Monthly Archives: May 2008

How to Halfway Wholesale: #3 Work Your Retail Shows

Third in a series on how to build your wholesale business at a more leisurely pace.

This tip is an easy one to overlook. But if you’re already doing retail shows, you can use them to build your wholesale business, too.

This works best if you’re doing one of the larger, more visible, higher quality shows. But you can actually tweak this with small shows, too.

To do this, you need to a) let stores know you are willing to wholesale and b) be prepared.

How do you let stores know you’re willing to wholesale?

Send a postcard with an image of your work to stores that are within reasonable driving distance of the show. You can target general gift or craft stores, or look for niche market stores that might be interested in your work.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have postcards yet, have a good photo taken and make reprints. Tuck it in a nice note, along with your business card, and invite the store owner or manager to the show. Some artists even include a free ticket to the show for a potentially great gallery they want to target. A personal invitation is cool!

Let them know you’re looking for store representation in their area, and they are your top choice. Offer to make time after show hours, or even after the show, to come by for a store visit to show them your work.

You can do this even if you are doing a small local craft show. As you grow and go farther afield for shows, do a little research for potential markets in those areas.

Now, weekends might be a bad time for a store owner to visit a show, and most shows are held on weekends. But if it’s nearby and they interested, they could still slip out for a peek, or send someone else. Or, if the work interests them, they can take up your offer for come by the store on your way back home. You’re already there for the show–why not piggy back on that and make it tour of potential stores in the area, too?

You might worry that store buyers don’t want vendors who do shows in their area. It’s true that some will complain about that, and won’t take you up on your offer. But many understand we may need to do shows, too, or that we are just starting out in wholesale. Many also see that particular show as a once-a-year venue, while they can carry your work year-round. I love stores that see this as a working relationship–I can refer customers to the local store if they don’t see what they want at the show, or for year-round sales. The store can build on the presence of the actual artist being in the area for a weekend. (“Meet the artist!”) It should be win-win, and people who think like this are my kind of people.

If you had a good show, you can use this to vet your work. “This line was very popular at the show–they sold like hotcakes!” (Why are pancakes used as a metaphor for successful selling, I don’t know.) “I believe your customers will like them, too.”

Even if the store doesn’t come to the show, or respond to your offer of contacting them after the show, visit as many of the stores as you can. This is good because you can see if the store is really a good fit for your work or not. If not, whew! You dodged a bullet.

If you think the store is a good fit for your work, ask for the owner/buyer/manager. Introduce yourself, and explain why you’re there. “I’m doing a show in the area and wanted to visit your store while I was in town.”

Be sure to tell them why you thought their store would be interested. (“I was in the area a few months ago, and visited your store. I see you specialize in whimsical gifts for animal lovers, and thought you might be interested in my cat mugs.” Or: “I researched stores in this area I thought might be a good fit for my work, and your store looked like a good fit. You have a beautiful website! I especially liked your on-line bridal registry feature, and thought my line of personalized wedding photo albums might be of interest…”)

Offer to leave some materials about your work–a business card, an image of your work (postcard, photo, catalog if you have one, etc.)

This is important: DO NOT TRY TO SELL YOUR WORK AT THIS POINT.

Make it crystal clear you are only hoping to leave some materials for them to look at, at their convenience.

Dropping in on a store unannounced and uninvited, expecting them to drop everything and look at your work, and pushing for a sale when they aren’t interested, is the most unprofessional thing you can do. You might as well wear a sign on your head that says, “I AM UNPROFESSIONAL AND CLUELESS ABOUT WHOLESALING.”

BUT….

If….IF…IF AND ONLY IF….they show strong interest and excitement about your work…. If they want to know more, lots more…. If they call other people over to look… If they ask if you have any actual samples on hand….

You can then casually mention that you’re on your way home from a show, you just happen to have some samples of your work in the car, and if they’d like to see them…..

You can see this tip takes sensitivity, delicacy, boldness and confidence. And not a little courage. If you think it’s hard to do a store visit, it’s even harder to “cold call”.

You have to be able to just leave your materials and walk away if they don’t take the bait. If you try to force the issue at all (“Wouldn’t you like to see the work itself??”) you lose. Big time.

But when it works, it’s fast and powerful. Sometimes the store will buy your work right there on the spot. (That’s so much nicer than hauling it all back home!)

I know an artist who successfully used this technique to build a thriving wholesale business. He never did wholesale shows, yet he had many, many more wholesale accounts than I did.

Of course, if you’re trying to do this after a show, it means keeping your inventory somewhat accessible. Packing up takes more attention than just throwing everything into the truck and squashing the door closed!

But if you gain a great new account, it’s worth it.

If you can’t do a store visit, you can still send the invitational postcards. You can always follow up after the show with a phone call or email. It’s not over until they actually say they’re not interested (and sometimes not even then.)

If that’s still too much on your plate, then try a discreet sign in your booth that indicates wholesale inquiries are welcome. To discourage bargain-hunting retail customers from simply trying to get a deal, you can add something like “with proper tax identification and resale number.” (Or whatever you require as proof for a bona fide reseller.)

And of course, if someone says, “Do you sell to stores? I have a small gallery nearby and I think we’d do well with your work…”, your answer is “YES!” Know that stores sometimes hesitate to ask outright, because some craftspeople are so hostile to the idea of wholesaling (“Stores want to buy it at half-price!”), they respond badly. So if store owners are unsure, they may not even ask. A sign tells them it’s okay to ask.

Ask your qualifying questions as you have time, or offer to follow up after the show.

So now that you’re encouraging that wholesale inquiry, be prepared.

Always keep a few extra business cards, postcards, catalog or line sheet/price sheet on hand. I’d say the minimum would be a postcard with a great picture of your work, with a note on the back saying something like “handmade jewelry boxes made from deadfall trees on our land, prices from $42 to $240 wholesale, minimum order $250 or six items.”

If you want to get fancy, get some of those ten-cent presentation folders from an office supply store, put in a business card, postcard, catalog, a short FAQ sheet explaining your process, your product lines, prices, terms, etc. and maybe a reprint of an article about your work, and anything else you would give a hot prospect at a regular wholesale show. (You did read the blogs I assigned as homework on wholesale, right? They’re listed at the end of this entry.)

If you aren’t busy with retail customers, be ready to actually write an order. Sometimes stores want to order with the actual pieces right in front of them. Let them know which items are one-of-a-kind and which ones can be reproduced as shown.

This seems simplistic, but know your wholesale prices, or be able to get that information fast. With the stress of being at a show, it’s not hard to get brain lock when the buyer says, “Okay, this piece you’ve priced at $240–what’s your wholesale price on it?” Keep a cheat sheet behind the counter, or check your wholesale catalog. It’s okay. Store owners know that shows are stressful. (Or they should know!) Many retailers of fine craft are–or were–craftspeople, too.

Try it out. Make your current retail shows a miniature wholesale show experience!

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Filed under art, business, half-wholesale, selling, selling to stores, wholesale

How to Halfway Wholesale: #2 p.s.

In the last essay, I left out an important resource in point #1 (advertising in published materials distributed at the show.)

Well, DUH, most shows have a show guide or program. This is an excellent place for an ad–if and only if your budget allows. Do not go into debt or risk financial instability to pay for big advertising campaigns.

But a good ad in the guide/program targets your primary audience–buyers at the show. So if you can afford an ad of any size, this is the best place to put one.

As for point #8 (FOLLOW UP!), I have no idea where that cool guy smiley face came from. It kept showing up, and I kept taking it out. I guess the universe just wants him there. Well, it is important to follow up. And everyone always tells me I need more graphics in these posts.

And do not panic if I don’t get another post out in this series for a few days. My family is taking my father to the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C. this weekend. So the next essay may be delayed.

My dad served in the Navy in WWII, in a land-based initiative in China called SACO (for the Sino-American Cooperative Organization). He has never boasted or made a fuss about his military service, though I know he is proud of it. We’re looking forward to this opportunity to let him know how proud we are, too.

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Filed under art, business, craft shows, half-wholesale, life, selling, selling to stores, wholesale

How to Half Wholesale #2: Wholesale Shows

Most people assume wholesale shows are the only serious “next step” to building your wholesale business.

They can be. As recently as a handful of years ago, a good wholesale show could bootstrap your wholesale business efficiently and quickly.

Times have changed. It’s not impossible to achieve immediate success with such shows. But it’s not a sure thing anymore. And like any other endeavor we’ll talk about over the next few essays, it takes preparation. Lots and lots and lots of preparation.

A few guidelines to evaluating whether a wholesale show is right for you, and then we’ll explore ways to do them without spending $5,000.

Always–always–walk a show first. Visit and see for yourself what’s going on.

See how many buyers are there and what kind of businesses they represent. Are they stores that would target your audience? And note if they are actually placing orders.

Note what vendors are there. Is your work compatible, similar, in the same general ball park? Or is your work wildly dissimilar? (Not necessarily a bad thing, but it takes skill and insight to work that disparity.) Talk to exhibitors to learn their experiences with the show (when they don’t have anyone in their booth, of course.)

Take advantage of any guest visitor services or programs. The BUYERS MARKET OF AMERICAN CRAFT, a show that targets retailers of fine contemporary American handcraft, offers a stellar Visiting Artists Program run by the Arts Business Institute. (I am proud to say I am a former faculty member of ABI.) Programs like these can be an excellent introduction to the art of doing a wholesale show.

Before deciding to do a show, calculate the total cost of doing such a show. Not just the booth fee (easily $1,400 and up), but the cost of shipping your booth and work to the show (and drayage charges to haul it around the show, if that isn’t included); your travel, hotel and food expenses; taxis (if you find a cheaper hotel far from the exhibition hall); electricity and other services for your booth; support materials (catalog or line sheets, displays, banners or posters, etc.); advertising and promotion (if you decide to place an ad in the show program).

If you do the show, PREPARE. Contact potential buyers before the show, and invite them to your booth. Send postcards to current and potential customers, with an image of your newest work and your show info (booth number, show specials, etc.) Conventional wisdom calls for a minimum of two mailings! (If you don’t have a mail list of current or prospective clients, see a future essay in this series on building a mailing list from scratch.)

You can call your best accounts and extend a personal invitation. Some artists even offer to purchase show tickets and distribute them to buyers. It can be money well spent if it gets your target store buyers to the show.

Last, be aware of the differences between a fine craft wholesale show (such as the BMAC or the new AMERICAN CRAFT RETAILERS EXPO and a gift show like THE BOSTON GIFT SHOW. A gift show may indeed be a good fit for your product. But know that you’ll be competing with vendors selling imported and manufactured goods. There may also be a higher risk of your product ideas being stolen or copied easily.

Let’s say you’ve already decided that a wholesale show, or its buying audience, is absolutely the next step for you. What are ways to explore this market and/or get your work in front of attendees without going 100% all the way?

1) Advertise in materials that will be distributed at the show.

For example, industry-related publishers often distribute free samples of their magazines at the show. A great ad can draw attention to your work at a time where buyers are actively thinking about buying. At wholesale fine craft shows, you can often find The Crafts Report, Niche and AmericanStyle magazines, New Age Retailer, Giftwear News, etc. If you can’t afford a regular ad (ranging from $500 and up), groups such as Wholesalecrafts.com often place large co-op ads in these same magazines at a greatly reduced cost. (pssst! This tip will also appear in an essay on how to have a presence at a wholesale show when you are not an exhibitor!)

2) Try a group or co-op booth.

Large shows like the Boston Gift Show sometimes offer discounted or comped booth space to large craft guilds and associations. (They are, of course, hoping you will love the experience and eventually want to have your own booth!)

If you are–or could be–a member of such a group, you can often participate with the group for not very much money. See my article Boston Gift Show 101. This can be an affordable and highly educational option.

3) Share a booth.

Some shows allow you to share a single booth space, halving your show fees right up front. There are pros and cons, of course, ranging from “Are your two bodies of work compatible or competitive?” to “Are you and your booth mate compatible or competitive?”

4) Travel light.

Select local or regional shows to cut down on travel expenses. It’s a lot cheaper for me to attend the Boston Gift Show, a two-hour drive away, than the ACRE show in Las Vegas, plus I can stay with friends in Boston for free. Of course, this doesn’t work if the ACRE show targets a better audience! Still, it’s something to consider.

If you drive to shows, buddy up with another vendor and cut down on your travel expenses. Share a hotel room. Find alternative ways to eliminate costly restaurant meals. For example, Reading Terminal Market, right across the street from the BMAC show, offers fresh fruits, sandwiches, take-away food that can save you big bucks over fancy dinners out.

5) Keep your booth light.

We all want to have a spectacular booth display. But if money is extremely tight, bring a minimal display to cut down on shipping costs. Tighten your inventory to your best sellers. Rely on large banners over pricey (and heavy) framed posters and wall treatments.

If you have any doubts about wholesale shows, it’s sometimes cheaper to rent basics like lights, carpeting, display cases or tables instead of buying these outright. You’ll also save on shipping costs if you can’t drive to the show.

Yes, a fancy display helps bring people in your booth. Yes, all the extras create a beautiful environment for customers. But your work is what makes them want to buy. If you’re a newbie, use that to your advantage, instead of trying to look like the Big Boys with the fabulous display.

6) Use FREE publicity instead of ads.

Distribute press releases before show (start six months before so your story has time to get picked up by magazines and newspapers). Email potential customers (but send links to your website or images instead of embedding them in the email itself.) Be ready for the media that comes to the show and bring press kits.

7) Be a renegade!

Some artists (like the Baltimore Alternative Show) set up their own mini-shows in nearby hotels while the “big” show goes on in the exhibition hall. You may not get the throngs of buyers, but…a) there aren’t any throngs anywhere anymore anyway, and b) your expenses are so low (no booth fee, just the cost of your hotel room), you don’t need as many buyers.

8) FOLLOW UP!

In every alternative/half measure we discuss, remember that following up on your leads and prospects will double, even triple your success. Make that phone call to the gallery that expressed interest but wasn’t quite ready to buy. Mail that info you promised. Track down every lead, opportunity, connection you made at the show, whether it’s a potential sale, a networking piece, an exhibition opportunity. You never know where your next break will come from.

If you have suggestions for how to drastically reduce the cost of doing a wholesale show, jump in!

Then we’ll take about options besides wholesale shows for growing the wholesale side of your biz.

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Filed under art, business, choices, craft shows, display, half-wholesale, marketing, selling, selling to stores, wholesale

HOW TO HALF WHOLESALE #1: What Do You Want?

Before we even start discussing ways to develop/grow/refine the wholesale side of your business at a level acceptable to Y*O*U*, let’s stop and take inventory.

What do you want?

And of course, what do you need?

We know that “needs” and “wants” are two very different things, but it’s amazing how often we confuse the two in our speech–and in our thinking.

It’s also amazing how often we set goals based on what we think we should want/need/do. Sometimes, we even set goals based on what we think others think we should do. Yes, I know how convoluted that sounds. Still, you know it’s true.

If we can get out of our heads long enough, we see that everyone evaluates success differently. And that “success” means different things to different people.

Let’s talk about one measure of success–how much money you could make with your craft.

“Well, obviously, I need to make money!” you exclaim. Okay, good, that’s a start. Money is often the first “motivator” for making stuff, after all.

How much money? Enough to pay your mortgage and put food on the table? Enough to contribute significantly to the household income?

Maybe you don’t need to pay the mortgage, but you want to help put a child through college. Or maybe you want just enough to pay for the “goodies”–the family vacation, a new sofa, your horse riding habit?

Perhaps all you need, for now, to take your business to the next level–to pay for the next round of advertising or show fees, for that new piece of equipment that will make production so much easier, or for next year’s supplies.

Some people don’t really even need that. They have a day job, and their craft is whatever it is. It doesn’t have to do anything extra for them financially (although it’s nice if it does!)

It’s going to be different for each one of us. What’s the right amount for me may not be the right for you.

And….that’s okay.

Look, there is no contest you win if you make more money than another artist. Some people will make it about that–they think they’re better, or more successful, or smarter, or whatever. But trust me, there is no blue ribbon, no “first prize” to be won when it comes to measuring your success with your art.

Let’s say you do some local fairs, you sell through a small but fancy local gallery, you make enough money to support your business expenses, and make enough profit to pay for a lot of family extras. Are you a successful craftsperson?

To the artist who does 20 shows and year and supports their family with their craft income, you are not successful.

To the artist who has won major awards, been on the cover of fancy magazines, and whose commission work commands thousands of dollars, you are not successful.

To the artist who can only make enough to buy more supplies, you are successful.

To the person who dreams of being an artist, but has never sold a thing, you are wildly successful.

Who’s right?

Yup. Nobody. Everybody Who cares? It’s what it is for you.

There’s room for all of us at the table.

When I started out, I simply wanted to have some money that was mine, to spend with no accountability or excuse.

Sometimes I was able to pay for the “goodies”–to buy my son a kiln, for example, so he could pursue his art. That felt good.

Then I wanted money to take my business to the next level–to enter better shows, to create a beautiful booth, to advertise and promote my art.

Soon I wanted my work to earn enough money that I felt successful. After all, when a customer trades their hard-earned money for your work, that’s a huge compliment! It was proof that when someone said, “It’s beautiful and I love it”, they meant it. Kind of a “show me the money!” thing. The first time someone bought a $5,000 wall hanging from me was a magical, delirious moment in my life.

Things got muddy when I began accepting someone else’s definition of “financially successful artist”–without questioning whether it met my needs or wants.

I thought I would not be seen as a serious business person unless I was capable of earning a living with my work. Disclosure: I don’t have to support my family financially. My husband does what he loves, and it happens to be something that pays better than making little prehistoric horse artifacts.

But I felt I would not be respected by my peers unless I made a full-tilt effort to make sales–specifically, wholesale sales–my focus.

I began to confuse my “wants” (“I want to make enough money to be taken seriously!”) with my needs (“I only need to make enough right now to support my perfect vision of where I want to go with my art.”) (Of course, my “perfect vision” includes making wall hangings that sell for $10,000, so I’m not not about the money….)

I found myself focusing on the work I thought would sell, rather than the work I wanted to make. As times got worse and the wholesale markets slowed down, I became more frantic. I blamed myself, and my work. (I still remember an artist friend who gently reminded me, “You know the recession isn’t just about you, don’t you?”)

This is when I wrote Consignment Revisited.

I also realized that if my situation ever changes–if someday I do need to pay the mortgage–then and ONLY then, will I see if I have to make different decisions about how I run my business.

Learn from my mistakes. Whatever level you’re at, it’s okay. It’s all okay. You must remember that your financial goals are your own. You must believe–truly believe– any measure of success that’s meaningful to you, is okay.

For me, money is a certain measure of my success.

But I also want prestige, and respect for my work. And I want it to be meaningful. I want to know my efforts in the world–be it my fiber work, the jewelry, or the writing–inspires, reassures, empowers others. I want my artwork to help create the change I want to see in the world.

And I want these things more than I want a $10,000 wholesale order for horse tie tacks. (Of course, if that order helps me create the time and gather the materials to create a one-woman show of my work, maybe that’s a good trade.)

It’s okay to work at another job part-time, or even full-time, and simply make art in your spare time. If your other job is killing you, physically or emotionally, then you might want to rethink that, of course. But you can always just try a different job. You don’t have to make your craft full-time or earn your living from it, to be a “real artist”.

It’s okay to stick with small local craft shows, if that serves your wants and needs.

It’s okay to only wholesale to stores in your area or region–especially if your work’s aesthetic is a good fit. (I want to go national because, given a choice, most people pick maple syrup products over ancient horses and bears as part of their quintessential New England memento….)

It’s okay to decide you want to only have a dozen, or even half a dozen wholesale accounts. It’s even okay to sell through only one store, if you are happy with sales and how your work is represented.

It’s okay to only sell at home parties, if you love doing them. Or through appointments at your studio. Or on-line, or on Ebay. If that strategy suits your goals, then no one can tell you you’re doing it wrong.

So take a few minutes, pick up a pencil and make a list of what success really means to you.

Think about your goals, personal, professional, financial, for your art.

If money is an issue, think about how much money you really want or need to make. But promise me you WON’T think about how much money you need to make for other people to take you seriously. Because chasing these “other people’s” good opinion of you is as misleading and destabilizing (for an artist) as only making stuff you think “other people” want to buy. (Okay, I know that’s an awkward sentence. Just read it again slowly.)

Think about whether you want your work to be the next trendy thing (and that’s okay if that’s what you really want) or whether you want your Christmas ornament to be chosen to raise funds for a non-profit you fiercely support. Do you want to be on the cover of Ornament magazine? Or the cover of the Sundance catalog? (Hey, I want both!) Do you want your work carried by hundreds of stores across the country. Or six prestigious galleries? Or a dozen lesser known stores that kick butt selling your work?

Once you know where you want to go, then you can make better decisions on how to get there.

Extra credit reading:
Getting Started in Wholesale Series Intro
Getting Started #1: The Work
Getting Started #2: Doing GOOD Work
Getting Started #3: Do YOUR Work
Getting Started #4: DO Your Work
Getting Started #5: Selling Your Work
Getting Started #6: Upscale Your Work
Getting Started #7: Jump In! The Water’s Fine!
Getting Started #8: How Much Stuff is Enough?
Getting Started #9: Go to The Store!
Getting Started #10: Why Didn’t They Buy My Work??
Getting Started #11: It’s Okay Not to Know What You’re Doing
Getting Started #12: Getting to the Store
Getting Started #13: What Is Consignment?
Getting Started #14: What Is Wholesale?
Getting Started #14 p.s. That High Energy/Low Energy Thing
Getting Started #15: Why Am I Doing This?
Getting Started #16: What Else Do I Need to Bring?
Getting Started #17: Exclusivity
Getting Started #18: Minimum Orders

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INTRODUCTION: “How to Half Wholesale” Series

A reader emailed me recently. She’d just paid big money for a professional consultation on how to take her business to the next step.

The advice? Ramp up production to a huge level, and do a major wholesale show.

Unfortunately, that’s not possible for this craftsperson at this point in life. And as someone who tried to do just that, I’m here to tell you that even if you had the time and money to do just that, it still won’t necessarily bring you what you want.

First, wholesale shows are no longer a sure thing to build your business. And second, is that the kind of business model you even want?

I wrote back with some suggestions that the reader said was hugely helpful. And I realized, “Hey, this would make a good series!”

So with her permission, I’ll spend the next few essays discussing ways you can grow the wholesale side of your business, without turning your life over to mass production and without investing thousands and thousands of dollars on the wholesale show circuit. I’ll even suggest ways to do a wholesale show without breaking the bank.

And as always, I realized that in my good advice is the answer to the questions I’ve been asking myself these past few years, too. Help you–help myself. It’s a good trade.

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Filed under art, business, craft, half-wholesale, introduction, selling, selling to stores, wholesale

KITTEN THERAPY

I’m slowly returning to normal activities, and my spirit continues to mend, too.

It was a shock to learn that the spirit can take longer than the body to recover from a long year of injuries and setbacks. It was a good lesson to learn, though. I think I’ve gained more compassion for others in the same boat. You can handle one setback, another and another. But at some point, your soul just wants to hunker down and run.

We’ve always heard that when we are down in the dumps, it can help to reach out and help others. It’s a good way to get us outside our own heads, a way to move and act without being totally self-referential.

But if even that seems like too much, here’s a lower-threshold spiritual treatment I can almost guarantee will provide the same benefit:

Kittens.

There’s something about kitten antics that makes everything else weighing on your heart just fly away.

Everything is wildly interesting to them–the hem of your jeans, the tie on your robe, the cord on your window shades, the dryer lint in the waste basket, the bug crawling on the floor.

They jump, bounce, flounce, roll, and cry piteously when their tail is, in turn, mistaken for a toy by a sibling.

And if you get tired of dealing with a hamburger-sized ball of fuzz that sees everything in the world as attackable, there’s always an exhausted yet hugely grateful mom-cat who’s happy to simply sit and be petted.

Now, you don’t have to rush out and buy kittens. In fact, there’s a great way to have an (almost) everlasting supply of kittens on hand.

You can be a kitten foster care provider.

One of our favorite family volunteer projects is to act as a foster home for our local humane society. When they receive a pregnant cat or a mom-cat with young kittens, they quickly place them in homes for temporary care–about one to three months, or until the kittens are old enough to be safely adopted.

This gives the mothers a calm, loving environment outside the shelter. It gives the new family a haven from all the diseases that course through a shelter. It ensures the kittens get maximum socialization with humans, critical to their emotional development as family pets.

And as a side effect, our family gets to enjoy kittens in all their glory for two months.

Just when they reach those teenage years (in kitten time), they are all ready to go back to the humane society. The mom cats, unfortunately, may have to wait for new homes. But at least the kittens are adopted quickly, usually within a week. Although I confess, our current pair of cats, our clown-cat Chai and our nervous-nelly cat Moxie, were both former mom-cats in our home.

The layout of our home allows us to set up a foster cat station apart from the other critters. Our two regulars know something is going on, of course. Suddenly, interesting food is delivered to a room that’s now off-limits to them, and they aren’t allowed to drink out of the bathtub faucet anymore. Their bewilderment is palpable, and their attempts to convince us that they need that extra nice cat food, too are amusing.

Our latest batch came to us last week. The mom-cat has been christened “Juno”, after the movie with the young pregnant teen heroine of the same name, because she is so outrageously young herself. (A visitor, on seeing her emerge from the “nesting box”, exclaimed, “That’s the mother??

The kittens are tiny, and just now starting to open their eyes. Three golden mackerel tabbies (probably male), two black torties (probably female.)

They’re really too young to play with yet, and Juno waits anxiously nearby when we handle them, ready to snatch them back at the least little peep out of them.

But already, everything is delightfully right in the world.

P.S. This works with puppies and bunnies, too.

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