Is Your Brand “Under the Influence”?

Creativation 2018 at Fair Isle Booth

Lynn Lilly at Creativation 2018 at the Fair Isle Booth

By Lynn Lilly, Craft Box Girls

Consumers no longer search for products. They search for ideas, projects and inspiration. Therefore, consumers are discovering products through this content rather than through traditional advertising methods like print ads, billboards and mailers.

How do you get in on the content game and how does that help grow your sales and build brand relationships with consumers? In comes the biggest buzzword: influencers!

Influencer relationships come in many different forms and can be one of the best tools to connect with consumers, build a trustworthy brand and grow your business.

Creativation 2018 Live Broadcast at Walnut Hollow Booth

Lynn Lilly at Creativation 2018 doing a live broadcast at the Walnut Hollow Booth

What exactly is an influencer? An influencer is a person who has an above-average influence over a select audience. This influence can be through social media connections, associations, connections to media outlets and teaching roles.

There is often an assumption that an influencer must have thousands of social media followers, but also consider the power of an influencer who reaches thousands of people through television, contributes to multiple digital and print media ads, or one who teaches niche skills to hundreds each month. Finding the right influencers to work with is the key to a successful relationship.

Here are some standard ways to work with influencers:

  • Sponsored Blogs, Videos, Social Media Posts
  • Television or Live Broadcast Endorsements
  • Event Activations/Hosting
  • Social Media Take Overs
  • Product Consulting
  • Ambassador Programs
  • Product Sampling/Testing

Here are some tips for maintaining successful relationships with influencers:

  • An influencer/brand relationship needs to be beneficial and fair for both parties. Recognize that this is a job, and most jobs don’t pay in cupcakes and glue guns.
  • Do your research before reaching out to an influencer to understand his or her quality and level. Start the relationship on the right foot by making sure the compensation proposal is based on his or her experience and the amount of work you are requesting.
  • Give him or her creative freedom. You can still control how the influencer represents your brand/product, but let the expert put his or her creative genius to work for you.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking of influencer relationships as one-off engagements. Research shows that a consumer needs to see or hear something three to five times before making an action.
  • Remember, influencers not only offer the ability for a brand to reach an engaged audience through their trusted source, but they can become true partners to your business.

Isn’t it time you were under the influence?

Hire an Influencer

The AFCI Creator Connect Program is your resource for the creative industry’s most talented and influential makers. Hire an AFCI Creator for AFCI Events, including In the MKNG™ and Creativation, to promote your products and drive traffic to your booth, and/or year-round to represent your brand through your own channels! To research and hire AFCI Creators, visit

About Lynn Lilly

Lynn Lilly is the founder of the creative lifestyle website and Apple TV app, Craft Box Girls, and author of Screen-Free Crafts Kids Will Love (Ulysses 2016). The DIY television personality and founder of National DIY Day has a passion for making, crafting and DIY easy and fun for the average person.

Michaels Live Broadcast - Lynn is a Michaels Maker

Michaels Live Broadcast – Lynn Lilly is a Michaels Maker

Lynn and her team have built a multiplatform creative lifestyle brand and continue to be on the forefront of content marketing. They work with top brands like Michaels Stores (Lynn is a Michaels Maker), Brother International, Teva, Paper House Productions, Amazon, Marabu, Bernzomatic and FabFitFun. When Lynn is not whipping up her next popular craft or prepping for her weekly television gig, she is laughing with her baby girl and enjoying life with her husband and their three dogs.

This is a portion of an article that first appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Gradient. Click here to log into your AFCI Membership account to read the full version.

7 important things retailers should be doing to get customer feedback


This is a portion of an article that originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of Gradient, written by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender of KIZER & BENDER.

Knowing what’s going on in the world of retail is critical to the growth of your business – but it isn’t always easy.

If we had a nickel for every time we heard a shopper complain about customer service we’d be richer than Bill Gates. Do customers exaggerate? You betcha, but there’s always a trail to follow if you listen carefully and then piece together what they tell you.

As a retailer, here are 7 important things you should be doing regularly to listen to your customers.

Focus Groups

Invite 10 to 15 customers to participate in your focus group. Serve refreshments and have a list of questions ready to keep the conversation moving. Reward each participant a cash reward, plus a small gift valued at around $20.

Exit Interviews

Station yourself near the front door and when a shopper is about to leave, politely introduce yourself and ask if he/she found everything he/she was looking for. Exit interviews are great for getting a shopper’s opinion of your service and identifying products customers wish you carried.

Encourage Customer Feedback

Place “Tell Us What You Think!” cards on your cash wrap, in classrooms and on your website for customers to fill out. Add a poll to your Facebook timeline. Give customers every opportunity to tell you what they think.

Associate Feedback

Ask associates to fill you in on what they’re hearing on the sales floor. Place a notebook in the lunchroom and at the cash wrap so they can easily record customer comments.

Ask The BIG Question

You’ll get incredibly useful information when you ask our BIG question: “What ONE thing could we do to ___________?” You fill in the blank. Try “What ONE thing could we do to improve our customer service?” or “What ONE class or event could we add that you would like to attend?” You will hear constructive things you’ll be able to easily implement.

Fly On The Wall Exercise

The idea here is to blend in and become just another shopper. Let associates in on what you’re doing because they need to pretend that you’re not there. Station yourself in prime shopping spots on the sales floor and just watch. Carry a notebook to record what you see so you can address changes you’d like to make later on.

Listen, Watch & React

Engaging and connecting with customers means listening to what they have to say, watching what they do on the sales floor, and making changes based on what you find. React by giving them a fun and easy experience that’s unique to your store.

About the Authors

Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are professional speakers, retail strategists, authors and consultants whose client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in business. Companies internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and the changing retail marketplace. For more information about KIZER & BENDER, visit



Meet AFCI Member, Kari Capone. Kari is the owner of Kari’s Kits and the founder of Knitters Unwind.

We interviewed Kari about her business endeavors for an article in the Summer issue of Gradient, AFCI’s quarterly magazine. Below is a portion of the interview.

Tell us about yourself.

I balance life as a single mom, and as a full-time manager at a publishing house, with the joys and demands of growing a creative business. My career path until now can best be described as circuitous. I’ve taught elementary school music; worked at a talent agency; processed invoices for a chocolate import company; and owned and operated a coffee shop – before I embarked on a career in publishing.

Tell us about your businesses.

Several years ago, as my (now 15-year-old) son grew more independent, I found myself with abundant free time outside of working hours. I often taught knitting at the local yarn shop. To assist with teaching brand-new beginners, I designed a garter stitch buttoned cowl kit, complete with knitting needles, yarn, the pattern, the button, and a tapestry needle. The shop owner asked for a few extra kits to stock her shelves, and a business was born!

At first, I sold Kari’s Kits through Etsy and at craft shows. (That’s how I met Jason Baum, Director of Membership for AFCI – at Maker Faire in Queens!) In 2016, I enrolled in a website building course and built Having creative control and the ability to make updates whenever I like is very important to me.

I’m proud of the product development we do at Kari’s Kits. In 2017, I started the Insider’s Club: a core group of customers who review products. They test patterns, rate and review the yarn and the project itself, and provide feedback via surveys and e-mails. My Insiders love the special treatment and the chance to try products before they go to market.

This year, I’m introducing a subscription community called Knitters Unwind. I’ve heard again and again that women knit for relaxation, for meditation, for therapeutic benefits. They expressed a strong desire for deeper, more meaningful connections in their lives; a consistent creative outlet; and a safe space to share their struggles and successes in knitting and in life.

My dream is to build Kari’s Kits and Knitters Unwind to the point where I can step back from my day job and dive into the creative businesses full-time. I feel so lucky to be able to build a business around my full-time day job. AFCI has really expanded my idea of what is possible.

Learn more about Kari and how to connect with her at

Picture of Kari Capone

A note on the photograph: The newest addition to the jumbo yarn market is Fair Isle Yarn’s Three Sisters, shown here in Sandstone. Photography: Matt Peyton. Model: Kari Capone.

Read the full interview in the Summer issue of Gradient. The digital version is available to all AFCI members upon logging into your online account. Visit


6 Creative Influencers Spill Where They Go For Inspiration

From their resourcefulness to their ingenuity, makers and creators inspire us on a regular basis. But how do they think of those ideas? What inspires them, and what makes them tick?

In the Spring issue of Gradient, we spoke to six creative industry influencers to better understand where they turn for inspiration.

Angie Holden


“At times, I turn to magazines or Pinterest for inspiration. Other times, all I need to do is to start cleaning my craft room. Nothing inspires me more than a pile of unused craft supplies!”

Carolina Moore


“I love walking through the aisles of the craft or dollar store to find new toys to play with. I have a lot of seasonal projects or crafts that are inspired by new movies.”

Amanda Formaro


“Everywhere! I can be walking through a store and see something that strikes me, browsing blogs or Pinterest, and sometimes seeing an older design of mine sparks an idea. I just keep my eyes open all the time, as you never know when an idea will hit.”

Hannah and Rosie


“We use Instagram for inspiration and follow all of our favorite sewers and creative bloggers there. It’s such an easy way to keep up to date with people’s projects and also get people’s opinions on your own!”

Heather Valentine


“Inspiration can be found anywhere, but the one thing that captures my attention and pulls me in is the vibrant colors found in nature. If you look closely, you will find every color combination imaginable.”

Angel Hickman


“Having a degree in film studies, I love to look at old movies and vintage patterns for ideas. Whether it’s the gray suit that Kim Novak wore in ‘Vertigo’ or the green velvet dress made from curtains (the original upcycling) that Vivien Leigh wore in ‘Gone with the Wind,’ old movie fashions are the ideal place to get influence.”

Where do you find your creative inspiration? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

Read our full interview with these influencers in the Spring issue of Gradient, the official magazine of the Association For Creative Industries. The digital version is available to all AFCI members upon logging into your online account. Visit

Member Spotlight: Meet Kiki Lally

It’s not every day you meet someone who was the first to do something in her country. Today, we’re introducing you to an AFCI Member who falls into this category. Pretty neat, right?

Meet Kiki Lally. Kiki and her husband, Sameer are the the co-founders of Pinnovate in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Pinnovate is the country’s first do-it-yourself (DIY) studio that combines wine, coffee and crafting! We interviewed Kiki about the business for an article in the Spring issue of Gradient, AFCI’s quarterly magazine. Below is a portion of the interview.


Pinnovate; Photo credit: Jennifer Chabot Photography

Tell us about yourself.

“Ironically, my background is not in anything crafty or creative; it happens to be in aviation. I have spent the last 17 years as a flight attendant with what was “the little airline that could” that has now grown into an extremely successful company, Westjet Airlines. Westjet raised the bar on customers’ expectations with their “Under promise; over deliver” motto. I have taken their caring and compassionate values into a different type of creative world with Pinnovate. If you haven’t had the chance to fly with Westjet, hop on a flight to Calgary and come for a visit.”


Kiki Lally, Co-Founder of Pinnovate; Photo credit: Jennifer Chabot Photography

Tell us about your business.

“Pinnovate comes out of a need for more innovative and artistic programming in our city. Having three young children, we find things to do with them, but I was looking for something unique that could appeal to all ages at any time. Our goal is to allow everyone, even those who don’t think they possess a creative bone, the opportunity to create something they can be proud of. We have a multitude of Pinterest-inspired projects to choose from; we supply all of the materials; and we provide hands on help and customization. In addition to fun crafts, we hold monthly workshops that include terrarium making, weave + wine nights, and we also play host to many different groups for splatter paint, date nights, bridal showers, team building sessions and birthday parties.”


Pinterest-inspired projects at Pinnovate; Photo credit: Jennifer Chabot Photography

Connect with Kiki and learn more about her business at

Read our full interview with Kiki in the Spring issue of Gradient, the official magazine of the Association For Creative Industries. The digital version is available to all AFCI members upon logging into your online account. Visit

Computers are learning the art of creativity in more ways than you may know

By Kristen Farrell, Manager of Marketing & Public Relations, Association For Creative Industries (AFCI)

Remember when the Google Arts & Culture App went viral earlier this year? The app introduced a new feature that uses a facial recognition algorithm to match a selfie with a museum portrait.

Google Arts & Culture App

Google has been creating algorithms that recreate art for quite some time. Google’s AutoDraw is an artificial intelligence experiment that helps you draw by combining “the magic of machine learning with drawings from talented artists”Quick, Draw!, another research experiment by Google, trains systems to learn sketches in a way that is very reminiscent of the game Pictionary.

The technology giant isn’t the only participant in this progression. Computer scientists at the Art & Artificial Intelligence Lab at Rutgers University are studying how to use artificial intelligence to replicate “perceptual and cognitive tasks related to human creativity.” Artsy hailed Professor Ahmend Elgammal’s new art-generating algorithm as “The biggest artistic achievement” of 2017.

So, what’s the relevance of all of this?

Computers are learning the art of creativity.

Although algorithms have not yet replaced an artist’s creativity, more research and developments in this area could change that one day soon.

As concerning as this may seem, there is an upside, which is:

Greater awareness and support for art education.

Research commissioned by the Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) suggests that parents recognize creative activity as an essential component of creative thinking. As algorithm art enters the mainstream, it could spawn support for integrating art into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.

Kids painting

Are you experimenting with algorithm art? AFCI is interested in learning how you are utilizing it in your creative business. Share your story by sending an email to

This is a portion of an article that appears in the 2018 Spring issue of Gradient, the premier magazine publication of the Association For Creative Industries. To read the full analysis of algorithm art, visit and log in to your member account at

Interpreting Our Industry Research – It’s Not As Scary As You Think!

By Keri Cunningham, Sr. Director of Marketing and Research, AFCI

Replacement pictures for page 24 - DIY cover image

Results from the Creative Products Size of the Industry Study Update are now available for Association For Creative Industries (AFCI) members. We often hear, “I don’t have time to decipher all of the key findings” or “I’m a creative person, not a numbers person”. Well, I’m here to tell you you can do it! If you set aside some time to review the report, you’ll see it as one of your most important member benefits.

Other members have used it to provide an in-depth perspective on our industry and support various initiatives such as: buying and selling; developing business plans; tracking trends; and planning, forecasting, and marketing company products.

I know it is intimidating, but don’t ignore it. This infographic highlights some key stats and ways the data can work for you.


Putting the Data to Work
What does all of this mean for you? Crafters are busy and cost-conscience so it is important for retailers and suppliers to deliver product and inspiration through an omni-channel strategy that integrates satisfactory in-store, online and print shopping experiences.

Since crafters are participating in multiple crafts, retailers can encourage unplanned purchases with tactical store layouts that place crafts with high-crossover tendency in close proximity. Retailers should show how products work together or how they are used for different applications. Display finished craft projects and keep the products needed to complete the project within easy reach. Online retailers can build impact and shopping basket size by suggesting complementary products.

Stores should emphasize the personalized nature of crafts for gifting and make the shopping experience more experiential. Think creatively and transform your space into a place where people can come to have fun with interactive activities, personalization and technology.

AFCI Members can download the full report for free by clicking here or choosing the Research link under the Membership tab at You’ll need the email associated with your membership account and password to gain access. Non-members interested in purchasing the report may contact me at or 201-835-1229.

The full version of this article is featured in the Spring issue of Gradient. AFCI Members can view the digital edition online at