Today, as I know you know, because corporations have been targeting ads at you for days, is Black Friday and tomorrow is Small Business Saturday. Every year I waffle over if to take part in these campaigns and usually come down on the side of no. The reason for this is my business is one of the tiny, one-person ones (one of the 27.1 million businesses in this country owned and operated by a single person! *) and I sell my goods literally without a profit margin! What does that mean exactly? Let me pull back the curtain of the non-creative side of my business a bit to break down how I calculate my retail prices in explanation.
The first set of factors in calculating costs are the ones everyone knows: the time spent making a given piece + the materials used. From this combined value I calculate a percentage to cover the consumable goods required to make it (like heating my workspace, putting gas in my torch tanks, sandpaper, flux, etc…). These two numbers combined become my Cost of Goods and this is the math many are trying to do in their head when they naïvely ask an artist or maker “how much time did that take you to make?”. Our math, however, is not at all done!
This COG number must be increased to cover the many other costs associated with doing business in a variety of situations. To keep it simple for myself I use the cost of a 40% gallerists commission (which pays the galleries I work with to keep their small business functioning!) as my general rule and bend other situations to its tidy and easily calculable value.
So, when selling at an in-person event that same 40% is broken down into usually 10 ish % going to the organizers (often, yet another small business!), 3% to credit card processing (big business) and the remaining 27 ish % towards offsetting my time/expenses in maintaining/preparing/transporting my display and partially compensating me for hours spent as a sales associate (likely less than minimum wage if we’re being honest!).
Alternatively, when I sell online the 40% covers costs associated with the website itself as well as (so much) time spent taking and editing photos, creating the listings, any required graphic design/emails/communications, all of the time preparing and packaging orders and time physically getting packages into the hands of the USPS (not a small business but a business I’m exceedingly thankful for). If there’s any amount remaining it goes towards expenses not yet covered such as time spent actually designing my art, ordering materials, keeping the books, paying taxes and social security, buying healthcare… and I’m sure I’m missing several things!
The long-winded point is this, there is no “amount by which revenue from sales exceeds costs” (profit margin as defined by the Oxford Dictionary) built into my or many other creatives’ prices because doing so would make the work cost prohibitive to you. Some may say that’s a bad business decision but I personally find the work satisfying and meaningful enough to voluntarily work harder for it. I am not motivated by profit but by wanting to make beautiful things!
This is why, today, big businesses can afford big sales (they are only forgoing the extra, and probably only part of that) while many small businesses cannot (there is no extra, a discount therefore = making a smaller wage or paying an expense out of pocket).
The reason I share all this is to underscore what you are paying for when you buy honestly handmade goods. You get a physical product that directly employs a human being, ideally with a living wage. You get the dedication of that person throughout every aspect of making their product, all the way to its arrival in your hands. It’s not the gift economy I idealize but it’s also not capitalistic. When you support this kind of economy you are pushing back on the notion that to be successful profits must be maximized, you are asserting that care and attention can be what drives a business!
All, all, all of this is to say THANK YOU for participating in employing me, for allowing me to have my needs met, for granting the opportunity to work within the values that are important to me, and, for providing me with the purpose of making beautiful things that hopefully help you to find joy, self-expression, and inspiration!! It is such a privilege and an honor to get to exchange my time and energy this way.
In the spirit of all of the above I want to offer something I’ve seen others do in various ways (and under various names), a Sliding Scale Sale. This sale is intended as an opportunity for folks who, under ordinary circumstances, find purchasing my work too great of a financial stretch. By offering a range of discounts hopefully my work can become accessible to a wider audience. Simultaneously, I’d like to invite the folks for whom my prices are no object the opportunity to contribute to wider access to art in the form of a donation, essentially paying forward the availability of a discount for someone of lesser means, called Allocations. For the folks in the middle, the retail price is always an open opportunity! In addition to the consideration of financial opportunity I’d like to offer those belonging to Alaska Native or Native American Peoples the same discounts in acknowledgement of living on the lands of the Sugpiaq and Alutiiq Peoples.
This sale is on the honor system so please self-evaluate honestly and with consideration of my price structure as explained above (for the purpose of additional contextualization I’ll add that in the last 5 years I’ve fallen into either the 10 or 12% tax brackets). Discounts are available in the amounts of 10% off 20% off 25% off and 30% off with codes SlidingScale10, SlidingScale20, SlidingScale25 and SlidingScale30. Allocations are listed as an item for purchase (a separate purchase of jewelry is not necessary) in amounts from $10 to $60 – which represent equivalencies of discount percentages based on average sale price.
I know that this is a bit clunky and that at the end of the day my work is still out of reach for many. This does not go far enough in leveling the playing field but it is what I feel I can afford at this moment. I’ll be very interested to see how it goes and curious to hear whatever feedback you have to share!
Happy Small Business Saturday! Happy Thanksgiving! And thank you for your willingness to join in this experimental exchange of opportunity!
P.S. Sale will run though Nov 27th. Cannot be combined with other offers. Limit one coupon code per customer. Offer is for in-stock items and does not apply to pre-orders or special requests. Thanks!
“There are 32,540,953 million small businesses in the U.S. [and] 81 percent [of them], or 26,485,532 firms, have no employees”
Other fun facts:
“According to the Census Bureau’s 2021 Annual Business Survey, about 21.4% of all employer businesses in 2020 were owned by women.”
“Small businesses have added over 12.9 million jobs in the last 25 years
Though the average small business is operated by a solo founder, small businesses still provide a vast amount of employment opportunities within the U.S. Over the past 25 years, small businesses have generated nearly 13 million net new jobs. For perspective, that’s about two-thirds of the jobs added to the economy.”
Hello Friends, Family and Followers!
I wanted to share some upcoming dates in the Stray Goose Studio calendar. Firstly, I will be at Bad Girls of the North this Friday and Saturday, find more details here. Secondly, I'll be updating my website with the Beneath Our Feet Collection on November 18th. Newsletter Subscribers will, as usual, get a first go. Sign up here if you'd like that perk! Lastly, for the Anchorage area folks, I will be dropping off a small collection of classic pieces at Dos Manos on Nov. 29th. It may take the Dos team a few days to get this inventory out into the gallery but wanted to give a heads up to the in-person holiday shoppers as I don't know how long this re-stock will last!
Thank you all for your support this past year, its been such a gift. I can't wait to share this next collection in full!
Looking forward to seeing you all this weekend! Please save the map below if it will be helpful in finding us! Our booth number is J12. Directions: From behind all the bench seating while facing the main stage turn right, then we are the third booth in on the left!
Since I'm beyond ready for spring lets talk SUMMER!
The next event in the books is Girdwood Forest Fair, July 7,8 & 9th. I'm super excited to again share a booth with the lovely Kristen Vantrease of Adrift Prints. We may even have a special collaboration in the works... so stay tuned for that!
After the fair I will be releasing the Far North Birds Collection for pre-order on my website. The exact date is forthcoming, sign up for my mailing list to be notified :)
More events may be added but due to moving studio spaces and home building projects cutting into my studio time that may be it till fall.
I hope to see you in Girdwood! Was so nice to meet and re-meet all who make it to the Spring Makers Market, there really is no substitute for in person events!
Image: Photo by Libby Ferrara, taken above Lost Lake, July 5, 2022
A periodic glimpse into the artist's surroundings, processes and resulting handy works.