A Note from Montana's Swan Valley

“There is so much wildlife here, if you look into the woods you will definitely see something.” Robin is driving us deeper into the forest. This dirt road takes us to the Beck Homestead in Montana’s Swan Valley, where we’re immersed in a culture of leaves, paws, wings, claws, and hooves. He peers out the driver’s side window searching for every possible glimpse of animal, and I kiss his cheek each moment that it won’t interrupt his driving- or his looking.

I’ve told him on walks that my love for nature extends only as far as my interest in the esthetics of it. But I realize I am in love with this pure air, the mountains, and the creatures of the Swan Valley… not for their intrinsic beauty, but for their peace-giving properties, and for what they have done to my man. I am swooning, this time, at the sight of his eyes, as they are back-lit by a new inspiration. He says, “All my life I’ve just driven past forests, I never realized how much there is to see by actually looking into them. I would have driven slower.” And he was driving slow, so enamored by the thought of spotting a creature to teach me about.

At night, we arrive at the base of a grand, grassy hill and are facing a gigantic three-story barn. Warm amber light spills from the windows and the trees crescent, cradling, like an oyster holds its pearl.

We walk hand-in-hand up the hill. To my right, an open plain, a pond, where some twenty whitetail deer bend their necks over cool, moist earth. Mystified, I am drawn there.

A proud bird lands very close to me on the wooden fence, puffing forward a red-feathered belly, its beak eagerly showing off a worm. In this way, the bird delays its dinner for a few minutes, watching me carefully, as I soak in the majesty of a patch of land that is loved and respected- just for what it is.

 Does she, the bird, want to show me the worm, for how richly we are rewarded when we strive? Or… maybe she’s looking into my eyes, seeing what I feel while holding on to my love’s hand, as I am looking out onto all he wants to teach of and protect, respect and learn. His vision is a tangible one, one that can be understood by letting the warblers and chickadees excite, make contact with an Earth who is telling us something, and listen, and be changed. In dreams I’ve been told his spirit belongs here, and as such is such and is a proven truth to me today, then so do I. I should ask the bird, but she's eating now.

Now here's my wish.  
Let us all write notes from the Swan Valley, or find something like this within!

~ Laura

I'll tell you The Absolute BEST Time to List on Etsy

Don't think for one minute that there is not a specific time that is best to list on Etsy. If you've heard that it doesn't matter, guess what- that was a lie! Internet traffic is constantly being monitored and analyzed by the super computers that make the Web possible, and research has proven that there are prime times for Internet sales.

Wednesday during the 4:00pm work hour 
AKA "Goof-off Hour"
According to a study by the price comparison website InvisibleHand, Wednesday is rush-hour for online retail sales. If you want to reach the US coast-to-coast with this technique, you will need to re-familiarize yourself with time zones. That means list or re-list 6 times to hit each time zone at exactly 4pm their local time. This will cost you $1.20. Money well spent!

Why does it matter when you list your item on Etsy?

  • Etsy is built on a controversial system that gives the highest search rankings to the items most recently listed, charging 20 cents to do so. 
  • You are spending that money anyway, so you should learn how to make the most of it.
  • When you list during Goof-Off-Hour, you are listing at a time when people are ready to make an impulse buy. They want to shop fast before someone comes by their desk. They want it quick, and they want it now. It's simply an easier time to make a sale.
How many items should you re-list at that time?
Just one per time zone at 4pm. Why? Otherwise, you are just wasting money. Re-listing more than one of your items at the same time competes with yourself. So choose just one item at a time. 

How to know which item to list:
  • It has a great picture that is a good representation of your skill level and the type of items for sale in your shop. 
  • It stands out. Because many people already know about the Goof Off Hour, you need to be able to stand out from the other listings.
  • It is relevant to the current holiday or season. Now would not be a good time to list something that is out-of-season. 
Overall, Etsy.com's daily visitors has fallen to pre-2010 levels. This means you need to work harder to reach a customer! Make sure to pay attention to internet trends to make your time and money pull double-duty for you.

Other considerations:

The LEAST POPULAR, worst time to list is Saturday. So wait till Sunday when you'll have a 27% better shot at making a sale. (info from InvisibleHand) After Wednesday, Sunday is the second best day to list.

Are you allowing shipping outside the US? If not, 11pm would be a very dumb time to list. By the time everyone wakes up, you are at the bottom of the list.

Afternoon is ALWAYS better. Internet retail sales increase by 52% in the afternoon. The reason? More people are awake and browsing.

Read my most popular blog posts:

Good luck, I hope this was helpful! Please follow my blog, more great info to come. Oh yes! I want to let you in on my giveaway, check that out here!


The 5 Best (And Worst!) Places to Study in Missoula

During finals week, many of us sniff out new territory for a great study spot, or we stick with a few tried-and-true favorites. This week, I've done a mixture of both and am pleased to share what I proudly dub the 5 BEST (and WORST!) places to study in Missoula. I have based my rankings on noise/music, activity levels, friendliness of staff, atmosphere, and convenience. Read and think... do you agree?

#1 Best and Worst: Zootown Brew and Bagels on Broadway

Zootown Brew: BEST! This downtown favorite has a safe, business-like feel. Great for meetings, and with a small lunch selection, the folks at ZooBrew can power you through the whole day. Internet is very reliable and the staff bring your drink right to your table, and with the cushioned seats, you won't want to get up anyway! Music there ranges from quiet guitar to current radio favorites- but what's most important is that the volume is reasonable. Plus, when you're done with that paper, you can print it out right across the street at Fed-Ex.

Bagels on Broadway: WORST! If you can even sit down and open your laptop without being approached and asked to purchase something, then you're lucky! The vibe here is, don't get too comfortable... if your mouth isn't full then you're not welcome. Not very conducive to writing that 14 page essay!

#2 Best and Worst: Talc Gallery and Buttercup Market

Talc Gallery and Coffee House: BEST! This brand new shop is a cozy nook with mod decor, great coffee, delicious sweets, and fast internet. Highly recommended for someone who is typing a paper or doing some research and needs limited distractions in an environment that will get those creative juices flowing. On your break, enjoy local artist's paintings, jewelry, and ceramic work displayed throughout the cafe, or do some people watching, looking out on the bustling corner of S.3rd and Orange. Heads up though, Talc is open Wednesday-Friday from 11am-7pm
"Like" Talc Gallery on Facebook And learn about their crafty Thursdays, where $5 gets you all the paint, glue, pretty papers, and inspiration you could ever want!

Buttercup Market: WORST! Its cafeteria seating may be a turn off for many, and with no internet, this may not be a viable option for someone who's trying to do their research paper. It's hard to get comfortable here, but if efficiency is what you're after, then grab a coffee, sit down and work on that math homework... and grab some groceries on the way out!

#3 Best and Worst: City Brew and Liquid Planet

City Brew: BEST! Truly well suited to the business-set, this is a good place for some serious focus to classic jazz. And when it's time to print out your hard work, the UPS store is right next door. It's kind-of cramped though, so be prepared to fight for your right to a power outlet.

Liquid Planet: WORST! Although they have a wonderful staff and great food, the loud, repetitive world music mixing with the heavy metal blasting from your neighbor's headphones just doesn't bode well for meeting your deadline. Plus, they are frequented by disruptive, crazed transients- I have never been there when I haven't seen someone being asked to leave. That being said, this is a great people watching spot, or if you're just hanging out with a friend and can't afford to see the latest terror flick.

#4 Best and Worst: Book Exchange and Butterfly Herbs

The Book Exchange: BEST! If you don't have a computer, the Book Exchange has you covered. They have 2 computers set up with internet as well as Wi-Fi with all-day access to delicious Liquid Planet offerings. This place will remind you of studying in a library, only a lot more fun! Their customers are friendly and courteous, and the staff will let you borrow their stapler. Plus, if you browse on your break, you may come across a few deals!

Butterfly Herbs: WORST! Although a lot of fun with friends or to relax, this place might be too distracting for getting any real studying done. Their seating is very limited, but their coffee has gotten a lot of praise. So- maybe when you're done with a day of hard work, go unwind with some tea and shopping at Butterfly Herbs.

#5 Best and Worst: UM Library and Break Espresso

Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library: BEST! You can't get much better than on-campus for your studying needs, plus with discounted printing at the Paw Print you won't have to leave at all. Well, except maybe for food! If you don't see a computer right away, try one of the other floors. Most computers are equipped with all the programs you'll need to compete assignments. And don't worry! You won't feel pressured in to buying anything. Trust me, you've already paid!!

Break Espresso: WORST! Don't get me wrong, this place attracts tons of students, but that may just be its downfall. The internet is sometimes unreliable and it can be very hard to find a seat. Often, you'll have to sit cramped next to people you don't know, which can be very distracting! That's not to say you can't get a great coffee drink and baked good there- but you may want to think outside the Break for a great study-spot.

Where do you get your best studying done? Disagree with some of these? Leave your response, I'd love to hear of more great places!


Jackie Priess of Jax Hats shares about her new Missoula shop, and the connections that have brought her this far

First of all, I would like to say that this lady is a superhero. From her company slogan, "Saving the world from ugly sweaters," to the way she taught her husband to sew (WOW!), and everything in between: getting her product into nine shops across Montana (six of those in Missoula!), selling and shipping worldwide through Etsy, and participating in the People's Market starting this Saturday.
Adrienne Priess, Photo by Shauna Dasher 

Her daughter Bethany is a powerhouse too, a recent graduate of the UM Business Marketing program (woo! heyy!), and joined the Missoula Business Women's Network and is now helping her mom to expand Nationally. How cool is that? 

Jackie started off on Etsy and although she has her own website for Missoula handmade hats, she allows Etsy to be her one source of sales. "It is so easy and foolproof," she says, "I have had my Etsy site for 4 years, and have learned so much just by trial and error.  I didn't have my first sale for 6 months, so I felt pretty discouraged, but I found that you have to list frequently on this site to be located by a buyer, so when I discovered this piece, I began 'working' my site and the sales started happening."

  • Many artists I have interviewed shared that learning to list more frequently was the epiphany that got them on the right track with Etsy. My advice to get started with this: make sure you are making an extra $2 outside of labor and raw materials for each of your items. Now, you can re-list 10 of your items (one at a time, at prime times) until you make your next sale. When you make that sale, you'll be making that $2.00 back you spent to re-list your items, and can consider that a cost of advertising. ~LS

Jackie has had experimented with ads on Facebook, "...with little or no discernible results.  I have also tried the various Etsy.com special listing ads, but never seemed to result in sales for me.  At this time, face to face contact when I do local craft shows with repeat happy customers seems to be my best marketing tool." Still, her business Facebook page has helped her to build her fan base and sales. 

  • Remember getting as much exposure as possible has been recommended over and over by local businesswomen on this blog as a rule of thumb, so there must be something to that! Network and build relationships with other artists and shops in your local community. Jackie sites "Vault Denim" and the group at Upcycled (517 S. Higgins in Missoula) as being two connections that will take her to the next level.~LS

I love my job! What Jackie Priess loves most about her work:
Each of my hats is made from recycled clothing, and each is unique and different.  I love how no two are the same, so I don't get bored doing "assembly" work.  I love making the buttons from polymer clay that gives each hat the signature "JAX" look.  I love how so many people LOVE the hats and come back for seconds and thirds.  I have several people that own at least 10 of my Jax Hats!  I love how this has afforded me opportunities for a creative outlet with a financial gain.  It has been something I have been working toward for over 30 years with many stalls in moving forward as I became a mom and worked full time.  When I realized how many people were delighting in the hats I create, and started concentrating on these instead of the clothing line I was making, I took it to the next level.  
About teaching her partners and future plans:
When my husband was laid off 3 years ago, I taught him to sew!  He has become an integral part of my team and has learned to tap into his own creative side, helping design not only the hats, but also a new jewelry line.  This winter we partnered with 2 other artists and opened our own store in Missoula called "Upcycled" located on the "Hip Strip" close to Betty's Divine.  We opened on Jan 15, and it has been very successful selling locally MT made crafts made from "upcycled" materials.  We are anticipating that it will continue to grow this summer, possibly tripling in revenue.  My husband works at the store allowing me to continue working my job that provides the benefits.
 Advice for the aspiring businesswoman:

Define your product - try not to do it all.  Find what you do best and make it to the best of your ability.  Put your signature touch on it and make it not easy to duplicate because of this touch.   

Crafts people are usually multi talented and very likely ADD -  we want to do it all!  When you are displaying your wares at a craft sale and have too much variety of stuff it ends up looking more like a garage sale, and makes buyers confused.

More info on how to find and connect with Jaxhats!:

Jax hats can be found at JaxHats on Etsy or Jaxhats.com. Connect with their facebook page Jaxhats as well as Upcycled and Jackie can be e-mailed directly at jaxhatsmt@gmail.com or jaxonsjazz@hotmail.com.

Find Jaxhats every Saturday at People's Market in downtown Missoula starting May 7th and ending Oct 15th from 9:00am - 1:00pm.  This is located on Alder St - 2 blocks south of the Farmer's Market by the XXX's (not the market under the bridge).  Visit Jaxhats at Upcycled 517 S Higgins, Missoula, MT or find Jax Hats at Rockin Rudy's, The Green Light, the Artist's Gallery, Sorella's, Apricot Lane in the Southgate Mall, or Freyed Sew in Helena, Cello in Bozeman, or Fawn in Kalispell.


Thanks for reading!

This is the third installment in my original series: "I Love My Job: Stories of Real Missoula Business Owners" Read more about this series and how to be featured here. Thanks for reading! It's easy to get Songbird's Branch delivered to your inbox. Just see the "follow by email" button on the sidebar! Never stop learning, growing, and reaching. 


Content by Laura Gabriele