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The Lifecycle of Handicraft Makers

The Vertical: The Lifecycle of Handicraft Makers

See the full episode of this week's The Vertical segment, here.


  • Many of you are working solo as handicraft makers. When working for yourself, there are certain struggles that you face. Questions come up about whether or not you should be paying yourself, what products should you invest your time in? Are you aligning what you sell with your values? Also, how on earth do you scale when your business starts to grow?
  • All of these questions should be considered if you’re taking your business seriously. Always start with WHY you do what you do. There’s a reason you decided to take on your side hustle of creating and then started showing up at smaller markets and now you may even be at larger exhibitions.
  • There are six stages to running your own business
    • Starting your business as a side hustle
      • Not paying yourself and not taking it too seriously
      • Testing products- what’s a hit?
      • Testing where to sell- different online platforms, social media, etc.
      • Attending minimal and localized Handicraft markets.
    • Pre-survival
      • You taste some success and begin to see a future.
    • Survival
      • You take your side hustle full time.
      • Start paying yourself.
      • Omnichannel sales
        • Exhibitions
        • Wholesaling
        • Retail locations
        • Taking on bigger custom orders.
    • Success
      • Defined by margin of sales.
      • Defined by YOU.
    • Take-off
      • Going global- shipping nation and worldwide.
      • Scaling operations.
      • Level of growth leads to hiring.
      • 5-year planning and growth projections.
    • Resource Maturity
      • Customer service maintenance while scaling.
      • Lean marketing for business.
  • Think about what stage you’re in with your business and what that means to YOU. 


Your willingness to invest in yourself demonstrates a high level of commitment and confidence in the health of your business.

  • We did a polling Tuesday to figure out where all of you are with your business and we were surprised to see how much of you are NOT paying yourselves. No matter how small your business is- you need to start paying yourself. 
    • Labor charges are a part of business and should be a line item on your P+L statements.
    • It’s not a real business if you can’t pay yourself…nobody would work somewhere they don't get paid.
    • When you don’t pay yourself, you start to lose value in yourself and the hard days get even harder.
    • Your willingness to invest in yourself demonstrates a high level of commitment and confidence in the health of your business.
    • If you’re unsure of HOW to pay yourself- here are some tips to get you started.
      • First make sure your profits are good.
        • Read Profit First by Mike Michalowicz
        • Start with 25% owner pay.
        • See this video on paying yourself.
  • Another question we asked you in our polling Tuesday is, Do you struggle to bring in enough to make handmade items worth your time? Now, some of you may also wonder “What is worth it to me?” or “What does this mean to me?” And if you’re being honest, for some of you this may just be side hustle that doesn’t mean all that much. But a lot of you also want to make this side hustle a legitimate business and you’re feeling stuck on the HOW. 


  • Have you considered quitting because all of this doesn’t feel worth it?
    • When you’re feeling stuck and down on where your business is at, remind yourself of WHY you’re doing this. At Vertical Ledge, our core WHY is to co-create beautiful spaces that we enjoy being in.
  • What are your core business pillars? When taking any steps for our business, we always remind ourselves of the core values VL stands for.
    • Education
    • Empower
    • Community
  • What hats are you wearing that are wearing you down?
    • As solo-prenuers, there comes a time when the burden is so heavy, you cannot bear it anymore.
    • This is the time to look at bringing someone in to help or taking a step back.
      • Many a times in VL, we have taken steps back because it was necessary for the health of the business and for ourselves.
      • This is also where if you aren’t paying yourself, then you may be stingy about paying someone else. 
    • Take a sabbath.
      • You cannot run at 2000% all the time in every season. It's okay to rest and recover in order to come back inspired and motivated to keep going.
      • Most of us are not just in our business, we have lives that need tending too as well.
      • I challenge you, if you are still struggling, then you need to call it and leave it be.
  • The greatest encouragement as a small business owner is having a COMMUNITY around you that understands what you’re going through. Don’t be afraid to make connections and friendships with other small business owners- they need community and support just as much as you do.
    • Checkout the Small Business Administration.
    • Explore score- a great small business resource that offers workshops and classes.
    • If you’re at the point in your small business that you’re making more than $250k in profit but less than $1M- check out EO.


We hope this episode was helpful in putting your small business into perspective. No matter how small your business is right now- start with WHY you’re doing it and then consider WHAT you need to do to get to the next level. In making your goals for business growth, never lose sight of what your values are.

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