Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
I started making beaded jewelry when I was a child. My dad owned his own business while I was growing up. So I used to make necklaces and earrings to sell on the weekends. As I got older, my dad gave up on his business and got a 9 to 5 job. So I no longer made jewelry. A few years ago, my father passed away, and I felt lost. I decided to go back to the jewelry business. I felt as though my dad would approve. I also noticed that while I made jewelry, I felt calmer. I wanted to pass this on to others. So I researched where to get beading materials at wholesale prices, but I didn’t have to purchase large orders. Once I found them, I was able to plan my store. I consider myself a crafter; I would rather be making jewelry than to worry about the day to day operations of the business. But I want my buyers to have a great experience. I want to supply them with not only jewelry that I can make to order, but also provides products in case they want to make their jewelry.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I learned about Etsy a few years ago when I was looking for a unique gift. At the time, I was doing wood-burning projects and realized I could sell them online with Etsy. So I gave it a shot, but I wasn’t ready to start a business; I wanted to make things, not worry about selling items. So I didn’t make it far then. But this time is different. I want to please my customers. I want to get to know them and find out what jewelry piece would be best for them. So I looked into Etsy again. It has many benefits; two of the best are: they help you advertise, and you can get a website for just a few dollars more once your ready. Etsy is a good buy.
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 sell handmade jewelry, which includes necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. I also sell other things like dream catchers and bags that have the beaded pieces on them. I use seed beads for the most part. I use a beading loom for some projects. For some of my projects, I get ideas from magazines or books, and I tweak them to be unique. Other designs I get from everyday items I see, like sunflowers, heath ribbons, and the sun and moon. Just look, and inspiration is all around. I believe my products stand out because of the love I put in them. I care significantly that my customers are happy. I stand behind the products I sell. If a customer isn’t pleased, I will do what I can do to remedy the situation.
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 did have experience making necklaces and earrings when I was a kid, but I had to teach myself how to use a loom or do individual stitches. It didn’t take long to produce projects. I was happy enough for sale, but I do find that I don’t think my projects are as good as people tell me they are. I seem to be a bit of a perfectionist.
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 when I opened my Etsy shop was to make some extra money. I worked weekends at work, and it would get boring, so I would work on things while I was there. Then COVID 19 hit, and about the same time, I was recently diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis. I was off work because I couldn’t work until some testing came back. I needed something to do, so I was making more jewelry, and this also added to me having an online business with Etsy. It was a way to make extra money when we needed it. I now consider this business to be full time.
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?
My biggest fear is that people wouldn’t like my work. I thought twice before putting my projects up. But then I figured I wouldn’t know what others thought or how to improve my career if I didn’t get my projects out there. I did worry that I wouldn’t be profitable. I didn’t know how to price my products, so I tried to do free shipping at first and found out that I couldn’t afford to sell a $4 bag of beads for free shipping because it would cost me money. I then found an app that now helps me price my products, and I can offer free shipping if customers spend $40.
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?
It took me about two weeks to get my first sale. I tend to be impatient, and I remember thinking it would never happen. I don’t remember ever thinking I would get a lot of sales in my first year. I am glad I make the sales I have with it being the first year. I tend to take about 3 to 4 sales a week on average. Starting, I think this is pretty good. It makes me laugh because I will manage to get my sales all on the same day, then I wouldn’t get any for a few days. I wish the sale days were closer together.
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 do not have a job outside of Etsy. I consider my full business time, but I probably only work it 25 to 35 hours a week. I also go to school full time to get an MBA. I spend my days doing school work in the morning and doing something for the business at night. I can do something from reading articles on beadwork to working on projects or websites to add products to it.
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?
I create projects when they are ordered. I let the customer pick the colors they want. For some projects, I let the customers make changes to the design. When a customer requests one of the projects that I created, I will email them with questions that ask them how they like the colors and design. This way, I can get a feel of what they want. Some customers want to make changes; some do not. When I manufacture products, I use a needle and thread with my seed beads. Some projects, I also use a bead loom, and some projects, I use the peyote stitch.
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 most significant impact on profitability in my shop are these mushroom pendants I sale. They are adorable, and I sell out of them frequently. I can’t keep them in stock. Most of the materials I use don’t cost much. It depends on what pendants or charms they want to use. Some of them can get somewhat expensive, but most of the beads don’t cost much. I use an app on my phone to help me price my products. It is pretty good. It lets me put in the cost of materials and how much I want to make in an hour. This app gives me a price for my products.
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?
My grandkids inspire me when I am creating. I have one granddaughter that loves to draw and be creative. When I have issues being creative, I think of her and what she may be working on today. I will see a pattern in a book and wonder how she will make it her own, and this will get me thinking about how I can make it my own. I also have a new kitten that is full of spunk. He keeps me on my toes. I have to get creative on where I put my materials when the kitten is awake. This keeps me thinking and keeps me creative.
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. I do not offer free shipping on international orders, but I pay for half of the international shipping charges, or at least as close as possible. But I have had a few international orders. I do offer free shipping on domestic orders over $40. I have people give me two weeks to get the products out, but I tend to get them out much faster than that. If something is back-ordered or I need longer to finish their work, I let them know. Most people are okay if they have to wait a couple of extra days as long as you let them know. I also give gifts (beads) to those that have to wait more than 2 or 3 days for their project to ship. I package my products in envelops lined with bubble wrap 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 stand out?
I do worry about competitors to the point I will look at other websites to check out their pricing on products that are similar or the same. I try to keep my products cheaper than the competitors where I can. It’s not always possible for me to keep my prices cheaper and make a profit. But I will keep them similar and try to stand out in my customer service. I also try to carry products that are not maintained by other companies—for example, my mushroom pendants. I think mine is one of a kind because I can’t keep them in stock.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
So far, I consider my self lucky that I haven’t had any bad ratings or feedback. That may be the wrong wording. I work hard not to get any bad ratings or feedback. I have it set up so that when a customer places an order, they receive an automated email, thanking them for their order. If there is a delay in their order, I will contact them personally and explain the delay and give them a time frame. My wholesalers are pretty good at getting my orders out timely, and so the customers don’t have to wait too long. I give out coupons to those that favor an item in my store, so hopefully, they will add the item to their cart and check out. If I ever get an unsatisfied customer, I would learn from them, but I would also try to contact them and see what I could do to better. I don’t mind giving out discounts for their next visit if that helps.
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?
Selling on Etsy has changed my life. I have early mornings and late nights working on the business. It can cause me to push all my homework for school to the last minute because I am trying to help a customer. When I set up my account, I didn’t know how far I would get in my first year, but I am thankful I have had the business I have now. The only time I get frustrated with customers and manufacturing products is when I do what the customer wants, and they are not happy, so I have to start over on their project several times. In this case, I will usually take a break for a bit before working on it again. I love working on projects, but sometimes it’s hard when you put your all into something a customer asks for, and they change their mind. So taking an hour or so to work on something else can clear your mind and get you ready for the project again.
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?
I do use social media for advertising my products. Facebook is a place I get a lot of traffic. I tend to place ads on both Facebook and Instagram. I also have Canva and Ripl on my phone that helps me to make ads. I can make videos with Ripl. I recently set up an account to advertise on TikTok. A couple of weeks ago, I had a full week to give away projects from my Etsy account. That went over really well. I have a Facebook page for my business and have several followers. My only requirement to sign up for a raffle was to be a follower on my page. I also give away several discount codes, at least once a month, that will be so much off one item or the whole cart.
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 think the biggest thing I struggle with is the ads on Etsy. I like them, but I don’t understand them. Like Facebook, they tell me how much each impression goes for, so I know how much I am spending. With Etsy, I see you spent $5. But I want it to break down, so I know where it is going. So if I had a chance to talk with the CEO, that is probably what I would suggest. I want more detail.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I think the biggest thing I did to set my shop up for success was to learn how to price my products. When I first started, I had them priced way too low, and I paid out to send the products out. Then I found an app that went on my phone, and it will help me price my products. But it was expensive before I found the app.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
I would say to do their research. Look at what similar stores have. What are their policies? Prices? Products? Get as much information as you can before you start your business. Make sure you figure out you are going to price your products before you start. Don’t try to figure out how to do your pricing on the run. There are some excellent apps you can put on your phone to help do pricing.