Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
My husband and I purchased our home in July 1997 from friends of his grandparents. They had used our home as a “deer shack.” It was an old farmhouse built around 1920. Upon closing they let us know there were roughly 5000 ginger jars in the pole shed that they had been storing there. The previous owner had been the CEO of Pillsbury, based in Hong Kong. He had exported these jars for a business for his wife. The business had failed and the leftover jars were being stored in the pole shed. They told us they would be back for them. As the years have gone by we have determined they were not coming back for the jars. We had tried, at times, to sell these jars to no avail. During the Super Bowl of 2020 my son decided to use a few for clay pigeons. As I was picking up the remnants of this, my husband decided to put one on another selling website. It sold right away. I took over from there and sold many, many more on this website. However, it started to feel like I paid a lot of fees, but received very little in return. Also, at my height of sales, it was hard to keep up with relisting and it was time-consuming as well because you would have to recreate your listings each time you had a sale.
That’s when I made my move to Etsy.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I have known about Etsy for a very long time as it is always been the place to go for original handmade goods and rare, interesting crochet patterns. I had always thought Etsy was out of my league or was for higher level sellers. I had felt very taken advantage of by other online selling apps and was afraid to make the move but have been happy I did so ever since.
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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 antique, hand-painted ginger jars. I did not create them. They are made of porcelain and were created in Hong Kong over 25- 30 years ago. I believe the pictures and including succulents, help to make them stand out
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 am self-taught in all aspects. Much of what I have learned is from tutorials.
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 goal was to find a use for these jars before they would be destroyed forever. Our barn had fallen on them, and many I had to dig out of rotten boxes and dirt, but I shine them up and they are perfect. I started selling online because there is no market for these jars in rural MN, but also I also lived so far out, away from everything, I didn’t want to invite people to my home to purchase these either. Also, the reach is so much farther online. After quitting my job to care for my grandkids during COVID, I finally had the time to do something with the jars, and the lack of income was also a good motivator.
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 had a few reservations. I figured I would let the chips fall where they may and if it didn’t work out, I would go back to Mercari or Facebook Marketplace and try to sell there. One concern I had was that I would get bad reviews and how I would handle them. How I overcame that was to provide over and above customer service.
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?
It took less than a day for my first sale. I had no real expectations or goals, my intent was just to sell as many as I can. I had no idea it would have gone so well. In the beginning, before I sold out of so many, I was averaging many 25 a week. Now that I am down to 5 jar styles to choose from it’s about 10-15. Now that it’s the Christmas season it’s been about 30 these last two weeks.
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 not have a job outside of Etsy. I am able to commit to full time and the app makes it so easy. I can answer questions or manage sales from my phone no matter where I am. It helps to provide immediate replies as it builds confidence with my customers.
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?
Does not apply.
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 is jarring/lids getting broken during shipping, packages getting lost, items not getting there fast enough, and customers demanding reshipments, just to receive their item a few days later. They then keep both items. Shipping costs are also very impactful.
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?
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?
Yes. I use Etsy for all shipping labels and postage pricing. I do use free shipping. The time it takes depends on where it is going. When Items ship to Canada, it is very quick. When they ship to Russia, it takes a substantially longer amount of time. I use free shipping because as a consumer, that factors in on whether I purchase an item or not. I buy boxes of the appropriate size from Staples, along with other packing supplies. I wrap them in the paper, then bubble wrap. Then I wrap the lids in colorful tissue paper so they don’t accidentally get thrown away. I will include a gift message if the customer requests it.
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 worry about competitors. I am of the opinion if they sell, they sell, If they don’t – then I need to change something and I am willing to do that. I really wish I was creative enough to create a PDF pattern and then sell it because that is the way to go! There are not a lot of similar products and definitely not many who have the inventory and story that I do. I try to make my pictures be genuinely looking, not staged, and different from anything anyone else has out there.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I go above and beyond. I replace, send free jars, and I immediately answer anyone who communicates with me. I mean within 5-10 minutes. I am always apologetic. I usually do not hear from anyone unless there is an issue as far as messages go, but my reviews say it all and they are fantastic. If I ever got a bad review I would reach out and make it right.
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?
I have been stressed with customers who I think are trying to pull a scam. I believe this has happened only twice. I had any idea I would sell this many jars… never. I am so grateful. I have been stressed, but have been in the customer service arena my whole life so it’s not hard to deal with for me.
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 do spend money on Etsy ads and other ads through Etsy. I have tried coupons and specials but have not had any success with them yet. I have not done much to generate excitement. I think as I keep selling out I will need to explore those options.
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?
fees. Difficulty figuring out the insurance process or being reimbursed through products that are shipped with insurance. More guidance on how to deal with customers who expect to have items re-shipped to them when shipping is taking too long.
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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 underpriced a lot of my jars in the beginning and didn’t fully realize their value. I think one of the things I did to set myself up for success was, to be honest in my story about the shop.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Know the value of your products. Have rules that are posted in regard to shipping and stick with them.