Sunday, December 9, 2012

Made in the USA

"Made in USA" seems to be the mantra of the day. More and more people feel that the only way to improve our country's economy is by having more jobs here. However, there has to be an incentive for people to make goods here. And that stimulus is people preferring to buy products from America. When you buy American-made products, you encourage producers to hire more people, and that improves the economy. Sounds simple doesn't it?

Let’s take a step back for a moment and ask what "Made in USA" really means? To understand this better let me tell you a little bit about my experience. I started Zahoomi with the intention of helping local sellers. My goal was to connect buyers with sellers located close by, and thus help improve the local economy by keeping the money within the community. Zahoomi was (and is) set up to show stores closest to you first. It was my way of making sure the local sellers got exposure to buyers rather than being lost in the sea of sellers from all over the USA or the world.

After spending time to find my bearings, I decided to go back to my original vision and restrict Zahoomi to US sellers only. That decision made, I was all ready to join the "Made in the USA" bandwagon, when I decided to do some research to educate myself as to what it really meant. 

U.S. federal law defines when a product can be advertised as "Made in USA":
For a product to be called Made in USA, or claimed to be of domestic origin without qualifications or limits on the claim, the product must be "all or virtually all" made in the U.S. The term "United States," as referred to in the Enforcement Policy Statement, includes the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories and possessions.

That web page goes on to give many examples of what can and cannot be labeled as made in the USA. If clothing is made in the USA with material from the USA, then it is made in the USA. If a gold ring is made in the USA from imported gold, it is still not made in the USA. If the majority parts are imported then you can say "Made in USA with imported parts". And falsely advertising that a product is "Made in USA" can be grounds for massive fines!

However, in dealing with lots of sellers on Zahoomi, I knew that many of them worked hard and produced products that may not be called "Made in USA" using the FTC’s definition. An artisan from California who spent hours making the bracelet might have beads made overseas. Does this lessen the effort put into making this product? Although the bracelet was not strictly made in the USA, did this kind of work not generate jobs for people in the US?  

I was in a dilemma. On the one hand I did not want to get into trouble for falsely advertising products as made in the USA when they technically did not qualify for this label. On the other hand, I wanted to support all those who worked hard to produce beautiful products in the USA. After a lot of thought and countless days trying to figure out how to say "(Almost) Made in USA", I decided to simply ask people to shop American and support the American dream. 

All products on Zahoomi are made by hard working people right here in the USA. The products are not imported from other countries. However, if people do not buy these products, there is no incentive to continue to make them. The decision of these sellers to continue working and making these products depend on your decision to buy them. They may not all qualify for the Made in USA label but I am sure you will agree that buying these products is the best impetus for continued job sustenance/creation. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5 Online Jewelry Shopping Tips

As someone that not only sells jewelry online, I love to support the handmade market with my own purchases. Well, it's not like I am out to save the economy one purchase at a time but I definitely love finding beautiful, unique and quality jewelry for comparable if not BETTER prices than I would find at my local department store. I like knowing that someone's heart and talent went into creating the item rather than something that was mass-produced most likely in another country and very possibly in an exploitative environment.

So how does one go about shopping for accessories online? I think there are a few rules of thumb that will help insure you are getting something you will be glad you invested in. Below are a few of my personal favorites:

1. I try to always buy US Made when it comes to accessories. I'd say 95% of my accessories purchases have been from home grown artists from the US. There are so many talented and creative people here in our own backyard, I rarely can justify buying anywhere else. I definitely feel better knowing I am helping to support our own domestic artists and economy by doing so. (Did you know Zahoomi has made a new commitment to offer only US made items in their online marketplace?)

2. I make sure that contact information is readily available. I've actually made impulse buys and didn't check to see if the seller's contact information is made easily available to it's customers. It's a red flag if any company or seller doesn't make communication with them a priority. Almost every time I've bought without checking this first, I've regretted it. k

3. Ask questions. Sellers are, for the most part, ready and willing to answer any questions. If I'm not sure about something from the pictures I ask. The answers are always (so far) prompt, informative and courteous. Communicating with the seller may help to fill in details you don't see covered in the picture or description. 

4. Lastly, Use the imagination. I sometimes forget what a valuable tool this is when shopping online. Pictures are very helpful but they are still flat compared to real life. I've found when I remember to use my imagination it adds a whole new facet to shopping for accessories and clothes online. I've made great purchases of items that I was about to pass buy when I remembered to take a minute to really envision it with one of my outfits. One of my favorite scenarios is jeans and a V-neck T-shirt. I imagine the bracelet or necklace or earrings being worn with this simple yet timeless combo. It's a great canvas to determine the "WOW" factor of a piece that otherwise I would've passed right by. 

5. Shop by color. I love this feature. Zahoomi added it awhile back and a few other sites use it as well. Shopping for jewelry online can be really overwhelming! There are a million amazing artists out there with a gajillion amazing pieces to offer! Shopping by color brings it into focus a bit, narrowing all of the info into bite size portions. I like that.

So those are the ways in which I find my way through the infinite number of choices that are before us in this new age of online marketing. Because of this new frontier we can support our economy, support local artists, find great deals on unique items that not everyone will have because we all shop at the same store and we can avoid the crowds and stress of the mall, the store and the parking lot. Sounds like a win/win situation to me!

Do you have any tricks to shopping online? What do you avoid? What attracts you? Please share your experiences and join me in the Jewelry Journey!


Reprinted with permission from:

Friday, November 30, 2012

Important change to Zahoomi!

Hope you are all having a great holiday season so far!
From Dec 1 2012, Zahoomi will only be featuring products from the USA. We arrived at this decision as we wished to show the talent from here and make it easier for buyers to support the people and jobs here.  In order to qualify to open a store here products listed must have at least >85% of the labor from the USA. 

We do not use the term "Made in the USA" as the FTC definition of this criteria states that  "a product advertised as Made in USA be "all or virtually all" made in the U.S". We understand that although you made the entire bracelet, the beads you bought could actually be from China. Hence we came up with our own criteria for our site. 

We hope you will understand our reasoning and support our vision. The American Dream as stated by  James Truslow Adams was that "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. We are glad to provide an opportunity for all; even if we help one of you with your American Dream, we would consider Zahoomi a success.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Paper or Plastic?

You've finished and sold your latest masterpiece and now it's time to pack it up and ship it off to your eagerly awaiting customer. You want it to be secure but you also want it to say something about your product and that you care about your creation and your customer. Fortunately there are so many ways to send off your treasures safely AND with your own touch of flair. I'll outline a couple of great ideas and hopefully, you will add some of your own to the comments below as well!

Bags: So many choices! Try for a great selection of organza, satin and velvet bags. They come in many sizes and so can be used for almost anything. Paper bags can be adorable. You can write on them, stamp them, paint them, glitter them, add bows and ribbons...the possibilities are endless! Then of course there is plastic and cellophane, but personally, I prefer using the more eco-friendly packaging options of organza and paper. 

Stickers: Adding a "Thank You" sticker to your packaging somewhere always brings a smile to your customer's face. I've found a really great selection at very reasonable prices on They come in a myriad of styles and colors and most are fully customizable! You can even add your website address to many of them. 

Tissue Paper: Wrapping up your bagged item in a swath of fluffy, pretty tissue paper gives your customers that "opening a present" feeling and who doesn't love that?!? Cost effective and colorful, it's a great way to make your packaging pretty and fun.

 Since I cannot personally smile and warmly thank many of my customers face to face, it's important to me to convey to them warmth and gratitude for their purchase and to let them know they are indeed appreciated and special to me. It's the small things that make the big differences.

What are your favorite ways to let your customers know you appreciate them and their business?  Please share them with the Zahoomi community, we'd love to hear your tips and tricks as we all grow together!

On with the adventure!   

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why Buy Handmade Part 2

Why Buy Handmade Part 2
The selection in the hand crafted scene has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years. People are
beginning to realize the many advantages of buying from local and national artisans. My first thought when I heard the word "handmade" used to be of my Grandmother’s crocheted toilet paper covers that collected dust in the bathroom, God bless her. Today, "handmade" means SO much more to me and covers so many items and choices. If it can be made by hand, you can almost bet your Christmas fudge on it that you can find it online in a handmade marketplace like Zahoomi. 

In celebration and support of our wonderful artisans, I've listed some of my favorite reasons to buy hand crafted this season (Please add a few of your own to the comments too!) I hope it motivates everyone to consider buying handmade this year when they're thinking of all the gifts they need to buy. It's a win win situation! 

  • Your purchase helps to keep a growing and wonderful industry alive insuring that every year, even more beautiful, unique and quality items are available next year.
  • Hand crafted items don’t usually add to our environmental issues. They are environmentally friendly because they don’t depend on large factories, illegal labor, machines that produce and use tons of pollutants and harsh chemicals. There is a minimum of plastic packaging that will need to be disposed of in most cases as well.  
  • You know you are, in most cases, supporting someone in our own backyard and not an over worked, underpaid and sometimes abused laborer in a factory in another country.
  • Handcrafted items do not usually carry a huge markup. Most likely you will be receiving an amazing, unique item at a comparable if not hugely competitive price of something “similar”, but not as special, from your local department store.
  • Your great taste will be evident to all and you may discover the next hot designer!
  • No hunting for a parking place, fighting the crowds, dealing with overworked sales staff, and high prices for mass produced something you’re not even sure your gift receiver will even like.
  • There’s a slim to none chance that someone else picked the same exact gift.
  • There are many items and ways to add a custom and personal requests to your hand crafted item. You can request certain colors, a name to be added or some other special touch when ordering without paying an exorbitant price.
  • You will have direct contact with the maker. You can’t say that with factory produced products!
  • Hand crafted items create a connection that a mass produced item just can’t. Hand crafted items are made one at a time with care and love and imagination. This magical quality translates itself to us and makes it truly special. Isn’t this what we are really looking for when we shop for gifts for our loved ones?

Personally, I love the look someone gets on their face when they open a gift from me and discover something they know right away was not only chosen with love and care but was made with the same love and care. It’s just an entirely different feeling than watching them open yet another useless kitchen item, or set of hand towels from the huge housewares outlet in town or myriad of other mass-produced products that get gifted and yes, more than I want to know, regifted.
I haven't looked forward to Christmas shopping since I was a kid, if anything, I’ve dreaded it every year.  This year I am looking forward to doing most of my shopping from the comfort of my home, perusing the thousands of beautiful offerings of our local artisans and choosing some very special gifts for my friends and family and having them delivered right to my door! (And truthfully, I hope I receive a few of these wonderful gifts myself!! My secret plan is to keep buying handmade until it catches on with all my friends and then I can guarantee I will find some under my own tree with MY name on them! Yippee!!)
Do you plan to buy handcrafted items this year? How have your ideas of the word “handmade” changed over the last few years? What is your favorite hand crafted item to buy as a gift? What benefits do you enjoy buy when shopping your local and national artisans at fairs and online?
We love hearing your input! Thank you for shopping handmade!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Seller spotlight + New giveaway

Our spotlight today is on Wendy Cummins, owner of Friday Creek Farms. Wendy and Bill specialize in goat milk soap made in the Pacific Northwest. We were curious as to how they got into this business and got to talking with Wendy. 

Tell me a bit about yourself.

We are Bill and Wendy Cummins, owners of Friday Creek Farm in Burlington, WA.  We began raising goats about 11 years ago.  Our herd is mostly Boer and Boer cross goats but we do have a few Nubian dairy goats.  We keep the Nubians for those times when we have bottle kids to feed but we were ending up with a lot of excess milk.

What made you start this business?

We began looking for something that we could make with the extra milk and possibly sell, without having to jump through too many regulatory hoops.  We knew milk and cheese sales were out but we soon met a woman who was making soap with her extra goat milk.  So, about 8 years ago, we started making goat milk soap.

Check out the complete seller spotlight and giveaway here

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thanks from Zahoomi!

Thank you all for supporting Zahoomi and being with us from the beginning. As a token of our appreciation, I am giving out $5 Starbucks card* for those shopping on Zahoomi. To take advantage of this offer, just purchase your favorite handmade item and you will receive the e-card by mail! Go ahead and enjoy!

* Limited time offer

Monday, August 20, 2012

Handmade VS Mass-produced

There's a restaurant down the street from me, let's call it Ronnie's for now. They have a really good breakfast deal, you can get tri-tip, ham, bacon, kielbasa sausage, 2 eggs, toast and hash browns for about $10. I know, what a deal right? It's so much food that my fiance and I split it because there's no way either of us could eat all of that alone! The restaurant is trendy, done in modern + vintage 50's style deco. The wait staff is reasonably nice and all in all, it's an ok place to get breakfast. Oh and the food is pretty good. We order, eat and leave. Nothing spectacular, we were hungry, and now we're not and we didn't spend an arm and a leg. Mission accomplished.

Further down the road about 8 miles is another 
place, let's call it The Sunny Cafe . It's small and cozy. We find ourselves to whatever table may be available and then the bus boy comes over to say hello, get our drink order and pours the coffee usually asking how we've been and seems happy to see us. He keeps our coffee fresh and hot all through breakfast. The server (who's been there for about 15 yrs) knows us by name, and has since our second time there. She pretty much knows exactly what we'll order. She makes us feel so welcome and taken care of. We get our breakfast, and sit and talk and enjoy it. We leave feeling not just full, but kind of warm inside, almost like we just had breakfast at mom's.  

Comparing these two the other day made me think of the difference between mass-produced products offered in huge quantities and low prices at the big superstores and the original, hand-crafted items offered by sites like Zahoomi. Looking at a necklace hanging on a rack in the store, at first glance may look like something similar being offered by a hand-made jewelry artisan, but is it really?

Cosmic Blue Bracelet from Jolly Stones
and Glass on Zahoomi
Do you find yourself enjoying things made by hand and heart better than things you get from the bigger restaraunts, stores and outlets? Do you sense a definate difference? If you do, what do you think that difference is? I'd love to hear your comments and perspectives on this!

Please leave comments below because this blog isn't complete without your participation! I love hearing all of the different thoughts, ideas and feedback.

Thank you!

Monday, August 13, 2012


I can't believe it is mid-August already! I hope you have all been enjoying the summer so far. As for me I really don't know where my summer went this year! It is already time for back to school shopping and starting to look for books and backpacks and pens and pencils and clothes that actually fit!

I'd love to hear from you all about where you do most of your shopping? Where do most of you go for school stuff? Is Target really cheaper than Fred-Meyer? How about clothes? I always run into the issue of too-loose-at-the-waist issue when buying pants for my son? Do you run into this too?

Would love to hear your thoughts and advice! Go ahead and let me know what you do.

Friday, August 3, 2012

In a Pinch Lightbox

In a Pinch 

I wanted my photos to have that pretty, bright professional look I would see everywhere so I did a little research. I found out about "Light boxes" and I also found I could spend anywhere from$25-$200 for simple to full on kits with lots of bells and whistles! Reading about the function of a light box, I realized that most important is that it has a light matte background and that it reflects light well.  After playing around a bit with a few household items I found something that works great in a pinch! Isn't it awesome that our imaginations can be used for so much more than just making pretty things?

Basically all you need is what is pictured above in the title picture. I've used a small box about 18"x 12" x 4" here. Next, take plain paper and wrap scotch tape to make it "double-sided" and tape to back of paper so it doesn't show and lay in back of box. 

Then, do this for all sides of the box, doing your best to cover  by laying paper in ways that make neat seams. Pictures below will show you what I mean. 

Now as you can see, this is by no means perfect. BUT, with a little adjusting of the bottom paper (which I don't tape down) and of the camera angle I'm able to capture a clean, bright picture and I did it all with what I already had laying around the house!

Above is a picture taken in the box I just put together for this article. Not a seam in sight and it's got that bright look I need! I took it outside in the noonday light, but not in the direct sunlight, and snapped it in one shot. Well two, the first came out blurry. Voila!

When you have a little more time to put into making a great picture box I suggest buying foam or poster board and measuring and cutting to exact dimensions to cover the inside of your box. This way you can use boxes that are big enough or small enough for your needs. You can get different colors to use for back or bottom for accent when you like too! Below there is a link to a great video on how to make a light box from tissue paper and cardboard with a little tape for those of us who do not have access to great natural light.  

It's wonderful that with all of the information on the internet we can find ways to do things that work, without spending a lot of money! I'd much rather spend my money on MORE BEADS!! 

If you have a helpful trick or suggestion to make pictures really pop, please share your experience below! Also, let us know if you have any questions, we are here to help!! 

Link to great light box video:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Where Are YOUR Ducks?

Where are 
YOUR ducks?

Organized...organization....what comes to mind when you hear those two words? For some, it’s just a word, something you just do so you can be the amazing and productive person you are and you hardly think about it. For others it makes our stomach clinch a little and tiny beads of sweat begin to dot our brow as, in a flash, 3 or more thoughts of areas that are in need of some serious organization flash across our minds accompanied by that ever familiar guilt. Which of the two are you or are you somewhere in the middle?

If you’re marketing an item that you create with your own hands, chances are you're a pretty creative person. There’s also a good chance that organization may not come naturally to you. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. I acknowledge this with not just a little envy of those who are blessed with the organization gene AND the artistic gene. You are my heroes! As for the other artistic types, this is not the case. Many of us right-brains don’t naturally fall into a prelabelled, color coded box easily. We usually go out of necessity mixed with a little desperation, side-tracked all along the way by all the pretty sparkly stuff! Am I painting a realistic picture for any of you? 

I have a weird dichotomy. When I used to work in an office, I was very organized. I was known for my ability to streamline workflows and develop processes and policies to handle all the information coming in and going out (I was the lead Data Analyst in the IT Department of a local hospital). The day would end, I’d go home...and that is where this uber organized side of me would just *poof*, disappear. I’ve discovered I suffer from a couple of maladies that while, sadly, are incurable, can be put into a sort of daily remission if I take my “Medicine”. They are as follows:

Calendar Clutter:
Calendar Clutter is that sense that I know I have a lot to do, I’m just not sure what or when or with who and I am sure I will miss something at some point because I am suffering an attack of Calendar Clutter.
My Medicine: Use my personal email program and my calendar app on my phone to keep me on track. It is visual (“YAY!” says my right-brain) and organizational (“DOUBLE YAY!!” says my left-brain). I can put appointments, to do lists and reminders into this and it does the rest. My biggest struggle with this is REMEMBERING to use it! I have no cure for the forgetful flu as of yet folks, sorry. If I do run across one, I will do my best to remember to tell you about it!

Disaster Desk:
I work on a large glass top, nearly indestructible desk. 
 Most mornings, when I first sit down, my coffee cup has to fight with the beading mat, bead tubes,
tools and thread to find a place for itself. It's usually a longggg expanse of items that tell a story of all the things I did yesterday at this desk. It's almost forensic in nature! It's also unnerving. 
My Medicine: Resist the urge to run. Resist the urge to “work around” The Disaster. Begin with the easiest thing to put away and then the next...and next until I can begin my workday with a fresh and clean start. I've found it is very hard for me to find a peaceful place to let inspiration grow in the middle of chaos. Following through with this directive in the morning FIRST, makes all the difference on how the rest of the day will unfold. 

That’s it.’s simple and small. When I wander away from doing one or both of these things for any extended period of time, I find myself 
swimming in deep waters of dread (that I’m going to inevitably miss something important), frustration and anxiety. The medicine, when I’ve come down with the Disorganization Disease is not too far away and not too hard to swallow. It is from this framework that all else flows. I have the boxes and containers and files and compartments. I have the shelves and spaces and places. On a good day, if the basics are in place, I can find myself free enough from Clutter Crisis to embark on a more detailed journey into the realms of Organization, sifting through Czech glass and Swarovski crystals and cabochons and bead tubes. I can label and color code, sort and separate with the best of them! At some point, this all seems to eventually deteriorate into a jumble and I find myself once again reaching for my two trusted Cures. They are good starting points to a day, and to a fresh start when things have gone awry. 

Today, I am at the tail end of a spiral into Chaos. Sitting here, writing I am inspired to begin again. I will open my calendar and sort through my mental disarray and get it ironed out into something tangible. I can see my starting point on my desk. I'll start with the bead tubes. Things will come back together into some kind of coherent framework. It’s progress, not perfection and having a sure way to begin makes all the difference.

Where do you fall in the scale of the Organized/Disorganized? 
What are your tried and true habits that keep you sane? Do you 
struggle with this or is being organized a cakewalk for you? Where are YOUR ducks and how do they fare? For today, my ducks will live! I'll round em up and start anew.

We’d love to hear your experience, suggestions or wisdom or even just a funny story about your own victories and/or disasters regarding organization. Your comments complete this blog so please, feel free to share your answers below! I cannot tell you how much I look forward to learning from YOU! 

Thank you for reading and have a good and prosperous day! There is joy in the Journey :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Journey - Not a Destination

A Journey - Not a Destination

It is better to travel well than to arrive.
I began beading on a whim. I was in a time of rough seas and unknown destinations. All I knew was where I was going was going to be better than where I had been, I just wasn’t sure how yet. Sitting at a table with a friend my eye was drawn to his ring. It was a little blue beaded ring. I asked him to take it off so I could look at it. It looked so simple as I examined it. The thread obviously goes in here and comes out there into that little tiny bead and it goes on and on until you’re done! “I can do that” I thought. I decided right then, holding that little beaded ring of my friend’s that I was going to do this too. Besides it looked so easy! (I can hear snickers from the crowd…)

Not long after, I came across a local bead shop. I wandered up to it and discovered they gave Peyote Stitch lessons for $20. I sat down and made my first little strip of peyote stitch and to this day I can recall the colors I used and the design. It was diagonal stripes in a dusty rose and champagne. She was happy with how fast I caught on, I wasn’t. My friend’s little ring looked so simple but as I fumbled with the teeny tiny beads and the thread and the needle and trying to “pay attention to the tension”  and all of a sudden it felt as though I had 20 fingers instead of 10 I had become appropriately humbled. It was not “so easy”. I was beginning to feel a respect for this craft.

I left the shop with my little bag of supplies, my first beaded strip of dusty rose and champagne and a fire of motivation. The nice lady told me to go home, finish the strip and return to learn how to finish it and how to put a clasp on. I never went back. I wanted to figure it out myself. For the next 7 years drawers and boxes held tiny strips of beads in simple patterns. I only ever completed 2 bracelets. One that kept falling apart because I hadn’t finished it right and the other was lost. About a year ago I decided to use the internet to look up a tutorial on how to finish a bracelet correctly.  Amazing what you can learn when you decide to be a student!

I now believe the 7 years of seemingly pointless beading were not so pointless after all. It was, first of all, a way for me to release myself creatively and to bring myself into a zone of calm. I was, along the way, developing my technique and becoming very connected with the process of beading. I learned about how different colors look when used as opposed to in the tube. I finally got the feel for “tension” and things stopped looking stretched out and crooked. I learned the language the needle and beads speak to make certain patterns. None of this could’ve happened overnight. I'm very grateful for that small beading shop that has since gone out of business for putting my feet on this road and for all the steps thereafter. 
First completed piece!

The lesson as I see it is that there are no shortcuts to learn or perfect this or any craft. It is a journey fraught with knotted thread, ugly attempts, frustration, mistakes and finally something something wonderful happens.  I'm sure you know the wonder and humble joy over looking at something your own hands have fashioned. It's one of the purest joys in life isn't it? Then to be able to share it with another person is even more fabulous still! 
I still remember the first piece that I completed that I knew crossed over from “a little beaded strip” to an actual fully realized creation. It’s been quite a journey and the road doesn't end here. From my vantage point, it still stretches on and on, to unknown destinations. I'm not sure where it's headed but I can relax and enjoy the ride because I'm sure it gets even better still!

Enough about my journey! It would be wonderful to hear how your journey into perfecting your craft has unfolded. When did you “KNOW” you had found your niche or are you still searching? What makes your experience priceless in this field? 

Thank you fellow Zahoomians for stopping by! I always eagerly anticipate your comments and perspectives!     

Lightbulb and road pictures courtesy of
All photos used with permission by myself and other owners.