I was talking with some friends recently and they asked me what I’d been up to lately. “I’m super busy with the business,” I said. That prompted them to ask, “Well, what do you do all day?”
When I finished answering that question, they told me they had no idea how much went into running an online business. So, I thought some of you might be curious to know all the ins and outs of how I keep things running here.
Where do I get my products?
While I have on occasion sourced my products directly from artisan groups, I get most of what you see on the web site from fair trade wholesalers, the majority of whom are women. Many of them have become friends in the 4 years since I started the company. These wonderful women work directly with the various artisan groups from underdeveloped countries on designing and creating beautiful fashion accessories.
I connected with the wholesalers mainly through the Fair Trade Federation, of which I’m a member. Their very thorough vetting process assures that any wholesale or retail member strictly adheres to fair trade principles.
I also find new suppliers occasionally at trade shows, like the San Francisco International Gift Show. At the January show, spring and summer fashions are featured while the August show highlights fall and winter products.
How do I get the products from the wholesaler to my web site?
At the trade shows, the fair trade products on display are samples. The wholesaler takes my order and, along with her other orders, sends it to her artisans. These made-to-order accessories can take several months to arrive. More frequently, I order throughout the year from what’s called “immediates,” products that are in stock at the supplier and ready for immediate shipping.
I’m always excited when I receive my orders. Even though I’ve seen samples or photos of what I want, there’s nothing like opening a box and getting my hands on the glittering jewelry, gorgeous apparel, and fabulous bags from so many talented women artisans.
The next step is to take photos of everything. This taxes my patience at times because it involves shooting each item from different angles, with different lighting, and with different backgrounds so there’s a variety of photos to find what will look the best online.
I narrow it down to a few, then edit each picture to highlight the product’s features. The hardest part of the entire photographic process is getting the colors right. What you see with your naked eye never looks exactly the same online. But I work with each picture to get it as close as possible. Since I’ve never received complaints from customers saying what they ordered looked nothing like the web site photo, I must be doing something right!
Now it’s time to add the product to the web site. I write a detailed description for each piece, trying to anticipate all possible questions a shopper might have about it. Then I write the story of the artisans who handmade the item, for me the most important component of the information.
I add the photos and all the search engine optimization language (the behind the scenes stuff). And if a scarf, for example, comes in more than one color, I set up the color options and tell the system to show a different photo each time a customer clicks on a color choice. On average, entering one product on the web site requires from 30 to 45 minutes.
Finally, I create price tags for each product and an artisan information card that I include with every customer purchase.
All this work goes down the drain if you, the consumer, don’t know about it. So I spend many, many hours posting about my products, the company, fair trade issues, ethical fashion, elephants (that’s another whole story, in fact, here’s a blog I wrote about elephants), artisans, style tips, inspirational quotes, and more. Whatever I think may be interesting, amusing, or educational for someone who follows Fair Trade Designs on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.
Of course, this isn’t all of what consumes a typical work day for me. Shipping customer orders, taking inventory, updating the site to keep it fresh, attending webinars on various business and fair trade issues, and pitching products to magazines and bloggers are sprinkled throughout the week.
If you haven’t guessed by now, there’s only one employee at Fair Trade Designs–me!
I feel as if I’ve forgotten something, but I think you probably get the gist. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section and I’ll definitely respond.
Here’s what the products in the box above now look like on the web site. Click on the links below to see the results of what I do all day. And remember, every purchase you make helps our talented artisans lift themselves and their families from poverty.