Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter,maker,artist…
My name is Zsofia. I come from Hungary, but live for about 7 years in Germany with my husband and 2 small children.
I quilt and crochet, but at the moment I only sell materials such as yarn and fabric in my Etsy shop.
I always loved crafting even as a child, but my love for quilting and crochet came about 8 years ago when I had a difficult period in my life and started to follow some wonderful blogs (Such as MyRoseValley, Nanacompany, Crejjtion) full of inspiration to be a bit distracted. There I have discovered that crochet was far much more than only lace doilies which I found too granny stylish back then.. (My grandma used to crochet them and I didn´t know anything else about crochet) When I saw those beautiful and colorful baby blankets, pillows, amigurumi. Oh my, I bought a crochet hook and some yarn and started to watch youtube videos to learn the technique.
Almost the same was with quilting. I found so much inspiration, I felt that I just have to make a quilt. For myself, for my boyfriend, for my brothers, etc. I still have my first quilt, but my skills have developed so much since then.
As I was learning these new things I didn´t pay so much attention to my life and that helped so much!! Ever since when I am feeling down I grab some yarn and crochet. The best is that I can do it anywhere if I have my hook, some yarn and scissors with me.
With quilting, I have such a wonderful feeling too. I feel that I am part of the history when I make a quilt that will stay for years, hopefully even after I am gone. Some people say; a good quilt is a legacy. Something to leave behind or to give to your loved ones to cherish.
When I create something I always think about the person I am making it for. I imagine how they going to cuddle up with it or put a baby in it. I love that all quilts have a story to tell if someone is listening..
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I have discovered it through the bloggers that I was (and still am) following. Most of them had an Etsy shop to sell their handmade items. I had no experience in selling or doing business at all, but it felt so exciting. I also wanted to earn some extra for my hobbies and loved the idea that I could have all the yarn colors and lots of fabrics I love around me. It is like working in an ice parlor if you love ice cream! 🙂 (I also did that as I was younger..lol)
So I opened an Etsy account, registered myself as a business owner to be legal, and contacted suppliers. Ordered my first batch of items and I remember I felt like Dagobert Duck within his money pool! 🙂 So many fabrics and yarns!!!! It was an amazing feeling!! Even if I knew that it wasn´t for myself. I just loved looking at them, touching them and playing with the color combinations. This still makes me happy! I love how a color can be so different depending with which other colors you are putting it together, Color therapy at it´s best!
So after that I had my first photo shooting, edited, and added them as listings with descriptions and I was good to go! 🙂
After that, I was just hoping that someone will love my products just as much as I do!
I am really glad that it happened.. 🙂
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 fabrics and yarns, especially for crochet. I love sewing quilts and crocheting baby blankets. I absolutely love the Catania yarn that I am selling and I use it for my projects too. I don´t have much time nowadays to make things for sale, so I usually just create for my family and friends. I love, however, to sell these products that I know are good quality and are hard to find in the US. (as I know from my customers)
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 totally self-taught in quilting and crochet. I used to (and still do) watch videos or blog tutorials to learn the techniques. I am so grateful for all the information that is out there thank many talented people who share their knowledge and most of them even for free. This is something I am also planning to do in the future.
I still remember the first crochet baby blanket and the first quilt that I made. I still have the quilt but I have already gifted the baby blanket. They were anything near to perfect, but I enjoyed making them so much. I love to see how my skills have developed over the years, but I still wouldn´t call myself a professional. I think there is always room to grow. However, since I have learned how to bind my quilts nicely and how to crochet an even edge on my blankets, I would say I am relatively satisfied with my creations. Took me about a few years to get here.
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 love to use good quality products for my projects but let´s be honest, they also have their price. Initially, I felt that I couldn´t afford to buy the quantities that I would have loved to and tried to find some alternatives, so I could get them cheaper. This was when I discovered wholesale. I don´t come from an entrepreneur family and I have never thought about trade either. It was a game-changer for me. I discussed it with my husband and took a part of our savings as the first investment in my store. It was a very scary step, but I am glad I made it.
I would say it is still an extra income for my hobby, but it is definitely growing. I would love to expand and make it a full-time job in the future.
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 was quite scared of spending a big part of our savings on yarn and fabrics, but I have always told myself, they won´t go wrong even in 5 years and if nobody buys them, I will have materials for my projects for a lifetime. Or even for my grandkids.. 🙂
I am not very proud of that but I haven´t made a big research before I have started. I have only checked other shops that were selling the same products and were thinking about what I could do differently.
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?
It didn´t take very long for my first sale. A few weeks maybe. I still remember.. It was a fabric bundle and gosh was I happy about it!! I was so thankful that someone bought a product from me even without any reviews or scores of my shop. It was a great feeling!
I didn´t think about how many sales I will make I just hoped that it will increase with time. I didn´t even set goals.. (Not that I would recommend this) Nowadays I have some difficulties because of the COVID-19 pandemic as shipping has been almost impossible to the US from Germany. That made a big cut on my sales and the worst is, nobody can tell me when things will get back to normal.
We live close to the border of the Netherlands and my husband had the idea to check if they ship to the US (almost 95% of my customers are from the US). They do, just the prices are higher than they used to be here before the pandemic. I do offer this option to my customers, but not everyone takes it.
Before the pandemic, I had about 10-15 orders per week as average.
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 am currently at home with my children, but I am a kindergarten teacher and should go back to work in 2 years. I have big plans with my business and I hope that I will be able to fulfill them.
At the moment I do not have a typical day. My working hours depends on my kids. My husband works in a very chaotic schedule, no weeks or days are the same. My bigger is in kindergarten in the mornings, and I try to work when the little one sleeps or plays a bit alone. I do most of my work in the evenings when the house is quiet.
Time management is for sure something that I still have to work on. How to best balance work and life? That´s always a question for me too.
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?
As I am not selling handmade items at the moment this question doesn´t fit me properly.
What is the biggest impact on profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
I have found that offering free shipping for orders above 35 USD has made a big impact. I have adjusted my prices and that worked very well. (Before the pandemic. See my shipping struggles above..)
I add about 40-45% to my wholesale prices and I always check the recommended price that my supplier offer. I don´t find it correct to lower the prices very much.
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 do not sell my handmade items, but whith my products I think it is important to follow the trends or to get for example the newest yarn colors, fabric collections within the shop.
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 do ship internationally and I always try to ship the orders as soon as possible. Mostly within 1-3 days. Nowadays because of the COVID-19 situation, my shipping routine has changed a lot (as described above) and it feels so bad to disappoint people. I very much hope that things will get back to normal soon.
I used to use free shipping on orders above 35 USD, but with the actual high shipping prices, I cannot afford it. As I will able to ship from Germany as before, I will offer free shipping again!
I felt that free shipping did generate a lot of sales where people were willing to order more than before. For example, if they had products for 30 USD they added another product or choose straight away my bigger packages to get the free shipping.
I put my products in plastic bags to prevent them from any damages that may be caused during shipping. After that, I either put them in padded envelopes or in boxes. Depends on the size. I always to try to make the packages look nice!
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 was worried at the beginning but I am not really worried now. I feel that I have a lot of customers who are coming back and new ones that find my shop and products nice. I am not really sure why they choose me, but I feel that my good reviews help a lot. I try to make nice photos of my products and ship as fast as I can! I also try to offer good customer service, which is also very important for me. I hope that it also makes a difference in the shopping experience.
How do you deal with disputes or bad rating/feedback? How do you manage presale and post sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I always try to please any unsatisfied customers. (Thankfully, I didn´t have many of them. It sometimes happens when a package doesn´t arrive, but that is out of my control) I get back to them quickly and offer compensation. I have never had any customers who were unsatisfied at the end.
As mentioned I try my best to answer questions as quickly as possible. I would love to have post-sale follow-ups, but that is something that I don´t have at the moment due to lack of time. Would be nice to hire an assistant for that.. 🙂
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?
Yes, it definitely has changed my life, as it became a part of it. There is almost no day when I don´t have it on my mind. In a positive way. I think about the orders to fulfill, the requests, emails, restocking, etc.
I absolutely love to pack the orders, select the colors, and to think about what my customers are going to make. I am so happy when they send me pictures of their finished projects. It is good to be connected with people from the other side of the world 🙂
I initially hoped that the shop will work well and I am so grateful that it really does. I don´t have so much time for it now as I used to before the kids and I feel that it is also visible on the shop, but it still has my heart and I am sure I will put more energy into it later on.
The most stress I had and still have is with the postal services, but I have very kind and nice customers and great suppliers. 🙂
I am also very thankful for my husband who always supports me.
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 will be honest, at this time I hardly use any marketing. That is also something why I chose Etsy. Nowadays I just don´t have time to follow any real marketing strategies. I cannot post so regularly or make and edit photos as I would love to. I am really grateful that Etsy does marketing for me.
I used to blog earlier and I have a FB and IG account, but as mentioned, unfortunately, I am not very active on them. (This is not recommended either, but sometimes life comes inbetween..)
In addition to that, my weakness is that I am very bad at promoting myself. I really have to be better at this!
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?
I am overall very satisfied with Etsy, but there are some tiny issues, that could be changed.
For example, I am not very happy that my Announcements cannot be bold or a bit more visible. I feel that lots of people don´t read it and I think because it is not visible enough.
I also would love to have an option where people could select the quantities and color numbers at the same time. For example, if someone would like all the colors in a yarn package to be all different, they could select a color for each skein and not only one color for all of the skeins.
It would be also nice to be able to edit the delivery options more in detail.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I believe that good quality products together with good customer service are essentials for success. I believe in my products and I know that they have value for others! I also try to represent them in a nice way with good quality photos.
I call myself lucky because I hadn´t had any really bad experiences. (Hopefully, I won´t have in the future either). There were only a few cases were the parcels haven´t arrived and now the corona crisis, which has affected shipping to the US. But in both situations, I tried to find a solution and I think this is what my customers are appreciating. I really try to go far and beyond, which I would also expect if I would be a buyer.
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 would tell to have a look around the market and check the competitors. But don´t be frightened, your personality is different and for sure you will attract different customers. Just check if there would be something that you could do better or differently. Try to see your shop from a customer´s view. What would you expect from a shop like yours?
Be fair on pricing! Don´t underprice your items too much! You are selling value!
Create nice photos and detailed descriptions for your products!
Be kind to your customers even if they are rude at first! Everybody can have a bad day, but if you stay kind and friendly, they will for sure react differently. And don´t be afraid of apologizing if you made a mistake. We are all humans!
Promote yourself or learn how to do it! (I think for me this is the most difficult part, even now. However, it is very important!)
And last but not least.. Don´t make it only for the money! Love your little shop and have fun with it!
Anything you wish to add, feel free to do so here. We value your opinion
I would like to thank you for this opportunity and for this interview. I hope that my experience can be a bit of help for others who might be hesitating taking that first step. My mother-in-law (who is an entrepreneur) said to me, you don´t need to know all the steps for the first place. Just take the first and then the next and then the next. The way will be visible as you go along..