[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Niche : Home and Living
Shop link : https://www.etsy.com/shop/WalleyeandWool
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/walleyeandwool/[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Mike and I met through family and friends on the commuter train that runs between Chicago and Fox Lake, Illinois. A quick and funny introduction by my mom and we were instantly friends! We clicked over our love of family, our enjoyment of the outdoors and camping, complimentary taste in music, and rampant use of sarcasm in everyday conversation! Mike would talk for hours about his passion for fishing and for Walleye, while I would knit socks and sweaters during our long daily commute. Over time, our friendship evolved into a romance and we were joined as husband and wife on the hottest (and most humid!) day in July 2017. We spend as much of our free time as we can outside. Whether we’re just puttering around in the backyard and vegetable garden, on the boat fishing, enjoying a roaring campfire, or out on the ice fishing and snowmobiling in the middle of winter… we love The Great Outdoors! Sometimes, Mike is fishing while I knit, but we’re spending our time together outside….And we love sharing our discoveries and experiences! We started Walleye and Wool to create items that reflect the beauty that we find in nature, and appeal to those that have a similar love of the outdoors (if not fishing too!). You’ll see stitch markers and progress keepers with little fish, bears, moose, flowers, and birds. Many are decorated with beads that evoke the play of color and light experienced during a walk through the woods or reflecting the variety of colors found in the waters that we fish. We’re in love with natural colors which drew us to hand-dyed yarn infused with colors extracted from logwood, iron, marigold, and bachelor’s buttons. We hope to expand the types, weights, and colors of yarn offered in the future. We’re learning about dyeing as we go and are excited to share our journey and experiences! We plan to experiment with acid-dye colors as well, for those easier-to-achieve explosions of color, but that’s down the road aways. We also make small batches of skin balm, with the base ingredients being beeswax, mango butter, shea butter, and calendula-infused jojoba oil and scented with lavender essential oil. I’ve used it many, many times after spending a day out on the water and in the weather when I have windburn or sunburn. Our solid skin balm is poured into a palm-sized aluminum tin, perfect for a coat pocket. It’s fantastic for quickly moisturizing dry skin patches or the delicate skin of your lips, and the calendula flower is well-known for its soothing properties. For those that are looking for a fragrance-free option, we make the skin balm without essential oil too!
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
We’ve maintained honesty and authenticity in our personality and the goods that we offer as our primary responsibility as a business owner. Every little thing that’s added to our shop is first discussed, evaluating whether it is something that we would use ourselves, the sourcing of the supplies and materials to produce our goods and whether the proposed item reflects who we are and the experiences we’re sharing. We’re excited about the things that we offer in the Walleye and Wool shop and make every effort to convey that excitement to others.
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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?
Our best-selling product thus far is our Acorn stitch marker. It’s a brass core, silver-plated charm, mounted on a 12 mm jump ring, and featuring a lobster clasp fastener. It’s petite, simple, and elegant, and I’m guessing that the combination of the jump ring and lobster clasp fastener appeals to lovers of various crafts due to the versatility of applications. It could be a progress keeper or stitch marker, clinging to a particular stitch in a project to count rows, note a stitch change, draw attention to a dropped stitch, or mark the beginning of a round or row. It could be a charm clipped onto your favorite project bag or tote. It even could be added to a necklace or a charm bracelet. Most of our charms and the various components that comprise our stitch markers are brass core, silver-plated items. We try to source these materials from producers in the U.S., in our small attempt to reduce our environmental impact and support other small businesses like ourselves. The beads that appear on many of our stitch markers, either as the primary design element or as an accent, are sourced from the same supplier located in California, specializing in a variety of colored Czech glass beads. We’re continually amazed by her products and have ordered from them exclusively. Our skin balm is made of natural ingredients, organically sourced when feasible, and with few additional ingredients. We’re sharing samples of the skin balm with prospective customers and hoping that it takes off!
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
We love that these things are from us. Our two hands (really, four hands!) twisted, assembled, stirred all of these items. There is no one telling us what we cannot achieve, and the only limit is our own creativity! That being said, we both have full-time jobs during the week, so Walleye and Wool is our labor of love squeezed into the early and late hours on the weekdays, and focused on during the weekends. There is always so much to learn! Photography, content planning, editorial writing, inventory management, pricing, taxes, visual media creation, and editing…… the list never ends! If we want to expand into something new, say hand-spun yarn, we’d need to work in the time to learn that skill, become proficient in it, and then offer the finished product in the shop. The key to moving forward and making progress is to take small, manageable steps. At first, the idea of starting Walleye and Wool was a daunting mountain of work. But we loved the idea of slowly growing a business of our own from the ground up, so we dove in with the first thing: the name. Then came the logo. We bought the domain name, walleyeandwool.com, to reserve it for our future use. Next was brainstorming about the first few items we wanted to offer. And so on.
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?
Our first customer was Dawn of The Wooly Cabin, who is an independent dyer. She found Walleye and Wool when searching for a stitch marker to offer as a knit-a-long prize, purchasing our Log Cabin stitch marker. She’s a lovely person, gave us great feedback about our few little items and the style/personality of our shop, and was so encouraging when she learned that we were just starting out! Since then, we’ve hosted a couple of giveaways on Instagram (not sponsored by Instagram), started a Facebook page, and have a small budget dedicated to Etsy Ads. Our views and visits have increased significantly. Conversion from views to sales is still a bit low, however, we anticipate this growing with time. It takes work and thought, then adjustments, and more work!
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
There’s no one winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur. Everyone is unique! As an entrepreneur, the goods or services that you offer might appeal to one person but not as much to another. In my opinion, the key is to be “you” and to offer things that you love….someone else out there will love them too!
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
The biggest challenge for Walleye and Wool is engagement. We’re both a bit introverted and we are conscious of how we present Walleye and Wool. We don’t want to seem smarmy! We’re working on our footprint on social media, frequency of posts, types of engagement and their success, and keeping consistently “us”. It all takes time!
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?
Our thought process is all about (1) the products that appeal to us as consumers and (2) the experiences from our time in The Great Outdoors that we can share. We garden, we fish, I knit, he makes fishing flies and jigs. We’ve recently purchased a piece of land in northern Wisconsin where we plan to spend our free time camping and someday retire. The parcel is surrounded by protected lands and state parks, so it’s a different world up there. There are bear and deer, chipmunk and porcupine, and the occasional moose! There’s no noise once we’re in the woods and it’s the best thing in the world! The colors, lights, and sounds inspire us and give us joy!
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?
We do offer international shipping. In the time that we’ve been open, we’ve shipped to Canada and the United Kingdom. Postage pricing is something that I personally struggle with! It seems just ridiculously expensive to ship such a small package anywhere, even within the U.S., We’re considering recalculating our international shipping postage prices so that we’re not losing revenue on each international sale. Free shipping on orders over $35 in the U.S. is automatic. A couple of orders have been able to take advantage of that offer, which is really great! Each of our products is folded into tan kraft paper or parchment paper has one of our stickers holding the folded edges together, then wrapped with jute twine that’s tied into a bow. It’s simple and reflects our uncomplicated and earthy style. As much as possible, we try to reuse packing materials we have on hand, and purchase envelopes and other packing products made from recycled sources as much as we can.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
The key elements for starting and running a successful online business are time, patience, flexibility, and commitment. Every step takes time, patience is needed (especially at the beginning), be flexible and roll with the changes, and commit to yourself and your vision of your business!
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
Be patient with yourself. Be open to growth and learning. Know your limits and permit yourself to outsource certain tasks, if you can. If you need help focusing and prioritizing tasks and goals, consider working with a creative business consultant.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
We already feel like we’re successful! We’ve made multiple sales, have broken even with our Etsy Ads budget, and covered a portion of our supply inventory. Our customers have written positive reviews! We hope that in time we’ll have a consistent revenue from the shop. There’s a modest monthly revenue goal in mind, which would help sustain us (and keep us busy) during retirement in 15 years or so! Other than that, it’s the freedom to make things we love and enjoy using ourselves, and the joy of sharing that enthusiasm with the crafting and outdoorsy community!
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I log into Etsy first thing every morning to check shop stats while I drink my coffee and print out orders that might have come in overnight. I’ll prepare shipping labels and stack the items on the invoice and envelope, saving the wrapping until my lunch break. Mike goes off to work at 6:30 am and then I’ll let the dog out before starting work at my “regular” job. After about 6 hours, my lunch break usually consists of tea and half a bagel or a bowl of soup, which I’ll enjoy while scrolling through Instagram. Before going back to the “regular” job, I’ll double-check the orders I set up then wrap the items and package them for shipping, popping them into our mailbox for the postal worker to pick up later. Order statuses are updated on Etsy, then it’s back to the “regular” job. I’ll work another 4 or 5 hours there, then log off to make dinner, do a couple of household chores. If I’m lucky, I’m assembling another batch of stitch markers or knitting for the Holidays! There might be some more time spent on the “regular” job, if necessary, then a late bedtime. I’ve been trying to stick to this schedule during the weekdays. It helps to feel like I’m spending time every day on all of the things that are most important. On the weekends, it’s a little more flexible. Sometimes it’s all day stitch markers or all day knitting, or we spend time visiting with family.
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How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
Everything comes back to time. We only have so much of it, since we both have our “regular” full-time jobs. It takes time to make every item. It takes time to update inventory and calculate pricing. It takes time to take photos and edit them. It takes time to write descriptions and select keywords/hashtags. We’re always trying to become more proficient at all of the new skills we’ve had to learn to start this business and find reliable and cost-effective ways to do them!
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Well-lit, well-framed, and staged photos are so important! Etsy is so visual, so your thumbnail photo needs to grab the viewer and make them want to click on your listing!