Friday, November 21, 2008

The Boss of You

As part of this year's amazing show we have added authors to our lineup.  We have an amazing group of talented people coming to share their work with us and sign some books while they are at it.  You can check out the full list here.  I have the fun job of interviewing all these authors for you.  So here is Lauren Bacon, one of the authors of the fantastic book, The Boss of You. UCU- Can you tell our readers more about your book(s) in case they don't already know about it? LB- The Boss of You is a business book for women who are running -- or who aspire to run -- small, independent businesses, and who want business tips that balance creativity, pragmatism and fun. We wrote it as two gals who started our own business nine years ago in the corner of a bedroom, embracing slow, steady growth (avoiding the "grow big, grow fast, and get out" model of entrepreneurship) and sticking to our own definition of success. It's the book we wish we'd had when we started out. Emira and I have always been inspired by the innovative small-business models women entrepreneurs are creating, but we don't see them very often in the business pages of the newspaper; we wanted to show that there is an alternative to the high-risk, workaholic life that's typically portrayed in business books, and that women everywhere are setting up small-scale, sustainable businesses that are very successful from both a financial perspective and in terms of the personal satisfaction they give their owners and customers. And we wanted to show other women how they can do the same: make a living, be their own bosses, and stay true to their values in the process. In The Boss of You, we cover everything from initial brainstorming, through branding and marketing, pricing your products and services, even networking for nonconformists -- all the elements of entrepreneurship that fill us with equal parts excitement and fear. We also included the voices of eighteen other fabulous women business owners ranging from crafters, writers, and designers to product manufacturers, chiropractors, and consultants, who shared their hard-won wisdom with us. We often hear from readers that the book feels like a conversation with trusted friends, which is the best compliment we could possibly ask for! UCU- What advice do you have for crafters that are trying to survive these economic times? LB- Specialize! We give this advice in sunnier times, too, but when the tides turn it's easy to start doubting that doing one thing extremely well is a smart strategy. It's natural to start dreaming up ways to supplement your income by branching out into new areas -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but be careful you're not straying too far from your core competency. (We are big believers in the power of specialization and we talk about it a lot in The Boss of You.) Check in with yourself on a regular basis on two big questions: What are you selling? And who are your customers? The answers to these questions may shift from time to time, but you should be able to answer those questions with a great deal of confidence and precision. If you stick to your guns you will be more likely to weather the ups and downs of the market. Carve out a niche where you can really stand out from the competition, keep your customer service levels high, and stay true to your brand. The other advice I would give is to keep a close eye on your sales numbers. Track your sales for each item and hone in on your bestsellers. If you've got three SKUs that consistently outsell the others, why not look at dropping some less profitable products, or expanding your line of bestsellers by offering them in more variants (e.g. new colours, sizes, flavours, etc.)? Finally, it's always worth looking to see if you can reduce your production costs, to increase your profit margins, and sometimes when we're on an economic downswing it can be a good time to negotiate with suppliers -- they'd rather give you a little discount than lose you as a customer altogether. UCU- What are you looking forward to the most at Urban Craft Uprising? LB- I have a soft spot for all things typographical, so you'll find me at the author signings, Style Garden, and the letterpress booths. Emira's more likely to check out textiles with cool prints, and beautiful jewelry. Rachel Ann Austin's map paintings look beautiful; I can't wait to see them in person. I'll be trying to keep from drooling on Berkley Illustration's animal prints -- their brown bat ( makes me giddy. And hey, there can't be anything bad about having TWO vendors hawking pasties! Plus, you know, we really love doing book signings -- it's so much fun to meet people who are starting up new businesses, or running existing ones, and finding out what they're up to. Pure inspiration. So we're looking forward to that part of it, which will be on Saturday at 3:00 PM. UCU- Do you have any advice for someone that wants to publish a book? LB- 1. Do it for love, not money. 2. Write about something you are so in love with that you will be happy spending a couple of years (maybe longer) thinking about it. 3. Write it. Just get it written, and either find a publisher or self-publish it. It's never been so easy to self-publish, and if you are really passionate about your project, you shouldn't let the vagaries of the publishing industry worry you overmuch. 4. Come and talk to us at UCU -- we're happy to answer questions about the publishing process. UCU- Got any new years resolutions you would want to share with us? LB- Neither of us is particularly fond of the traditional New Year's resolution where you give something up, or re-commit to some form of self-discipline that's been lacking. But we are big on goals! So let's share some of those. I'll answer for myself. My goals for next year are to: a) Move Raised Eyebrow (our web design company) to a fabulous new office space where we can all breathe a little easier and have room for future growth. b) Go back to the Bay Area in California now that some dear friends of mine have moved there. I love it there but haven't visited in years. c) Watch Obama's inauguration with a really good glass of victory wine in hand. d) Doodle and/or draw more, without judging the quality. e) Learn to meditate. f) (This one is on my list every year, but I think it's important to keep it there...) Stop working too much! g) Finish reading Don DeLillo's Underworld before it falls off my bedside table and kills me dead. :)

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