10 Cost Saving Benefits for AFCI Retailers

Did you know? Independent and online retailers save thousands of budget dollars annually by taking advantage of cost savings benefits offered through membership with the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI). Whether you’re just starting your business or are in need of tools and connections to grow, we can help you take your business from average to astonishing and save you some money along the way.

Here are 10 cost saving benefits that retail members can use starting the day they join.

Cost Saving Benefits for Retailers

Visit the member benefits page to see the full list benefits and ways to save. If you have any questions about joining, call our membership team at (201) 835-1200 or email membership@afci.global.

Managing an International Social Media Presence

By Stitchcraft Marketing


Social media networks have flattened the world, and brands need to consider the whole world as their marketplace. Below are some big-picture ideas and tips that will help you take your brand to the world.

1. Determine Your Channels

Find out which social media channels the customers you want to reach use the most by determining which networks are carrying the traffic you want to be part of in the regions you want to reach. For an overview of the dominant networks worldwide, see Vincenzo Cosenza’s annual World Map of Social Networks.

2. Global, Local or Something in Between?

As you build your brand across an international marketplace, you can take a top-down approach by developing a centralized marketing message that is then tailored for specific countries or regions. Or if you’d rather, you can work from the bottom up, creating or hiring local teams that craft a brand strategy specifically for their local markets.

3. Translating Your Brand Message

There may be important regional and ethnic variations in your message when you are speaking to a global community. Social media marketing has to take both of these ideas into account. Style, terminology, local/regional language, units of measurement are just some of the factors you need to consider. Adapt your style of presentation so that your social media posts fit the culture of the customers you are trying to reach.

4. Culture, Custom and Policy

Once you have crafted a campaign and had it translated for your social media networks in your targeted markets, you also have to make sure that it meets local customs, policies, and laws for advertising and e-commerce.

It’s not impossible to launch your brand into new global markets. With careful research in preparation and informed input from local experts, your craft brand can engage with new customer audiences and grow into a global leader.

Read the full article in the Winter 2018 issue of Gradient.

Stitchcraft Marketing is a niche agency specializing in craft-centric small businesses. Contact the owner, Leanne Pressly at 719-539-3110 or email Leanne@stitchcraftmarketing.com to learn more.

How Donating Product to the Kids In Need Foundation is a Business Solution

Kids In Need Foundation

At Creativation, the Kids In Need Foundation (KINF), AFCI’s Charity of Choice, received more than $1,000 from The After Party event. A portion of that event’s ticket price was donated to the Four-Star Charity. Also, attendees were invited to bring school supplies or donate $25 to give a backpack filled with supplies to a student in need.

Did you know Creativation is not the only time of year your business can donate to the Kids In Need Foundation? KINF is pleased to offer your company a business solution that not only impacts your bottom line, but supports your community through a seamless donation experience that you expect from your business partners.

  • Capacity: KINF’s National Network can handle quantities from cartons to truckloads
  • Preparedness: Logistics can generally be arranged within 48 –72 hours of
  • Accuracy: Fast, easy paperwork process and tax receipting
  • Accountability: KINF is a Four-Star Charity
  • Efficiency: As an extension of your integrated supply chain, KINF help you get things done
  • Complimentary: No donor is ever charged “processing” or “handling” fees

How can KINF we help?

  • Reducing slow or sunsetting stock at key times of your fiscal year
  • Lessening the impact of packaging and logo changes, misprints, or acquisitions
  • Providing a consistent outlet for seasonal inventory
  • Brand consolidation
  • Facility consolidation
  • Philanthropic alternative to closeout

Product donations made to KINF are redirected, free of charge, to teachers from low-income schools across the country. In 2017, more than 6.2 million students were provided with the tools they need to participate and succeed in the classroom and beyond.

To find out how you can elevate your inventory reduction plan from business decision to
life-changing community investment contact Jennifer Lehman at jenl@kinf.org or call direct at 937-545-0028. Need inventory picked up right away? Complete a product donation form online to get started!

Staying Relevant in the Digital Age: Key Trends to Watch for in 2018

By Shama Hyder, Chief Executive Officer of Marketing Zen Group and Creativation 2018 Keynote Speaker

Creativity is something that the craft and hobby industry and the marketing industry share in common. It’s the lifeblood of our businesses, the key to our success, something we pride ourselves on and something we’re passionate about. And that’s great news, because in 2018, our collective creativity will be called upon more than ever when it comes to staying relevant in the digital age.

In years past, it was enough to have a website and presence on social media, do some blogging and some emailing, and maybe run some online ads. But that’s begun to change.

So what does this mean for your business? How can companies in the craft and hobby industry flex their creative muscles and tap into this new reality? Here are some of the best places to start.

Staying Relevant In the Digital AgeInfographic_Gradient

Read Shama’s full article in the current edition of Gradient, which is available online at www.afci.global.

Featured Technique – Oil Pastel Smudge

The Oil Pastel Smudge Technique is an innovative technique that was invented by AFCI Designer Member, Carol Foldvary-Anderson and featured in the Innovations Center at Creativation 2018. We spoke to Carol to learn more about the technique and her experience at Creativation!


Tell us about the Oil Pastel Smudge Technique.

“The Oil Pastel Smudge technique has been favorably recognized by the Nevada State Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts for the technique’s ‘unique ability to encompass’ the use of geometry, spacial relationships, color theory and individual creativity. Handmade templates are utilized, and the basic shapes are explored, in creating beautiful and successful art and images that interest the individual. One is able to create landscapes, florals, abstracts and more in this exciting, and easy to teach and learn technique. For those that need a little more confidence we have predesigned templates to work with too!

The technique is fun in playing and experimenting with color, and can give the final look of artwork the seeming effect of either working in silk painting, colored pencil or pens, and even watercolors. The blending of the various oil pastel colors one chooses to work is the joy, excitement and surprise in experiencing and working in the Oil Pastel Smudge technique.”

What was your initial goal for participating in the Innovations Center and The Ultimate Pitch?

“Obviously the $10,000 grand prize and the recognition of winning the Ultimate Pitch would bring to the technique an enhanced verification, validation and endorsement. The funds would go to the creating of several how to video’s and securing licenses with top players in the industry. Further development of a product line and moving forward in the direction that I see possible with the technique.”

What was some valuable feedback you got out of this experience?

“I received some fabulous valuable feedback! Several AFCI members that stopped by the Innovations Center gave me the thumbs up that I would be the winner. That was most encouraging. A shout out to those who support me and the technique, thank you!

By just being involved in the first round was a definite plus, and just the advantage I needed to getting the word out regarding the technique, and finding the right direction in taking the next step forward.”

What’s the next step for you and The Oil Pastel Smudge Technique?

“The next step…fine-tuning what I have already created. Developing a full complete and cohesive line of products to enhance the Oil Pastel Smudge experience, and securing the sourcing and distribution channels available. I am also working on more then what I have already created in the pre-designed templates “Smudgers” can work with. There is lots to do and be excited about!”

Who would you say is the ideal user of your technique?

“The ideal user would be interested in creating beautiful handmade art with oil pastels in a technique that they may not have considered or been introduced to in the past. Anyone that loves to work with color is a perfect and ideal user of the technique. It has so many possibilities with “Smudging” on different colored papers, fabric and prepared wood. I envision teachers in the K-12 grades being able to help those students that are struggling with math by giving them an ah ha moment to understand math from a visual perceptive by offering the technique in the schools and communities.”

How can a user learn more about the technique?

“Please visit the website OilPastelSmudge.com and Facebook page, Oil Pastel Smudge, or contact me directly at ART@OilPastelSmudge.com or 775-721-5338. I will get back to you as soon as I can.”

Click here to see more innovations launched at Creativation 2018 and event highlights.

FeatureD Product – ShardWorx® Kits for Kids

Mary Hong is an award-winning and successful artist and entrepreneur whose work has been featured in The Chicago Tribune, Coastal Lifestyle magazine, and more. She invented ShardWorx®, which is a new type of craft that uses glass, resin, and a canvas. Mary’s new product, ShardWorx® Kits for Kids, was selected as one of 12 new and innovative products that was featured at Creativation 2018.


We spoke to Mary, who shared more information about her innovation and her experience at Creativation.

Tell us about ShardWorx® and the new Kits for Kids.

“ShardWorx® is artwork made with glass on a painted surface!”

ShardWorx® Kits for Kids is our brand’s newest art kit geared towards kids 8 years of age and older! It’s a spin-off of our ever-popular ShardWorx® Art Kit that uses epoxy resin to cover the glass on the canvas. An adult must do the job of preparing the resin. But with the Kids Kit, there’s no resin! A non-toxic glue that dries clear is first applied to the canvas, then a child can easily arrange the glass in the design they want, and the next day, they have a glassy masterpiece to hang on their wall! The designs are fun and bright and shiny! It’s like mosaics but better! It takes a child about 30 minutes to complete their design and the kit has everything they need! The kits can be used for an art class, an art party, or just solo creative time.”

k4k butterfly

What was your experience in the Innovations Center ?

“I got a lot of exposure to many people. I got a lot of smiles and ‘way-to-go’s’. I had buyers that were ready to buy, but I wasn’t quite ready to sell! I had to explain that we were still in test mode.”

What’s the next step for you and ShardWorx® Kits for Kids?

“The next step is to get better and more affordable packaging.”

Who would you say is your ideal customer?

“My ideal customer is a busy mom that wants a creative all-in-one craft kit that their child can sit down and enjoy doing on their own, and complete it in less than 30 minutes.”

When and where can a person purchase the product?

“ShardWorx® Kits for Kids will launch on our website ShardWorx.com in early April 2018. Our ShardWorx® Art Kits (with resin) are already available on Amazon.com and ShardWorx.com.”

Click here to see more innovations launched at Creativation 2018 and event highlights.

5 Trends in Children’s Crafts in 2018

Guest post by MaryAnne Kochenderfer


Creativation is the place to be if you want to spot new craft trends! The 2018 Creativation show featured a broad range of innovative products. Today I’m showcasing products that filled five trends I’ve identified in children’s crafts for 2018.


Animal themes are very popular for children’s kits right now! From dogs and cats to giraffes, elephants, and mystical unicorns and dragons, there’s an animal for everyone.

Yarn Art

Companies are looking at fun ways to incorporate yarn into children’s crafting. From Big Stitch wood cross stitch kids to Craft-tastic wrapped yarn kits to Bergere dress an animal kits to Hoooked crochet animal kits, there is truly something for everyone! Hooked rug and yarn art kits were also on display, as well as tools for making pom-poms.


Low Stress Kits

Parents are overloaded with jobs. They want their children to get creative and unplug from screens, but messy play feels overwhelming. Brands are creatively working around this with products that minimize the mess and the amount of set-up that parents need to do. Coloring books have taken off, and Crayola upped the game with vanishing numbers color by number sets. Kits like the Craft-tastic Puppy Love Kit allow children to create a finished looking product with minimal set-up. Diamond Dotz will engage older children through teens without requiring the use of scissors or glue.

Companies are also creating ways to make traditionally messy materials less overwhelming. Sargent Art now offers their paints in six jar trays to make set-up and clean-up easier for parents and educators.

Child Safety

Safety is a top priority for parents. Products like Play Mais allow parents to allow even the youngest children to engage in creative play. This building material from Germany is created using corn grits and water. It is biodegradeable, and colored using food coloring. Children stick the pieces together using water on a sponge.

The Perler H2O line allows children to create from small beads that fuse with water instead of the heat of an iron. Perler Stixels use the traditional beads, but children place them in a no-iron silicone pegboard.

Wood Crafting

It’s no surprise that the resurgence of wooden children’s toys has also led to an increased interest in wood based children’s crafts. The Works of Ahhh…. Line from MasterPieces allows children to paint their own 3D wooden toys. They can also paint their project via an app, and enter to win a monthly contest. MasterPieces caught my eye for offering more kits that would appeal to boys, or come across as more gender neutral. This is an important gap that continues to need filling in the children’s craft world.

What I Hope to See More Of Next Year

As a parent and educator, I hope to see more and more gender neutral craft kits for kids, as well as more opportunities for children to customize their creations. I think that craft kits are wonderful for teaching skills and introducing children to new ideas, but I think there is still room to encourage children to get creative as they develop skill sets. Children surrounded by creative parents and caregivers and educators are typically given this opportunity. Thoughtfully created kits can open up this world of possibilities for first generation crafters.

About the Author

MaryAnne blogs at Mama Smiles – Joyful Parenting, Great Family Reads, and Top Toy Finds. You can also follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.