Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
We are Paul and Jannah, a husband and wife duo from Regional Victoria, and our story begins with a cubby house. What started out as a little summer holiday project really ignited our passion for design and working with timber. Initially, we set out to build a simple cubby house for our three beautiful children, however, our ideas began developing and before we knew it we had built a gorgeous little cottage that now adorns our back yard. It was during this time that we realized how much we love working together as a team in the designing and handcrafting process. Soon after, we were making furniture for friends and family who in turn encouraged us to start our own business…and so the Jemmervale Designs journey began.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
We discovered Etsy early on in our journey when talking with friends about handmade products. We found it so easy to start a store, and couldn’t believe how quickly we were set up and selling our products Australia wide and soon after, all over the world! As we had no prior experience at all in selling handmade products we were really learning a lot along the way, but have found Etsy to be a really straightforward platform to get started with.
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 sell primary, handcrafted timber furniture, and decor. We mostly use our local sustainably-sourced Victorian Ash timber but are also looking at expanding our timber types in the future. Some of our products also use high-quality leather in a variety of different colors. We design our products with style and family life in mind. We all love to have beautiful pieces in our homes, but with three children of our own, we are always ensuring that our products are functional and durable as well! We think our products stand out because of how well they are made, our attention to detail, and our love for making those products that we can’t seem to find anywhere else!
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?
We have been entirely self-taught! Although we would have loved to have many years of experience under our belt and would appreciate the guidance of a mentor, that hasn’t been our journey. Instead, we have thrown ourselves in the deep end and have embraced learning about all aspects of our craft. As we are perfectionists though, we are always working hard to make every piece perfect! I don’t know if we will ever be fully satisfied with our creations as we are always thinking our latest product design is the best!
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?
Our original goal when starting up our Etsy shop was to have some supplemental income to our full-time jobs. Paul was a full-time Occupational Therapist and Jannah is a full-time mother-of-three. However, it wasn’t long before we were so busy that we were able to transition to running our own business full time. It has really been such an exciting journey to be on!
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 we began, we didn’t really know what to expect, so in a sense, we didn’t have any worries. As we got going we did realize how much we had to learn and have worked at overcoming one challenge at a time!
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?
Our first sale came very quickly, within a week or so! We actually didn’t get the timing very well, because we made the first delivery to the post office of one of our products when Jannah was in labor with our third child! So any sales in that first year were going to be amazing. Now we are 2 1/2 years in and we are making between 10-20 sales a week! This is far beyond what we were hoping for. We are so busy keeping up with sales now!
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?
Initially, we had other employment but now we can devote all of our time to our Etsy business. A typical day for us involves hours of handcrafting in the workshop, discussions over lunch about designs or sourcing materials, an afternoon of packaging items to be sent out, and an evening of communications with our customers and general housekeeping! Our time is managed very fluidly and even our kids are part of the journey!
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?
At the moment we are working towards having most of our products manufactured ahead of time so that it can be available to ship to our customers as soon as possible. Our current best selling product would be our bath caddy range, and even though it is a simple product to make, it is very popular! The journey begins with hand-selecting out the right timber, we are looking for quality timber with a good amount of character. We then start from scratch, we dress our own timber and then cut it down, then there are endless hours of sanding, right through to packaging the bath caddy and having is sent on the way! We are so fortunate that we have a lovely workshop set up and have been able to purchase some high-quality tools to enable us to get a really good finish on all our pieces.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
One of the biggest costs is the materials. We have had some challenges lately with sourcing timber as our local area experienced terrible bushfires producing a shortage in timber available. The material costs are usually about 20-30% of the costs of our products, which can sometimes mean there is not a great deal of profit for the labor involved. We try to be very reasonable with our pricing and our profit margins are not excessive. We think we have found the balance between making our products in the right price bracket for our customers ensuring that we sell enough to have a positive cash flow.
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?
Our products are often inspired by our home life and the projects we complete for family and friends. We often get custom requests from our customers than then inspire a new product range. We find that we are creative when we bounce ideas off one another. Jannah is more of the stylist and Paul understands the manufacturing process, so between the two of us, we can have really creative and inspiring discussions in relation to the whole process of how our product range comes to life.
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?
We do ship our products internationally. Sometimes we are able to include the postage costs in our pricing, but for larger, heavier items we have the postage separate. Currently, the postage times for international sales are around 10-20 days, but with Covid-19 challenges, this has sometimes been a lot longer. We do offer free shipping Australia wide and also many products to the US have free shipping. We package our products in cardboard boxes with lots of recyclable packaging to keep them safe for their journey.
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 don’t really worry about competitors because we don’t really have anyone doing exactly what we do. We feel that we are unique enough, and have a great history of customer reviews, that our customers will appreciate what we do. There can be cheaper versions of our products, but we always strive to make our product better quality than what else is available.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
We have been so fortunate to have had few issues with customers. On the odd occasion, the product has been slightly damaged during the shipping process, in which case we send the customer a new one, offer a discount, or in some cases a full refund is offered. We always strive to communicate openly with our customers and endeavor to understand where they are coming from.
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?
Our life has completely changed now that we sell through Etsy. We love running our own business and we never thought we would get that far. There have been many challenges and stresses from time to time, but it has been such a rewarding journey. We try and tackle things one problem at a time, and we talk a lot together, this really helps. We often know if there is an issue with a customer, that sometimes time is money and it is better to resolve an issue quickly, without it extending on. Even if this means we just cop something on the chin that we think is unreasonable.
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, but we also know that word of mouth has also helped our sales considerably. We use Etsy ads and love the sales that it brings in. We don’t use any other paid form of advertisement at the moment outside of Etsy. We have an Instagram and Facebook account that we also use to connect with our customers.
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 customer satisfaction?
Our only challenge with Etsy is that it seems to be geared for primarily a US market. Therefore some of the challenges as an international seller are around the free-shipping guarantee and priority placement of the listings. As some of our products are so large, offering free-shipping means that they are then not affordable for our local Australian based customers. I also find some of the GST costings difficult to navigate.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Great photos are a must. And having a variety of photos is really important. A lesson we have learned the hard way is not making it clear enough to customers that a timber item is never going to look exactly like the one in the photo. Sometimes customers have been disappointed with the color variation in timber or the features of the timber being different from what they expected. We try really hard to have lots of different photos and have a really clear description of what the customer may receive.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Start with a few items and gradually build up. Always present your products well and make sure that you are happy with the manufacturing process. You don’t want to end up making things that you don’t enjoy making!
Anything you wish to add, feel free to do so here. We value your opinion
We love the flexibility of running an Etsy store. It is so easy to have your products sell to any corner of the world and Etsy has opened up many possibilities for us.