High end crafts/artisan goods to sell
May 13, 2019 4:57 AM   Subscribe

I am temporarily living in a tiny, not very wealthy to say the least - community with a fairly new, very, very high end golf course along the ocean. I believe it's only growing in popularity by the year. Famous, wealthy people from the US and beyond come here to golf. I need money quite badly and have the smarts to make most things - not carpentry - to sell, can possibly even get them into the gift shops. Ideas please?

I have a vinyl cutting machine. I can make decals, monogrammed cutting boards etched with a heat pen, probably any pyrographic thing, etched glass stuff, possibly alcohol ink paintings, embroidery... I can learn to do anything. I suck at knitting and I don't have a heat press to make reliably good t-shirts. I am very resourceful. Any income stream I can produce would be awesome. I am on disability and have kids to look after so taking an official job is not on the table. Looking for ideas, please? I have yet to suss out the market to see what may be lacking, but will do so very soon. Golf season is starting and the tourists will be coming. Thanks!
posted by kitcat to Work & Money (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've seen people selling stuff to tourists near the cruise ship docks in Portland, Maine. Simple wire wrapped rocks attached to driftwood, like these items on Etsy.

You could also etch the name of the place onto the driftwood.

If you practice, you can also make little golfing figures out of wire, attaching them to driftwood.

You can get wire cheaply at a hardware store, as opposed to a craft store.

I've seen cheap bags of shells at dollar stores, and you can wire wrap those or glue them together to make little animals, with googly eyes, like these.

Also, have seen people decorate picture frames with shells glued on, think beachy themes.

The most important thing is where will you be able to sell your items? Out of your home (check local laws), or do you need to get a booth somewhere, which might cost money and have to get a vendor's license? In my past experience, selling via commission at a local store is kind of a pain, as you don't get paid right away, and are dependent on the store to showcase your items and keep a tally of things, plus they take a cut. There might be a cheaper alternative, a flea market, where you could rent a booth and put your items there.

Pick one thing, a theme, and develop one item before you diversify too much. Then add on other items later, as time goes on and people get to know you. I've done craft selling and one of my first mistakes was to make 10-15 different items, each one needed a label, supplies, etc. I also rented a booth that was too expensive, whereas another one, which was smaller and more local, was not that much, so anything I sold was almost instant profit.

Good luck!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:31 AM on May 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Luckily in small communities like this rules are pretty relaxed, although the golf course would undoubtedly not let me sell on their property. Maybe I could set up on the beach. Also, I am not exactly a local but I have plenty of roots here and connections.
posted by kitcat at 5:53 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

My 9 year old granddaughter has decided she wants to sell potholders, like the ones you make with this kit, at the local Farmer's Market. In addition to regular potholders she sews some of them together to make pocketbooks. We're hoping that the market will waive the usual fee and allow her and other kids to sell things they make. So, if your kids are old enough, maybe they could get into something like that.

How about grocery-size bags with some local theme and the name of the town?

Seashell earrings and elastic bracelets? Wander around Etsy for inspiration.

Silk scarves painted with local scenes?

Good luck!
posted by mareli at 5:53 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

From your list I think etched glass mementoes, especially with something local or a sunset would be good. Maybe homemade soap or lotion for the gift store? Again, something relatively local - a seaweed soap or a golfer’s relief lotion or balm for sore muscles. Half of it looking fancy is having the packaging be perfect.
posted by five_cents at 6:15 AM on May 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

Picking up on Marie Mon Dieu's comments, it's not just your local community's rules - be sure to check your state's rules for a getting business license, collecting and reporting sales taxes, etc. You'll also want to get some kind of electronic payment device (Square or Paypal swiper), as in my experience people will spend more with a card than with cash.

I'd also caution, as someone who jumped into craft selling with visions of a steady second-income stream and has yet to turn anything resembling a profit, that your margins will be slim on small-dollar items and you might not generate the volume of sales you need, no matter how great the wealth of your potential customers. If you have any artistic talent, I would focus more on art than craft - my experience has been that people will pay much more for something they perceive as art vs. something just "homemade."
posted by Sweetie Darling at 6:19 AM on May 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

Great ideas - can I specify though that I'm assuming the golf tourists are mostly men and that's my market?
posted by kitcat at 6:21 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is there anything that you could sell as kind of point-of-need items? When you said you could sell on the beach I pictured maybe embroidered sun hats like this, except either with the name of the place or some other cute beachy saying.

And I’ll also say that in rich beachy places I’ve been, there’s always a lot of busy stores selling ~coastal~ home accessories for people’s vacation rentals. So things like picture frames with shells are a great idea, or aprons or pillows with beachy embroidery, or maybe glasses or a cutting board with the name of the place are great ideas.

(On preview—maybe golf hats, or whiskey tumblers, or things they might want to pick up as souvenirs for their kids or wife?)
posted by stellaluna at 6:30 AM on May 13, 2019

I would say metal insulated tumblers (Yeti or the like) with something local on them? Those are still really popular where I am with men and women, and you can put the permanent vinyl on them to make some hyper local designs.

Other than that, maybe leather keychains?
posted by itsamermaid at 6:52 AM on May 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

As someone who has spent a good deal of time around golf courses, although not by choice: golf puns. Especially if they are a little suggestive or could be used to give your golf buddy a hard time. Now put those puns on something, something 'masculine'. The pyrography could be useful.
(source: father was a golf course superintendent)
posted by wellifyouinsist at 6:54 AM on May 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

The fancy gift shops near me (suburb of Boston which is pretty wealth-adjacent, if not considered pretty high-falutin' by most), alcohol ink paintings by local artists are all over, so if your local gift shop has artist-based art (instead of selling, say, more souvenir-style stuff), I'd say that's a way to go. And the drip-style paintings can be done fairly quickly, as it's a technique that's a bit more free-flowing, which may be good for your bottom line.
posted by xingcat at 6:57 AM on May 13, 2019

Men might be buying the stuff but if they're on vacation, they might be looking for something to bring back to a wife or girlfriend so you might want to experiment with a range of products and see what sells the best.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:20 AM on May 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

Golf-related knicknacks that combine the place name with beachy graphics? Like, club covers maybe? Iron-on patches for golf bags?

Or beach knicknacks but with golf-related slogans or graphics. And, again, the place-name.

I think things you can customize on the spot, often with a name or an image, are usually popular with tourists as it adds a bit of special feeling.

Photo backdrop with cutouts?

If the town is small enough, you might consider selling marked up conveniences, sundries and necessaries (although that might not make store owners happy) -- beach towels, chilled water bottles, packaged snacks, sunblock, phone cables, precharged USB battery packs, whatever people regularly ask for.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:36 AM on May 13, 2019

Topographic maps made out of laser-cut wood seem to be the hot souvenir whenever I go to a rich-person destination.
posted by whitewall at 9:10 AM on May 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

Hand painted scarves for the wives, hand painted t-shirt? Mugs with funny golf or beach sayings. Hand painted postcards.
posted by Enid Lareg at 10:14 AM on May 13, 2019

Topographic maps of individual holes on the golf course will sell. Sand the corners and either use a variety of woods or paint with acrylics.

Your described market is going to want polish. Unfortunately, that often translates to higher startup costs. Think silk painted scarves over tshirts. I would go visit every gift shop and gallery and study what’s there. If you aren’t on the art side of the divide, focus on items for Airbnbs and second homes. Accoutrements for drinking are super big for that kind of market. Etched wine glasses and highball glasses - golfing puns and beach puns. If second homes are going in - driftwood and beach glass sun catchers.

Also, where there’s a high end golf course there are probably spas. Find out if they have gift shops. Insanely simple bracelets with high end packaging are big. But again - the quality of the materials you put in is going to have to be high. Also check out the fancy restaurants. They sometimes have small displays of local art for sale.

The wealthy tourist loves something a little kitschy, but it has to be executed perfectly. (But not so perfectly it looks machine made!) So, find something you won’t mind obsessing over the details of. They want the performance of passion in an item. So either figure out how to fake it or find something you are actually passionate about.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:15 AM on May 13, 2019 [8 favorites]

Macrame plant hangers are very easy to make and trendy, I use cheap varnished pale wooden beads from the dollar store and a shiny white polyester cord instead of something more natural, and instead of plant pots I usually get interesting highball glasses from the thrift store and plant succulents in them. (bonus points for a metallic rim on the highball glasses). They have ended up looking very posh!

I have a kinkajou bottle cutter which is very easy to use, and pretty coloured wine or alcohol bottles are free from friends/restaurants if you ask them to keep them for you. You could cut and then glass etch the bottles (the topographical map of the golf hole sounded cool), and use them for either poured soy/beeswax candles (I'd go for a manly scent like whiskey/tobacco or something for a golf course) or package 2 together as drinking tumblers? (maybe with an addition of whiskey stones or those frozen reusable icecubes or something?)

Another option with cut wine bottles is to make self-wicking plant pots packaged with herb seeds. Here is a similar DIY

natural local botanical dyed silk scarves would also be nice.. lots of info out there about which local plants you could use to print or dye silk.
posted by euphoria066 at 10:58 AM on May 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Etched glass sounds like it has potential, either for a souvenir or as the supplier of tournament trophies.

I agree that a gift to bring home for female partners -- e.g., bracelets -- and the topo map ideas could be good.

I feel like the number one thing I've bought on vacation is sweatshirts for those surprisingly cold evenings and rainy days.

The questions about distribution and inventory costs, and the point that "people will pay much more for something they perceive as art vs. something just 'homemade'" are good ones. Art photo prints of iconic scenes printed on demand and sold online?
posted by salvia at 11:31 AM on May 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Men might be buying the stuff but if they're on vacation

Seconding this. And... the men playing golf might not actually buy golf-related crafts/art... Their partners/relatives are probably gifting them many things already. So - nice things that their partners/kids can enjoy would be a good idea...

"He (she) went golfing, and all I got was this 'X' !"
posted by jkaczor at 12:17 PM on May 13, 2019

I think the easiest thing to try will be wood-burnt and etched glass renditions of corny golf jokes/puns/addages etc. Things like "the easiest shot is the fourth putt!" accompanied by a little sketch of a golf ball or a hapless golfer cartoon. Just google image search for classic one/two liners and appropriate art. Low effort/time/materials to try it out, and may be an online market for it too.

Also: talk to any actual high-end golf enthusiasts you know, or ask on a forum where people who go on golfing vacations hang out. I don't do that, and skimming the answers above, I suspect most of them don't either ;)
posted by SaltySalticid at 12:22 PM on May 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Luggage tags with golf themes would not only be good souvenirs, they'd also be useful. The airlines destroy a lot of them. And they'd be easy to make, if you can handle thick vinyl.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 4:11 PM on May 13, 2019

Those maps are incredible! There is no way I can afford a laser cutter but if I can find a scroll saw that might work!
posted by kitcat at 4:44 AM on May 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think a topomap would look great in burnt wood or etched glass, personally. The 3D stacks are cool and all, but that’s not necessary.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:25 AM on May 14, 2019

Here's an article on shell jewelry, "this summer's hottest fashion accessory."
posted by mareli at 9:34 AM on May 14, 2019

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