After attending Schoolhouse Craft‘s Blogger’s Summer Camp back in June, I immediately signed up for their two-day Fall Conference, before I even knew what classes were going to be offered. The price was right and I figured if it was going to be similar to Blogger’s Summer Camp, but longer and with the same kind of people, it would be yet another opportunity to learn and get to know more like-minded and talented folks (I would say women, but occasionally a guy or two shows up).
Billed as a weekend for “Creative Entrepeneurs”, the Schoolhouse Craft Fall Conference offered classes for the absolute beginner and established businesses. I’m kind of in the middle. I have a business license for Rake and Make, since I have sold at a couple of craft fairs and wanted to be legit, but that’s about it. I also have owned and started businesses before, but every business is different. To me, the handmade craft world is foreign and familiar all at the same time. I figured that even if some things didn’t apply to me, there would still be take-aways.
Besides just learning whatever I could from each class, I really didn’t have any huge goals for the conference. Once again, I was impressed by how much I got out of the weekend. I guess by now, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s just a testament to the quality of the teachers and classes that Schoolhouse Craft has to offer.
Each morning started with a keynote speaker. Day one started with a presentation by the Awesome Foundation. Ever since I graduated from college, I’ve felt out of the loop about organizations that offer grant money, so it was cool to hear about the Awesome Foundation’s “micro grants for flashes of micro-brilliance”. They offer “no strings attached” $1000 grants to any project they deem worthy. It could be something that gives back to the community or just something really creative and cool. It doesn’t matter, it just has to be awesome. ‘Nuff said. I will be checking them out for sure.
Jenna Herbut, organizer of the Make It Craft show in Canada and Make It University, gave the keynote address on the second day. She’s also working on a documentary about artists that follow their dreams and turn their passions into businesses called Make It Happen. Also, turns outs she just attended the Blogcademy in Austin. This gal is everywhere doing everything! Super inspiring.
Here are the classes I took day one:
Define Your Vision: How to Write a Business Plan and Keep your Passion taught by Julie Moberly of Artful Living- If you can believe it, I have owned two businesses and never written a business plan. I think I am finally ready and it will be a good exercise for me to figure out what I really want and expect out of Rake and Make as a business.
Web Content Strategy with Aeolidia taught by the Arianne Folks and Shoshanna Love- Okay first of all, these two have the coolest names, second of all they are awesome. This class was worth it’s weight in gold, because they actually reviewed people’s websites in class. While that was a bit painful, it was a website critique from two very talented web designers. As a result of their advice, I now have a tagline and a shiny new template.
Please Describe Your Work: How to write about your art, based on the book Art-Write: The Writing Guide for Visual Artists taught by Vicki Krohn Amarose- The class I was least sure about ended up being my favorite. Vicki is a woman after my own heart. Not only was her class educational, but I loved her sense of humor and teaching style. I also bought her book Art-Write, so I now have Vicki’s wit and wisdom on hand whenever I need it. I have yet to rewrite my bio, but I have been practicing using less exclamation points. According to Vicki, “Exclamation points are like unicorns. The more we see them, the less magical they are”. This is proving to be harder than I thought.
Day Two I attended:
How to Price Your Handmade Work taught by Marlo Miyashiro- This class was very valuable to me, since I only plan on doing craft fairs a couple of times a year and operating an Etsy shop. Like photography (and I learned this from the wedding biz), one person under-pricing their work drives rates down for everyone and can undervalue a whole industry. I know this already and respect it, so even as a “hobby” business or a part-timer, I think it is very important for me to be pricing my work just like everyone else. This class was great because Marlo gave me the formulas to figure this all out. Now to sit down and do some math.
Bookkeeping 101 taught by Danae Horst- Also important and something that would have been nice to have taken when I was a freelance photographer. What’s nice is that since I am just starting out, I can start from the ground up and stay organized, so this was good timing for me to take this class. Plus, she emailed us all the notes, so we didn’t have to take any and could just listen. Perfect. Day two, second class, my hand was getting tired!
Creating a Successful Kickstarter Campaign taught by Andie Powers and Emily Grosse of Assemble Shop & Studio- Last class of the second day. By this point I was a little fried and overwhelmed by how long my to-do list was getting. Andie and Emily did a great job of presenting their successful Kickstarter campaign, but I think my brain was like a water-logged sponge at that point. Good thing they handed out some paperwork. I’ll be referring to that when the time comes.
I got WAY more out of the weekend than I planned to. It’s always nice to be in a place where you feel you are surrounded by your people. At the beginning of many of the classes, the instructor would have us introduce ourselves and say a little bit about who we are and what we do. It was reassuring to hear that I am not the only one that struggles with picking just one thing to do. I saw a trend of people who wore many hats and own several different businesses, websites, etc.. Phew, I was starting to feel bad about that and think it was just me. Guess it’s an artist thing?
Unexpectedly, at the end of the weekend, I felt I had really figured out what I want out of Rake and Make as a business. I feel like Rake and Make is a nice extension to a career I have worked hard to build, so I am not looking to quit my day job and that’s okay. I feel like I can chip away at my to-do list slowly and with the proper tools. Writing a business plan and new bio and doing the bookkeeping still aren’t at the top of my list of things I consider fun, but at least they don’t seem scary now. For now, I’d love to see Rake and Make grow into a fun, self-sustaining hobby business, with industry standard prices, so as not to undermine folks who do this for a living. I’d like to do a couple of crafts fairs a year and start an Etsy store. For going in with an open mind and not having a lot of expectations about the weekend, I think I did alright!
Thank you Andrea and the rest of the Schoolhouse Craft crew and all the amazing instructors. I have come to expect high quality education from Schoolhouse Craft, so I won’t be surprised anymore when I get it. Thanks again and see you all next year!