Linda Banning's recycled glass bracelet.
Wholesaling can be a challenge. So much goes into all the different steps needed to break into the wholesale world. After watching Diane Sulg's All About Wholesale Webinar, one very important thing stuck out to me. What makes a product unique? Having a unique product gives you a niche in the market as a maker. But how do you know if your product is unique? Think of unique as different. What makes your product different from everyone else's? Diane Sulg suggests that all makers consider that ''your product needs to be exciting in some way.'' That it should be ''recognizable, even if you have different lines.'' Ask yourself, ''what's special about my product?''
A great way to market your product as unique is to highlight any out-of-the-ordinary things you do with your chosen medium. Is your clay different from others? Does the metal come from a certain place or is it worked a different way? Diane suggests products can be unique in several ways, for example, ''perhaps it represents the area where you live. Maybe you are doing something extraordinarily different out of new material.'' One great example of having a unique product is the jewelry of Tulanna and Alejandro Garces. They offer a gold-dipped necklace that's very different than anything else on the market. ''It started as a piece of fabric and was dipped in gold,'' Diane explains. I have never seen anything like it. It stands apart from other jewelry because it can boast of being made out of a unique medium, in this case, lace dipped in gold. There are plenty of unique media out there, especially for jewelers.
Linda Banning, owner of LB Originals, creates jewelry out of recycled materials. ''I believe in reduce, reuse, and recycle,'' says Banning. She creates handmade jewelry from recycled glass and aluminum cans. After her local glass recycling program ended due to rising fuel costs, she decided to experiment with her bottles. The result is a unique collection of jewelry that's not only one-of-a kind, it can also be marketed as eco-friendly. Banning's pieces are unique because her designs are based on the materials she has readily available. No two pieces will look exactly alike.
Using an exciting new technique can also help set your pieces apart from others. Houston Llew does a great job of this with his Spiritiles. According to Diane, ''it is unlike anything else. It has enameled glass on copper. It's a secret formula Houston Llew has developed. Each Spiritile has a picture on the front and a saying on the side.'' This creative one-of-a-kind technique gives Llew an edge in the gifts market. He has over a hundred tile designs, making them great for any décor or occasion. The secret formula gives Llew a leg up, because he developed it, no one else uses it. Without Llew's secret formula his tiles might fade into the crowded gifts market world. Instead, no other products look quite like his enameled glass on copper.
Sonya M. Fitzmaurice, featured in the August 2019 issue of Handmade Business, creates her trademark Deux-coupage and lampwork glass-bead jewelry. Deux-coupage is an arduous task. Paired with lampwork glass beads, each piece Fitzmaurice makes is unique. No two of her glass beads are exactly the same, nor are the stones the Deux-coupage pictures adhere to.
Even if your product is something in a flooded market, such as handmade bags, you can still flourish by offering something to make your product unique. The way you market your product can be unique. Pricing can also make your product unique. Leah and Cody Seelye offer a waxed-fabric handbag that's gorgeous, with leather trim and gold-colored embellishments. The bag overall looks very well-made and sturdy. I'm sure there are similar products out there, but what catches the eye with this one is the price. Diane comments that ''it's very rare that you find a nice-looking lady's handbag that is made in America for $56 retail.'' The price advantage that Leah and Cody Seelye have on this product makes them stand out.
Houston Llew found an exciting way to market his Spiritiles. ''He changes out his products every year. He takes a certain number of his tiles and he will say 'these eight will no longer be in my line, but I will be introducing eight more.' So, the eight that are leaving become rare and collectible,'' explains Diane. This is a great way to make your product unique for several reasons. The first is that your customers are getting new items every year. Second, your past items become collectible because they are no longer in production. This marketing technique of making an item rare or collectible will inevitably lead to more sales of that item. Customers enjoy knowing that they are purchasing something special, that won't be widely available, because it's only on the market for a limited time.
An example of pieces created with Deux-coupage and lampwork glass beads by Sonya M. Fitzmaurice.
What to do
The important thing to remember is to ''keep your brand exciting. You do this by continually designing new work, adding a collection or introducing new colors and patterns,'' according to Diane. As long as you have a unique product, branding will follow. When people start to recognize your products as being different, then they will associate it with you, and this will create your brand.
Researching your medium and what's out there will help you determine how to set your product apart from the rest. If someone is making jewelry similar to yours, how are you going to set your products apart from theirs? Ask yourself, ''What do I have for an edge here,'' as Diane puts it. Find your edge and you will find your brand.
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