Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
My name is Jacey and I’m an illustrator from Alberta, Canada, and the owner of Bramble Design! Bramble Design is a digital print shop home to all kinds of beautiful, whimsical, and minimal style art prints. The idea for Bramble was really born out of a love for digital design, and a desire to have a creative space that was solely my own. When I first started this business I remember saying to myself, “even if nobody buys a single print, I will be so happy to learn more about the process of running an online business and to have this creative outlet”. Fortunately, I have been able to grow Bramble Design into a place where people actually want to see my prints hanging in their homes (which is still so exciting to me!). The joy I get from seeing my work being enjoyed by others continues to be one of my biggest motivating factors.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
As a one-woman business, my responsibilities as an owner are all-encompassing. These responsibilities mainly include creating new products, answering customers’ questions, fulfilling requests for custom print sizes, and managing social media. While the majority of my time goes towards designing new products, the other components definitely play a significant role in the growth of my shop, particularly the customer service side of the business. I’m sure more of my time will also go towards bookkeeping as my business expands.
What are your best selling products, what type of materials are used in your creations, how do you design your products, what makes your products stand out?
My best selling products are mainly nature-themed prints (flowers, butterflies, botanicals, etc.) which may be a reflection of the current summer season as well as boho and minimalist styles that are popular right now. I hand draw all of my prints using a combination of Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Procreate (Lately I have been loving Procreate as you can create very detailed pieces that resemble traditional art mediums!). After the drawing is finished, I spend time formatting each design to fit different print sizes and then do a test print to make sure the colors and proportions are how I want them. I really pride myself on creating original artworks with a whimsical feel that you may not see in other printables. I also offer a range of sizes with each purchase and am always open to making adjustments to prints at the customer’s request.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
I genuinely love every part of it! I really enjoy being able to materialize all the quirky concepts in my head to actual products that people will enjoy having in their homes. While my business is relatively new, being an entrepreneur has been the most fulfilling experience. Not only do I have a place that is completely my own to express my creativity, but I enjoy the freedom of building my own schedule, and being able to reach people from all over the world. For me, the hardest part is just making sure I don’t get too overwhelmed with ideas that I stall out and don’t make concrete progress. If I’m ever having a moment of doubt I just try to keep creating, focus on a few ideas at a time, and remember how grateful I am to get to put my energy into something I enjoy doing so much!
Who do you sell to (and how do you get customers)? What marketing tools or strategies you use to boost your sales? Are you satisfied with the results?
My customer base is mainly women shopping for their own spaces or for their nurseries. Most of my customers find my shop directly through Etsy. SEO (Search engine optimization) is incredibly important for a new business like mine that doesn’t necessarily have the wide customer following of a larger business. When listing new prints I utilize sites such as Frank to help choose keywords in my product tags that will make my products rank higher in Etsy’s search engine. I am also currently experimenting with paying for Etsy ads to increase traffic. So far the revenue generated from these ads has been fairly equal to the amount I invest but I would like to give it more time to see if these changes. I am also interested in starting a mailing list to keep customers engaged with my shop. Outside of Etsy, I use Instagram to show new products and announce any promotions I’m running. While some customers do find my shop through social media, I have found Instagram to mainly be a wonderful opportunity to connect with other artists and small business owners.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
While I don’t think there is anyone winning formula for success, I believe that you can’t go wrong with persistence, patience, and an understanding of what your target audience wants. But I would say being adaptable to change, and product pricing is also important factors. Any selling platform including Etsy is likely going to change over time, along with global circumstances that are out of my control, and so I try my best to create products that have a long-lasting appeal and to keep an open mind about how I operate my business. As far as pricing goes, I want my prices to reflect the fact that I value my work while still being reasonable. So even in a saturated market like art printables, my goal is never to be the cheapest among all my competitors but fair for the product I’m offering.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
Fortunately, my business has been pretty smooth sailing to this point. I think like many new business owners, I have a perpetual fear of receiving a bad review (none so far!) but I try not to let this possibility deter me from creating the best products that I can. The reward of bringing joy to others through art and the personal fulfillment I get from being creative is so much greater than any possible doubts in my head about something that may not even happen.
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 find that most of my ideas actually come to me somewhat randomly throughout the day, I guess that is just my creative brain always at work! I am frequently updating a list on the notes app of my phone of potential concepts so that I have a bank of ideas to refer to when I’m having a creative block. But I am often inspired by color schemes, nature, or something I see while browsing Pinterest. As a digital illustrator, sketching is always a good place to start when I’m having trouble deciding what to create, just getting something down on paper, or the Ipad usually stirs up some new ideas.
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?
Currently, all of my products are digital files that are available for the customer to immediately download after purchase and so shipping is not a factor. Now more than ever I think people enjoy having the option to print from home or to choose custom sizing that may not be offered with more traditional forms of art. Since I provide multiple sizes of each printable, the buyer can print the design as many times as they want or try out different designs for an affordable price to see which will really suit their space.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
I would say that identifying your target market, branding, and creating good quality products are key factors for starting and running a successful online business. The great thing about starting a digital product business is that the startup costs and risk factors are low. All I really needed to start my business was a laptop with my favorite design programs and the time to focus on starting and updating as I go. As a new business, I am definitely still in the growing stages but I have been happy to see a consistent increase in sales and engagement each month.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
Have patience and trust that you deserve to have the success you desire! Just start with where you are at because if you wait till everything is perfect you may never take the leap of faith. Don’t feel like you have to be the best at your craft or have all the skills right from the start, people will appreciate your work because it is being created from your unique point of view. Also, take advantage of all the free resources there are. When I first started my business I learned so much about SEO and setting up my business from watching Youtube videos and reading blog articles. While there are some aspects of your business you may just have to learn through trial and error, there are also mistakes you can avoid by observing other successful shops and learning from creatives who have been where you are.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
Personally I define business success as a combination of those factors. I am largely motivated to succeed by creative expression and freedom, but I think that money will naturally follow if I am putting in the effort to make my business the most appealing to customers as it can be.
Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I’m sure most people find it helpful to have a more structured schedule, however, I prefer to approach each day with a flexible mindset. Basically, creating when I’m feeling creative, and doing more routine operations such as updating listings, putting together mockups, and rearranging my shop during the times I am feeling less inspired. Once I start a new print concept I find it hard to put it down until it’s complete and so time tends to go by quickly most days. In addition to my Etsy shop, I also do commission based work for a greeting card company and so some of my time is allotted to this throughout the week. But one thing I always prioritize is responding to Etsy customer messages, whether they are wanting a different file size than already offered or if they are asking questions on the download and print process. Since I really enjoy the responsibilities involved with running my new business, it feels less like ‘work’ and so the work/life balance is a little less concrete but I don’t mind it.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
Right now I am focusing on expanding the number of prints I have available in my shop. Even though I’d say the quality is more important than quantity, the printable product business is quite competitive and so the more products I can create the more opportunities there are for people to find my store within Etsy’s site. So I’d say the number of products and my product ranking in Etsy’s system has the biggest impact on profitability. Eventually, I would love to expand into other product categories to include stationery, cards, pins, etc. but for right now I am content to grow my printables business.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I think cohesion is such a crucial part of any online shop. When people come to my page I want them to feel a sense of ease and joy, and so every element from the site banner to photography, product descriptions, and the products themselves are a reflection of this. Specifically, I love illustrating in more soft, neutral colors, choosing high-quality mockups to display my prints, and also including a listing photo of the print with other prints available so that the customer can get a feel for how the print would look like a part of a collage. To further entice buyers to buy in multiples I offer a promotion (ie. buy two get three) that encourages people to mix and match prints. Since my products are digital there is no added cost for me to run these kinds of sales. I also made sure to fill out all the different parts of my Etsy shop page, including an ‘about me’ section, shop policies, and a few shop updates to show potential customers that I am active on the site. As far as lessons go I’m sure there will be many to learn in the future of my business but so far I only wish I had started Bramble Design sooner!