Monday, July 09, 2007

Going Medieval

I really like making and selling crafts. I enjoy having a booth at craft fairs and watching the kids run around the fair, buying little trinkets. But I am really, really sick of making booties. Sales of the dish scrubbers and other things I invented are flagging, and I really had wanted to get into making something more "scalable", something that I could make in batches. I started making the booties to cross-sell with the tie-dyed onesies, and while they have boosted onesie sales, they're now my most popular product, and I'm just so sick of making them. I get so many wholesale inquiries that I have to turn them down. I've raised my prices and the orders keep on coming in. This wouldn't be a bad thing, except that it causes so much stress for me. I really don't like being tied down to these booties, having production schedules for them, etc. because they're really the only product I have that makes money.

If I had more time, I could do something about this. I could market the onesies in the way I had originally planned, which was to seek wholesale customers for them at hospital gift shops, doctor's offices, etc. and making periodic trips to the West Coast where people have more money and a taste for tie-dye. But that kind of thing is not something you can do with a baby on each arm while you try to get your 7 year old Aspie to take his feet off the wall. And it's finally sinking in that my life is going to be like this for at least the next 5 years, if not more, especially with Sonshine showing signs of possible OCD. I simply won't have time to market my stuff properly. So I think I'd like to take the business in a little bit different direction, at least for the next little while.

My brother Little D is a medieval re-enactor, and he also wants to make some money (and who doesn't!) so we are going into business together to make some medieval stuff and sell it at SCA events. We haven't really found a focus for our products yet, so we're pretty much just running stuff up the flagpole to see who salutes. Since that's kind of how medieval commerce worked anyway, we can point to our lack of focus and proudly say it's period-authentic! :)

We thought we might start with herbs, because they're cheap and easy to get and repackage. For the upcoming Baron's War we have made some ointments, bags of strewing herbs (medieval potpourri), and masculine-smelling armor bag scenters. We used medieval recipes for the ointments and did some research into the period uses of the strewing herbs. I eventually want to do some culinary herb blends, but that will require us to rent the Health Department-approved kitchen and get food handler's permits. To make that worth our while we would need to have a lot of herbs to blend, and we just don't have the capital for that at the moment. We also figured on buying and reselling some items here and there, as we find unusual things. I ordered some simple and plausibly medieval looking belts from my hemp supplier, and some raw silk from another supplier. And I also, inexplicably, am interested in antique medieval rosaries (paternosters). I would like to make some of those as well.

I can apply for a business line of credit, but only after we finish our refinance deal this fall (long, complicated story). So until then it'll be a small-time affair.