Have you ever thought about turning your passion for herbs into a business? Do you enjoy making herbal products? Maybe you’ve received positive feedback from family and friends who have tested your products for you throughout the years and perhaps you’ve even heard someone say, “You should sell this! It’s amazing!” Here are ten things to keep in mind as you brainstorm ideas for your handmade products business.
1. Do it the right way.
When you start a business, you need to make sure that you’re doing it the right way. Research the laws in your state, county and city to see what kind of paperwork you need to file and then file it. Apply for any permits or licenses you’ll need at this time too. If you take care of all this in the very beginning, you’ll be setting yourself up for success from the start and it will be much easier for you to order your supplies and ingredients at wholesale pricing.
2. Don't skimp on insurance.
I’ve met so many small business owners who choose not to purchase liability insurance, but if you’re selling handmade products, it’s really important that you invest in a good insurance policy. Do it now. It’s worth the peace of mind to know you’re protected in case anything happens and most sales avenues will require proof of insurance to allow you to sell your products.
3. Many states require you to use a commercial kitchen.
Some states have cottage laws that allow certain kinds of products to be made in your home kitchen if you follow certain guidelines, while other areas require products to be made in an inspected commercial kitchen. You’ll need to find out what your local laws require so that you can plan accordingly. The dream of making herbal salves on your stove at home won’t be the reality in some places but a commercial kitchen gives you even more room to play with those plant-based recipes without making a mess at home!
4. You need to choose your words with wisdom.
It can be so much fun to design labels for your new products and to choose clever names for them, but you’ll want to keep in mind that as herbalists and aromatherapists, we are not medical professionals and most of our products are not likely to be inspected by the FDA prior to going to market. So we need to be careful about the words we use on our product labels, web stores, and in our marketing materials. Don’t make health claims. Don’t use the names of diseases. Don’t claim that your product(s) cure anything. Be clever. Make sure your marketing messaging is clear. But don’t be unlawful in your product’s messaging.
5. It might take some time to find your person(s).
If you’re going to be selling your products, it’s important to know who your target customer is and where they like to shop. Do they prefer to shop from home and have packages delivered straight to their door? Do they like to shop in local boutiques and frequent the local farmer’s market? Is she a busy new mom who isn’t likely to leave her house for the next few weeks? Knowing where to find your ideal customer will tell you where to place your products so those people can find you and you can find them. If your customer shops at the farmer’s market and the natural health food store, you probably don’t need to spend time trying to get your product into Walmart. A booth at the local farmer’s market would be a much better place to find her!
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6. Not every person is your ideal customer.
People will find you, like your brand, and maybe even buy something from you, but not every one of those people will be your ideal customer. Some of them will love your brand messaging, but be dissatisfied with the product they purchased or find something they like better and move on.
But many of them will be your ideal customer and sometimes you’ll even find star customers. You know the ones – they come back to buy your products over and over again and even tell other people about how much they love your shop. Those are the customers you want to go above and beyond for (you should do this for all your customers, but reserve something extra special for your star customers once in awhile too). Treat them well and they’ll keep treating you well. Show them you appreciate them with a little extra goodie added to their order now and again or a gift card to their fav restaurant or bookstore. Chances are that they’ll keep bringing you more people like them!
7. You can learn to be a salesperson, even if you're shy or introverted.
When you love something, you can sell it to someone else. This is why it’s important to make sure you really love all of the products you offer – you can rave about them truthfully!
Want to know a secret? I kind of hate selling things. I’ve always hated sales. I’m a very shy, reserved, private person and I don’t much enjoy trying to convince someone to buy something from me. So if I can learn how to sell my products and services, so can you. We may not be the top salespeople in our region, but we can definitely learn enough to make a go at it until we can hire people who really love and enjoy the process of selling to take care of that part of our business for us.
Listen to podcasts about entrepreneurship and selling handmade products for some extra inspiration as you learn and practice.
8. Testimonials are like cash in your pocket.
How often do you look at the reviews before purchasing something online? If you’re like me, the answer to that would be, “Every time.” Reviews matter to me. I want to know what other people thought before I spend the money I worked so hard for on something. A review can be the thing that ends up being the deciding factor in whether or not I purchase something. Reviews are powerful!
Ask your repeat customers and your star customers to give you feedback – to send you a review of your products now and then. Even if it’s just a sentence or two, seeing that other people like your products will instill confidence in newer customers who might need a little extra nudge to part with their cash.
9. Selling in-person takes a lot of time.
Going to markets, setting up and taking down booths, designing displays, and delivering products to local boutiques takes a lot of time. It takes even longer to build a solid, loyal client base while you’re doing it. When you first start going to markets, you’ll be the new kid on the block and some people will walk right past your booth without stopping on their way to the vendors they visit with every week. Keep at it – if you know you’re in the right place, where your ideal customer is and you keep showing up and being friendly, people will start to notice you and you’ll start to build up your client base. Find a way to connect with people you meet in person online via an email newsletter and a social media account so you can keep in touch with them when you have updates to share.
If you know that you’d much rather be working in your herb garden and creating new products than spending hours every week at in-person markets, you might want to try selling your products online instead. Alternatively, you could hire someone else to sell your products at in-person markets for you.
10. You have the freedom to structure your business in a way that fuels your creativity.
If you love making herbal products, but you hate making the same thing over and over again, you don’t have to structure your business around a core line of products or stick your business model in a box. If you know you want a core product line but don’t want the day-to-day repetition of making them, you could hire out your production so you can focus on creating and perfecting recipes and working on the parts of your business that you really enjoy.
There are also many businesses that thrive on one-of-a-kind, limited edition batches of products that are unique and I’ve seen many clever business owners taking advantage of the novelty of this kind of product offering.
Ultimately, you’ll want to structure your business in a way that fuels your creativity and brings you joy. Don’t limit yourself to a box of what you think your business should look like that’s based on how other people do things. It’s your business. You can structure it however you want to! Knowing what you enjoy doing every day, who your ideal customer is, and what your short- and long-term business goals are will ultimately help you make the best decisions for your business.
I hope this list of quick tips was useful. I’d love to hear from you about these things. Do you own your own plant-based business? Do you hope to start one someday? Tell me more in the comments section below.