Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter,maker,artist…
I was a rather active kid and whole life has been a struggle to focus. My first job was a nightmare, it was an open office which made me deeply unhappy and not being able to focus at all. But something good came out of it. The boring repetitive work stared to make me creative and gave me self-confidence. I resigned after 3 years with only 1 goal develop tools which allow everyone to escape sick offices without having to resign like me.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I like to get to know my customers so I can validate that my products really solve their needs. That’s why I stopped working with distributors and retailers and only focus on online sales. Etsy is a great way to address people outside of my own country and also I like their promotion system. You only need to pay once you’ve sold something. I spend so much on Google/Facebook ads with so limited results, with Etsy however had a conversion within a week.
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 office furniture for the home worker. I use bamboo material and circular material like recycled ABS. As being an engineer, my products stand out through their simplicity. Also as I’m willing to take risks, my products are rather innovative. Did you know that I’ve designed the first desk which fits in your backpack?
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 did everything by myself, fully self-taught. I worked in a small shed in the garden of my parents. It took me 2 years to master wood fully and more than 200 prototypes. My parents almost lost their faith in a good ending, but just at that moment sales started to come in. I believe that anyone gets as much struggle as he is able to handle, but you need to trust yourself that you will be able to achieve your dream. I’m still redesigning things every day and I feel like I’m on my way to reach my dream.
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 started to go full-time on my Notadesk the first of June. I decided to start selling online cause it allows me to explain the product better to my customers. Initially, I was collaborating with about six shops but due to Corona all of them opened a webshop and started to compete with my own shop. That’s when I decided to stick to online selling only.
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 not worried, I believe in my products as I’m using it daily. It is just a matter of creating awareness. I had 2 conversions in my first week, so I didn’t have a lot of time to worry either.
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?
I made 2 sales in my first week which was 2 weeks ago :), I’m not sure how many sales I’m going to make this first year as it just started and at the moment it is also holiday period and therefore not so much need for tools for homeworkers. My aim is to have one conversion 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?
I have no outside job besides Etsy. 30% of my time is production and quality control of my current line-up, 30% is making marketing material, 30% is direct sales and 10% is designing new tools. That’s what I love, I like to challenge existing furniture. My dream would be to focus only on designing new equipment.
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?
I’ve made over 100 prototypes to come to the final design: “The Notadesk”. I wanted to make it in eco-friendly materials. As I could not mold recycled plastic I decided to collaborate with a plastic molding supplier. I wanted to use FSC bamboo instead of regular wood to reduce footprint. Almost all bamboo is coming from Asia, so I packed my suitcase and when to Asia to look for a high-quality supplier. As having a background in automotive sourcing, I could easily judge capabilities. I wend a second time to this supplier in Asia and we produced the first batch together. I was part of their assembly line. We make a small batch and once it is sold, the whole process starts all over again.
What is the biggest impact on profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
The biggest impact on profitability is getting the woodworking right. The margins need to be exactly right in order for the product to work well. We price the products based on the cost but also the value it brings.
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?
Nature, our ultimate goal is to let people enjoy nature more. By working in Nature and surrounded by trees and birds I feel relaxed. It is almost like I’m on holiday. And this holiday feeling relieves me from the pressure to perform. Once liberated from this burden I feel weightless and I have the bravery to question everything. At that moment I do not think out of the box, I just don’t see the box anymore. It is a whole difference to the open office which caused me to resign.
It in the end became the sole purpose of my business too, to make these tools that allow people to go outside, where they belong. We have a desk which you can strap to a tree to work outside, on the mobile desk which weights less than 4kg which allows you work at the shore of a river and finally a whiteboard which can be mounted to a tree to take your brainstorm outside. I’m aware that all this may sound a little too much, that’s why we include a suction cup too. Instead of going outside it allows you to work with a view at the window. Cause if you cannot go to Nature, we bring Nature to you 🙂
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?
We ship our products all over Europe, it takes about one week to arrive. We use free shipping as customer experience is the center of our company. We package our products in ecologic carton.
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?
A competitor is an indication you are doing well, a competitor can copy a single product but he cannot copy my brain which is creating a new product every 5 months. As long as I can remain innovative, I’m not afraid of copycats.
How do you deal with disputes or bad rating/feedback? How do you manage presale and post sale communication and customer satisfaction?
Over the 350 sales we achieved over the period of 6 months we’ve 0 returns. However this can always change, we are aware that we are not perfect. I allow myself to make mistakes but not twice the same mistake. As we are only 2 weeks on the platform, we didn’t receive any feedback yet. Our post-sale communication needs to be improved big time. We want to change the way people work, therefore training is essential.
Working standing is tiring but the advantages are huge. In Belgium, 27% of all deaths are linked to cardiovascular alignments. And 45% of all cardiovascular alignments are linked to sedentary life! I feel it like my mission to help people stand. We have the right tools to do so as the natural light will trigger people to use our desk. However, we want to have a follow-up process, reaching out to our customers once every month with advising how to better use our product.
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?
I’ve been selling in Belgium on my own platform so I had the experience of dealing with customers and also manufacturing products. I’ve sold some of my products all over the world (USA/China/Brazil/Canada) but Etsy brought me, customers, from Ireland/ UK/ Austria last week and it did this all by itself. Etsy finally gave my product a way to sell itself.
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?
We are lucky that customers like to post pictures of our product on their social media. We also have a partner model on our website which allows existing customers to reimburse their purchase in return for new customers. We are going to a kick starter campaign for woldwide supply starting from the 15 of September.
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 would prefer if I could have the telephone number of my customers. In order to have as reliable shipment as possible it is important that my shipper can inform the customer by sms once the package arrives.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
At the moment I did not have any problems.
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?
Go with the flow!