The Raw Truth About Handmade Products

The Raw Truth About Handmade Products

Chris Burgess

Entrepeneurs Have a Dream

So here's a little story for you.  My mom was an artist and crafter.  Like her, I was always writing and making things growing up. So, ever since I was a little girl, I had this silly dream of having a really cool little store filled with beautiful, original handmade stuff. You know, the kind of magical store that you would go into and really never want to leave. Sadly, my Mom died of cancer several years ago.  I had a family to take care of, so that dream got pushed aside. But it was always there. In fact, my best friend, Billianne, and I were "dreaming" out loud about it not too long before she, too, died of cancer. We even did a sketch of the store and all the rooms in it! I guess that's why I made the leap a couple of years ago, shortly after she died, from my corporate job to Just Imagine Handcrafted. Life is simply too short not to go for your dreams.

That is the thing about entrepreneurs.  We have a dream.  And the dream never really dies.  It may transform over time, but the urge to bring something unique and creative into the world uniquely your own is always there – just waiting for you to take a leap of faith.

Online Sales are Harder than you Think

Of course, I had envisioned a building (not a website), but a girl has to start somewhere. Not everyone has the resources to rent a building and set up shop.  So, like many crafters, I thought I would start “small,” with an online shop.  So, Instead of painting walls (which I can do), and putting up shelves (which I'd like to do), and hosting a Champagne Open House (which my years as an event planner has TOTALLY prepared me for), I've spent the last two years just trying to get people to GO to my website. To know I EXIST.  Still have not quite figured that one out, since Facebook’s algorithms keep changing!  Now that I am also listing on Amazon Handmade - that, my friends, is a whole 'nuther can of worms. (Each product has about 5 pages of information to fill out, and there are MILLIONS of products.  Climbing up the ranks requires being seen and making sales. 

Everybody Wants a Piece of the Pie

I'm sure there are low-cost ways to start a business, but trust me, it is never as low as you think.  Truthfully, everybody wants a slice of the pie. And I mean EVERYBODY.  Shopify and Amazon get theirs.  Paypal gets theirs. Apps, marketing, the list could go on and on.   And of course, USPS is a stone-cold killer.  So by the time a sale gets to me, it is substantially less than it was.

Really, though. For each and every product someone buys from me, this is what has transpired:  I had to research it, order raw materials, make it, test it, design and print labels, package it, photograph it, and store it.  I had to burn the backgrounds of my photographs, upload it with copy and SEO, and list it on Shopify, Instagram, Facebook,, Google, and now Amazon.  (I have yet to figure out Twitter, Pinterest or YouTube, and Truth be Told, I have yet to figure out the ones I’m actually using.) 

Next, there's marketing, designing ads on Canva, adjusting navigation, on Shopify, indexing pages on Google Console, watching Amazon and Youtube videos, reading articles, writing a monthly newsletter, (which virtually no one reads), on top of countless other things I SHOULD be doing, including backlinks and long-tail keywords, (have no idea) a BLOG, becoming an EXPERT in social groups, LinkedIn, Google Analytics, and about 20 other things that only the Internet saavy would fully comprehend.  (I am not one of these, BTW.)  So yes, my friends.  It’s a LOT.

YES, It's Scary

If all this sounds daunting, is.  The truth is, unless crafters are doing it as a side-hobby, selling in volume, or have a second income, generally speaking, handmade ANYTHING is going to be a little pricier than your average discount store, assuming they are going to be even marginally profitable.  That's just a fact. 

But I Need to Save Money

I get it.  Believe me.  With three kids and a business to run, I know how to stretch a dollar!  But what people really do need to understand is WHAT they are buying.  For example, if you bought a $10 meal at the drive-through of McDonalds (I seriously don’t recommend this!) you’d probably get a greasy not-quite-burger burger, a hunk of fries and a Coke, which would be gone in roughly 10 minutes.  Not a quality, creative product that would last you for months! 

So why do we do it?  Why do we buy junk thinking we're getting a bargain?  Because it is convenient.  Because we are USED to it.  Because it is easier to spend that $10 on a non-value “Value” meal – i.e., JUNK, than it is to go home and fry up an ACTUAL burger ourselves, even though we KNOW it would be better for us.

So this is the mentality that I, and countless other handmade small businesses, are up against.  Unlike the Big Guys, we have not spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on commercials and fancy jingles over decades in order to “gain customer trust.”  (Even if that customer trust is completely unfounded.)  We do not offer “instant” gratification.  If you buy it online, you have to wait for it to show up at your door.  And you have to be willing to pay a little more for it than you would at a discount store.  But what you DO get is quality and, at Just Imagine Handcrafted, actual CUSTOMER SERVICE.

Take, for example, my Rose Pro-Collagen Facial Mist.  My daughter purchased some of this for me on a cruise, which I LOVED.  The trouble?  It was $75!  So when I ran out, I decided to create my own.  Several months of research later - price tag?  $25.  Retail.  Same amount, same ingredients, same awesome results. So what does that mean?  Well, I suppose it means I am a little pricier than Target, but considerably less pricey than say, Nordstrom’s!  

My point?  When you buy a handmade product, just know that a LOT of time, effort and energy has gone into getting it from our imagination to your door, and it is STILL likely a better value than the stuff you’re buying off the shelves.  And think about the reality that behind the product you are buying is an actual person.

Odds Are, You Won't Get Rich Any Time Soon

Let me give you another example.  For a $9 bar of soap, I have to sell 20 bars to make $200 - and less than HALF of that would go in my “pocket”, and that is only if I were not currently re-investing ALL of it back into the business.

That means I would need to sell 40 bars of soap to make $200 a week – less the amount taken by my Web Host.  Your average minimum wage employee makes $400 a week, so I would have to do TWICE that much in sales to make minimum wage.  For a person trying to make a living, this is hard news, so you had best believe that people like me really have to love and believe in what they do.

So What About the American Dream?

There was a time when the American Dream was a reality –when the creativity, innovation, drive and imagination of American citizens spawned generations of entrepreneurs that became successful, thriving businesses.  The only way that will ever be a possibility again is if people – like you and me – start supporting those dreams again.

So when you see the words please “Like, Share and Comment," or "please review my product,” please don’t just scroll by.  Take a moment.  These people are literally fighting for their lives, and they are doing it to bring something of value TO YOU.  And when you see the words:  BUY AMERICAN.  BUY HANDMADE, it is more than just a phrase.  It is a calling…to support the Little Guy. 

This country was literally built on the backs of the Little Guy, not the mega-corporations.  It's time we give him or her a hand up!






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