Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter,maker,artist…
We are wife and husband, Jurga and Arturas and we live in Lithuania. Our family business is Jurga Felt Life. Before Etsy I worked as an architect for 10 years, Arturas is still working as an architect. I fell in love with felt in 2008 when my first son turned 3 months old. The love grew bigger and bigger with every little thing I used to felt, with every piece of art I found in books and magazines. Before that I worked as an architect in a small company, later I understood I really need more freedom in my occupation, I wanted to see my children growing. I wanted to do what I really loved. This was working with textiles. This was felting.
My very first felt craft was a pair of red slippers for myself: much better than I could have imagined. Afterward, there was a bag with flying little butterflies, slippers for my family, and handbags for friends. Step by step I discovered more and more about this old and amazing craft.
We live near a forest and a lake surrounded by wild meadows in summer and magnificent snowdrifts in wintertime with only a few neighbors in the distance.
My husband was also interested in shop managing and creating process, so we work together now. We work at home. In the midst of beautiful nature, we feel so free and creative here.
Crafter, maker, artist, seller….that all comes together. It’s a spirit of small business in our family. It’s a great sense to create what is beautiful, useful, sustainable, and even greater when you can share it with others wherever they are. That inspires and Etsy is the gate to this spanless world.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
12 years ago I worked as a stay-at-home mom with my one-year-old son. There was not so much time for crafts, but I needed to make something when he was sleeping. I knew Lithuanian crafters that are selling on Etsy, this looked really awesome for me. I was not self-confident in the begging. What I loved to make is felted items, but I was not sure if somebody from the other side of the globe loves my products. So coming to Etsy was an experiment for me. I had a small shop in the local handcrafters’ page, there were not so many clients, approximately 10 orders per month.
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 ?
We make felt footwear mainly slippers, boots. A few years ago a new idea of unique technique felt butterflies were born and successfully realized. That helped to minimize waste products. Organic wool is the basic material. We believe that we help people feel pleasant, comfortable, healthy wearing natural footwear and that’s the reason keeps us moving.
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
Time and patience have always been major teachers. Never-ending experimentations, fails, and successes, pure devotion to all stages of the work through the years gained that valuable experience.
The true estimation of the work for me comes with sincere satisfaction of the customer.
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?
The main thing to open the shop was the idea to spread our natural handmade shoes and slippers worldwide. The good wool properties make footwear so comfortable to wear, you even don’t want to take them off. We wanted people to have an opportunity to try this woolen footwear on their own. I know that our customers are of different ages, so they all have a different need. Some of them are always freezing, some of them need shoes to be flat-soled, some of them need slippers to be extra light-weight. And some of them need slippers they could go out to walk their dog. And sometimes we make slippers for handicap who’s feet are always cold. So it all about comfort. The wool is biodegradable, we keep the main focus on nature-friendly components.
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?
We care about our shoppers, we worry about how to satisfy them. All other questions we solve together with Arturas or with our community. When we opened the shop, we just waited for the customers. After some time there was some anxiety because of not volatile orders. But we got along with that and just organized our holidays when it’s not the busy season.
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?
Our first sale on Etsy came quite fast after opening. We were so excited, so we made three pairs of slippers and then we chose the best pair. After the first sale, that customer came back many times and we still get in touch with her. Etsy community is really like big a family. Our sales depend on the season. Felted footwear is for autumn and wintertime, so there can be no sales at all some time and many purchases during the cold season.
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?
Etsy shop is the main job for me and my husband now. Our day starts early, we drive children to the school and the daycare and then preparing the shipment. I like drinking coffee in the morning and reading letters, answering to our customers. Time flies fast when we have many orders, but in the summertime, we have much leisure time, so we can spend it with our children in nature.
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?
We make everything by hand, we use some simple wooden tools, warm water, and natural soap. Our products are made to order, so we don’t have any shoes ready to ship. Except the felted butterflies can be made as ready to ship. Customization of our products based on not standard sizes usually.
What is the biggest impact on profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
The wool we use is a natural product, so it’s quite expensive and it makes up a large part of the price. Felting of pair of shoes is long and hard work, so we evaluate that as well.
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?
Nature that surrounds us is the main thing that inspires us. All colors and forms come from nature. Customers’ feedbacks are the other thing that inspires, we feel big support from our buyers.
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 ship our products worldwide and we offer free standard shipping. We can ship express mail as well, but it costs more. We wrap our product to compostable boxes and craft paper. All the idea is to make waste less.
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?
We try not to worry about competitors because every piece of creation has its own buyer. We believe everything is made with the heart will reach the customer anyway. There are many shops that are selling felted footwear from Lithuania. And Lithuanians make really good products of high quality. So we feel like a part of a large community.
How do you deal with disputes or bad rating/feedback? How do you manage presale and post sale communication and customer satisfaction?
Each customer is a person at first. We try to understand what he feels like and what we can do to make him feel alright. We contact our customers, try to answer their questions as soon as possible. Footwear is not easy to buy online, so we understand that and try to get as much information as we need for production. And we meet too many supportive clients in our shop.
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?
Of course, selling on Etsy has made our lives different and interesting, made me feel useful, inspires us to do more beautiful things. We’ve never thought we make shoes someday. But making natural, organic products is so inspiring and mean full.
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 is very important for our shop, but I’m not a constant rapporteur, it depends on my mood, because I’m that person, who stands behind the camera usually. I use Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for spreading our products. And I try to find the best time for posting. I love to make cozy pictures from our home, to create that must-have emotion for the customer’s home.
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?
We believe Etsy is a big company that makes research before making any change. For now, we try to appreciate every update, so we could update our store, adapt to the rhythm of modern life, business environment, bearing in mind that we strive for naturalness, waste reduction, and increasing customer well-being.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I think the main thing about our success is our ambition to make customers feel happy and satisfied. Every time we make the product we imagine how the customer will wear our shoes or slippers, what will be the first impression, how long she or he will wear them. I think this is the main thing we still have many returning and new customers. Of course, we take a piece of advice from our Lithuania Etsy community. It is really important when you are a small business selling goods to the whole world. Different people can give so much help, you feel safe and sure to make some difficult decisions.
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?
I think the main thing is to find yourself, to make the best you can do. Don’t follow those shops with big sales, if you don’t have the best product, success can not come to you, unfortunately. I wish every customer would come to Etsy because of the value of the product, not because of the price. So we, sellers, would make our best to create that value.