Tips for Creating an Inventory Database for Your Handmade Jewelry Business
An interview with Lynn Allen, inventor of BeadEnCounter, an inventory database for labeling and tracking materials.
Q: How did you come up with the idea of an inventory database for your handmade jewelry business?
A: A few years ago, I became serious about beading as a way to express my creativity. I started collecting beads, stones, and findings in a systematic way and selling the pieces that I made. Almost immediately, I found out that pricing these works for sale was problematic, as I couldn’t remember the cost of any of the materials for more than a week or two after purchase, or even what they were made of. “Is this citrine or yellow glass?” I found myself asking . . . and not knowing. I build databases for a living, so naturally my thoughts turned to keeping track of both the inventory and the finished works in a database.
From the Beginning
Q: Sounds like quite the undertaking! How did you decide where to begin?
A: I built the first rough BeadEnCounter system to enter my inventory as I purchased it, and it evolved through my discovering new needs as I went along. Once I had the inventory section done, the pricing of finished works was pretty easy. Databases are great for doing math for you!
Q: How has the database affected your creative process?
A: Having the software and the discipline of entering my stash and the finished works helped me feel a real sense of organization that was lacking previously. Now, each of my bead-storage containers has a tiny stick-on label with a number matching the one assigned by the database. I know immediately what it cost per unit, where I bought it in case I want more, what it’s made of, all the important info. Seems odd to say it, but having the items organized this way actually encourages my creativity, whereas chaos would just stifle it.
Lynn’s Tips for Tracking Beads
- Record purchases in your database as quickly as possible so you don’t forget anything.
- Prioritize entering and tracking the exact price of those items of highest cost. Generally, I estimate my seed bead costs and enter them as a lump sum, while specifically recording only the significant beads in a piece.
- Record details that you’ll want to know in the future, such as what color(s) of seed bead you used in a piece or what artist you purchased a focal bead from. The database serves as your memory, in both inventory and documenting finished work.
- Don’t forget to account for the “overhead” costs of a piece–the stringing thread or wire, small findings, and consumables or tool wear. All this adds up on the bottom line, and accounting for it in your pricing can make a difference to your profitability and impact your jewelry business.
Photos courtesy of Lynn Allen
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