Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I’m actually a Director for a Software Engineering team. I decided to learn Photoshop so I could create some custom watercolor art for my wife for our anniversary. She loved it so much she posted it to Instagram and that’s where it all started.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
My primary responsibility is to make sure my customer is happy. The nature of my business (creating watercolor art out of people’s images) attracts people with sentimental images of their loved ones or favorite memories so I try and do my best to honor that memory or sentiment by creating an amazing piece of art.
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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 product is where people send me images of their or their loved one’s car and I make that into a watercolor print. I’ve had images of rally cars, drifting cars, or cars from the 70s and 80s. Once I create the art I also print to canvas and the result is always incredible.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
The part I enjoy most is understanding each individual and creating something that truly pays tribute to the image they’re giving me. It’s not easy being a one-man show, so having to interact with customers while managing the store, doing the marketing, creating the product, and shipping it all out on time can be difficult at times, but it’s worth it in the end.
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?
Primarily I’ve had a lot of success with word of mouth. I’m not limited to the type of images I can create so it can get tough to be imaginative and try to hit as wide an audience as possible. So far the results have been outstanding, people know what they’re getting and I work hard to make sure they love the end result.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
There are 2 secrets that will never fail you. First, master the habit of showing up. There are a million reasons why you shouldn’t do something, but none of them will create success so just start. The second is to keep things simple. If you want to run a marathon first start with putting on your running shoes. With time and consistency success becomes a side effect of you doing something you love.
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
My printing company had to close up because of COVID-19 which proved to be a major setback because I had built a reputation with them. It created a few delays but luckily my customers were gracious and patient and understood the situation. Having to find an alternate printer at the price and quality of my other has definitely been a challenge but nothing is impossible.
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?
Every customer brings their own inspiration. I ask people the story behind their image and try to understand who they are before I start. Once I feel I have something to work with I create a draft and work with the customer to make any adjustments before rendering the final image.
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 all over the world and build shipping into my price. My pricing averages out overall, I may lose a bit on international shipping but make up for it with digital prints. Free shipping creates a marketing advantage and if you get your pricing right it really doesn’t add that much overhead.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
Determination, consistency, resilience, empathy. Build an audience and make them something they want.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
Work smart, not hard. Start simple and work your way up. Amazon wasn’t built in a day.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
For me, success is just a consequence of having the freedom to do something I love and bring joy to others. A wise man once said do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day of your life. I truly believe this passion is what continues to drive me and it’s essential for the way I interact with my customers and the quality standard I hold myself to.
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Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
I try to keep my turnaround times short so get to work on products the same evening. Each one can take me a few hours so it definitely takes a lot of time management and discipline to make sure I’m staying on top of everything.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
For now, this is a personal hobby and for the time being, I intend on keeping it that way. I like to interact with people and add a personal touch. Maybe in the future, I’ll teach someone else the skills required to actually create the final product but still maintain the front of the house myself.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
Variety is key. I started very niche with only a couple of products and over time built up my offerings. This has allowed me to reach out to a much wider audience and has overall been a great sales multiplier.