Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
I started this business to help make products at my chocolate shop more beautiful. Chocolate is so colorless, I’m always trying to think of ways to make it pop! I think of myself as both a maker and an artist. I love that Etsy lets me incorporate both facets. I’m developing products that I love to use to make the world a more beautiful place.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I found Etsy first as a consumer just looking for other small business owners that were willing to customize molds and such for my business. My previous sales experience has pretty much been consolidated to my brick and mortar shop because of the fact that it’s very difficult to ship chocolate due to temperature constraints in so many different places. I started selling my sprinkles because I didn’t have that worry anymore and it allowed me to try my hand at a new facet of business.
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?
I make hand-colored and mixed sprinkles. When I’m trying to develop a new product I often try to research what is trending and sometimes it’s what I love. I then find coordinating colors and shapes, and start blending! Inspiration comes in a loT of forms, but usually, it’s based on what I personally love. For example, my princess inspired blends are formulated because of my love for Disney. I run every year in the runs at Walt Disney World, and this kind of incorporates my love of that. Another blend She Loves Sea Shells I formed after visiting Sanibel Island and picking up tins shells that I used to make my own shell mold for the fondant shells in the blend. So much fun!
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 self taught in everything. I am actually one of nine children (fourth born), and we were all homeschooled, so being self-taught is how I was raised. When I first started making blends I struggled a little, but once I saw people loved them it really inspired me to keep going!
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 make a sale! I really didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t sure if I would be busy or not. For now, my online business is just a hobby, but who knows what time will change! I hope it could someday be full time! I would love to make this a career!
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 actually was hesitant to even list because I thought I might be one of the sellers that only made a few sales over the course of a year, and I wasn’t sure if I could handle the rejection! I finally just decided that the rejection was worth the risk of never knowing if I could have been a huge success.
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?
I had my first sale the day after I listed. It started a little slow, and I think the first month I actually lost money, which was discouraging. I just stayed focused and kept shipping when I received an order. I try to ship all of my orders the same day unless it’s past the hours that the post office hours. The first week I think I made 10 sales, and then it just kept growing. I’m by no means going to be a millionaire, but I’ve made over 500 sales in less than 5 months, so that’s pretty good I think.
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 actually do have a full-time job as a registered nurse, as well as I own a chocolate shop Shernni’s Candies in Washington, Michigan. So no, I don’t watch television. I’m a busy body, so every day I put out fires all day long. My top priority is always making sure my customers are happy, shipping my orders, making sure my supplies are plenty stocked, and all is well in the world.
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?
The rose gold sprinkles blend has been our most popular blend. I have my products made ahead of time, and just bottle them to be shipped out. I do take custom orders, although I sometimes cannot do everything everyone wants even though I do try! I do pipe out my royal icing decorations for many of my sprinkles blends, which is a very tedious process, and I hand make all of my fondant 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?
The biggest impact on profit is the cost of shipping and having to reship items because the postal service has been impacted so severely by Covid. I do try to offer free shipping on everything, which is embedded in the cost of the product. I calculate cost based on how long it takes me to make something, the materials cost, and I try to factor approximately how many bottles I can produce to get a small profit margin. I do this for fun more than anything, but if I can make a little money for vacation doing it I’m really happy!
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?
Sometimes I go to the store Michaels to get color inspiration, I review Pinterest to see what people are making, or maybe I just start throwing colors together. Usually it’s just a feeling of satisfaction that tells me I’m where I should be with a product. I don’t stop until I feel it.
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 ship internationally, but it takes a long time for people to get their orders. This is tricky too because I really can’t be reshipping and providing exceptional customer service to my international customers due to the shipping process internationally. I do ship my products for free in the US. Normally shipping g is 4-5 days if first-class, but lately, due to Covid it has been longer than that just due to the crisis our country is in. I strive to always ship them ASAP because I am aware of this and I want everyone to get their orders in a timely fashion. My bottles come in a tissue lined cardboard box to protect them.
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 standout?
I’m not worried about it because I don’t rely on this for my steady income. If I did, I suppose it would be a concern. I’ve seen an increase of people doing similar things, but there are still plenty of customers for everyone so far from what I’ve seen.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I try to make everyone happy, but sometimes people just want to complain. I always ask if there is anything I can do if someone leaves me negative feedback, but sometimes they just leave reviews that don’t even make sense. I just keep moving forward, and if they’ve left feedback that I can use to improve, I definitely do that!
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?
Not yet, but maybe sometime soon! I’m further than I expected I ever would be. So far everyone has been really accepting and loving of my products, but if that changes I would definitely take what they were saying constructively and improve on whatever I could. Customers are the heart and soul of any business, so if you get stressed about customers, you probably shouldn’t be in business.
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 isn’t something that I’ve tapped into yet mainly because I’m so busy I just don’t have time to fully engage in it. I hope I will be able to in the future though. I don’t advertise outside of Etsy. I have considered it, but I haven’t needed to yet.
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?
I would say that they should have greater ability to contact Etsy directly rather than to make an online form request and hope they contact you back eventually. That had been my biggest complaint.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Good photos! That’s a must. Writing detailed descriptions is important too. One lesson I learned the hard way was to make sure that you have shipping settings set up correct and make sure tags are correct on the listings so traffic is being driven based on search terms.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Your main focus should be presenting a product that you would want to buy. Focus on your customers and answer their questions promptly. That develops trust. Work hard and play hard!