Tuesday, April 9, 2013

my handmade business

lately i've been seeing lots of comments around social media and blogs about handmade pricing. mostly people complaining about how expensive handmade items are. it's true! buying handmade this is expensive, you know why?

because they are HANDMADE.

these items weren't made in a sweatshop, they were made with love and care by the person who sells them.
with so many apparel businesses taking their business to other countries where the labor is insanely cheap, it's difficult to compete.
actually, it's practically impossible.

why buy my $38 leggings when you can get $5 china made leggings at target, right?
i still buy my kids target leggings.
if they get stained while playing outside, no biggie, they were only 5 bucks, right?
but what about when you want something nice?
something made with organic cotton?
something original?
something really great for family pictures or for a birthday party outfit?
something handcrafted that is helping support a family of five?
that's when you buy my leggings.
they're expensive, but they have worth.

there are an insane amount of costs with a handmade, US-based business.
a LOT of costs that you don't think about when you experience designer legging sticker shock.
{or just handmade sticker shock}.

my fabric is almost $30/yard. i'm just gonna put it out there. it's EXPENSIVE to get your own designs custom printed. it's even more expensive to get them printed on USA organic knit with water-based inks {which i do}. i'm currently seeking a new printer, but still, that's not going to be the $3/yard knit you can get in the LA fashion district straight from china.

and don't forget, you still need to pay for:
cutting blades
size labels
business cards
washing instruction cards
printer paper
 printer ink
shipping bags
shipping labels
shipping tape
tissue paper
binder clips

aaaaaaaand you're not done. you still have to pay your seamstresses!
sales tax
self-employment tax
and i'm sure there's other taxes that i'm missing out on.

but wait, what about MY paycheck?
everyone else got paid, what about me?
i hand cut every single pair of leggings.
the legs, the cuffs, the elastic, the tags...it's a lot of cutting.
sewing blankets, sewing new designs, drafting patterns, perfecting patterns....it's a lot of work.
i'm not going to work for free.
i'm not going to work for minimum wage.
if i'm working 6 days a week on this {during all hours of the day: during nap time and usually from about 10 PM to 1 or 2 or 3 AM} i'm going to pay myself something decent.
i still haven't figured out that amount {i haven't even taken a paycheck yet}, but when i do, it will probably be less than what i was making at the bank and the law office.
how funny is that.

there is a perception that because people charge a lot for their handmade items they are rolling in the dough.
perhaps some are, but i can assure you that most aren't.
i'm living and working in a house that has less than 1500 sq ft for FIVE people {three of them with loooooots of baby stuff}, with no pantry and no linen closet. 
where's my baller house to go with my baller leggings?
that's right, it doesn't exist.

handmade prices also need to reflect the time being put into these items.
time to design the item, time to purchase goods for the item, time produce the item, time to photograph and style the item, time to list the item, time to prepare the item for shipping, time to ship the item...
not to mention all of the one on one customer service that comes with the item by way of personal communication whether it be email, phone calls, etc.
it all takes a LOT of  t i m e.
and if you were to calculate it all out, i'm sure more often than not, the handmade business owner isn't the one getting the sweet end of the deal.

but what about discounts?
everyone loves a discount, right?
i know i sure do.
large clothing companies can offer discounts because they can buy hundreds and thousands of yards of fabric on the cheap.
{they also have cheap labor, but we've already covered that.}
when someone asks me for a discount, i cringe a little inside.
to me, it's like they're saying, "your leggings aren't worth their price. your hard work isn't worth it."
it stabs, i'm not gonna lie.
i would LOVE to offer discounts.
i would love to be able to sell my leggings for $20/pair.
heck, i'd love to be able to GIVEAWAY free pairs of leggings to ALL of my nice customers {and there are plenty!!}.
the only way i get discounts is if i buy a ridiculous amount of fabric.
like at least 20 yards of one style.
so unless you're willing to order about 50 pairs of leggings, i can't really give you a break because i don't get a break.

i love my business.
i love seeing my thoughts and dreams come into fruition.
when the fedex man brings me rolls of my fabric, i'm all smiles.
it's fulfilling.
but i can tell you i've worked harder at this job than i have at any other paying job.
i design my fabric and answer emails while nursing.
i give up nights out and sleep to cut fabric and work on invoices.
i have even given up showers to get orders in the mail. now if that doesn't scream dedication, i don't know what does.

i know that all of this hard work will pay off one day.
i know i'm supposed to be doing this.
it will all be worth it.

i have been able to meet some very sweet people while running this little business of mine.
there has been so much support for me that it just blows my mind.
here are some of the places candy kirby designs has been in the last two months:

small fry blog

the sweet girls at small fry blog included my leggings in a television segment of the top ten newborn essentials.

they also included my leggings in posts here and here
. . . . .
the alison show
here and here
. . . . .
here and here
. . . . .
the wiegands
. . . . .
disney baby
here and here
. . . . .
mine style
. . . . .
. . . . .
sometimes sweet
. . . . .

you can see my stuff at candykirbydesigns.com

so maybe next time you look to purchase something handmade and are shocked by the price, you'll have a little more understanding as to why it's priced that way.
the business person isn't out to get you.
they aren't trying to rob you of your money.
they're just trying to do something they love and {hopefully} make a decent income from it.


  1. Erin, I'm so glad you posted this! I've been following you on Instagram for awhile now, and I've seen some of the bickerings on the price.
    While I personally haven't bought any of your leggings *YET* I have to say, I can completely appreciate and understand the price!
    I handmake a lot of items myself to sell on Instagram/local craft fairs, and just the time it takes alone is worth the money!!
    I only have one son, 5 months, but I absolutely can't imagine trying to do everything you do with THREE KIDS!!?
    Anyway, congrats on your successful, thriving business. You've done something many SAHM moms wish they could do (myself included!)
    I wish you much more success, and hopefully you get your first paycheck soon! You deserve it!

  2. A M E N, sister!

    This is exactly why I try to buy as much handmade items as I can afford-- you get quality and someone who CARED about the garment/item you are purchasing.

  3. i love this post and i love your stuff! i'm saving my pennies to buy something special from you soon!!!

  4. i recently came across your shop and love your leggings!....the prints are modern and cute! i love that you posted about this topic as i can totally relate. i have my own shop and i know how much hard work goes into it and still being home for my kids. now i must buy a pair of your leggings!!

    1. it's so hard working at home, isn't it! ;) thanks for your comment!

  5. Great post Erin. I can't wait to order leggings for my 2 girls! I agree with you and think your leggings are WORTH it!

  6. Hi! I have discovered your amazing leggings via instagram. I really love your work and think your blog is super cute. I love this post for two reason. 1. It is a wonderfully worded clarification for people to understand the pricing behind hand made and why it is worth the price. And honestly if people have an issue with it they are more then welcome to move on and buy elsewhere. It would be nice if they just quietly did so and didn't feel the need to complain about it. 2. I make and sell handmade and sometime even I have a hard time justifying my prices. I always questions if it is to high or not. But the reality of it is there is a strong reason behind the pricing of handmade. You have made me more positive and confident in my pricing and the work I do. It is hard work and a lot of time that goes into running a business, especially when you are a one woman show.
    Thanks again for sharing what we all have been feeling.

    1. thank you for you comment, breanne! i hope your pricing is where it should be and people are happy to pay it! :)

  7. Great post! Too many people think that because a good is handmade or made in a home that means it should be practically free. I have a small cake business that I do on the side (along with my full time job and a 6 month old). I've had people balk at my prices when they ask for a custom made cake. I feel like telling them, I'm not Wal-Mart, I don't get wholesale prices and I cannot pay myself minimum wage. It's just insulting and it's not worth my time away from my family to make something for free. So I feel your pain! I just tell myself those are not the kind of clients I want anyways. You're designs are amazing and I think you are inspiring to many other entrepreneurs out there!


  8. bravo. well said, erin! i'm down to 5 showers a week myself, pumping out hand screenprinted kitchen linens. thanks for the encouragement to raise my prices. i know us ladies are often too nice with the price of our wares.

  9. Well said!! The general shopping public has no idea all that is involved in the small business community to eek out just a little profit.

  10. Very thoughtfully written! I would love to own some of your gorgeous leggings soon, I'm just waiting for my baby to get a little bigger! You are amazing and I am glad I stumbled upon your IG and blog, it's inspiring and fun to see all you do and how cute your littles are! Thanks for the honest post, I hope it helps people understand and think before they criticize. Have a lovely day!!

    1. thanks laurel! your comment was so sweet.

  11. You Soooooo Rock. Putting it out there so honestly, and with no apologies. I think your leggings are fab and if I knew anyone I could buy them for, I would. I hope you sell a zillion.

    Thanks for stating soooo well what the reality is.

    You go girl!

  12. As a handmade business owner, I couldn't agree more.

    My only exceptions are that sometimes I end up going more than a couple of days without a shower and that I wish the fabric I used were only $30 a yard LOL


    1. oh yeah, sometimes it's a couple of days, whoops! :)

  13. Erin, I just discovered you via a friend, and this post is amazing! I couldn't agree more. I recently started a handmade business, and a friend made a (well meaning) comment about my pricing and her value of my product was about half what I'm charging - I couldn't even cover the costs of my materials! Thank you so much for writing this, I hope it gets around so more people will think about the real value of handmade.

  14. Erin, I just discovered you via a friend, and this post is amazing! I couldn't agree more. I recently started a handmade business, and a friend made a (well meaning) comment about my pricing and her value of my product was about half what I'm charging - I couldn't even cover the costs of my materials! Thank you so much for writing this, I hope it gets around so more people will think about the real value of handmade.

    1. ah, that's killer when people don't understand even the cost of the materials. i hope your business is doing well!

  15. SUCH a great post. There is so much value to what you do and your time!
    Just wanted to tell you what a HUGE fan I am of yours! As soon as we get pregnant again your blankets will without a doubt be my first purchase!

  16. Love this! I agree with all of these fine ladies! It takes a LOT OF WORK and TIME to create something good! And to be WORTH your time. Handmade is generally more, but you have outlined the why so perfectly! Thank you for sharing! WELL SAID!

  17. New follower over here, & kuddos to this post. Wishing you nothing but success in doing what you love to support your oh so beautiful family! Truly inspiring & thank you for sharing! :)

  18. you are so talented, blessed, and have a lovely family! i've been following you on IG for a while (found you through little hip squeaks) and just ordered some leggings for my little guy today :) absolutely can't wait to get them and i know i'll be back for more!

    1. yay! thank you! i hope you love your leggings.

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i love candy, sewing and the power to delete :) have a great day!