Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
Little Dune was born when we moved into our new house and I was looking for something special to add touches to it to make it a home. Learning more and more about ecological produce, natural materials, and home interior design trends I wanted to open my own store where I could share my passion for natural beauty with others, and have those gems available all in one place. While based in London, we source our products worldwide, that is why the delivery might take a little longer than your usual online retailer. But we cherry-pick all the designs for you to make sure it is worth the wait. Free worldwide shipping. Passed on through generations With my mum being a ceramic artist and my dad events producer from a very early age I was surrounded by art and culture. I remember spending my days in my mum’s workshop filled with clay, glaze dust, and unfinished pieces of art in the making. Being able to understand the beauty of the process of craft making I wanted to cherry-pick the most stunning items for my customers’ home life. Recently I realized another long-lived passion by introducing my own designs to home items, wall prints, and clothing collections. Besides curating creations of others it has been just a blessing to be able to add my own designs to the offering. Created for fellow mums in need of the quality me-time Being a mum of 1 I created the items thinking of my fellow mums who very rarely have any time for themselves. As we are so busy – finding opportunities for beautiful me-time can be challenging. I wanted to help women create a home and space for themselves where they would be able to fully relax and enjoy the quiet moment with a book or cup of tea in their favorite loungewear, journaling or simply savoring the moment by having to do nothing at all. A while ago I read the quote saying “Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” That just hits the nail on the head of what life is about for me and I want others to be able to share the same philosophy too. Sustainable materials and manufacturing process. When looking for suppliers I always look for eco-friendly and sustainable items to sell. I understand the impact consumers have on the environment and since I am in the retail business I want to be able to do it right, considering the natural resources and how much damage mass manufacturing can cause to the environment. We only produce items we get an order for, avoiding textile waste from overproduction. Our and manufacturing printing partner’s state-of-the-art printing tech creates almost no wastewaters and uses less energy. Out clothing is printed with the direct-to-garment (DTG) printing method. The printing tech we use is made with sustainability in mind, and our DTG printers use almost zero wastewater and less energy, lowering our carbon footprint. Each product you see in the unique Little Dune design line is made-on-demand, which means once you place the order, we start working to get it to you. It takes time for us to create and send out the product, but making each order on-demand allows us to avoid overproduction. This way we’re all part of the sustainable fashion movement. I also choose eco-friendly and organic materials whenever possible, which are higher in quality and can last many washes which steer consumers away from fast fashion.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I always knew about Etsy but never looked too much into it. I wanted an additional sales channel for my online store and that is why I thought it would be good to sell on Etsy too.
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?
I sell unique design home items, organic cotton loungewear, and casual clothing, as well as handcrafted furniture. I use design software tools to create patterns and designs and then partner with a sustainable manufacturing partner to create the final product. Our handcrafted furniture is designed by other designers and sourced from a local supplier here in the UK. All our products are either made from organic, eco-friendly materials or produced using sustainable printing methods where the landfill waste is significantly reduced. All our designs are also unique, thought through, and not something you would be able to find in another high street store. For example, I used pieces of other ceramic artists and incorporate the imagery of those finished pieces into my designs.
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 always dabbled in design since my background is in marketing and I had to do multiple projects for large retail and travel clients. I also am a performer and was always a very creative person so manifesting my ideas into clothing and home items was just another natural step. I self-taught myself to use design tools but it was a long journey and took a lot of confidence to be able to start my own lines and to be able to openly say – I created it. There are many great designers out there, naturally, you tend to compare yourself with others and you always think I should have done this better, so perhaps I am never 100% satisfied with the finished product. But I also love a philosophy of “perfect is the opposite of dione” so I use that to encourage myself to stop at some point and mark the product as finished.
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?
I just opened Etsy to diversify the platforms I will be selling on. Also, my manufacturing partner offers an automated integration with Etsy which is great, it saves tons of time for admin. It was really a no brainer to try this market place as an additional source of customer stream. It is a side income for now but I am working towards growing the business into much more than that. I am always looking for more opportunities to sell and engage with wider audiences.
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?
Yes, I was definitely slightly worried about being lost in such a large pool of other sellers. Etsy is a great tool to sell but it also requires quite a bit of effort to be noticed and get customers to buy from you. You need to make sure your listings are optimized as well as build customer trust with timely deliveries and good customer service. It is a very competitive platform indeed. I was also slightly disappointed about the fees associated with selling and the fact that you still have to pay for payment processing fees even if the customer decides to no longer purchase the item and wants a refund.
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 quite a while! I think I only made my first sale a couple of months after starting out. I did not have any particular goals I just wanted to start doing it and see how it goes. I know there is still a lot of work to be done on Little Dune listings, but we expect around 2-3 sales each week on the Little Dune Etsy store.
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?
Yes I work part-time as a communications manager and I am also a mum to a little boy, therefore, the time I can commit to this business is somewhat limited. I would love to, in the future, be able to do this full time and dedicate myself to creating fully. I know it takes time and I don’t expect overnight success but with a disciplined approach and commitment, it is possible to achieve success over time.
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?
Most of our items are made to order, which is why this is considered to be sustainable. Around 85% of all textiles produced by the fashion industry end up in landfills, making it a major contributor to environmental damage. One in every five garments reaches a landfill without being worn even once. By offering print-on-demand products to our customers, we create apparel and home items that are created only after the order is placed, creating less fabric waste than conventional manufacturing. Most popular items such as mugs, pillows, and loungewear can be also customized if required by customers before we place the order for production. Our partner also uses Kornit printers that have high-quality, water-based vegan inks. Kornit inks are non-hazardous, toxin-free, biodegradable, and certified with an OEKO-TEX Eco Passport.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
As you can imagine using high-quality materials, special printing processes and ethical production methods are not cheap. This so-called slow fashion comes at a higher price, but this is a small price to pay for a better and safer consumption approach that does not harm our planet. I normally price my products by adding a small percentage on top of the cost it takes to make, ship and tax. I try to make the pricing as affordable for the everyday consumer, but due to our slow manufacturing approach, the prices are not as competitive as for example some items you can buy on Amazon. And I am ok with that, for me what matters most is to be able to offer products that are unique and kind to our planet.
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 normally like to take pictures when I am outside for a walk, as well as observe colors, shapes, and sounds. Later I look at them to see if there is anything I could be using for my own designs. I also get inspiration by keeping an eye on the latest trends and designs. By all means, it is important to also follow the seasons and major holidays to appeal to a wider audience. e.g. at the moment I am thinking about Valentine’s day gift ideas and have been looking into some Japanese fashion designs to get inspiration for colors and patterns.
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?
Yes, we ship worldwide and we use a flat delivery rate for most of our items. Since our items are made to order it takes around 2-3 weeks to receive your items. Our manufacturing partner uses sustainable materials for packaging and if I am packing myself I use recycled materials as well. I use only eco-friendly wrapping for most of our items unless it is really necessary to use bubble wrap for ceramics.
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?
I am not worried about the competitors but of course, I would not be happy to see ideas copied. Although it does not have any impact on me because I can always create something new. I always believed that there are enough customers for every single product out there who will prefer my unique style. I think the only thing you can do to stand out is to create something of your own from scratch, something that hasn’t been done before.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I think it is always good to remember that customer is always right. Being helpful, polite, and empathetic is key. Most of our communications related to purchasing are automated but I engage with customers who need support personally via email.
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 guess it gave me more confidence to continue working on my business. I had some stress dealing with delivery issues, I found that a calm approach and open communication always work best.
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 one of the main drivers for my sales. I ensure to create a proper brand extension via social media by adding quite a few behind the product scenes, showing some daily updates from personal life, and sharing the latest releases. People buy from people and I think it is important to know who you are buying from. At least for me. I sometimes use Instagram ads to create more hype for new releases.
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 feel like there is not much clarity on how Etsy ads are working. Who are they targeting? There is no control for the seller to create their own target audience, unlike on Facebook or Instagram. I also feel like you have to be quite knowledgeable on how to optimize your store and listings and if you don’t they simply get lost in a sea of sellers.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I made sure to use quality images, good and descriptive product tags, also added personal information about myself to create a more personal connection with the buyer.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Invest in ads, but before that make sure all your listings are properly optimized and have quality images with good descriptive summaries about the products. Don’t be afraid to be unique and create something of your own but keep an eye on the latest trends to be relevant. Use social media like Instagram to drive more customers to your store.
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Be proud – creating something new and being able to share it with others is a gift!