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Understanding Price and Value with Mikailah Thompson

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Understanding Price and Value with Mikailah Thompson

Collin Gabriel September 16, 2021

Joni Mcspadden (00:00):

Okay. So why don’t you introduce yourself, your tribal affiliation and tell us a little bit about your business.

Mikailah Thompson (00:07):

Yeah. Ta ‘c halaxp ‘íinim we’níikt wées Mikayla Thompson, um, I’m of the Nez Perce tribe. Um, I live in the DC area, but I’m originally from Lafley Idaho. Um, so I go back and forth a lot. Um, my mom is Diane Ellenwood and my grandmother’s Chloe alf Moon and my grandfather’s Delbert Ellenwood. My great-grandmother is Nancy half-moon, great-grandfather Richard half-moon, um, Bertha Webb and Eugene, um, Eugene Ellenwood. Um, so that’s the family I come from. Um, and I’ve been beading for about since 2014, consistently, so about seven years now. Um, and I just started my LLC this year. I did a sole proprietorship last year, but decided to go full-time with my business this year and it’s been very rewarding. So, um, I’m glad that I was able to have that confidence to kind of jump in and do that. So, um, it’s a bit about me.

Joni Mcspadden (01:09):

Okay. So you said that you started your business, your LLC this year and this year is 2021. Yes. During COVID yeah, it’s a super challenging time to start a business. Um, so tell me a little bit about how you got into beading and, uh, why you’re, why you chose this as a business.

Mikailah Thompson (01:32):

Yeah. So my grandmother taught me how to bead at the age of 10. Um, and around that age, I ended up moving me and my mom ended up moving. So I was beading, but I didn’t know how to finish my projects because I wasn’t around or anymore since we moved. And I kinda just kind of stopped beating after maybe 10, 11 years old. And then, um, it wasn’t until I was going to Haskell Indian Nations University out in Kansas. And I was like, okay, I’m a college student. I need some money. So, um, I wasn’t sure what to do. And my cousin was like, well, you love to bead, why don’t you start doing that again? So I started doing that again, and I was so determined. It wasn’t even about the money. It was just something I knew I liked to do. And so I worked really, really hard at it, um, and kind of have been beading ever since, but it was always something I did on the side.

Mikailah Thompson (02:24):

It was something, you know, I didn’t have that confidence in my work yet. Um, and then finally getting to 2020, I’m realizing how many orders are coming in, how much I have going on. I’m like, well, one of my goals before graduating college, hence I was in college for, in and out for such a long time. When you think from 2014 to 2020. And I, um, decided to, I wanted to make sure I had some sort of business entity before graduating college. Cause that’s what I was kind of going to school for. My major was in business and communication. So I was like, well, I’ll do a sole proprietorship just to start. Um, and so I was still doing the same thing, taking orders on the side, nothing really business like, um, and then I ended up getting a job after graduating. So I moved over to DC for the job and I was just like, it just wasn’t what it, what I thought it was going to be.

Mikailah Thompson (03:18):

And during the time period, um, I hit like a huge financial roadblock and I was just kind of stressed out. Wasn’t sure what to do. And my natural instinct was I’m going to quit this job and invest in myself. I’m putting so much time into this job, helping someone else’s dream that I could be putting this into my own dream and making so much more money. And so I made that financial decision and like, you know what, I’m, you know, I appreciate it. Um, but I can’t work for you. Um, and I also had other corporate jobs coming to me. I was sitting in these corporate rooms doing interviews and I got the job, but I was like, you know what, no, I don’t want to, I want to invest in me. So I made that leap and that’s the biggest leap any entrepreneur can make.

Mikailah Thompson (04:05):

It’s the riskiest leaped ever entrepreneur, any any entrepreneur can make because it’s not that consistent paycheck, you know? And I think that’s what kind of stops people from moving forward and investing in themselves because of that unknowing, you know, it’s all on you now. And so I did that in December, like late November, early December, um, got my stuff registered at for an LLC. Um, and it seems very intimidating for people to get your business going. They feel like, I don’t know where to start. There’s so much paperwork even to have your business up within one day, if he really wants you, like, you can have all the paperwork done, ready to go website up included if you know how to do that within one day. So paid for my LLC, I already had a website, I just updated it. Um, and then I got my bank accounts open and just hit the ground running, um, in this year.

Mikailah Thompson (05:02):

Um, and like I said, it’s been the most rewarding year so far. And, um, I’m really glad that I did. It was by far the best decision I’ve ever made. Um, and I liked that, you know, being away from my reservation in my target market, so to speak, um, it kind of helps me because it focuses me. I don’t have all the other distractions around me. Um, I’m in another city, I’m in another state, I’m across the country, but, um, it definitely kept me focused, kept me on my toes. I didn’t have any, you know, negative feedback or I didn’t have anybody getting in my head. Um, I wasn’t tempted by anything. I was just really focused and tapped into my work. So that was kind of my journey last year, um, was when I decided I’m like, okay, I really want to do this.

Mikailah Thompson (05:46):

Then the pandemic hit, which was why I took that job. And then after that, um, after that year I was like, okay, next year is my year. I’m really going to go for it. I know what to expect. Um, I took the COVID um, last year with the whole pandemic, I took that seriously in a sense of just marketing myself, getting myself out there, promoting myself. So then once I decided to get, go into an LLC, I, um, I was able to make, I was able to network as much as possible and get those sales going. So it all worked out.

Joni Mcspadden (06:18):

Wow, that’s quite a story. So each you said that you, you kinda got stuck, um, not knowing how to finish your work. How did you overcome that whenever you start restarted?

Mikailah Thompson (06:32):

Um, so when I was a kid, once I learned how to be, um, and like I said, once I moved away from my grandmother, that’s when I didn’t know how to finish it. So I just had a lot of unfinished projects. Um, and then now that I’m older, when I do, or now that I’m actually established, um, I’m not one to turn down an order or turn down a project. It’s only challenges me to, to figure out how to do it. Um, there’s a couple of things I just don’t want to try. Like, I’m good on, like, I leave that to some people and I’ll say, oh, I don’t know how to do that, unfortunately, but I’ll point you in the right direction. Um, but for the most part, 90% of the time I’ll take a project. And when I can’t figure it out, I’ll, um, obviously look at YouTube or I will ask other beaters and I don’t see other beaters as necessarily competition, you know, especially ones that I know personally. No, I’m not scared to ask questions. Um, you can’t be scared to ask questions. So I always ask other artists, Hey, how did you do this? Or I got this far, can you help me along with this? And almost all the time, people will give you a response back, um, on how they do it or what they suggest.

Joni Mcspadden (07:39):

Yeah. And I think that that’s one thing that’s, um, pretty characteristics of a characteristic of a native owned business. And that is that collaborative spirit of, you know, going out into our community and asking for assistance or asking, you know, how did you do this? Or, um, what method did you use? I know that, um, you know, in, uh, some of the work that I do, it’s like, I’m getting information from literally everybody that I can possibly see information from to improve my craft. Yeah. So, um, all right. So you, you have a degree in business and communication, is that basically where you got your, uh, information about how to run your business and, um, you know, set up all of those systems?

Mikailah Thompson (08:35):

Yes and no. So I was kind of, like I said, on and off in school between 24, 20 12, actually in 20, 20, 20. And, um, first I started out in English then, um, then I went into business and communication. Then I grabbed a minor in marketing and another minor in my language. And through the whole entire time I was doing event planning, I was doing, um, doing the bead work. I was doing different business ventures because throughout college I’m like, well, while I’m learning, I want to be able to put this to action, get all my mistakes out of the way. So that way, when I do graduate, you know, I already passed up all those mistakes. I don’t have to live through it again. I can actually, you know, I’ll be able to hit the ground running. And so it wasn’t necessarily that, um, I learned what to do in school.

Mikailah Thompson (09:31):

Um, and I know for those people that are pro school, like, you know, that’s great, you know, especially if you’re going for nursing or law being a lawyer, but realistically the school system kind of sets entrepreneurs up to fail every day because they’re teaching you how to be a part of the system or only teaching you how to work for other people. And at the same time you’re going into debt. So for the most part, depending on what school you’re going to. So it’s not that it’s a waste of time, but a little bit it kind of is. And, um, especially nowadays there’s so much opportunity everywhere. There’s always people to talk to you. There’s so many, like I know, I love reading books. I listen to audio books, I watch YouTube. You can go to YouTube university in a sense and learn everything that you need.

Mikailah Thompson (10:14):

And so honestly, throughout school, it wasn’t that I didn’t get the techniques. I think I learned a lot about marketing. I love doing marketing. Um, and I was able to, like I said, put the curriculum to use, but it wasn’t stopping me from getting started and trying and failing. But when it comes to the legal side of things or learning how to put my business on the map, everything I learned was from the books that I read afterschool and all of the videos I watched after school, all the questions and all the people that I met, um, really kind of put me in that right direction.

Joni Mcspadden (10:50):

Okay. Um, so let’s talk a little bit about your pricing strategy and how you, how you approach that.

Mikailah Thompson (10:58):

Yeah. So I’m pricing, my work was a journey, um, starting out. So when I did just get started in, um, in college, I was definitely a perfectionist. I was a perfectionist in everything that I did back then, which is a horrible trait to have because no, one’s perfect at all. And then whoever needs to hear that really does need to hear that you’re never going to be perfect. Like there’s, there’s perf perfections in your imperfections, you know, that’s what makes you your version of perfect. And so, and especially for an artist. And so, um, I used to lower my price on my work because of the mistakes that I thought I made, that many people didn’t even notice I made, I would make something and I would kick myself. My mom would hear me in their room, just getting angry. Like I put this beat in the wrong place, or I, you know, did it back this right.

Mikailah Thompson (11:47):

And she never even noticed it. And so I would start negotiating or starting the out with the customer by lowering the price before they even got the opportunity to lower, to want to lower the price. Um, so which wasn’t a good trait. And then as I got better, I began to truly start pricing my work for what it was worth. Um, and there’s this story about van Gogh to where he’s sitting in a coffee shop, he’s scribbling on a napkin, like he’s just doodling. And then someone walks by and they say, oh, how much for that’s beautiful, how much for that piece of artwork? And he goes $10,000. They go $10,000. And the whole moral of the story is there literally is no artists like you, they’re not going to take the time to learn, to get as good as you got just doodling on a napkin.

Mikailah Thompson (12:37):

They’re not going to put in the blood, the sweat, the tears, all the mistakes you made, all the successes you had, you know, all of that’s included in your pricing. So that’s kind of, that’s something I always kind of keep in the back of my mind. And especially in business, you’re, you’re, you become as successful as you want to be. Once you get over your fear of selling, you know? And so you have to have, you have to be gutsy. You have to have that confidence to throw out the price of what, you know, you feel that you’re worth. Um, and so I, like I said, I read a lot of business books. I listen to a lot of audio books, business videos. Um, the biggest thing you can do as an entrepreneur and more importantly as an artist is to be comfortable with what you’re producing.

Mikailah Thompson (13:19):

So a technique that I use when I was increasing my price to find my price. And so let’s say I, um, let’s say there’s a medallions, for example, let’s say median medallions, um, I’m charging one 50, you know, and I think I want to raise my price, let me charge 1 75. So people are asking me, Hey, how much for this? How much for this? How much for this? I’ll say 1 75. If I nailed all those people, I’m like, okay, I’m obviously better than I think I am. You know? And so I do $200. They’re out $200. Everybody’s still taking that price. Not one note, if not 10 yeses for one note. Okay. So let me increase it to 2 25, still getting yeses. Once I hit two 50, I’m realizing more people are throwing with throwing at me. Oh, let me get back to you. Or, you know, next payday, or, and then I don’t hear from, you know, every artist has those experience.

Mikailah Thompson (14:15):

Once you kind of hit that area and you know, okay. 2 25 worked out, I’m going to stay around there. So that was a strategy that I used, um, which definitely worked. And then also I realized at one point in time, I was getting so many orders. I’m like, okay, I have so many orders. I have so much to do. If they really want my work, I’m going to have to increase it. Another 30%. It just is what it is because you know, I’m books. So, um, once I did that, people were still taking or saying yes, so I’m like, holy cow. So then I’m like, I’m an increased a little bit more. And it kept me, kept me in a good spot. I’m like, I’m going to leave it there because I can catch up with my work. Also during that time, your name’s getting out there.

Mikailah Thompson (14:54):

More people are starting to understand who you are and more people are appreciating your work. And whether you wanted to charge $1 or a million dollars, if somebody truly appreciates your work, they’re going to pay what you’re asking for. They’re not going to question it. And so once I learned that that was kind of something I stuck with. Um, and then also, I guess another strategy aside from that one is tracking your time. I always track my time just because I like to know how long I’m taking on a lot of things. I also, I’m very competitive and I like a challenge. So I like to beat the clock, I’ll say, okay, within the hours, I’m going to have this done or whatever. Um, but it’s a good strategy to have because you can also charge hourly. I know some artists charge hourly. Um, and I do it only when I start a new project and I’ve never done it before. I don’t really know what to charge. Um, and I’ll do that that way. And then also once I’m done with the project, I’ll add the cost of the supplies, any credit card fees, um, anything else on top of that? And then that’s my set price. Um, and it can go up there, go up from there, the more people appreciate that item or that work. Um, so those are a couple of strategies.

Joni Mcspadden (16:06):

So, um, let me see if I make sure I understand. So you started with basically an hourly rate, uh, for your projects and that hourly rate was going was probably based on an hourly rate that you had gotten at a corporate job, or that was at least a starting point.

Mikailah Thompson (16:27):

Yeah, the starting point I would just, I would, I would always look at other people’s work, which is not a good idea either. And I think that’s how I originally started out, was like, okay, well, this person’s only charging this much. I guess I’ll just charge this much, but I want them to come back. So I’m going to lower it a little bit. So I really didn’t know what to charge. The first medallion I made, I think I charged $35 and it was big and it was wasn’t $75. And now looking back, I’m like, oh my gosh, like I was only charging pennies. So I usually use that floating technique. I just kind of kept increasing, not being ridiculous pay, you know, knowing that, you know, I’m not, I wasn’t doing robbery, don’t get me wrong. I think once, um, I realized I was charging too low.

Mikailah Thompson (17:15):

I really was just honest with myself. Like, okay, you deserve for it to be a little bit increased. It’s taking you this amount of time. So once I realized the time, I would kind of factor in that hourly rate as well. Um, but then once I kinda got more of a name for myself and realize how many offers that I was getting and how, you know, I’m human. I only, I only have 24 hours in a day, you know, if they’ve really want my work, I’m going to have to price it up here. Um, so that’s kind of how, how it started, but yeah, it was kind of all over the place because I wasn’t, I was doing it by myself. I didn’t really, I didn’t have that business experience when it came to providing a product I was used to doing like events and stuff. So, um, so yeah, so I, I kind of, I started with the time, the time, a little bit, that’s definitely one of the techniques I use.

Joni Mcspadden (18:05):

Did you take the time to do the math of figuring out what your cost of goods sold are, you know, like how much you’re spending on your supplies.

Mikailah Thompson (18:14):

And I didn’t factor that in until a lot later. Cause I’m like, oh, these are cheap. It’s not a big deal, but you know, get your penny, like, get whatever you can get because you know, that’s what, that’s what people are paying you for it, you know, it’s, you can be as generous as you want to be, but most of the time, especially those who appreciate your work, they’re willing to pay for your time. So, um, I, now I take the time to definitely do that. So I have markup what kind of beads that I’m using, um, if it’s the thread or that I need, or, you know, definitely I keep track of how many Hanks I may use or if it would be equivalent to a Hank, um, we kind of have to put all of that, put all of that stuff in, because then you’re not really getting a net income.

Mikailah Thompson (18:57):

You know, you have your gross income and you have your net income, but of course, out of your gross income, you have the cost of goods that you’re paying for. You have the fees, the credit card, debit fees, PayPal fees, cash out, whatever these people are using. Um, and then when you’re stuck with your net income, you don’t have much, you know, compared to how much that you charged. So it’s important to keep track of all of those things, um, just to have in the back of your mind, to where it just becomes habitual that you know, how much you approximately use on this project. So, um, yeah, very, very important. So

Joni Mcspadden (19:30):

It sounds like you not only had a starting point, but EV at certain periods through your, your business history, you have, re-evaluated that that’s a perfect way to explain it and, and gone back and made those adjustments based upon, you know, your overhead because you know, the other part of overhead is, you know, like where are you beating? I mean, I’m sure it’s not on a, on a park bench, you know, when you have to pay some rent and you have to pay utilities and those types of things that all need to be factored in there as well. So have you actually done done the math to, uh, look at, you know, like your office expenses?

Mikailah Thompson (20:15):

Yeah. So this year, like I said, this is my first year. And so like it as a bit, you’re not going to be perfect out of the box. And I feel like people need to know that you could, you’re going to feel like you have it all together. And at one moment then you find another, you know, a better way to do it at the next moment. Um, and so it’s not until recently I got an accurate system to where I’m keeping all of my receipts and tracking everything that I spend. I’m categorizing everything that I spend from my transportation, to my travel, to my crafting supplies, office, rent utilities, um, which is good to do. It makes it easier. Obviously I’m a tax preparer. Um, but it also gives you a sense of how much you’re spending to make to make your, your work.

Mikailah Thompson (20:59):

Um, so yeah, so now I definitely, I do that and I categorize it. I haven’t figured out necessarily had a factor in, let’s say me, give grabbing gas to go, go buy the beads and things like that. Um, I kinda just give a ballpark amount of, like I said, the supplies and the time, especially, um, and if you are charging hourly, it’s like include that time. You, you have to run and go to the store, include that time that you are sitting there and you’re sketching and things like that. So it’s really, whatever is best for you without over-complicating it too much to where it stresses you out. Um, so like, I like the time thing would, would work. So if you’re doing, let’s say you want to charge $20 an hour, but you are having to make these certain trips or you are having to have to make these certain calls, keep all of that time in there. Don’t just keep the time that you’re beating or you’re doing your painting or whatever you’re doing track the time you’re using on all that. You’re, you know, all that you’re doing on that project.

Joni Mcspadden (22:00):

One question that frequently comes up with the students in that is, um, what if somebody donates some supplies to me? Do I still charge for those?

Mikailah Thompson (22:11):

No. I mean, I don’t charge if someone says, Hey, like I’ve had that before, too, where someone wanted me to make them like three or five pairs of earrings and they bought me a ton of nice, nice beads. Like, I’m not going to charge you for something you already paid for. You know, they buy everything.

Joni Mcspadden (22:30):

I guess my question is more along the lines if they just donated without making an order. Yeah.

Mikailah Thompson (22:37):

I mean, especially if you’re not, I mean, that’s kind of a difficult question and what, like, if they give you absolutely, they give you the thread, the needle, literally everything, then it’s like that you’re using then. Well, I don’t know. I think a donation is different. So it’s like, if it’s a donation, you still going to charge them as if they were just any other customer. Um, if they specifically say, Hey, I want you to use these beads that I donated, then that might be a different story. I haven’t had this happen, so I’m not positive. Let me, let me set this up a little bit differently. So I’m working

Joni Mcspadden (23:12):

With a quilter, a native quilter who does traditional quilt design does traditional designs on our quilts. And, um, so one day one of somebody who she knew just brought over a whole lot of fabric to her and said, here, I’ve got this extra fabric. I’m not going to use it anymore. She wasn’t becoming a customer. She was just making a donation. And so then my client was like going, I can’t charge my, my customers if I use for this fabric because it was donated to them.

Mikailah Thompson (23:48):

Oh, okay. I see what you’re saying. I’m thinking you meant like they donate it donated and they came back and wanted to place an order. Um, but no, I mean, I would, I mean, personally, I wouldn’t mind, I wouldn’t mind charging for something that was donated because at the end of the day, at the end of the day, I’m using that act to go out and buy more or that, and realistically, that person just wanted to help me out the person that gave me the donation. They’re the ones that wanted to see me get ahead. You know, they appreciated me for my work. Um, and it’s a gift in a sense. So I would, I would charge, um, because at the end of the day, it’s not really any of it. I don’t want to say any of their business. That sounds kind of shady, but it’s just like, you know, I appreciate the donation.

Mikailah Thompson (24:32):

They, to me, they want to see me get ahead as an artist. They want to just do what they can to add to my craft. Um, and by charging, this allows me to get better as an artist, it allows me to buy more supplies. It allows me to continue to thrive. So I would charge personally because like, even like I said, I, I got donated a whole chunk of beads, but every time I got at order and had to use those beads, and at the same time, I’m still using all of my other supplies. I’m still using other beads. I’m not construct like holding myself down to only using the supplies and that’s it. Right. So, and that’s the part, that’s just a part of business. And sometimes it doesn’t seem ethical in a sense, or like you, can’t always, sometimes you have to not be selfish, but you have to be able to put yourself in order to take yourself seriously as an entrepreneur. And those are some of the decisions that you’re going to have to make. So, um, so yeah, so I guess that’s well, and

Joni Mcspadden (25:28):

Another, another, uh, example I’ve got is, um, someone who’s been doing something doing this kind of work for a while, whatever, whatever their PR, whatever their industry is, they’ve been doing it for a while. Um, you know, like let’s say they’ve been making something and, um, it’s not necessarily sold so quickly in the past. And then now they’re going through some of their back inventory and trying to sell that back inventory. Um, is it a good idea to discount it?

Mikailah Thompson (26:05):

No. I mean, I think, well, first of all, I feel like if you’re, if you find an old piece or you have an old piece and it just, it hasn’t been selling what it’s been out there, um, then yeah, you can drop the price. That’s just kind of a smart decision in terms of getting the piece off of your hands, but also knowing that you can do better. And that was something I did 10, 15 years ago. But if it’s something that hasn’t been out the whole entire time, it’s just been sitting in the back, no, start off with the price that you charge. Now, when you’re bringing, let’s say you’re bringing it back out into inventory or out, out into the show floor or out to just the public eye then yeah. Start with what you normally charge. Um, and then I said, yeah, like, or like I mentioned with given time, if it’s been out in the forefront and you still hasn’t been, been selling yeah.

Mikailah Thompson (26:53):

You have that option, but it’s really just up to the artist. I had something that it took so long for me to, for me to make, and it was on my site for months, but I refuse to put the price down because I’m like, no, I worked my butt off on these. Someone who appreciates them are going to pay exactly what I’m going to pay or what exactly what I’m going to price. And they did. And the funny thing is I used to do that immediately. I used to immediately drop the price and I’m like, nobody wants this. And I was so used to stuff selling within hours or within days. So after it’s been a week or a month, I’d get in my feelings and lower the price when, um, which wasn’t a good idea. But when I put those pair of earrings up that I took so long to make, that took so long to make, um, and refuse to drop the price.

Mikailah Thompson (27:43):

I had my customer, the one who bought them. She’s like, I’ve had my eye on these for months and you know, now I can afford them. And I’m so excited to get them. So you have to think about it that way, as well as where, okay. Some people really just genuinely do love your work and they’re watching you and they’re seeing you grow. And they’re hoping to have, you know, that’s a gift to themselves or gift to their loved ones that they’re saving up for. And it makes that, that purchase that much more special. So don’t drop the price, um, unless you feel like, you know what, you know, you know, it’s just a personal decision to where it’s like, okay, well, I know I can do better. I know I could do more or, you know, you know, otherwise stand firm on your price.

Joni Mcspadden (28:24):

Right. So, um, the other thing about pricing is, you know, doing like two for one sales or, uh, you know, decreasing the price for, in, in the sake of more quantity versus, you know, necessarily keeping the price stable at one place. What’s your opinion about that? Um,

Mikailah Thompson (28:48):

So doing like group sales, kind of in aside, um, for me just in my field, I don’t do that because, um, the work is so intricate and it’s so time consuming now, if I was just selling something that took me 15 minutes to make, or I was just stringing beads for simple bracelets, then yeah. Then of course, bulking is going to be a good process to use if you’re just pumping out something to where, even if it’s something so simple, you can manufacture it. Or if you have, you know, employees just making your stuff, then yeah. That’s a good idea because you want to put your product out there as much as possible, but if you’re like an artist artists to where, you know, it’s taking me hours to do, um, it’s very intricate. It’s all handmade. The, no, I don’t suggest doing that. Um, cause then you’re not really taken seriously as an artist.

Mikailah Thompson (29:41):

If it’s, it’s something you can, you can, if it’s something you can mass produce and it’s not, I don’t feel like truly genuine one of a kind artwork. Um, so it just depends what field you’re in and my dad’s side of the family. They’re all kind of business-minded and they’re always, but that’s also my, my black side to where they’re like, you got to get help. You know, people in China can be doing this for you or, you know, you can hire a few other, so that way you can just sell, sell, sell. And I’m like, no, you know, like my native side of me, it’s like, my grandmother taught me how to do this. You know, I tacked down two to three beads at a time. Like I put my blood, sweat and tears into this. I’m an artist, you know, you want to ask your favorite artist, you want to ask Picasso or van Gogh or whoever, you know, to, to do something and someone else is doing it, you know?

Mikailah Thompson (30:28):

And so when it comes to artwork like that, like pottery or something that you, you know, that’s artwork, I wouldn’t do two for one sales. That’s just my personal opinion. Um, so that way people can really, really, truly appreciate your work when they hear a price, even if it’s too high or they feel like it’s really high, they want to know why they want to understand more about the piece. They want to ask more questions and that’s how you become taken seriously as an artist. So that’s my point of view. If it’s something you can mass produce and it’s like a brand, and you’re really just trying to it, you know, you’re trying to make as much money over something that, you know, you just wanna get your name out there, then yeah. Do that. But if you are an artist making one of a kind pieces, then don’t do that. Well. And I think it’s more

Joni Mcspadden (31:14):

Than just whether or not you’re identifying as an artist, especially with some of our handmade crafts, because that’s our culture. Yeah. And you know, so by, um, setting those price points high enough, like you said, people will start asking questions about the story behind that particular piece. And, um, I think that’s a great way for us to share our culture with people who have been taught inaccurate history, like includes everybody in the United States. Yeah. So

Mikailah Thompson (31:54):

You have to realize, they have to realize what they’re getting out of that piece. Not only are you a tribal artist, you know, you, I always say each bead tells a story. It’s like, you’re getting a whole history lesson and a piece. If you ask the right questions, if you’re interested enough, for me, it’s like when I create something, the designs I use, the techniques, I use it all, it all tells a story. It tells of where I came from. You know, my grandmother used to do this. So this is why I do it this way. My tribe used to use these colors. This is why I use this color and pattern. Um, they used to these, these colors because of a, B and C. So it like, it really does tell a whole story. It’s not only you, you, it is your culture, you know, if you choose to, um, actually yeah, wouldn’t say if you choose to use, you know, traditional aspects, but just you are your tribes. So therefore it’s like, you know what I mean? So it’s like you’re creating history or you literally creating history as you’re, you know, doing your artwork. So there’s a lot that comes with it.

Joni Mcspadden (32:54):

You have any of your pieces handy where you can just show, show them to us and tell us a little bit about them wall,

Speaker 3 (33:03):

Kind of see it.

Mikailah Thompson (33:05):

So that one’s a canvas piece. That’s the fully beaded canvas piece. I actually had that with me, which I wasn’t disappointed in itself. I still stood firm on my price. And I was like, someone will pay me what it’s worth. Um, and a lot of the times when I finish a piece, it feels like my child, because I took so long on it. So I wasn’t disappointed. But with that, these, um, I use a lot of the reds, the old style pinks, all those colors, they’re all colors that were used in the 17 hundreds by my tribe, the Nez Perce tribe. And, um, I include that in a lot of, in a lot of my work. Um, and like I said, it tells a story. So we used to use the old stuff or the, the baby blue sky blue, because it was of the sky of the waters, you know, where the salmon people.

Mikailah Thompson (33:51):

So when European tray traders, traders from Spain would come into our territory, um, we would trade for those colored beads a lot of the time. Um, and it’s also an end with red, like warrior red. Um, that kind of was representation of our warriors who are known as, uh, um, to have good warriors with strong Appaloosas. Um, and then of course, so those were the common colors in the 17 hundreds. I like to add my hint of gold or whatever, um, just to kind of reflect myself. So that’s something that I did. Um, this is actually a customer’s hat. Um, they chose the colors. I choose the design. I use a lot of geometrics in my work, um, because it was something that we traditionally also did. So I like to put my own spin and spin on it. So I use some bronze. Um, and then, yeah, so a lot of these different designs are designed.

Mikailah Thompson (34:49):

You could find on a lot of, um, old style, um, Mimi pu beadwork. And then I also a lot use a lot of shell disks because I’m in the 17, 18 hundreds, those were kind of forms of monetary value, but then our tribes. So like, you’ll see a lot of pictures of chief Joseph, or a lot of other members of our tribe that have the hanging wampum or shell discs. Um, so it was kind of a, um, an item of prestige and we would wear it. Um, so I like to add that flare in there to add, you know, prestige prestige to my pieces. Um, we also use a lot of breasts, so there was a lot of traders who, um, if they didn’t have anything that we wanted, we would ask for their buttons, anytime we saw brass or anything, we wanted it. And so that was kind of something like a, a, um, a nice flare as well.

Mikailah Thompson (35:41):

So I always put those kind of incorporate those as well. Um, but of course, like I said, I put my own spin on things and, you know, different designs as well, but I kinda like to add that traditional value. So as to the story, um, this is a bag that I did has a fully beaded, flat, nothing too serious here in terms of any like traditional linkage. I really like earth tones. So I went with some earth tones. I did a little bit of shell here, long cut shell beads here, a little bit of brass here. Um, so I like to use my traditional influences just in different ways. Um, so there’s that another item I have that I’m currently working on. So you’re getting an exclusive look on this one. Um, this one is Jackson sundown. I just started doing wall canvas pieces. Um, because I see bead work as art.

Mikailah Thompson (36:35):

You know, it’s not just regalia, it’s not just successories. I don’t like to call myself a designer because I have so much respect for people who are actually designing like clothing and apparel and stuff. It’s not easy. Um, I consider myself an artist first. And so I’m like, well, you know, art should be seen in other forms, you should be able to see it on a wall and be able to admire it and look at it and see what techniques they use. So I started doing wall canvases. That one was my first one. Um, but yeah, so Jackson sundown is a, he was a powerhouse. So he fought in the war of 1877 at like 14 years old. He broke Broncos, rode horses. And then in 1916 he won, um, he became a Bronco champion at the Pendleton Roundup in Oregon. And so he’s a really cool guy. So I basically was like, I want to try a portrait. So I’ve been working on him. Um, and hopefully you’ll be done pretty soon. So those are a few items I have on hand, but I like to like bring in traditional influences and use them in my own way. So,

Joni Mcspadden (37:38):

Right. Because making it in our own way that, you know, that shows that, that that’s a part of our reflection of who we are and what we’re bringing to it. And, and also, you know, what’s going back to what you said about the imperfection in the perfection. You know, I know whenever I was started doing pottery, it’s like, you know, I’m looking at this pot and then the bowl of the pots kind of wonky. It’s, you know, it’s bigger on one side and you’re like, oh right. That’s because that’s what happens with hand, hand building when you’re learning it. And not only that, but you can’t get that with the commercially prepared. You’re not, you’re not going to get a wonky, you know? Yeah, exactly. And

Mikailah Thompson (38:23):

That’s how you have to think about it. Like that’s what those little mistakes make your work, what it’s worth, because it shows that it’s handmade. You know, it shows that it’s coming from somebody, you know, figuring it out as they go or someone, you know, so there’s a lot of, I used to hate mistakes. Like I hated mistakes and it wasn’t until I posted something and people were like, oh my gosh, that looks so great. And I had one person say, you know, my grandmother always say, make one mistake. So you know that it’s yours, you know, no one can claim your work. Never really thought about it that way. Then I thought of like, well, yeah, it’s good to make those mistakes because it shows, you know, it shows your artistry. It shows that somebody actually did this and it wasn’t manufactured. So not that anybody would accuse you of doing so necessarily, but it just made it that much more, you know, that much more of a piece of art. So

Joni Mcspadden (39:14):

Yeah, I know whenever, um, I used to do a lot of knitting and crochet and I still do some, but I always, you know, first of all, people always ask you and I’m sure you run into this too. Um, what’s that going to be? You know, what are you working on? And my standard answer is I, you know, it hasn’t quite told me yet. Yeah. My goal is this, but we’ll see. Well, my mistakes were Freudian slips. Yeah. I think

Mikailah Thompson (39:46):

Like putting a label on it either. Cause I’m like, you know what, this is where I’m going, but the spirits may pull me somewhere

Speaker 3 (39:53):

Else. You know?

Mikailah Thompson (39:56):

I always, I make decisions as I go. So I hate showing people, unfinished pieces. Some people love it. Like some, like some people are like McKayla, you should show your process. I always would hate it. Cause I’m like, well, I don’t know which direction I’m going to go in. You know, I like keeping it open and just yeah.

Speaker 3 (40:15):

Things as I go. So on the other

Joni Mcspadden (40:17):

Hand, I think that, you know, a lot of up and coming artists need to have, they want that permission that, you know, we’re going to follow where the piece wants to go, as opposed to necessarily, instead of having this fist fight with it, which I feel like I’m sometimes having with some of the pots that I’m making, it’s just like, okay. Yeah. All right. You don’t want to be that. So let’s do something else. Exactly. So, yeah. Um, one of the other things that I wanted to just touch on briefly, and that is from especially the jewelry makers that I, I talked to, uh, and the other people who are making crafts that are based, you know, derive directly out of their culture. And that is the, um, the space that they inhabit as they’re doing their arch and, you know, being a sacred space, being a prayerful space, being a place that you’re connecting to creator or, uh, to your culture or whatever. Is that something that, that is that part of your process as well?

Mikailah Thompson (41:24):

Um, my, oh, it says I can beat almost anywhere. So I don’t really have any like specific place in terms of like physical environment, um, wherever uncomfortable of course, but it all comes down to mental for me. And so it’s like, it’s just the, kind of the same thing with cooking. Like you have to be in a good mood when you do it. Um, and when you’re in a negative mood or you’re angry, or you’re frustrated, it’s going to show in your work because you’re not going to make sure it’s perfect, not perfect, but you’re not gonna make sure you’re doing things the way, you know, you need to do them. So if you’re frustrated, you miss, you know, you didn’t put, and I can only refer to beadwork, but let’s say you didn’t, you know, put this beat in this spot or you left a little space here.

Mikailah Thompson (42:08):

If you’re frustrated, you just going to be like, oh, whatever, I just want to keep going. I just want to get this done shows in your work. So with me, I always make sure that I’m in a good mood. If I ever feel like I’m getting too exhausted or I’m overworking myself, um, or it’s just getting to be too repetitive, just too much. I am, you know, I’m tired. That’s when I immediately just drop it. I don’t want to fall out of love with the craft that I’m doing. And some artists face that to where it’s like, I’ve just been overworking. I’ve just been doing too much. It’s time for me to step away. Like I don’t ever want to feel that. So I always make sure that I’m mentally straight, mentally in a good mood. You know, how would I need around me making sure that I’m comfortable and then I’m not putting my body at harm either by peanut, whether with whatever it is for me, it’s my back. And of course my neck looking down so much. So I always just make sure that I’m straight and that I mentally, you know, in, in a good mood while I do my craft.

Joni Mcspadden (42:59):

Okay. So the place that we met was at Swire, this, uh, Indian market in Santa Fe, was this your first year there or have you, it was, well,

Mikailah Thompson (43:10):

I w I went there in 20, I think it was 2017 or 2018, my little sister, she, she likes modeling. So she’s been in the fashion show, I think almost every year, which is amazing. So I, the first time I was there, I was just visiting. This was my first year as an artist.

Joni Mcspadden (43:26):

But, uh, in, in order to get into that market, you have to have some name recognition.

Mikailah Thompson (43:31):

Yeah. So, so basically when I applied, it was, was it 2020? It was for last year, but of course COVID hit. Um, I applied, I didn’t think I was going to get in. I was like, you know, and it comes down to the confidence thing. Again, it all comes back to confidence to where I was like, you know, I’m not even that good. I’m not on the level of Jamie or Kuma or, you know, I’m not on a level of all these other artists. Like I’m just gonna throw it in whatever happens, happens. But it was me just pushing myself to say, you know what? I did it, you know, it was me taking myself seriously as an artist, just to say, you know, just put your application in whatever happens happens. At least you did it. LSU took that step. So once I got my letter, once I got something from SLI, I’m just like, all right, here’s my, my, you know, my turn down letter, open it up. And it says, congratulations. And I’m like, I was freaking out. My mom was like, this is really good. And like, I was just excited to be a part of it, but my mom was like, McKayla. I don’t think you realize this is a big deal. Like you have

Speaker 3 (44:31):

To be selected. So as I

Mikailah Thompson (44:35):

Was, she was like, this is a really big deal. And so, um, so yeah, and so once I got there this year, um, I want it to be as prepared as possible, but at the same time I knew I wasn’t gonna know what to expect. So it was something to where I just wanted to make sure, you know, I’ve seen how it flowed. I like to see how the customers, what they liked, what they were interested in. I wanted to understand, you know, what options I had while I was there. So, um, I did as much as I could while I was there, which was great, but I also took the time to just be as vigilant as possible and network as much as possible. So that way, if I am blessed enough to get in next year, you know, I know what to expect and I can be that much more better.

Joni Mcspadden (45:17):

Right. Well, you weren’t only in squad, but you were also in the swine magazine, there was a boy,

Mikailah Thompson (45:26):

I got, um, an email from the person doing the article and I’m like, yeah, sure. Like, and I, and it was during a time to where, so last year, like I was saying, I just try to market myself as much as possible. And so I was taking all of the opportunities that were coming to me, every magazine or whatever. So I had quite a few different magazines. I had first art magazine. I had some local ones in Oregon, Washington, even if they were a little brochures, I was just trying to get my name out there. And so one of them was like, yeah, that’s cool. You’re doing Swire. Do you mind us doing a story? I was like, yeah, no problem. And then, um, I didn’t even think about it by the time that I got there this year. That that was the interview that I did last year.

Mikailah Thompson (46:09):

And so, um, and then also they had their large magazine. I forgot what it’s called. I don’t know if it’s like legacy. Um, but the actual, like SWI or where they lay out the boosts and stuff. I was approached for that one. I ended up not doing it because I’m like, I already did some sort of interview. Um, I just couldn’t do it at the time. So when I got to Swier this year, I’m like, oh, grab these magazines, you know? And I was kind of kicking myself cause I was like, I didn’t take that interview that I was offered. And so I’m like go through the big one. I’m like, oh, this is cool. Like, I was just happy, my name, my booth name. And my name was on there. I’m like, I’m going to keep this. So I’m like, oh, and there’s another magazine.

Mikailah Thompson (46:46):

And so, um, I didn’t, I don’t even think I opened it. I just kind of went through the first one. Cause I thought that was the magazine. And so then picking my mom up from the airport, she’s going through, I’m like, oh, if, oh, here’s you. And I’m like driving. I’m like what? And it’s like my whole face. Like, wow, I didn’t expect that. I didn’t think I was even going to be acknowledged. And I’m glad that I was that some people came up to my booth and was like, you’re the one in the magazine. And I’m like, yeah, that’s why it’s important to take those opportunities. Um, especially the good ones. Um, and just, you know, get your name out there because you never know

Joni Mcspadden (47:23):

Exactly. Well, it sounds like you’ve had an, a remarkable journey with your business and uh, so where do you see it going?

Mikailah Thompson (47:32):

Oh man. I see, I see it being bigger than it is. I’m at the point now, which I’m really, um, I had a day yesterday to wear and I’m like, I need an assistant. It’s not until you’re sick and tired or until you, you know, got you at that breaking point that you make those decisions that, you know, you’ve been longing to make. So it’s important to start kind of getting ahead of that game. Um, and I always, um, I, I think with bead workers and especially native artists, we don’t go to the full extent that we can go in business. Um, we just kind of set up at market set up up vendors. Um, some people don’t even go as far as making a website, it’s just all word of mouth. And I think if you really, really, really take this seriously, it’s good to have all those ducks in orders, establish yourself like any other business, create multiple streams of income under that one business.

Mikailah Thompson (48:25):

Um, so I have my custom orders. I have my retail shop. I have my merchandise shop to where I’ve taken my bead work, take a picture and I put it on t-shirts. I put it on shorts. Um, that’s a good way to capitalize on it. Um, I have other things I’m hoping to work on. So I have, um, in the future, I hope to have even more streams of income, at least 10, hopefully under beadwork, by McKayla as a brand. Um, so we’ll see, we’ll see, I don’t want to speak on too much cause it’s like, I hate to be that person and it doesn’t happen. Um, but yeah.

Joni Mcspadden (49:00):

So for you to, uh, basically increase your scale of your business, um, and hire an assistant, what would you have your assistant doing? Like maybe doing all the marketing for you. Exactly. We’re going to have to scene of the beads. I’m sure [inaudible]

Mikailah Thompson (49:19):

A lot of things. There’s a lot of things that you can do. So, like I said, with my merchandise, that’s something it’s very, very new. Um, it’s something I, I started a merchandise, um, few months ago and I go through a drop shipper. So I just make money in my sleep in a sense to where they handle everything they do. The, all I do is create it and put it on my website and they handle the orders. They handle the payouts, they handle the shipping, they handle all the, the engagement with the customer. Um, so if I was to hire an assistant, it would be someone who can obviously market my clothing brand for me. Um, I hate to say clothing brand because I don’t, like I said, I don’t like being myself, that designer title, but handle like the marketing side of things. I sell like framed posters.

Mikailah Thompson (50:04):

I sell stickers, all of my beadwork. So that way, um, all I have to do is focus is on a bead work and everyone else can be in my assistant. Hopefully if I do an assist to get an assistant, um, they can handle all the marketing for me. They can set up ads for me, they can call photographers, videographers. I give them my bead work and they create a commercial or they create a magazine ad to where I can give them those responsibilities. And it’s one thing off my plate. Um, answer a few emails, but having the emails, um, just the little stuff that are the big stuff, um, that kind of put in that can really help, help my business. Right.

Joni Mcspadden (50:41):

Just managing your, your retail store, that alone, you know, just getting the photos up there, making sure you’ve got adequate inventory. If you’ve sold out of an item, making sure that that’s put on there. That’s all pretty time-consuming yes.

Mikailah Thompson (50:56):

Yes. And it’s, and it’s the thing is it’s so easy. Like even having to post everyday on social media, answering everybody’s comments, like I’d still want to be the one to engage with people. I don’t want somebody else doing that necessarily. Um, but with the different streams of income, I want to make sure that, you know, all of that I have to do is focus on and is engaging with my customers and beading and they can handle everything else. Or I can hire somebody that does the designing of, I can hire an actual designer who makes my beadwork look great on clothes or stuff like that, to where it’s one less thing that I have to do, but I’m also generating an income which only provides more opportunities, not only for my business, but for my tribe and my people. Um, I like to give back where I can within my community. So that would provide me, um, a bigger platform to do that, um, to where all I’m doing is focusing on, you know, what I do best and what I love to do. So.