Monday, May 22, 2006

Brandi Jasmine interview

Today we visit with Brandi Jasmine - Writer, Photographer, Illustrator

1. What drew you to opening an online store? Were you in a related field?

I have been an artist and astrologer for over 15 years. I have tried working with corporate licensing, with mixed results. I did the 2003 American Media Zodiac Calendar, which was one of the more successful and positive experiences in that area, but corporate work is an art form all its own, one I am not really emotionally suited for. I am too independent, and it isn't really a good fit for my style. I was drawn to CafePress because I was doing hand-painted shirts, and it was too expensive for the buyers. Now I get to do a lot more art, and a lot less of the business stuff that I don't like. It's really a very elegant solution.

2. When did you open your store?

I opened a shop about 3-4 years ago. I didn't really do a lot of work on it at first, but as business started to pick up, I kept adding designs. I now have two premium shops, one for my astrology store and one for my artwork.

3. What is harder about doing this then you thought it would be?

I can't say anything was harder than I anticipated. I was aware that building up consistent traffic and sales would be the hardest challenge. Marketing and sales is always the most challenging part of any online business. I guess maybe getting enough time to actually do more artwork!

4. What do you like best about being an online shopkeeper?

Not having to deal with corporate types (you ever read "Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel"? ... 'nuff said). Seriously though, I love being able to focus my energies primarily on creation. I do as much marketing and public relations as I have time for. This isn't my primary business, no one of my businesses is really primary. When I get bored, I switch to another project. So I never get burned out. CafePress specifically provides me with customer support, sales and fulfillment and that part I really am glad not to have to do myself.

5. During the very first month, what do you wish you had known then that you do now?

Mostly silly back-end stuff ... nit-picky things for setting up the shop. Most of the initial problems I had have been resolved by upgrades to CafePress's backend. The sort of thing that tends to surprise people (judging by posts on the forums) was entirely expected by me. I have been in online marketing for 10 years, working with Tucows, so I knew it was more work than it looked like it would be, heh heh ... it always is.

6. Could you share some of the marketing you’ve tried so far (on or off line) and what has worked and what hasn’t?

I have been lucky to have existing web sites with good traffic. I was a content producer for Look Interactive and, so I got a boost from that relationship at the beginning. Because my sites were linked to their portal, I received a lot of traffic. I have tried setting up newer sites, and they are much harder to get off the ground. Word of mouth is the best driver for me. I have not advertised much, because I see it hasn't really worked for the other shop owners for the most part. I keep building traffic though my blogs, sites, and some comes from participation in discussion groups that follow my areas of interest. Next to that, I think I do a pretty good job of optimizing my sites through the search engines, and I think it helps I have had these domains for several years. I write articles for magazines and when they are published I am usually allowed to post my URL and I do some give-aways on the Gallery site that have worked - patterns and "Do it yourself" things, they are bringing in good traffic numbers, and sales are up.On the down side, I have tried craft shows, some minor web advertising, and I even painted my URL on my car ( ... of all of them I'd say the car was the most effective at bringing in traffic, but it did not transfer into sales. It was a lot of fun to drive though! It’s off the road, can't pass the emissions tests, but I still have it in my yard and it gets a lot of attention. I'd love to do it again on a van next time.

7. What other sites, blogs, etc. do you have if any?

I run the following domains:
Jasmine's Gallery: (Artwork, writing) (Horoscopes)
Jasmine Cats: (Cats, cats, more cats)
Painted Treasure: (Hand painted furniture, canvases)
Living With Your Psychic Gifts:
(For my book, Living With Your Psychic Gifts)
One day I may buy domains for these, for now they are sub-sites in the domains:
Staci's Place (anti-bullying): (I am the Cyberspace bullying "expert" for Bully Police).
Jasmine's Carousel:

I have four blogs:Staci's Blog:
Living With Your Psychic Gifts Blog:
Gallery Blog:
Astrology Blog:

Nancy’s comments – Wow! Brandi is truly a Renaissance Woman! You could spend days reading her sites! As a freelance writer myself I enjoyed her writer’s tips and also the opportunity to list your syndicated columns! I’ve always loved carousel horses and her Armoured Carousel Horse is striking. Check out her faux stained glass section – a fascinating process she invented. I especially like her dove peace design in that section. I plan on spending more time on Brandi’s blogs and sites!

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