Shirleychiche – Planners and Co in Ethical Cork Handmade Creations

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_message]Niche : Personalized Design
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Tell us something about yourself. What is your niche? How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

I specialize in the handcrafted manufacture of original organizers, made of real cork leather or quality imitation leather. My role, even before sewing them, is to play with these materials and marry them with printed kinds of cotton that I select with three imperatives: contrast, graphic forms, and lively colors. I had already been a craftswoman and designer for 5 years when I discovered the planners in 2015. I was looking to organize my work and the impressive modularity of the binder seduced me immediately. I saw it as a tool for personal development, a modern grimoire for women of the 21st century! Moreover, I became a vegetarian and I think that humans must be careful not to destroy their planet; necessarily leather did not correspond to my values. I looked for solutions and I discovered “cork leather”, made from thin strips of oak bark, which allows the tree to breathe better and brings even more oxygen to the air. And since cork oak is not easily burnt, its cultivation around Mediterranean forests protects it from incidents. The first piece of cork in my hands changed my life! Soft, supple, warm … All my creative business turned to planners. (In French, we call my product “planner”, but I don’t understand all the international names: organizer, organize, binder, planner …)

What are your responsibilities as a business owner?

Working alone requires a lot of discipline … And I don’t always have it! So I say thank you to my planner! I have to do all the jobs that an industrial brand has to do: hand-crafted handmade creation, of course, but also a designer to imagine collections, photographer because selling on the Internet is demanding, publicist to attract future customers, manager on social networks, preparer to get pretty parcels and ship them, financial account manager, researcher of new fabrics, after-sales service, project manager … And cleaning lady! I never get bored!

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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?

Even if I sell other accessories such as wallets, the planner is my specialty. Customers know that they will find originality and beautiful materials like cork, which is loved by people who care about the health of our planet, animals, and society. But as cork is beautiful, it also pleases for its authentic look and deep colors. I also use imitation leather because it offers a fancy style, a sparkling look. Creating my own style of planner took a lot of work to make them stand out from the competition, mixing beautiful patterns, textures, colors. What really sets me apart is the possibility for my French and international clients to choose their own fabrics, so that their planner is personalized. I take pictures and let them choose, in the quiet of their home. To remain a true designer, I also create collections on themes that are important to me, such as the “sacred woman” collection which is based on the phases of the moon and has names like “Power” for the full moon, “Osmosis” for the solar eclipse or “Poetry” for the crescent moon. This part of my work is so interesting!

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur? What’s the hardest about it?

I like to work alone, in peace and silence. This can be disturbing for someone who likes to work in a team! Personally, sewing is a moment of meditation. Searching the Internet to discover new patterns is certainly my favorite moment, my ideas fly away! I was able to bring to me a community of beautiful people, on the networks! How fun it is to work on the Internet! I wish I had a team to pack and ship, which is the most boring part. And I dream of being helped by communication specialists because it’s complicated to know how to sell yourself better. A few more hours in the day would be happily accepted! When it is difficult, I remember that I am a woman and a mother who can only rely on herself to live.

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?

I have been selling for 10 years on the Internet, thanks to my personal store on Shopify and on craft platforms such as Etsy or Unik Market (in France). Working on the Internet requires quality photos to catch the eye among thousands of products. Work on your product sheets so that they answer questions and reassure you, have the right tags, keywords. Get the know-how to communicate on social networks. Regularly, I follow small training on online sales to give me a boost! This is where my strategy ends. I don’t have a brand tag on my planners. I’m a bit rebellious! A beautiful product is my brand, not its name. I certainly have a lot of marketing gaps but my work pays off.

Do you believe there is a winning formula for becoming a successful entrepreneur? What is yours?

Two answers: hard work and luck! I work hard and then I let go. I repeat mantras like “people who need me will find me, they come to me”, it helps me. I know incredible artists who make beautiful photos, good articles and yet, do not find their customers. There’s always a part of the unknown in our business. However, we always have to be reactive!

What was the toughest moment you have experienced in your business practice? How did you succeed to get over it and move forward?

My company went through a long and difficult period when I wasn’t clear enough about what I really wanted to sell. Before the planners, I was mainly making baby products. I was in an energy of fear, which kept me from stopping these products that no longer suited me. I didn’t know who Shirley Chiche (the brand) was anymore. I was communicating poorly, I lacked confidence. Deciding to stop my children’s line was long and complicated, but when I really decided to make only planners, my professional and personal life changed! I listen to free advice on the Internet, from other designers or trainers. I draw from within myself the resources to move forward. Living alone with my child forces me to remain reactive.

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?

Everything starts with me and my interests. I am sensitive to the beauty of the moon and the stars, they are my friends. Creating a collection in your head is easy! I draw, I observe the beauty of things around me, the poetry that I feel. After drawing models, I start by making one of my favorite models. I select the colors because they have an impact, the materials, the patterns. It is a test that allows me to measure the interest of future clients. If I see that my community is responsive, that they are commenting, that they are buying, then I develop the collection.

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?

International shipments are a real plus because they allow us to reach additional customers. I take care of my packages: the product is wrapped in tissue paper, with a business card inside and outside I put a postcard where I write a little note by hand to each customer who will receive and use his planner. I favor the economical international shipping method, which is longer but relatively inexpensive. It is included in the final price of the creation, which represents 10 €. I am considering offering an upgrade for impatient customers. What I understand because between the time of order and the time of manufacture, there are already 15 days! Reducing the lead time can remove purchasing brakes. “Free” shipping is a lie and I like to be honest and transparent. I prefer to say that the shipping costs are included.

What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful online business?

– Like working alone or surrounding yourself with a dynamic team. – Knowing what you are creating, why you are creating it, and checking that others like and want what you create. – Continuously train yourself and never stop innovating. – Find your community

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are starting out?

It is essential to know to whom you want to sell because the way of managing is different. Selling to shops saves time and energy because there is no interaction with a multitude of customers. But that means increasing your margin to be profitable and enjoy mass production, even mass collections. Selling to individuals takes more time and creativity. We never get bored! Knowing this allows you not to make too many mistakes by lowering your prices. A new business is like a human baby: it demands constant attention, even at night it wakes you up! It is not good to create a business like a creative hobby. But the secret is the love of your product. This love gives you energy, talent, patience, endurance.

How do you personally define business success? Is it money? Freedom? Influence? Creative expression and innovation? Something else?

Success is doing what you love every day, finding pleasure in taking care of your “baby” non-stop, and being free! Even if we work like a boss, we are independent. We do not have to accept unpleasant and unfair situations. Making your own money by making a real meaningful product from a few materials is a reward and pride. I think that humans today no longer find pleasure in their work, very quickly. When I have an idea, that idea turns into a drawing, then I take some fabric and turn it into a useful object, that someone, somewhere, is going to like it and buy it, this, in this case, I am fully happy.

Describe your day-to-day operation. How do you manage your time?

Working at home, on my own, gives me the feeling of not being dependent on time, of freeing myself from it. Of course, I work between 6 and 10 hours a day! And customers expect to receive their order for Christmas, so I’m watching the calendar! But the weather is malleable: if I don’t sew in the morning because I have appointments, I sew in the evening. I obviously use my planner to stay in reality. Generally, I break down my working time as follows: I get up around 7:00 am to bring my daughter to college since at noon I’m on the computer. I answer emails, place orders, check my listings, take photos, process photos through PicMonkey. Then I sew with the machine following the list of my orders on the planning. At the end of the afternoon, I bring the packages to the Post Office. Regularly, in the evening after the meal, I write an article on my blog or a commercial email. As this is something that I love, I have a great time 🙂 I allow myself the time to read, see people I love, be with my lover, educate my child, and discover (I’m curious about the world).

How do you plan on growing your business? What is the biggest impact on your profitability?

As I age, I think about developing my business differently. I would like to imagine collections that would be resold in boutiques, internationally. This means finding a fabrication shop for small series production. I still have brakes to “think big”. However, overcoming my fear of having it manufactured would allow me to delegate the long hours of work while earning money. Growing up involves more responsibility. I would like to work with a person who would take care of the commercialization and its industrialization. Someone of confidence who would be the earth when I am the sky!

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What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?

I worked on the photos, which is your product’s first contact with people. Simple, clear, well-framed photos are enough to catch the eye. It is essential to read and reread the advice in Etsy’s guide, which shows the right process for selling on the site. Work on your keywords, in French and English, to be found by the search engine. Produce precise sheets, which reassure the buyer on aspects that he cannot perceive: touch, smell, texture, etc. I would like to share my last experience: Every semester, I rework each sheet. This time around I used a keyword analysis app and found that I was still making a lot of mistakes! I worked a week to correct everything: remove unknown words, stop using compound words, fill in all the boxes, change expressions … In just a few days, visits to my store exploded! I lost a lot of opportunities before that. I regret it!

Anything you wish to add, feel free to do so here. We value your opinion

It did me good to answer your questions. I am a small French craftswoman, I could not pay to be broadcast, I’m sorry. Merci <3


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