My Weekend In Greece!

by Alicia on April 1, 2014

Kalimera! I’m back from Greece and surprisingly awake for the day after a trip. It was such an awesome experience and I wish I could have stayed longer, but here’s a short (cell phone) photo recap -

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We (three other speakers from abroad and I) stayed at the Fresh Hotel in Athens. It was perfectly located and the staff was great. There was a full breakfast every morning and a great bar on the 9th floor rooftop with views of the Parthenon. Highly recommended! Here’s the view from my balcony.

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So many wonderful streets to wander! On Friday night our hosts, Elina and Valia from Ftiaxto.gr hosted a fabulous dinner in a Greek restaurant just beneath the Parthenon which is lit up beautifully at night. They ordered tons of dishes for us to try family style and it was all delish. There were carafes of wine (which is pretty cheap in Greece!) and lots of dessert too. It was also my fellow speaker Grace Dobush‘s birthday so we celebrated with profiterole cake and singing Happy Birthday in English and Greek.

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On Saturday we spent the day at the conference. I have a few pictures at the end which aren’t great, but I’ll definitely share the photos from the official conference photographer when they are up. Interestingly the conference went from about 11am to 9pm which I found unusual. People get a later start in Greece and eat dinner much later than we do. That night after the conference we went to a cool cocktail bar and it didn’t start to get crowded until nearly midnight, which was when we were leaving. Maybe I’m just getting old?

On Sunday I went sightseeing around Athens with Azra from DaWanda which is kind of like the Etsy of Europe, though it’s used by many US sellers as well. It was a perfect day to wander around and take in the city.

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So many small streets to explore. We left our maps in our pockets and just went whichever direction looked cool. Since the Parthenon sits atop a large hill we could stay oriented pretty easily and not get too far away. But even if we did, cabs are pretty inexpensive and easy to find in central Athens.

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Ta-da! There’s quite a view in every direction from the Parthenon.

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It was windy up there, but a sunny and beautiful day to be sightseeing.

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We went to the new Acropolis museum on the recommendation of many of the Greeks we met. They described it as really nice and much more organized than most things in Greece, and we agreed! The museum is a must-visit and really beautiful. It’s built atop these old ruins which you can see right as you enter.

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Inside there’s a huge collection of statues, ruins and other artifacts from the Acropolis all displayed beautifully.

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It’s incredibly modern and looks up at the Parthenon.

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Athens has a lot of street art and other graffiti. I liked this one.

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Lots of beautiful churches everywhere, like this one with a band out front.

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Walking around you run into ruins in many different places – it’s pretty amazing.

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And here’s a shot from the back of the auditorium at the conference which was held at the American College of Greece which seems like a pretty cool place to study.

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Because half the conference was in English and half was in Greek there were translators for both in a booth in the back and all attendees had headsets so you could listen in your language of choice. We felt like we were in the UN or something :) The translators did a great job even when there were 6+ people on a panel – it was very easy to follow.

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A few more things!
- Elina and Valia and the Ftiaxto.gr team were such wonderful hosts, arranging for every need while we were there. I can’t thank them enough!
- It was really great to get to know them and spend time learning about Greece not just a tourist, but from actual Greeks. I learned fun facts like jogging is a relatively new trend in Greece and when you see people out for a run some Greeks will point at them and laugh! (Not to be mean, it’s just still such an unusual sight!)
- Starting a business definitely seems more complicated and confusing in Greece than in the US. I’m thankful for all of the online resources that helped me in the beginning and hope that more crafters in Greece can make their way and help one another get up and running. They are certainly creative and hardworking enough to do it.
- Tsipouro is the new ouzo.
- So many smokers in Athens. Coming from the US where smoking is becoming pretty unusual, it was shocking to be in a bar or restaurant and have the majority of the people smoking!
- Also lots of protests. We had to turn around in the car because roads were blocked off, saw police in riot gear blocking a road when we were sightseeing and could hear the megaphones from the rooftop bar of the hotel. All that said, it was very organized protesting and I never felt unsafe for even a minute.
- It was wonderful spending so much time getting to know my fellow speakers Azra, Grace and Liana Kabel and learn more about their craft experiences.  It definitely wouldn’t have been the same with out them and we’re already planning a reunion next year!
- Today Lufthansa announced that they are cancelling zillions of flights this week due to a pilot strike. I got home just in time… or did I? I would have enjoyed a few more days in Athens!
- I was in Greece for 2.5 days and spent 48 hours traveling. That’s not an ideal ratio, but it was totally worth it!

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Last week I talked a little bit about the journey to creating Whimseybox Influencer and now I want to show off how it works inside. We’ve gotten a great response so far (thank you!) and are adding new bloggers every day. It’s really exciting to see people putting this to work for them and getting their feedback - St. Patrick is making updates and tweaks to improve the experience everyday. Here’s how it works -

Who’s It For?
Whimseybox Influencer is affiliate technology designed for DIY + craft bloggers and publishers. (We’re doing for craft what rewardStyle has done for fashion bloggers.) You don’t need to blog exclusively about DIY + craft, though! It’s okay if you like to post about craft along with other things like fashion or kids or food or whatever. It also works for larger publishers and websites (hey Martha, call us!). It’s not designed for any site that is exclusively about discounts, a site that doesn’t post original content or anything spammy. Our team reviews every site to make sure that Influencer is a good fit before we activate the account.

Why Would I Want To Use Influencer?
I think there are three main reasons that Influencer is awesome -
1. Create a new revenue stream for your blog - You’re already sharing projects and supplies, and you know people are buying supplies and making projects that you share. We think you should earn a commission when your post inspires someone else to make a purchase. It’s another way to support your creative work, and in these days of declining display ad revenue we think it’s a great additional revenue stream.
2. Show your readers what to buy - Not everyone knows their local craft store inside out. In fact, for many people buying supplies can be confusing and intimidating. (Why are there so many types of glue?!) I’ve found that often people want to use the exact supplies I used, and with Influencer you can easily point them to precisely what they need.
3. Learn what your readers like - We’re developing analytics features that we think you’ll love. Track what your readers click on and what they buy, and then later if you choose you can share that information with companies you might want to partner with. You’ll be able to tell them exactly how many views + sales your content created for them.
Those are the big three, but there’s more – we want to build a valuable network for Influencers. We’re featuring Influencer content on our homepage to show off your creativity and drive traffic to your sites, we’re profiling one Influencer every week on DIY5 and there’s much more. In fact, current Influencers should be watching their mailboxes next week… :)

How Does It Work?
Once you’re an Influencer you can share individual supplies or entire supply lists on your blog and we’ll automatically append a personal code so we can track anytime someone follows your link to make a purchase. One of the easiest ways to do it is by embedding a Supply List, which are simply lists of supplies that you create on Whimseybox. Embedding a Supply List in your blog doesn’t require installing any code (whew) and works just the same as embedding a YouTube video. You can decide what your Supply List looks like – a list, gallery or grid. Here’s a graphic that show what they look like:

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Making Supply Lists is easy on Whimseybox, but if you don’t want to use a list format you can also share individual supplies using an embed or a simple plain text link.

How Much Will I Get Paid?
Our current commission rate is 8% which is the best in the industry. (To compare, you’d need to sell over 1500 items/month on Amazon to match it.) Commission is calculated off of the total sale, not just the item that you linked to and our cookies last for 30 days which means that you’ll still earn a commission even if someone clicks through on an Influencer link but doesn’t make a purchase right away. Influencers can also see how much they can earn on each individual item by clicking on the Embed tab in the item – here’s an example:

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What Kind of Items Are In Your Shop?
We sell a wide variety of DIY + craft supplies from paint and paper to beads and baubles. There are currently thousands of items available on our site and we’re literally added hundreds more every week! If you can find it in a big box craft store, we can probably sell it. And if you need help finding an item, just ask or email Alison at alison@whimseybox.com! We’re here to help.

Can I Be Sure My Readers Will Have A Good + Secure Shopping Experience?
Short answer: Yes! Longer answer: Yes, and here’s why – at Whimseybox we manage the entire customer transaction from order to returns, if necessary. Customer service is our top priority and we take it seriously. We’re still a small company (6 full-time employees) so you can be sure they won’t be sent into any automated phone/email black hole. And we take security just as seriously. We selected Stripe to handle all of our payments and they meet or exceed every industry standard to protect your private financial data. (You can read more about that here.)

What’s the Catch?
There isn’t one – Influencer is free and easy to setup. If you want to give it a try, drop your email here and we’ll be in touch.

PS – I want to hear what you think! Love it? Hate it? Have questions or ideas? Leave a comment or send an email. We’re listening!

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World of Crafters Conference

by Alicia on March 20, 2014

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Sooooooo a week from now I’ll be on a plane heading to Athens, Greece to speak at the World of Crafters convention. How exciting is that? I’ve never been to Greece but I’ve been talking with Elena from Greek craft site Ftiaxto for a year. I can’t wait to go meet some new creative people, share my story and eat alllllllll the food. Anyone been to Athens before and have recommendations? It’s a very short trip but I’d love to hear the can’t-miss places!

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I want to talk about DIY + craft blog monetization, but first I think it will help if I give you a short background about my experience so far -

Before I started Whimseybox, I was focusing full-time on building Dismount Creative. My original plan was to teach a lot of classes around Houston for things like girl’s nights, showers and other parties. Kind of like those wine + painting classes, except with jewelry and other DIYs.  In fact, I started blogging to help get the word out about that business. I thought if I shared the kind of projects I like to make it would help people see what I’m about and then hopefully they’d want to join me. Did it work? Well, yes and no! I found lots of people who were interested in my DIYs which was*awesome* but I quickly realized that these people were all over the country (and world), not just in Houston. And at the same time, Joe and I knew that we didn’t expect to stay in Houston long-term so I started to re-evaluate how much time + energy I wanted to put toward building a local business. So I started pouring more energy into my blogging and looking for ways to turn it into a business that I could build and grow from anywhere. I did some sponsored posts, collaborated with companies on some larger projects and hosted DIY events at larger trade shows and conferences. I also started running some ads in my sidebar. (These are still up today, though I haven’t even logged in to any of the accounts that serve them up in over a year. I actually kind of forgot until now!) Along the way, I got frustrated. I often joked that my ad revenue was enough to support a dog, but not a person. (At the time, I didn’t have a dog so I didn’t even know what I was talking about – #radishdirago is expensive!) Ad revenue was meh, and sponsored posts and promotions were okay but I really needed something more. When I thought about where I thought I could really do something interesting and valuable, I kept coming back to one thing – projects + supplies. Since I started blogging the bulk of the (non-spam) emails I got from the blog were requests for help finding and buying the right supplies to make one of my projects. So I created the Whimseybox monthly subscription to make it easy for people to get the supplies + start making. It was a great first step, but now we’ve got something even bigger – more on that in a minute….

One of the things that’s been bothering me for a few years (among other things) is that there isn’t a good way for DIY/craft blogs to direct readers to the supplies we use in our projects, and as a result there’s no good way to earn revenue when our content inspires someone to make a purchase. Instead I felt like I was basically asking my readers to write down what they need, drive to their local big box craft store and wind up stuck in line (frustrated and exhausted) at 7:30pm on a weeknight. And then I compared that to my experience reading fashion blogs – see cute shirt, follow link, purchase, done. And in many cases, thanks to programs like rewardStyle, the blogger earned a commission on the sale. As a reader, that commission didn’t cost me anything and I was glad to be helping support some of my favorite sites. It just seemed like the fashion blogging world had it figured out. I actually tried to do more fashion blogging so I could use some of these tools. But, while I do love clothes, I do not love taking pictures of myself so that never really worked out.

So back at Whimseybox, this is a problem we’ve been working on solving because our mission is NOT to put a monthly Whimseybox in every mailbox, it’s to help power creativity. We’ve always know that out of all of the people interested in DIY/craft, only a fraction are going to be interested in it exactly once/month. The monthly subscription box was always just the first step. Because for every project that we design, thousands more amazing and creative DIYs are posted online. We want to help people make any of them, not just ours! That’s why last summer we launched the Whimseybox Shop, where you can purchase thousands of individual supplies and products. And i’ts still growing and changing – we’re adding hundreds of new items each week and making tweaks to improve the user experience and navigation almost daily.

After we launched the shop, we got to work building technology to help us better match up DIY projects with the supplies you need to make them. We’ve been using them internally for a while on our site (click on almost any project on our homepage and you’ll see a supply list underneath it) and on our blog. I’ve even used it here on Dismount Creative such as when I posted this faux jeweled sweatshirt DIY (which I happen to be wearing right now!). We call this technology Whimseybox Influencer, and now we’re opening up it up bloggers and publishers who want to use it to share the supplies they use in their projects and posts. It’s totally free to join, and when someone follows a link to make a purchase the blogger will earn an affiliate commission on that sale. We think this will be a great new revenue stream for DIY and craft bloggers and also provide valuable analytics as well. If you’re interested, check out our manifesto and drop your email address here. (And yeah, I had a total Jerry Maguire experience when I wrote that – “it’s not a memo, it’s a mission statement!”) I’d love to hear what you think!

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PS -I was super-inspired to write about this today because I was listening to this podcast by Michael Hyatt called ‘How to Monetize Your Platform’ and the way he talked really resonated with me. I know that I’d like the bloggers I follow to be able to continue blogging and sharing their creativity online, and I’d love to see even more opportunities for people to do creative work and get paid for it. That is our dream for Influencer. As Michael says, “Art and money aren’t enemies. In fact, in most cases the art isn’t possible without the money.”

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Part 1 is here if you’re interested - Craft Stores Are A Bummer – Why Michaels Should Look Like Sephora

I’m not sure what you do in the shower, but I like to dream about what my ideal craft store would look like. Try it, it’s fun! Anyway, this week I was wondering why Michaels/JoAnn/Hobby Lobby don’t have awesome, inspiring window displays. If I were them, I’d be throwing money at the visual merchandising geniuses at Anthropologie to get them to come work for me immediately. I mean, Anthro sells clothing and home goods but man are their window displays creative and inspiring! Let’s compare  -

Which one of these is the ‘creative center’?

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Which store is ‘where creativity happens’?

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Where would you go to ‘experience the creativity‘?

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You want people to experience the creativity? First you have to have to show some.

Amazing, isn’t it? It made me think, Anthro must spend a ton on art + craft supplies every year! (Email me, we’ll hook you up with great deals! Imagine that – Anthropologie windows sponsored by Whimseybox!) I’ll leave you with this awesome video of how a holiday window display was made at Anthro this year -

Anthropologie: The Making of Our Holiday Windows from Anthropologie on Vimeo.

Image Sources – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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