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"You're too expensive."

"You're too expensive."

Compared to what?

If we had a dollar for every time we've heard that comment, we'd be rich and there wouldn't even be Mother’s Angels® or their pricing to voice an opinion about. 😉

But seriously, this is a comment we've heard repeatedly over our years in business. Not gonna lie — at first, remarks like this really stung. We took them personally. But then we realized that we have nothing to apologize for. Not everyone who sees Mother’s Angels® is going to like them or appreciate the hard work that goes into making them. And that's ok.

Running a business is HARD work — something we thought we had an idea of when we first started Forged Flare®. Something we realized quickly is that we didn't know HOW hard it actually was. And, running a handmade business is a completely different animal altogether.

Did you know that when we started, we priced our Mother’s Angels® at around $20? What we didn't know at the time did hurt us. While this may be the more "realistic" price that people shopping for ornaments might expect, we realized quickly that this is not a sustainable price for our angels (oh — and even at that price we still heard "You're too expensive."). In addition, chances are that a $20 ornament is mass-produced overseas OR made by a handmade artist who may not know how to properly price an item.

In today's throwaway society, it can be very easy to view everything through the lens of mass-produced items made outside this country. Many times, these items are sold incredibly cheap due to poorly paid workers, mass-produced and machine-assembled items. We are not a big box retailer. My husband and I design and handcraft each ornament from materials sourced from other small businesses throughout the country. We pride ourselves in our unique, non mass-produced decor. I realize that our handmade artwork may not be for everyone and I can respect that.

However, besides being handmade, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that the public doesn't know about.

Upfront costs of starting a business

When we started Forged Flare®, I used almost every penny of the money I earned from my days as a freelance web designer to invest into bare minimum equipment, office supplies and materials for our business. I absolutely loved my days as a designer, but as a woman with an artistic background, I was itching to do more with my life and felt that investing that money into starting a business would be a positive step in the right direction.

Cost of materials

Buying materials directly from businesses in this country is very expensive — but it is also something we pride ourselves on. As of this writing, we currently help to support five separate small businesses scattered in various parts of the United States. Through our business relationships, we have gotten to know each on an individual level and all are great people with amazing families. Every time you purchase from us, you help to support them as well! (Side note — did you know that you can’t write off the cost of materials on taxes until the actual item in which the material is used is sold?)

Making the ornament

There's a lot involved with making a Mother’s Angels® ornament — from preparing all of our materials to be usable in the first place, to making the actual finished ornament. Our materials have to be prepared to be cut. String needs to be hand-snipped for every ornament (many, many spools — one at a time), protective masking removed from every individual piece of wood and acrylic (no perfectly manicured fingers for us), cleaning up all of our ornaments before assembling (and after) and assembling the final ornament. There is also the cost of damaged materials that cannot be used. 

There is a huge push for a "livable wage" in this country. Right now that number is $15/hour. What if I were to tell you that I STILL have not paid myself anything and that every single cent is put back into this company? I have factored in $15/hour as my own personal wage — but at the end of the day, I don't see a penny of that.

Contractors

Every now and then we work with contractors who help us out when we're in a bind. As I'm writing this, our machine is down and we are working with an amazing artist who is helping us to cut some of our best selling designs so that we are not completely out of the game this holiday season (the week before Black Friday!). Each contractor has individual rates that must get paid as well.

Speaking of machines

We use a variety of tools on our end to help us create our ornaments. These tools can — and do — break down and have to get replaced immediately. Our most expensive machine is our laser (did you know that a decent laser starts at about $8000?!). That's A LOT of ornaments. Our first died after two years. Our replacement is coming in a few weeks — and we even secured a used one to help us get by in the meantime. This is definitely not a hobbyist lifestyle.

Sales tax

It used to be that a business would only have to pay sales tax in the state their company resided in. That all changed a few years ago in a Supreme Court ruling regarding Wayfair — yes, THAT Wayfair. Of course when we started our business, we had no idea of this (and I personally about had a breakdown when I found out what I'm about to say).

EACH state has its own sales tax requirements called nexus. If you sell an item to a state, you have to abide by their nexus — and, erm, there are a fifty nifty states to keep track of. 😉 When you meet a state's nexus, you have to register your business in that state, start collecting sales tax and pay in according to that state’s laws. When you are not an accountant like me, this is extremely overwhelming — to the point of being paralyzed. You have two options — hire a special accountant (regular accountants don't specialize in sales tax laws — something we never knew either) in EACH state you do business in, or use a software. We opted for software due to budget. (Although we have an amazing accountant who we also pay quarterly to file our income taxes!)

Software

As mentioned above, we use sales tax software to help keep track of the states we have nexus in or are approaching nexus in — to the tune of a little over $100/month — and this isn't our only software. We have software to run our online shop, plugins to make the customer experience easier, email software (so we can communicate with all of you! 😊), and design software to make our designs. There's so much software a business has to use in order to function and it's not cheap.

Fees

Every time we make a sale online, there's a transaction fee and a credit card fee. These fees add up quickly. In addition, sites like Amazon and Etsy charge even more (as discussed in this article). Our wholesale sites charge a hefty commission. Many times these fees don't get credited back if an order is canceled or refunded. While we have never had this happen (knock on wood), there are also chargeback fees to be worried about as they can be super expensive.

Legal fees

This probably doesn’t even have to be expanded upon, but legal fees are so expensive! “Legal fees?” you may ask? Well, yes. This doesn’t mean we are in legal trouble. This simply means that we are proactive in getting legal advice at different stages of our business. We currently work with several lawyers that specialize in different types of law. We use a business lawyer in getting business paperwork properly addressed and filed.

Toward the start of our company, we also took the steps to register trademarks for both Forged Flare® and Mother’s Angels®. In addition to the government fees involved in registering a trademark, we also paid trademark and copyright attorneys to make sure our brands were properly protected.

Advertising

This is one of our biggest costs — and one of our most important. We have really been doing a lot of outreach to the media, influencers and bloggers, but have seen minimal interest. I personally feel that this may be due to our items being handmade — and interpreted as "artsy-fartsy". Another theory is that as they are angels, we must be some sort of religious zealots. Both stereotypes are highly insulting, but as everyone is entitled to their opinion, it is what it is. 🤷‍♀️ Thus, we rely heavily on word-of-mouth (thanks to you all!!!! 🥰) and advertising.

Trying to find your people through advertising is an art. We have dedicated a good portion of this past year to experimenting with advertising on Facebook, Google, Pinterest and TikTok. Basically it's like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something will stick. We've had the best luck with Facebook, but even then that can get pricey — spending several thousand dollars per month with minimal returns. Because of our efforts this year, we hope we can tweak and refine our strategy this next year (fingers crossed!). 

Not enough hours in the day

Did you know that keeping Forged Flare® alive takes so much time and energy? I'm talking about 12 hour days, 7 days a week (including holidays) kind of energy. Going back to the previous comments about my pay rate is $15/hour — that is NOT counting all the time spent doing admin type work on the business — answering emails, replying to messages, packaging orders, ordering supplies, doing inventory, designing new designs, prototyping new designs, working on marketing materials, the list goes on and on. That previously-mentioned $15/hour rate is ONLY for my time making the actual ornament.

Running a business isn't for the faint of heart and it most definitely isn't for everyone. There is no Off Switch. However I absolutely love it all and would never trade it for a 9-5 job. There will never be a day that I will apologize for Mother’s Angels® pricing.

Now we're just left to address the other frequent comment, "I can make that myself!"

Oomph.

Consider making a purchase and helping multiple small businesses. 😊

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