The holiday season is undeniably the busiest time of the year. For those in the 3D printing industry, the hustle and bustle that goes in and out of figuring out and creating Holiday gifts can be quite overwhelming, especially if you are still setting up shop. In this episode, Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard have over Vicky Somma, a computer software consultant and 3D modeler behind the blog and shop TGAW 3D. Vicky is in the same place as many people in the 3D print industry, starting a 3D print side business while still working full-time. Here, Vicky gives a familiar view of how she is setting up and getting her final things ready for the holiday sales. Through marketplaces like Etsy and Shapeways, many 3D print makers are being connected to consumers who are looking for personal and unique gifts. Vicky tells us how she is utilizing these spaces as she gears up for the holiday shopping season in full swing. Dive deep into this great conversation to find the inspiration for your entrepreneurial 3D print endeavors.
Listen to the podcast here:
Forget Black Friday, 3D Print Your Way To Holiday Gifts With Vicky Somma Of TGAW
Happy Thanksgiving. We were going to take Thanksgiving off, but we decided that there’s so much prep for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We’ve got to make sure that people have 3D printing in their minds here.
It makes sense because we’re taking a holiday with the family and taking some time to ourselves, other people will too and they may want to read an episode. It needs to be there.
As you know, our episodes are pre-recorded. It’s not like we’re running this live. We are home with our family having turkey as well. I’m excited because my oldest daughter, Alex, is cooking for us. I don’t have to make the turkey.
I know. I’m excited. I thought I would have a little panic attack about not being in control of what’s for dinner. The closer we get to it, the more I’m like, “I don’t have to cook turkey.” It’s liberating. I was like, “What am I going to do on Thanksgiving Day?” Hopefully, I’ll get to spend lots of time with my girls.
Let everybody know what they’re able to read while they wait for their turkey to cook or they’re in a post-Thanksgiving food coma.
We have a reader who has been conversing back and forth from the early days, Vicky Somma. We’ve talked about her a few times on the podcast. Vicky is in the same place as many readers are. She’s had some successes. We decided to bring her on. Vicky has a Shapeways shop and an Etsy shop, it’s TGAW. It started small and it’s been growing over time. She’s taught herself 3D printing. She’s a software developer as a day job.
That is an important thing. 3D printing and modeling is not her day job, but she’s seriously interested in it and turned it into a side business.
It’s a future goal of her and an ambition to turn it into a day job. That’s where a lot of people are. They’re like, “I’m trying this out and I want to grow.” She’s starting to learn things about growing it. Vicky is more in the world of setting up a shop and for us, we’re a little more outside that. I thought it would be great to hear from her directly. Especially as some of you may also be struggling with setting up and getting your final things ready for holiday sales and what’s going to happen to you, this is a good conversation. Let’s go to the interview.
Vicky, thank you so much for joining us. I am excited to talk with you because we’ve been having a little friendly conversation back and forth for some time.
I’m happy to be here. I’ve been a fan of the show for some time.
Let’s tell our audience a little bit about how you got started 3D printing and where you have your shop.
I started 3D printing, if you’d believe it, through breastfeeding. When I was nursing my second son, a friend of mine started selling these origami owl lockets. The concept there is you buy this empty locket and you put charms in it to tell your story or describe your interests. At that time, nursing was a big part of my day and night. I wanted a breastfeeding charm to go into my origami owl locket and they didn’t have one. 3D modeling and 3D printing was something I had been interested in and this seemed a good testbed or good use case. I started learning the Free Software Blender and it took me about three months. I got my little breastfeeding model, which I uploaded to Shapeways because I didn’t have a 3D printer of my own. About a week later, I got that little charm in the mail. It fit perfectly in my locket. From that moment, I got absolutely hooked to 3D printing.
Our audience should know that you didn’t have a 3D printer when you started.
I got my first 3D printer in March. Before I even owned a 3D printer of my own, I had been giving gifts to my mom and to loved ones. I even won a White House contest for 3D printing and I got to go to the White House. I was able to do that without even owning a 3D printer.
The reality is, we could say this, it took you three months to design a charm, which is, in the terms, it’s about the size of a nickel or maybe a little smaller?
It’s easy. I probably could do it in five minutes now. Also, keep in mind at that time, I was working full-time and I had an infant and blender has a learning curve. I hope people out there aren’t too intimidated.
The point is that 3D design has a learning curve, even when you are software capable. You’re a software developer already. You have a lot of computer skills and it still takes time.3D design has a learning curve, even when you are software capable. Click To Tweet
Vicky, what printer did you end up buying?
I didn’t buy it. My husband and my mom joined together and they surprised me for my birthday. It’s a MakerGear M2. We ordered it pre-assembled. It worked great right out of the gate. It’s been treating me well.
Was it a kit?
No. You can buy it as a kit, but we bought it already pre-assembled.
It saves time. That White House ornament, I’m going to make sure we put that up on our posts as well because we’re coming up on the holidays, which is exactly why we wanted to talk with you. We’ve been having a little Twitter and email conversation about trying to promote designers and getting your shop up and running. One of the things that we talked about was maybe trying Etsy. My reason for suggesting it to you was because the breastfeeding charms probably fit the Etsy audience better. You started your shop, tell me how that went.
As a little bit of background, I decided to do a craft show at my town. They have a 46-year-old craft show and we were the first 3D printing booth to participate in it. With that, I thought, “I’ll put things up on Etsy.” If I happen to run out of something, I can refer people to someplace. You had mentioned Etsy and one thing that rang true with me was people who are looking for gifts and they’re not too familiar with 3D printing. They may not know to go to Shapeways.com and search for all these great products and these great designs out there. People think about Etsy and they especially think about Etsy for handmade and personalized gifts that have that something extra special to say.
I went ahead and put a few of my products up on Etsy. At that time, I was in crunch mode for the craft fair so I’m like, “I’m not even going to tell people that this Etsy stuff is up yet. I’m not going to tweet it. I’m in craft show mode.” I didn’t even tell my best girlfriends that the Etsy site was up. Thanks to the tags and the search capabilities, within a week I had my first Etsy order. It was some butterfly magnets. I shipped that out and the lady came back wanting a custom order. Almost immediately, I had enough to take my husband out for sushi. I didn’t even tweet, Facebook, or tell anybody about it. That was exciting.
That tells you a lot about the Etsy consumer, doesn’t it? If you’re not promoting your product at all, people on Etsy are shopping for certain types of things. It doesn’t matter how it’s made to that customer as much as what they’re looking for, isn’t that right?
Yeah, I would agree with that.
How did you tag because that’s important? Etsy has thirteen tags or something. How did you end up tagging?
For the butterflies and 3D printed birds, I would do, “It’s a Cardinal.” I’d put the scientific name in there for Cardinals, they’re state birds for Virginia and Ohio. They’re state birds for a number of states so I put in those different states as well. Birds, magnets and I filed it under housewares or home décor. They had a section for magnets specifically.
The categories are more expansive than Shapeways because they’re a little narrow right now.
They do have categories in Shapeways and they do have tags. It’s similar to setting it up, but the big thing is people go to Etsy to shop.
You have shoppable items. They’re appealing to women and the demographic on Etsy is female-oriented. Also, the other interesting thing is that state birds. That’s where you go to look for something that’s uniquely specific. You know that you could pretty much find bluebirds about anywhere on Amazon, but you may not find the exact bird you’re looking for. Yet there will be someone in Etsy who has it or who’s willing to do it. That’s always an interesting dynamic. Someone who already knows that what they’re looking for is different, specific and special, they know that there’s flexibility on Etsy to create that. If they see something that is some other bird and they like it, they pretty much know that shop owner is willing.
I have someone who wants a woodpecker. They’re waiting. That will be in 2016 that I’ll be putting the woodpecker up.
It’s an interesting model. You’re still having a lot of them made at Shapeways, right?
Most of the things have been selling at the craft fairs and on Etsy have been from the MakerGear M2. I haven’t quite listed many of my Shapeways products up on Etsy yet. That’s something I hope to get done in the future to get that visibility to those other shoppers.
There’s a material difference because some of the charms you’re having made in metal and other things like that?
Yes. I love the material options over Shapeways. For example, the Library of Congress ornament that I had in the White House, it’s nice in plastic but it looks special. It’s a big statement piece in the gold-plated steel. It looks nice. I’ve made myself some jewelry. When I was going to wean my youngest son, I figured I needed a new necklace and a new pendant other than my breastfeeding necklace. I made a pendant for myself that was hearts twisted in a double helix like a DNA. That was something else I got printed over at Shapeways in their plated metals. They print your model in wax and they cast it in metal. It looks nice as well.
There’s no reason you couldn’t put some of these other items up on Etsy and still have them printed in Shapeways and delivered to your customers. Isn’t that right?
That is correct. I am part of a Shapeways designer group and a number of them have Etsy shops and they have great success and it’s for their Shapeways products. They do report that they get a great deal of sales coming from Etsy.
Especially with mainstream consumers not understanding a lot about 3D printing and even if they’ve seen it on some of the TV shows on a CSI episode or Bones and other things like that. When they go looking for something, they don’t think about, “I want to buy a 3D printed object or product. I want the object I want.” It would seem to me that until Shapeways becomes a place that mainstream consumers might look for products or maybe even if they try to, Etsy is a better way to consumers looking for that special type of product. Non-3D converted that’s what we keep saying. It would seem to me that it makes perfect sense.
Do you know what I like, Vicky? The way that you’ve designed these things, they have a little science bent to them like when you were talking about your science names for your birds and your hearts are double helixes. You have a little science bent to it, which we understand is a decent size category. Math and science, it’s having gifts that are associated with people who have an interest in math and coding, science in general, or in art. To associate what has inspired you to create something or directed your creation a little bit and put that in your tagging and description helps to resonate with the same people who might find that interesting. You’re doing something great there. That’s similar to a discussion we have been having about one of our products. Do you know our crazy tie, right?
Yes. I saw that. You’ve been printing some to go up for sale. I’m keeping an eye on that.
We’re going to do a little Amazon test. Hopefully, it’s going to be finished and we’ll do it. We want to test and see what happens with organic sales. That’s what you were referring to when you said that you didn’t promote it. When you don’t promote it, it’s how much does the search criteria by searching within the store itself lead to sales? There are certain tools within Amazon so you can see how many people are searching on certain keywords and how many products are appearing or listed under those same keywords and find keywords that make sense. We’re finding that the science community, those are some search terms that a lot of people are looking for that may apply.
Especially as you head into the holidays. It’s like, “What do I buy my dad? My dad has a big interest in woodworking.” I think about that and I was like, “What would I buy my dad?” When you type it in, this is logical thinking, you type in, “Gifts for dad.” It might be what you type in but that’s broad. How do you narrow it down? Maybe the next word I might type would be woodworking or wood. That’s how people shop. That’s what their mindset is thinking. It’s logical to think math and science if that’s what your dad or whoever you’re buying for is interested in. We had a discussion and it’s an episode with Eric Ho, who also has a Shapeways shop. You might know him.
I do know Eric Ho.
He’s talking about his corgi community. It’s such a narrow niche community, but it’s got huge raving fans. They’re looking for that specifically. In your case, they may not realize that they’re looking for a breastfeeding charm but they know that this is important to them and they want to have something commemorative. They may not know to type in that specific term, but it’s a gift for mothers, new mothers. That is a logical thing for them to be searching for and all of a sudden it pops up and they’re like, “That’s the perfect gift.”
One thing that you made me think of is I did add a tag for ornithology for the birds so if someone’s looking for something for someone that’s got bird watching in their hobbies.
That is a huge hobby area. They’ve made movies about that. You know that Hollywood is not going to do that if it’s not a big area. It is one of the other big areas. I know that there’s a lot of these out there because I see them on Shapeways all the time. Eric has some bottle openers as well. People who are into wine and who have wine stoppers, which there are a lot of 3D printed ones out there. These are the things where wine soars. That’s a gift idea and area in which you might want to search on Etsy. I could see somebody doing that.
I do have a wine stopper up on Etsy and I tagged it with the most popular wines like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, red wines and others that I look for.
It shocked me on how many bottle openers Eric Ho had in his Shapeways shops. There’s a huge number of them. It shows you how many people are interested in buying those sorts of things and he keeps making them. They’re in design flavors that they want. In the case of Etsy, unlike the way you have to do it on Shapeways where you have to post up every single image, you almost don’t on Etsy. You can show your main one and say, “Look at all the variety.” You can do a drop list and select. They’re still going to search and show up in the search criteria, but you don’t have to have a separate listing for every single thing. It’s like a sub-listing.
It saves you money because you don’t have to pay extra listing fees over on Etsy because you have the variations. It’s one listing.3D print makers need to be specific with their outsources as to what is acceptable quality and what is not. Click To Tweet
It saves you a lot of time posting it up. Etsy had a lot more time to dial in some of those things. Weren’t there also some shipping advantages and options there? There are some options and things that make it convenient on Etsy that I found when we did our little shop as a test to see how it worked. We’re coming up on Black Friday and I’m curious, Vicky, are you Black Friday shopper?
No, we do a cookie decorating that we have people who have been coming to our house for decades and now they have children that come. We bake cookies and decorate cookies all day.
This is a question we get all the time, “Black Friday has such great deals.” We have been making a lot of mass retail products. I can tell you that I’ve never once been out on a Black Friday and I won’t do it because it’s not worth it. You have better deals in October and January than you do on Black Friday, but there are great deals to be had and it’s a great time to shop on Black Friday instead of waiting until Cyber Monday.
That’s a great day to do it. If you’ve got some time and you’re hanging out in the evening after Thanksgiving, it’s a great time to do your Cyber Monday shopping before the Cyber Monday sales in the shops where you’re going to buy something more unique. Where you’re going to buy something from Etsy, Shapeways or any place like that. That’s a great time to do it because there’s plenty of time for something custom still before Christmas if you’ve got a minor custom, not a major one. If you want a material difference or something like that, there’s time for that and also there’s a good time to relax and search.
One of your finalists for the Mentorship Contest had a good pitch on his Facebook page where he put out, “Holidays are coming up and you want to show people that you care. You can buy something that’s mass-produced in China or are you going to go with something customized and tailored for that person that’s printed here in the US?”
Good for him. Which finalist was it?
It’s Michael Williams.
That makes a lot of sense because of what he was working on. I hope he’s making progress. We’ll have to check in with him too. Thanks for letting us know. Vicky, what’s next for your shop and how you’re marketing yourself? Let’s talk about that.
I have an ambition. I want to start a YouTube channel. I’ve been watching some 3D printing YouTube channels and I dig them particularly the 3D Printing Nerd, which is Joel Telling. I love sharing knowledge. I love sharing what I’m doing. That’s something I want to try to tackle in 2016. I’ll use it as maybe a design diary, do some tutorials, and everything like that. One thing Joel Telling does in every video is he’s like, “Do you want this? It’s on Etsy.” It’s like little ads as it’s going. I have a lot more products that are not on Etsy. I have to have an Etsy workday to get things up and going so I’m ready for the holiday season.
That we haven’t mentioned yet. What is the name of your shop on Etsy?
I call it TGAW3D. You can find it at Etsy.com/shop/vickytgaw.
You’ve got to get it up because there are going to be a lot of shoppers out there looking for some unusual gifts. From what I’m hearing, there’s a lot of buzzing around in the media a little bit in the blogosphere that 2015 is the year for small business, cottage industries, artisans and shops. That’s the gifts for 2015. People are frustrated over whitelisting on Amazon. What I mean by that is Target has a big sale on Black Friday, someone goes in and buys all of it and sells it for twice as much money on Amazon. It’s out everywhere, you can’t get it. It’s frustrating and it makes Amazon shoppers angry.
We’re seeing a lot of that in the reviews and other things that are going on. They’re angry about Amazon not controlling that. It’s having a backlash on mass-produced items. We had that issue happen with our daughter in 2014. She wanted a Doc McStuffins mobile cart. I had it on Amazon but we got busy. I didn’t shop for it early enough. I did it before Cyber Monday, but it wasn’t early enough and it was gone. It was $75 for something that was $40 at Toys R Us before Thanksgiving. I was furious. I went everywhere. We went to every store I could find and random stores out in the middle of nowhere thinking maybe they didn’t get us traffic trying to find it because I wanted to refuse to pay that amount of money.
We ended up spending a lot more money and all that gas and time running around all these shops. I was going on principle. That thing is frustrating shoppers. I’m hearing a lot of people who are saying, “Not only have I shopped early for those things that I must have because my kids are demanding it, but I’m not doing that for the rest of my family.” We’re hearing a lot of people who are doing all charitable donations in the names of family members. We’re hearing a lot about buying specialized things off of Etsy. A lot of that is happening so I have high hopes for a good Etsy and Shapeways season.
I hope that you’re right. Do you have your printer running in the background?
You can hear it.
I switched rooms because I wasn’t sure if you wanted to hear my printer running.
We don’t mind at all. It’s always good. People like it. We’ve thought a lot about that. The reality is, our printer is running 24 hours a day for the most part. With our office setup, it is adjacent to our recording studio microphones. It’s related white noise to the podcast in the background and we haven’t had any complaints about it. People expect it. We’re running our angels for the holidays. We did our angel last time and it was a peace angel. This time, we’ve decided our theme is harmony. Our angel is a harmony angel. It’s not a completely new design. It’s a new message this time.
We’re putting it on Amazon as a test. We want to see how it does and we have a partner who handles all that listing and ranking stuff. We don’t have time to deal with that ourselves. Also, it becomes our go-to teacher gifts and things like that. We make mass-produced products for our day job and we still make an effort to give handmade or hand configured items for special gifts to teachers and other special people in our lives. We do that already and a lot of people respond to that and are liking that. If you look at Pinterest, it’s full of those items.
My child was telling me as I was dropping them off at daycare that he wants me to print stuff for his teachers. I told him, “Okay, we’ll do that for Christmas.”
You have to plan ahead because you get busy with orders and other things that you’d be like, “I’ve got to have enough.” We did it last time and we barely got it done. We’re planning on printing a lot earlier. Since it’s a year later, the quality of the same items we’re printing this time are better than before. We’ve dialed in those settings a little better and with time we all get better at doing this.
Not to be nerdy, but you mentioned that going to the 100% infill helped you with a stringing issue on the angels?
Yes, it did. I found it on the angel and our 3D printed Twist Tie the same thing. I re-sliced them. It was an experiment, honestly, trying different things. I was trying to make it so that it could come off the build plate and be done except for maybe removing a raft or something. It’s simple stuff that it took no post-processing. I’m pleased and I can honestly say at this time those two products absolutely come off the build plate and I don’t have to do anything else to them other than remove the raft.
Especially when you start to get busy in your shop, you’re going to find that having designed that in to begin with is helpful. That’s also a great way for you to be using Shapeways or other 3D print outsources as a backup. If you get too much business, you have many people out there who can help you grow and do it. It’s less profitable maybe for short-term, but it’s a short-term growth issue until you could maybe buy another machine and increase your capacity or whatever you need to do. You don’t have to turn down that business. You have a lot of resources.
We’re getting in crunch time for the craft shows. My husband and I were like, “We can find someone on 3D Hubs if we need to and get some extra prints done if we need to.”
You could find someone with your exact printer so the quality will come out the same. We’ve been looking at the exact same thing because we were preparing ahead. The Amazon thing with these first two products is a test. We’re not relying on this to make our living. If we sell a bunch, we want to be able to service those customers. We’ve also been preparing a secondary source besides our own printer to make those things for us as needed. We’re finding that the pricing we’re getting is acceptable and it works.
It’s not ideal in terms of making sure there’s enough profit margin overall, but it is for a short-term boost at a holiday time, which can happen that you get it. Let’s say you get a boost of press that you could all of a sudden get a surge of orders that you’ve got to fulfill and you can’t physically do it yourself. You don’t want to be laid on those and disappoint customers, especially at the holiday time when they need it delivered on time.
If you run into, God forbid, a machine maintenance problem, that’s going to take a while.
Fingers crossed on that one. We haven’t had that issue too often but we almost did last time. We learned a little bit because at one point, we needed a new extruder for our printer. We had gone through all that we had, and getting one in short order was tough because it was the weekend. We learned ahead and we’ve got 3 or 4 backups ready to go. Depending on what printer you have, for all those readers out there, you probably should make sure you have certain maintenance parts and things on hand so you don’t get in trouble. Also, a good source that’s available overnight at a minimum that can be a local source may cost you a little more than buying from an online source, but if you have someone in a crunch you could go to, that’s great help.
Vicky, one of the things I want to mention relative to what you were saying about a secondary source beyond our own capacity is to print things for our customers. We found that we need to be specific with our outsources as to what is acceptable quality and what is not. We provided samples that they can compare to that are indicative of the quality we expect, but also sharing with them all the settings and not so much, “You see this. Try to copy it.” What’s not acceptable sometimes is almost more important than what is acceptable because you’re showing them that in a sample. Some specifications and guidelines would go a long way to helping you get the results you expect if you end up going to 3D Hubs like that.
That’s a good tip. Thank you.
I strongly suggest testing it out ahead of time. We don’t have the capacity issue right now but we’re exploring it and we’re dialing it in before we have that problem because it can take some time to get those settings right. We have two different companies working on it to show us that they can do it.
It makes sense from a planning standpoint.
What do you think needs to happen in the 3D print community to help promote design and market it better? You’re a part of this designer group at Shapeways. Is this to help cross-market? Is that helping you?The future of 3D printing is in the hands of the great designers out there that have great value to offer. Click To Tweet
I don’t think the designer group is what you’ve mentioned on a previous show. It’s almost preaching to the choir. A lot of people will post, “This is my new dice.” “Look what I did with the porcelain material that’s stunning over Shapeways.” That’s great. I haven’t bought anything from other designers, but it helps foster my own creativity or helps me think of more innovations for my products and everything. One thing that has been helpful in the Shapeways design community is there’s a guy there, and his name is Ian Dwyer. He’s good at Reddit. He reaches out to people and he says, “If you have a product and you’re trying to figure out what subreddit to post it to, pitch it to me or put it on my Shapeways subreddit. I’ll give you advice so you’re not getting downvoted for being blatantly promoting and everything like that.”
Cooperation between other designers and marketers would be helpful. You’re onto something, the preaching to the choir part. How do we get it to tip mainstream? It’s a question we ask ourselves every day. How can we help get it out there that there are great designers out there that have great value to offer? The future of 3D printing is in the hands of those designers.
You should do craft shows because you are 3D printing but you’re an artist and you have designs. That’s what people are showing at craft shows. As an example, at the National Maker Faire in Washington, DC, there’s a group called We the Builders and they do crowdsourcing to build giant Benjamin Franklin’s. At that booth at the National Maker Faire, Todd Blatt had a bunch of 3D printed jewelry. His display there was comparable to anything that you would see at a craft fair. Just because we’re working with 3D printing, it doesn’t mean our designs should be limited to nerdy, geeky techno people. We should get them out there to the shoppers and one of those things is craft fairs.
It’s where shoppers are interested in the artisan style no matter what the material is, but they’re interested in that element of art and design that go into creating something.
If you want to talk about the opposite of preaching to the choir, I found the craft shows is a way to do that. I was lucky enough to have power at my first craft show. I had the 3D printer there printing and person after person came up and they’re like, “This is a 3D printer? I keep hearing about them on the news. I’ve never seen one.” At the end of the day, your product does need to speak for itself, but this is an exciting time for 3D printing and showing it to people and showing them what it can do.
To take 3D printing to where people don’t usually see it and don’t know it, you’re going to get a lot more attention to it, especially now. Probably more than you will even in future years as it becomes more commonly known to these younger generations that are getting into it. It’s like, “I had that in elementary school. Of course, I know it.” That’s not where we’re at now but I agree with you also, it’s another tool in your toolbox for creating something. Everything doesn’t have to be 3D printed in a product you might take to a craft fair, but let’s take advantage of it and use it in unique ways. That’s what we try to do with our designs. We want to make things that can’t be made with another process, but we can combine them with other things that are made in another process.
One other thing about the YouTube channel is, there are few 3D printing voices that are female. I do want to try it.
There are a couple of LinkedIn communities for women designers. I don’t know if you’re a part of LinkedIn. It’s for women 3D print designers. I’m finding it to be all those working in professional companies and not actual designers. I’m struggling out there too with getting a lot more community going. Maybe we need to start a group. We’ll have to talk about that.
I might be in that LinkedIn group. Is it that Jess Hedstrom?
The group is great but a lot of them are professionals. There are not a lot of artists. They’re women interested in 3D printing in general, which it’s great. It’s a great group. I love the conversations that go back and forth, but it’s not about design. There is a need for that.
One of the things I was thinking about is doing a little video series on how model quality can affect your final print. There are a lot of tutorial videos out there with actual printer maintenance. I wanted to link your modeling to the printing and the different things that you do on the modeling side that could affect the printing side.
Having a YouTube channel is a great future and it’s not ambitious, it’s achievable. You can do that. The quality of YouTube doesn’t have to be professional. We have a guy who does a fabulous job and he overdoes it for the quality that you can view on your cell phone. It’s almost too good because most people look at YouTube on their cellphone. If you’re filming it with your cell phone, it’s perfectly fine. A little bit of good editing to make sure that you get screenshots and other things in there. You can learn or you can hire out even on Fiverr and other places, but it’s one of those things where that it’s achievable in nowadays world for anyone.
It’s a smart idea to go into the YouTube channel for a couple of reasons. First of all, maybe most readers know this but in case you don’t, YouTube is the number two search engine on the internet next to Google. If you’re trying to promote yourself in any way, YouTube videos are a good way to do it. Even other social media outlets like Facebook are giving priority to videos posted in feeds to straight pictures and text posts. We might have said this before on a previous podcast, you probably remember Vicky. What we said was our experience with Facebook has been every time we post a video to Facebook, the entire 100% of our audience sees it. Every time we post a random image and post, about 13% of your audience sees it. Facebook is giving priority to videos. Facebook badly wants to compete with YouTube. They’re fighting for YouTube positions for video. It’s a great plan and it ties in great with your Facebook group and how you promote. Videos are even being embedded into Pinterest and Instagram so it’s going everywhere.
The other thing about embedding the Facebook videos is they do the autoplay with the silence and that could draw people in. I have a sister-in-law who had a video of her cat doing a pole dancing and it exploded on Facebook but when she posted the YouTube video on Facebook, you have to click play. It didn’t do as well as seeing the cat moving and say, “What is this?”
People start seeing the printer moving. That’s why we do a lot of time lapses because then you can see the whole print happen. You speed it up and you get to see that and people respond to it because they’re like, “I want to watch that video,” and you get a click-through.
Are you seeing a lot of people enjoy the time-lapse videos then?
I am. We are seeing probably that those are our most trafficked videos. Not only that, we showed it in the SoCal Maker Con. We had a setup to interview people at the show right there, but we also put up a television and ran a video compilation on a loop of a lot of our time-lapses and other things that we’ve done that are on some of our YouTube channels. The time-lapses stopped people in their tracks walking down the aisle. It drew them into our booth. They’re getting a lot of attention. When you go to one of these 3D printer shows, people are showing off their 3D printers but all you get to see is if you stand there long enough, you might see an eighth of an inch growth. You don’t see much. That’s a good tip with what you were saying about the craft shows, which is an excellent choice. In the craft shows, you want to go through and do if you don’t have power at least put up a laptop or a tablet with the time-lapse showing the machine running to compensate for the fact that you don’t have the machine because that will attract attention.
Another thing that is yelling out, “All these items are 3D printed.” I’ve seen that be effective as well. I see someone glance at the booth and they’re starting to walk by. These are the ones where I don’t have the printer with me and I’ll say, “All of these are 3D printed,” and they step back in and they’re like, “Really?” They end up buying something. This ties into in your episode where you’re talking to other small businesses or entrepreneurs. You’re like, “This is why you need to get into 3D printing.” You mentioned that 3D printing does get a lot of publicity and press so you can have something and throwing in 3D printing adds a little bit of attention. It may not last forever, but for now, it is something.
In fact, Forbes was interested in our 3D printing podcast and how we’ve used it to build an audience here with podcasting. We’ve got written up in an article in Forbes and it’s getting a ton of attention. Because 3D printing is a hot topic, it seemed a great one to profile. There are a lot of upcoming podcasts, but the one on 3D printing went quickly. It gets more attention. That’s a good point. When you do those boosts, even if you can’t shout it out, at least put it on your banner. That’s great. This was a real debate for us before going to the SoCal Maker Con. Me and one other person on our team saying, “We should have a 3D printer there and printing our 3D Twist Tie.” That thing takes 22 hours to print. How far is it going to get even if we started at the crack of dawn throughout that day? It wasn’t going to mean as much. The time-lapse video, they can see it all happened in 30 seconds.
I like that idea. I have things printed and I’m like, “Come back in an hour and you’ll see a little progress.”
The hard part about it. In a craft fair, like the ones we have here, it’s a big circle so you end up back at the beginning again and it takes about an hour. You would be able to tie it back in. Vicky, I’m glad you agreed to come to the show and talk with us about it. Your challenges are challenges that others are facing. Let’s keep in touch as we’ve been. If you find something that works, let us know and we’ll tweet it out. Maybe we’ll talk about it on the podcast again. It is a new world for everyone and if we can help each other learn, the whole 3D printing community is going to grow and it is going to tip into mainstream. That’s going to benefit all of us.
I’ve found your podcasts helpful. My background is in software development. I’m more technical like Tom. I don’t think about sales or business that much. That’s one thing listening to your podcasts for however that duration of the podcast is that’s a dedicated time where I’m thinking and brainstorming about my endeavors from a business perspective.
I’m glad you’re finding it rewarding. It’s rewarding for us as well because we get readers like you who give us feedback. It’s rewarding for me too because when I start talking about a technical thing here, Tracy’s eyes glaze over. There’s somebody out there going, “Yes, I understand that.”
I do find the technical parts interesting.
We’ve been hearing that so we’ve committed one day a week to do some more advanced and technical discussions. That is in our future. Thanks again, Vicky. We appreciate it and let’s keep in touch.
Thank you. Have a great day.
It was a lot of fun to be able to talk to Vicky. We’ve conversed so much over Twitter.
It jumped around a little our normal conversations, which is the way we talk when we’re with friends, other colleagues, and everything so that’s nice.
It’s real. She’s a real person out there doing it on the side of her job and figuring out how to reach people.
How to make things that are relevant?
She’s trying to step out of the world of the 3D converted already and how she’s going to reach real people and trying different things and having some success.
Not that 3D printing people are not real. They’re mass consumers who don’t know 3D printing yet.
One of the things that I wanted to touch on that was talked about in the interview, you were saying that this year, 2015, more people are looking for more unique things to shop for and things people might be shopping for on Etsy and all that. While I don’t disagree with you, there’s a general consumer trend as the Millennials are aging. Let’s take, for instance, my brother and his wife who are a bit younger than we are. We’re Gen Xers. He’s definitely on the early side of the Millennials. His wife is much an Etsy shopper and so is he. These younger generations who have grown up with smartphones from the time they got a phone and they got them at earlier ages than the rest of us, they’re comfortable buying things online. A lot of times, they think of going to Pinterest and Etsy looking for gift ideas or gifts to buy first before they would go out and shop at Target, Amazon, or anything like that. They seem to be doing that more.
We’re talking about Laura. Laura has written a blog post for us on 3D printed wedding items because she’s a wedding planner and a fantastic one in the LA area. She looked it over and she was like, “3D printing for weddings, I don’t think it’s going to be any good.” The more she looked at it, the more she was like, “There’s great potential here,” because a wedding is a specialized interest. You want something personal and something that’s there.Facebook is giving priority to videos because it badly wants to compete with YouTube. Click To Tweet
You want something that’s yours and it’s unique.
It doesn’t have to be plastic as she discovered. I asked her to research the article and find some items out there and propose some to her. It is illogical for her generation to go in there and say, “I want something 3D printed.” It’s illogical for any shopper, but it’s not illogical to want something special and unique. Where do you go to find something unique? You don’t go to Amazon. You go to Pinterest, Etsy, a boutique, you go to a craft fair and these other places.
That’s what I was going to say. Vicky Somma was right and was right on to explore craft fairs and 3D printing is a new thing there so she gets a lot of attention.
We should broaden it to say that craft fairs for our generation and maybe our parents’ generation has a negative connotation. You start to picture these ‘70s and ‘80s craft fairs that are harvest festivals and macramé plant hangers. Craft fairs are not like that nowadays.
I remember growing up with my mom doing these decoupage wine bottle lamps or big glass jug lamps. I don’t ever want to see another one of those. I’m sorry, mom.
My mom participated in some and I mentioned this in my talk at SoCal Maker Con. My mom did these beautiful corn husk dolls and grapevine baskets because she’s a real artist.
She did more high-quality stuff. It was more art than craft in my opinion.
She found more high-end harvest festivals and craft fairs for her and those things exist nowadays. There are a lot of places that do artisan cheeses in their fairs. It’s a perfect companion to have these there because you have the right type of shopper there. You have someone who’s coming in who doesn’t care about spending. What is that avocado oil that you go to the local farmer’s market for?
It’s my go-to thing for cooking on several levels.
It’s an expensive bottle of avocado oil.
It’s $15 or $20 for a bottle, but it lasts quite a while.
We can buy two big gigantic jugs at Costco of olive oil for the same price and maybe even less but it’s worth it. That’s that shopper mindset though where they’re thinking that they want something of quality, something with an artisan background to it and something with a story. That’s one of the tips that I gave in my talk. You’re not selling a what, you’re not selling a 3D printed item. You’re selling the story. Her story of the origami locket and wanting a personal breastfeeding item for it, maybe what you want out there isn’t that. Maybe I want one with me and three daughters and I want something like that.
It doesn’t matter what it is but the idea of the story about how she created it gets in your mind that you can have what you want and Vicky can do it for you. That’s the story you want to communicate in your descriptions in what you’re posting out there, what you’re putting up, and what your shop is all about. That’s what that community thinks about. They want to know how the cheese is made, how it’s sourced, how local it is, and how far it has traveled. That story behind that is the same story you have. You have to tell it.
It makes it more special. People want to hear your story.
Is 3D printing a part of that? Yes, but it’s not the thing.
3D printing gets people’s attention fast. It gets you exposure. It gets immediate attention. We all have to be taking advantage of that now but in the long run, that isn’t the point. I don’t know how it is in other parts of the country but here in California, our weekly farmers market has a lot of crafters there also. It’s a half craft fair and half farmers market that happens every week. There are a lot of opportunities to take products out to places and get exposure even from people that wouldn’t have thought to go to a craft fair, but are going for the organic food or the farmers’ market aspect. They’re going to see it.
They’re the right demographic and psychographic profile of the type of shopper that you want to attract so that’s where it is. If you’re doing something that’s much more techie, math and science, we see a lot of them. They’re the ones that use the algorithm to create earrings and all of those things. Maybe you want to go to something that’s more oriented to that something more STEM-oriented and that makes a lot of sense. You’ve got to find your audience and know who you’re talking to. Who is your customer and where are they frequenting?
Where are you likely to find them?
That’s what it’s all about. This holiday season, we all need to start sitting back and thinking, “Something special is out there.” It’s not more expensive. It’s a little more time consuming to find. The more and more you go to the right place to find it, the easier it is.
To me, what’s going to change for the better is when it’s not more time consuming to find. When a lot more of the existing eTailers out there, for instance, and maybe even brick and mortar retailers over the next couple of years change to allow you to find these types of things through them. Where more of the mass consumer is not 3D print converted shop.
We hear that. Amazon is being rumored that they’re going for an Etsy competition with artisans. My experience is that I don’t know if they’re going to be able to pull it off at this point because they already dumped their 3D printing shop and that was a perfect model for it already. We’ll see what happens there. They’ve never been good at highlighting designers or brands because the brand is Amazon so we’ll see about that. If they can pull it off, then it’s going to force Target, Staples, Walmart, and all these places to find a way to supplement their offering with this.
They’re all struggling for how to remain relevant when retail shopping is declining in favor of online shopping. They’ve got to find ways to be relevant and bring people into their store. This is one way.
We’ll have some photos of some of the things that are up in her shop. You’re going to be able to find that in different places. I’m sure you’ve been reading but in case you’re new and this is your first podcast, it’s at 3DStartPoint.com
The podcast is right there. There’s a link right from the homepage. If you prefer, you can go to WTFFFPodcast.com. It’s there.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this one. We hope you’ve had a great Thanksgiving and enjoy your turkey with your family.
We’d love to hear about your holiday wins. If you find something cool or if something you put up there because you’re a shop owner has gone on, gone viral, or gone great and done great sales, please send us a message about it. We’d love to mention that on a future podcast.
Thanks for reading, everybody.
- Vicky Somma
- Free Software Blender
- Eric Ho – Previous Episode
- Michael Williams – LinkedIn
- YouTube channel – Vicky Somma Channel
- 3D Printing Nerd
- 3D Hubs
- Ian Dwyer – LinkedIn
- National Maker Faire
- We the Builders
- Todd Blatt
- Article – Forbes Article
- YouTube channel – Tom and Tracy Hazzard Channel
- @HazzDesign – Instagram
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