My name is Matt Buchholz, and I run a small business, Alternate Histories. I make cards & prints with monsters in them. I sell them online, at some stores around the country, and at craft/art shows. I live and work out of a two bedroom apartment in Pittsburgh that I rent. I pay for my own health insurance and struggle with taxes & all the small business work. I also run all my own social media & marketing, and try to keep up with everything. It’s hard & exhausting but I love it.
In short, I’m a lot like many of my friends here in Pittsburgh and around the country. We made some kind of art, discovered that people like it, and are working to get that work in front of customers so they’ll buy it. I’m fortunate that Alternate Histories is my main source of income; a lot of my friends still have part or full time jobs to support themselves.
The holiday season is incredibly important to us, as that’s when we make most of our money. For instance, my sales in November & December of 2014 accounted for almost 50% of my entire sales for the year!
Which brings us to all the brouhaha around Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, & Cyber Monday. Everything is predicated on incredible deals. Save 30%, 40%, 50%. Free shipping, free overnight, buy one get one free, etc. This weekend I was thinking about sales and trying to figure out what I could offer; maybe a Cyber Monday deal? Shop Local discounts?
Here’s what I realized: I can’t afford to offer a discount.
I’ve had other online sales during the course of the year, and I’m delighted when you take advantage of them. But the truth is that I can’t afford it right now. There are a lot of factors that contribute to slumping online sales (crowded marketplace, Etsy search algorithims, etc) but it’s something that all of my friends are dealing with. I love that some big retailers like REI are taking a stand and closing on Black Friday. I applaud that. I wish every big store would take this approach. But that’s simply not something that I have the luxury to do.
We want to keep making fun, creative, hand-made and independently produced work for you. And we hope that you’ll seek out this type of work. But to be frank; it does cost more. It’s more expensive for me to print & ship work from home than it is for a factory in China to print 10,000 of them and them on Amazon or Alibaba.com. Independently produced work simply costs more.
So what I want to say is this:
1. Thank you. Thank you to everyone who has bought my work over the past five years, and who will continue to buy it. Your support means the world to me. It let me quit my job and start working for myself, which is a miraculous thing. It’s the American Dream, as corny as that sounds.
2. I’m sorry that I can’t offer discounts this holiday season. I wish I could, because you folks deserve it. But charging full prices for items now is what lets me stay in business for the rest of the year. It’s what lets me start working on new Holiday card designs in May, when sales are slow. It’s what lets me work on my next crazy idea, keep going, and try to grow as a business.
3. There are lots of ways for you to support me and other independent artists this holiday season. Buy directly from us online. Go to a store that sells work by local and indie makers. Or come to a holiday craft market - they’re easy to find! I’ll be at Crafty Supermarket (Cincinnati) on Nov 28, Handmade Arcade (Pittsburgh) on Dec 5, and the SuperFriends Holiday Market (Pittsburgh) on Dec 12. The Etsy Local feature lets you find markets near you - or if you can’t find a place and want a suggestion, email me. I’ll be glad to steer you towards some places where you can meet artists, talk with them, and support their work.
I hope I’ll see you at a show this year, or that you’ll check me out online. Or hey, if my stuff isn’t your style, that’s cool. Wherever you live, there are talented artists nearby who want to share their work with you. I hope you’ll seek them out this holiday season.