product or a service, a brick-and-mortar or virtual office, good customer relationships remain a cornerstone of business. To become successful, customers not only must buy your products and services, they must also recommend your company to their friends and associates, who, in turn, also become profitable customers; meaning, they continue to buy from you.

Providing customers with quality products and services drives the economy, but other aspects of customer relationships also contribute to a successful business. Customer satisfaction is subjective and, therefore, isn't always a reliable tool for measuring the success of a business. The personalities of business owners and product/service providers play a key role in how customers perceive their transactions and whether or not they recommend your company.

Essentially, customers become advocates for your business, which involves trust between the buyer and the seller. Simply stated, customer advocacy is the interaction between a business and its patrons that promotes the extension (or growth) of business using various approaches, such as word-of-mouth, promotional materials, polls and surveys, and other strategies.

A recent blog entry (Oct. 13, 2009,http://blogs.oracle.com/) cites Paul Greenberg, one of the world's leading authorities on Customer Relationship Management and author of CRM at the Speed of Light. Mr. Greenburg suggests asking four key questions to measure customer advocacy:

1. Would you (the customer) recommend this company to someone you know?

2. Did you (the customer) recommend this company to someone you know?

3. Did they become a customer?

4. Are they a profitable customer?

In a progressive, action-driven relationship between management and customer, management frequently offers an incentive for customer referrals, often with little or no additional business cost. While a satisfied customer may be your best advertisement, satisfied customers who are rewarded for their referrals tend to be return customers, without question.

Consider the effects of customer service slogans and mission statements on the relationship between business and customers in these two Fortune 500 companies, Allstate Insurance and Office Max:

• Allstate: "You're in good hands." "To be the best...serving our customers by providing peace of mind and enriching their quality of life through our partnership in the management of the risks they face."

• Office Max: "A relentless focus on you." "Every company can claim to be a leader. We earn the distinction from those who matter most: our customers. By partnering with our customers, understanding their needs and exceeding their goals, they succeed and so do we."

Phrases like "serving our customers" and "partnering with our customers" suggest a strong focus on meeting the needs of customers. A business with a frontline statement of the relationship it wants with its customers is simply good business.

Inspiring customer service quotes from noted business leaders contain excellent guidelines for good customer relationship management that apply anytime. Consider comments from Henry Ford (1863-1947, Ford Motor Company Founder), Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005, well-known economist and business strategist), Sam Walton (1919-1992, Wal-Mart Founder), Bill Gates (Microsoft Co-Founder and one of the world's most generous philanthropists), and Jim Rohn (business philosopher and coach, motivational speaker).

• Henry Ford: "It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages."

• Peter F. Drucker: "The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer."

• Sam Walton: "There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

• Bill Gates: "You need to know about customer feedback that says things should be better."

• Jim Rohn: "One customer, well taken care of, could be more valuable than $10,000 worth of advertising."

And remember these basic Customer Service Tips:

1. Welcome customers with a warm and sincere greeting.

2. Remain attentive to and focused on meeting the customer's goals.

3. Always thank a customer for choosing your product or service.

4. Stand behind your guarantee.

5. Maintain good customer communications after a transaction.

Whether you're a Fortune 500 company, a mom-and-pop business, or a one-person show, how you deal with customers can either push your reputation and your profits forward or put you in File 13 of their Rolodex. Dealing with customers in a direct, respectful and knowledgeable way and doing your job well is good customer relationship management and creates lasting business customer relationships.

_______________________


CYNTHIA BULL (http://www.cynrje.com/) is an internationally published writer and editor who helps international authors, marketers and speakers add greater value to their products through her top-quality writing, editing and transcription services. She is the author of How To Be A Medical Transcriptionist and Winning At Work While Balancing Your Life, a contributing author of Walking with the Wise Entrepreneur (Mentors Publishing House), cited in Make BIG Profits on eBay (Entrepreneur Press), and Managing Editor of Mentors Magazine Think & Grow Rich Edition. Cynthia has created over 200 book products in the past two years for her clients and, as mentor, helps clients reach their goals through her products, experience and genuine caring. Cynthia writes this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

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Pay It Forward

In 2005 my web programmers told me to start a blog. I told them that I did not have anything interesting to say and I was far from "hip"...which is what I have always felt was needed to be an expert blogger! I can't spell and on some days I feel so busy that I barely get to see my husband and kids.

Well, after much thought and coaxing by my programmers...I am here....still not hip...but with my oldest daughter by my side....embarking on a new adventure.

"Pay it forward" is unexpectedly doing good things for unrelated people.

In 1997 I experienced a "Pay It Forward" event...that was life changing. My second daughter was born disabled and visually impaired and I needed to unexpectedly take a family leave from work to get her to her therapy appointments. Life was hectic, stressed and at times plain sad.

It was autumn when I realized that it would be a lean Christmas because money was low. My husband was a poorly paid private school teacher and we were on food stamps. There happened to be a county fair nearby and I went to look for something I could make during the week and sell at weekend craftshows. I went directly to the exit and asked the woman monitoring the door, "What is the hot thing this year....the one thing everyone is walking out of here with." She told me it was soap. I walked the show and eventually found the soap table. I found this soapmakers product delightful. I was immediately moved by the fragrance. I bought three bars of her soap and then took a deep breath, gulped.....and told her my story. She was the kindest person. She told me how to make melt and pour soap and where to buy supplies. She talked to me for over 30 minutes and encouraged me. To this day, I remember her face but not her name. All I know is that she was from Pennsylvania.

This woman changed my life. If it was not for her, I would have never made soap. I would have never found this passion. I would have never sold soap at craftshows. I would have never started a supply business. Without this woman, I would not have had the chance to help thousands of customers start their own home business.

If you are reading this and you were this soapmaker at the Berea Fairgrounds in Cuyahoga, County in the fall of 1997...thank you!

Please look at this site as my way of "Paying it Forward". My goal is that I can, in some small way, help you reach your dreams!

Debbie May

What is Autism?

What is Autism?


Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that typically lasts throughout a person's lifetime. It is part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Today, 1 in 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. It occurs in all racial, ethnic, and social groups and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others. It is also associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines. Symptoms can range from very mild to quite sever.


Identify the Signs


A child or adult with an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) might:


• not playing "pretend" games
• not pointing at objects to show interest
• not looking at objects when another person points at them
• having trouble relating to others or no interest in other people at all
• avoiding eye contact and want to be alone
• having trouble understanding other people's feelings or talking about their own
• preferring not to be held or cuddled or might cuddle only when they want to
• appearing to be unaware when people talk to them but respond to other sounds
• be very interested in people, but not know how to talk, play, or relate to them
• repeating or echo words or phrases said to them repeat words
• repeating phrases in place of normal language (echolalia)
• having trouble expressing their needs using typical words or motions
• repeating actions over and over again
• having trouble adapting when a routine changes
• having unusual reactions to the way things smell, taste, look, feel, or sound
• losing skills they once had (for instance, stop saying words they were once using)


* Note: Contact your child’s doctor or nurse if your child experiences a dramatic loss of skills at any age.


What if you suspect autism?


If you or your doctor think there could be a problem, ask for a referral to see a developmental pediatrician or other specialist, and you can contact your local early intervention agency (for children under 3) or public school (for children 3 and older).


To find out who to speak to in your area, you can contact the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities by logging on to http://www.nichcy.org/http://www.nichcy.org/ or calling 1-800-695-0285.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has links to information for families on their Autism Information Center Web page www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dd/aic/resources.


Right now, the main research-based treatment for ASDs is intensive structured teaching of skills, often called behavioral intervention. Some of the most common interventions are Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Floor time Therapy, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Sensory Integration Therapy, Relationship Development Intervention, Verbal Behavior Intervention, and the school-based TEAACH method. It is very important to begin this intervention as early as possible in order to help your child reach his or her full potential. Acting early can make a real difference!

Pet Artisans Are Taking a Bite Out of the Economy

Pet Artisans Are Taking a Bite Out of the Economy

By: Charlene Davisphoto

Although we are in the worst recession since the Great Depression, the booming pet industry is blissfully unaware that everyone around them is pinching pennies. Recently, the American Pet Products Association reported that Americans spent $43.2 billion on their pets in 2008, and estimates that figure will rise to $45.4 billion this year.

Pet lovers cross all economic spectrums, but even cash-strapped consumers are still managing to find ways to spend money on their favorite canines and kitties. This means while the rest of us are snacking on Ramen noodles, Fido and FiFi are noshing on organic pet vittles and sporting trendy collars with bling.

Teri Voss and Tracey d'Ouville, co-founders of Barkey Barkerson (http://www.barkeybarkerson.com/), felt that in spite of the current economy now was an ideal time to launch a new business. "We've yet to experience tighter credit or lack of consumer spending," says Voss. "In fact, we've found every company we've sourced to be more than willing to do what it took to earn our business. Guess that's the upside of the economy, right?"

Barkey Barkerson specializes in pet and people gear: more specifically, dog collars and leashes and apparel for pet 'parents'. "We source all of the materials for our collars and leashes in the US, and then design and make them literally in our kitchen," says Voss. "My business partner, Tracey, does all the sewing and assembly." The apparel (t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hats for men, women, and kids) are all original designs that are sourced out to local decorators, with Voss and d'Ouville collaborating with them on materials and layouts.

Other pet artisans who are continuing to thrive during these difficult times are:

• Robert Semrow, a/k/a The Pawtographer™ (http://www.thepawtographer.com/), widely known in the South Coast Metro area of Southern California for his creative animal themed portraiture and products. "I create elaborate themes and then immerse the pets (mostly dogs) into the scene which become heirloom portraits," says Semrow. "I also paint them on a variety of unique products, from jewelry to blankets and almost anything else you can imagine."

• I See Spot (http://www.iseespot.com/) is a fashion house for discerning pet owners. This amazing dog apparel, designed by Sharon Bolger and Sandy Maroney, offers an eclectic line for pets in keeping with current fashion trends. Dani Caouette is a huge fan of theirs and says these are two very creative women and talented designers. "I have a Chihuahua and although I was never that girl who dressed up dogs, when I met Sandy and Sharon, I couldn't resist," says Caouette. "The clothing is as functional as it is adorable. My dog doesn't mind wearing the outfits because they help keep her warm and comfortable." The I See Spot collection includes hand-embellished tanks, tees, dresses and jackets using premium materials such as custom appliqués, ribbons, Swarovski crystals and pearl accents.

• Sharon Hartnett, owner of Wool and Kashmir (http://www.woolandkashmir.com/), designs hand-knit couture sweaters, beds and blankets for cats and dogs which are sold to high-end pet boutiques and spas, as well as individuals. "I take my cue from the runways of Milan, Paris, Tokyo, and NY when designing my couture sweaters," says Hartnett. "I want to give my clients couture designs for their pets without sacrificing comfort and functionality." Hartnett's designs are knit in the USA with eco-friendly yarns from natural, renewable resources.

• Folk artist, Natalie Timm, makes Nat's Pet Mats™ (http://www.natspetmats.com/) that are personalized folk art mats for dogs, cats, ferrets, and bunnies that can be customized with the pet's portrait and lettering. Not only are they available on Timm's website, but she also sells them at select pet and feed stores along the West Coast. These uniquely designed, eco-friendly mats are made with repurposed, unused vinyl flooring that are hand-cut and painted on the back so the vinyl side faces down. This means no new flooring is manufactured and remnants are kept out of the landfill.

Five years ago, 64 million households owned at least one pet. Today that number has increased to 71 million homes. And with baby boomers becoming empty nesters and turning their attention, time, and money to their beloved pets, this trend will continue to rise which will keep pet artisans barking all the way to the bank!

_____________________________

About the author:

CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is a nationally published writer specializing in business, e-commerce, parenting, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Fall and Winter Trends for Artisans

Fall and Winter Trends for Artisans

By: Charlene Davisphoto

It is official: summer is over. Pumpkin patches are sprouting up along the roadside, the leaves are changing, and Canadian geese are flying south for the winter. As the nation slowly emerges from an economic depression the fall and winter season of 2009 will be a defining one for fellow artisans.

Carolyn Osborne (http://www.creativeforcesbycarolyn.com/), an artist who creates one-of-a-kind jewelry, charcoals, watercolors, cremation jewelry and custom gift baskets, generally only has two shows a year: one in June and again in November. However, this year she is adding two more shows in October and may decide to participate in others. Osborne says her custom gift baskets are usually in big demand this time of year, so it will be interesting to see what people decide to do in light of the economy. "I've also made a bigger effort to make art and jewelry pieces that are less expensive and affordable," she says. "This has been good because it has opened my work to a wider array of customers."

For many artists and crafters, the fall and winter months are the busiest time of the year as people begin stocking up on items for gifts and holiday entertaining. Denise Greenwood-Loveless (http://www.artofgreenwood.com/) says this is the best time for her art business. "I am meeting myself coming and going by putting in 70 to 80 hour weeks in the studio to prepare for my fall and winter shows," she says. "I consider myself extremely fortunate to be making a good living with my art."

Ron Anderson and his sons, Benjamin and Sean, are also exceedingly busy this time of year with art shows lined up through the end of the year. And, like most artists, they prefer to set new trends rather than follow them. "As artists it is our goal to set new trends, to present new ideas that will interest and inspire others," says Susie Anderson, wife, mom, and manager to Anderson ART Collective (http://www.andersonartcollective.com/). "Artists have to live to create art that communicates; to create things that are unique."

In addition to the creative side of the artisan industry, there is also the business side. Consider using some of these strategies to enhance your own business and increase sales during the fall and winter season:

• Create clothing and accessories that are more versatile, which makes them more economical;
• Create a new trend or product by giving new purpose to an old item such as turning old sweaters into stuffed toys or vinyl records into coasters;
• Create and produce art and/or crafts on a smaller, more affordable scale to increase the number of sales;
• Consider teaching a workshop or class to local individuals;
• Participate in more shows and festivals for added exposure;
• Hold an open house during the holidays to showcase your work;
• Send out press releases letting the public know where and when you will be exhibiting;
• Spotlight your work by donating one of your products to a charitable auction during the holidays;
• Join a professional organization such as the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/).


Greenwood-Loveless says that every year with the coming of fall she feels like she is right where she needs to be. "I can look back and see the evolution of my artwork," she says. "I think it will always be this way. It's sort of like being a midwife for the process, and in the fall there's this rebirth that happens." Such a poignant way of looking at the season ahead as artisans across the country indulge in their own artistic evolutions.

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CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.cdavisfreelance.com/) is a nationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.

Yesterday's Trash Has Become Today's Art

By: Charlene Davisphoto

As people are becoming progressively more aware of how wasteful society is, many artisans are discovering wonderfully unique ways to address this environmental dilemma by "upcyling” everything imaginable. From converting old sweaters into stuffed toys to repurposing an old sign into a beautiful bowl, many artisans are finding interesting ways to bring new life to things originally destined for the dump.

Old, vintage book covers are redesigned into gift-quality journals and shadow boxes. Recycled plates from thrift stores and flea markets are recommissioned into unusual serving pieces, and antique typewriters are taken apart to be redistributed and used for unique jewelry. Even expended fire extinguishers have been turned into beautiful art forms.

Some artisans have the ability to give new purpose to old clothing by refashioning them into new garments and accessories. Mandy Mueller (design name Amanda Vernell) has developed a line of one-of-a-kind bridal gowns that are made by redesigning previously used wedding gowns. "For now it is mostly recycled items,” she says. "As the collection grows I hope to be all recycled.” Mueller is currently working on this line in the University of Washington’s Fashion: Concept to Market certificate program (www.extension.washington.edu/ext/certificates/ifl/ifl_gen.asp).

Other ways that earth-friendly artisans are reducing their ecological footprints are:

· Reusing junk mail such as catalogues and magazines that are turned into patterns and gum wrapper style crafts like purses. Santa Fe artist, Nancy Judd of Recycle Runway (http://www.recyclerunway.com/) has created a unique collection of eco trash couture as an innovative and fun way to provide education about conservation.

· When using fabric, many artisans purchase material with organic fibers such as cotton, silk, wool, or hemp, or fabric made from recycled materials. Who knew beer cans could look so good?

· A growing number of artists use water or vegetable based inks and tree-free, 100% post consumer recycled papers. Others, such as Julia Garretson of Portland, Oregon, make their own handmade paper using recycled sources such as clothing, onion skins, junk mail, plants, etc.

· Old buttons and antique watch faces are refashioned into lovely ornaments and jewelry such as bracelets and watchbands.

· Plastic grocery bags are turned into durable floor mats and rugs; and vinyl records albums are reproduced into clever coasters.

· Jean Gonzalez, owner of "Say Anything,” a boutique business near Carytown in Richmond, Virginia, has been hand sewing for 40 years and NEVER buys new materials. What items are not donated to her, she buys from thrift stores and yard sales.

Another area of concern is the vast environmental destruction caused by the mining industry or the incredible pollution generated in the making of fine jewelry. In a 2006 report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, The Toxic Releases Inventory , metals mining was responsible for more the 25 percent of all toxic releases in the US in 2006, including heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and lead.

R. Craig Whitten, the nationally-acclaimed designer of the whimsy™ collection of fine rings (http://www.whimsyworldwide.com/), counters these effects by using only reclaimed sterling silver, gold, and gemstones. "Today’s consumers expect more from the products they purchase -- merchandise that is created responsibly,” says Whitten. "Silver, gold and gemstones are finite resources, and mining is one of the dirtiest industries in the world. According to the NoDirtyGold campaign (www.nodirtygold.org), a single gold ring leaves a shocking 20 tons of harmful mine waste.”

Even if you don’t use recycled products in your craft or artwork, there are still many creative ways you can raise your awareness and become more environmentally conscious. Internationally recognized artist, Pablo Solomon (http://www.pablosolomon.com/), lives and works with his wife, Beverly, on their historic 1856 ranch north of Austin, Texas. Pablo says some of the green things he does as an artist is:

· Stretches canvas over old window screens (both wooden and aluminum) instead of buying new frames. "This makes a great canvas while saving money and a few trees,” says Pablo.

· Purchases inexpensive, distasteful decorator prints found in junk stores to reuse. "The cardboard is great to paint over,” he says. "Plus I get a free frame for the new painting.”

· Pablo also uses lipstick, eye pencils, and other makeup products his wife no longer wants for his drawings.

· In addition, he uses natural materials as often as possible by painting on rock slabs and sculpting with local stone.

"Getting the most out of anything is saving energy and resources,” says Pablo. This is great advice that we can all aspire to live up to. So, if you haven’t already, start transitioning to a greener way of life today!

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Charlene Davis (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is a nationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/). The Association of Artisan Businesses (AAB) is a national, non-partisan, professional organization whose mission is to assist individual American artisans in reaching their full business potential, while also promoting awareness of the artisan industry to the public, government agencies and elected officials.

The Price is Right - Or Is it?

By: Charlene Davisphoto

Being an artisan is a balancing act that requires you to be part creative visionary and part shrewd businessperson while representing your handiwork. When customers make a purchase they believe they are buying a piece of art or a product. However, the reality is they are receiving a part of you, your wisdom, and your understanding of what they need or want. So, how does one put a price tag on that?

There are a lot of variables to consider when deciding what to charge for your work or product. In the beginning, you may find yourself on shaky ground trying to find the right pricing strategy. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market, but neither do you want to undercut your work with rock-bottom prices. Customers often attribute value to the cost of an item, but they also like discovering good deals. Ideally, you want customers to give your product a highly perceived value that will increase your profit margin by 30-50 percent.

An artisan’s calculations are typically based on two factors: cost of production and creative value. From a resourceful perspective think about the quality of the product and what intrinsic, artistic value you think customers will place on it. The best place to start is with your competitors to see what they are charging for similar work or products. You will also need to factor in labor, supplies, and materials. If you are operating out of a studio, showing your work in a gallery, or selling items on consignment, make sure to take those expenses into account.

Renee Phillips, Director of Manhattan Arts International (http://www.manhattanarts.com/), says that most emerging artists are clueless about pricing their work. "Your prices should be competitive in the marketplace, not a number you pick out of the air. When determining your prices, be realistic. Has your work passed the test of selling to several buyers outside your coterie of friends and relatives?”

In a brief excerpt of her book, Success Now! For Artists: A Motivational Guide for the Artrepreneur (http://www.manhattanarts.com/ourbooks/sn.htm), Phillips writes that artisans have to make some important decisions, such as: "To whom do you want to sell your work? Do you wish to price your work high and be satisfied with a few, infrequent sales, or would you rather price your work fairly and raise the prices as the value of your work increases? It's easier to raise prices than lower them and it's the selling price that matters, not the asking price.” A more thorough discussion about pricing and many practical strategies can be found throughout the book.

You can also use the industry standards found through different arts and crafts associations and organizations like Artisans Association for Businesses (AAB) or Craft and Hobby Association (CHA).

The bottom line is that in the absence of a crystal ball to predict the future, you need to develop a blueprint to foresee how much you can expect to make over a specified period of time: weeks, months, and even years. Pay attention because these numbers will become your sales goals. Utilizing these financial statements can help you plan for future growth, as well as deal with unanticipated problems that may occur. Most importantly, demonstrating this type of foresight will confirm that you are an astute business owner, in addition to being a creative artisan.
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CHARLENE DAVIS (http://www.thewriteessentials.com/) is a internationally published writer specializing in business, retail, e-commerce, and food. She has written Design and Start an Online Travel Business in a Week, Start Your Own Photography Business, Start Your Own Clothing Store, and How to Sell Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories on eBay, as well as two additional books co-authored with Jacquelyn Lynn, Make BIG Profits on eBay and Start Your Own Senior Services Business (all published by Entrepreneur Press). Charlene wrote this feature article exclusively for the Association of Artisan Businesses (http://www.artisanbusinesses.org/), an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artisan industry.