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3rd Manni the Raccoon is Live on Amazon

Our third book in the short story fiction about The Adventures of Manni the Long Tailed Raccoon. This time we follow Manni as she has a big 6th birthday party.





Cover of new book

Cover of new book

We have moved

check us out at see ya there!


Inside the Iris Asheville

Inside the Iris Asheville

inside the Iris

Branding Your Etsy Shop Part Four from Becklee Cottage Blog


Sunlight and background terrible

Branding your Etsy shop Part Four: Good Photos

This was posted on my Becklee Cottage designs Blog

This is a short post this week lots going on. One of my pet peeves on Etsy is the quality of photographs. You are running a business, an online business and people shop with their eyes, long before they read the description and price. So for goodness sake make sure your photos are worthy of online shopping. Etsy has wonderful forum subjects and handbooks to help on this subject so I won’t belabor the point. I took all of the photos in this post.

1.Buy  a decent camera. I found one on sale a nice Cannon for under $200 bucks.

2. Buy a camera with a MACRO close up feature.

Not cropped,too dark and blurry

3. DON’T take photos in bright sunlight; it is too harsh and causes strong shadows. Cloudy or overcast days are best for photographing your items. Or use a lightbox.

Taken on a cloudy day

4. For goodness sakes CROP your photos, no one wants to see anything in the photo that is not related to your item for sale. I saw one photo that had dirty dishes in the background, “Uh gross.”

5. Props… I used to use them and fancied myself an artiste, but shoppers were confused as to what I was selling.

6. Some people use “light boxes” instead of natural light. Etsy has instructions on how to build one for on the cheap.

7. Editing your photos. There are many “free” programs that are fine for editing. Infranview,Picnik,Flicker,Microsoft Picture Editor and many more. Use an editing program to crop, lighten and edit the contrast.

Too dark but good image of items for sale

8. Set your camera at least 1 megapixel for each picture, the larger they are the better they stand up to cropping and editing.

As you can see I had some terrible photos in my Etsy shop, once I asked for critique and was blown away by the comments on how dark, out of focus my photos were. But after I got over it I read up and took their advice. Etsy has some great forums and people who are willing to help. Best Wishes and see you next post for setting up your blog. BL

Branding Your Etsy Shop Part Three from BeckLee Cottage Designs

Free twitter badge

Image via Wikipedia

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Some of this information comes from my post a few weeks about about “How to tweet for business without being a Twitt”. If you have not connected your Etsy shop with your Twitter or Facebook pages…get busy.

If you notice in your Etsy account dashboard, under settings, look for connections and add your facebook and twitter accounts. That will assure more exposure for your shop when someone comes to your main shop page they will have the option to “like” your facebook and twitter accounts.

1. How to find quality tweeters:

You can add many followers in a matter of minutes if you like but they may end of being spammy and will not read your tweets or support your tweets.
Twitter has a great search feature that allows you to search the twitter feeds for keywords that are in your targeted markets. If you sell beading supplies you would search for beading, beading supplies or anything related to beading or jewelry. Pick a few of the results, read their tweets, look at who they follow and who follows them. There is a good application called you might use this application to rate a particular twitter user. Pick ten or so twitter users that rate well or that you personally enjoy their tweets. Follow the ten and drill down into those they follow. Spend twenty to thirty minutes a day looking at twitter lists and picking quality users to follow.

2. Twitter Following Etiquette:

Once you have a few followers: be sure to respond to each follower with a personal message or mention such as, thanks for the follow or whatever works for you. You might try an application like SocialOomph that will set up an auto reply for you. There are many users that frown on the auto response to a twitter follower. In fact unless you are a major celebrity or national company that gets thousands of followers a day, auto response is considered by many as downright rude. It could turn off potential customers.

3. Links,Re-tweets and Hashtags:

It is possible to link your twitter account to feed into your blogs and facebook accounts. Blogger and WordPress blog platforms are very simple to link to your twitter feed. Twitter Feed is a good program to use to set up links to your main sites.

Re-tweet: is what happens when someone likes one of your tweets and they re-tweet it from their twitter account. Read and respond to tweets by your followers, hopefully in turn they will reply which gets you a mention or re-tweet of your comment. Re-tweets may expose an entirely new group of tweeters to your products or information. HootSuite and Tweet Deck are two applications to help track of your twitter account.
Hashtags are just like keywords that are used to optimize your webpage on the internet. Hashtags help twitter to keep track of trends and like items. An example of a tweet with a hashtag could be @mybeadingsupply find our specials today on faucets #beads #supplies #jewelrysupplies #etsy.The word beading will help group your tweet into the twitter search, your tweet could show up in three different search criteria which increase your chances of customers finding your webpage.

Here is basic user information from a neat Youtube video
The best advice is to jump in and get your feet wet. Twitter can be a very powerful business partner.

Branding Your Etsy Shop Part Two: Facebook

Image representing Etsy as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

The second part of our branding series is about adding traffic and exposure to your shop through effective use of Facebook fan


If you do not have a Facebook fan page you should set one up NOW it is really easy to set up. You personal account will always be your admin or timeline account for any fan page. Even if your fan page is entirely different. Here is the link to Facebook fan page section

I set up my Facebook fan page and waited for the followers much like the way I waited for my Etsy shop to be overflowing with sales. As I mentioned in the last post just like a brick and mortar store you need to let others know you are open and ready for business. In all honestly I was a little discouraged that I did not immediately gain a boat-load of followers or just one. Although I understood how to gain traffic to my website somehow thought that Facebook would magically send traffic to my fan page or Etsy shop. As I soon learned that is not the case at all.

Your page will look much like your personal page but notice the LIKE button at the top where everyone can LIKE your page. Once they Like your page you will see their name and avatar to the left of your main page right now your page says 0 people like this. You may also keep track of how mane likes you get weekly and how many comments to your posts by after the Insights section. Search for people in your contacts and invite them to your new page. Once you get more than 25 fans Facebook will give your page its own address like mine is To move back and forth from accounts Click onto the account drop down box at the top left and click use page as, Click that and all of your pages will come and you have the choice to post from that account. Be sure to “like” the pages that “like” you, or you can pick the ones that most meet your targeted demographic.

A few simple suggetions for Facebook/Etsy success:

1. Join Etsy teams especially the Etsy Facebook team.

2. “Like” the pages of everyone on the team, it may take a while but most likely everyone you “like” will return the favor.

3. Join Linked-In, subscribe to the handmade or crafting groups, post your fan page link and ask for “likes” in return you will “like” their page as well.

4. Post on Etsy forums

5. Put your Facebook page in your profile and info on Etsy. From your accounts section on Etsy go to APS and link your Facebook page to your Etsy shop. So, what are you wating on get busy!!! and best of luck. beck

Branding Your Etsy shop Series: Part One

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Image via CrunchBase

Branding your Etsy shop

Series Part 1

Etsy and Artfire are wonderful platforms to feature and sell your handmade crafts, vintage items and art of all types. However, these platforms can only do so much to promote your shops. Recently, Google made another algorithm shift which caused a lot of gnashing of teeth in the online world. This is the first in a series of articles on how to brand yourself or your Etsy shop. The series will address Social Media Management; Twitter, Google Analytics, Etsy stats,Treasury-BNR,teams,circles,other sites such as Linked-in, Google+ and Google Circles,Wordpress and Blogger blogs and how to use all of these avenues to help become a brand to gain more notice, traffic and sales.

Google is king; Yahoo and Bing are lesser royalty in the search engine world. We will focus on Google for now. Each use algorithmic formulas to send out little bots or spiders to crawl for new and fresh content. In this instant society we need and want new content “right now”. The search engines work hard to give us what we want.

How Google crawls the web. The short version from Google

”How often does Google crawl the web?

Google’s spiders regularly crawl the web to rebuild our index. Crawls are based on many factors such as PageRank, links to a page, and crawling constraints such as the number of parameters in a URL. Any number of factors can affect the crawl frequency of individual sites.

Our crawl process is algorithmic; computer programs determine which sites to crawl, how often, and how many pages to fetch from each site. We don’t accept payment to crawl a site more frequently.”

Imagine you set up a brick and mortar store, and stock it with wonderful and colorful items. As a business owner as you are with Etsy it is your responsibility to direct traffic to your store/shop. In the brick and mortar world you would not sit in the middle of your store and hope customers may walk in and buy. You may get some passing traffic but you need to let your market know that you are open and ready to sell. In the online world it is the same you can set up an Etsy or Artfire shop and you perhaps get some passing traffic but unless you let the world know that you are open for business the shop is not calling attention to the world that you are open and ready to sell. You may gain a few views or even a random sale as the new shops gain a small amount of attention from Etsy as you list new items. Etsy tries to assist sellers and buyers with the use of tags, categories and descriptions, treasuries, front page features and ads.

The first installment of the series of how to brand your shop and it begins with Etsy tagging.

So, you have an Etsy shop here a few tips to tagging and setting categories. Etsy community forums are fantastic sites packed with all you need to know about tagging for success. I won’t repeat all of the dos and don’ts from Etsy you can read it from the link.



 Who is it for? What is the use? How to use your item? Properly tagged item listings will bring more shoppers to your shop which hopefully results in more sales for you.

Here are a few suggestions from my own experience as an Etsy shop owner.  Tag any holidays, Christmas, Halloween, mother’s day, father’s day, weddings, bride mother of the, women’s, posh, fancy, tag with words in other languages in French, Italian, German etc. Tag for Holiday’s in other countries such as Boxing Day, Hanukkah, is a great key word to use during the Jewish holiday; I made some nice sales tagging for ethnic holidays. Girls Day in Japan, Diwali in India.  Change the spelling for other markets an example is the word; jewellery instead of jewelry use the word bespoke for custom handmade in Europe and the UK. The words colour, for CA and the UK. Tag with country names too. You might want to look at your Etsy stats to see what keywords are ranking the highest and be sure to add those in your tags and descriptions. Tag for team names and your own shop name as well every few listings, you should avoid long-tailed tags with 4 or 5 words in each tag, I am not sure that the search engines pick up long tailed tags

Among Etsy’s search tabs there is an important listing for gifts =Tween, Mothers, boyfriends, dog lovers, dads, kids babies etc. Look at what you are selling would anything fit into any of those gift categories.  To test out your tags, list the same item twice but tag each differently. It could be interesting to see which tags bring the most traffic

The next post we will look at Facebook fan pages to support your Etsy shop


QR Codes and our Future

QR Code™ or Quick Response Code™,

QR code for BeckLee

  Is the Future of Marketing



by Beck Lee 2011

 I am easily excited about technology and the Quick Response or QR code is no different. The new code system is similar to a bar code that we are all familiar with but the new codes can hold thousands of characters. The code looks like something I would have doodled while sitting in a boring meeting. The code itself consists of black geometric lines arranged in patterns on a white background, these patterns hold the key to alphanumeric, binary and Kanji(Japanese character) information.

The term QR code ™ itself is a registered trademark of Denso Wave Incorporated. However they have allowed the code to be generated and used openly. I noticed the codes in the last year or so and found an application for it on my Android Smartphone that could read the codes. Last week I counted 15 QR codes in my local newspaper. It was like a treasure hunt or a hidden object game. Some of the codes sent you to a contest site; others offered special discounts for finding their code. I am giddy with the marketing and information possibilities.

I wonder if they might have used this type of communication during the Cold War. Perhaps not, this code system was only invented in 1994 but you can see where I am going with this. Place the code on any publication, public signage or business card. My business card has a nice logo, address etc but if your business card incorporated the QR code you could load that little square with tons of information about sales, products and pricing. You might sell t-shirts with your information embedded in a QR code. I could see myself scanning someone’s t-shirt to find out more information about a concert or special discounts. That might be a new pick-up line, “hello may I scan your QR code!” Perhaps we may see QR code tattoos. It could happen!

I found a unique music video on YouTube that features QR codes. QR Code interactive Video. There is a marketing firm in Asheville called ConnectMe that is right on the edge of new technology and sells marketing with your QR codes. QR Codes Asheville group

While doing more research I found a site that lets you generate your own QR code for your website or business. I made my own QR code for my blog site.

We should keep our eye on the QR codes. It is the future.

Tuesday Feature on the main blog luckyhappenstance

Image representing Etsy as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

This week we hear from a fellow North Carolinian, Claudia from LuckyHappenstance.  Gotta love her vintage sewing patterns and  we did wear those styles in the 70’s 🙂 but I will only admit to some of them ha! Take a stroll through her shop it will take you down memory lane to be sure. So enough of this chatter on to read about this weeks fantastic feature. And check out the shops that she recommends at the end of the feature beautiful shops



Where is your hometown? and current location?
I currently live in Durham, NC and it is the closest I’ve ever come to having a “hometown”. I’ve moved around a lot in my life – never living in a place for more than 4 years. I was born in New York, but grew up in Miami. I went to college in Durham. Went back to NYC after college and then went to live in Japan for a couple of years. After that I moved to Vermont and then Arizona … so I’m a bit of a nomad 🙂Vintage Poodle Pincushion - Pink

What do you like about where you live now?
I absolutely love living in Durham. It is a great town with a fantastic community of folks that really strive to support the “local” economy in every way. There are a ton of amazing restaurants, great food trucks and a thriving farmer’s market. (Can you tell I like to eat?) It is a great town to raise a family with lots of parks and community events.

Do you work outside of the home?
I just recently went back to working part-time after being a full-time stay at home mom for 5 years. I am working with Early Head Start helping other babies and their mamas. Vintage Piano Sheet Music - Concert and Contest Collection for C Flute (1946)

What inspires you?
My children are my biggest inspiration. We love to play together and I spend a lot of time observing what they like to do and trying to make things for them to play with and enjoy. My shop has really changed and evolved over the years based on my girls ages and interests. I imagine it will continue to do so in the future.

How did you begin with your art?
I started sewing right before my oldest daughter was born. At that time I didn’t even know how to turn on a sewing machine. I didn’t find out if I was having a girl or a boy, and I am not really a big fan of pastel colors. So, I was having a hard time finding baby blankets in colors and patterns that appealed to me. I asked a friend to show me how to use a sewing machine and sew a straight seam. She did and I was almost instantly hooked. I took a few classes, but mostly I’ve just learned through experimentation and lots of fantastic tutorials on the net.

Are you more creative in the morning or evening?
hmmm … I think I am an “afternoon” person 🙂 I tend to get my best ideas while daydreaming in the middle of the day.
Vintage 70s Shirt-Jacket and Pants: Simplicity 6617, Size Young Jr 15/16 (1974)

What do you do for fun?
I love to read. I keep a summer vegetable garden and always have aspirations of a fall/winter garden, but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. I love to watch movies and go out to dinner with friends and family. I really enjoy doing Zumba and yoga when I have time. I walked my first half-marathon this past spring and I am gearing up to do my second this coming winter.

How would you describe your experience with Etsy?
Etsy has been and continues to be a wonderful experience for me. It is not always easy and can often be disappointing when I go days or weeks without a sale, but overall it is a very fulfilling and rewarding place to be for me. I’ve met so many amazing Etsians from all over the world through a variety of teams, forums and BNRs. I love it!Vintage 40s Girls Princess Style Dress: Butterick 4386, Size Girls 10 (c.1940s)

Do you participate in any Etsy teams?
Yes I am in a variety of teams. I am most active in the EtsyKids team. I am a curator for the EtsyKids team as well, which has led me to participating in a few different treasury promotion teams as well. I am also a bit of a BNR/BNS addict so I belong to several BNR teams too.Vintage Sewing Thimble and Needles Lot

Do you sell your products on other sites?
Not really. I have a website (, but my “shop” is a link back to an Etsy Mini, so it is really through Etsy. I’ve thought about trying ArtFire, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

Do you sell in Etsy BNR’s? What do you like or dislike about the experience?
As I mentioned above, I am a bit of a BNR addict. I think they are a fantastic marketing tool and a great way to meet folks & get to know the artists behind the shops. I dislike that Etsy no longer allows BNRs to be on the top Treasury pages, but I still think they are a really valuable way to market your items to a very important market share – other Etsy members! One of the teams I am on tends to kind of poo-poo the BNRs and I’ve read several comments on forums about how people don’t see their value since you have to buy something from someone else in order to get something of yours purchased, but I think these folks are missing the point. I view what I spend in BNRs as my “advertising” budget – plus I get to purchase really cool things from other Etsians and support our community. I have made several friends through BNRs and gained some repeat customers that leave fantastic feedback – which I think is another plus of BNRs. Other Etsy folks tend to leave the best feedback because they know how important it is, which I think helps you build credibility as a shop. I’m a big BNR fan 🙂

If you have other sites, blogs, facebook etc, please list your links here.

If you would like to please recommend another shop that you would like to see featured here. 

The first one that comes to mind is “ChildishThoughts” because I just received one of her crayon aprons today and it is absolutely gorgeous! Dinosaur Crayon Roll Set - OOPS (crayon roll only holds 15 crayons)

Loren over at FruitoftheBloom is an all around great person. She does a tremendous amount of volunteer work for the EtsyKids team without really getting much recognition for it. Plus she is just a really interesting person and great to chat with. Jane Austen Hand Sewn Ribbon Rose Headband - He Loves Me

Thanks again for this great opportunity Linda!