Kristen Bangs of Spunky Fluff shares her experience of starting and growing a small business. She now sells her work in 50 galleries around the country.
ABI: Tell us about your collection and how you got started.
KB: I worked in marketing for 15 years, traveling the world dreaming up new products and better ways to make someone feel desperate to own them. And for about 12 of those years, I loved what I was doing. I tried my hand at as many mediums as I could. I made some disastrous art and truly unmentionable craft. But I also had a lot of fun. Which is when I started to believe in my creative vision – something I wasn’t even sure I had.
I’ve developed a funny little way of making curiously cut wood signs and wall art that reflects my love of color. I still love my oil paints, pencils and kneaded erasers, but cannot get enough of wood. I created Spunky Fluff in 2011 and it’s been a race to create since then.
ABI: What interested you in taking the Arts Business Institute workshop?
KB: Deb Kneale, founder of Show of Hands Gallery of Fine American Craft has been a big supporter and influencer of mine. I’ve spent a lot of time with her talking about my goals (being represented by craft galleries around the US being the biggest!) She strongly recommended that I attend ABI. She’s never given me poor advice and ABI was exactly what I needed for a high-level education in wholesale.
ABI: You exhibited at your very first trade show this year. What was the result?
KB: I had a GREAT show – 20 new accounts around the United States. One of the greatest outcomes – that I didn’t even anticipate – is the great diversity of accounts I have. I now have accounts that are very busy in the summer, which is a lovely way to balance out the summer doldrums. I can always count on busy winter holidays but I didn’t know I would find accounts that would keep me so busy through the rest of the year.
ABI: What were the biggest lessons you learned from starting out in wholesale?
KB: I’ve learned that 99.8% of owners of craft galleries are wonderful, supportive people. They love what they do as much as I love what I do. This is an amazing market to make a living in.
I’ve also learned that under-promising and over-delivering will make you a favorite among them. On good advice, I took a calendar to my first show and scheduled each order’s ship date with loads of cushion time between each. It made it possible for me to hit every single promise date without any stress. In some cases, I was able to delight buyers with early shipments.
I’ve learned the importance of a regularly-scheduled newsletter to my accounts and prospects. Each newsletter includes news from my workshop, new items and hints on seasonal best-sellers, and a link to another maker who sells wholesale (different in each newsletter). I have a phenomenal open rate and have gotten additional business with each newsletter.