Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter,maker,artist…
Years ago I taught myself to knit. I was in love with the craft the minute I put the needles in my hands. Soon I had the courage to try more complicated patterns and lace knitting. I discovered stitch markers were an important tool for knitters but I had trouble with them snagging my yarn. I knew I needed them to complete my projects but I needed to correct the snagging problem. I started making my own stitch markers with the goal of making them snag-free. I developed a method that worked great for my purpose and that is where my business began.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I shopped on Etsy before I had a store of my own. I started selling knitting jewelry at weekend craft shows. I started my Etsy store after I lost my job of 22 years. I figured it was a good time to take the leap and make my dream happen. I was unsure if it would work and my only goal at first was to make enough money that I would not have to get another job. I was pleasantly surprised after 1 year of business Etsy was my full-time job and I was working from home.
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 ?
I started with stitch markers but, my products have expanded over the last 7 years to include many different knitting and crochet tools. The goal is to always create pretty tools that allow yarn lovers to get their projects done faster and without mistakes. I use beads made of many different materials. If the beads are pretty, I will make something with it. My focus is always snag-free tools and that is why I use closed jump rings with no opening to keep the markers snag-free. I design products that are not only pretty but solve a problem too. Knitting and crochet require a lot of counting and if you lose count you can be left frustrated when your project isn’t turning out. To fix this problem I have designed several different types of row counters. I make row counting bracelets, chains, and necklaces. If you love the yarn I probably have a tool that you need.
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
I am self taught with all of my crafting. You tube has been a wonderful tool when I don’t know how to perform a task. I find there is always a few different techniques but you just have to find what you are comfortable with and gets you the results you are looking for.
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?
I always had a dream of working from home in my own business. When I lost my job of 22 years it gave me the push to make my dreams come true. I used my savings to start my Etsy store and with my fingers crossed I hoped that someone out there would like my designs as much as I did. In the beginning, I only needed a couple of hundred dollars a month to help my husband pay the bills but soon I realized that I could really grow my business into something much bigger. Five years after my adventure started, my husband left his job to become a part of the business and we haven’t looked back. We now have 3 Etsy stores and 2 websites.
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?
Fears? Sure! Even after 7 years in the business I still wonder if sales will just stop one day. I wake up every morning and wonder if it will be a good day of sales or not? In the beginning, this was very hard. Over time I have learned to keep costs down, save as much money as possible, and think about spending a bit differently than I did when I knew I would get a paycheck every Friday. Of course, as you build up savings and decrease your debt, you find yourself holding your breath a bit less. I find myself living a comfortable life and I love being my own boss.
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?
I got my first sale a couple of weeks after opening on Etsy. I made more than I anticipated in the beginning and my only goal was to do at least $1 more each month than the prior month because then I could say I had growth. I am currently averaging between 60-80 sales per week on Etsy.
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 sell full time. I start around 8 every morning with printing orders and updating listings while my husband pulls the beads and starts making the items. Around 10 I am making right alongside of him. Our day ends around 4 pm when we must drive the orders to the post office. Some days we will do a little work in the evenings to get a head start on the next day’s orders. Managing time can be hard when you never really leave your work but you have to make time for “downtime”.
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?
All of the products are made as they are ordered. We customize by offering different sizes so you really make things ahead of time. The only tools we really need are handheld jewelry making tools.
What is the biggest impact on profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Selling fees and advertising are our biggest expense. While we buy our supplies in bulk to save money this requires the use of several different companies to get the job done. When pricing products we look at all the costs involved and the amount of time it takes to make it to decide on a fair price.
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?
If I find a bead that I love, I buy it. I know that I will use it in a design and that design will just come to me. Color and the combination of colors inspires my designs. I love trying new things together to create something unique.
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?
I so ship internationally. Shipping times depends on where the item is going. I have seen as little as 5 days up to 6 weeks for packages to arrive. For domestic orders I do offer free shipping.
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?
I don’t have time to look at or worry about competitors. I am confident that my product speaks for itself and that’s all that matters.
How do you deal with disputes or bad rating/feedback? How do you manage presale and post sale communication and customer satisfaction?
When dealing with complaints I treat the customer the way I would want to be treated. They are coming to me with a problem and my job is to find a solution to that problem.
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?
My life is blessed by my business. I have a job that I love to do. It is my business and I created it from the ground up. I am proud of what I have achieved. It can be stressful during high traffic times like Christmas and I usually bring in some part-time help to take care of packing orders so we can get more items out the door. It is a good problem to have and I am not complaining.
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?
I find Facebook and Instagram very helpful. I post about my knitting projects in progress and any sales that I am having and I make sure to comment back on any comments that I receive.
What are some things you don’t like about Etsy? If you could talk to the CEO of Etsy what recommendations would you tell him to improve sellers and customers satisfaction?
One thing that I am not happy about is that etsy has made advertising mandatory. I do pay to advertise but it should be my decision. I do not like the way they are doing it. I did fine without them forcing me to do it. It is very expensive.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I always tried to stay flexible with my designs. I allow customers to customize to their liking. I offer different sizes and add on pieces to try and give customers options and keep them interested. I always talk to them as a fellow knitter and not just a business order. It makes my customers realize that I understand their needs.
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?
Always get paid upfront for custom orders. Never underprice your work. Make sure you know your shipping costs. Make your designs stand out because you have competition. Photography is your number 1 asset for selling. If you would not buy your item just from looking at the picture then your customers won’t either.