Report From the Trenches: Focus

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The next vendor over at my first farmer’s market sold cupcakes. Actually, she sold four things: two flavors of cupcake, 1 kind of cake, and 1 flavor of ice cream sauce. No elaborate product lines, no six colors of frosting. Just four things. Watching her sell, I learned a lot about the paradox of choice. People would come to her stall, see the four items, taste one, and buy it. People would come to a stall with twelve types of things, look blankly at them, and then move onto the next vendor.

I suppose there’s something to be said for focus in business. Making your customer’s decision simple makes a lot of sense. After all, they’ve already chosen to shop with you instead of some big box store with four thousand choices, maybe this is what they’re looking for anyhow. Better to choose four things, and do them really well, instead of spreading your time across a hundred. And yet, there’s something to be said for offering what your customer actually wants, not what you want for them.

It’s a balance, really, between the desire to maintain a focused product line, and the artists’ need to make. That’s why we do the work, after all. To create new things, to try a different approach, to constantly explore the new places in our imagination – this is why we make art. This summer, I started out with about 15 designs of four different products. I’ve been adding a few so far, and I think that’s good for now. Just as long as I don’t outgrow my booth, I guess.

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