Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
Jewelry was my hobby for 10 years before I actually started to turn it into a business in 2012, selling both handmade jewelry and supplies. The inspiration from my products comes from my own taste, what I like in aesthetics in general, things that I wished I could find and I was not able to. I love color, and you can see that clearly reflected in my products. I consider myself an artist and a businesswoman, I curate my collection carefully and pay attention to quality as well as customer demands.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
A friend introduced me to Etsy because she was selling her own jewelry. So I thought I would give it a try with no expectations whatsoever. I did, and within 6 months I was able to quit my corporate job!
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?
Stephanie Martin is all about delicate seed beads from Czech Republic, color, elegance, and making a statement. And quality is a must. We create colorful pieces, boho chic style. We use materials that have been around for over 200 years and we give them a modern and contemporary look.
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 self taught in all aspects of my business, I didn’t have a mentor. I think I am the type of person who starts something and then figures it out along the way. Sometimes is the best way to start something, otherwise you never do it!
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?
Selling online has been and is my full time job since 2012, and what encourage me was the limitations of income earning I had being an employee. I wanted to grow, I knew I was capable of more.
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?
Definitely. I did not believe in myself or my product. I never believed I could live off my business, but you can. But with effort and positive attitude customers proved me wrong. I knew I had something unique among so many jewelry options in the market, and I was happy to see people responded to that. I am definitely passionate about my business. I think you must be passionate when you run your own business, otherwise, it is very hard to make it a 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 think I made my first sale within a couple of months. I did not have too much faith in Etsy, honestly, but they proved me wrong! Little by little things started moving and I was able to listen to customers wants and needs and accommodated to that, which brought me more and more sales.
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?
No, my job is Etsy and only Etsy!
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?
We make everything made to order, so there is no inventory. We have over 1,300 products, so it would be very difficult to have stock. We produce the orders every day in our shop. We offer our jewelry in 7 different sizes and lengths so there are many, many options when you place an order in my shop.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Over the years I was able to work directly with the factory in the Czech Republic. I went and visited them, saw first hand the process of how they make the seed beads I use, and loved the experience. It gave me a great perspective to educate myself and customers about it, and of course, I created a business relationship with them which allows me to offer a better price to the customer.
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?
The toughest part of my job is coming up with new designs without abandoning the line and the concept. But, somehow I always discover new designs in my head. I get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest pictures, and from other forms of jewelry as well. I try to translate those ideas into my own materials and designs. And sometimes the new ideas just come to me. Half of my prototypes never make it to the website, sometimes the execution is not a reflection of the idea. So you work a little more on it, or just move on with something else.
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 ship my items all over the world. I do have a lot of items with free shipping if profit margins allows. I like to use colorful envelopes to ship out my items so the customers will have a memorable experience when they receive it.
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?
I never look at my competition. I think that is the worst idea I could have. Do your own thing, and don’t compare yourself to others. Nothing good will come from it!
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
Well, you’ll never make everyone happy. I try to be on top of every single review posted. If the customer is not happy, I always try to fix the issue immediately and I have done a lot of damage control that way. Sometimes, it just does not work, but you must try. Thankfully, the majority of my customers are always super happy with my products so that compensates any bad moment you might have once in a while. Don’t take it personally!
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?
Etsy has given me a new life. I am independent. I run a business. I believe in myself, and I have more freedom! Yes, we deal with customers every day and need to make some decisions every day which is tough, but you can always learn from them and make things better for the next customer. I wish someone told me “keep it simple!” Sometimes we complicate things, right?
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?
Well, honestly I don’t use social media too much for my business. All my sales have been through Etsy organic search and a lot of work on polishing up keywords and such. My favorite social media which I use every day is Pinterest, and that’s a great tool not only to share my products but also to see what other artists are doing. but no, social media is not my strong point and I have not depended on it to make my sales in the past.
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 love Etsy in general, it has given me my freedom and so many satisfactions. technically speaking, the only thing I would ask for is to be able to handle more operations from the phone app. We are on the go all the time, and the app has its limitations when it comes to setting up a custom order for example.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I would say give it a try, whatever you like to do in life, give it a try. Start with very little and build from there. Trust your instincts. I learned not to listen to people’s opinion and just trust my own. It is your business and your vision, stick to it.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
My first and top tip would be to keep the shop cohesive. Even if you only have 10 items, keep it looking that they all go together with one another. Customers are confused when they visit a shop and they can’t tell what is the concept of your shop. Another tip would be to offer as much personalization as possible. Etsy is a place known for this, and customers expect to have something unique. Last but not least, don’t look at the competition. You will drive yourself crazy.