Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
I’ve had my own data processing for over 20 years but in March 2020 when everything was shut down my business dried up completely for 6 weeks. I wanted to draw or paint but it didn’t ease my mind as I thought it would. One night I was watching the news and trying not to stress about the future when I heard the anchor say they didn’t have enough masks for people and something just clicked in my head. I could help out here and keep my mind focused on something meaningful to keep the stress at bay. Thus began my foray into the world of sewing. I had never seen more than a pillow covering before this but I knew that I had a lot of fabric and a Brother sewing machine stuffed in a closet that I hadn’t used in over 4 years I searched for tutorials on how to make a face mask and started making them in the hundreds and giving them out at my doctor’s office, Publix, Walmart, and pretty much anywhere I went. I mailed them out to people who asked for them on Facebook groups as well as my friends. It was a truly cathartic experience for me. My mask-making efforts were truly a journey and my first ones left a lot to be desired but as I learned and tried different patterns I got much much better. As I perfected my masks and finally found a style that was breathable & comfortable I decided I truly enjoyed sewing and wanted to try something different to see if I could sew well. I started watching videos on how to make quilts, baby items, quilts, and handbags. Now I am sewing between jobs for my business and loving every second of it.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I had given out almost a thousand masks to friends, family, strangers, and businesses before I actually thought of selling them. I was just taking donations so I could keep making masks and I took some masks with me wherever I went & would give them out to people randomly. About 4 months after I started I had taken the next steps into sewing and was making baby blankets for my granddaughters, burp cloths, bibs, starting quilts then moving on to handbags which I am doing more of now. My husband bought me a new sewing machine for our Anniversary. One that embroiders as well as sewing. No pressure right? One day my husband said I needed to ‘suck it up’ and take photos of all my masks and get set up on Etsy. He’s had a store for years with his laser engraving of bookmarks and key racks so he knew how to help me get it set up. I set aside a block of time when it was nice and bright outside and set up a place to take photos of all my masks in natural light. It took about 4 hours to get the photos made, cropped, and uploaded to my new Etsy store. I thought it would take days but I had 65 products uploaded the first day. I’ve never sold anything that I’ve made myself so this is an entirely new experience. It’s scary to think people might say something negative about the things you make so I make sure I check and recheck every item I have before I post it online. I started my Etsy store because I know my masks are well made and I’ve spent months making them more safe, comfortable, and breathable. I also want to help people have the best fabric options for safe, comfortable masks since they are required now which is why I have so many different fabric choices.
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?
My main product is a 3D Structured Face Mask. They are made with 100% cotton and have very stiff interfacing that keeps them away from the nose and mouth while being really breathable. My 3D masks also have tabs and adjustable elastics that are really soft and can be interchanged behind the ears or around the head.
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 a self-taught crafter. I’ve only been sewing since the end of March 2020 when people needed masks. I started out by watching video tutorials on YouTube and progressed from masks to other sewing projects like handbags, quilts, and baby items. I truly enjoy everything about sewing. it’s really gratifying to see something you’ve created yourself whether or not it takes me going back to rip out seams and redo it to make it as perfect as possible.
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?
My original goal was to sell safe, comfortable face masks with a wide variety of fabrics so people had a choice and would get a good quality mask that they wouldn’t dread wearing every day. I may have never sold anything online if the pandemic hadn’t pushed me to find alternative methods of alleviating the stress of my business shutting down for 6 weeks. Making 3D structured face masks is a hobby but also a side-job now.
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?
My main fear was feedback actually. I know my masks are well made and comfortable but not all people think alike so I wasn’t sure if others would feel the same. I think the toughest thing is organizing yourself enough to get all of your items photographed, uploaded, and entered into Etsy. It is so easy but it does take discipline and you have to stay on top of it.
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?
It took less than a week to get my first sale on Etsy and I didn’t do any advertising. I don’t know if it was the keywords I use but they are finding my shop. I’ve had over 50 sales in the 9 weeks I’ve had the shop open but I think that will pick up as more people learn about my store.
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 my own data business. I work from home though so in between jobs I am sewing now. It’s been a really easy transition and every item I make myself gives me a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence.
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?
I always make one medium-sized face mask to photograph and put in my store. I have a set qty based on the fabric I have available. I do customize my products with embroidery. My main tools are my sewing machine and my iron.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Fabric is the biggest impact on profit and all the little things you need like interfacing and hardware for masks and handbags. You need to make sure you add in the cost of your shipping envelopes and labels into the mix as well.
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?
Most of my inspiration comes from the desire to make face masks that I feel will help keep people safer and offer better protection. I’ve seen so many people with their masks under their nose or elastics that were stretched out which made for an ill-fitting mask that offered little protection for anybody.
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 do offer international shipping although I haven’t received any orders at this time. The postage is calculated based on weight and any orders over $35 have free shipping
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?
No. My face masks are different from the stiffness of the mask and the tabs that allow for elastic change or repair.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I contacted some random customers to find out how their masks were holding up and every one of them responded that they were doing great!
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?
Owning an Etsy shop has changed my life in many ways. I’m always thinking about new things I can make to add to my site. I haven’t been as stressed about external worries and it keeps me focused on keeping my stock organized and luckily my business allows me the flexibility to work with my store in between jobs.
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?
I use social media sharing through Etsy and I have started Etsy ads to keep my site seen for the past couple of weeks and plan to leave the marketing on for a while to see how it translates on my store sales.
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?
The only thing I’m seeing right now is that I have to add all of my face mask info because it isn’t a fitted mask pattern. I wish they would add the info for 3D masks.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I’ve been blessed so far. I’m just sharing photos of my masks and bringing them everywhere I go. I’ve made some business cards and give them out all the time.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
The only advice I have is for new sellers to get good photos in natural light so their items are bright and stand out.