Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
We both, Miguel and Maria Jesús worked for several years making real estate models and train models in different companies. In those years we learned many techniques and we got to know materials with which we were able to make pieces that we liked to have in our own homes like popular culture pieces or reproductions of historical items. Over time we realized that there were many people with our same interests, so we began to sell occasionally, making our work known among forums and contacts from people with our same interests. Finally, the decision to start a family gave us the incentive we needed to establish ourselves on our own so that we could spend as much time as possible with our daughter and be able to have the freedom to manage our time.
Our niche is between people like us, passionate about history, mystery, and cinema.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
Being owners and only members of the business, our responsibilities cover every aspect of the business, although we have divided tasks in both administrative and productive matters. From the design of the product, the study of the prices, the publication of the announcements … there is a long way to the completion of each sale, apart from the production of the parts itself. In every transaction, there is a good part of the work outside the workshop.
Contacting customers both before purchase if they have any questions and during the process and delivery is a responsibility in any online business, especially considering that the customer cannot actually see the products
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?
We have a range of products that differ a lot from each other and therefore there are many materials and techniques that we use, but in general, we could speak of different types of resins and woods as fundamental materials. The ideas arise from our own interest in history, surprising objects, and popular culture. Many of the ideas come from specific orders from clients who are interested in a particular piece and cannot find someone to do it. Our best-selling products are the Emerald Tablet, and the Roman dodecahedron, which we have a special affection for because we developed it together with our father/father-in-law Jose Manuel Corral. One thing that makes our products stand out is that we try to make pieces that no one or very few people make.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
The most satisfying thing for us is to see how our products travel to every corner of the world. Our pieces are made to order, they are not mass productions so each piece we know where it is going to and it is something we really enjoy. We especially like it when we do unique commissions, pieces we have not made before for which we have to develop new techniques. It is always a challenge. The worst thing for us is handling matters that are beyond our control, such as shipping problems.
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?
We sell to collectors and those interested in certain types of artifacts related to history, mystery, and popular culture. We also work for museums to which we make products exclusively for their own stores. On the other hand, we have a blog where we publish other types of special works, such as mic stands for music groups. Etsy’s sales arise from the website’s own advertising tools, and we are happy with the results obtained. However, the best advertising is word of mouth. There is no better publicist than a customer who is happy with the purchase.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
We don’t think there is a magic formula. The only thing we know is to work hard, to be honest with clients and with ourselves. And above all be constant, sometimes it will go better and other times worse, but you have to keep going, striving to improve little by little.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
The worst moment since 2012 when we opened the store has come with the current health emergency situation. In addition to being a time of uncertainty for everyone, and the concerns of life beyond the business, with the lockdown that we had between March and May in Spain, we had to close the business for a time since mobility was quite restricted and acquisition of materials was difficult. On the other hand, the difficulties that postal services are suffering all over the world (especially in the USA) caused us certain problems, because some shipments arrived very late, and managing the frustration of customers despite not being able to do anything from here was not easy.
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?
We get inspiration from museums, documentaries, movies, and many times from clients and friends who show us curious artifacts that we did not know.
When we see something that we like, we study it to see if we can do it and how. Many times it takes us months to document us and develop the method to do it. Luckily in our professional journey inside and outside of MJ2Artesanos, we have learned a great variety of techniques, modeling, CAD design, 3D printing, molds, different painting techniques …
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?
Yes, most of our clients are, in fact, international. Our products are made to order, we generally do not have stock, so that each product has a manufacturing time, between 7 and 15 days depending on the difficulty, although almost all are shipped much earlier. We use free shipping to improve our positioning on the web. The only way to offer free shipping is by making an average of the cost of the shipments and adding it to the price of the item. We take great care in packaging the products as they are quite fragile. We start from scratch with cardboard and recycled materials to protect each object. The boxes are made tailored to each item. The more the box fits the product, the cheaper the shipment will be, and that translates into more sales.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
Be sure about what type of products you are going to sell to have a line to follow. Having a catalog before you start helps a lot. It is very important to be aware that success usually comes slowly, we cannot wait to open a business and start selling a lot. We will have to adapt to the circumstances, sometimes we will have to take steps back and follow another path and the business will grow with you,
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
The most important thing is to believe in what you do. If your products satisfy you, you already have earned a good part of the success. But above all, you have to have perseverance and patience. Things do not start to work from one day to the next, but if you are clear about what you want to offer and you do it well, things that have to be changed to improve will be learned over time. (The technical details as pricing, shipping, shop policies, are improved with practice.)
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
For us, success has been being able to live on something we love and share it with the family. Our goal was to work together and have the freedom to have our time and raise our daughter, and we have achieved all that. It makes us very happy.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
We work in two different spaces. The workshop, in which most of the products are manufactured, where we spend half the working day, and the office, in which “clean” things are done such as the finishing of some delicate details, packaging, and administrative staff, where we spend the other half. In customer service issues there are no defined schedules. Thanks to the Etsy application, it’s easy to maintain a “direct” contact within the difficulties that arise from the time difference with most of our clients.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
We continue constantly adding new products to our catalog, but one of our objectives is to expand our portfolio of fixed customers, such as museums and show production companies for which we manufacture props, these stable revenues give more profitability to the company since it allows us to have something similar to a “fixed salary”
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
For your store to be successful on Etsy, the most important thing is quality and transparency. Costumers have to be very clear about what they are going to receive, but beyond that, (which is evident in any sales business), in Etsy in particular it is very important to pay attention to the suggestions made from the website itself, as that generally give you an idea of what you have to do to get a better position.