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How to Become an Affiliate with Online Teachers

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, October 12, 2017
Updated: Saturday, October 7, 2017

Falling in Love with Embroidery for the Home

 By Joy MacDonell

In the past two decades, you as an independent retailer have been challenged by the rise of offline mass-market stores. Mass stores were able to leverage lower prices, broader selections and convenience, to put your retail success in jeopardy. But the seemingly overwhelming rise of mass stores has slowed and the new dominant force plaguing both mass and independent retailers is e-commerce. The next decade will be about the market fragmentation e-commerce will create. In this new climate, the independents who best adapt to the needs of the modern e-commerce shopper can not only compete in this new arena, but thrive.

The old retail goal used to be to get a customer to make a purchase. But in the new online world, an equally important goal should be to get permission to talk to these customers in the future. The most obvious and useful method is to obtain e-mail addresses. Failing that, getting your visitors to follow you on social media is vital to communication and your store’s community. Social media has shown that people enjoy sharing their creations and with a little encouragement from you can provide another outlet for that desire.


A new opportunity is now available to the independent retailer that was out of reach in the past. One method independents were able to utilize to compete with big box stores was in-store classes. This created a method of bringing in foot traffic, increased the educational level of your customer base, and created an image for you and your store to be the educational authority on your crafting. But as with all things, your customer is moving online. Your store needs to move with them.


There was a problem with in-store classes. They created tremendous pressure on you as an owner to generate new class ideas, find teachers, promote classes, and attract attendees. I am very familiar with the pressure of retail education as I used to own a scrapbook store where we had to teach new classes regularly. Online education opens a new line of revenue for you and can make it easier for a retailer to teach their customers without adding a ton of work to their already busy schedules. 


One method would be making your retail store an affiliate to an online educator. Often, that word "affiliate" gets tossed around without a definition.  Basically, it is a fancy word for "sales person" or "retailer".  Digital content is a sell-able item in a retail environment.  A store can earn an agreed upon percentage of a student's tuition just by telling customers the classes are available. For example, if I were selling an online class for $10 and your store were my affiliate and we had agreed upon a 25% commission, then you would get $2.50 every time you sent a student to my online school.


Thus, when a retailer becomes an affiliate of an online school - they can turn a profit, just like selling an item on the store shelf!  Except they don't have to reorder product or worry about being out of stock or even have to unlock the doors or turn on the lights to the store!  The customer can take the class at her leisure and maintain lifetime access to the education along with getting handouts and classroom assets.  The only thing the retailer needs to do is tell their customers that classes are available and provide their class affiliate link to the customer.  When the customer signs up for class, using the link, the store gets paid by the teacher.  It is that simple!  The store can provide links to classes on signage in-store, or through emails, blog posts, or social media - how they promote the class is completely up to them.


This accomplishes several things for the independent retailer.


1.       It is another way to get permission to talk to their customers in the future. Signing up for an online class also captures the customer’s email.

2.       It provides additional utility for your customers. The retail owner is now able to offer instore and online classes to its clientele.

3.       Education moves your customers into a deeper appreciation for the hobby they love. Craft enthusiasts who consider themselves an “expert” spend a disproportionate amount of their discretionary income on their hobby than crafters who consider themselves a “beginner.”

4.       It saves the owner from not only the headaches associated with creating an instore class from scratch, but also from the technical and logistical challenges of filming online classes (camera, lighting, audio, studio, scripts, etc.).

5.       Making your store an affiliate to on online school can generate income just like a product on a shelf - except that it is digital!


There are several teachers in the industry who have online classes that would love to be promoted in stores. One of the most popular is Mimi G who has a sewing academy ( Another is my own new online educational site called I am putting up new classes every few weeks. Becoming an affiliate with sites like these would provide numerous online classes immediately to any independent retailer.


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If you do have a little tech savvy with applications like Premiere Pro or Final Cut or know someone who does and would like to host your own classes, there are any number of sites such as Teachable ( that would allow you to host your own classes. In addition, many of these sites, including Teachable, allow you to determine who can author your courses. So you could recruit teachers locally, give them permission to author online educational videos and then share revenue with them in the same way.




A final suggestion for how you can leverage online classes to compete with bigger competitors is turn some of your old monitors into instore class displays. We have all walked through chain craft stores and seen displays running videos on a loop. You can do this with your own online courses. We all have an old monitor lying around. There are 7” HDMI displays on Amazon for as little as $60 ( or 24” monitors that are highly reviewed in the low $100s ( You can covert one of these monitors to a workable computer with an ASUS Chromebit for $85 ( or an Intel Compute Stick for $127 ( Now your old monitor can connect to the internet and run your own online educational courses on a loop.


This is just one of many methods you as an independent retail store owner can adapt to this new  e-commerce education model with your brick and mortar store. Adding your own courses to your online presence or becoming an affiliate to sites like or create new revenue streams, offers new utility to your customers, and captures email addresses that you need to generate conversations with your clientele.


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About Joy Macdonell

Joy Macdonell ( is a Creative Blogger and Fiber Consultant. Her job has provided her with lots of great opportunities to teach, including as the host of a television show on the DIY network (Greetings, from DIY) and one on PBS (Crafting at The Spotted Canary). She has also been the guest representative for Martha Stewart Crafts on the Home Shopping Network and has been the education director for the Martha Stewart Crafts brand since it launched in 2007. Prior to starting her career with EK Success Brands in 2001, she and her sister owned the very popular scrapbook store in Fairfax, VA, My Scrapbook Store.

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