Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
I consider myself an artist. After all, I went to a school for the arts and paid for my college education with my art. But art is not really what started the Rose Paperie. It was my love of journaling, which started as a pre-teen. Like so many kids that need an outlet mine became journaling. I moved around a lot due to my mother’s career and I found it hard to make new friends and express myself. Journaling became my way of dealing with my feelings and finding myself. I continued journaling not really thinking about what happened to my paper scraps or my sticker backings or even what materials were used to make the supplies I loved so much. As I got older I started to consider the environmental impact of my stationery supplies and craft tools. My journey started with a simple google search “are stickers environmentally friendly.” The return answer, that vinyl the main product used in most stickers on the market is extremely toxic for the environment and produces microplastic as it breaks down, staggered me. I thought about the thousands of stickers (let’s be real probably millions) that I had utilized over the years that were vinyl or made from other toxic materials and my desire to educate others and push products that were environmentally conscious birthed the Rose Paperie. I love roses and being that I made a lot of art featuring flowers and my company was environmentally-focused the name I choose fit for me. I opened the Rose Paperie in October 2020.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I have shopped at other shops on Etsy since 2014. I like supporting small businesses. I researched online market places and decided on Etsy because I liked the benefits of the platform as a market place. Selling online was a logical choice as I was starting my business in the middle of a pandemic and more people are purchasing online. While I have operated a store it wasn’t on an online platform like Etsy and it wasn’t handmade items. Etsy is easy for me and doesn’t take a lot of work to maneuver. To start off my choice was governed by wanting something simple to begin and something where I could still have fun growing the Rose Paperie.
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 stationery items and craft supplies like; washi tape, stickers, paper, and other ephemera used in scrapbooking and journaling. I search for unique items but I am drawn to vintage looking supplies. I just started designing my own washi tape and I draw my designs from vintage cloth patterns, floral elements, or antique books and paintings. My new washi tapes will launch in early 2021. I love gold or silver foil elements so I have a few with those touches for me and some without for the people who don’t care for them. I think the old world look of some of my products make my items look unique. Of course, there is a lot of paper in my shop I like to use recycled materials and products produced with environmentally friendly inks whenever possible so I do a lot of research on products that I buy that aren’t made by me and that I seek help to produce.
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?
My crafting experience has largely been trial and error. Somethings turn out wonderful and others not so great. Most things I learn by myself because there is no example of what I want to do. I don’t mind seeking inspiration from others if I see a craft activity. For example, I learned to make bows from a crafter on YouTube. For items that I have made for my store, I buy enough supplies if it is not something I have made before to do trial run practices. Many of my friends and family receive my trial and error gifts before things get released in my store.
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 consider my work with the Rose Paperie to be part-time. Generally, I work in a history museum as an educator. I get a lot of inspiration from there for the Rose Paperie. Maybe one day I will make it full-time but I think that will be much further off in the future. My goal with opening up the Rose Paperie is to help people consider how their choice impacts the environment. Yes even with a hobby people can make a big impact. It is hard to do something like eliminating plastic because it is in a lot of things and even when not in the product it is used to package the product. I was able to donate a portion of my profits this year to the World Wildlife Fund. I would love to establish a scholarship in the future and continue to donate to causes I care about.
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?
There are so many stickers shops on Etsy and off of Etsy. I don’t have a YouTube vlog and have no plans to start one so building a following can be a tough task. Competition is not something I try to worry about because just like I buy from multiple different shops that sell the same products I sell so will others. My one worry this year has been with shipping. Shipping naturally goes up during the holiday season and the demand for the post office in this pandemic has made it unpredictable when people will get their orders. Keeping shipping rates as low as possible and balancing my profit has been my biggest worry. Granted I started my business at the start of the season shipping prices rising so I only enjoyed about a week or so with lower rates.
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?
My first sale came within a few minutes of making a product live. I actually made one washi tape roll available online for sale so a friend in another state could purchase and I could test the shipping. Before she purchased someone else purchased a roll of the tape. I didn’t have a huge expectation of making a lot of sales in my first year. Actually, I only expected to take about 50 to 100 sales in my first year. I made 100 sales a month and a half after opening my 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?
I work in a history museum full-time. I am very busy with that work and if I wasn’t so organized I don’t think I could do both. My typical day during the workweek is 10 am to 6 pm for my full-time job unless I have special projects that require more time outside of normal work hours. I usually like to take at least 30 minutes to an hour to work on my Rose Paperie stuff in the evening packaging orders, posting new products, updating products in my store, or marketing endeavors. I devote a couple of hours on Mondays to design work on future products and business accounting. I like to process orders for shipping as soon as possible when they come in because they can add up real fast and it’s exhausting packaging more than 10 – 15 orders at one time. I strictly stick to my schedule and I plan in advance for times I need to take off. I don’t like to do much work on Sunday. That is a day I devote to lazing around (everyone needs one of those days). I will however take a few minutes to package orders on Sunday evening to go out bright and early on Mondays.
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 don’t have products currently that can be customized. Anything that needs to be packaged or made gets made ahead of time so my packaging time is kept to a minimum. I like to keep all products on my page ready to go. So when orders come in, in the evening I print all packaging slips, pack orders, and print shipping labels. I don’t like to stuff my packages with a lot of stuff. Most items go out in a mailer envelope with just a thank you card and the packing slip. Some orders that are larger need a box and I may use tissue paper to make sure they don’t slide around too much.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Products are priced by how much it costs to produce them, which may account for my artistic time. I like to keep my packaging minimal which is built into the retail cost of the product. Example; Cost to Make Item + My time + Packaging Materials + Seller Fees = Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price. I am fortunate that I lot of environmentally friendly products are so inexpensive. Mailers and boxes can be expensive but there are several options that are available for .20 to .30 cents per. Unless I am wrapping an item I don’t use tissue paper when mailing items by envelope and tissue paper is so inexpensive. The brand I favor cost $35 for a batch of 960 sheets of 20 x 30 paper that is compostable.
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 try to look at trends for inspiration in products. Personally, I am drawn to anything that looks vintage and has gold in it but a lot of my customers may like colorful seasonal items. I draw inspiration from the historical items I workaround and I build designs from that.
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 ship internationally and about a third of my customers are international buyers. During the holiday season, it has been hard to handle shipping because pricing has gotten so expensive. My customers pay to ship but I account for overages in the product cost. For example, to ship to Australia and New Zealand the price right now is $18 for a first-class parcel. I account for some of that in my profits. For international orders right now the postage is so slow it might as well have been sent on the back of a snail. But we are living in unprecedented times and this requires patience. Normally, postage overseas first-class takes 10 to 15 days to arrive at its destination. I am seeing postage take as long as a month to arrive at some destinations. I do use free shipping for orders over $35 domestically. In the new year, I will be offering free shipping to orders over a certain size to international buyers too.
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 don’t really worry about competitors. There are so many different people with different missions and brands that differ from mine. Also if I spend all of my time worrying about others I can’t concentrate on where I need to go in my business.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I haven’t received any bad reviews yet. But those reviewers that expressed dissatisfaction with something they purchased I usually reach out to them and ask how I can make their experience better. A significant amount of people are buying online and it is hard to get an idea of the product from a picture. So I understand getting something that doesn’t meet your expectation. My pre-sale communication is usually connected to gift communication. One of my goals is to get better with after-sale communication as well.
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?
Surprisingly, I haven’t been stressed about customers, products, or anything really. I don’t sweat the small things and If you are stressed your customers get stressed too. My success thus far is surprising to me and I am thankful for it. I go with the overall theme of good vibes only.
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 didn’t have any social media except for Pinterest before starting the Rose Paperie. I have Instagram and Pinterest for my business and I use them but I could be better. I haven’t spent money on ads for Pinterest and Instagram yet and I will consider it in the future when I get a better handle on using social media for my business.
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 think the fees on Etsy can be kind of crazy if you aren’t paying attention. Etsy could work to improve that area. Because at the same time they encourage you to keep shipping and product pricing reasonable they slapping you with a multitude of fees.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
I planned for my opening. But If I had to impart some valuable advice to people going down the same road as me I would say pay close attention to your product and shipping cost and how they impact your profit. Learn about the advertising component before you launch or use them on Etsy. Pay close attention to your SEO like tags, listing titles, and descriptions. My biggest lesson is to plan to be more successful than you think. It is great to sell out of stuff not so great to run out of the product.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Calculate the cost of product packaging and your time carefully. Research Etsy fees fully and accounts for them in your product cost. Don’t produce too much of a product. It is better to run out than have hundreds of something sitting on the shelf that may not move. Constantly plan for the future.