As we prepare to launch into the world of online sales (and blogging too) I thought I would share how Lost Penguin got here.
When I started making leather goods, like so many others, it was simply to make something for myself. Once I finished everything for myself (what I could manage to make) I started getting inquiries from friends and family for similar items. Mostly simple items like phone and ipad sleeves, guitar straps, simple belts and a holster or two.
I realized that the only way I was going to be able to afford to continue my new-found hobby was to sell the items that I made. From that point everything that I made was all custom order products. This was a great venture for sure, and a seemingly profitable one too.
Profit was good, but I needed more tools, leather and education. I spent the next years reading what I could, studying other's work, and accumulating tools. I was getting better. The only issue was that I was still only getting custom orders in a small regional market. In addition to custom orders, most everything I was making was tooled or carved leather.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love tooling and carving leather, and I plan to continue to better myself at it on the side, but it was getting harder to convince people to buy high price point custom tooled items and harder to get those sales often. Couple that with a newborn in the summer of 2016, I realized that I needed to completely restructure what Lost Penguin was to be if I was going to justify continuing the craft. It would have to be profitable and not just a break-even model.
I started out 2017 with a plan. I wanted to sort of rebrand LP and have a clear vision of what we wanted it to be. That is when I decided that I needed to get myself out there more and really hit social media. We started out the year with zero show experience and about 250 Instagram followers (I will follow up in a later post on why I think Instagram is the place to be).
After some hard-spent time with a note pad planning out a “Vision” for LP, I took a leap and applied for my first official Maker’s Show, The Market WF. I found it almost on accident. I stumbled upon it online and the deadline to apply was the next day. It was a juried show and only local makers and artisans could apply. It fit my plan perfectly, however, I didn’t think my work was up to par to be accepted (I’m my hardest critic) and just waited to hear back.
I applied in March 2017, I checked my email daily for about a month leading up to deadline when the announcements would be made (the show took place the last weekend of April). I had pretty much given up. The acceptance came the first week of April and I was ecstatic! Overwhelmingly stressed, but ecstatic! I made a flying trip to Fort Worth to load upon leather and supplies, pulling money from our emergency savings, and got busy. I had three weeks to prepare and a lot riding on the gamble that it would all pay off.
We attended the show and it was an overwhelming success! We were heartily welcomed by our community and all the other makers and artisans at the event. Our hearts were overflowing with joy and excitement. It was at that point that we realized that we had something here that we could really take to the next level.
On a note of community, I must mention how encouraging and helpful our community has been. There is a growing, and thriving maker community here in Wichita Falls, and where you would think competition would overcome each maker, it has been just the opposite. We have had so many people reach out and offer guidance and advice when we have asked, or have been in a slump and corner. If you are a maker starting out and don’t know where to go or what to do, reach out to local makers and artisans, I guarantee you will be surprised at how welcoming most of them are. (See list below for a few great local makers and artisans that I met at the Market WF)
Since our first attendance of The Market WF, we’ve attended four large vendor events, including being asked back to The Market WF Winter Market. We have been able to get some product into a local retail store and sales have been gradually growing. We have amped up our social media presence and have met and spoke with makers all over the country both offering and getting advice. The Maker Movement is a very real thing, and we couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.
For many, a website launch wouldn’t be that big of a deal. For us, it is a culmination of the past five years and the journey that has shaped Lost Penguin. In 2017 we grew not only in sales, but in community, friendship, and family. Now we make the next gamble, and we hope you all will join us along in our journey.
List of Makers and Artisans Local to Wichita Falls: