[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Niche : Personalized Design
Shop link : https://www.etsy.com/shop/minimicromuranoglass
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/RagazziGlass[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
I am a glassmaker from Venice, Italy. I am from Murano and I grew up with glass, the traditional handicraft of Venice. I have been doing this job since 1974. My niche is glass miniatures. Glass animals, characters, Nativity scenes, and the classic Murano glass gifts. I had a very small shop near Saint Mark Square, one of the main tourist sites in Italy. A friend of mine showed me the Etsy platform and I liked it because it was easy to use, without needing a webmaster or to know how to run a website. I gave it a try and this was a happy choice. Sales began to grow steadily and then the Covid crisis came. The city of Venice lives off tourism. The complete lack of tourists has played havoc with all stores, accommodation facilities, artisans, and glassmakers too. And during the first epidemic wave sales kept soaring. For me, there has been no crisis.
What are your responsibilities as a business owner?
I make everything myself. In my artisan studio, I make the figurines as I have always done. An accountant helps me on the fiscal side. The underestimated thing when managing an online store is the time commitment necessary to interact with customers. This is a source of both joy and anxiety.
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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?
What works in real life works on the internet too. The best selling products are the traditional bestsellers of the Murano glass figurines niche. I am particularly proud of one creation of mine. I created it in the nineties. I and a friend were the first to create miniature fish in bags of glass. They have then been imitated everywhere but no one makes the little fish like me. Many other traditional items stand out. The miniature Orchestra, the Nativity scenes. I especially love my dachshunds. I have been a dog lover and I love animals. Hence I make their miniatures with love. My dachshunds stand out! One of the best things about art and craftsmanship is that they are the result of a lengthy experience and cannot be copied. Every artist has their style, their interpretation is unique. A world apart from mass-produced items.
What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?
Artistry is a matter of love. Explanations don’t make it clear. The happiness of customers when they receive their figurines is the better gift you get. The hardest part, when you make it a job, is customer relations. This too is a source of joy but there are many people, for instance, who would like a lengthy and deeper exchange. I make everything myself and I cannot be as constant and attentive as I would like to. The ideal situation is to have someone helping you and have him handle correspondence with customers. On the one side, this is bad because people want to talk with the creation. However, if your business grows, this becomes indispensable. The three pillars of the division of labor should be 1) production, 2) customer relations, and 3) shipping. If your business grows you have to separate them and have people dedicated to each one. Customer relations, in particular, requires special skills, no less important than creative artistry.
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?
Every kind of item, and each item, has its target buyer. These were things I already noticed in my life as a producer and seller, but selling online confirmed it. Glass figurines for instance have the main target buyers among women. The interest grows with their age. But there are notable exceptions. Dachshund miniatures are loved by Dachshund owners, regardless of their age and gender. The same is true of fish figurines or musicians figurines. Special target buyers are also those who buy Nativity scenes. This information is very valuable when you make ads. Facebook ads, for instance, let you choose your audience. Even the slightest change in the target description can radically change your results. This is another reason to have someone helping you. You could even consider professional help. Targeted advertising is among the most powerful tools available to make your business successful.
Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?
Here I am talking as an artisan. First and foremost you need skills in making the product. I understand there are many people who want to make a living out of an online shop and they want to come up with something to sell. It’s possible, but it’s difficult. It’s a lot easier the other way. You love to make something so much that you become skilled at making it. That’s the optimal starting point. You create beautiful things that people love and then you sell them. On the other side skills alone don’t suffice. There is a lot of homework before launching your online shop. The three most important to me: 1) price discovery (look at your costs and competitors); 2) photos quality; 3) shipping options and policies;
What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?
The biggest challenge is customer relations. You have to be patient. People will put the wrong address, they will think that a 25 USD free shipping item can be delivered to the USA from an Italian island in a week. Some people like to chat. Others don’t read descriptions or, better to say, almost no one reads descriptions. Eventually, I have good news. People are good. Online selling confirmed this. Dishonest people are rare, the exception. Most problems come from misunderstandings or mistakes. Take it into account and be ready to lose a little money when the rare bad guy comes. It’s worth believing what they say even when you have doubts.
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?
First, you have to look at your competitors and then you will do both the same thing and a different thing. In fact, if everyone is selling an item, there is a reason. It means high demand. Then you have to think of the difference you can do. What about a new product no one makes? Well, this can be extremely profitable but it’s difficult and rare. You have to try a hundred times to get that. Most attempts will fail. So one has to be careful not to commit too many resources in a single innovation.
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 sell my glass to European and US customers. Most of my customers are from the USA, UK, France, and Germany. It’s difficult to keep prices low when shipping internationally. I can do it thanks to the National Postal Service. They are trustworthy and cheap. However, they are slow. I always explain this to my customers. I even write an additional email to US customers reminding them of the shipping time and giving them the possibility to cancel the order before shipping. To my surprise, it happened only once. The National Postal Service of every country has different prices. Sellers should always compare the prices of the available couriers. Very soon I will add the option to choose another courier for fast delivery. I will use DHL Express. As a rule of thumb prices will always vary depending on the number of packets you ship. When contacting the courier you can save time if you specify the number of packets, size, weight, common destinations.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?
As I already said, this is my list; – Skill in making a product (or in choosing them if you want to be a reseller); – They must look beautiful; – Look at competitors; – If you can, have a good and talented person making customer relations; – Look for your target buyers when using social platforms (and choose them accordingly. If your customers, for instance, are old, TikTok will not help you).
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?
I want to add a thing to all the things I already told. Treat people well even when they do not deserve it. Even if you think a certain customer is trying to swindle, give them the benefit of the doubt. Never take it personally.
How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?
There is an Italian poem saying: We are as in autumn on branches the leaves It’s luck to be happy when you work for a living. It’s good if you find that you can forget yourself when you do it. I don’t want to be successful. I want to be happy. If success comes, it is welcome.
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Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?
Selling online even more challenging than selling in a physical shop. Having customers from all around the world makes it a job without time tables. This is another reason it’s better to have someone helping you with customer relations. I work all day, every day, barring on Sunday. A thing is important. Don’t forget to exercise.
How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?
I want to have other people helping me. Some glass maker learning with me, people dedicated to shipping and customer relationship. I am already at full capacity as a single worker. Then I will increase advertising.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I have been lucky. There isn’t a thing I learned the hard way. However, there is a thing I got right. Being as specific as I can get, there was a customer whom I thought he was in bad faith. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and I treated him well. He became one of the best returning customers and gave me awesome word of mouth online. Be kind.