Friday, January 29, 2010

Things I've Learned From Blogs I Follow:

1) I'm not the only one who has problems recruiting participants for contests! ;) This last holiday season, I set up a fun "design your holiday shirt" contest where the winner got a FREE shirt - and I had a whopping 2 participants. Before that, I had a "refer-a-friend" Starbucks giveaway, and had no participants. Now that I'm becoming a little more well known, I would probably have a better turnout... I think. lol.
However, the whole point is that there are others out there that hold regular contests but have a hard time getting anyone to participate. For example, one blog that I follow is She is doing a giveaway to someone who correctly answers her trivia question. I didn't even know the answer, but I guessed anyway just because she deserves to have someone participate! If you get a chance, you should stop by and participate - you might win something!!

2) You can find new freebies by visiting other blogs. I myself have found two great sites (that I have blogged about previously) where you can get FREE blog backgrounds and other blog goodies just by visiting other peoples' blogs!
There's a great freebie listed on one of the blogs I follow today: . It's a cool flash widget thingy that lets you show off some Etsy items in your shop!

3) Etsians like to promote other Etsians. By the way, an "Etsian" is simply someone who buys and/or sells on the site . It's the best crafting site in the world in my opinion! I could easily go broke there...
Anyway, so a lot of times when you check out someone else's blog, you will be introduced to another great artist in the process! There's an interview right now from one Etsian to another on a blog that I follow: .

4) There are some incredibly cool, unique and gifted artisans out there! I can't believe some of the awesome items I have found - I've been making up a list of shops that I will "need" to buy from as I slowly start accruing my holiday gifts for this upcoming year!
One of those shops has a great fact blog: . Aren't the handmade kaleidoscopes amazing?!

5) Bloggers are human. That means human things happen to them, and they sometimes share their feelings about them. When I went through my foot surgery, I shared a brief note here and was so surprised and touched that some readers went out of their way to send me personal emails wishing me well!
A recent blog by had me cringing in sympathy as she discussed her fear of spiders - ick! I'm so not a spider person.

I've learned many other things, but I really should get to work and stop procrastinating by posting things to my blog. ;) I hope you enjoyed learning more about what I have learned!

Updated blog for Valentine's Day!

Yep, I changed my blog again! Now that I have found great free blog design sites, it has been fun to see all of the great designs I can use!

This one is from a different free blog design site: I really recommend it, or

Speaking of valentine's day, why not surprise your love one with a custom valentine's shirt? We'd be more than happy to make one! Or better yet - does the man in your life love beer? We have great customizable beer jerseys - beer coozies shaped like t-shirts - that would make a GREAT gift!!

Happy Vday a little early from Java Jess!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

So close, yet so far away

Another post in one week - wow! ;) I'm feeling a little distracted today, so I thought I would blog about it before moving on to the thousands of other things I need to accomplish today.

I set a goal for myself this year of selling 365 items - one for every day of the year. With that in mind, my sales goal for this month was to sell 32 items - that's one extra, in case I fall behind on a different month! :)

Sales have been slow, but I have managed to get myself only 6 items away from my goal! However, now it feels like sales have stopped complete, and here I am trying everything I can think of to sell those last 6 items!!!!!! I tried going on Etsy chat and offering "Make me a deal", but had no takers. I also tried "free shipping"... again, no takers. I sent out a coupon earlier this month to my first 100 Etsy fans for 25% off any purchase until January 31st... and no one has bothered to use it. I posted it as my Facebook status both on my personal page and my business fan page... nothing.

I'm starting to lose hope that I will make those last 6 sales!!

Two factors may help me reach my goal:
1) I just finished up an order of 14 custom printed BDU shirts for a local Air Force squadron. The Ssgt was so impressed that she said she would be telling other Air Force squadrons about my work. So, maybe word will spread fast enough that I'll get a few orders that way.
2) Back in November, I made a batch of 10 tote bags for a local charity group to sell at a craft fair, and told them they could pay me once they sold. Well, the tote bags didn't sell at the craft fair, but they said they would hold on to them and pay for them once they hit the new year so they could give them as gifts to their volunteers. Here we are at January 27th, and still no payment for them. So, if they manage to pay me before the end of the month, I would easily reach my goal!

Other than that, I'm not sure what else to try! I put in bids on Etsy alchemy like it's going out of style... I advertise using Project Wonderful... lol sometimes I stretch myself so thin that I'm almost transparent! ;)

And then there is one last thing - the house that my husband and I desperately wanted to turn into a bed and breakfast is back on the market. It kills me that we can't afford it!!! It would be PERFECT for a bed and breakfast - so designed for it!! I have so many great ideas on how to make it the best, too... but the fact of the matter is that my hubs doesn't make much at his job, and Java Jess Publishing IS my job, so it's not any kind of regular income... so we just don't qualify to buy it, and even if we did, we couldn't afford the renovations and rezoning.

So, I listed my hard work and hours of longing business plan on Etsy. I've had it listed before and it didn't sell, but I thought it couldn't hurt to try again. What I could really use is an angel investor - someone who had the money and believed that I could truly turn that home into the masterpiece of a bed and breakfast that it was destined to become! ;)

Isn't that always the way it is? lol.

Ok, now that I have ranted, I need to actually accomplish more work... Thank you readers for listening!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Extreme Blog Makeover!

As you may have noticed, things are looking a whole lot different here on our blog - thanks to the help of some Etsy friends, we have completed a blog makeover! We still may add a few tweaks here and there, but for now we really love the new look!

If any of you are interested in making over your blog, I highly recommend the site that I was referred to : . They have a bunch of fun themes, and everything is FREE! I also was told there were more places to round up some free blog backgrounds, etc. but I don't remember those links anymore. So, if any of my fans know of these other free blog design sites, please feel free to post them in the comments!!

In other news, we reached 200 fans today! It's incredible - in just 26 days, we have doubled our fan base using link love!! What a blessing. What is link love? Well, I explained it all in my last post, so just take a look back and it will all be explained. :)

Finally, I think I may be adding a new series on this blog where I explore other blogs/shops and share them with you. I have been introduced to so many great shops this month that I just have to share them with you!

Happy Tuesday!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Behind the Scenes: How I Am Recruiting Facebook Fans

Part eight of our Behind the Scenes series examines how we recommend recruiting Facebook fans.

As a relative newbie to Facebook (I've only been on a few months longer than when I started my business), I'm still working on learning all of the ins and outs. One thing that has been difficult is figuring out how exactly to attract Facebook fans.

I figured out how to set up the page without much help, but attracting fans has been a whole different matter.

I started with the simple stuff - sending a message to all my friends and family on Facebook asking them to become fans. Apparently, most people decided they would rather not. ;) From my over 100 friend/family I got maybe 30-40 or so fans. Maybe they considered it spam. Maybe they didn't understand that it's free to become a fan. Who knows? All I know is, it didn't get me very far.

From there, I tried some Facebook advertising. It was expensive. VERY expensive. Plus, it was hard to figure out the whole pay per click or pay per impression thing. It took forever to figure out that impressions were more successful for me. Regardless, I didn't get too many more fans for all the money I pumped into it - maybe another 10 or 20.

After that, I gave up on Facebook advertising and moved to starting a thread on Etsy along with making a few small ad boxes for an advertising site that I love, Project Wonderful. That helped a lot more than my previous methods - you gotta love how community-oriented everyone is on Etsy! I swear most people I have met through Etsy are the nicest people you will ever meet. Not all of us are successful on Etsy - I myself have a harder time selling through Etsy than my own website - but it is a great community to be a part of. :)

The Etsy thread and Project ad helped quite a bit, but it was still a very very slow trickle of fans. I finally hit 100 fans after several months of having a Facebook page!

But then, through an Etsy chat, I was introduced to the idea of "Link Love", and that has opened up a wonderful stream of new fans!

The whole premise of link love is this: You post a discussion thread called "Link Love" or something similar, then post all your links and leave instructions for your fans to leave their links. You also let them know that they should start their own "link love" thread and make sure to fan/follow/etc. everyone else's links.

The only drawback I've run into is that Facebook gets all "you might be spamming people" on you if you do too many fanning/thread postings in one day. Kinda stupid, but I guess they need to make sure I'm not just some computer randomly spamming people. :)

So far I've gained over 30 fans in just a few days!! I highly recommend trying this method and then letting your current fans know about it, etc. It has worked for me! I hope to hit 250 fans by the end of February, and 500 by the end of April if I'm lucky. In the meantime, I still do things here and there on Etsy and through Project Wonderful. I also love to do prize drawings for my fans so they stay fans! :)

Jess Buike is the owner of Java Jess Publishing. To find out more about her business, check out her store here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Great Resources for T-Shirt Businesses

Some of you out there might think that running a t-shirt business is exactly what you are looking for in a job. If that is the case, I would like to offer some great resources I have found useful for my business.

The web is my greatest resource. You can type in just about anything you are looking for and find it! It's not always easy to understand (I'm still figuring out the licensing/tax paperwork parts myself), but it's there.

Here are some sites I can't live without:
- a great resource for anyone like me who is too cheap to own a fax machine! You can scan items in on your printer and fax them for free with this great site! And they don't put advertisements on the cover page, so you don't have to worry about your fax being tossed as spam.
- while their prices aren't always the best, their service is second to none! They have decent sales, and their turnaround is INCREDIBLE - I often receive items I ordered less than 48 hours after I placed the order! I like their wide selection of heat vinyl, too.

- this is the ultimate website for anyone considering running a t-shirt business. you can get any question answered here, research different shirt printing methods and vendors, learn more about the technical aspects, review software, etc. It's the most comprehensive authority for the entire industry in my opinion!
- this one is kinda goofy, but every once in a while you run across a transfer medium that has temperatures in Celsius, or you may have a machine that needs to be set to Celsius but you only have Fahrenheit instructions, etc.
- though I stopped using it for the time being, this is a great resource for your e-commerce site that allows your customers to create a wish list from items in your store. I didn't get a great response from it but it might work better for you.
- I only ship via USPS, and use this constantly to determine shipping rates, etc.

- Because we use CorelDraw, and because I suck at learning new software, I like finding site such as this that offer easy to understand tutorials. This particular one also has a lot of other great resources on it for the t-shirt entrepreneur.

- this site is really awesome when you need to convert files from one format to the next! For example, if you have a pdf that you need to make into a jpg, you can use this site! I also love that it's free, since I don't have a large budget.

I'm sure there are a lot of other sites out there, several of which I also use, but this is a great starting point for anyone considering the industry. There is a lot to factor in - equipment, software, time, products, etc - but it can be a very satisfying line of work.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Behind The Scenes: Using a Free Web Hosting Site

Part seven of our Behind the Scenes series examines web hosting and design options.

As a small business with very limited means, we weren't sure how we were going to be able to set up a professional website. After doing some searching on the internet, we found the site, where we could set up a site for free.

We decided to invest in a domain name - that was something we didn't want to skimp on - but kept with their free service. It is a drag and drop interface, so we didn't need to worry about not having any website design or setup skills.

Now that we have been in business for several months, here is our feedback regarding using a free hosting service for your business website:

-Easy to use (no design skills needed)
- Free
- Able to add items at any time
- Able to use a paid domain name while still using the site for free
- Several templates to choose from
- Enough variety in layout options to keep it from looking too formulated

- Limited options for checkout cart
- Limited options for layout/design, especially for the background
- Their servers run very very very very slow during the busy times of day
- Sometimes, their site stops working for a few hours completely
- Slower customer service (if you had a paid acct with them, you would get faster service though)

At this stage, we are frustrated with the slowness of their site, and wish we had a more attractive layout, even after completely remodeling our website. However, we are glad that we don't have to pay a fee to have the website, nor do we have to pay someone to do our website (which would mean having to send them our new items every time we had one, paying them each time).

It's a toss up as to whether or not this has been good for our business. We are pretty sure we would have better sales if we had a slightly better looking website; but if we were paying for a website at this point, we would practically be out of business because we just don't have the sales!

What are your experiences with your business website?

Jess Buike is the owner of Java Jess Publishing. To find out more about her business, check out her store here.