Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
I’ve been sewing since I was 5, having learned from my mother who was a professional seamstress. I consider myself an artist in that I create flattering clothing in visually-appealing fabrics.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I created a line of maternity clothing in 2004, and sold it solely on my own website at that time. After selling the maternity line, I discovered Etsy and created a spandex clothing line. I actually began selling handmade products as a child – I made doll clothing and sold it at craft shows with my mother.
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 sell spandex wear in fun prints and holographic fabrics. My products are designed to flatter the body, fit perfectly, and stand out because of the flashy fabrics. My clothing is frequently worn to music festivals, costume parties and performances.
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?
My grandmother was a crafter, my grandfather a woodworker, and my mother a seamstress. I have many learning sources and inspiration. I don’t think I’ll ever be completely happy with anything I create – it’s the nature of being a creator.
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 was to be a full-time seller. I have achieved immense success and my shop is my full-time job. I am not someone who can be happy working an office job.
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?
Of course I always worried that no one would like what I had created. I told myself the only way to find out was to put myself out there. Etsy requires very little to get started – so it’s very low-risk. My husband has always been my biggest supporter and encouraged me to “invest in myself” from the start.
How long did it take for you to get your first sale? Did you ever think you would make a lot of sales in the first year? What was the goal you were hoping for? How many sales an average you get per week?
It took a few days to get my first sale, and it has grown exponentially since. My goal was always to make enough that I wouldn’t have to get a corporate job – and I achieved that goal. I have a manufacturing shop with a few employees to help sew and ship orders.
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 do not have a job outside of Etsy. My typical day involves looking over the orders, reading any custom instructions, and making sure my employees are aware of any deadlines and/or special instructions. I answer all customer emails and work with customers to create custom designs and outfits.
How does your manufacturing process look 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 the tools that you are using in the manufacturing process?
I create designs and then allow customers to have those designs made in any of over 60 fabrics. I also help customers realize their custom creations from start to finish. Sometimes they send me photos of what they like so I can consolidate the look and create something they visualize. We go back and forth a few times with ideas until the customer is satisfied and I then begin the creating process. We have large cutting tables and several different types of industrial sewing machines to work with.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Fabric is my biggest cost because I choose to use super high-quality fabrics. The holographic fabrics tend to be a little pricier as well. It’s important to me that I use the best fabrics. I price my products competitively and affordably.
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?
Costumes are my biggest inspiration. I love drawing inspiration from flashy dressers like David Bowie and Lady Gaga – but I also create my take on mainstream styles in my fabrics.
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is the 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 do ship internationally. I offer free domestic shipping over $35 on Etsy and my website. It takes about 3-5 days to have an item finished to ship as all items are made-to-order.
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 do worry about competitors – but I focus on having the best quality and fit so that I have so many return customers and word-of-mouth advertising.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I try to be as kind as possible when dealing with disputes. I don’t have many; I realize that I can’t possibly please every single person (although I wish I could).
Has selling on Etsy changed your life in any way? If so, how? Did you ever think you would get this far with your shop? Have you ever been stressed about dealing with customers and manufacturing products? How did you deal with that?
Selling on Etsy has allowed me to do something I love and not have to work in a corporate job. I get extremely stressed around Halloween when my orders are substantially increased and I work 10-12 hour days. The fact that I get to work for myself makes the stress so much less of a burden. I wouldn’t change a thing.
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 a fun way to interact with customers and garner new business. Because my clothing is so flashy, sharing great photos is a successful marketing tool for my business. I also post contests and giveaways frequently to create some excitement. My clothing is frequently used in performances – so posting photos or videos of the performance is a great way to create hype.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I am always researching and learning. I analyze customer data almost obsessively to try to improve. I have learned I have priced custom outfits way too low and was losing money on them.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner’s mistakes?
The biggest piece of advice I have is to invest in great photos of products. Without this, you’ll have a hard time showcasing your work. You should always be promoting yourself as well – don’t be afraid to tell everyone what you do.