AtelierMiracle – Handmade Plushies – Dolls and Deco

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Niche : Home and Living
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Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

My name is Justine and I am the creator and owner of Atelier Miracle. Creating things was my best friend ever since I remember. As a kid I used to spend time making clothes for my dolls, creating Barbie house stuff from whatever I found in the house, sewing small plushies from old clothes. I used liters of paint and glue, every colorful piece of fabric stolen from a cupboard of my mother, every button, stick, box, or even a combination of the colors inspired me. I had always a head full of ideas. I literally couldn’t sit still for a long time, even sleep when I had something on my mind. Years and years of boring studies and work in corporations started to kill slowly my personality. It was not for me. But the final decision to set up handmade came after the birth of my first child and moving to France. I realized that if I changed so much in my life, I can go further and I returned to creation. A couple of years ago I became a professional and since that moment I make plushies and decorations for children. And I leave my heart in every single piece I make.

What are your responsibilities as a business owner?

In the French system, there’s a form of a one-person professional activity called “auto-entrepreneur”. Within the framework of this activity, all the responsibilities are simple and clear. So you have to do declare your income every three months (and pay the taxes off course) and once a year pays a property tax which depends on the localization of your professional activity. I live in a small village where this tax is not required, which is good because in the towns or cities it could be really high. As a business owner and the creator in the same person, I have also to manage the incoming orders, the stocks, and the shipments. A good organization is highly required here!

What are your best selling products, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?

Usually, my creations are a result of a quick idea born in my had. It could be some animal in the zoo, some mix of colors or patterns, or even grimace on the face of my son. When I create something new I try to think like a kid, what he’d like, what would make him happy. Then I start to draw. After creating a face on the paper (which is the most important part to me, it shows the character of a toy) I make a pattern of a whole body, choose the fabric, the accessories, etc. Then I make the first sample, test him, and make all the upgrades needed. After this long way, I start to sell it. I always use the best quality fabric and materials. Very often I order the samples from a couple of the shops online, then I choose the best one. The quality is the most important part for me. My best selling item is a plush toy raccoon. I already sold about 500 pieces of him! His popularity doesn’t decrease! He is so popular that I decided to make a mini version of him, for the babies. And it’s a victim of his success too. People just love them.

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?

Being yourself a boss is not an easy thing. You have to be disciplined and organized enough to do jour job. There’s much work for one person. When you have 20 orders incoming the same day – it could be hard. And let’s face it – when you work at home, there’s always something more to do, not mentioning the people who keep thinking that when you’re at home, you probably do nothing so you can be disturbing at any time. But being an entrepreneur is also a freedom. It’s you who decide. You decide what to do, which way to go to develop your business. You can make as many mistakes as you want and learn from them. You can express yourself and do what you love. You can be yourself. Isn’t it enough?

Who do you sell to (and how do you get customers)? What marketing tools or strategies you use to boost your sales? Are you satisfied with the results?

Right now I am mostly focused on the sale at Etsy. I have no special strategy. I use social media like Facebook or Pinterest to be visible. The satisfied clients do the job also to recommend my creations to the others. In my opinion, when you have a good product, it will defend itself. At the moment the salle is very satisfying and I wouldn’t cover more orders without hiring another person. I receive about twenty propositions of the cooperation a week, but I have to decline them because of the lack of time.

Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?

In my opinion, there’s no universal best winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur. It all depends on so many conditions – your abilities, the environment, money, ideas… But there are many things you can do for sure. For me is being fresh, new, original, and of the best quality. Of course, there are millions of entrepreneurs all around the world who create in the same field as me, but I never copy them. I give my personal, unique character to every creation I made. It’s like my signature. Nowadays we are flooded by a massive production of plastic, artificial rubbish. Many people are tired of this and start to look for products of good quality and unique. This should be a mission of all the entrepreneurs – to give them this value.

What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?

My start was a real lesson in life. In a beginning, I used to sell my products in the local shops with handmade or niche products. I was young, full of passion, and the belief that everything and everyone is good. Very quickly I realized that the owners of the shops are not like me. They were only profit-focused individuals, who kept forcing me to lower the price increasing his profit instead. They were also cutting off my tags to depersonalize my stuff, and treated me with absolutely no respect. So I decided to quit them and started to sell online. This was the best thing I could do. The sale increases very quickly and I regained total control and independence.

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?

As I said, everything inspires me! Sometimes it could be a mix of the colors or forms, some animal, drawing, or kid. It just appears in my head, keeps growing and growing until a complete form. Drawing and noting the ideas is a part of my life. My dear clients are also my inspiration. They often write to me with a question if I could realize their idea. We start to talk, change the suggestions, and then I make their wish come true. Sometimes their ideas become a part of my regular stock.

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 ship my products all around the world and I’m proud of that. This is a small part of the satisfaction of being an entrepreneur. It is always exciting to have a client from Laponie, Israel, or Japan. Our french “la Poste” is very well organized. As a professional seller, I have the possibility to manage all the shipping online with the international tax declaration included. The costs are reasonable. My products usually don’t exceed 0,5 kg of the mass, so locally (France) it costs from 5 to 6,5€, foreign shipping is about 15€. I don’t do free shipping, but for every additional product, the client pays only 0,20€. For me, very important is to deliver good quality and not damaged products so every shipped item is protected with a bag and an adapted carton.

What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?

Nothing gets from talking or dreaming. The hardest part is to start! The best idea is to make a small beginning plan. There’s no need to start big. It’s better to prepare a couple of good, best-looking, and quality items than trying to do everything at the same time. Clear descriptions, good, clean photos, reasonable prizes is a key to get the clients.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?

Be original! Nothing is more depressing than the creators who have no creativity. Respect the work of the others. Don’t steal the ideas. Inspire yourself with them. Work, work, work! You will achieve nothing without regular and organized work. Do what you like! When you don’t like what you do, people will not like it too. If you put love into your creations, your clients will notice that. Learn from the mistakes! Next time will be better, smoother, easier. People learn all their life. It’s fantastic. Don’t listen to the haters They have the same need to hate that you to create. Have permanent contact with your clients! Maybe sometimes their question will seem to be stupid, but your contact with them will satisfy them and make them feel special and important. People like that.
In case of a problem – be elastic and propose the solutions.

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How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?

In my case, the most important object was to obtain total financial and time independence of course. In the beginning, I saw only that. But day after day I realized that my success is not only money. My success is to create something unique that people appreciate, that make them smile and be happier.

Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?

To cover all the orders I used to work all day. After sending kids to school I start to sew until they’re coming back at 5. Things are more complicated when there are school holidays. Because there’s absolutely no possibility to work when they are at home (I tried, believe me), usually I finish the orders already made and block the sale for this time.

How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?

I am thinking about collaboration. Right now I work alone and my productivity is limited. Cooperation with someone would increase the number of orders, the time of realization, and the finances as well. I have also some marketing strategy ideas, which I’ll keep a secret.

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 quite persistent in my view. If I have the intuition that something is good, I will never change my mind. That helped me to archive the objectives and to create a shop in the form that I wanted it to be. As I said, the worst experience of my activity I left behind me. Etsy was the beginning of a positive one. Making a good decision could change everything.


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