Get to Know White Pigeon Bindery
White Pigeon Bindery specializes in handcrafted journals and is a friend to writers and all those who love the crisp feel of new pages between their fingers. This month, we talked shop with the uber talented Katie of White Pigeon Bindery. Learn all about her process and get invaluable tips for starting your own business and thriving at pop-up markets.
1. What is the origin story for your business?
I originally started my Etsy shop in January 2010, selling crocheted and sewn items. I mainly started it because the recession had just happened, I was a new college grad, and there were very few jobs to apply for during this time. It was not very successful, and I didn't add many items to it until I took a bookbinding class in the fall of 2012 with my now-husband, at Portland Community College.
My teacher said I was very good at it for a beginner and I started adding handbound journals to my Etsy shop to see how they would do. I started getting an order about every other month for my journals, and then in October 2015, I saw a YouTube video on search engine optimization (SEO). I spent a few hours completely revamping my listings, taking all new pictures, and in January 2016, I hit 100 sales on Etsy. I am now only a few away from hitting 1000!
2. What about your business are you most proud of?
As a small business owner, there are so many little things that make you proud. I remember how excited I was when I had my first international order, the first time I sold more than one journal to a customer, and the first time I had a repeat customer. I am also proud when I vend at craft shows and I have people tell me how they took a bookbinding class in college and comment that my journals have great craftsmanship.
3. What do you love about vending at markets and craft shows?
My favorite part of vending in person is being able to see what customers are drawn to and talking with them about what they like. That way, if I vend at that show again, I can come better prepared. For example, journals with lined pages don't seem to sell all that well online, but in person, lined journals are much more popular than journals with blank pages.
4. What has been your favorite market experience and why?
My favorite market experience has been at the Phinney Neighborhood Association Winter Festival and Crafts Fair. All the vendors have great handmade goods, the customers are wonderful, and Jessie - the person who runs the whole show - communicates everything in a timely manner to the vendors. There is no guessing on where your booth is, what the Wi-Fi password is, and what the set up and tear down procedures are.
5. What are your must-haves for markets?
My market must-haves are business cards, my Square reader, cash, a Mountain Dew Code Red, and a #1 helper so they can bag items while I ring up customers. Also, don't forget comfortable shoes because if a market is good, you will most likely be standing and talking with customers the whole day!
6. Any advice for people looking to start their own business or start selling at markets?
My advice to people wanting to start selling at markets is that not all markets are the same. A good market for you might be a bad market for me. I normally scope out a market before applying the next year. The things I look for are:
Do they allow MLMs? I personally never vend at a market that has MLMs because it draws a different kind of customer base than a strictly handmade-only market.
What are the price points on items? I want to see items for sale that are around my price point.
Do I see money changing hands or are people mainly just looking?
Is the craft show busy? If it's busy, are customers evenly distributed among all the vendors or clustered around a few?
Do customers have to pay to get in? If there is an entry fee, customers are more likely to be seriously shopping instead of just looking.
Also, I keep a list of markets I want to apply for, along with the deadlines. Some markets have deadlines that can be up to 8 months in advance of the show!
7. Brag to us! What are you most excited about right now?
I am most excited about some leather journals I am working on! I haven't made leather journals in about five years, but I think they will be complementary to what I already offer and can get new eyes on my Etsy shop and a different kind of customer at markets.