Monday, February 2, 2015

Captain's Log: Interview with Sharon Fain from the Academy of Handmade

Happy February Team! 

Is it just me or is anyone else having a mild panic attack about the speed at which 2015 is progressing?

Try as we might to slow down a bit in January and give ourselves and our businesses time to rest and recover from the holiday season, February comes so soon! My head is full of Valentine's Day gifts and projects that I need to finish.

Even though it seems to breeze past, the first quarter of the year is a great time to work on projects that have been collecting dust and spruce up your online brand.

This past Saturday, the SF Chapter of The Academy of Handmade held a workshop to help small business owners spruce up their "About Me" sections. Led by Caitlin Bacher of Little Farm Media and yours truly, Rebecca Saylor of OodleBaDoodle, we created a worksheet to help jolt some creative writing juices. Attendees then had the opportunity to meet one on one with Wendy Steiner, writer at The Bold Italic to brainstorm and edit their story.

I'll link to a post with more in-depth information about this workshop in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you might be wondering "Who is the Academy of Handmade"?
So I recently sat down with The Academy of Handmade Co-Founder Sharon Fain to share with you how she's helping the creative business community thrive. Sharon is a great person to know and to connect with and has brought many wonderful connections to San Francisco and the creative small business community. I know you will enjoy getting to know her better.

You can follow Sharon and the Academy of Handmade online here:


1. Hello Sharon, let's start by you sharing a little about yourself:

Hi! I'm Sharon Fain, co-founder and director of Academy of Handmade and the owner of Right Brain PR. I've been working with creatives since college and have a passion for supporting creative entrepreneurship. I live and work out of Long Beach, California along with my fiancee and two rescue dogs. 

2. How did you first get involved in with makers and the small creative business community. 

Academy co-founder, KC, was starting her handmade business and I was working with her on launching it and making it happen. From there, I had several opportunities to work with makers including helping the new Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles with marketing.

3. What do you find most exciting about working with makers, entrepreneurs, and artisans? 

I find that they are much more open to new ideas in their businesses and aren't bogged down by tradition. I also like that you have to be very "high touch" with customers and get to develop very strong relationships that you can't typically do with a big brand.

4. What do you find most challenging about working with makers, entrepreneurs, and artisans? 

When you are learning to run a business there is a lot of info out there that doesn't apply to you because not every business is the same. I find that there a lot of "gurus" who will tell you "this is the way to run a business because this is how I got successful" and that is not often applicable to makers and even if it were, there are still makers whose businesses wouldn't fit that mold. So I think a lot of what we try to do is present information as unbiasedly as possible and leave it up to makers to decide for themselves.

5. Tell me about a special maker/artisan you’ve met while working on your business? 

Oh man, there are so many. One of our earliest members Miriam Dema has really blown me and KC away. She's a very savvy business lady and an amazing artist who started to branch out into scarves this last year. 

6.  How did you learn about SFEtsy? 

I cursory knew of the group, but was encouraged to link up with Rebecca Saylor (thanks Lisa Spinella!) when I was at Craftcation last year. It wasn't until I was going to be up in San Francisco for a business trip that an actual meeting occurred. 

7. What is one of your primary goals for your business in 2015? 

The Academy turns two this year. We are still in our infancy and figuring things out, which can be rough for a Type-A like myself, but I really want to figure out how to better build our online community support and resources.

8. What’s the one online tool you’ve discovered that can help makers propel their business?

I think knowing your business inside and out is huge and there are so many great CreativeLive's that I think can help makers. And also, obviously, get plugged into a supportive community like Academy of Handmade. :)

9. Do you have any words of wisdom to help makers sell more in person at popup events? 

One thing that drives me nuts when I go to shows is that signage is scarce on their table, which means when there's a crowd in front of your table your signage disappears. OR the sign is at the back of the booth which makes it distant/hard to read and doesn't let people who are coming down the aisle know who you are. Have MULTIPLE ways to announce your business' name and always remember flow and how that could affect it. 

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, visit Our Team Page about joining SFEtsy!

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