Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
When I got married in Greece, coming from Romania 25 years ago, I discovered in my new country an extraordinary artistic world with symbolism and traditions from the long history of the place. It was a revelation for me, and I knew immediately that I must be part of this context. I started to study Geometric art in Greek pottery and ancient vase shapes. The most fascinating thing for me in this whole process was the knowledge of the ancient rituals painted on ceramics, rituals related to all moments of life. Oinochoe, amazing containers for serving wine have aroused particular interest for me because they were about joy, happiness, and Greeks’ soul. This ancient jug traveled through time and traditions and we find it today as a centerpiece on the ceremony of orthodox marriage. The traditions preserved with the sanctity by Greeks and combined with symbolism were my inspirations to create accessories that accompany the moments of joy of a family’s life. I would consider myself a consultant for how these traditions can become heirlooms for generations to come, but also a crafter because I had to put into practice my vision about how this all can be realized.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I discovered the Etsy community as a buyer. It was like Disneyland for me because I met incredibly talented people, who created unique, personalized products, from materials, that at first sight, did not fit together, while using innovative crafting techniques. Before Etsy, I sold products created by me, but in the circle of acquaintances and their friends. One day I was called from the United States by a Greek lady, who asked me if I can create a set for the baptism of her goddaughter and to match with the christening dress at the ceremony. The dress was the same one that the baby’s grandmother had worn when she was baptized, about 60 years ago. Then I understood that even today, the Greeks, wherever they are living in the world, maintains their traditions for the next generations. The happiness of the client from overseas, when she received the package with the ordered set, sparked my desire to repeat this experience. Etsy it was my first thought.
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?
At the wedding and baptism events of the Greeks, there is no lack of traditional Orthodox accessories. In Greek culture, there cannot be a wedding without “Stephana” (the bride and groom’s united crowns), candles, and canter for holy wine. Accordingly, there cannot be a baptism without “miropana” (the set of myrrh oil), or without the candlelight for long life. All are in fact symbolisms that accompany the ceremonies. The event’s concepts describe a telling of a story through the way the products mentioned are crafted and decorated. That is what I do. I tell stories through my crafted accessories. To realize my products I use French lace, fine materials, wood, metal, cold porcelain, and Swarovski crystals. I create customized and personalized accessories.
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 had mentors who inspired and guided me to learn how to craft traditional products. I gathered knowledge from amazing artists and traditional crafters. I was satisfied with my creations when I managed to make fine details and finishes. It took me a while…. Now I have the experience to cover up mistakes in crafting while at the same time brainstorming better concepts and ideas. Sometimes I am surprised by the results of a job and I think to myself “Better than I initially thought it up“. A misstep must be turned into an opportunity, in my opinion.
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?
Although I started selling online as a hobby, now it’s a full-time job. When I opened an Etsy shop my first goal was to connect with Greek families all over the world and to link them with their traditions through my art and craft.
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?
Before I started my shop, my concern was whether I would spend all the budget on listing my products on Etsy without seeing any sales afterward. How did I overcome this? I stopped overthinking about it, I guess. Once I decided to open my Etsy shop, I did not have any reservations or fears to sell online. I always think like a buyer when I am selling my products and it is helpful. I do not worry about the profitability because I set the prices based on a standard formula that I don’t change. Competitiveness in the handmade business is thankfully not aggressive enough to startle me. Each crafter is unique and appeals to his own audience.
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?
My first sale on Etsy came in the duration of a month since starting out. I did not have a goal for how many sales I would like to make in the first year. The most important thing to me was to understand how the system worked and to get my products to appear on front pages for specific keywords and attributes. Because my products are seasonal, I don’t count sales/week. I am more interested in the sales I make an average per month and per year.
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 have no job other than Etsy. Full-time online sales are my job. The workshop is close to my home and it is easy to combine my family life and work.
The most difficult thing for me is to manage the immediate customer service, due to the hour differences between Greece and other continents. I wish I could answer my customers right away when they have questions. Every day my schedule is different, but it is repeated every week. I have a strict calendar and it only eases up in November.
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?
The bestselling product is not an object, it is a theme. The olive, the symbol of peace, is the most sought after and a bestseller in every category I sell. Gifts for guests with olive amulet are made of metallic charms or cold porcelain. Once the porcelain olive leaves are dry, they would be used to decorate wedding crowns, candles, wine jugs, guest souvenirs, witness pins, or the bearer of the wedding ring, all made to order. I have assistance and I work with partners for christening clothes, baptism shoes, and other accessories. Event sets are created according to the style, colors, and environment requested by each client. For the manufacturing process, there are jewelry making tools and a sewing machine in my workshop.
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 materials I use have the highest price in their category because the quality is the most important thing for me and my customers. The biggest impact on profitability is shipping costs. I include part of this cost in the price of the product. Although most of my parcels are large, I can calculate the cost of sending them to the post office. Product prices are calculated based on the hours needed to be created, the materials used, and the shipping cost.
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 the stores and catalogs of my suppliers. They bring to the market new material ideas. When I work with crystals, I feel creative.
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 products all over the world. Part of the shipping cost is included in the price of the final product. My customers in Europe receive their orders in 18-20 calendar days and for customers anywhere else the average time it takes is 30-32 days. I offer fast shipping or fast order if requested. The packaging must be secure, and I use what is needed to transport fragile items in safe conditions.
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?
Fortunately, competitiveness in handmade businesses is not aggressive enough to worry me. Each designer is unique and attracts his own audience. In fact, I like competitiveness because it helps me better understand what customers need. I make my own products stand out through quality and value for money ratio.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
We were fortunate to have great reviews. It is an inspiration for my whole team. Any issue can be resolved through dialogue. Communication with the buyer is the most important tool for selling on Etsy. My clients receive information about every step of the transaction. It is important for them to know the estimated time of arrival and shipping details. We are in contact until the customer receives his order.
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?
I have never been stressed by customer relationships and manufacturing products. Constant communication, detailed photos, and products description are the keys to a pleasant online transaction. Selling on Etsy has changed my life because with Etsy I manage to make my hobby a daily job and to be part of a community exactly as I imagine the world to be: kind, respectful and creative people, supported by a system fair and transparent. My shop has not yet reached where I want it to be. I really love it and will continue to invest in its further development.
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?
I use social media to drive customers to my Etsy store. I believe in organic development through content publishing. People no longer react to photo posts, even professional ones, with a call to action, link, and phone. I am looking for partners to invest in a collaboration with a cartoonist and a tale writer for short 3-5 minute videos, each of which reflects a story with messages of love, respect, confidence, honesty, and all the values that parents want to pass on to their children. With humor and casting the “characters” of the themes of my products, I believe that it is content that will interest my audience and will contribute to the development of the organic promotion of my shop on social networks. Etsy has been running an outside ad campaign service and I use it because I have noticed an increase in sales. Etsy partners, who deal with this offer, know much better than me how to reach my target group on social media. I trust the Etsy ad campaign and the way my products are promoted.
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?
Over time I use the Etsy support service and my problems were always solved immediately and in the best manner for me. I would recommend Mr. Silverman to invest in the development of a courier company, especially for sellers outside the USA, so as to make it possible to shorten the delivery time of products and to make the shipping price much more affordable for buyers.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Continuous communication with the buyer. Understanding the needs of the buyer. Working hard and always being ready to do the extra mile. The lesson I have learned the hard way is that the client is always right.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
For those thinking of starting a business on Etsy, I would tell them not to give up on this idea. From my observations, Etsy has a fair algorithm for placing products in the search engine. So, if the products someone creates meets the needs of the buyers, sales will come naturally. The most common mistake of a beginner is in calculating the transport price. I would recommend him to weigh the products he sells and to find out about the prices charged by the transport company he collaborates with. I would also recommend him to complete all product description fields because they are part of the search algorithm. To the established seller… just keep walking! Well done!
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