Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
My name is Alexandra from Thessaloniki, Greece. I am a designer of products I have studied finance in Greece, but the love I had from a child to create useful items led me to study Industrial furniture design in Milan, Italy Volcano is a family company since 1976 is one of the famous companies in Europe in the wrought iron furniture sector. I am a member of Volcano since 2009 … Me my husband Constantinos and my team are working every day to develop and evolve new models in modern and classical forms, to propose a whole world of ideas from which you can choose what best suits your style and space.
Our motto is… “Excellent value for money”.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
We have been on the internet since the 2000s with sales in Greece and Europe, but we wanted to try outside of Europe. I have known Etsy for many years,
but I believed that only companies from the USA were involved. Then I realized that companies from all over the world are involved … and I said why not,
and so we started.
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?
Volcano’s main activity is the design and manufacture of iron beds and bedroom accessories. The main material we use is high quality wrought iron. Our products are completely demagnetized for the safety and health of all. We are the only company of its kind that guarantees forever, we are confident in the quality we offer to our customers. What really makes us stand out from the competition is the innovative design combined with the perfect quality of construction. This is clear from the first images one sees, but even more so from the reviews of our customers from all over the world.
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?
As I said above, Volcano is a family business founded by my husband’s father Aristidis. This is the man who gave us all his knowledge and experience in iron processing. My husband Constantinos has studied economics (I met him there) but since he was a child he was next to his father and the metal construction workshop. When Constantinos and I got married, I also joined the company in 2009, adding my knowledge and my love for product design.
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?
Our main goal was to test the acceptance of our products in countries that were unknown to us. At first, it was a little scary to send products like ours to the other side of the world. Problems are always solved if you want to solve them. The result is really very impressive, the sales but mainly the love of our customers for our products gives us great strength. Now our internet sales have reached the value of sales from our physical stores.
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?
Our only concern was the shipment of the products. It is not easy to transport a product with a large volume and weight of 70-80 kg from Greece to the USA or Australia. When this problem was solved the road was open … I think the best thing to do when you do not know something is for an expert to help you. It was difficult to find in Greece. The one who completed our store is Mr. Giannis Dendrinos, an excellent acquaintance of online stores.
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?
My advisor Mr. Dendinos informed me that we should wait maybe up to 2 months for our first order due to the nature of our products. But life has big surprises, our first order was made after 5 days … unbelievable for products like ours. One year since then our sales have reached very satisfactory levels.
Most importantly, our customers send us new customers.
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?
In addition to online sales, the Volcano has 3 physical stores in Athens and Thessaloniki in Greece. One of the main parts of my job is the decoration and placement of the company’s products in these stores. We also furnish hotels all over Europe.
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 construction of the beds and the rest of the products is exclusively handmade by our team of craftsmen. In recent years, the Industrial bed collection is first in sales but also the Elegant and Standard collection has fanatical friends. In our product catalog, there are specific dimensions of the beds, but if a customer wishes different dimensions or special construction we can do it.
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 is on the transportation of products. after labor costs and materials. Our products are not the cheapest, but we definitely have the best value for money. Besides, let’s not forget that we produce products for a lifetime, that’s why we are the only ones of our kind who give a guarantee forever.
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?
The inspiration comes from the obsession to create something different from the previous ones. If the thought is in this direction then you can find it from anywhere you want, in the market, on the street, in the theater, in the port in nature … anywhere. Sometimes you are surprised by what comes in front of you … the inspiration for bed designs comes from the steel blinds of a jewelry store, from the components of a plumbing installation to the chain of a ship anchor…
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?
Οur products are shipped worldwide. The construction time is 4-6 weeks, if the customer wants an earlier one we try to satisfy him. Shipping is about 1 week worldwide. The packaging of our products is the best possible in cartons with inner lining. However, we recommend customers to ensure their products (at a low cost) for any unforeseen shipping problems.
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?
Competition has a big good, it forces you to become better and better because otherwise, you will not be in the market, you will close. Of course, this is just for survival, if you want to stand out you must have and other characteristics, such as talent, great love for your job, patience, organization but above all respect for the customer. But I believe that no matter how many instructions one gives, everyone will follow their own path.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
We generally do not have any bad reviews about the quality or manufacture of our products. The only places we have any complaints are in the shipment, for reasons of delay or for any damage. In these cases we find a solution that satisfies the customer and everything ends smoothly.
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?
Definitely changed a lot, such as the hours I have to respond to customers. When, for example, in Greece, it is 12 midnight in New York it is 4 pm and the customer has an urgent question. It has changed the way we view trade around the world. 10-15 years ago it would have been impossible for a company like ours that manufactures metal furniture to sell to the other side of the world to customers who have not seen the product live … and this product would cost 1.000-1.500 euros … unbelievable. Even more impressive is to talk to customers from the USA, New Zealand, or Japan and to have become their friend who asks him for information about the Greek Islands and the Acropolis of Athens.
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 try to be present in everything.
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?
One problem that Etsy has is that it is not as well known in the rest of the world as in the USA. It should be known in other countries that would really be very successful such as Europe. The second problem is that communication is a bit slow. If these two are improved, they will be the perfect platform for handicrafts with a big difference from the rest.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
We followed the classic recipe, quality, beautiful products, good value for money, and patience.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
For the sellers, It would be good to have contact with other store sellers in Etsy because every day the data changes and we may not know. For beginners, I would tell them to choose a serious consultant for the store they want to start. I know that at first, this expense will seem big to them, but it would be a good investment for their future.
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Where there is desire, there is a way … Aristotle.