Thursday, October 30, 2014

Local Love: Chalk Mercantile.

Meet Jayne of Chalk Mercantile House and Home in Old Saybrook.

We asked Jayne to tell us a little more about her shop:

"I scour the Earth for the perfect pieces for my shop. You'll often see me at auctions and estates sales, and I love Craigslist. Etsy is another place I find local artisans for handmade items. I also carry nationally known lines- I like to have a curated mix.  Right now my Amy Howard At Home One Step Paint has been flying out the door. I think during the warmer weather folks are looking to freshen up their homes."

And the challenges of owning her own business: "Having enough time to get everything done! I have to become better at time management."

But it's a worthwhile experience: "I have many "regulars" that visit me at my shop and every day is an interesting experience interacting with them. I truly love my job and it's my customers that make it so wonderful.  I couldn't pick just one story to share with you- there are so many!"

With all those bright bursts of color, don't you just want to wander around for hours?  And locals, Chalk Mercantile holds various workshops throughout the year, including how to use Amy Howard One Step paint.  Make sure to check them out!

Chalk Mercantile House and Home
891 Boston Post Road
Old Saybrook, CT 06475

Open Wednesday through Friday 10am - 6pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am - 4pm
Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays


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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Using Instagram for Business.

Instagram is by far one of my favorite social media platforms.  If you're not already using it, Instagram is an app for iPhone and Android that works very much like Twitter in its quick-posting "happening now" format, except it utilizes photos to catch a moment in your day.  As you gain followers, you can provide them with snippets from your business life and your personal life, making you relateable to potential customers and giving your followers an inside view of your day-to-day.

This infographic from The Social Tree perfectly illustrates eight great uses for Instagram in relation to your online business:

8 Ways To Use Instagram for Business

I really try and use Instagram in all of the ways listed above, and it's always interesting to see what gets a good response. (All photos from Milo and Molly.)

*New products, fresh off the line, some of which are finished late at night (hence the dark photo):

*Work in action and showing off the workspace:

*My dog, Casey, gets a lot of face time because she's too darned cute.

*General life things:

*The infographic mentions contests- which a lot of people do (you see tons of giveaways on Instagram) but I love it for flash sales for slow-moving inventory, for when I have a new product coming out, or just because I'm feeling like having a sale.

Tips and Tricks:

1. Avoid posting blurry photos and videos.  Take good, clear photos as often as possible.  I am guilty of using the old iPhone with the bad camera in bad lighting if need be, but when you can, get a good shot, especially if you're using your account for business.  The more professional your photos, the better you overall image will be.

2. Post original content.  While an occasional regram/quote/meme is okay with your own original caption underneath as it relates to you, followers want to see what is going on with you and what you are up to.

3. Instagram is amazing for advertising, but your whole account should not be comprised of ads.  Instagram is a view into your life- a behind-the-scenes shot.  People follow you on Instagram to get to know you, not to be bombarded with ads.  It's the same as with Twitter- too many ads equals unfollows.

4. Use your account, but not to the point of overuse, either.  There is a delicate balance for posting on Instagram.  You don't want to sign up and then let you account go dormant, but you also don't want to bombard your followers with six shots of the same thing from various angles.  Think of the "insta-" part of Instagram.  It's a quick snapshot into what's happening now, not a running commentary on your day.

5. Don't overuse hashtags.  There is a time and place to jump in on what's trending, or to keep track of people posting about a certain topic (I use #miloandmolly when I post about my shop) but an ongoing list of hastags can just be too much.

6. Tag people and products to make a connection!  I love it when someone who's made a purchase from me tags me in a photo so I can see how they're using my product.  You can also tag a large company or important person if you're mentioning their product- food products, authors, etc.  You never know who will respond back to you!  Similarly, it's nice to comment on photos people post if you feel a connection to it.  It's a social network, so the point is to be social and interact.

7. Instagram can be set up to repost your photos to Facebook, Twitter, and other networks if you choose them to, but this does not mean you need to send out every photo you take to all your networks every single time.  I have my networks linked, but choose if I want to link them on a photo-by-photo basis.  If it's something related to Milo and Molly, then I may send it to Facebook and Twitter.  If it's a photo of the dog, I may just keep it to my IG feed.  However, not every post is relevant for every network- it's important to remember that they all serve their own purpose.

8. Be yourself.  There are plenty of apps you can download to doctor your photos- filters, text, stickers, and more.  They are handy and fun, but they should be used sparingly and not overtake an already pretty picture.

Do you use Instagram?  Do you have tips and tricks to add to the list?
Who do you like to follow?

Written by Kristen of Milo and Molly.  Kristen runs her business while staying at home with her two small children. Fueled by an endless supply of tea, she sews late into the night when the house is quiet, most often accompanied by her faithful poodle, Casey.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shop Spotlight: Treefort Naturals.

Meet Jessica Eveleigh of Treefort Naturals, offering all-natural soaps, creams, salves and more. Her items are made using vegetarian, organic and local ingredients, some of which even come from her own garden. Natural bath and body items make great gifts and Jessica offers a wide selection of scents and styles.

"I'm Jess, a Connecticut mom and owner of Treefort Naturals. I have a background in art education and I have always drawn creative inspiration from the great outdoors. As a family, we enjoy watching the painter turtles hatch in our yard every spring, building fairy houses in the trees and tending to our herb and vegetable gardens. I am a hopeless sap (I cry every time I watch the movie Rudy) and my toenails are always painted blue. I also enjoy hiking, yoga, sewing and spending time with family at the beach.

 "A few years ago, I began a lifestyle overhaul. I started seeking out more healthy and environmentally-conscious products for myself and my family. I became an avid label-reader and was pretty disgusted by the ingredients in everyday commercial products. As I explored ways to make my own things, such as laundry detergent, household cleaners, and soap, I realized how much better these simple homemade recipes using all-natural ingredients were for my family and for the environment. Knowing exactly what I was using to wash my kids was a pretty great feeling and I soon realized that making soap was becoming my creative outlet as well.

"When there was more soap curing on racks than we could ever possibly use or giveaway, I thought it might be fun to try to sell a few bars. The name "Treefort" seemed to fit just right and reflect my style and mission. To me, the pure and simple goodness of the "wonder of the woods" embodied what I wanted my little company to be all about. I started selling my products at my local farmer's market and decided to open an Etsy shop to have an easy way to share my products with out of town friends and family. 

Over the past couples of years, Treefort Naturals has continued to grow while maintaining small batch, handmade quality. From sourcing and growing raw ingredients to creating the labels and packaging, the entire operation is homegrown with passion and care. A commitment to a healthier lifestyle and a feeling of responsibility to the environment are at our roots. 

All Treefort products, including our old-fashioned, cold process soaps are handcrafted in Colchester, Connecticut. Our ingredients are carefully selected and we love sourcing locally from Connecticut farms and suppliers. We also choose certified organic ingredients whenever possible. Treefort Naturals specializes in truly natural bath and body products. You will never find a synthetic fragrance, dye or preservative in any of our products-just simple goodness!"

To find out even more about Jessica and her shop,
please visit her on EtsyFacebook or Twitter, and check out her blog!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Photo Tutorial: iPhone and Camera+

Hi everyone! Patti Wunder here, from Easton Place Design Studio. I'm bringing you a photo tutorial featuring the app Camera+. I've been using this app to take shop photos for roughly two years. Although I do own a lovely Nikon with lots of fancy stuff on it (most of which I have no clue how to use), I have become really comfortable using my phone and this app to take 90% of my product images. It has reduced a lot of the editing time because I do most of the editing on my phone before sending things to my computer or uploading directly. (Disclaimer: Some of the photos are blurry, because I was actually using "screen capture" to get the shot of how I use the Camera+ editing options. It's hard to keep the camera super steady while pushing the two buttons at once. Sorry.)

Okay, let's get started!

(Yes, I my kitchen doubles as my photo studio. Dishes will be done in about an hour.)

(In a perfect photo you wouldn't see my white iPhone either!)
This was a bit blurry, but I wanted to again show you how easy it is to brighten a shot even in a dark space.

I hope this is helpful when thinking about your product photos. I would probably take the final photo a step further to remove the line in the background using iPhoto, but I wanted this tutorial to just show you how easy it is to use your phone and the Camera+ app. When last I looked, the app cost $2.99. Really a deal in my opinion.

Best of luck! Let me know if this helps or if you've used it!

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