And a Happy New Year to you all!
Late last month, we shared with you a bit about John and Artiphany's 2019: how they both fared, grew, searched—and, sometimes, found. Now, with the first month of the new decade nearly behind us, we're looking forward to a year of expansion and experimentation. Refining what it means for Artiphany to be Artiphany is a lot of work and the nuances of development sometimes take months, years to fully announce themselves, and for us to understand them. But in an effort to do just that—and to share with you all, the people that keep us true to our goal to bring as many smiles to as many faces as we possibly can—we sat down to share a few thoughts about the future of our little business. I asked the questions; John, diligently, answered them.
What were the biggest changes in your thinking as a CEO and creative director of this company in 2019?
One of the biggest changes in my approach to my running the company has been learning to work with a team. After the viral event in 2017, I knew I needed to add a few people to keep things moving forward and to maintain the momentum. Having been a solo operation for so long, I anticipated a period of adjustment...and that's ongoing. Even though Artiphany is still a very small company, the operations of keeping us running smoothly would be more than I could handle.
Having a team around me has pushed me to become more efficient in how I spend my time. One of my team has been excellent at managing our inventory so we don't carry more than we need. Another brings a focus and discipline to staying in touch with both our retail and on-line customers. Having a few different viewpoints in the mix helps to fine tune both the big and small decisions.
How has Artiphany's vision changed and how does it continue to change?
Over time, I've come to understand the human impulse to stay in touch with each other as it relates to Artiphany. The practice of giving a gift to someone is and always will be an expression of the feeling we all have to stay connected. I'll guess that well over 80% of what people purchase from Artiphany is meant to be given to someone else as an expression of affection towards someone they know. This is the best of compliments.
In the 10+ years I've been running Artiphany, certain images have proven to have enduring appeal. The "Off Leash" dogs and the knitting sheep are two of the best examples.
Some have been complete duds as a product that people want to buy. The Halloween Advent Calendar is the best example of this despite how much fun it was to create. The darker, sardonic themes I've done do indeed appeal to some of my audience, but not enough to keep doing them. At the time, I had no idea about the value of assessing the appeal of a product with current distributors and customers before turning it into a product. The common sense wisdom seems obvious now.
What has it been like to discover which of our images are crowd favorites?
Overall, people prefer an image that expresses joy or hope. Really, what is a better expression of happiness than a dog running around the dog park without a leash? Pure joy and release: and that's what the off leash image captures so well.
Our current company logo is the King of Cheese image. Not only is he wearing the crown but he's also got the biggest piece of cheddar. All positive.
Have there been any surprises there?
The social knitworking sheep were the biggest surprise of last year. They're all so contented and almost prayerful in their task. That is except for the two in the middle who are gossiping. It started like everything: as simply an image that I drew on a piece of paper. When I took a friend's suggestion to put it on a knitting project bag, I discovered the power of identifying a specific group of customers and marketing directly to them with ads of Facebook and Ravelry.
It continues to be one of our best selling products.
What are your hopes for next year?
We're doing to a big marketing push to museum stores, knitting shops, and more gifts stores. We've discovered a couple of wholesale partners who will allow us to try out products with their customers to determine if we should commit to making a new product in larger quantities. We're using a couple of print on demand services to create some of our new products without the commitment of capital and space to a larger inventory.
I have a couple of new products in mind. One is a new tote for our knitting stores and customers. We will also roll out our first production run of a new mug sometime in 2020.
There are many more things in the works....but, with the acquired wisdom of both success and failure, we won't be counting our chickens before they're hatched.
Now get off your computers and tablets and phones and enjoy this time with your loved ones! All of you! Don't make me bark at you!
Love and dog bones,