Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
Since a child I’ve been making. My grandpa was a woodworker and I got my degree in architecture. It’s always been about craft for me. This particular product actually has nothing to do with wood or metal, my usual mediums. But it has everything to do with the nuances of language and social interaction. The design has everything to do with the nuances of the world so it tracks with my usual interests. The way I got the idea for Pull the Cards was while I was in design school. We used to have these reviews called design critiques. During our critiques, we would present our design process and how we landed at our final design. Frequently, we would hold up a paper behind all of the panel and students while someone was presenting that said bullshit in big letters and try to break the focus of the presenter. It was hilarious and I started to think where else would I call bullshit. The answer was everywhere! So I started to think about the phrase “pull the bullshit card” and then quickly realized that the phrase doesn’t just apply to the bullshit card. There is the “race card”, the “man card”, the “v card” (my best selling card because it makes for a great joke gift) and the list goes on. It’s an extremely common phrase that had no physical presence, so I provide it in a way that is easily usable because of its size and durability.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I discovered Etsy because I’ve been making for a long time. It’s a website that enables makers to find both inspiration and income. It’s a no-brainer. I did have previous experience selling handmade products. I used to co-own a fabrication lab i the arts district of L.A. called Moc Lab and crafts were our specialty.
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 credit card sized durable plastic cards with large text on the front that is a play on the nuances of language to create more equitable conversations out of situational awkwardness. I design my products as simple as possible. They are designed using Adobe Photoshop and then sent to a professional printer to do a large run. My products stand out because nothing like them exists on the internet. It’s the gift no one knew they wanted until they saw it and I love that about it.
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
Self-taught, design school, and mentorship. I think confidence in design comes from failing enough. Once you’ve failed and been berated by critics, you learn that design is subjective. I will always do my best to explore the farthest reaches of my mind for new ideas and processes but I’m as OK with failing as I am with that perfect solution. That is confidence in humility as a designer.
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?
My original goal was to put my crafts and explorations out there. Online selling is a side job.
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?
My concerns with opening my Etsy shop were whether or not people would appreciate the product and if I was going to sink a bunch of money into something that wasn’t going to pay off. I got over it by just doing it. I’m glad I did.
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?
I got my first sale after about 3 weeks. There was a dry period and then when Covid hit I focused much more on the products and the shop and was getting about 10 sales a week. Hoping to increase that number soon.
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?
I do have a job outside of Etsy that I love. I work my 9-5 and then in the evening I focus on the store and marketing to sites. I manage time by writing everything down to the detail! All the tasks I want to get done and then the bullet points that it will take to complete those tasks sequentially.
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?
I design everything on the computer, I have them run by a large scale printer for the savings at the economy of scale. As far as customization and packaging, I use a method called a xylene transfer to transfer my logo and social media information to the envelope and letter sized packaging inside.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
The biggest impact on profitability for me is the economy of scale. The more customers order the less per card it costs me to manufacture. I price my products by factoring in manufacturing, shipping, packaging, and ultimately the profit I would like to make. This may shift based on how many cards are ordered.
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?
A pen and a piece of paper. I go out into nature and I sit and think. I find inspiration in everything. I have always been someone that looks at something and tries to break down its components to understand better. Ideas come to me when my mind tries to understand the less visible nature of an object. That’s how these cards were born, me noticing the nuances of language in everyday speech.
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 do ship internationally. I handle postage pricing with a mark-up for international shipping that usually covers in full the cost of shipping internationally. Unfortunately with Covid, shipping has been taking a little longer than I’d like but they get there a little over a week internationally. I’m usually able to ship same day as the order.
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 standout?
I’m not so worried about competitors because this is a niche product and I’m first to market with the idea. I don’t think many people are interested in replicating this very specialized gag product.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I also operate as though the customer is right. I have had a couple of difficult customers but I always have to remember it’s not personal. They just want what they want and it is not that difficult for me to make sure that if they are giving me their money I am giving them what they want. Also, very important, I answer messages as soon as possible.
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?
The way it has changed my life so far is by inspiring me to start putting more than just my cards on Etsy. I make many things and I will start adding these to Etsy as well.
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 extremely important but admittedly, I don’t use it to its full potential yet. The main way I generate traffic and hype around my product is by submitting the idea to design and gift blogs. It has been featured on multiple blogs which in turn has driven significant traffic to my Etsy store and my pullthecards.com site. I have both to increase my online presence.
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?
My only complaint with Etsy is that I wish they had better tools to connect sellers with packaging and shipping services. I’m totally fine and I’ve figured it out to run smoothly but many artists aren’t the best business people. Packaging and shipping become a barrier for entry for many artists and to grow the community, it would benefit creators to have it as a built-in function. I understand how difficult this would but it’s a thought!
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I put more cards than I actually had inventory for. I had a bunch of sales on those cards and then couldn’t provide them quickly enough and had a couple of dissatisfied customers. I sent them free swag and did the best I could to make sure they felt like they were taken care of after the mishap but I’ve learned to only advertise what I have in inventory.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Shipping and packaging. Know your shipping before you start selling. It’s a cost you don’t truly account for unless you’ve thought through the packaging AND shipping of the product based on it’s size.
Anything you wish to add, feel free to do so here. We value your opinion
Ultimately, Etsy is an incredible response to the mainstream, mass-produced products that get fed to us every day. It brings back the system of bartering that society was built on and fosters a craft goods movement that is growing quickly and beautifully. I’m happy to be a part of it and I plan on expanding my store in the near future.