[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message bb_tab_container=””]Niche : Home and Living
Shop link : https://www.etsy.com/shop/DesignHouseBoutique[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter,maker,artist…
Hi, I am a native Dutch serial entrepreneur who believes that product, digital, and brand design are cornerstones of any business. My life revolves around my natural curiosity for fixing things, improving products, innovation, and progress. I was the founder of Unlimited Innovation, Hong-Kong based design and branding firm I established in 2006. Unlimited Innovation drove product design and development and brand strategies for leading consumer products companies, key retailers, and own brands. I led regional and global clients, such as Philips, Heineken, Convenient Power, and Goodmark Asia Ltd. on new product introductions, key product line extensions, and brand rejuvenating strategies. Besides external client projects, I also conceptualized and realized the launch of Unlimited Innovation’s own brands – BabyZoo, Wunders, and Jahgoo, both are distributed across the globe. Wunders is a leader in safe sleep baby products. Unlimited Innovation was sold in 2013, It was then when my family moved to the United States (Redwood City) and I became a stay-at-home dad.
Spending time with my two daughters as well as working on projects around the house laid the groundwork for Design House Boutique, my shop on Etsy. Design House Boutique offers unique products inspired by contemporary Dutch homes. That’s how I approach interior design. With accents and details, providing just that bit of color and warmth that makes you feel at home. A cushion drawing attention in a chair, or a white-wash sconce against an icy blue wall are some of these little touches that may differentiate your home. I only started on Etsy in 2019 but I have an ocean of ideas left in me and I can’t wait to offer these on Etsy in the years to come.
Interestingly, I don’t have an educational design background, but a BSBA cum laude from Boston University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. While I previously worked at Heineken International, Bain Consulting, and Goodmark Group, I felt the corporate world was not for me. My natural creative talent and design skills laid the groundwork for many entrepreneurial ventures.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
Etsy was honestly suggested by friends of mine. Family and friends, who have come to our house for dinner parties (I enjoy cooking and baking as well) encouraged me to start selling the objects they saw in our home. With that, I decided to launch my first online shop of unique home decorations. I feel fortunate that this once hobby might now be turned into a full-time business. I can’t wait to grow it and list the many different products I have created.
It started really slow at first and that was discouraging. I thought that people would just find my products but that did not happen. I then started experimenting with ads on Etsy, a bit of social media, friends bought products and recommended the shop to others and that’s how Design House Boutique got traction. I love the Etsy community as they are supportive of the creative talents offering their products on the site. They appreciate the hard work the sellers put into their creations and they certainly appreciate the personal touch. It is very different from Amazon or other mass market places where consumer aren’t as emotionally involved in the buying process.
Directly selling to consumers is tough at times but rewarding as well as you have that direct relationship with the customer. It is so rewarding when you notice the enthusiasm and appreciation of your customers. I have a lot of experience selling to buyers at large retailers and the lack of passion or indifference for the products and the work that went into it at times, made me decide to sell directly online.
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 ?
Design House Boutique sells interior design that adds a contemporary touch to your home. I started in 2019 by offering a range of seat pads, fitting designer dining, kitchen, and office chairs. The materials are polyester and wool felt with non-slip silicone. The raw materials are from China, the silicone is added in Vietnam and the laser-cutting takes place in the United States.
In 2020 I started adding repurposed and reclaimed wooden home decoration to the collection. My daughter did a school project and shared with me that in 2017, landfills received 12.1 million tons of wood. More than 3 million tons come from wood pallets. She mentioned that in our area there are many manufacturing sites that dispose of these pallets. So, that’s why we decided to repurpose, recycle and rework wooden pallets from our area. Not only are we helping the environment with building products from reclaimed wood, but we are also helping local companies which pay to get rid of pallets.
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 best described as a tinker, a creative instigator. I love to build, do crafts, sketch, recycle materials to make new objects, all with the purpose to create wonderful living spaces. My mom was my idol and mentor, she was able to make amazing things out of nothing. For example, she turned an old table cloth into an amazing play tent, turning our dining table into the best space to play and hide. Most important though, she taught me to have an eye for detail and strive for perfection. That’s what I try to achieve in everything I make. If I don’t think it’s good enough, I will start over and won’t sell it, just to make a dollar.
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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?
Honestly, I did not have a real goal. I just wanted to share what i created at home as many friends seemed to like. It is still a side job (a hobby) as my company, Wunders USA, is still my core business. But who knows, Design House Boutique is a wonderful creative outlet for me, and Covid-19 has certainly shifted the focus more from Wunders to Design House Boutique, but let’s see which one will be the true winners in the end.
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?
When you sell via retailers and distributors you hardly ever get that direct feedback from the end consumer. So selling directly can be quite confrontational. It is most rewarding, but sometimes consumers can very very mean and demanding. However, I truly love the Etsy community as they are more patient, forgiving, and appreciative than the average mass consumer. A major concern is a capacity, personal time. Since this is a passion and a hobby, my concern is true that I spend too much time creating products that might not be the best (most profitable) use of my time. Since I am not a web designer I was worried that my shop on Etsy would either cost a lot of money to set up by a specialist or it might look amateurish. It was very easy though to get set up on Etsy which creates a level playing field for sellers I believe.
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 actually did take a few months before I got noticed on Etsy. That was quite discouraging. Were the products not good enough or not competitive? But it turned out that I had to optimize the tags, the keywords, the images as well as engage paid advertising. I also had to encourage buyers to post reviews as visitors do look at them. I am about a year in on Etsy and now have several sales a day.
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?
This is the most difficult issue with managing a shop on Etsy. I do have a ‘day’ job which I a baby products company Wunders (www.thewunderscompany.com). Now that Design House Boutique on Etsy is getting more traction and I cannot outsource the creation of the products (or don’t want to :-), I am basically working around the clock. Luckily I can work from home, my daughters are a bit older (13-16) and I love what I do so it does not feel like I am working constantly. But this can’t go on forever. I also need time away to recharge, do different things like reading and do outdoor activities which I love (such as kite surfing).
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?
For the seat pads I buy raw materials in China, these get shipped to Vietnam where they laminate them with a non-slip surface. I then cut them to shape in the US which allows me to customize them for the many different kinds of chairs. Tools are laser cutters and hand scissors. I create the shipping mailers from a recycled cartons.
For the wooden products, I collect wooden pallets from local manufacturers and then rework the wood into interior decorations. Tools are sanders, jigsaws, miter saw, and others.
What is the biggest impact on profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Shipping. Since sellers on Etsy do compete with alternative products on Amazon, sellers do need to price the products such that shipping is included (in my opinion). So pricing is basically competitive analysis.
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?
Curiosity. I strongly believe that curiosity is the foundation of innovation and since I have always been a very curious human being, new ideas come to me all the time. I read, I look, I feel, I sense, I live, I experience and experiment and that drives innovation.
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 international customers do pay for shipping. With the current volume I can currently promise 2 days turnaround from order to shipment.
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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?
You should always be wary of competitors but I am not worried about them. I believe I have enough inspiration to continuously bring new innovation to my shop and that will keep customers buying products from Design House Boutique.
How do you deal with disputes or bad rating/feedback? How do you manage presale and post sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I am direct and honest with customers. First, I do believe that the Etsy community is different than for example the Amazon community. Surely, Etsy buyers also expect what you promise, but they know that there’s an actual person behind the product and not a big corporation. So Etsy sellers have a bit more leeway than Seller on other eCommerce platforms. But, if a person is truly dissatisfied I will do my best to make it better. And so far, I have not had any bad ratings. Fingers crossed.
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?
Etsy has not changed my life yet but it certainly has been fun so far seeing the number of sales I have had and the positive feedback I have received. I love dealing with customers and making the product that seems to make them super happy.
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?
Unfortunately, I have not been able yet to incorporate social media in my digital marketing mix. I should but I just have not had the time yet. The hype purely comes from people on Etsy and using the search function on Etsy.
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?
Currently Etsy is kind of a digital catalog at this time. You can’t really give the visitor of your store a perfect feeling of the brand, the company or the store. There is no brand page (what Amazon offers for example) and there’s not really a way to provide a lot of emotion besides the banner on the top of the page. The site does not enable sellers to provide a lot of background yet on the company, the brand, or the store as a whole.
I think that the awareness of Etsy is still minimal. I have seen ads for Etsy recently but I do believe that the company should do a lot more to position Etsy as a viable alternative to Amazon or local shopping.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
When I started, I counted the minutes it took me to finish a product. If I then did the match I noticed that my hourly wage wasn’t that great. At first, it did not bother me as it is a hobby that was making a bit of money. However, now that the sales volume has grown, I had to think more about the process, streamlining certain procedures, preparing parts of orders and not working 1 by 1, and keeping track of patterns. So I started creating molds for certain fast movers (molds that help me cut wood faster, marks locations for hooks and such) and I started filing and organizing my raw materials more efficiently. Also, I initially shipped and packed products as they came. I did not really have a process. I lost a lot of time that way as for every new order I had to start all over again about how to ship and pack. Now I register what kind of packaging, how I package each item and prepare packaging materials so that the shipping has become a lot more efficient.
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?
Make sure you take amazing creative pictures of your products as that is the number one decision maker for buyers on Etsy.