Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
The story of Silvanwoodturning started approximately 6 years ago after seeing someone demo at a local craft fair. I’ve always admired wood and enjoyed working with it at school so I purchased a second-hand lathe locally and had a go. After about six months of teaching myself to turn, a friend mentioned Etsy which has quite literally changed my life! I opened my online store shortly after and I’ve now made over 3000 sales, equating to well over 10000 individual items sold. I am mainly for the gift market and I’m constantly looking for fresh ideas for my shop.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
I am responsible for everything that comes with running an online business. I try and get my “creative” work completed in the morning and get any admin done in the afternoon. One of the benefits of working for yourself is flexibility so this can change as needed. I am constantly surprised by how much time is taken up with photography, measuring, listing, and packaging. This cannot be underestimated, a large part of my time really is dedicated to it!
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?
Spinning tops are my best selling item, especially around the holiday season. These are usually made from kiln dried Beech which I source from Germany. Beech has a nice straight grain which leads to well-balanced tops and takes colored inks and texture well. I also make a range of unique “Premium“ spinning tops incorporating both native and exotic timbers. For these, I try and come up with a rough design brief before I start turning but it’s not unusual for this to change more than once during the making process. These are marketed at top collectors and are sold worldwide through both Etsy & Facebook.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I enjoy being my own boss and having the flexibility to manage my time as needed. It can be a little scary at times not having the safety net of a salary but I try and use this to my advantage and stay focused on my creativity and pushing the business forward.
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?
I sell all my items through online marketplaces but Etsy accounts for well over 90% of my sales. I find that potential buyers on Etsy really “get” that they’re buying something handmade and I love the customer interaction the platform provides. Over the years I’ve met wonderful shop owners and customers and I count many as friends to this day. Etsy is super competitive and you really have to try and stand out from the many other shops that inevitably offer similar items. I have regular sales events throughout the year and offer discounts for repeat customers on certain items.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
I don’t think there is a definitive formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur. I can only say that passion is my case is incredibly important. Passion for not only what you do but for also delivering the best possible customer experience. This goes from the initial design process of a piece all the way through to the packaging they receive. When I receive a message from a happy customer it totally makes my day, it really is the best.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
The toughest moments I have faced were mainly at the start, believing in what I was doing, and that it could be a success. After seeing some sales and receiving positive comments and feedback from clients, it gives you the confidence to go forward.
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?
I am always searching for new products to make and sell. Over the years I’ve tried some items that just haven’t proved popular, whereas others have sold well and gone on to inspire complete ranges. I one rule I always follow is that I only sell pieces that I can make well, very well. That’s why I only take on commissions when I’m sure I can deliver an excellent end result.
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 ship internationally with approximately 75% of all my sales going overseas, mostly to North America. I use environmentally friendly packaging wherever possible and include a thank you note and business card in every order. All of my products are ready to ship so dispatch time is fast, usually the next day. As my products are made from wood, they are somewhat heavy so free shipping is simply not an option for me. However, I do subsidize shipping costs myself which has led to increased customer satisfaction and greater brand loyalty.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
I think the key element for starting a successful online business is passion. Passion for what you do and perhaps more importantly passion to deliver exceptional customer service with every sale, however small. Over the years I’ve changed many aspects of how I handle orders and enquires with the constant aim of improving the customer experience. I find that Etsy provides a fantastic platform that connects buyers and sellers and I love the unique interaction that brings. Being able to create a piece for a customer, to their exact requirements and with their input is truly wonderful.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
My advice for someone who is just starting out is to be passionate about what you are doing and really believe in your capabilities and vision for your new business.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
Success can be defined in many ways, money, influence, power, etc with different people having their own interpretation. To me, that’s missing one important factor which is fulfillment, both physically and spiritually. Silvanwoodturning gives me both of these, in short, it makes me happy.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I tend to do my turning in the morning. My commute is pretty short at approximately 10 seconds to my workshop which doesn’t waste much time. This way I have the maximum amount of time available to work with also the flexibility to alter my routine if needed. I use the afternoons to package and ship orders plus deal with admin etc.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
My plans for the future growth of Silvanwoodturning is to increase my range of products and to find other retail opportunities, both physical and virtual.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
As I sell in a crowded online marketplace product photos are incredibly important. As such I have spent a lot of time developing my photography skills to help my items really stand out. I am also constantly working on and revising my descriptions and product tags.