Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
I am Muhlis Vehbi Diliyak and bijouterie has been a family profession for us. I started working at a very young age, learning from the elders and various tradesmen around me and I worked at each stage of the production. In time I became seasoned in this trade and learned many valuable lessons as I gained more experience. When I started out, shipping products to various parts of the world in small envelopes and making contact with people from different countries and cultures was very exciting for me. I worked hard in order to make a difference. We valued each one of our customers, they led the way and we followed them. I’d like to thank each and every one of our customers throughout the years for supporting us.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I was selling our products locally in our shop in Eminonu, Istanbul and one day a customer mentioned an online platform where you could sell products directly to a global customer base and I was intrigued by that idea. That’s how I heard of Etsy for the first time. I adapted myself to Etsy’s system and the demands of the customers in a very short amount of time after that.
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 ?
We primarily use raw brass and bronze as base materials. We produce zircon and brass products. The fact that we have our brass casting, gold plating, and zircon workshops under the same roof helps shorten our production time. We spend time and effort on each individual product. We work with brass material but our craftsmanship is on a par with a goldsmith’s or silversmith. We believe that small details in the production process end up making a huge difference in the final finish of the product.
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 mostly self-taught but I also learned a lot from various masters in the trade as well as from our customers. We valued every comment or remark made by our customers, both positive and negative. We continue to learn every day, and we also need to share what we’ve learned so far in order to keep the chain of knowledge alive. You can never be fully satisfied with your creations in this job because there will always be a new technique, a new fashion trend that will make what you’ve made today obsolete tomorrow, therefore you always have to follow the latest trends and follow the customers and their changing needs and demands in order to be on top of the game all the time. Our customers are our best mentors. We also made a lot of mistakes along the way which taught us a lot of things, from production to marketing and communicating with the customers.
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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 first goal when I opened our Etsy shop was to bring something different to the table, to make a difference, and gain customer approval by offering a variety of products. I remember reading all the reviews posted by the customers after selling a new model with excitement and curiosity. Success is inevitable as long as you feel that excitement for the job you are doing. In a short while, our Etsy sales started to surpass our local sales and I then realized that I had to focus all my energy and resources into our presence on Etsy. Our Etsy sales now account for 80% of our total sales.
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 didn’t really have any concerns or fears before opening our Etsy shop. I already had an established local business, Etsy was just something I saw as a new alternative market and I wanted to give it a try. It could fail or it could be successful. Either way, I had nothing to lose. I quickly realized though that I had a lot of things to overcome and improve. I prepared myself to work even harder and wait patiently. I knew that if I was going to make it, it wasn’t going to be an overnight 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 for about two hours after I opened my Etsy shop. I really wasn’t expecting the cha-ching sale notification sound coming from my phone and I was startled at first. I was relieved and very happy after I realized that I had made my first sale. I hadn’t set a sales goal for our first year so it was a pleasant surprise to see an increasing trend right away.
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 am fully committed to our Etsy shop. There is no typical day for me. Usually, I have to manage various aspects of the job and our needs may change from day to day. Sometimes I work with the production, sometimes I help with the orders and help answer customers’ questions and sometimes I support the shippers. It can get challenging at times, we have had to really adapt ourselves to various constraints especially after the Covid-19 situation where we had to work during the lockdown and we had to meet an increasing demand despite having to downsize in number for safety.
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?
New and trendy products are always in demand. I always keep my own taste and style on the back burner because the customers’ demands and their favorite designs are always my first priority. It is a completely different job to design a new model and we have some very valuable customers who guide us through this process. We start producing certain models based on their inputs and we receive positive feedback. We don’t have a full-time designer working for us therefore all we have to do is to select from thousands of designs offered to us by the customers. Our first goal during the production process is to create a product of the highest quality possible. We use many tools in order to achieve this. We give the utmost importance to the shininess of the products therefore we use sanding machines and a good polisher. There are many links in the production chain therefore we aim to strengthen each link in the chain by constantly improving our processes.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
We approach the pricing issue from various angles. There has to be an optimum balance between quality and cost so we can sell quality products that look more expensive than they really are at an affordable price. The material used, the workforce, the weight of the product, durability, safety, whether or not we can produce it in mass amounts to gain economies of scale, etc all contribute to the final price of a product.
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?
Almost all of our designs are made based on the feedback coming from customers. My contribution to that is to take the necessary actions to ensure that the end product is of high quality. It is an entirely different job to create models and designs from scratch.
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 ship globally with standard and express shipping methods. Our express deliveries take 3-4 days and standard shipping may take 15-20 days. Depending on the availability of inventory, we aim to ship our orders in 1-2 days. We put each product in small packets and then ship them in small envelopes. We do not offer free shipping because it is not a profitable option for us since we already sell valuable goods at an affordable price.
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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?
Unfortunately, I come across some shops that copy our shop name, our appearance, our products, etc. and it is very upsetting but there is nothing we can do about it. I’ve always supported fair competition because it drives creativity and encourages all parties to improve and come up with new and better products. But copying a shop’s name in order to lure their customers is not a very smart and honest way to achieve success and they cannot maintain their position in the long run unless they come up with an original idea on their own and customers know this very well too. We try to keep our focus on what we can do better in order to stand out from everyone else instead, be it the quality of our products, packaging, delivery, or the customer service that we offer.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I’ve always made customer satisfaction my first priority, therefore I aim for 100% satisfaction during, before, or after a sale. This starts from answering their questions before they buy a product to helping them track their orders post-sale or helping them with returns, replacements, or refunds if they are not happy with what they received. We always contact our customers who leave low-rating feedback to ask them how we can improve their experience with us in order to leave them happy. This careful dedication to our customers is manifested in our 5-star Etsy customer rating and reviews and it makes me very happy to see 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?
My life has completely changed after starting to sell on Etsy. I started this journey from a room in my apartment and now we have a huge workshop with many employees. It hasn’t been an easy period but I try to minimize stress and having a healthy positive attitude helps.
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 is of course very important for my shop. It is the only way our customers can find out about us and it is in our hands to stay relevant and always offer new and fashionable products for them. We have a very loyal customer base so most of the time they find us because they have heard about us from other customers and their feedback.
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?
Etsy has been great for us but it is not without its limitations. Their customer service can be improved, we cannot always get immediate answers to our questions, and calling them may not always be an option for us due to time differences. We as sellers don’t have a say in the layout changes that they are making and sometimes this can create difficulties for us.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Good quality photos, good quality products, and excellent customer communication are key pieces of the puzzle. Fast delivery can also make a huge difference.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner’s mistakes?
First of all, they must work patiently and they must never stop believing in themselves. Sometimes they may need to wait for a long time to see small differences. They must take note of customers’ suggestions and demands. Good photos and detailed descriptions also help greatly.