Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
My name is Leah! I recently started my shop a couple of months ago during this quarantine and have been running it by myself since. My shop is called ContemporaryxCustoms and is home to custom jewelry pieces including nameplate necklaces, initial necklaces, birth year necklaces, and more. I also hope to add some more custom pieces in the near future!
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
There are several responsibilities as a business owner. You have to be savvy in so many business realms such as marketing, finance, and operations. Marketing is a huge part of finding potential customers. You need to be able to find your customers because most of the time your customers will not find you. Finance is important as well. You need to ensure you are setting the right prices to cover your expenses, but also to pay yourself.
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?
My best selling product by far is the Old English Name Plate Necklace. The runner up is the Dainty Old English Name Plate Necklace, which is a daintier and lighter version of the original. All of my pieces have stainless steel foundations and are plated in 18K gold, rose gold, or silver. I think what makes my products stand out is the quality and craftsmanship. This can be attested to in my customer reviews, which I believe plays a huge role in my success.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I enjoy the freedom the most. I’m able to set my own prices, respond to customers whenever I’d like, and do much more on my own time. It’s great not being on a strict schedule set by another person. I’m able to set my schedule in a way that allows me to make time for other things. The hardest part is starting something from the ground up, alone. When you start a normal job, everything is set for you. You have set responsibilities and there’s even someone to train you. When you start a business, you need to learn everything yourself, with no references at hand. This is by far the toughest part.
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?
My targeted customers are mainly 16 to 25-year-old middle-class women. Of course, I get some customers out of this demographic here and there, but it’s been pretty consistent. I currently only use Etsy marketing tools that are integrated into the platform, but hope to begin some sort of affiliate program with my customers soon! I’ve been pretty successful so far, so I’m happy with the results, but I hope to scale my shop even more.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
I believe the two most important characteristics to possess in order to become a successful entrepreneur are definitely hard work + business knowledge. Of the two, I’d say hard work is the most important. Optimizing your Etsy listings take a lot of time, believe me. You’ll need to spend time comparing prices, reading descriptions, looking through photos, reading reviews, and so much more. If you do your research and put the time in, you’re bound to be successful.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
My toughest experience, I’d say, was finding how to target the right people. There are so many shops on Etsy that have been around for years and have experienced owners. When I first started out, my listings weren’t even ranking is the first pages of search results. I had to conduct some rigorous research on how to market my products, how to utilize Etsy ads, and how to optimize my listing in order to get passed this.
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 grab inspiration from many places, sometimes places where I didn’t think I would. I use Pinterest heavily for inspiration, as well as Instagram. The two apps are places where I pull so much aesthetic inspiration from, even outside of my Etsy shop.
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! Since I’ve started my shop, I use a low-cost shipping method, but offer it to my customers for free, as I do with all of my products, as a way to maintain happy customers. The average time is usually anywhere from 20 to 29 business days, depending on location. My custom products arrive in a grey gift box with pink shining cloth, and sometimes I include free items in my customer’s packages, such as rings.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
The key elements I would say is keeping your customers happy (this is a huge one), and knowing what audience to target. Regarding your customers, it’s crucial that they are satisfied. Considering the nature of online businesses, sales are dictated by customer reviews. A poor item with great reviews can sell, but a great item with poor reviews will not. As for knowing your audience, you need to know who you’re selling to and who will buy your items.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
A piece of advice that I would give is to do your research. Compare your competitors’ prices, learn how to manage your Etsy marketing, know who your audience is, and be descriptive in your listings. All of these things make you a competitive option to customers; there needs to be a reason customers choose you over another shop.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
I think this definitely depends on the person. Of course, money plays a huge role in the success of your business, but I believe there are also other factors that carry more weight. For me, I love the freedom of being my own boss as well as being able to create and design my store the way I want it to be. Setting my own schedule and business protocols is a huge plus for me, as well as being able to show my creativity through my product designs, photos, logo, shop aesthetic, etc.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
My day-to-day operation is usually consistent. When I sit down for the day to focus on my Etsy shop, I conduct things in a certain order. First things first, I always respond to customer messages before doing anything else, this is always my number one priority. This is especially important to me because the most important thing to have in an Etsy shop is happy customers. Happy customers are also more likely to write good reviews for your shop, which also has a profound impact on your sales. Even outside the time, I am focusing on my shop, I try and respond to customer messages if I have the time. After this I begin to fulfill orders, then conduct some miscellaneous activities such as checking my payment account, my advertising expenses for the day, and my statistics to make sure my shop is not going in a downward trend. Having a structured day-to-day plan like this is what keeps my time managed and on track.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
Since I’m now getting so many orders, I hope to find a partner to help with my production in order to send orders out in a timely fashion to keep customers happy. The biggest impact on my profitability is probably being able to fulfill all of my orders on time, which is why a production partner could help me increase my profits.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
When it comes to optimizing my shop, I sort of played it by ear. I had never started an Etsy shop before, wasn’t entirely sure how to run an Etsy shop, and started from complete scratch. Initially, I started by simply creating a shop linked to my Etsy profile, and listed a single item. I set an arbitrary price, created a short description, and hoped for sales. Little did I know there is A LOT more that goes into a successful Etsy shop. After some time of this, I began to take a look into other jewelry shops on Etsy and learned a lot that way. One of the biggest lessons I learned during this was the importance of keywords. I can’t stress enough how important keywords in your listing are.