We're pretty sure we're not letting the cat out of the bag here as you've probably seen, heard of, and if you're lucky, have one of Moops bags strewn across your shoulder; but Wendy of Moop does reveal her secrets of transforming a hobby into a business.
Moop began as an extension of my practice as an artist. I had been sewing props and costume type things for photographs I was staging but really only had a basic understanding of a sewing machine….and absolutely no business skills! Our beginning story is likely pretty common for people working like you and I - I was a maker of various types of things and out of a utilitarian need, I made myself something. In this case it was a bag. It was basically a rectangle of fabric with two straps sewn on. I carried it stuffed full with books and a laptop all through graduate school - It held up beautifully for what it was! I enjoyed making the bag and really enjoyed that it had a very practical use. I started making bags for my daughter and totes for myself. The more I made, the more I experimented. I learned about Etsy in late 2006 and set up shop in early 2007. I still didn't really see myself as a business owner, though. I had so much yet to learn!
Later that year Etsy featured Moop. I was wholly unprepared for the onslaught of business. It was Cyber Monday and I had never experienced a holiday season before, let alone the rush of business that an Etsy feature brings! It was exhausting but it forced me to really address some serious issues about running a business like: Using Quickbooks to manage our customer database, streamlining production so I could meet the demand, hiring assistants because I could not do it all myself, investing in better equipment and learning about the value of good customer relations. Once I really put these things into place, I felt much more like a business and began to operate as one. I wanted to build a brand that could stand on its own so we began building a direct sale website (moopshop.com) and have been working to build Moop as an independent label ever since.
It is important to me that we keep the essence of our origins as we grow. Our studio is an active place where every aspect of the business happens. It is not only a laboratory where I design and make and create and experiment, it's also a working studio where streamlined production happens. It is a pleasant place. We have big windows with a lemon tree and a giant schefflera. We listen to audio books and talk radio much of the day and have a small kitchen and lounge area so everyone has a space to relax if needed. I have an office space separate from the sewing space which allows me to focus on the administrative side of building and maintaining a business. In creating an office space I have been able to treat the administrative side with the same attention as the production side of things. The more I have learned, the more I have been able to know precisely who I need to ask for assistance and in what capacity. If you don't know exactly what you need, then what you're asking for will always be more expensive. But if you take the time to learn every element of your business, you'll know when you need to draw on the expertise of someone else. For me, I find great satisfaction in asking for assistance from those who have more experience than me. This has helped me to avoid many mistakes and given me more time and energy to focus on the things that I love about running a business.
If you take the time to learn about how a business operates you will have an easier time transitioning from an independent artist to an independent artist who gets paid…ie: a business. It may seem like this is as far from creative as you can be but having a firm understanding of taxes, payroll, accounting, order management, fulfillment, etc. will ensure that you are operating as a profitable business (both emotionally and financially) which will in turn allow you to continue to make a living from your creative projects.