Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter,maker,artist…
My name is Kayla Marie. I’m 15 years old, I live in Georgia and I am the proud owner of Empress Tones. I decided to create the brand because I wanted to see more lip colors that compliment warm to darker skin tones. My lip colors are triple-pigmented that provides a blast of color. I was 14 years old when I began experimenting with different lip colors. The lip colors I found would eventually become dull and faded by the end of the day. This inspired me to create a brand that not only has bold and vibrant colors, the lip colors are also long-lasting and waterproof. I decided to choose the name Empress Tones for my brand because an Empress can stand alone, whereas a Queen and a Princess would need a King or Prince to maintain their title. When I explain that Empress Tones can stand alone, it has a double meaning. The tubing is designed to stand upright, unlike most other brands. Also, the color is so vibrant, it can be worn with no other makeup if necessary.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
Empress Tones was my first try at becoming an entrepreneur. I started off very small, selling only to friends and family members- but after about 6 months, with an increase in sales- I decided to venture out and launch my social media platforms and website.
What products do you sell, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out ?
Currently, I’m selling lip colors. The lip colors are created using wax, pigment, and oil. All of my lip colors are matte, which equates to a rich and long-lasting color. I’ve been told that my lip color can last from morning to night (it does, lol). My product stands out, not only because of the richness of color it provides, but the shape and design of the product are truly unique. The tubes are designed to stand alone (like an empress) and I apply miniature crowns to each tube to add to its uniqueness.
How was your experience in learning to craft, are you self-taught or did you have a mentor, how long did it take for you to be satisfied with your creations
Everything I learned about creating lip color, I learned online. I watched many videos, read different DIY blogs, and learned by trial and error. It took me about a month before I was satisfied with the product. After I was satisfied, I began to promote and wear the product out in public.
What was your original goal when you opened up an Etsy shop? What impacted your decision to start selling online? Do you consider online selling as a side-job, full-time job or extra income to pay for your hobby?
My original goal to sell online was to create something that solved a problem. Triple pigmented lip color is hard to find and that motivated me to move forward and create something different. When I came up with the idea of creating Empress Tones, I was very excited and couldn’t wait to see my vision come to fruition. As a High School student, it set me apart. Instead of participating in traditional extracurricular activities, my primary focus was building my brand.
Did you have any fears or reservations before opening up your Etsy shop? Were you worried about profitability or product competitiveness? What are some concerns and questions you had before you got started? How did you overcome them?
I didn’t really have any fears or reservations about selling online. I was excited to try something new and I wanted to be optimistic. I had questions about running a business, and the process of it all, but with the support of my Mom, we were able to find a system that worked best for us. Now, I understand the importance of budgeting and keeping track of every cent.
How long did it take for you to get your first sale? Did you ever thought you would make a lot of sales in the first year? What was a goal you were hoping for? How many sales an average you get per week?
My first sale came fairly quickly because I was wearing my product. Friends and family members would ask me about my lip color and boom, sale! It took me about two weeks to make my first sale. I never thought I would make a lot of sales the first year, but I was hopeful and remained optimistic. My goal was to get my brand ”out there”. I want my brand to be a household name. I don’t really have a set goal for sales, my focus right now is to get the brand known. On average we get around 40 sales per week. When we run promotions and specials, that number increases. Within the next year, I hope to double and maybe even triple these numbers, who knows!
Do you have a job outside Etsy? If not, are you able to commit full-time to online selling? How does your typical day look like? How do you manage time?
I’m a Sophomore in High School and when I’m not completing assignments, I’m working on my business. I spend a lot of time coming up with different ideas and setting goals for Empress Tones. The majority of my day goes towards working on the website, creating products, processing orders and trying to promote the brand on social media. Since Covid-19 (and being out of school), I’ve had more time to focus on building and growing the brand on social media.
How does your manufacturing process looks like for e.g. your best selling product? Do you create products ahead of the orders? Do you customize your products, if so how? What are tools that you are using in manufacturing process?
My manufacturing process is pretty in depth. My matte lipstick formula consists of a base that I use as the foundation. I add pigment and oil to it, to create a variety of vibrant colors. My best selling product is the Berry lip color. I create my products ahead of orders. I try to have at least 20 of each color pre-made, waiting to be ordered.
What is the biggest impact on profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
The biggest impact on profitability is advertising. The products I use to make the lip color are not excessively expensive, because we purchase in bulk. I price my products to cover the cost of advertising, website maintenance and packaging. I’m also able to save a portion as a profit also.
What inspires you when you’re creating? How do you get ideas for new products? What are some methods or tools you use to get creative?
I’m inspired by many things. It could be my artsy mood at that moment or music I’m listening to. It’s therapeutic for me to sit at my desk and let my mind flow with new ideas. I brainstorm and come up with different color combinations and promotion ideas. I keep a journaling app on my phone and when I get an idea, I jot it down so it won’t be forgotten.
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is average time it takes from the order to the delivery? Do you use free shipping? If so, why? How do you package your products?
We currently do not ship internationally, but we may do so in the future. Postage pricing is handled by an eCommerce shipping option provided by our web hosting company. It pretty much takes the hard work out of the shipping process. When an order is placed before 3 pm (est), it is shipped the same day. All other orders are shipped the next day. We are currently offering free shipping, but as a promotion only. We package our products in simple bubble mailers. Bubble mailers are cost-efficient and very easy to store in bulk.
Are you worried about competitors? Does it impact your business in any way? If there are a lot of similar products, how do you make your own stand out?
No, I’m not worried about competitors. I feel that there is room for everyone to succeed when an effort is put forth. Competitors do not impact my business, I don’t let it. I’m focusing on building my brand. My product stands out because it’s different. From the uniqueness of the tubing to the boldness of the color, it’s not something you can find anywhere.
How do you deal with disputes or bad rating/feedback? How do you manage presale and post sale communication and customer satisfaction?
To date, we have not received a bad rating/feedback. Thank goodness! If there is ever an issue post sale, we do whatever we can to correct the problem. I feel that a business is built on repeat customers so my goal is to make sure that the customer is satisfied. If there is ever an issue, we maintain an open line of communication through email. All received emails have a 1 hour turnaround time for a response.
Has selling on Etsy changed your life in any way? If so, how? Did you ever thought you would get this far with your shop? Have you ever been stressed dealing with customers and manufacturing products? How did you deal with that?
Selling online has changed my life. As a teenager, it gives me a sense of independence and motivation to be an entrepreneur forever! I had high hopes when I launched my brand, so I’m pleased with how far it’s come. I pre-make my lip colors, so I haven’t had the stress of rushing to manufacture or process orders.
How important is social media for your shop? What are some common tactics you use to promote your products? Do you spend money on ads outside of Etsy? How do you generate excitement/hype around your products?
Social media plays a big role in Empress Tones. We use very colorful and bold pictures and fonts- meant to catch the eye- when we post on social media. We definitely spend money on ads and promotions. Generally, we use Instagram and Facebook for promotions. We generate excitement and hype by offering different promotions and sales. We also make announcements when new colors or products.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Advertising really helped my business. Once I started promoting my business on different platforms, I began to get orders from all over the US. In the beginning, I wasn’t promoting or advertising as much as I should have and my sales reflected that.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering to sell on Etsy? How can they avoid beginners mistakes?
Research, research, research. Understand the product you want to sell, outline realistic goals and follow through. Also, don’t give up. Every path may not be the easiest, but don’t lose sight of your goals.