Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? Why did you start your business?
I have always been a very creative and artistic person. For many years I worked in administration doing bookkeeping and accounting but then in 2012, for health reasons, I gave away working in front of a computer screen all day. I had previously owned and ran a very small home-based business making bridal tiaras and jewelry in the late 1990s, the previous owner had given me two weeks training on the job in wirework and jewelry making, which I discovered I absolutely loved. After three years of full-time work, I ended up selling the business to concentrate on raising my young family and working part-time in accounting.
Fast forward to 2012 I made the choice to pursue a creative life, so I designed a whole new range of bridal headpieces and jewelry and one of my old suppliers suggested selling on Etsy. At the same time as I started RoslynHarrisDesigns my daughter, Rachael, who is a beauty therapist, decided to start her own business concentrating on doing wedding hair up-styling and wedding make-up. I help Rachael on the day of the wedding by doing the base work for both the hairstyling and makeup of the bridal party. This has given me an invaluable insight into designing wedding hair accessories that are flexible, lightweight, and extremely versatile and can be easily placed into a wide range of hairstyles. I love the whole process of designing, making, and selling wedding hair accessories, for a creative person like myself it’s a dream come true!
What type of products do you sell? How does your manufacturing process look like?
I sell wedding hair accessories, concentrating on hair vines and hairpins. I also sell matching earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. I only use high-quality components, freshwater pearls, Swarovski pearls, and crystals, tarnish resistant silver and gold plated wire, Japanese faux pearls. All items in my Etsy shop are custom made so when an order comes through from the customer they will have chosen the color of the wire, pearls, and crystals along with the length if it is a hair vine. I then make up the custom order, which is usually within 1 to 2 days, before shipping it. I ship 5 days a week so order turnaround is quite fast.
What are some challenging aspects of your business? How did you overcome them?
A challenging aspect for my business is time constraints. My wedding accessories are usually bought by brides for their wedding day and therefore purchased items must arrive on time. Domestic shipping within Australia is fine but I allow plenty of time for international shipping because I have seen over the years that delays with international shipping happen all the time. Being a one-person operation is also a challenge, I am very careful not to injure my hands as this could easily lead to the closure of my business until my injuries heal. Another challenge has been my photos being stolen and used by competitors, most take down my stolen photos on request. I have had to be very adaptable over the years refining aspects of my business, it’s about not giving up but jumping each hurdle as they come.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I love being my own boss, working my own hours and being in control of every aspect of my business, RoslynHarrisDesigns. This is a double edged sword because the hardest part of being an entrepreneur is overseeing every aspect of my business. I am the designer, photographer, accountant, maker, dispatcher, copywriter, social media marketer etc.
What are some beginner mistakes you made? What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share?
I tried to be everything to everyone instead of being niche orientated. Be true to yourself and only do what you think you are capable of delivering, also do something that you are passionate about because you need passion to sustain you through all the ups and downs that come with being a business owner.
What inspires you while designing and/or creating new products.
A lot of my inspiration comes from nature, design in nature is everywhere from fern fronds, tree branches, leaf patterns, waves in the ocean, pearl shapes, crystal colors. I also am mindful when creating my products that not only do they need to be elegant and classy but also practical, I design all my hair accessories to be flexible and lightweight. My daughter, Rachael, is also an inspiration with sound advice coming from the perspective of a wedding hairstylist.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?
Twenty three years ago I had two weeks of training in wirework and jewelry making, then for three years I honed my skills working many hours in my first home-based business. Computer skills and accounting I had previously learned in my life as an accounting administrator. Photography I learned along the way.
What are some of the most effective ways in terms of marketing products to your customers?
I have left a lot of the marketing up to Etsy and with over one thousand 5 star reviews on display on my front page future customers have confidence in buying my products. In terms of social media, Pinterest is by far the best. I have to admit I need to do more social media posts.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
Passion, flexibility, tenacity, time and lots of energy. Etsy has been a great online platform because I didn’t need a lot of money to start my business, I started with $2000, most of which went to manufacturing supplies. I was also lucky that my wonderful husband, Stephen, earns enough to support our household. This gave me the freedom to pursue my creative dream without fear fo failure.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
Business success to me is about expressing myself creatively whilst making money from that expression. Being in charge of my life and living it in a balanced and authentic way. It gives my the freedom to plan my life how I want it.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
Most weekday mornings I tutor my two Granddaughters, Annabelle and Caitlyn, before walking them to school so I don’t sit down at my desk until 9:30 am. If any orders have come in overnight I will make those orders up before walking to the post office to ship them that afternoon. If I don’t have any orders then I will do design work or look at my listings to tweak them, or I might research new components for future designs. I normally finish my workday around 3:00 pm unless any Etsy conversation comes through then I will reply to them until 7:00 pm 7 days a week. I usually don’t work weekends.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
I don’t plan on growing my business as I think I have a very balanced life at the moment and I want it to continue that way. The biggest impact on my profitability has been the ever-changing Etsy algorithms and competition from other Etsy businesses as well as the rising costs associated with shipping. At the moment due to Covid-19, the wedding industry has been brought to its knees so I am hoping when the pandemic is over that everything will bounce back to normal.
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Etsy has been a wonderful online platform for me and I hope to continue being a part of this platform for a long time to come. I also have another Etsy business, RoslynHarrisArt, which gives me an outlet for my other passion, watercolour art, particularly watercolour pet portraits. I love being an artist.