Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter,maker,artist…
Hello! My name is Melissa, and I am a passionate designer and seamstress dedicated to creating and making adorable outfits available for the American Girl Doll. I first began my business when I purchased my daughter her own 18 inch doll and discovered how much fun it was to design and sew clothing for it.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
A friend mentioned that she sold on Etsy for a few years, and since I was not having much success with Amazon (too expensive) or eBay (people only want CHEAP deals), I decided to give it a try. I previously thought Etsy was only for goofy and weird handmade products, and that it certainly wasn’t a popular site, but boy was I wrong!
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 all manner of clothing and accessories for American Girl dolls. I almost always make my doll clothing out of other existing clothes, so they are soft, preshrunk, durable and wrinkle resistant. I love to copy girl dresses and outfits to make Dollie and Me designs…I spend a lot of time browsing the “Girl” clothing section in local stores to get fresh ideas for new creations.
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 have been sewing for over 20 years. At the beginning, I was self-taught, then I had a few years of mentoring, and after that – I’ve been winging it and enjoying the flight!
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 when opening up an Etsy store was to achieve a successful online presence. My sales have boomed, and what began as a small, part-time hobby quickly became a full-time 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?
I was afraid of the competition on Etsy, and my ability to stand out and reach an interested audience. But, I have found Etsy’s tools to be more than enough to get my name out there and help me be successful. I built my business with almost no social media exposure whatsoever.
How long did it take for you to get your first sale? Did you ever thought you would make a lot of sales in the first year? What was a goal you were hoping for? How many sales an average you get per week?
My first sale came in about a week, and after that, it was history! Black Friday came, and sales sky-rocketed. Some months and/or weeks are slow, but on average I have about 50 sales or more per week.
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 am a full-time stay-at-home mother with two slightly physically handicapped children and a child slightly on the spectrum. So, I feel overwhelmed many days trying to manage everything with home and business. Right now, I pretty much work a full-time job selling on Etsy, and it is challenging to meet all the needs. A typical day ALWAYS starts with coffee and quiet “me time” to prepare me for the chaos ahead. After the children awake, it is breakfast, assigning various household chores, making sure they are happy and occupied and then fleeing to my workspace before they can accost me with too many more requests! I prefer to cut the next day’s orders the evening before, but if I don’t manage to do that, I start by printing out the day’s orders, cutting and then sitting down to sew as quickly as possible. I have to stop various times to settle squabbles, inspect injuries and give direction to my children, see that they have snack and lunch…and then back to the grindstone. By 3 PM I have to be done sewing to avoid stress because then I pack and ship and make the quick trip to the post office before they close. Then, I return home exhausted from the rush and stress, flop down with a cup of coffee, and wish someone else would make supper! Then, EAT, SLEEP, REPEAT. Welcome to behind the scenes of Treasured Dolls USA! The epicenter of family crazy!
How does your manufacturing process looks 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 tools that you are using in manufacturing process?
Most of my products are made on demand, meaning, I sew them when an order comes in. I do not work ahead as I am always, always designing and posting something new. It is my joy and my weakness! A good pair of scissors, a basic pattern and good sewing machine coupled with a vivid imagination is all that I require most days to create something splendid!
What is the biggest impact on profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
Making something current and trendy is essential for my business, so I am always watching fashion trends and observing the retail market. I always look for a good deal on fabric to offer a better price for my customers. I try and mark my products up enough to compensate for all the headache of running a household and full time business, so I have to get my raw materials very reasonably priced to do this.
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?
What inspires me? Girlhood! I tap into my inner 8-year-old and just imagine what I would like to have received, but never did! I look around and imagine what my little neighbor would like to play with. I just love to design and work with colors, so it’s easy to create!
Do you ship your product internationally? How do you handle postage pricing? What is 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, and I ship with a flat fee of $15. For most clothing items, this sufficiently covers postage and allows me to ensure package as well. If it costs me a little over this, I do not mind as it is all part of running a customer-friendly business. I do not ship for free overseas as it would easily eat up all my profit. Making sure the product I send is worth the shipping they pay is essential!
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?
No, I don’t worry about competitors because I have confidence in my abilities and my originality. Quality and great customer service is all you need…and great photography!
How do you deal with disputes or bad rating/feedback? How do you manage presale and post sale communication and customer satisfaction?
If a customer leaves negative feedback, I often offer to send a new product free of charge or try to correct it in any way I can. Being right is not important, having a satisfied customer is!
Has selling on Etsy changed your life in any way? If so, how? Did you ever thought you would get this far with your shop? Have you ever been stressed dealing with customers and manufacturing products? How did you deal with that?
Selling on Etsy has helped me to grow my brand and the availability of my products. I never thought my business would grow this quickly or be this successful! I have been able to help my husband pay the bills while still caring for our family. I have dealt with a lot of stress meeting deadlines, but I try to take regular coffee breaks to destress and regroup. The work does not need to be finished before resting. I rest when needed and try to make sure I care for myself so I can take care of everyone else!
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 don’t have time for social media, and it has not been one bit necessary to generate traffic to my shop. Invent a great product and let it sell itself! With Etsy’s help, of course! 🙂
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 customers satisfaction?
Cost of advertising is very high. I don’t mind paying Etsy’s required percentage from every sale as they have a phenomenal website and great tools, but I don’t think sellers should be charged when ads are clicked on unless a sale is made. Too many window shoppers out there, and makes it hard for small businesses to get ahead.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
The customer is always right. Always. Do not stand up for your product. Accept that they have a right to not like it and go over and beyond to make them happy. Five star feedback is essential. Maintain it.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering to sell on Etsy? How can they avoid beginners mistakes?
Make lots of products. Have variety. People like a one-stop shop. If your store only has a few articles in it, a customer might think you are not committed, professional or very skilled. Make your shop look like you really don’t need more customers, look successful…and they will be attracted to it.