Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
My interest in art, design, and cultural crafts has always been there but I waited until after finishing my post-graduate in architecture and working in that field for several years before returning to my first love of cultural crafts. It also gives me the opportunity to now interact with people from far-flung countries in Africa when sourcing the raw material and items need for my store.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
A friend of mine was a wonderful dress designer and wanted to sell on Etsy and gave me the idea to join her in using the platform. The fact that I could work on my own storefront selling African masks on a part-time base whilst I continued with mayday job was a big incentive.
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 sell mainly African Masks from anywhere on the continent. We source and work directly with the makers of the mask. Our products are unique one of kind pieces that are not replicated elsewhere. This is one of the key stands out feature of what we do.
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?
My design craft is in using modern Computer-aided design to foment the basis of what I want to make and then discussing with artists the best way for them to bring that idea to life via a natural organic process. Over-time I finally surrounded myself with the right team of people and connections for the way I wanted to acquire and sell the unique products we have.
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?
As stated previously, Etsy was meant to be a side job to bring in additional income and it has done that with a degree of success and I hope it continues to work and progress in that fashion.
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 personally never had any reservations or worries before opening my Etsy store. Maybe that lack of worry was because I had previously used other online selling platforms so I was relatively sure it would do what it said on the tin.
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 a long while to get our first sale and when we did I was ecstatic. I think the nature of the uniqueness of our products kinda explains that it was not to everybody’s taste and that is why we love those pieces. they are a way to celebrate your individuality. Some of the Mask we’ve sourced are old and crafted by traditional villagers using a dying art. We don’t generally get sales by the week. Our sales are usually months apart.
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 still perform in my formal role as an Architectural Designer on a day to day basis. I am self-employed in that capacity also (Freelancer). Because of being my own boss, it gives me the perfect opportunity to mix-up the various projects which I’ve undertaken within the online sales industry.
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?
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 biggest impact is by far the cost of traveling and paying the custom excise fee to bring raw products into the country. Our products then have to be price relative to that and also the quality that we believe they are worth.
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 am inspired by anything and everything.
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 just started FREE SHIPPING to the USA but before then we priced according to our regular postage service. On average it was about £75 ($95usd) to ship internally. The decision to change to free shipping was partly due to a promotion being run by the Etsy platform.
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?
As previously stated, we truly believe our product is weirdly unique compared to other African Mask sellers on Etsy, so we are not worried about competition. I want customers to purchase what grabs their hearts, and if the other online stores on Etsy are offering products that people absolutely love then we which those stores happy success. those clients that like what we have and want what we have will eventually filter through to our world of unique traditional African Masks for sale.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
We have very limited and minimal stock so the sales we have made have not had that many if any, bad ratings. Our feedback with our customers has been good thus far and we hope that continues.
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?
Becoming an Etsy seller hasn’t really changed my day-to-day life in any major way, it is simply just an additional workload that adds to my routine of trying to be a success in life and helping the villagers we work with. There has been minimal stress factor in my dealing with Etsy and their team. The customers too have been good.
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?
In my early days, I tried using lots of social media but it became way too time consuming and produced negligible results. We then switched to paid advertising both outside and internal to Etsy which was more useful for our overall publicity.
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?
To be honest, as an online selling platform, there really isn’t much more than I expected or can recommend.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Professional Advertising has been key.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Make sure you love the product you wish to sell and trust in that product. You will need to invest either your time promoting that product on social media platforms or your money paying for professional advertising which may not always work as well as you hope.