If you aren’t familiar with one of my favorite artists and business owners, then you are in for a treat with this company feature. Christi Friesen is an award-winning artist, author and teacher. She is well known in the polymer clay and mixed media worlds with showcased works of art featured in numerous books, magazines and exhibits. She is the author of over a dozen how-to books on creating with polymer clay.
What I adore about Christi is that she teaches using humor and positive energy to encourage students to stretch their creativity, technical skills and artistic confidence. She has a “wild and crazy” side to her and a very savvy business side to her. She is the perfect person to interview when it comes to this topic; Alternative Ways to Sell Jewelry.
I was able to interview Christi as she was “sheltering in place” in Hawaii (the dog!!!). As I had hoped, she was full of ideas, excitement and stories of strategies that were working for her.
Becky: Thank you for joining us Christi! Over the years we have known each other, you have always been the ultimate “alternative sales” innovator!
Christi: We sure have known each other for a while! One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about our friendship is our “biz gals” chats – comparing ideas and processes.
I think I’ve always been an “alternative” business person. I don’t color in the lines or do anything the ‘normal’ way. I blame Dr. Seuss. When your formative years have things like:
AND I WOULD EAT THEM IN A BOAT.
AND I WOULD EAT THEM WITH A GOAT…
AND I WILL EAT THEM, IN THE RAIN.
AND IN THE DARK. AND ON A TRAIN.
Then you just know that you’re going to look at possibilities a bit differently!
Becky: Can you share with us some of the alternative ways that you are selling during this global pandemic?
Christi: One of the main things I’ve started during this pandemic is a weekly FREE online LiveChat and make-along session. I realized, as many others have, that suddenly we have lots of folks at home, looking for things to do. The creativity they never had time for was suddenly possible! But folks really appreciate a little hand-holding in the creative process, so I started the LiveChats on Facebook. Most of my demographic is most comfortable on Facebook, and the feeling of live community engagement really feeds these weekly meet-ups in a way that just a video posting would not.
I started these as a way to give back to my community, but hoped it would also boost my income stream as well. It has, which is really great. Folks want my products because they are excited about what I am showing them to create.
I’ve also used Facebook to sell artwork directly to my audience. I’ve made and found things that are limited in quantity, so the need to ‘get it while you can’ has really helped create a shopping excitement. Facebook is easy for a post and then I follow up with private messages to finalize the sale. A little more work than processing an order from my website, but it’s the sense of connecting with me personally that adds an additional element of desirability, I think.
“It seems to me that one of the joys in life is to be interested. Interested in what you do, interested in what surrounds you, interested in what you experience. Creating interests me. And I find joy in creating things that are interesting to look at.”
Becky: One of the things that you really thrive at is building communities. Can you tell us a bit about how you create those?
Christi: I’m not sure if it was by accident, or on purpose! I am pretty active on Facebook. I do have an Instagram presence and am building up my YouTube but it’s all about Facebook at the moment for me.
First of all I really put thought into what I post – I mix it up between personal stuff (pretty sunsets, wacky adventures, me eating chocolate!), business (special sales, promotion of events and classes) and my art (work in progress shots, philosophical musing about the meanings of a piece, details about the process of making). So there is a variety in the posts. It keeps people interested in what I have to say. You have to mix it up and by being personal – pics of me doing things – are very important. Ultimately, you’re always selling yourself, really. So people get interested in the ‘Christi Show’.
I also make private groups – I have a “Diamond Member” invitation-only page that people who want to be the first to see and purchase new artwork are a part of. It’s exclusive and there are perks, which forms a special bond between myself and my customers and it creates an anticipation of my new offerings! I have probably too many Facebook groups, but they all have a slightly different purpose and audience. It allows me to stay flexible and meet very specific needs.
Becky: Your customers love to follow you wherever you “go-go.” How do you navigate your public life with your personal life with such a large following?
Christi: I share a lot of my personal life, but I’m careful to curate what I post to keep it positive without being fake and intimate without being intrusive. I make sure I share the kind of posts that will result in the kind of responses that are affirmative of the creative life, which is what I want folks to associate with me! And I try to respond to their comments with a meaningful response as often as possible. This can be pretty time-consuming, but I feel like it’s part of the “contract” between me and my groups – they are supporting me, and they deserve to be acknowledged and cherished! It also creates a bond of loyalty that definitely helps my financial bottom line as well.
I think it also is important to remember not to let social media run your life. If I don’t feel like commenting right away, I don’t. If I don’t want to share something, I don’t. It’s a tool, not a dictator!
“I am an artist because I must be. My mind wanders and my fingers follow.”
Becky: Can you see new trends in online education? If so, what type of response have you been receiving as a result of that?
Christi: Well that is one interesting side-effect of everyone in the world staying at home isn’t it! Online learning has been getting bigger and bigger anyway, but I think what the quarantine has done is give people time. The desire has been there, but not the time, so now folks are getting the chance to create so that’s exciting. But once life resumes to ‘normal’… that time will vanish again, so that will be interesting. I’ve actually been giving that a lot of thought. I’m not sure how to carve out the same space of time going forward… I’ll let you know if I come up with anything clever!
Becky: I have always admired that you just “do stuff.” How do you think through your ideas, or do you just “do stuff.”
Christi: Oh I am totally a ‘leap before you look’ kinda gal. It gets me in trouble sometimes, but more often than not it lands me in an interesting place a few minutes before the rest get there, which makes me seem a bit of a pioneer. It’s maybe more accurately a bit more impulse than pioneering, but I like it so I’ll keep doing it! But I do have gut feelings often, then I act on them, and then I think about what I should be doing to make it all work better! So far so good, pretty much!
Becky: I appreciate that you have taught classes using bezels from us. Why do you trust your student’s experience to Nunn Design Findings?
Christi: Oh I love your findings, and I always have ever since we were neighbors at Bead & Button Show and I kept looking at all your tasty goodies… hmmm, that didn’t come out right. But your findings have the two things that are most important: quality and uniqueness. I love them and I’ll use you forever! (Yeah, that’s how I meant to say that). Keep making wonderful things and I’ll keep creating with them!
Thank you Christi for taking the time to share with us your alternative ways to sell.
Leave a comment if you have other ideas that are working for your company during this global pandemic. If you would like to be considered as a featured company on the Nunn Design Blog, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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