Spilling the Tea
Maybe it’s still the smell of gun powder and freedom in the air, but I’m feeling rather bold and dare I say liberated as of late. The handmade industry, also sometimes referred to as the cottage industry, is booming. Another side effect, if you will, of the global pandemic that sidelined the entire country with nothing to do but scour Pinterest and YouTube looking for something to calm fidgeting hands and wondering minds.
I have personally met some of the most talented clothing designers, artists, wood carvers, glass etchers, candy creators, bakers, and candlestick makers. Ok…I don’t actually KNOW any candle stick makers but if you’re out there and reading this…let’s be friends. I digress if there is one defining quality that separates the handmade community it would be authenticity. It does not matter if the creative juices started flowing six months ago or you were simply born to be a handmade entrepreneur, if what you do is authentically “you” than what I am about to say will resonate like a sonic boom on the 4th of July.
Like the patriots of 1773, I’m about to spill the tea. Something heavy has been weighing on my mind for quite some time now. Notice I said the defining quality is authenticity not originality. You see, there really is no such thing as originality in the handmade industry. That might come as a shock to some but whatever it is that you are making, building, creating there is a very strong likelihood that it has been done before. Using my own business for example, there are literally thousands of handmade artisan soap makers all around the world. Sure, I put my own flare and interpretation into everything I create, but I can almost guarantee there isn’t a design in my inventory that can’t be found elsewhere. Being a soap maker doesn’t make me original, and I won’t claim my creations to be either.
So, what is my claim, other than a soap maker with an average personality and mediocre sense of humor? Well, I promise authenticity, in every facet of everything I say and everything I do. That is what it means, at least to me, to be a professional in this industry. The handmade community might be safe from big business woes like insider trading and espionage. However, just because the handmade industry is comprised of artists and creators does not guarantee virtue and fair play. Whoever said imitation was the best form of flattery was a big fat liar. There will be people that come along; they see you creating and how much joy and success you have found, and they think how easy it would be for them to just hop on the bandwagon and go for a ride. In this industry there will be imitators and posers. Guess what…there is nothing you can do about that. Anger, frustration, disappointment, fear, anxiety…all valid emotions but not a single one of them will benefit you or your business. What can you do then?
I just finished reading Creating a Soap & Skin Care Brand written by Benjamin Aaron. For those that do not know, Benjamin Aaron is co-owner of the Lovin Soap Studio, an author, and business coach. In the introduction of the book, he writes about the song “Come Original” by 311. Essentially, what the author is saying and what the lyrics of the song are saying, is be funky and be unique. Be authentically you in every aspect. What you create and what you sell in the marketplace may not original i.e. one of a kind…but that does not mean your “brand” can’t be authentic. When the dust settles it is your authenticity that cannot be imitated. They can encroach on your business by forging recipes, “borrowing” marketing techniques, and mimic everything you do in a desperate attempt to find success. Regrettably, and in futility, they will never be able to capitalize on that quality I mentioned earlier that defines the handmade community. They lack authenticity. As Benjamin Aaron says in his book, “the business gods do not reward copy and paste.” You are the owner of your authenticity and with that the owner of your success. Anyone trying to copy that will never own success for themselves, they’re simply renting.