Did you know Spoonflower offers a bi-annual grant for small business owners? The Spoonflower Small Business Grant supports handmade business owners worldwide and at all stages of development. Whether you want to prepare for your next craft fair, experiment with a new product, or just get your business off the ground, this grant can help you achieve the business of your dreams. In a competitive field of talented applicants, it’s important to find unique ways to help your business stand out. So before you get started on your application, be sure to read these tips from the Small Business Grant team at Spoonflower.
Start off on the right foot.
Approach applying for a grant as you would training for a 5k or preparing for a job interview. Do the research, take notes, and plan out a timeline for all the important steps that need to be completed before you even type your name on the online application. To make sure your application is in the best shape it can be, download our Getting Started Checklist and schedule your time in advance. It is easy to spot a rushed application! While these steps are specific to our grant opportunity, we think you’ll also find this helpful in applying for craft shows, refreshing/rethinking your branding, and clarifying your overall vision. So what makes a strong Spoonflower Small Business Grant application? We’re so glad you asked!
1. Product Photography
Product photographs are your handmade business’ first impression to grant panelists (and to your customers!). Start by choosing products to photograph that are relevant to your grant proposal. A panelist might be confused reading about your headbands, while viewing your handbags. If you are transitioning from making headbands to handbags, seeing a prototype is helpful and be sure to write about the reason for the switch in your application. We also ask for your photos to be presented in a certain format in your application so be sure you follow our example.
Photos that are blurry, dark, and unclear do not illustrate your vision to people who aren’t able to see your products in real life. Recipients are also asked to contribute to our blog, where focused, well-lit photos are essential. A helpful example might be one of our previous grant recipients, Martina Ivanova, who shared her strategies for showing her beeswax wraps in their best light. Spoonflower’s photographer Alex also shared his insights and while this post is written with surface designers in mind, there are some tips that small business owners will find helpful as well.
2. Well-Written Application
Could you describe your business in just two sentences? Just one sentence? It can be pretty challenging to pinpoint those few important descriptors that best illustrate your offerings and tell the story of what makes them stand out. Before diving into our application questions, it will be beneficial to work on your short elevator pitch or mission statement. Brainstorm by asking yourself simple questions, making lists, recording a conversation about what you do with a friend – collect all the possible things you could say and then edit them down into one brief and concise package. If you’re struggling to write a meaningful mission statement, Small Business Grant recipient Rachel Cooke will help get you started.
You don’t have much time to make your impression, so don’t focus on buzzwords and vague phrases. You can say your product is unique, bold or colorful (and a lot of people do, that’s the problem), but it is much more beneficial to describe exactly how/why it is that way in order to stand out. This is especially important for areas that we get a lot of applications for like baby/children toys, blankets, and clothing.
Once you have your well-crafted answers to the application questions, have a friend (or better yet–someone unfamiliar with your business) proofread. Make sure they think you have clearly described your products and business, while looking for distracting typos and grammatical errors.
Ruth Nathan’s is a purveyor of fine bow ties, pocket squares, and lapel flowers for the Urban Peacock. An Urban Peacock is known as an individual who dresses dapperly out of conviction and not compulsion. We are the only neckwear company in Harlem to create their own limited edition printed accessories.
– Nicole Brown, founder of Ruth Nathan’s, Spring 2019 Small Business Grant recipient
Custom handbags that use bold and colorful designs. I’d like to offer my customers more custom bags and new products like bigger bags. This would be a natural extension to what I currently offer customers.
3. Where does Spoonflower fit in?
There are so many reasons that Spoonflower is a great partner for small businesses – we are your marketplace, your supplier, and your warehouse. Whether it’s the designs in the robust Marketplace of designs by independent artists, the eco-friendly printing process, the ability to print your own designs or to choose between 20+ fabrics, it’s important for you to identify the reasons Spoonflower is essential to your business. Be sure to clearly explain why you are applying for this specific grant for digitally printed fabric and paper, rather than a basic project grant from somewhere else. Panelists look to find this in your answers to the narrative questions and your grant budget.
We ask the question, “Why is it important for you to use Spoonflower specifically for your business?” and there are plenty of other places to drop your knowledge as to why this grant opportunity makes sense for your business. Have you used Spoonflower in the past? Explain why we make a great team. If you haven’t gotten a chance to use our services, show you are aware of why our products are essential to your business’ future.
After you’ve decided what you would create if you were awarded the grant, figure out how many yards you will need, what substrates you will use, and the estimated cost. You can also include swatches, design tools, and the benefit-rich PRO membership. Determine your exact needs to show that you understand what Spoonflower has to offer. Also, don’t forget that this grant is for Spoonflower credit, so save things like computer software, sewing machines and craft fair travel for your overall business budget.
- 2 test swatches of Petal Signature Cotton = $10
- 2 test swatches of Organic Sweet Pea Gauze = $10
- 5 yards of Petal Signature Cotton for 10 drawstring bags = $87.50
- 5 yards of Organic Sweet Pea Gauze for 10 reusable grocery bags = $115
- Total grant request = $222.50
I need about 10 yards to complete the things I want to make. At about $20/yard for Spoonflower’s different fabric choices, I will need about $200.
I think I spent about $800 on fabric last year and I’d like to buy another sewing machine for $200, so I requested $1000.
4. Show your experience and your potential.
It’s no easy task to give our panelists a glimpse into both your business’ past and future with just a few hundred words and a couple of uploaded documents. You want to show that you are capable of doing what you have proposed and are serious about your small business. Being concrete, confident and concise is key to painting a clear picture and there are many ways you can really make the little space you have count.
Use your C.V. or resumé to focus only on experience relevant to creative fields and running your small business. Fit these things you’d like to emphasize to one page and use a simple layout (resist the urge to use fancy fonts or to include photos of your work). We know this can be difficult to edit down, but putting a spotlight only on the most important things allows panelists to easily see and make connections from your past experience to your ability to do great things in the future with your business.
We also ask you to verify your business. This can be done in many ways, but the best way to do this in the US is to upload your Resale Certificate or Tax-Exempt Certificate. Anyone can register as a small business using their SSN to form an LLC or dba with or without income, business plan, etc. You can get more info at SBA.gov. Equivalents in other countries include a document from the Federal Company Register in Germany and a document with your VAT number in the EU.
While we don’t require it on the application, it may be helpful for a panelist to get more clarity by visiting your business’ website or Instagram account. Don’t forget to double check that these windows into your world are on-brand and most importantly, are not broken links! For the ultimate guide to social media marketing, be sure to check out Article 5 of the Spoonflower Seller Handbook!
Within your application answers, panelists are also looking to see that you are able to identify your audience along with a demand for your product and to see an awareness of what the grant would mean to you at this point in your small business journey. They are looking to see that your goals make sense to the scale of your business and that you have presented a clear project timeline with important dates that make sense in relation to when you would be notified about the grant – March 22 for cycle 1 and September 7 for cycle 2.
- Photo session, research and drawing/sketches of collection (February – March)
- Testing and printing of fabrics, wallpaper, prints and apparel (March-April)
- Prototyping products and community preview for feedback (March – April)
- Finalizing products and marketing materials (April – May)
- Craft Fair: June 2, 2019
I’d like to complete the project some time in Spring 2019.
I don’t have a specific timeline.
Applying for creative opportunities is hard work, but there are plenty of helpful resources out there. You may find our Business Library as well as hearing from these other perspectives useful in your business journey:
- Spoonflower Business Library
- How to Submit a Successful Craft Show Application | Nicole Stevenson, Patchwork Show & Craftcation Conference
- Write a Better Artist Grant Application in 15 Steps | Rachel MacFarlane, Format
- How to Apply for Grants | Marianna Schaffer, Creative Capital
Now get to work!
We hope you find the process of thinking deeply about your business and its future helpful whether you receive our grant or not. If you worked your way through our Getting Started Checklist and followed these tips, your business toolkit will now include things like a well-honed 1-2 sentence business description for your Instagram bio, product photos that illustrate your unique products when you aren’t there to explain them, and a project timeline with concrete goals to work towards.
We look forward to learning more about your handmade business through our application process. The pool of applicants we have the pleasure of reviewing each cycle is always super impressive and the talent level in our community continues to grow. We wish we could award grant funding to every applicant that follows these tips, but if you do put in the work towards a strong application, chances are good that you will you stand out and we are always searching for small businesses to feature in our Maker Spotlight email series and on social media.
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Tag your handmade products with #spoonflowermakers to be discovered!