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Looking back and looking forward

 

I love looking back. Life is a crazy, wild, happy, sad, exciting, painful and incredible experience. When I look back I can relive many moments that have made life worth living. Looking back also allows me to remember lessons learned and experiences made that, while difficult at the moment, have molded my life into what it is now. Fire purifies gold, pressure creates a diamond. The rearview mirror retells the stories of our past, injecting new emotions such as nostalgia and fondness. As much as I love looking back, looking forward is even better. The future, with its endless possibilities, unfolds in our minds where boundaries don’t exist. A world where everything is possible. It is only outside of our minds where boundaries exist. 12:06 am. I am sitting at my desk, looking back at one year and a half of Free Mind thought-provoking conversations you and I have had. We have pondered about many topics that connect us to who we are and to what we do. As I shuffle and skim through the words I’ve written, I have a revelation.

 

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All those words through which I intended to motivate you have motivated me at least as much. Those words I wrote for you are words that I needed to hear as well. Identity. Uniqueness. Love for oneself. Love for what one does. Ownership. Sharing. Courage. They are all topics on which I never want to stop to reflect and against which I want to continue to measure myself. But looking at the words already written is the fletching of the arrow. Opposite to it is the arrowhead. Pointing at the target. Pointing at the future. The choice is yours. It is exciting to find your target, to aim at it, to pull back and to release. But the flight is the real thrill. This is my version of “the journey is more important than the destination.” I like it better because flying like an arrow has got to be amazing. Maybe you are thinking “I don’t have a target because I still don’t know where I am going.” Don’t make that mistake. The arrow is always pointing in some direction and, in life, the bow is always loaded and the rope is always pulled back. Life can release your arrow anytime without notice. Even if you don’t know where you want to go, life will take you somewhere. If you don’t know where you want to go make it a priority to find out. At least make sure that your arrow points at a desirable target. Find your target. Stay true to who you are. Release and fly.

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Courage cannot be bought

 

We admire courageous people. Already as children we are touched by the topic as we observe other kids who are more or less courageous than we are. The one kid who dared to jump off the trampoline first and the one kid who did not jump at all stay both in our minds as we assess where we stand in the rankings of courage. Courage, or the lack of it, accompanies us throughout our lives. It is our partner in crime during decision making. It is our judge as we look back at what we have done or what we were too afraid to do. But what is courage really? The word itself is associated to having a strong will or wanting something so strongly that there is no choice but to pursue it. Being courageous means acting despite fear or doubt. Being courageous means acting before hesitation takes up enough space to paralyze us. Courage is needed when we want to start something new or when we want to go a new way. In both instances, we must leave that what we know behind such as a habit or a comfort.

 

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You might have exercised courage by leaving your day job to pursue your artistic interests. You might, on the other hand, have observed someone else do it. Such a step might start by an inspiring experience that plated a seed that begins by making the person wonder what exists behind those bushes blocking the view. If watered, that seed grows into a tree of courage that continues to grow until it is tall enough to see for itself what is on the other side. Courage goes through many stages. Experiences. Knowledge. Feelings. Convictions. Each of these set the wheels in motion until you reach the point of no return. The point when the fear of not finding out becomes greater than the fear of trying. It is courageous to learn something new. It is courageous to stand for something. It is courageous to strive for what makes you yearn. Going your own way means having personal courage and, anyone who does it, is perceived as courageous. We can all be more courageous than we think. We all have it. It is good to know it. It is great to believe it.

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There is a motive behind every purchase

 

Why do people buy things? The question seems superficial at first but knowing the answer to it can pay back very well. There are different reasons that get us to spend our money. But, why do we spend it on crafts or handmade products? First, they are not produced cheaply and in masses. For the buyer, the purchase of a craft is an investment. But, why is it so? Well, think of people who truly love their hobby. They practice it as often as possible and, therefore, require adequate equipment for it. For them the hobby has a high personal value. They are likely to give it a special expression and to want to personalize their equipment. By purchasing handmade products or those made by an artist they increase the value of their hobby. These customers invest in custom-made products because, to them, it is important. But there are other dimensions.

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There are buyers who do not need a product but decide to purchase it because it is beautiful or because it was made in a wonderful way. They buy it because they like it and because their purchase does good to someone else. The product itself might not have a specific purpose. Then come the collectors. For them, artisan products have a very high personal value. They look for something special and well defined, something specific. Their purchase fulfills their passion to collect. A final layer is made up of buyers who are looking for something, just not something for themselves. They want to make someone else happy. They buy handcrafted products as a gift. Every buyer is unique. People who buy crafts and artwork support the artists and acknowledge them through their payment. But their individual motives are decisive. If you know the motive you can adjust your strategy accordingly.

But you must understand that this process is not just about you. It is also about acknowledging your customers’ individuality and giving them their money’s worth. So, if you understand the differences among your customers, and, if you cater your products and selling strategies towards them, you will have found the sweet balancing spot in the supply and demand curve.

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The digital explorers and cybernetic pioneers

 

Once there was a man who believed he could do something that no one had done before. He had to accept risks, face dangers and go against the opinion of the masses. He had to stare at fear right in the face. He had to challenge the status quo and go unpaved and new ways. The key people did not believe in him. He had to stand for his convictions and to think the old ways anew. This man was Ferdinand Magellan. He discovered the Spice Islands and was the first man to sail the world. Admittedly, Magellan lived in the time of the great explorers and pioneers of the 16th century and this career was reserved for only a limited few. We live in the era of the technological revolution. We live in the time of the digital explorers and cybernetic pioneers. The technological developments of the 21st century have made a pathway available to many which used to be reserved for the few. They present fewer prerequisites for those who yearn to discover new ways. Magellan had the Atlantic Ocean. We have the internet, a place so vast and deep that we can’t even begin to grasp all it contains. It is certainly full of dangers and risks but it also holds unquantifiable chances and possibilities. Never before has there been more competition. Never before has it been easier to pursue your dreams. If you want to present yourself, your skills, your business or your creation this is what it will take:

 

Courage — everyone starts small
Will — it all begins by learning the skills and formulating your personal goals
Conviction — walk the new ways and try new approaches in spite of fear
Curiosity — never lose interest and never stop learning
Authenticity — be yourself and do not compromise who you are
Risks — face the wind, look ahead and believe
Success — the byproduct of allowing yourself to think differently and welcoming new paths

 

It is truly possible to be like Ferdinand Magellan. Today it is more possible than ever. Courage, will, conviction and curiosity are needed now no less than back then. Those who think out of the box will be allowed to break out into new shores.

 

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Learning from others

 

“Good artists borrow, great artists steal”, said the great Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. No matter what you want to accomplish in life, whether completing a project or developing an ability, you will always face a conflict of dependency. Much can be learned through self-instruction but humans learn best through imitation and repetition. Think about it, that’s the reason we go to school, attend courses, watch YouTube videos and look for possibilities to be as close as possible to those who master a subject that interests us. This exchange (sometimes perceived as a struggle) with others is precisely what allows us to grow beyond ourselves. The more we learn the more of which we are capable. Many accomplished artists have encountered well-intentioned patrons who have passed their knowledge onto them, showed them how something is done or taken many hours of their time to help them in their trial and error process while giving them valuable feedback.

 

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Such benevolent patrons can be found in every walk of life. There is always someone around the corner willing to teach and motivate those facing the struggle of finding the way. They know the struggle first-hand. They know that that which can be achieved together is far greater than that which can be achieved alone. This process is far from new. Sharing and passing knowledge on has been an effective way to extend the life of crafts and traditions in many cultures over many centuries. That continuation of passed-on knowledge is one of our main distinctions as human beings. Handed over know-how helps individuals develop much further when one desires to learn something. But it goes beyond individual learning. Continuation of knowledge, craft and skill is the continuation of a culture. We are not alone. We must not reinvent the wheel. We must seek for those from whom we can develop and acquire know-how but we must also be ready to pass it on.

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Take your space and make it yours

 

Anyone who has ever had to search for a house or an apartment has quite likely realized that to find the perfect place is anything but easy. If it is not too big it is too small or too bright or too dark. But every once in a while a living space matches exactly what you want. You feel like it was made just for you. And once you take it and set it up, giving it your personal touch, any visitor will confirm it by saying it is you, it is your space. When we translate that into our modern world we realize that with the use of a keyboard, a mouse, a screen and the technology of the internet we find ourselves in a place where we can actually take as much space as we want and set it up anyway we want.

 

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The irony is that this turns out to be overwhelming to many of us. All we need is a computer and an internet connection and we can take it all: social media, our own website, search engine optimization, etc. We can literally set it all up exactly as we like it no matter if it is for entertainment or for business. Yet so much freedom can be paralyzing. The reason is simple; the more freedom we have the better we need to know what we want. We need to know exactly for what we want to use the space. We need to have answers to specific questions.

What do we want to show to others? How do we want to present ourselves? Do we want to present the same picture in every forum? We know very well by now that setting up a great online presence is essential for business. We also understand that great big pictures together with interesting and authentic stories will help us stand out from the crowd. So the bottom line is that if we take the time to understand ourselves and to answer what we want the rest is just a matter of some additional time and effort. The great advantage is that as a craftsperson, artist or creator you have evidence of who you are. Your art is a mirror. Look at it. Find yourself. Take your space and make it yours.

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A wonderful way of donating art

 

Our b2zone magazine is a magazine for artists and artisans. We at b2zone were pleased when we realized that one of our artists, South African painter Antoinette Coetzee, does much more than creating beautiful paintings. Through her art she gives a voice to rhino support in her country. The rhino is one of the “Big Five” animals of South Africa. It is also a big part of the South African heritage and is endangered by poachers that hunt them just for their horns so we decided to ask her what led her to get involved in the topic.

 

Amira Antoinette Coetzee

 

“It all started with a male rhino named Sir Fabian. I was driving home one day in the year 2014 while listening to the news on the radio. I heard the owner of a rhino pleading for help and crying while he told his story. He was asking for help to stop the poaching dilemma. It struck me. So I contacted him and asked him for a photo of Sir Fabian and for his story. I simply had to paint it and told the owner he could have the painting at no charge since I just wanted to help through my art. Sir Fabian’s owner was amazed. He sent me the information I requested and I started to paint. After I finished my painting I tried to contact him again but he had sold his farm. He had sold three of his five rhinos and lost the other two to poaching. The person told me to donate the painting to a project supporting rhinos.

I have a friend named Selomie who is a rhino lover and who also used to have a farm where her rhinos were poached. She told me more about the situation. When I painted Sir Fabian I showed it to her. She took the painting to Australia where it was auctioned for the Australian Rhino Foundation to raise funds. That is where it all began and as they need a voice I won’t stop. I contact owners who lost rhinos or who have stories from the past and paint them if they agree. I always ask for permission. I donate my help where help is needed. Out of all the rhinos I painted Hope is the one that stood out. I followed her story from the start. She was a four-year-old female rhino that was found two weeks after poachers attacked her in the bush in 2015.

 

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She almost died and her entire nose was mutilated. I just had to paint her. Adrian Steirn who is the photographer for the ‘Saving the Survivors’ organization gave me permission. Her story needed to be told and all the people who saw it on my Facebook got to know her through me. I even have a friend in America who educates her grandson through Hope’s story. I have sent her a print of the painting and she hung it in her grandson’s room to teach him about rhinos. I named my first solo showing ‘Hope.’ Sadly she died during this showing in November 2016. A print of her painting was hanging in the foyer of the showing with her story and donation info.

My latest painting is of Matthew, a rhino orphan that was found next to his poached mother. I can only do a small part to help. I paint and tell the stories. If I can raise the highly needed funds through my art then I did what I could to help each rhino. I try to be the rhinos’ voice and speak through my art. I also educate people around the world about the issues in South Africa because as so many have no idea about what is happening here. I will never stop educating no matter how tiny my part is. I will never stop being their voice.”

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How exciting is to celebrate the b2zone magazine 10th Edition

 

b2zone has created a magazine for artists of all disciplines and walks of life. What we wanted was to present these amazing people and their artworks through great pictures and great stories because this is exactly what artists need. We are convinced we have succeeded. Our core project has also found a home in the b2zone magazine. “Artwork around the world project” has transformed a simple piece of leather into a travelling nomad to be received by various artists all over the world who craft their art onto it section by section creating an unprecedented collage eagerly awaited to be seen by the b2zone community and beyond.
b2zone will donate the proceed of this fantastic project to a welfare organization selected by the artists themselves. The artwork will arrive at a museum which will be the last stop of its journey and its final resting place. It is simply amazing to have the possibility to bring people from different continents together in such an extraordinary way and to leave a positive mark on the web. We would like to thank all the artists who have already taken part and those who still will.

List of artists who have already created their motifs:

Gina Adam, Tim Pinkos, Terry Diveley, Tia Davis, George Williams, Peter Main, Britt Nantz, Consuelo Glemby, Kim Eoff, Skeeter Yasko, Clay Benyai, Kathy Flanagan, Adam Tanner, Freddie Matara, Veronica Passos, Anton de Wit, Ann Maree Ager, … and many to follow.

The b2zone magazine also presents to its readers artists from the most diverse artistic fields, telling their life stories and presenting their artwork. Through these 10 issues we have presented 40 artists and we would like to thank them for the great cooperation with our editorial staff, for all the time invested, for all the great pictures they have sent us and for their interesting biographies. They are the ones who have made the magazine look so good. We have only two words to say: Thank You!

 

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These are the artists featured in our 10 editions:

Archraf Baznani, Petra Hergarden, Kim Eoff, Scott Nash, Gina Adam, Amalia Grassi, Howard Lee, Philippe Peres, Anet du Toit, Noemi Rafel, Consuelo Glemby, Miguel Marcos, Veronica Passos, Kalani Matherne, Dave Beharriel, Tim Pinkos, Froggies Unique Glass Beads, Felicity Mcnamara, Al-Digit, Ann Maree Ager, Joy Sturgess, Wilson Orozco, Jesse Lane, Era Shevstova, Paul Schleicher, Randall Stoner, Freddie Matara, Jet Sonnemans, Steve Martin, Jennefer-Ann Gordon Grant, Kathy Flanagan, William James Hunter, Nick Finocchio, Jeff Burr Garetson, Sylvia Pozeg, Michael Dale, Michaela Luttyova, Fermosos Fierros, Elisabeth Kalinowski, Emanuel Constantin.

We, the editorial staff, have the great pleasure to publish this magazine and would like to share our thoughts with you.

 

Voice of the editorial staff:

 

Roland: At b2zone, we wanted to develop an expressive magazine specifically for artisans and artists. This has placed in the foreground a lot of strong images. When I look at the pictures of the 10 issues I am very happy.

Gina: For me it’s always exciting to read the stories of the artists after they sent them to me. I am permanently stunned about the great talent out there. And I love how they find their place in the magazine and in my column at the end of that process.

Stefanie: For me it is a great pleasure to contribute to the development of the magazine and to have my own column to tell the readers about my project Maggy & Max. The pictures and stories of the fantastic artists we feature in the b2zone magazine inspire and motivate me every day.

Rodrigo: I love art. I love artists. I love business. And I love encouraging people to reach for the stars. The b2zone magazine is a magical place where so many things that I love come together to form a new force. Over the past 10 months I have gotten to learn so much about so many people while having the privilege to use my words to make a small but tangible contribution to other people’s artistic and business lives.

The b2zone magazine will still have many editions and plenty of artists to come. That’s a fact. But we also have many other great projects in the pipeline, country specials and other passionate undertakings. Our essence is bringing people closer together. It makes no difference where they live or what art they make. Because when joy and passion are in the doing quality is always outstanding. Which is what we strive for in the future of the b2zone magazine.

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The Crossroads of the World

 

It is incredibly fascinating. So many people from so many places with so many different talents with so many different stories. And they all meet in one place. They all meet here. That is the greatest thing about the b2zone magazine. And as part of the editorial staff of the magazine I find it highly rewarding. During the past months we have greeted, spoken to, learned from and written about a truly diverse group of artists. I have seen works of art I never imagined to see. Painting, sculpting, engraving, forming, wood, glass, leather, bone, fabric, the art form and materials are as varied as the countries and cultures the protagonists of our stories represent. I have identified myself with their struggles and accomplishments and I have been inspired by them to write for you, the b2zone magazine reader.

 

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That is the beauty of art. It does not matter who you are or where you come from. All that matters is the amount of passion you have and how much dedication you are willing to put in. It is only relevant that you find a way to speak to those who are waiting for you to reach out and touch them. And the possibilities to touch people on the other side of the world from where you stand have never been greater. The virtual world makes it possible. Social media carries and delivers your message, your stories and your amazing pictures anywhere in the world and faster than you can think. Your background, race, color and culture become an asset of enrichment. That is what I love about it. That is why I write about it. That is why I write for you. This is the true crossroads of the world.

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Every story needs a hero

 

Whether at the campfire in the Stone Age or in a virtual posting humans have been telling stories for thousands of years. Storytelling is one of the most powerful and effective ways to transport information and to make it reach our fellow human beings. This is particularly relevant nowadays in social media. We have talked before about the importance of standing out from the crowd and stopping that swiping finger that incessantly looks for something of relevance in the virtual world. Today we speak about going one step further. Have you stopped the swiping finger? It is then time to present yourself as the hero of your story.

 

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Internet time goes by much faster than the clocks and calendars our phones, computers and laptops display. One day in real life is an eternity online. Time online goes fast, very fast. That is why it is so important to be the hero of your story. Think about it. When we run into a touching story with a main character with whom we identify or who has done something that we value and appreciate is one of the few moments where we are willing to slow down and pause. A good story about you and your work are just as important as great photographs. A great story about you and your work will substantially increase the perceived value of your work. If you’ve ever watched those singing shows on TV you will notice that before any of the key participants appear on stage their story will be told. You will learn about their struggles, passions and dreams before you get a chance to listen to them sing. Why? Because you will value their performance much more.

Tell your story. Speak about your passion to create something. Share your dreams. You will inspire your customers and allow them to be a part of the developments of your creations. Allow the customer to feel identified with you and with your story and they will see you as a hero.

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Love for my art Love for myself Love for my customers

 

I am an artist. The love for what I do will not change and it distinguishes me from others. That is what I used to think until I became a business owner. The reality is that it is not just the best creator that stands out but also the one who presents themselves authentically. Emphasis on “presents.” The question is: What makes someone authentic? For starters your heart must be in your work. You have to produce the highest quality possible with the resources available. This is essential as an expression of passion for your craft. If you present a creation of high quality it is evident that you value your work. The appreciative customer will see how much energy and effort you put into it. This allows your customer to also feel joy and to treasure owning your product. This is the only way to carry that love you feel for your work to the one who keeps it.

 

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So, are you authentic? If so, are you coming across as authentic? Are you coming across as you want to present yourself? If you are not, why not? It is the whole package that makes you authentic. The skill, the creation, the presentation of your creation, the value that you give as an exchange for payment to a customer who treasures your skill. The moment value is given to your work you are unmistakable. It is in this uniqueness where the value of your brand lives.

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Open Up coming up

 

The readership of the b2zone magazine keeps expanding month in and month out. I enthusiastically dedicate my space this time to share with you that the next edition of the magazine will be enhanced with the new column “Open Up.” Claudia and Stefanie, along with their exciting project of the illustrated children stories of Maggy & Max, will fascinate us with their charming writing style. A great addition to a magazine dedicated to craftsmen and artists alike who can learn and appreciate a deep insight into the formation process of their creative work.

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We will learn the story of Stefanie and Claudia firsthand as they share with us their entire journey from the birth of the project idea through the creative process of writing and illustrating, setting up their website, building a community and much more. But that is not all, “Open Up” will be another valuable source of information that will undoubtedly motivate many creative minds to start their own projects. b2zone founders are convinced that their magazine will be enriched by Stefanie’s and Claudia’s contributions and look forward to welcome them to their editorial staff. I do too and wish everybody great success and gratification in their creative undertakings.

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Stopping the swiping finger

 

The 2016 summer Olympic Games will be closing soon. I realize that I am writing this article with an additional boost of motivation that comes from watching human beings like you and me fight for their dreams. There is hardly a better display of the heights that humans can reach through passion and dedication. So let’s continue our journey through this fantastic world of art, craft, business and technology. We already know that technology moves as fast as a Bolt (pun intended). I like to think that I am still young but I remember when Facebook started. I remember creating my account on my desktop computer. I remember also when the first iPhone came out. I remember how we had no idea how this two players would change our society.

 

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To put those two together, more than half of the users use Facebook mobile today. All those people swipe their fingers over their mobile displays to scroll down their timelines incessantly searching for something that makes them stop. The stopping factor normally comes in the form of an interesting and particular picture with a powerful headline. Pictures with recognizable elements such as personalities or brands also come into play. The bottom line is that any person’s Facebook timeline is flooded with elements from which users sort out intuitively what they want to see from what they don’t.

That’s why I insist on going the extra mile anytime you are creating online representations of you or your products. The pride you feel when creating a beautiful painting or sculpture should be extended to the picture you create to represent it online. The passion you put into your original work should flow over to how you describe it online and how you present yourself. Stand out from the crowd, I’m telling you how. The “Skillz” section of the b2zone magazine contains specific advice on how to achieve this. Take some time to read it and make sure that your online content makes those swiping fingers stop.

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From prototype to demand turning the social media key

 

One of the things I really enjoy about writing for the b2zone magazine is the creative nature of its readership. As an artist you have it within you to put your heart into what you make. No one needs to tell you to give it your very best. You already do. But I know that for many (or at least some) of you the way from creating to selling can be a bit frightening. Today I want to tell you that you are very lucky to be an artist of today. In my last article about online product identity I urged you to use social media. Now I want to speak about a specific way on how to do it.

Imagine you have created your first piece or something completely new and that just having your name on it does not guarantee the sale (yet). What to do next? Before you turn your workshop into a mass production factory consider presenting a prototype to the world through social media. There are many advantages of taking that route. First of all, you will get immediate reactions from friends and from friends of friends. People will see it and, if you ask, take the time to evaluate it. Yes, you can get immediate feedback (scary, I know, but incredibly useful).

 

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These first reactions and feedback might let you know that your product is good just the way it is or they might give you a couple ideas on how to improve it to increase its desirability within your target market. Such information is golden and you can get it for free. The next benefit is that you will have the opportunity to interact with consumers directly. This means you can create real relationships with them. If they see that you not only care about what you do but also about giving them something of value, then the chances of customer loyalty will skyrocket. You have to be careful here. The fastest route to social media suicide is coming across as defensive and closed to feedback.

If you get it right. If you adjust your product to your target consumers’ values without losing your identity and the passion for what you do. If you create honest connections with those showing interest in what you do. If you do those things, then you have created the possibility to start a small production line out of your prototype and have started to pave the road to consumership and demand.

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Online Product Identity

If you are reading this chances are that you are an artist, a crafter or a creator and that you know that feeling of connection to what you make. You want your creation to be understood and appreciated because what you make is personal, it communicates who you are. Chances are also that positioning your products for online sales is not your favorite part of the process. Very likely you take a few pictures and go to an online selling platform where you can load them up, write a short description and hope that people really get what you and your products are about. As an entrepreneur who is also an artist I often get approached by creative people who are trying to discover the most efficient and least painful way to place their products online. My answer always starts with the question “Who are you?”

Any passionate maker extends their own identity into that which they make. But time after time I have seen that the extension of their identity ends once the product is finished; it is no surprise that the passion for what they do ends there as well. Your online identity needs to be part of your creative process. It needs to have character just as your workshop or your living room have it. Your business identity is what makes you highly relevant to those consumers in your niche. Adopting and reflecting the right business identity online will maximize your possibilities to grab and retain the attention of the buyers you want. Your online identity starts with the right selection of your online selling platform. Different platform selections will send different messages about you and your products. This does not mean that you need to take down your products from the platforms where you currently are. But why stop there? Your online identity can actually communicate that you are a passionate producer to whom it matters who buys your products and how they buy them. Why not communicate that you have fire inside and that those things that come out of your hands and your mind are purified by that fire?

 

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So make sure that the platform you select reflects who you are. Make sure that the representations of your products online are true representations of you. Of course this includes the product but it also includes its placement. You should spend as much time as necessary making sure that the snapshot of each one of your products is perfectly well orchestrated (placement, colors, setting, background, etc.). I highly recommend you go beyond the two-sentence product description. Don’t get me wrong, I am not telling you to write a novel where the short product description should be. But make it easy for the consumer to be able to learn more about you and your products. And please use social media. If you have read this far then you probably are not part of the lucky few with a few millions for marketing. Social media is a fantastic way to reach out to the world and increase the chances that your consumers will stumble upon you. Go on and get creative online. You will not regret it.

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The power of high-resolution photography and the effect of personal stories

 

The Internet is a powerful and captivating universe widely inhabited by anonymous and relationship-less entities. It is a highly competitive world paved with technical strategies and hooks to capture suspecting and unsuspecting buyers. The Internet has changed our planet forever but with that change it has taken away the personal touch inherent in the process of exchanging goods that existed since the beginning of bartering. We have accepted that this process is good enough when accompanied by pictures of bad quality that do not allow us to really appreciate and understand what we are contemplating. We have accepted the element of surprise that comes when the product finally arrives and we wonder if it will be what we imagined. We have also accepted to not know anything about who makes what we buy. We don’t know why they make it or where they make it. And we have accepted all this simply because we have not taken the time to think a bit deeper.

Beyond the basic questions a few more arise such as if the manufacturer is reachable by phone and, if so, will they actually respond to our enquiries. We purchase without knowing the delivery capabilities of the seller or if the delivery costs are built into the initial price. The answers to all these questions are rarely readily available on the seller’s or manufacturer’s website.

 

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Big pictures have started to appear recently on some online platforms and websites playing an important role in answering some of our basic questions. Big pictures are high resolution 16:9 images of minimum 1920×1080 pixels that truly allow us to appreciate the product for what it is. Sellers who make the extra effort to present their products through big pictures and carefully arranged backgrounds give us the opportunity to get as close to the product as we possibly can in the virtual world. Such pictures and arrangements begin to tell us the story about the product and the maker. If it is then continued by an honest, credible, fascinating story about the maker then the tale is complete. The big picture and a story combo is here and, hopefully, it is here to stay.

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Shining the spotlight away from the product

 

I was in the middle of one of my interesting conversations with JU, CEO of b2zone, when I realized what the topic for my first Free Mind column should be. He was passionately describing his very unique approach to online business “Billions of products are being sold online over countless platforms and the product is always in the spotlight”, he told me with a smile. By taking the spotlight away from the product and putting it on the creator, the artist or the craftsman, b2zone does much more than selling— it tells the fascinating stories behind those products.

Online shopping is nothing new. Every day millions of people browse the internet searching for an uncountable number of articles. And those who are not searching for something are bombarded with advertisements resulting from computer algorithms that study consumer behavior funneling marketing based on interests. Most of us know the major online platforms (Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, etc.) and have grown accustomed to an online shopping experience that presents a product accompanied by a dry and rickety description with a small photograph of poor quality.

 

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For JU this is not enough. He understands that online shopping is the way of the present and future. He also understands that the possibility of walking into those mom and pop shops will be smaller and smaller as time goes by. “But why should online mean doing without a relationship between maker and consumer?” JU asked me and continued by saying “It shouldn’t, and that is why I created b2zone.”

Through b2zone buyers learn about the creators of their products. They hear their stories. They experience the product through big, beautiful and artistic pictures that make them feel as if they could touch them. b2zone is about purchasing through entertainment, delight and the relationship to the seller and its products. “We call it Shopptainment” remarks JU. While trading at b2zone is virtual and online the experience is akin to the brick and mortar business where you can truly feel identified with the hands and minds that live behind the products. With their software and their approach, JU and b2zone have filled a gap and built a bridge between the analog and the virtual worlds.

Columnist: Rodrigo C.

 

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