Swig & Swill

NYE Bourbon Cran-Peary Sparkler

Bourbon Cran-Peary Sparkler - perfect for New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve presents the perfect opportunity to break out a little sparkling wine and create some festive cocktails. The folks at Serious Eats had the right idea and created a pretty tasty looking roundup of sparkly cocktails. Here at the Westervin’s, we decided to take their Sparkling Bourbon Pear cocktail and bump up the winter (it’s not that cold down here in Arkansas, so we need something to remind us it’s winter, right?) with some cranberries. Despite the maple syrup, which is added to the purée, this isn’t an overly sweet cocktail. The lemon and cranberry really give it a nice tang, which along with the champagne makes for an easy drinking sipper.

Bourbon Cran-Peary Sparkler - Westervin

 

A bubbly punch cocktail for New Year's Eve: The Bourbon Cran-Peary Sparkler from Westervin

ingredients for the Bourbon Cran-Peary Sparkler - a perfect NYE cocktail

For the Purée:

  • 2 bartlett pears, cored and sliced into eighths
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh juice, from two lemons
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Large handful of cranberries
  • 1 tsp clementine zest
  • 1/2 tsp grapefruit zest
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated

For the Bourbon Cran-Peary Mixer:

  • 1 cup roasted pear puree
  • 2 cups WL Weller Special, or Bourbon of your choice
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

To Serve:

  • 2oz Bourbon Cran-Peary Mixer
  • Ice
  • Sparkling wine
  • Cranberries and ground clove to garnish

roasted pears for the Bourbon Cran-Peary Sparkler Cocktail from Westerivn

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Arrange sliced pears on parchment lined baking sheet.

Combine cranberries, 1oz water, citrus zest, and ginger in a small ramekin.

Place pears and cranberries in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes, until the pears are a bit caramelized.

Allow to cool and then place in blender with 2.5oz of lemon juice and a dash of ground cloves. Purée well.

Combine 1 cup of purée with 2 cups of bourbon and 1/2 cup of maple syrup. This is your mixer.

To create your cocktail, fill a rocks glass with ice, add 2oz of your mixer, and fill with champagne. Garnish with cranberries and ground cloves.

Adapted from Serious Eats

The Bourbon Cran-Peary Sparkler Cocktail - Westervin

A Pretty Pair

Pine(apple) Tree

Holiday Card by Julie Van Wezemael; Pineapple II Emulsion Lift Print by Liz Garnett

Holiday Card by Julie Van Wezemael }  { Pineapple II Emulsion Lift Print by Liz Garnett }

Whether your holidays are spent around a sparkling pine tree or near a fire, filled with presents from loved ones or surrounded by the presence of loved ones, in a white winterland or on a warm and sunny day, we hope you have a wonderful day. Happy holidays, from our family to yours!

Swig & Swill

Molasses Cookie Sour

Molasses Sour Cocktail - a holiday take on the whiskey sour

Planning on grabbing a bucket of eggnog to get you through all the holiday cheer?

That’s boring.

“Well, how about a peppermint martini?” you ask.

I’m offended you would even suggest that.

Let me help you out this season. If you follow my instructions for my Molasses Cookie Cocktail, you’ll not only impress your adult loved ones with an original drink that’s sweet yet sophisticated but also drown out all their nonsense with each bracing sip.

Molasses Sour Cocktail - whiskey sour with cinnamon, ginger, and holiday spices

But in all seriousness, we’ve actually got two yummy recipes for you that are fun to make around the holidays. One is a really versatile holiday spice simple syrup, and the other is a take on a whiskey sour utilizing said syrup that tastes like a molasses cookie. The syrup is a mix of classic baking spices and sorghum or molasses that’ll bring that dream of a white Christmas even closer to reality. While you can use the spiced syrup in any cocktail, we really like it in simpler classic cocktails, like an old fashioned or sour.

ingredients for a Molasses Sour Cocktail

Holiday Spice Syrup

  • 1 cup molasses or sorghum (we liked the flavor and nose of the Sorghum we had on hand best)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, crushed up
  • 1″ knob of ginger, sliced
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 5 whole allspice berries
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cardamom pod

Combine everything in a sauce pan on medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat, cover, and let cool.

Once it’s cooled down, strain out the solid ingredients. Now you’ve got a holiday spice simple syrup.

Feel free to adjust this recipe to your own tastes. For instance, Sarah doesn’t like a strong ginger flavor, so I made one version omitting ginger. You could even create a separate ginger syrup that you mix in as needed on an individual cocktail basis.

So now you’ve got this syrup, but what are you supposed to do with it? Well, add it to any drink that needs a little dash of Christmas. Take any classic cocktail that calls for sugar, and give it a wallop of Christmas cheer. At Haus Westervin, we’re pretty fond of whiskey sours, which seemed like a perfect application for this syrup. We don’t always make whiskey sours up with egg whites, but it feels like the Christmas thing to do.

Molasses Cookie Sour

  • 2oz Old Weller Antique (or bourbon of your choice)
  • 1oz fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz holiday spice syrup
  • 1 egg white, optional

Dry shake all ingredients to get the egg white nice and foamy. Add ice, shake again, and strain into a coupe. Add a few drops of bitters (I used some chicory pecan bitters Sarah picked up for me on a trip to Nashville) and some freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon. Top with a star anise for extra pizzazz.

Molasses Sour Cocktail - a citrusy, christmas cookie cocktail from Westervin

 

Blog News

Westervin Turns 5!

a slice of homemade bundt cake to celebrate the Westervin blog's 5th birthday

You may not know this, but Westervin has been rocking the blog for 5 years! Yep, earlier this month marked the 5th straight year that we, Sarah and Brian, have been sharing our favorite recipes, tidbits from our lives, and all the beautiful art and handicraft that we love. Heck, we’ve been blogging longer than we’ve been married. Before we were officially engaged even!

In the grand scheme of our lives, 5 years is a small amount of time, yet between December 2009 (the official launch of this here web-log) and today, we’ve shared a seemingly infinite number of moments, big and small, of excitement and inspiration, of frustration and failures, and of accomplishment and growth. Though at times we’ve felt like we’ve outgrown our blog or we’ve put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to be constantly publishing, worrying about being original and interesting, we’re ultimately so very grateful to have had this platform. It’s given us an outlet for our respective interests and talents through which we’ve connected with countless talented folk and new friends. And now, we have a shared record of our time together. Through changing jobs, educational accomplishments, and new cities, we can look back to remember all the moments we’re most proud, if not also all the strange things we used to be into… Tastes are not timeless, apparently. At least, that’s one thing we’ve learned about ourselves.

Yes, time has certainly flown by. We thought we’d take a look through the past five years and pick out a few of our favorite and most popular posts. Journey back with us, won’t you?

2009

{ Untitled photograph by Sophia of "Five Words in Orange Neon" by Joseph Kosuth; "Dark land, pink cloud" by Louise Balaam

Image above from Daily Pretties: Neon Clouds, posted Dec. 28, 2009, featuring untitled photograph by Sophia of Five Words in Orange Neon by Joseph Kosuth & Dark land, pink cloud by Louise Balaam

Though we only officially blogged for one month in 2009, that year saw the beginning of many of our favorite blog categories, including one that Sarah’s stuck with since the very first week: A Pretty Pair (formerly Daily Pretties). Can we call this her signature category? Over the years she’s perfected the art of pairing, searching for two works — whether photography, painting, illustration, or other — from two unrelated artists that speak the same visual language. In the words of Stacey and Clinton, it doesn’t match, it goes.

Also, through the magic of the pretty pair, we announced our engagement, way back on December 29, 2009, with this post titled Some Special News. It’s like… we are a pretty pair! Ya know?

2010

Sailor Necklace from the Vamoose

Image above from Giveaway: Sailor Necklace from The Vamoose, posted April 19, 2010

Twenty-ten was the year of the giveaway. In that year, we had 14 giveaways! That’s more giveaways than months! Each one featured something beautiful, usually handmade, generously gifted by someone talented and kind. A few shout-outs to our most memorable sweepstakes:

  • The first: Shannon Rankin and Justin Richel gave away a stellar print from their collaborative project Intersect.
  • The most popular: Kathryn Blackmore gave away a Sailor Knot Necklace from her romantic jewelry line The Vamoose, which still offers gorgeous handmade pieces.
  • Our favorite: Lorena Marañon offered one of her wildly popular embroidered necklaces to try to help us win a dream wedding sweepstakes. Sadly, we didn’t win, but we still had a dream wedding! Lorena’s now whipping up painfully stunning textiles-based jewelry, housewares, and art pieces.
  • The one that lead to our custom wedding rings: Marina Lampropoulou gave a lucky reader a pair of Blue Bird Oval Hoop earrings from her contemporary handmade jewelry line tothemetal. The next year, we had her make our custom arrow wedding bands.
  • The one that lead to the best pen-pal ever: Lisa Bruemmer Drake offered one of her striking lace necklaces, also to help us win the dream wedding sweepstakes. She later became the BEST PEN-PAL EVER!

I could keep going until I’ve listed them all, or if you want, you can just peruse all our past giveaways here. Join our mailing list to be notified when we have another one!

2011

Westervin's handmade save-the-dates, embroidered on vintage postcards

Image above from A Westervin Wedding: Save the Dates Revealed, posted April 4, 2011

Our second full year of blogging was all about our wedding, from the announcements, planning updates, and DIY projects to the series of posts sharing all the photos and our reflections from, arguably, the most fun day of our lives. Man, what a ride!

See all the posts under A Westervin Wedding, which also includes posts celebrating each of our three anniversaries since. You can even check out all of our wedding pinspiration on Sarah’s Pinterest board A Wedding for Westervin. Truth be told, she still pins wedding-y things. The girl loves weddings.

2012

Margarita Jello Shots in Lemon Wedges - Westervin blog

Image above from World Party Day: Margarita Jello Shots, posted March 29, 2013

In 2012 we were really hitting our stride and created some of our most popular posts. A few of our favorites:

  • Edible booze: We created a margarita jello shot for world party day.  We made way too many of these jello filled booze lemons, but people seemed to like them.
  • Taking care of business: Sarah posted the results of her Who Buys Handmade survey, which still offers a valuable look at the handmade market for makers.
  • Sweet treats: We were lucky enough to have Debbie Carlos, who just can’t stop doing amazing things, guest blog for us and share a recipe for a 60-second cake in a cup, which has become a dessert staple at the Westervin’s. Debbie’s large-scale photo prints and other work can be seen everywhere from Urban Outfitters, J. Crew, and CB2 to Apartment Therapy, Better Homes & Gardens, HGTV, and even an episode of Parenthood.
  • Fancy cocktail post: Brian was hired to create a signature cocktail for Poetry magazine’s centennial celebration. It was called the Hippocrene, and it got a nice writeup on the New York Times Drinks blog.
  • Glitz and glamour: Sarah created a spinoff of the classic pretty pair category, Who are You Pairing, which pairs red carpet looks and some awesome art.

2013

handmade crochet beanie with stripes and pom-pom from Westervin

Image above from Westervin Shop Now Open, posted December 2, 2013

2013 was the start of the Westervin craft movment. Sure, we’d covered craft before (with the Who Buys Handmade survey, and featured handmade wares and independent artisans), but 2013 was the launch of the Westervin shop! Starting her own shop had Sarah thinking even more about craft in general, it’s history and it’s relation to art. A few highlights:

2014

10 Tips For Your First Wholesale Order -- For Makers, From Westervin

Image above from 10 Things I Learned From My First Wholesale Order, Part 1, posted November 19, 2014

While 2013 was the start of the Westervin craft movement, 2014 found us moving away from ruminations on art vs craft and taking a closer look at the nuts and bolts of running a craft business. It’s important to us to share what we learn along the way so that other aspiring crafters can learn from our mistakes and, hopefully, our successes. Highlights include:

It’s been a really fun five years, and we hope that in 2015 we can come up with some more useful, fun, and entertaining content for all of you. Thanks for spending some time with us!

Shopping Sherpa

Top 10 Christmas Tree Ornaments

Westervin's Top 10 Christmas Ornaments - fun, handmade, and non-traditional, of course

What’s the best thing to give anyone and everyone on your list this year? (Assuming, of course, that your Christmas list doesn’t include any of those holiday-hating heathen folk who don’t bother putting up a tree.) Answer: ornaments!  They’re small and cute and come in every animal-shape and eye-blinding-color. So, to help you out, Brian and I have rounded up the indisputable top 10 Christmas tree ornaments for holiday gift giving and decorating this year. These are the best of the best, including mostly handmade and truly unique branch baubles with just the right amount of irreverence.

10. Stuffed Shark

Handmade Stuffed Shark Christmas Tree Ornament

Image above: Stuffed Shark Ornament handmade by Broderpress $16.00/ea. 

Ah, the fierce and majestic shark. This plush ornament is not for the faint of heart or the bland of tree.

9. Popsicles

Popsicle Ornaments

Image above: Clay Popsicle Ornaments handmade by Sugar + Frost $8.05/ea.

What’s more wonderful than a popsicle, I ask you? Well, two popsicles. Also, three popsicles, And four. Should I keep going…?

8. Palmistry

Palmistry Wooden Hand Ornament

Image above: Good Fortune Palmistry Hand Wood Ornament made in the USA $10.00/ea. 

Whether you’re gifted with a connection to the spiritual world or are just really into this “hand” trend I’m seeing everywhere, you’ll love this laser-engraved birch wood ornament.

7. Monster Friend

Handmade Clay Monster Friend Ornament

Image above: Ceramic Monster Ornament handmade by DragonStarArt $40.00 (only one available!)

Just look at that sweet squiggly smile! This odd fella would add some real interest to any quirky tree.

6. Mini Weavings

Woven Loom Ornaments

Image above: Woven Loom Ornaments handmade by All Roads Design $14.00/ea.

Anthropologie has ALL THE PRETTY THINGS! Case-in-point, these little loom weavings. They’re so tiny! Gimme.

5. Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs Ornament

Image above: Deviled Eggs Glass Ornament handmade in Poland $13.96/ea.

Did you know that the deviled egg dates as far back as ancient Rome? That means this platter of deviled eggs is probably the classiest ornament you could have.

Don’t question it.

4. Christmas Pickles

Westervin_Blog_Top_Ten_Holiday_Ornaments15

Image above: Jar of Pickles Ornament Set hand-blown in Poland $8.00 for 9

If you don’t partake in the Christmas pickle tradition every year, stop reading this blog post and don’t come back until you’ve bought a pickle ornament and committed yourself to this beautiful custom. I’m making it a requirement of all Westervin readers. Seriously, get out of here.

3. Banana Bunch

Bunch of Bananas Ornament

Image above: Banana Bunch Wood Ornament handmade by Alice Oehr & Rittle $13.00

Brian doesn’t actually enjoy eating bananas, and I just can’t understand that. They’re sweet, have a bright, happy color, and are fun to mush around in your mouth as if you’re a baby monkey learning to eat. And they have an interesting history. Bananas are wonderful, I say, and perfect for any Christmas tree!

2. Fancy Flamingo

Flamingo in a Top Hat Ornament

Image above: Fancy Flamingo Paper Mache Ornament $19.95

This guy is too fabulous for any old tree, and he knows it. Just look at that cheeky side-eye.

1. Cheerful Cactus

Handmade Plaid Wool & Velvet Cactus Ornament

Image above: Plaid & Velvet Cactus Ornament handmade by Dotter Studio $18.00

And finally, topping the list is this one-of-a-kind cactus ornament made with salvaged vintage velvet and plaid wool. Because nothing says, “white Christmas is so last year,” like a desert dwelling succulent.

Shopping Sherpa

Top 10 Christmas Cards

Westervin's Top 10 Christmas Cards

As the countdown to the holidays continues (11 days to go, woo!), Brian and I thought we’d whip up a Christmas countdown of our own. This season, we scoured the internets for the absolutely best, most whimsical, smile-inducing cards that you can give to your loved ones, colleagues, mailmen, and even strangers. And strangers’ kids. From one to ninety-two. Or whatever… Featuring cats, eye patches, beautiful typography, and non-traditional color palettes, this list includes our favorite Christmas cards this year, handmade by independent designers and makers and/or printed in the USA on sustainable materials.

10. Skiing Santa

Skiing Santa Christmas Card

Image above: Skiing Santa Christmas Card handmade by Lucy Letherland £1.75 

I guess Santa’s gotta have something to do in his downtime.

9. Festive Tumbleweed

Festive Tumbleweed Card

Image above: Festive Tumbleweed Christmas Card Set handmade by Small Adventure $18.00 for 8

Did you pull out your holiday decorations this year only to find your strings of lights tangled in an ungodly mess? Screw it! Embrace the chaos by tossing them in the nearest tumbleweed. Christmas saved!

8. Merrily

Merrily Christmas Card

Image above: Merrily Holiday Cards handmade by Maddy Nye of Yours Madly $4.00/ea. or $16.00 for 6

Show your minimalist-leaning friends that you care with this simple yet happy typography based card.

7. Say It With Flowers!

Cactus Tree Christmas Card

Image above: Say It With Flowers! Christmas Cactus Card handmade by Daniela Spoto $12.00 for 3, $15.00 for 5, or $20.00 for 10

Cacti are SO on trend this year.

 6. Nutcracker

 

Nutcracker Christmas Card Set

Image above: Nutcracker Christmas Card Set made in the USA by Rifle Paper Co.  $16.00 for 8

Fun fact: Brian used to collect nutcrackers for Christmas when he was little. Aaaawww! Now our home is filled to ceilings with festive little nutcracker men, big and small, on mantels and bookshelves, peering out at me, following me with their beady wooden eyes wherever I go. Why, Brian, why??????

5. ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas

Twas the Night Before Christmas Card

Image above: ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas Card Set handmade by Gemma Correll $12.00 for 3, $15.00 for 5, or $20 for 10

No Westervin Christmas card list is complete without the silliness of illustrator Gemma Correll. She is magic.

4. Mistletoe Magic

Mistletoe Magic Christmas Card

Image above: Mistletoe Magic Holiday Card handmade by Laura Berger $4.50/ea.

Although no proud cat parent needs an excuse to smooch their kitty babies, mistletoe might make it a little less awkward when you have guests. Right?

3. Bah Humcat

Bah Humbug Cat Christmas Card

Image above: Bah Humbug Catsmas Card handmade by Nicola Rowlands £2.20

But maybe your cat doesn’t care for your smooches. Well, bah humbug to you too, cat!

2. Snappy New Year

Snappy New Year Christmas Card

Image above: Snappy New Year Crocodile Christmas Card Set printed in the USA on recycled content paper $18.95 for 6

For the badass with a heart of gold.

1. Santa Claws

Santa Claws Christmas Card

Image above: Santa Claws Christmas Card Set handmade by Wit & Whistle $16.50 for 6

Because puns.

Westervin Wishlist

30 Gift Ideas for the Classy, Barbecuing Boozehound (or things you can get Brian for Christmas)

Westervin Wishlist: 30 Gift Ideas for the Classy Guy

While for the Westervins, Christmastime is mostly about taking some time off to spend with family and watching our favorite Christmas movies (or at least my favorite Christmas movie), we somehow also find time for presents. So just like Sarah did yesterday, I’ve rounded up some nifty items and wrapped them up in a handy gift guide for you. Don’t feel the need to get me everything on this list — I don’t need #allthepresents. But some of this stuff is really cool, and you may know someone who still needs a gift. Heck, maybe you need a gift. Fair warning though, many of these items are limited in quantity or handmade, so get them while they’re hot!

Image above, clockwise from top left: Tyvek Billfold $24,  Snuggle Penguin Card $4.50, Y’all Sweatshirt $50, THICK Paraben- and Sulfate-Free Shampoo $25, Anonymous Ism Socks $28, Coconut Oil Soft Shaving Cream £16.00, Fireplace Sculpture by Layet Johnson $1,800, Natural Avocado Soap $6.50, Wood Handle Umbrella $108, Beard Oil Trio $36

Westervin Wishlist: 30 Gift Ideas for the Classy Boozehound

Image above, clockwise from top left: Skillshare Premium Membership $96 (so I can take this logo design class and more), Set of Moscow Mule Mugs $14.95/ea., 12 Tables 2015 Calendar $20, Americana Postcard Set $30 for 46, Set of Julep Cups $26.95/ea., North Carolina Sourwood Honey $22, Dinosaur Drink Stirrers $16.95, Chicken Gourd Ornaments Set $36 for 3, Mint Julep Candle $28, Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold

Westervin Wishlist: 30 Gift Ideas for the Classy Barbecuer

Image above, clockwise from top left: Copper Pig Cookie Cutter $16.95, Chorizo Rioja Dry Cured Salami $10.95, Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey by John Currence, Stand Mixer Flex Edge Beater $22.49, Slap Sauce $6.99, Smoke by Tim Byers, Ginger Canvas Apron $80, Custom Coffee Subscription, Deep Tea Diver Infuser $9.99, Diner Cookie Jar $49.00

Westervin Wishlist

30 Gift Ideas for the Quirky, Crafty Feminist (or things you can get Sarah for Christmas)

Westervin Wishlist: 30 Gift Ideas for the Quirky Feminist

 

It’s that time of year! Thanksgiving is in the rear-view mirror, and it’s full steam ahead with the holiday lights and music and drinks and treats and travel and togetherness. Friends and family have begun asking what you want from Santa, and, if you’re like me, you’ve begun planning all the handmade and hard-to-find gifts and silly cards you’ll be doling out this year, complete with a color-coded spreadsheet! No? I’m the only one with a spreadsheet?

Well, if you need a little help finding unforgettable presents and stocking stuffers for your loved ones, let me help! I’ve pulled together a well-rounded set of items, big and small, with emphases on handcrafted, useful, and nontraditional gifts. The result should suit any quirky, crafty, feminist pal on your gift list (aka me, please and thank you). It’s like Oprah’s favorite things. Only weirder.

Image above, clockwise from top left: Temporary Cat Tattoo $5, Lena Dunham Birthday Suit Tee $55, Happy Holidays Log Card $5 CAD, make a Charitable Donation to the Global Fund for Women in my name, Gift Wrap Calendar $49, Organic Herbal Lip Stain $10, Aca-scuse Me Sweatshirt $39, The Boob Tote $152, make a Charitable Donation to Pads4Girls in my name, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, Japanese Stoneware Mug $30

Westervin Wishlist: 30 Gift Ideas for the Quirky Crafty Gal

Image above, clockwise from top left: Online Embroidery Class $34.99, Red Grid Washi Tape $1.50, Fabric Postcards Set $12, Beachcomber Framed Embroidery Art $250, Weaving Kit $140, Black Arrows Washi Tape $2.35, Makrs Tote $22, Art, Inc. by Lisa Congdon, Vintage Scissor Cuff Bracelet $86, Hand-dyed Yarn $23.50

Westervin Wishlist: 30 Gift Ideas for the Quirky Gal

Image above, clockwise from top left: Sex Trafficking Survivors Tee $28, Pickle Earrings $15, Coffee Lover Lollipop Pack $25, The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Sleep Donation by Karen Russell, Luna Moth Wall Decal $3.50, Marled Boot Socks $8 ea., Cactus Handmade Ornament coming soon

The Business of Making

10 Things I Learned From My First Wholesale Order, Part 2

10 Tips For Your First Wholesale Order, Part 2  --  for makers, from Westervin

Hey, you! If you haven’t read tips 1 through 5, go to “10 Things I Learned From My First Wholesale Order, Part 1,” then come back. Don’t skip ahead!

6. Prioritize Your Photography

This is a very basic yet crucial point, so I’ll keep it short: Great photos are crucial. If you’re trying to reach retailers online, your pictures will do most of the talking. It may seem obvious, but you can’t avoid investing (whether time, money, or both) in high-quality photographs of your products. If you’ve got an online store where you sell directly to consumers, you probably already know this. The same is true for retailers. For the photos you use in your linesheet, you’ll want crisp, clean, and professional images that show your products in the best possible light. That might be in a styled setting or on a model. Often, white backgrounds make the most versatile product shots. You can also offer to let retailers use your photos on their websites or in their own promotional materials, which provides an additional incentive for buyers (see Tip #4).

7. Be Proactive

Don’t wait for retailers to find you. That’s asking the retailer to do all the work! And you might be waiting a long time. I learned this the hard way.

When I first opened my shop last winter, I received some interest from an Etsy admin who placed an order for a couple of hats and gave me some wonderful feedback. “I expect you will have success with them,” she said. “I’ll bet you’ll even have interest from retailers eventually!”

How nice is that? You can bet I was thrilled. I just had to wait for the retailer inquires to start rolling in!

I waited 10 months. And, judging from my Etsy stats pieced together with what I know of my new stockist, I believe she found my shop by chance while searching for something else. Now that’s some luck, right! But why wait for luck? The best way for a retailer to find your work is for you to show it to them.

And another thing: don’t feel “icky” about reaching out to buyers. When I was sending out my first round of emails to potential buyers, Brian said he couldn’t be in the same room because it made him too nervous. HE was nervous about MY “cold emails.” Why? Because I was putting myself out their, risking rejection and possibly annoying people I didn’t know. But selling your work doesn’t have to be “icky,” and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re going to annoy anyone. Just remember to write sincere, personalized emails to each buyer. Find out their names, if possible. If you truly believe that your products will fit in a particular shop, there’s no harm in asking the buyer if they might agree. No icks, ands, or buts.

Fort Smith Regional Art Museum #Arkansas

{ The Fort Smith Regional Art Museum, where you will soon be able to find Westervin hats and headbands for sale. }

8. Have a “Little Black Book”

A Little Black Business Book, that is. If you’re going to be proactive in sending out your linesheet, you’ll need a list of people to send it to. The first step is research — targeting specific stores with the most potential for interest in your wares. I ended up targeting specific cities and regions I had a connection to, asking locals I knew in each area for recommendations, and hunting for boutiques with a demonstrated appreciation for handmade wares. I spent a few days and several total hours on this step, because having a targeted outreach plan is actually more efficient and productive in the long run.

Keep track of all your contacts in a spreadsheet (or other tool you prefer), including:

  • Store name
  • Physical address
  • Website
  • Name of the owner, buyer, or most relevant contact person
  • Email address or link to their preferred contact form. (Pro tip: If you’re having trouble finding an email address, check the “About” section on the shop’s official Facebook page.)
  • Notes about what the shop typically carries, best times and methods to contact them, and even something personal to share with them (e.g. how you discovered them, something you love that you bought there, or why you really want your work in their store)

9. Create a Communication Plan

Also in your Little Black Book, you’ll want to keep track of how & when you contacted each retailer, if & when they replied, and when to follow-up. For example, I have the following columns for each contact:

  • Postcard
  • Email
  • Email followup
  • Call
  • Visit
  • Incentive offered

My communication plan involves some or all of these methods of communication for each retailer in my book. For many contacts, its not enough to send one email and forget about it. Don’t be afraid to follow up, politely and respectively of course, with additional information and/or incentives. It may take several touchpoints before a buyer shows interest.

Just Keep Swimming  (Westervin)

10. Just Keep Swimming

Full disclosure, I am not an expert on selling wholesale. I haven’t even had that many sales yet! I’m not confident in everything I make, and I don’t know for sure that my business will last.

But I do know that I’m learning something new every day, I’m receiving positive feedback that sustains me through the failures, and I LOVE nearly every bit of every day. This venture allows me to be creative AND strategic. It lets me exercise my design skills AND use my business training. I have found something that I’m passionate about, that I believe I can be good at, and that I think I can make money doing. I don’t know everything, but I know I’m on the right track.

These are the steps I believe will work for me as I build my wholesale offerings and my small business. Before you get started on your wholesale tools, think critically about your specific needs and do a little research of your own. I found Etsy’s Wholesale Guide to be one of the best references (no surprises there). Their “Wholesale Policies and Linesheets” document, for example, included some great sample linesheets.

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