Grow Your Handmade Business

Grow Your Handmade Business
By Kari Chapin · Reviewed by Jess Soutar Barron

Grow Your Handmade Business is the book to give someone who is setting out on the professional handmade journey. People who are gungho enough to pursue such a trip won’t necessarily stop long enough to buy the book themselves, but it is one they should read.

On the gift tag you might write something similar to the quote found on page 65: “Surround yourself with people who support you, people who understand the long work hours, the importance of making dreams happen, and people who share their resources and community with you.”

For all its brash American “dream this” and “visualise that” (“Dreaming big is one of the best business skills you have”, writes author Kari Chapin) it’s a humble, honest, human and very personal book. I enjoyed its morselised structure, its grown-up pragmatism and its Greek chorus of creatives who add weight to the tools and advice penned by Chapin herself.

Some of the language is suitably American OTT: “Actualise your dreams!” Chapin coaches, shamelessly calling someone a “possibilitarian”.

I know the ‘slow made’ industry in the US is far larger and the ability to ‘make it work’ far grander than in New Zealand but the rules and tools are still valuable.

The book carefully balances strategic financial forecasts with “trust your gut” mantras, and allows you, nay encourages you, to have professionals on board. But that’s scary when you’re making $5 soaps or $20 bunting strands.

I salute its acceptance of new tech, and the ability to communicate is a strong theme throughout: communicating to the world about your business; communicating with peers, associates, mentors, helpers and your creative business community; self-communication.

The book’s a little hit and miss in terms of style with one page being sanctimonious sugar and the next helpfully honest. The addition of the Creative Collective is a nice way to move it from self to a wider view point but there are perhaps too many voices and it’s hard to keep them all straight in your head.

Overall Handmade Business is reassuring. It’s a good friend, a tough mentor. It makes you tackle the age-old working in versus working on balance and that double-edged sword of success: you are no longer a potter or a knitter or a baker, you are a BUSINESS OWNER and those two things are quite different.

Bite-sized information is supported by formatting that invites you in and charming typesetting that rewards reading.

There’s a lot of probing questions in here that, if faced seriously, could leave you asking “Am I starting a business or going in to therapy?” But early on it sorts the mice from the makers and forces separation between a “sometimes profitable hobby” and a “fully fledged business.” Handmade business ventures always rely on one pivotal thing: YOU, and because of that this type of book becomes a self-help one full of: get enough sleep, know your limits, make time for yourself, be clear with boundaries.

Grow Your Handmade Business asks you to dig deep on a personal level then wrenches you, kicking and screaming, into the hard reality of financials, mission statements, boundaries and support systems – it counsels: “Saying no makes more room for saying yes,” – and in some ways lets you off life a bit so you can concentrate on your BUSINESS. After all, that’s always been the issue with ‘pin money’ – taking it seriously and forcing those around you to as well.

From page 59: “You don’t have to accept every challenge that comes along, you can skip a community obligation or two, and you don’t have to do everything all by yourself.”

Phew! Now back to reconciling the accounts.
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Jess Soutar Barron is one half of the dynamic duo behind Hawke’s Bay’s fledgling craft empire Coco and Co and the fabulous Fruit Bowl Craft Jam.

Grow Your Handmade Business is available from Bookreps New Zealand, who have a special offer just for Felt readers – purchase your copy and have it shipped for free by entering the code FELTFREE at checkout!

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