How big is your world?  

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One thing I've been doing while I've had some time off is to think about the world I want our business to sit in. This comment on an earlier post helped me to crystalise this.

Right now, we sell, or potentially sell, in various contexts:

  • Fashion - we're mentioned often in places that have nothing to do with esoterica
  • Art - some of our work is viewed as art as much as its design (we were once asked to repaint some images on canvas and sell them in a gallery - hmm)
  • The tarot community
  • The "cats" community - actually, we are almost invisible as yet in this one and should probably be more involved
  • The wider "New Age" interest groups
  • Czech design - again, we are not yet really part of this. Perhaps it would be distracting if we were - and could change our work in ways that wouldn't be good.
  • "Alice" fans
and so on. And, from a slightly different perspective:
  • On our own shop as Baba Studio (where we're often seen as larger than we really are)
  • On Etsy - which has entirely its own aesthetic and where we do not fit with the amateur look that's preferred by the admin there. We fit, but we are not "in" this group in the way that some sellers are.
  • On Trunkt - it feels like we fit quite well there - but then, what IS Trunkt exactly?
  • On Notmassproduced - again, another aesthetic. Very sweet and designery but virtually invisible as yet, so we don't try to adapt to fit in, though we're happy to be there.
it could go on and on - we're at lots of other online and B&M venues.
Plus we are seen as European, Bohemian - we are geographically in the old physical region of Bohemia, Prague-based, English-language based (but Russian buyers know we speak Russian and accept payment by Western Union)...

Perhaps it would be best drawn on a chart rather than simply listed, as several of these interact or overlap.

All these define a world - or maybe in Seth Godin's terminology a "tribe" that we to greater or lesser extent fit into. Part of my focus right now is deciding which of these we want to be more involved in, what new contexts we need to consider and - and this is quite important - which limit us and which expand and enhance our work.

It's vital to know where you fit right now, and where you want to fit. It's also important to look at where you are now, how you are influenced by those groups and contexts and to ask yourself if any of them are holding you back. I see sellers on Etsy time and again becoming obsessed with becoming known and liked on Etsy. But changing your business to fit with an Etsy trend may be disastrous in the long-term.

I also see people in other worlds limit themselves in a broader way - tarot designers that end up doing nothing but that, when they could be moving into other work - illustrators that become so much recognised as "cat artists" that they can't try anything else. Jewellers that get stuck in one type of look and medium, even when you wonder if they should experiment with new ways. Writers and musicians defined by a genre, rather than defining it.
I see designers focused so much on being "cool" or "alternative" or - the new fashion - "handmade" that they end up looking like everyone else in that tribe.

Of course, the need for a clear brand tends to propel you into a niche - and being identified with a well-defined niche or tribe can really help your business. But what I'm saying is, be clear about where you want to sit and understand that you need to take control of this, not let it take control of you.


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3 comments: to “ How big is your world?


  • 12:52 AM, December 29, 2008  

    Hi there,

    I totally agree with this post in terms of trying to fit in. I sell on Etsy and the more involved I become, the more I am seeing that there is a certain audience that the company is trying to cater to. It IS easy to become obsessed with attempting to be noticed and sometimes, I find myself drifting away from my niche group and I have to stop to take stock and refocus myself. Hopefully, my niche will help propel me to success...:o)
    Thanks for sharing!


  • 4:48 PM, January 01, 2009  

    I've been thinking about these issues lately, as I try to work out where my little business fits in the world. I spent last year trying very hard to fit myself into the Etsy aesthetic, but I may just have to admit that it isn't right for me. That makes me nervous, as it's where buyers are actively looking to purchase handmade items, and it seems silly to turn away from that - but I think it's more important for me to make my business what it is, rather than trying to make it fit in to someone else's pattern. I'm not sure where I'm going yet, but I'm sure I'll figure it out!


  • 6:14 PM, January 05, 2009  

    It's hard at times isn't it? I find I get quite easily swept up by the group thing and on Etsy I've sometimes contemplated doing all the owls/cowls/ stuff (if you know what I mean). It's important to recognise what's fashionable or a trend in a niche of course, but in the end, you need to carve out something more distinctive or you aren't going anywhere.