Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I’ve (Joshua James – Store owner of Artisan Doodle Books) been working in beer and wine for around ten years now. Up until recently, I ran a beer brewing school where I taught people how to brew beer at home, and many have gone on to open up their own breweries, or just enjoy it as a great hobby! I also consult with folks looking to open up their own brewery. I now live in Los Angeles but I’m originally from the UK, and when I was living in London I was lucky enough to see the resurgence in craft beer, wine, and whiskey. That is when my love for the industry really took off. The doodle books I sell in my store are basically versions of my own notebooks. In my other life, I am a graphic designer, so I combined my two loves to create something everyone can enjoy.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
My responsibilities as a business owner are simple. Treat my customers with the same top-notch experience I would like to receive. I make sure all of my deliveries go out same-day (if within the delivery cut-off) and I even offer boutique gift-wrapping and unique messages to go along with the books. I spend a little more on thick padded packaging to ensure no damage to the books, and I adorn the outside with fun stickers! I think it’s really important to give the customer a welcoming, comfortable experience from the moment they shop at my store to the moment they receive their order. After all, by purchasing my books, they’re allowing me to do what I love, and I have to grateful for that.
What are your best selling products, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?
I believe my books are a fun, unique experience because they are designed for you to doodle, draw and color in, rather than write pages and pages of notes! It is an extension of how I myself take notes, as I’m definitely more of a visual learner, and this worked for me. At the time of writing, I currently have 3 books on the store: The Beer Tasting Doodle Book, The Wine Tasting Doodle Book, and released just a couple of months ago, The Whiskey Tasting Doodle Book! In terms of a bestseller, it is currently the Beer Tasting Doodle Book, but the Wine Tasting Doodle Book is catching up! I have found that the Wine Tasting doodle book has been a hit for Bachelor/Bachelorette parties and other private wine events. This is wonderful for me, as I LOVE the fact this book can bring others a little bit of joy to their day. That said, I am currently working on two more books that I hope to have out next year ( I can’t say too much, but they will be about ‘making’ rather than ‘tasting!’), and I have lots more planned for the future. I am also releasing a bunch of tasting resources to make wine tasting events easier to host, such as flight mats, scorecards, and other fun things like that. In terms of materials, I design everything myself from scratch using a mix of pen and paper, adobe illustrator, and photoshop. Once designed, I format them correctly and send them off to a printer in the US I’ve built up a good relationship with.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I love seeing things I have designed out in the world being enjoyed by other people. I feel that the creativity required, even outside of product design, is my favorite part of being an Entrepreneur. There are so many interesting obstacles that require creative thinking! It’s exciting. There are so many highs and lows, but as long as you celebrate every high, and learn from every low, you’re on the right track! The hardest part is consistently meeting the high standards I’ve set for myself as a business owner. Life can throw a lot of things in your way, but a certain amount of resilience is required to overcome and think “what can I do next to grow?’
Who do you sell to (and how do you get customers)? What marketing tools or strategies you use to boost your sales? Are you satisfied with the results?
For my listings on Etsy, I use Etsy marketing which I have ultimately been very happy with! I also have the main website at www.artisandoodlebooks.com where you can see my other products. From there, I’ll often run google and Facebook ads. I’m satisfied with my results now, as I have worked out who my audience is and how best to reach that audience. If you’re just starting with adverts, don’t get disheartened if you don’t get many sales! using adverts is certainly a learning curve you can get better at. My other favorite marketing tool is word of mouth! My customers have been excellent to refer people to my store. It really makes me feel great to see people will go out of their way to do that.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
Find something you really love doing. Don’t chase trends and try and sell the latest ‘hot’ product. If you don’t love what you’re doing, or enjoy your own products, it will get old very quickly. There is more to being an entrepreneur than just making money, and you will find it so much more fulfilling if you care about the thing you are selling!
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
At the time of writing, the entire world is suffering due to the unforeseen global pandemic, which has been a challenge for us all. It has been difficult adjusting the regular day to day life and keeping things going. Keeping a good schedule and keeping morale up can be tough in times like these. I implore everyone to try and practice some form of self-care when times get tough. If that looks like a good book, video games, or just a good cup of tea and a blanket – your mental health is most important of all!
What inspires you when you’re creating? How do you get ideas for new products? What are some methods or tools you use to get creative?
I am inspired by all the incredible brewers, winemakers, distillers, and anyone else making something from scratch. Artisan Doodle Books would not exist as a company without them, and my books are designed to celebrate the incredible things they’re already making. I consider myself a creative person, and I’m quite excitable, so it doesn’t take very long for me to start scribbling ideas on a page. I think a good entrepreneur knows which ideas to shelve, and which to pursue. It can be exciting when you start out, and you want to try everything!
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is the average time it takes from the order to the delivery? Do you use free shipping? If so, why? How do you package your products?
All of my products are free shipping to anywhere in the US! I usually get these orders out the same day and so it can arrive as soon as 2 days! For international shipping, I use the best-priced shipping I can find, and delivery takes around 1-2 weeks. All products are packaged in super-thick padded plastic envelopes which guarantee a safe delivery. I usually theme these based on certain holidays, and I often cover them in a bunch of fun stickers. Personalization is always nice!
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
Try and be as resilient as possible, and be sure to enjoy every small victory! Starting a business is tough, but it is also rewarding. Learn from your mistakes, and celebrate your victories. Ultimately, you are the key to your business’s success, so look after yourself! Time for yourself is just as important as time on your business for continued growth and success.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
I think I answered this in the previous question, so I’ll just add: don’t be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes. We all do it. Just learn, grow, and enjoy the journey!
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
As soon as I sold my first book, I felt successful. Something I had created from nothing was interesting enough for someone to spend their money on! My mind was blown. I still love that feeling. My creativity, and my product, are now shipped all over the world! Hopefully bringing people a little joy.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I still work full time as a graphic designer and web developer, so I’m always in my home office. I do most of my book designing at night when I tend to be the most creative. Now that I have the products complete, I spend around an hour a day on marketing, and the same again on shipping out orders. My schedule is usually pretty flexible, but I like it that way by design.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
It would be a dream to start working with bookstores to get physical copies in their stores! This is my work goal for 2020. Apart from that, I would love ways to be more connected with my audiences, such as little competitions and forums to discuss the different hobbies in more detail.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Make sure you take great product images! This is what customers will see first, and people will make a snapshot judgment from that right away. use all of the allotted images and take some time to write an honest, killer description of your product. Be realistic about what you can achieve with delivery. It took me six months until I was set up to do same-day delivery.
Anything you wish to add, feel free to do so here. We value your opinion
Thank you to Storepreneur for the interview, and thank you for taking the time to read it! Please keep checking back to my store to see all of our new and exciting books and products coming out soon!