Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
My name is Valentina. I live in Italy, between Milan and Padova, where I work for a famous fashion label. In my spare time, I allow my creativity to flow and love to craft things using any type of fabric: pillows, petballs, dresses. I created my first Petball in 2011 when I decided to make something out of the fabric remnants from my other creations. As I decided to recycle small pieces of fabric the first owl was born. Many other little animals soon followed. Petals are entirely handmade by me with care and love. Because it is not mass-produced, every single Petball is different from the others. My idea always was to recycle fabric and leftovers and give it a new life creating something unique
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I discover Etsy in 2008. I was in Milan and I entered a shop. I started to talk with the owner, we became friends, and she told me about Etsy, which was very little known at that time. So I started immediately to use it as a buyer, and some years later as a Shop owner.
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 pillows, petballs, and dresses. I try to use the most possible recycled fabrics, the recycled fabrics will have a new life and they have better quality and better design than the new fabric produced. Despite they are recycled, I always keep the absolute high quality and the fabric is the most important factor of my product. I design my products by myself, taking inspiration from everything. My products are unique as an idea and as manufacturing.
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 work as a pattern maker in the fashion industry, so I know how to sew and create dresses and others because is my work…
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 decided to sell online just to let to know to the world the products erupted from my creativity. I consider online selling as a side job actually.
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?
I was not afraid to start selling online, before opening my shop. My only fear was the possibility that other people will copy my ideas, but luckily until this moment, I had no problem with this.
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 didn’t take me a long time to make my first sale, because at that time Etsy was much smaller than now. I remember my second sale, which was some days after the first sale: I sent 5 petballs to the customer who decided to use a private courier to have the little petballs just before Christmas. Unfortunately, the courier service lost the package and I was desperate. I decided to send him more news petballs at my expense and in the end, everything went well, but I remember I was so sorry for that because it was just the second sale and I thought things had started badly for me. Luckily all other sales went very well. I have not so many expectations about the sales because for me it’s a second work.
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 have another job outside Etsy. I create my products in the time I have left.
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 manufacturing process for me is very important because I’m a maniac of the details and if the product doesn’t have every detail perfect I will not send it to the customer. >When I have time I create products ahead of the orders. Yes, I customize some products and I’m always available to the requests of the customers because I think it is right that they ask for a unique product made for them only because they are buying on Etsy, not on Amazon or someone else shop. I use only a needle and thread and a sewing machine to create my products, I never use glue or some other plastic products…
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
I try to use the most possible recycled fabrics, I think this is the future, the recycled fabrics will have a new life and they have better quality and better design than the new fabric produced. Despite they are recycled, I always keep quality. The most important cost of my products is handmade work.
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 take inspirations from everything: looking at movies, looking at images on the internet, or simply looking outside nature.
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, I sell worldwide. I ship with national postage. Generally, I take two or three days to prepare the order. I don’t use free shipping for pillows and petballs, sometimes for the dresses.
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’m not worried because my items are unique.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
Luckily I have never had any disputes or bad ratings. About presale and post-sale I try to take care of the most I can of the customer, for example, I ask every customer to let me know when the item arrives, to make sure the item has been delivered. The customer must know that I’m creating things by my hands just to him and I want to make sure my items make him happy and satisfied
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?
No Etsy has no changed my life, it’s just really easy to have a place where to sell or show worldwide your products.
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 have a page on Instagram and on Facebook, but I never spend money on ads on social media.
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?
When I started to sell on Etsy I thought this site was the best idea there can be for a creative handcrafter: a place where a craftsman can easily sell, deciding by himself the prices, creating his own shop, with the amazing possibility to show the items to the whole world. Year after year Etsy are changed: before Etsy was a shop where you only found handmade items and vintage sellers, now it has become a big marketplace like the others, where most of the products are not handcrafted by the owner: for example, I bought a chandelier that I thought was handmade by the English owner of the shop but after I discover it was made in India…I hope in the future Etsy will back to be a market only for artisans, and not one of the millions of places where a buyer sells things bought in china or India or somewhere else. The meaning of Etsy is being lost.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I learned that if your product is carefully handmade, you don’t have to sell it off, you have to sell it at the right price because is handcrafted, and not industrial. If the product has a good quality there will be someone in the world that will appreciate it despite the price.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
I have not advice.