Saturday, May 22, 2010

Inspiration from the Big Apple

Social goals can replace greed as a powerful motivational force. Social-consciousness-driven enterprises can be formidable competitors for the greed-based enterprises.
-Muhammad Yunus in Banker to the Poor

There is, undoubtedly, something very attractive about the lights and sparkle of New York City's Times Square. As an individual about to venture into the world of entrepreneurship, the giant billboards and huge flashy TV screen seem to be a testament to the power and success of capitalism. But under what pretenses? Could a social-conscious business survive in the same marketplace as American Eagle and Verizon?

Yes...And I don't think we even need the flashy lights.

My sister and I developed our plan for Uncovered Artistry because we wanted to empower others. We knew how intimidating the business world could be. Tall white men in suits are a stark contrast to the two young socially-conscious college students we are. But for over a year we have had the joy of owning a small jewelry-design company called La SuaVoce Designs. And now our new venture, Uncovered Artistry Boutique, an online boutique that sells the artisan work of domestic violence survivors, will take our passion a step further.
The business and entrepreneurial world is not reserved for those with MBAs and suits; Uncovered Artistry will attempt to prove the power of socially-conscious business that empowers regular people to be entrepreneurs.

Uncovered Artistry

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Identifying Your Target Market

Identifying Your Target Market
Steps and tips to discovering who your customers are

When I was thinking about starting my second business (a non-profit boutique), one of the first questions I had was: who will my customers be? I firmly believe that all business-owners should begin with some sort of business plan. Identifying, then analyzing, your target market is one of the most important aspects of this plan. Certainly, my method isn’t perfect, but the following is what I did to identify the target market for Uncovered Artistry Boutique.

1. Google your idea. For me this was a dead-end. There aren’t many (or any!) boutiques that sell solely the artisan work of domestic violence survivors. But if you do come across another company with a business idea, use this to your advantage; you just found some potential competitors. Ask yourself: How is my idea better? What can I do to stand out from these existing companies? What do I have that they don’t? Also remember that most likely (if they are successful) your competitors have identified their target market already. Study their websites. What items or services do they offer? What colors are they using on their site? Is their site fun, formal, young? Identify their style; it’s also their customers’ style. I wouldn’t even be afraid to contact the owners. Many business owners I have come in contact with are surprisingly happy to chat about their experiences. I am not saying to copy, but I am saying to use the resources that are available to you.

2. Identify other companies that might have similar customers. Because I found no boutiques similar to Uncovered Artistry, I studied retailers that were similar: eco-boutiques and fair trade retailers. I then followed the same strategy as #1, always keeping in mind that this market may not be exactly mine, but it will be close.

3. Research. This is honestly not that fun, but it is certainly necessary. Learn as much as you can about your potential customer base. You might realize that someone has already done a lot of the research for you. I found that my target market even has a name: The Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) consumers. I focused my research on the consumers who purchased fair trade, because I knew these products fall in line with what my business will sell. After a lot of Googling and library searching, I had more than 12 pages of information about my target market. I found statistics, charts, and loads of text. Don’t be afraid to utilize your library. You might be surprised how many books are written about your customers.

4. Talk. I also recommend talking with friends and family. See what they suggest. If you know your mom fits your target market perfectly, talk to her about what she likes and dislikes (hopefully you know some of this already!). You might be surprised what information you can get from those around you.

5. Collect and analyze your research. Weed out information that is irrelevant to your business. Start to think about how you can apply your research to your business. Everything that involves your business is directly affected by your target market. If your target market doesn’t use Facebook, don’t advertise on that site. If they respond more to print ads, try newspapers and magazines. If they buy purses but rarely purchase makeup, then you have a better idea of what to sell or produce.

6. Use your information to your advantage! The more you know and the more you use this knowledge, the more successful your business will be.

Uncovered Artistry Boutique

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tips for Social Networking- Small Businesses

The first thing a start-up business can do is establish its social networking sites online. Social networking sites, like Facebook, Twitter, and Blogspot, provide small (and even large) business with effective free marketing tools. The first thing we did—before we received our grant—was create this blog. We’ve had blog experience with our previous business (La SuaVoce Designs We found that by writing a helpful or interesting blog post once a week or so brought traffic to our blog and consequently to our online shop.
• We suggest using because they allow people to “follow” your blog. This means that when your followers sign into their accounts, the title and first few lines of your more recent blog post will appear on their home page.
• Use pictures! To be perfectly honest, I lose interest easily while surfing the web. If a blog is just a block of text, I’m going to pass it by. Using pictures and even videos in your blog will help attract readers.
• Write about your personal life only if you really think other people want to read about it.

Since the blog is mainly for your business, it’s not a good idea to consistently blog about your kids or dog. It’s certainly interesting to drop in a few things about yourself (since this proves your business isn’t just a impersonal corporation), but I’d focus mostly on providing interesting resources for customers and other business owners. That’s our goal anyway!
Once you’ve created your blog, it’s time to head to Facebook. If you already have a Facebook account, it’s really easy to create a fan page for your business. On the home page of click on “Create a Page for a celebrity, brand or business.” It’s pretty easy to navigate from here. What’s nice about a Facebook fan page is that your friends (and their friends, and everyone else!) can “like” your business. You can update your status just like a regular Facebook account and write notes about your business. You can even add pictures. Those who “like” you will see your status updates on their home page.

Finally, create your Twitter account. Twitter is essentially like the status updates on Facebook. This tool allows you to keep your followers updated about the goings-on of your business. For example, if you’ve spent all day searching for domestic violence safe havens (like us) you can write so in your twitter update. Your followers will read your updates on their home page.

At first, you probably won’t have many followers on Twitter. Don’t get discouraged. Follow these simple tips, and you should be getting traffic soon:

o Follow others. Look to follow your friends or people and organizations you are interested in. The more people you follow, the more exposure you will receive.
o Don’t post an update every minute. If someone updates their Twitter all the time, it clogs up my home page, and I end up un-following them

o Post any sales or discounts you offer. Twitter is a great way to reach your customers. A quick note about sales or discounts can really bring traffic.

o Include links in your updates. If you write about a new product, provide a link for that product in your update.

Blogspot, Facebook, and Twitter can expose your business to the online world. Update them frequently, use them to connect with customers, network with professionals and others in your trade, and feel awesome when a ton of people start following you!

Uncovered Artistry Boutique

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Search for Artisans

We recently recieved a grant through the Projects for Peace Organizaion, which will allow us to start Uncovered Artistry Boutique.

This boutique will sell the artisan work of domestic violence surviors. If you or anyone you know is a talented artisan who has suffered from domestic violence and would like to sell your work in our online boutique, please email us at uncoveredartistry [!at]

Your identity will remain anonymous if so desired. See the description below for more details!

Sarah and Angie
La SuaVoce Designs
Uncovered Artistry Boutique

The Project:

Uncovered Artistry Boutique, operating out of Hampton Falls, New Hampshire, will be a non-profit online and catalog retailer that sells the finely crafted work of domestic violence survivors and distributes the products throughout the country.

The business will have two main goals. First, it will provide an outlet for domestic survivors in America to sell their artisan work,thereby providing them with financial independence and personal confidence.

Second,Uncovered Artistry will educate the customers about domestic violence in order to raise awareness and eliminate stereotypes.We will solicit applications from domestic violence survivors, who also have an undiscovered artistic skill such as jewelry-making, quilting, sewing, or woodworking. We would like to represent domestic violence survivors from different cultural, ethnic, racial, and regional backgrounds, who each have their own unique personal stories.

In order to raise awareness, we will include a profile about the survivors on the website, catalog, and in informational packets sent to customers. To protect the safety of our artisans, we will work with safe havens to develop these profiles in a manner that protects the anonymity of the artisans. We will also recruit students and professionals as volunteers.

Uncovered Artistry Begins

Sarah and I are happy to announce that we have arrived to New Hampshire from college in Illinios, and we can start working on Uncovered Artistry Boutique. The online boutique will sell the finely crafted artisan work of domestic violence suvivors. We recieved a grant to start the business from Projects for Peace, which supports projects that in some way promote peace throughout the world. Our first steps to starting Uncovered Artistry include creating a website, connecting with local safe havens, and of course searching for artisans!

Check out our "About Us" page for more information. Please follow our blog and expect more updates, resources, and stories to come!

Sarah and Angela Spoto