Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
We are a Husband and Wife team and we set up our business after making our own Wedding stationery for our destination wedding in Cyprus in 2014. We met at college in business studies when we were 17 and have both always loved the idea of being entrepreneurs and owning and running our own business. When we were 18 we started an online gift basket and confectionery company which then led us to start our current business. Dave is a qualified graphic designer and designs all of our products in our studio. We consider ourselves to be designers and makers.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
We discovered Etsy as a platform on Facebook with other makers advertising their products and thought it was the next step for our business. We were selling on Facebook before this and the reason we started to sell online is that we were both still students and could not afford a physical store, we also felt with the products we were making we would be able to reach a larger market online.
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?
We sell wedding stationery, gifts, and favors, specializing mainly in destination weddings and events. We design and make all of our products in our studio and use lots of different materials from card stock to ribbon to threads for our embroidered items. We both love to be different and we are always coming up with new ideas to make our products stand out from our competitors. We try to make classy but fun invitations and our most popular invites are our starfish invitations with the flip flop RSVPs and our suitcase invitations which are a great alternative to passport invitations.
The creative process usually starts with Casey having a crazy idea and Dave then bringing it to life with his design skills. The design process usually takes a few days and lots of attempts to get the right font style, dimensions, and ensuring that everything is in proportion and aligns correctly. Finally, we print the design and makeup samples, usually in a few different colors and source the best quality materials for our products!
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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
Dave studied graphic design at university and learned how to use different design programs and software and Casey has taken lots of online courses in marketing and has lots of experience in customer service. We do consider ourselves to be self-taught though as we were still students when we started our business and have learned a lot through designing and practicing over the years. It took around 2 years for us to have complete confidence within our products even after only receiving lots of positive feedback and even now Casey is a complete perfectionist and it takes a while for her to approve any of the new designs!
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?
Our goal has always been to have a successful business that we can both work in full-time, we have never wanted to work for anyone else and have always wanted to be our own bosses. We are really proud today that we do run our online business full-time and we also have one full-time employee.
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?
We had lots of concerns before opening our Etsy shop, would people like our products? Did we have our price point right? We were concerned that we may not make any money and that customers might not be able to find us. Some of the questions we had before did other small business owners make money selling wedding stationery on Etsy and what do they charge, also are our products up to the same standard. We found out all the answers to these questions on online forums and groups and decided that we should just go for it.
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?
We were extremely lucky and it only took us 24 hours to get our first sale on Etsy. We never had very high expectations for the first year as we knew that it could take a while to build up our Etsy store and show up in the search results. Our goal was to just start our store and see what happens, we tried not to put too much pressure on a certain amount of sales as we saw this as more of a long term endeavor and something we wanted to invest time into, so we were quite happy to wait. Currently, we get around 10 orders per week which we are extremely happy with as our orders are usually high value.
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?
We both work full-time in the business and do not have any other jobs outside of this. Our typical day always starts with coffee, we then drive to our studio and start our working day. Casey prints and organizes all of the orders and gives Dave and Tracy (our employee) a list of jobs that need doing that day. Tracy then packs any orders that need to be taken to the post office or local courier and sends them out for us. Dave usually spends the day designing proofs for our customers and printing everything ready for Tracy to cut out and start making. Casey spends most of the day double checking the proofs, ordering supplies, answering customer emails, managing our social media, and helping Tracy to create the products. We work really well as a team and all absolutely love our jobs. Managing our personal time outside of the business is a balancing act as we always want to offer the best customer service we can and always try to respond as quickly as possible, but this usually means Casey answering messages at 4 am! We try to take time out and spend time together as a couple exploring our beautiful island together and this usually results in us getting inspiration for a new product idea. We are definitely work-a-holics but we love our job, so we don’t mind!
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?
Due to the personalized nature of our products everything is made to order so we are not able to create any of the products ahead of the orders. All of our products are bespoke, customized, and made to order. We use lots of different tools from paper punches to guillotines, cutting machines, printers and then basic items such as glue and scissors.
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 the profitability of our shop is how time-consuming our products are to make, especially our invitations. Depending on the design our best selling invitation can take up to 30 minutes just to make one. The materials we use are also quite costly as we try and use high quality and where possible sustainable products which definitely bumps up the price. We work out the cost of our materials and how long each invitation takes to make, look at competitors prices, and work out of our prices based on the above. We also try to order items in bulk as much as possible to save money.
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?
Our customers inspire us a lot by sending us their wedding themes and mood boards we try to come up with unique and different ideas that will suit their wedding day best. We also get inspiration from trips we take together, we always take photos of anything that inspires us and once we get back to the studio start the creative design process. We find that the best way to get creative is to try and have fun with the process and not put too much pressure on ourselves to come up with ideas. The best ideas always come when you are relaxed and having fun.
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?
Nearly all of our orders are shipped internationally and we now include the postage cost within our prices. Etsy has encouraged sellers to do this and offer a better placement within their search results for sellers offering free shipping. Under normal circumstances, our international orders only usually take 7-10 days with a standard post which is quite good. Some of our customers choose to upgrade to express postage to get their items quicker and with some of the larger companies, the packages can arrive within 2-3 days. We package our products in cellophane bags to protect them and wrap the order in tissue paper with a sticker and thank you card.
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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?
We try not too worry about our competitors too much and just focus on our business by trying to stay ahead of the trends and creating unique products at a fair price. We do not feel that competitors impact our business on Etsy.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
We always try and resolve any bad ratings or feedback from customers by understanding where they are coming from and taking any constructive criticism on board. We always ensure that we treat our customers with respect and kindness and how we ourselves would want to be treated. However, it is extremely rare that we get negative feedback and if we do it is usually because there have been delays with postage. We try to manage our customer’s expectations in regards to shipping times and always provide tracking information. We always answer any questions our customers may have and try to respond within a timely manner as we feel that this is important to our customers.
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?
Etsy has definitely changed our lives and has allowed us to grow as a business, open our studio and employ a member of staff. We always hoped for our Etsy store to be successful and have worked hard to get our shop to where it is at today. There are definitely stressful times when running an online business from printer malfunctions to supplies not arriving in time to postal delays. We always try to remain calm and resolve the issues as quickly as possible. We always go above and beyond for our customers which in the past has resulted in us driving 2-3 hours one way just to ensure something gets delivered in time. Also if our supplies have been delayed we have spent hours driving around to different shops trying to buy the supplies we need from local stores often costing a lot more money just to make sure we don’t let someone down on their big day. Over the years we have got a lot better of ensuring we always have surplus stock as we now know what our best selling products are and can predict our sales in advance.
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 definitely an important aspect of our shop and we try to post daily. We currently do not spend money on ads, we just promote our products on social media using photos and videos. Generating hype around products is one of the most difficult parts of our business and we are working on improving our social media presence and the way we promote our products. Over the next 6 months, we have a plan to work with some online influencers and will be sending our products to photographers and YouTubers for collaborations.
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?
Overall we are happy with Etsy but some of the things we don’t like about Etsy include the new mandatory off-site ads and not having the option to switch this off if you generate a certain amount of sales. Also, I think that negative reviews that are due to postal delays should be deleted as long as the order was posted out on time and tracking information provided. Furthermore, Etsy’s new ODR system takes into account negative reviews and cases even if they were resolved and changed quite quickly. I believe that if the seller has been able to resolve these effectively, meaning that the customer is happy then these should not count within the sellers ODR.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
We have learnt that managing customers expectations in terms of production and delivery time frames is very important. Some of the things we believe has contributed to our success on Etsy is offering unique products at a fair price, using high quality materials, having excellent customer service and focusing on a niche.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
The best advice I have is to be upfront and honest with your customers, never send anything unless you would be happy to receive it, have good product photos, and excellent customer service. It is also important to have clear shop policies but make sure that these are legal as some sellers do not offer refunds or returns on certain products which is not legal.