ArtsSparksLnd – Gift Shop Featuring Work by Independent Artists

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Niche : Personalized Design
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Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…

Our business has actually been running for a few years now, we started running art and performance after-school clubs for schools across London, and then branched out into holiday clubs and birthday parties. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, all of our business overnight disappeared and we had to rethink the business in order to keep it viable. We had a discussion and realized that the thing we really loved about running Arts & Sparks was working with early-career artists who all had individual life experiences and stories to tell, and being able to give them work and a chance to use their creativity to make a living. We began looking into ways we could continue to do this but online-only, and that’s when we decided to start working with early to mid-career visual artists in promoting and selling their work and designs through our new website and platforms like Etsy. Now we run a network of residential artists who create work specifically for our shops, all of whom receive a commission rate for their work and a percentage of the sales, and we have a steadily growing line of beautiful, individual products designed by an international and diverse group of independent artists

How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?

Chunhui Meng, who is the Company Director previously ran an Etsy shop selling handmade jewelry that was fairly successful, so she already had the know-how in how to build a shop up from the ground. We started selling online simply because it was the only way for a small business like us to survive the pandemic.

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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?

Our products are all designed by independent artists working at home during the pandemic, and they range from things like prints to put up around the home, greetings cards, and even vinyl stickers for laptops and water bottles. Our products showcase the best of new artistic talent, with quirky and unique designs that you won’t find anywhere else. We work together with the artists to design the products, with us creating the concept for the range and giving the artists a brief, and then letting them run riot with their imaginations.

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?

So we are working with a number of artists, who can create beautiful artworks. And we turn them into all kinds of products, such as greeting cards and wall art prints.

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?

Our original goal when we opened our Etsy shop was that it was on the side of our main website, and we thought it would just supplement our income from our main shop, but it now appears our Etsy audience is growing so much that it may become our main source of shop income!

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?

We were a little worried about product competitiveness – We were aware of the sheer number of products on the website, and how difficult it is to stand out. Gradually, we are gaining experience selling, and we are getting to know how to use SEO and the like to get traffic to our shop fairly quickly, although it took a few goes before we really found the perfect formula!

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 only took two or three days for our first sales to start coming in, and they’re now slow but steady. Eventually, we are hoping for around 50-100 sales per week from the site. We wondered if we would get any sales in at all from the first few weeks, but it was lovely to have some shoppers take a punt on us, and then we got the ball rolling!

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?

Running this Etsy shop with Arts & Sparks is part of our team members’ part-time job with the company. Our manager, Abigail also run a theatre company and before the pandemic, and managed a children’s bookshop. Now her days with Arts & Sparks consist of many things like marketing, conducting interviews, writing blog posts, and running the shop. With the shop, she goes onto it first thing after my morning meeting and packs up any orders we’ve had over the last day or two and get them straight to the post office, so it’s then done and she can get on with her day. Then throughout the day she adds things and changes things in the shop as and when she needs to, like when we have a new product line being released.

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 are trying to work with more suppliers, in order to find who can offer the best quality raw materials. At the moment, we are using print on demand service from the suppliers.

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 on the profitability of our shop is definitely the cost of manufacturing the products. All our products are independently designed by artists living and working in the UK (currently, although we are open to international artists) – and these artists need to be paid for their work! Therefore it can seem sometimes that our items can be pricier, however, it can’t be forgotten that there is an artist on the other side of the computer screen who is literally painting the image with their hands, whether that be physically or as a digital image. We definitely think it’s worth it with how special our shop looks. We still try and price our products competitively, with some low price items to drive traffic into the shop.

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?

We always try and go for something family-friendly and gender-neutral as a rule, and have a brief vague enough that the artist has free reign with their imagination, but clear enough that the collection has a united vision.

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 do ship our products internationally as it was important to us that the shop was accessible in this way. Usually, orders are dispatched in 1-2 days and then they are delivered within 3 days. We do use free shipping but only on orders that exceed £50 simply to enable our shop to be profitable. We package our products as eco-consciously as possible, in sturdy brown card envelopes. We do international shipping. We can do print on demand in many countries, which is very useful.

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?

It is difficult when it comes to competitors. There is so much amazing artistry on Etsy and sometimes it can feel you are just part of a crowd. The simple answer to how to make your product stand out is by using SEO. Using different buzzwords in the tags and search terms, and by monitoring that eventually, you start seeing what customers are searching for, and can start molding your products to cater to that.

How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?

We haven’t currently had to deal with that yet, luckily! When we do, we will do our absolute best to resolve problems in a fair and respectful way.

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 made it possible for us to reach entirely new people with our business and start to build our network outside of our small community, which previously was mostly made up of artists on Instagram. Our shop is still very much in its infancy and we are seriously excited to see how far it will take us! It can be stressful dealing with manufacturing, it’s a lot of decisions to make very quickly, and you have to weigh up the quality of your products while keeping your shop accessible to your customers, but it’s something that can be achieved with practice.

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 extremely important for our shop and for our business. We spend a lot of time social media marketing, especially on Instagram, such as posting regularly, chatting with customers, and doing Instagram live interviews with artists, as we can see from our Etsy statistics that our social media drives so much traffic to the shop. We have spent money on ads outside of Etsy before but we aren’t currently. We generate excitement for our products with excellent photography, personal customer engagement, and doing things like running competitions on our page when we have a new collection being released.

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 would say that it would be good to create more of a lifestyle image with your shop page, to make it customizable, and have networking opportunities between the shop and the customer to increase the value of the shopping experience for the customer.

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What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?

We try to offer something special in our shop. So all the products are created by our artists with creative ideas and original design.

What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?

Work with the seasons and add new things like Christmas and Halloween products that you know people will be looking for that can increase that traffic. And definitely get a really good photo of your work – this is vital!


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