How to Ask for What You Want in Business (And Actually Get It.)

5 ways to ask for what you want in business (and actually get it) from Dear Handmade Life

Editor’s Note: This post was shared with us by Etan and Emily from Wholesale In a Box. They offer makers a method to get into stores — and tools to make growth easier and faster. You can sign up for a free ecourse on their method for growing wholesale (without trade shows, hassle, or stress) here.  

AND — if you’re getting serious about getting your handmade products into stores, the folks at Wholesale In a Box are giving away a FREE 60-day subscription — you can enter to win, after the post. -Nicole S. 

A maker we work with has grown from 35 stockists to 110 stockists in about two years. It’s been a wild ride in her business and she’s really proud of what she’s done. But when I asked her about it, she said that the biggest transformation hasn’t been the increase in sales.

“The biggest transformation,” she said, “is that I turned into a professional. I turned into someone who isn’t afraid to dream big in my business. I’m not afraid to identify what I really want and ask for it from the people around me. I’m not even afraid to email stores and be rejected!”

Handmade businesses are very personal. They involve our time, money, energy, artistic vision, reputation, family, and heart. It is vulnerable work requiring growth from us, every day. And often, that growth comes from getting clear on what you want, and “putting yourself out there” to ask for it. Every day, we see people grow thriving businesses just by connecting with store owners and asking if they would like to place an order. It’s simple, really. But there are a few things we’ve learned that are crucial if you’re going to ask for what you want in business (and actually get it).

5 ways to ask for what you want in business (and actually get it):

1. Appreciate asking as part of your art.

As Seth Godin says, “There is no art without connection.” Art isn’t about what you make and then keep under your bed. Art is about the magic that happens when you make something and then connect with someone else through what you made. The exchange is inherent in the art.

So asking — for the sale, for feedback, for someone to take a look — is not a distasteful chore to be done away with quickly. It’s part of your art. Sarah K. Peck has a great book about The Art of Asking and says, “It’s not enough to create something and wait for people to show up. Both before and after you make your product or offering, you need to invite people to come take a look, to review it, to purchase it, and to see what you have to share.”

2. Ask for what you want (and make sure you really want it.)

I’ve found that one challenge in business is knowing what we want. The asking part, the making it real, is sometimes easier. The tricky part is knowing whether we want to grow wholesale or stick with developing our Etsy shop. Whether we want to double our sales or whether we want more time with our kids in the afternoon. Whether we want a glass of water or a chocolate fudge brownie. Know that once you’re clear on what you want, 99% of the time, you can ask for or create it. You can ask for higher prices, even if everyone has been paying this price for years. You can ask for a business that you love, with time to be human besides. You can ask for — and hire — help. You can ask for more time, more money, more dessert. The first step, though, is always to get clear on what you really want first. And remember that sometimes the person you need to ask, and convince, is only yourself.

3. Craft your message when you ask.

I believe that because asking brings up fear, we often rush through it. And in our haste, we don’t dedicate time and attention to crafting our ask. But a mass email to stores, or a smattering of impersonal notes, simply won’t yield the fruits that you might hope. So take the time to craft what you are asking. Be direct. Be concise. Be clear. And be passionate. Tell the person you are asking what you need from them, why they should care, and how exactly to help. To be clear is to be kind.

4. Don’t ask with “apology energy.”

My friend Anna Kunnecke is a wise, wild, accomplished lady, with five kids. She is a bit of a stickler when it comes to being bold. And she says that when we ask for something — whether a second slice of pizza or a raise — we ask for it with both our words and our energy. Sometimes, she says, our words are saying “I want a raise” but our energy is saying “Actually, I’m pretty conflicted about whether I deserve a raise and whether getting one will end up feeling like a burden and I feel bad asking anyway.” We transmit our energy through our body language, word choice, tone of voice, eye contact, and other subtle clues. And for the most part, the person we are asking will be more influenced by our energy than they will by our words. So if we make an ask with “apology energy” (I’m asking, but I’m sorry I’m asking) then they’re much less likely to say “yes.” She recommends spotting your apology energy when it happens, digging into the reasons behind it, and getting aligned and clear in your energy before making asks.

5. Ask more than once.

It can feel intimidating to ask people for what we want — whether the person we are asking is our husband or a store owner. So most of us have a tendency to ask only once, dropping the request if we are met with silence or inaction. “If she didn’t reply, she must not like my line,” we shrug. This approach, with husbands or store owners, simply won’t work. People are busy and have a lot going on in their own minds. When you honor your request enough to make it more than once — until you are told “no” of course — you honor the person you are asking. You are demonstrating compassion for all they have going on, while demonstrating conviction of the value of what you ask. Sarah K. Peck emphasizes, “The additional messages aren’t a nuisance if they’re well-crafted—they’re bringing people into the story and along for the ride. Share your enthusiasm with them.”

We’ve all heard Muriel Rukeyser’s wise quote: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” And I believe the same about asking. If all women identified what they really want — and then asked for it from themselves and the people around them, the world would split open, in all the best ways. May you ask for what you truly want, and may you grow in the asking.


Are you ready to grow your handmade business this year and get your products in more stores? Wholesale In a Box is giving away a FREE 60-day Wholesale In a Box subscription (a $238 value).

Leave a comment below by 2.20.18 letting us know what your growth goal for your business is this year and we’ll enter you in the contest. Be sure to leave your email address in your profile so we can contact you if you win! (Wholesale In a Box will also keep you in the loop on their email list.)

This contest is now closed. Congrats to the winner Sarah of SOhandmade!

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  1. My goal for my business this year, is to grow a team of moms that handle all aspects of our baby business. We’ve added a few to our team already and I’m learning my strengths and weaknesses of being a leader, I really hope to grow in managing my team and looking for ways to make us all excited about the brand and our work.

  2. One of my goals is definitely to grow my wholesale business. In January, I told my husband that I wanted to gain 10 new stockists by the end of the year and, so far this month, 7 new accounts have been gained with diligent effort. You are so right that the hardest part is knowing WHAT to want. I’m finally clear on that, and it feels really great to have a goal to pursue. Looking forward to an exciting year of hard work!

  3. By increasing my wholesale accounts, I want to send more Messengers of Joy and Goodwill into the world.
    (Secretly, my wish is that each and everyone of us finds our place, digs in and takes responsibility for a tiny bit of habitat,
    nurturing our connection to the spirit of nature.
    I want the flying of these Bird Prayer fFags to be hopeful reminder for all to create habitat and to share our spaces with nature.)

  4. My business goal for 2018 is to finally land some wholesale accounts. Approaching shop owners is the hardest part for me, and numbers 4 & 5 on the list are definitely things I need to work on!

  5. Thank you so much for this! My goal in 2018 is to create more art, to have more wholesale accounts/happy buyers. Asking is terrifying for me. And I have never asked more than once. Please enter me in the WholesaleInaBox contest! 🙂

  6. Hello,
    My business goal for 2018 is to go from 25 wholesale accounts to 100 and to get into a least one US-based beauty magazine like Allure and Vogue. In addition, I want a more streamlined accounting system and knowledge of the convoluted US tax system. Also, a better way to track my inventory. Lastly, more insight on how to a scale small business fast. I know I can do it!

  7. My goals are to triple my wholesale accounts, shift my online inventory to 100% ready-to-ship (vs. produce as needed and custom orders) and transition my wholesale accounts to shopping through my website, launching my podcast this spring, and a correlating book this fall! Check out @karacotta_ceramics to see the goods – XO!

  8. My business needs a “pick me up” ! Sometimes it is hard to reach out to shops without sounding “needy” or delicately put…appearing as an ol’ hungry dog under the buffet table. Hoping that 2018 will be a stellar year!

  9. I so agree with tip #1 – I need to find more time to market all of the art I am creating. Thank you for all of the tips. My growth goal is to of course find new wholesale customers that are a good fit, but also to reconnect with the stores that I have to get more repeat business.

    1. Yes! You’re so wise to be thinking about cultivating your relationships with your current stores, too. That’s often scarier than connecting with new ones, but it can be so powerful for both you and the shop.

  10. My business goal for 2018 is to start selling wholesale, participate in a major fashion show, win an International Handbag Designer Award, incorporate 3-D technology into my designs and find a business associate/partner.

  11. Great article and it’s wonderful to have your business out there helping bridge the gap between makers and their future.

    2018 marks my tenth year in business and the first year I’ll be running it full time. My growth goal is to increase my revenue by 30% (with a smattering of specific goals to achieve this :).

    Thank you for the angles to consider when putting myself out there!

  12. Excellent Article. I officially launched my online website on 22nd December 2017 and feel overwhelmed. I am an artisan soap maker. My goal for 2018 is to place my product in upscale boutique stores in the US and Europe.

  13. Thanks for the helpful tips! My goal for 2018 is to expand my product line, grow my wholesale accounts, and overall scale the business!

  14. My growth goal is starting with developing new lines that are even more unique to the market and can be shipped easily. My main product line is both heavy and fragile so expensive shipping has deterred me from even seeking out wholesale that isn’t local.

  15. Love these tips! Especially the “apology energy” one. My 2018 growth goal is to expand my line sheet while hitting a range of price points, and get a newly designed website up before June.

  16. My goal is to develop and refine my stationery line to help me get into 10 stores this year!

    I loved reading this post. Asking for anything is such a struggle for me and it sounds like far too many other women have the same issue. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  17. Love this! I especially relate with #4: Don’t ask with “Apology” energy!

    My goal for growth is to take the leap into the wholesale market and get into atleast 10 stores by the year end. I would also like to be featured in a few local publications and launch my website soon! I’d love to win as I feel like I’m feeling in the dark with approaching wholesale!

  18. Love this! I can especially relate with #4: Don’t ask with apology energy!

    My goal for growth this year is to step into the wholesale market and have my products in atleast 10 stores. I would also love to be featured in a few local publications and launch my website! I’d love to win as I feel like I’m a bit overwhelmed with how to start!

  19. My growth goal for 2018 is to get more
    Clear on my message so I can attract the right customers and grow my
    Wholesale business to at least 10-15 stores.

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