Crooked Fence Gifts

Crooked Fence Gifts focuses on new trends in Jewelry, Home decor, Wedding, One of A kind Vintage & Holiday decor. We strive to create gifts from our own designs and to use Vintage and USA Items as often as possible.

Shop local and support your community of businesses big and small. Shopping in your own neighborhood is the most direct way you can support the area where you live.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Beware of Shopping at Dollar Stores !

It is easy to forget about product quality when times are tough and we all need to save money. Not always the safe way to go. I ran across a video on about the dollar stores and what is safe to buy there and what isn't. I cant believe they are just talking about this now. I noticed years ago and wanted to take it a step farther on something they didn't address.
You can visit to see the video. See more at
They talk about the products they carry that are "knock - offs" of other products. They look the same, but aren't. They are products that are made in other countries with their standards, not ours. They don't go through FDA or any other agency here in our country. The FDA found the tooth pastes to be hazardous, and this toothpaste is still for sale in some of the stores. They suggest that ANY item you might stick in your mouth or put on your body, you should not buy unless it is a name brand. This list includes: Food items, Medicines, Toothpaste, make up, creams, soap, etc.. They also noted that cleaning products that cost less at the dollar store are diluted versions of the products.
Also they mentioned Christmas lights and extension cords. Basically any electrical items. And besides you can find lights at most retail outlets on sale throughout the holiday season. Most important the UL code on products need to be on the lights themselves not just the box. And the code needs to be in a circle.
Also, batteries, they wont last, they may leak.
Lastly: Toys and dollar store jewelry: millions of items have been recalled because of  LEAD content and choking hazards. Please beware when purchasing items for your children.

My issue with the dollar store besides all of the above.

When the dollar stores came along everyone thought it was a fine idea. I have been making and selling my own products for the better part of twenty years now. As the dollar stores came out and became more and more prevalent, the craft malls and stores where you could buy handmade goods became less and less. I know that people need to save money and that it probably seems like you are getting a lot more for your money when you buy ten items for ten dollars at a dollar store and only one item for ten dollars in a shop that offers handmade goods. But, what about quality ? How long do the dollar store items really last ? Better yet, what are they made out of ? Lastly, where do they come from ?
Like it or not, the more we buy local the better our country will be. If we keep buying imported items, we wont have any local manufactures available.
With the way our economy has been going we need to buy local to keep more jobs available here. If there isn't a demand for products that are made here, there wont be companies here making them.
You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find some items available in the USA. So many companies have closed down that used to manufacture items.
I believe things come and go and this will turn around. That is why I am persistent in my business venture even in this economy.
Good luck to all the businesses out there trying to make a go of it ! And good luck to all of the people who continue to pursue making handmade goods.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Crooked Fence Gifts: Crooked Fence Gifts: Crooked Fence Gifts

Crooked Fence Gifts: Crooked Fence Gifts: Crooked Fence Gifts: "Crooked Fence Gifts: Crooked Fence Gifts: 'Fall is here and there is a chill in the air. Small business everywhere are excited and looking f..."

Crooked Fence Gifts: Just Do It

Crooked Fence Gifts: Just Do It: "As a young girl I began making crafts and jewelry out of discarded items I would receive as payment for odd jobs in our neighborhood. As a ..."

Crooked Fence Gifts: Times are Tough - Make it work !

Crooked Fence Gifts: Times are Tough - Make it work !: "Times are Tough. Make it work ! Having trouble with your business ? If you aren't on the web, these days it is a must. But, there are a lot ..."

Crooked Fence Gifts: Crooked Fence Online Boutique

Crooked Fence Gifts: Crooked Fence Online Boutique: "Building a website can be fun and at the same time it can be very frustrating. There are several ways to go about it. The main thing is to p..."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Crooked Fence Gifts: Crooked Fence Gifts

Crooked Fence Gifts: Crooked Fence Gifts: "Fall is here and there is a chill in the air. Small business everywhere are excited and looking forward to an upswing in Holiday sales. Even..."

Crooked Fence Gifts

Fall is here and there is a chill in the air. Small business everywhere are excited and looking forward to an upswing in Holiday sales. Even though a lot of us are struggling to be or stay in business we still have to put our best self forward. I know it is hard but think positive and keep setting goals for yourself, your place of business and your life.
Most of all beware of phony Internet scams and phony orders. I recently had an experience that was a real eye opener. When times are tough we need business and most of us are prepared to do just about anything to get it. Well be careful when it comes to sales that seem to be too good to be true.
I hate to say it, but if it seems too good to be true, that is probably because it is.

I am fairly optimistic and it has been brought to my attention that I am a bit of a risk taker. So, when I received an email asking about my gift baskets from a company that appeared to be from California. I was excited. I was thinking this is just what I need to put a cap on my first year in business and take me to the next level.
I checked out the website and it was legitimate. This made me very happy. Several emails went back and forth with my contact at this company and all appears to be going well. He (I think it was a he) is very pleasant, professional and easy to work with. I always thought Martha Stewart would be the first one to contact me... (see my stuff online and put me to work, HEY ! you never know !) Anyways, it wasn't Martha but I was so excited. I have been thinking about how to go about getting just this kind of sale. I make my own gift baskets. I shop for the components and put them together myself. So, I can tell you exactly what is in them and where the items come from. In my secret heart of hearts I know that someday this will matter to someone. SO, I get an email with a possible order for 97 of the same basket. I hadn't thought of this. I was thinking 8-10 of a few different baskets. I haven't sold 97 of anything to the same person. So, I get to work ! I contact all of my vendors and find out that I cannot get most of the components for the basket. I am nervous. Back up plan into effect: I put together a few other possibilities in different color schemes for the same price Phew ! I hope he goes for it. He does ! Am I lucky or what ?
Or What.... we will get to that later.
So, moving right along suddenly I realize that I have no idea how to ship this many items and am scared to death. I contact him again (thinking o.k. Vicky this time he is going to cancel) and let him know that I have never shipped this large of an order and will have to have all of the particulars in order to avoid an error. And I figure now is the time to break it down: I also need half of the money up front and the other half before the order ships and by the way how will you be paying ? Because I will need to verify your payment.
He is so helpful. He emails me a contact that will actually come and pack the items and ship them. So, I contact them, they also appear to be very professional. Except for one thing; when I get the quote back it is for $2800.00 to Ghana ? Where the heck is Ghana ? I'm a city girl and little bit of a ding dong, I'm thinking it might still be in California ! But, I do start to get suspicious....
I call my bank first and ask them have they heard about this sort of thing ? Not really by my description. How are they paying ? I tell them by Credit Card. She tells me most of the scams she has heard of are by Cashiers Check. My hackles are still up.... She thinks Ghana is somewhere near Russia...
I call the local city center and get kind of the same thing. They haven't heard of anything, and small businesses need to take risks to get ahead. She tells me that some companies order items like this to donate. By this time my radar is going off big time and as my husband can attest once it does Good Luck getting it off.
I call the Attorney General, and end up talking to various other agencies. They are not so sure, I should try talking to the person on the phone and see what I think. I am thinking this could put me out of business and anyone can be anything over the phone. That isn't going to cut it.
I am thinking this order is looking good but my intuition is in knots.
I made a last ditch effort and got on my computer and put in "basket scams Ghana" or something like that. And there it was entry after entry of all kinds of scams. What I learned by these listings is this: even if you really need the sale don't ever take a credit card over the phone unless you already know the client. If you do YOU are liable. And many businesses have lost thousands of dollars from doing this.
There is no shipping company. It is the same people that contacted you in the first place. So if you did a transaction like this you would be out the entire amount plus whatever you put out for the inventory. One business man said the first two transactions were legit and then they got him with a big order. I am guessing that the poor people whose credit cards were used, never noticed so it was never reported. So, the transaction never came back to the bank.
It is the holiday season ! We should be having fun decorating our websites, shops and fan pages. So add this to your "arsenal" and don't do it ! Check into it. If it still sounds fishy, keep checking. If you cant verify information let it go and look forward to that big sale, it will come if you are smart and still in business ! It cant come if you aren't. And anyways I really wanted Martha to be my first big contact anyways....

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Crooked Fence Online Boutique

Building a website can be fun and at the same time it can be very frustrating. There are several ways to go about it. The main thing is to pick a way and get started. Make sure you pick a program or hosting company that has very good tech support. Are they available everyday ? or just during the week ? And dont' forget to print out your users manual (mine was 400 pages or so, so I double sided it) so you can look in your manual WHILE you are working on your website (This was very helpful for me). I use Yahoo web hosting and you can get started on a very small budget. They have several plans depending on what you want to do and they have a good point and click program that is easy to use. The charges are monthly, what more could you ask for ?
The great part about having a website is having a store that anyone can find. Your store is floating in space and anyone can go there at any time.
The downside is that there are so many websites out there that yours might be hard for people to find. But nothing worth while is easy. One thing at a time. Rome wasn't built in a day, and unless you are only offering a few items your website wont be either. If you are offering a LOT of different kinds of items like me, you will want to be hands on. You will need to learn how to take a good picture (I am working on this all the time) EBay has some very good how to help. You will also need to look at other websites to get an idea of the information you will need to provide to your audience or customers. Try to be precise: What size is it, what is it made out of, and by who, how many colors, is it a custom item ? so on.
A very important factor will be your website name. Try to pick something either related to what you are selling or something catchy. Don't use hyphens or any other punctuations. It needs to be something easy for your customers to remember. My first website had a hyphen... whoops ! After I realized what I had done, I also found out that once you put a website up you cant just change the name of it, so I had to do it all over....  I am no pro by any means. I am sharing my experiences so that hopefully it will help other people avoid some of the obstacles I came across.
If you like doing everything yourself and want to be able to update your website ANYTIME you want to, I suggest you do it yourself. If you don't want to do it, then pay someone to do it for you. Keep in mind that every time you need to make a change you will need to go to this person and ask them to do it.
I make changes on mine daily.
After having a website for 3 years I have learned a little. But there is so much more to learn. I sell all kinds of different items on my site, so it works for me to do it myself. And I LOVE  a challenge ! So there.
The hard part is getting sales. That is a whole other can of worms.
One helpful avenue is "dummy" books. I love dummy books and you can easily order them at I am learning more about pay-per-click advertising and search marketing and search engine optimization. But slowly otherwise for me it wont sink in.
I don't know what I would do without Face book, EBay, Twitter and Most of my items are handmade. Etsy is a great place to sell handmade creations and it is well known.
Every positive step you take will lead you to your dreams. We'll talk a little about advertising on the web next time it's a doozie !
You are Not Alone ! Do what makes your heart happy !

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Times are Tough - Make it work !

Times are Tough. Make it work ! Having trouble with your business ? If you aren't on the web, these days it is a must. But, there are a lot of marketing tools available to you for little money. You might need a lot of nerve though !
I don't have a big budget for advertising for my business. I do advertise when I am able. I use search marketing on Yahoo small business, I use twitter and face book. I even do print advertising when I can.
What do you do when you cant afford those either even though they are all available to us at just about any budget ?
Get out and pound the pavement. I truly believe any strive in a positive direction is better than none at all. I go out in my town a few times a month, each time to a different area. I have focused on businesses so far.
Most towns have ordinances so call your town center first. But, I go out and go door to door and introduce myself and ask each store if I can leave a few business cards or post cards with them and also offer to bring some of their marketing materials to my store.
This is good for several reasons. One of them is that talking to people takes practice for some of us. Going out and talking to people that you don't know is a good start. Going door to door will also give you a chance to meet your neighbors and see how their business looks and what they offer. This way when someone comes in to your store and asks you where the local "radio shack" is, you will be able to tell them and hopefully your new neighbors will help potential customers find you as well.
Something else I do is send out post cards. I go through the phone book or research online for businesses in my area and I send out postcards announcing my shop and what I do. I send as many as I can afford to send.
The main thing is to get your name out. EVERYDAY someone comes in my store and says "I didn't know you were here". Every time I hear this, I try harder. Ad another sandwich board to your storefront. Do everything you can to make your business visible to potential customers ! Any work in the direction of making your business better is good work ! Good luck and have fun !

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Look Out Spring

Times are tough all over. There is a lot you can do to save money and time. How about a garden ? Even a small one or just a few containers on your porch. You can start small. Most garden centers or nurseries carry everything you'll need to get started.
You can be adventurous and start from SCRATCH, or you can get "starts" and play it safe. If you start from scratch you can use seeds and watch your plants grow from almost microscopic size all the way up to fruition. The difficult part of this is transferring the plant as it grows. You might want to start with a big container, so you wont have to transfer it so many times before it finally makes it into your garden. If you decide to go with "starts" (a lot of people do this, even seasoned gardeners use starts for finicky plants) you have the advantage of someone else doing a lot of the work for you.
But: Don't do what I did the first time.... I started about 100 plants in my kitchen (which isn't very big) and it was messy, and they were too early, so I had to start them AGAIN ! I'm in Washington and it is cold here and can freeze up into April sometimes. It did last year.
It was a learning experience and thank goodness seeds don't cost very much. I used mostly middle of the road (not too cheap or expensive) seeds and did just fine. I cheated on my tomatoes. A good freind of mine does all organic gardening, so I got my tomato starts from her. We had more tomatoes than we could eat.
Your garden may not come out right the first time. Big Deal ! Try and try again. I used a lot of the things I grew for my business. I did flowers and sold starts and small containers and even dried some. I also have begun to sell seeds I harvest from my garden. It was really nice to take a bag of vegetables to freinds who didn't have a garden also. If you haven't had fresh from the garden tomatoes, you have to try. They taste nothing like the store or street side market type. Delicious, Fresh and Healthy ! Not to mention saving money all summer. Make sure you check out your zone, and always follow directions on the seed packets. They are not all the same, and different vegetables start at different times.
Good luck ! Until next time ! Follow your heart !

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Just Do It

As a young girl I began making crafts and jewelry out of discarded items I would receive as payment for odd jobs in our neighborhood. As a teen eventually as money would allow began to purchase new supplies to make my own designs.

Creating is a form of expression and is good for your soul. You are not going to "Love" every item you create. Maybe no one will. Who cares ?

You create because there is a drive in you to do so.

Into my twenties I began to sell my creations to small independent boutiques and at flea markets. Eventually into my thirties, began a website, started my own "markets" with other vendors through trial and error.

I always wanted my own little shop. I found it in Enumclaw, Washington. Just big enough for me, and at the worst time of the year. Right AFTER Christmas. But, it was a Great location and a Great price so... I put the pedal to the metal.

To borrow a phrase from Tim Gunn: "It's make it work time".

There are many things that have driven me, encouraged me and helped me to get to here. One of them is my other favorite quote by Michael Jordan: "Just Do It", short, sweet, true and to the point.

No matter how long it takes, no matter what it took to get there, if you just keep going you'll get there. Even if you have to start over everyday.

So, do what makes you happy, and do it a lot because there will be sun...