Monday, November 14, 2011

2011 Handmade Harvest Open House

Every year, for the past five years, I've had a vendor fair in my home. It's not publically advertrised but it's always well attended.

I invited eight other entrepreneur women to join me in a home show that showcased all things handmade. This year’s event was inspired by a segment done by Diane Sawyer on ABC World News to take the ‘Made in America” Pledge: What is American-Made in Your Home? In 1960, foreign goods made up 8% of our purchases, but today nearly 60% of what we buy is made overseas. And a large chunk of that is purchased at big chains during the holiday season.

Here was our change to help change our local economy and encourage community businesses that are supporting themselves by creating things with their hands. We had craft, art and food items for all three religions celebrations that are occurring this month and next (Eid, Hanukkah, and Christmas). We had hostess gifts, children’s toys and clothes, jewelry, cake pops, stocking stuffers, cards, soap and many other items made on kitchen tables, during soccer games and sewn in guest rooms that double as craft rooms.

Below are shops that vended the event. If you were unable to attend, please feel free to shop from them online.

A Crafty Arab: Handmade Arabic, Farsi, and Urdu Crafts and Cards

Elves In The Attic: When Hallmark isn't cutting it...

Nates Mommy Made it: Baby Blankets, Tag Blankets, Cloth Wipes, and more!

Norik: Original handcrafted gemstone jewelry for UNIQUE YOU

Pepo Park: Beautiful, handmade soap and lotion products

Ms Maude: Fashion for You and Your Home that's Always in Bloom

Seville Designs: Handmade Jewelry: Silver, Copper & Bronze

Vanilla Bean: The tastiest cakes, cookies, bars, and candies on the Eastside !

Van Tuyl Catering Services: Marvelous cuisine on a Modest budget.

And new this year: my own daughters created crafts to sell and had their own table. I was one proud mama.

Save the date for next year: November 10, 2012!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Reactions to Where is my Muslim consumer?

I had some really great comments from my post yesterday that I wanted to preserve -


jane p said...
If you are selling at the right places, maybe the question should be: what would my Muslim consumer buy? Then make those items.
I faced a "similar" issue some time ago. Most of my customers are working women from mid 20's to 40's. I wanted younger women from 16 to 25 to buy from me as well. But nothing for a long time. One day I made a bag that I felt was cool enough for the younger women and sure enough I started hitting this age group. Still they form a small % of my sales.
A Crafty Arab said...
Thanks Jane, great suggestion. I have tried to *almost* make every product out there. I've made things for moms, dads, kids, etc. In the past, when I've been at American craft shows, I look at what sells and adjust it for the Muslim consumer.

The poster was a huge hit at the focus group and everyone that has one loves it. But at fairs where the Muslims are, it's not selling. It's doing very well online, but does not sell in person.
Sketched Soul said...
As-salaamu'alaykum sis,

Wow@your effort, masha'Allah.

It's sad! I thought we were just cheap.. but that might not be the case.

Anyway.. I'm trying a few things too.. hopefully it works out.

If you hit any gold, please share :)
UmmLayla said...
I have had the same problem... I have given up on the Eid events tbh. I wish I could say I understood it, but I don't. I could never have a business that depended on the support of only the Muslims. It would be too scary. I have a daycare too, and the same thing. I don't have 1 Muslim client even though they must see me because they park in front of the building for jummah!!! SMH
Safiyyah said...
Sad to say but many Muslims want things free or for the sake of Allaah. I knew a Muslim publisher that had a similar problem. Especially with the schools not bothering to reply. Maybe get a kiosk in the mall where many Muslims are lol.
julietcaesar said...
I think that a lot of Muslims are self-conscious about their Muslim-ness. They want things that remind them of Islam, but not overtly. It's very frustrating to hear as a businesswoman, "Oh, I love your design," and then never see a single sale. I suspect that the giving of cards will only catch on once it becomes common for non-Muslims to give Eid cards to their Muslim friends--expectations will change with a new generation and Muslims will be sending them out to each other in the same way that Christians send out Christmas cards. At least this is my sincere hope! :)
Tasnim said said...
Slam Alikom Sis,
I'm so sad to hear this as a fact.
I have the same problem here :(
all people say"oh this is a very nice products"
but I rarely get a sale.
well some times I have been asked to teach them how to make the product themselves :((
I don't know what is the problem with the Muslim community :(
I had a customer that asked me to make cards for here,after making them she said "oh nice cards" but I don't want topay more than 80 cents max $1 for them ...they will through them in the trash anyway ??!!!!
I was shocked when she said that to me.
and when i told here once that I'm going to make banner and decorations for Eid and Ramadan she smiled and said "who care about decorations for Eid and Ramadan??"
I don't know why not??
I'm a Mom know,and I really don't know why all Moms don't make decorations for our Eids??
why not make them as much fun as Christians do??

anyway,JAK for this post it somehow helped me to figure that its not only me who struggle here.

can you please follow back my Blog?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Where is my Muslim consumer?

I can't figure it out.

I've been doing this craft booth business for several years now and it's such a big mystery to me where my Muslim consumers are hiding. I've done shows at American craft fairs/festival and I think I finally have an idea of what it is that my American buyers want and buy from me. But I've been trying to find what the Muslim buyers wants for years now at other Arab and/or Muslim booths and I still can't get it.

For example, yesterday I had a booth at my local mosque in celebration of Eid al-Adha. I did the same booth in August for Eid al-Fitr and I didn't even make my table fee ($50). Back then, I brought my Arabic country buttons and magnets, my Arabic Alphabet Animal poster, my Arabic, Farsi, & Urdu cards and some jewelry items. I sold two cards ($5 each), six bookmarks ($1 each) a number of buttons/pins ($1 each) and one earring set ($5) and a few other items.

According to the American Muslim Consumer Conference, held each year in New Jersey, the US Muslims is a newest consumer niche that is on the rise, but why are they not buying from their own? For the Eid booth this time, I decided to concentrate more on kid's products. I made girl's purses made from felt fabric. My own daughters loved them and talked about how nice they'll be for collecting coins on Eid. Traditionally, kids are given coins when they wish someone an Eid Mubarak (Happy Eid). I thought they would be a huge hit. Didn't sell a single one.

I also decided to make little colouring books that had Islamic images of little kids praying, along with mosques, mosaics, the Kabaa, etc. I made 24 and sold 2.

I took hand sewn felted pillows, crocheted barrettes, cupcake toppers (with Eid Mubarak on them), a Happy Eid banner, hand silk screened baby bibs, beaded subha prayer beads (gifts for dads) and earrings (gifts for mom) and Islamic scrabble tiles necklaces. I basically had a table with over 200 items on it and sold 19 items, mostly in the $1 price range, but again, not making my table fee. And five of those items were rings that my daughters had made. Yes, I stooped that low and took my kids. I thought they would help with the cute factor.

What did I sell the most of, you might be asking yourself? Candy treats bags. I know! I was just as perplexed! Here I was charging for treat bags that the mosque was giving away for free. True, my treat bags were nicely made with ribbons bows and had Eid Mubarak on them, but still, I had only made one and ended up making five more to sell to kids while there (thank goodness I took the supplies with me!).

But most surprising of all: again, I didn't sell a single Arabic Alphabet Animal poster. This one I just can't seem to figure out for the life of me. I d├ębuted this poster back in February, but had been working on it for over a year. I compiled several focus groups of local Islamic moms, went to the two Islamic schools in my area to talk to the teachers and even created a huge marketing campaign a few months after it came out. I had never done a marketing campaign in my life, but I thought I would give it a try. I created postcards via Vista Print and mailed out 250 of them to various Islamic schools, mosques and organizations across the US. Did not get a single response.

I went back to the drawing board, created a personal letter that described my journey, took two of the animals on the poster and made them into colouring sheets and put all three pieces of paper in nice big envelopes so that the colouring sheets were not folded. I took apart the 250 names on the mailing list, focused only on Islamic schools and spent days tracking down the names of the principals/directors of 75 schools so that the letters were personalized.

Again, did not get a single response.

Not even from the two local Islamic schools that were part of the focus groups. Why? I have no idea.

I don't want it to seem that this blog post is me complaining. I'm really did enjoy seeing so many great friends at my mosque booth and my business is doing very well, alhumdu'lah. For the first time in the 3 years that A Crafty Arab was created, I'm actually going to be in the black. It's not a solid black, but more of a greyish tint, but I'm happy none the less to finally be able to keep money in my bank. But my biggest consumers are the English speaking Americans. Between my Zibbet site, my own website and the brick and mortar businesses that I'm in currently, my customer base is 95% non Arab speakers and non Muslims. And yes, I’m talking about my Arab, Farsi and Urdu products alone, not including my English sarcastic cards or other crafts that I make for my American booths/stores throughout the year.

Why is that? Your guess is as good as mine. And for now, I’ll still keep trying to market to Muslims, trying to find that secret formula to get them to support a local entrepreneur. I hope to one day figure out the mystery of how to reach my Muslims consumers and getting my handmade products into their homes.

If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

UNICEF & Halloween

Even thought I was raised by strict Muslim parents, we still celebrated Halloween as a child. Although Halloween was originally based on pagan rituals, and the Christians trying to remove these rituals by adding their own rituals to the mix, my parents really let us get away with joining our American friends in the silliness of dressing up and going door to door.

So when I had children of my own, I never really saw this holiday as one that was haram (an Arabic term meaning "forbidden", or "sacred") but one thing I wanted to do with them was to make sure that they didn't just see it as a way to score on a lot of candy. I felt that between the parties at school, friend’s homes and candy at their dad’s work, there should be a lesson in giving on this day too. So a few years ago, I was walking around the mall and saw the UNICEF boxes at a Hallmark store. Knowing I wanted to teach my three daughters some value in their place on this earth, I thought that UNICEF would be a lesson to start. I found out that it is one of the longest-running youth initiatives in America, with more than $164 million raised to-date.

Our first year only yielded some change from the neighbors as we had never done this before and had to get them used to the idea of having money along with candy at the front door. Our second year, the girls did a lot better. This was the first time that baby sister (who was 3 at the time) had joined them and I think her cuteness helped the girls bring home $84.84. This year the girls were determined to go even higher. They checked out the numbers on the back of the boxes:
$.06 provides water for 1 thirsty kid
$2 provides nutrition for 1 hungry kid
$44 provides school supplies for 20 kids
$112 provides emergency blankets for 37 kids
$200 immunizes 550 kids against measles

So they set their sights on immunizations against measles. I told them that we would match whatever they brought home to help with their goal. They put on their costumes (the two older ones going as two female book characters, Hermione Grainger and Rowan Hood, while the youngest was just a cute witch) and set out with their orange boxes. I grabbed my cowboy hat to match my cowboy outfit and set out to lurk in the shadows and watch. I felt so proud when they would ring the bell and call out “Trick or Treat, we’re collecting change for UNICEF.” Many of our neighbors, especially the older ones, were so excited to see them. They would say “UNICEF! I remember doing that as a kid!” About halfway through our cold walk, I did get discouraged, when four houses in a row said no and one even “forced” them to take candy, by placing it in their hands and closing the door on them. But while I took my feelings to my Facebook wall, my girls just marched to the next house and rang the next doorbell.

They came home with $124.33 at the end of the night and were proud of their accomplishment. Me? I’ve learned that my daughters can be head strong in their goal setting and I’m so excited that they’ll go to school today to tell all their friends about all the money they raised to help other kids.