Disclaimer: Kevin Lucius is the Creative Director and a founding member of Technori. He created the our awesome logo that’s synonymous with the Technori brand, in addition to leading all other things aesthetic. He’s also the Founder of Lucius Art, a design company featuring his art on paper and wood block.
I’ve wanted to write about Kevin since November 2011, when he was featured on Fab.com, a flash deal site for design products. Before, during, and after the Fab sale, Lucius Art took over Technori HQ. Stacks of wood blocks in one corner, a shellac station in another, and mountains of shipping boxes everywhere else. It was impressive, and scary.
Seeing the intensity and volume of the Fab sale, it was obvious what a powerful distribution resource it must be for entrepreneur designers. But there must be risks, right? There are scads of stories regarding small business discontent when partnering with flash sale/daily deal sites. Here’s what Kevin had to say about the ups and downs of his experience with Fab, how it affected Lucius Art as a business, and considerations design entrepreneurs should make to drive business.
What is Lucius Art?
Lucius Art is my own personal digital artwork that I have been doing for the last few years.
I’ve been designing for years but first started selling my work when I opened an Etsy shop in August of 2010. It slowly started gaining some momentum and then really took off this past summer. That was the moment when being a design entrepreneur became my primary source of income. I also sell them at art festivals and retail shops around the country.
Those seem like common distribution channels for small design shops and craftsmen. You decided to try selling through Fab.com as well. What was the sign up process like?
I just created an account like everyone else and then filled out their contact form for people that were interested in doing a sale.
Did you consider other online deal sites?
Not really, Fab is by far the biggest deal site out there for design related products. My wife Christy is a jewelry designer. We looked into a couple other sites for her products, but a lot of them seem gimmicky and their terms are outrageous.
What set you apart from other vendors that made you an attractive vendor for fab?
I think it was my wood block art prints. They’re unique and are a more tangible thing than just a print on paper
What was your plan of attack? How did you prepare for the sale?
It all happened very quickly and I only had a little over a month before the sale began. So the first thing I did was make a list and order all of my supplies immediately. I knew I needed to get everything as quickly as I could so I could start working on the product. Once I received everything I just started making as many as I could. I worked until midnight just about every day for a month.
What did you have to provide in the days leading up to the sale?
Standard agreements to sign, other than that everything is done and was set up by Fab.
What was it like when the sale first started? Were there any surprises?
I was really surprised by how many orders I had as soon as the sale went live. Without getting too much into numbers, I sold more in less than an hour than a whole day at a street fest. It was also interesting to see the designs that people were responding to and others no one was interested in.
Are you going to continue selling at street festivals?
For sure, the sales aren’t as high comparatively, but they’re great exposure and fun… one of the best things about summer in Chicago as we all know. It’s nice to get the immediate (sometimes drunk) in-person feedback that isn’t there for online sales.
Street fests also sell differently compared to Etsy and Fab.
How close were your pre-sale projections?
Well, we underestimated it. In the middle of the sale we actually agreed to add more inventory and even then still sold out of product.
How did you manage stresses/challenges of making it happen?
It was very daunting but exciting. We tried to let our excitement fuel our energy to put in a lot of hours.
Were you able to fill all the orders in on time?
We had to call on our friends to help us pack orders. We thought we could do it ourselves but got in over our heads. With their help we were able to make, pack, and ship all orders within a week after the sale was over.
What did you learn from the order fullfillment stage of this experience?
Looking back on it there are small things here and there that we could change or do differently that would save us a lot of time in the end. For example switching the type of tape or labels to make something go a little quicker could end up saving a couple hours of work. You can’t imagine what a difference those details – the ones you think are fine to cheap out on – make until you’ve had to use that product a thousand times over.
Actually, having helped package a few hundred of those shipments I can imagine! What’s been your most successful distribution outlet?
To date, Etsy is my my most successful distribution outlet. I think handmade stuff has really taken off in the last few years especially. There seems to be trend of people wanting to get away from mass produced stuff and get their hands on something that is made by a real person. I think it makes for a more special gift for someone versus just picking something out at big box store or chain.
Etsy accounts for 75% of my annual sales. Fab is 15%, and that was during the holiday season.
How are you inspired to make your designs and artwork?
I think art and design is just in my blood. Its what I enjoy doing so I try to surround myself with it. It doesn’t feel like work when you love what you do.
You have a second sale coming up on Fab. How did that opportunity arise?
They were happy with how my first sale did and offered to let me do one again. It was a great experience the first time and definitely wanted to do it again.
Was there any debate, or was it a no brainer?
Christy and I had to discuss it because it is a huge commitment but realized pretty quickly that we wanted to do it again.
Do you have to produce all new designs?
They actually are very open to letting you use any products/designs that I wanted. I decided to bring back about half of the designs I did the first time and introduce several new ones.
What are you going to do differently?
I gave myself more time to prepare this time around which so far has made a big difference. I have around 2 months instead of 1 month. At this point everything is going smoother because I know what to expect.
What would you tell other designers, artists, and craftsmen who might be interested in a flash deal partnership?
I would say its a good opportunity but don’t sell yourself short. If you are giving away your products at a very low price you are sort of devaluing your work. Take pride in what you do. Crunch some numbers and make sure you are prepared. After the sale I got a number of partnership opportunities. That kind of mass exposure can bring a lot of demand, so having the capacity to meet it is key.
When is the sale?
Friday March 30
Awesome, we look forward to checking it out!