Tell us something about yourself, how did you get started, do you consider yourself a crafter, maker, artist…
Hello, I have always been a creative person, starting in high school when I bought my first sewing machine. I started my company 30 years ago and haven`t had time to look back. My husband and I make monogrammed, fabric covered wedding and baby books with journaling pages inside to keep memories for a lifetime of the special days in one`s life.
How did you discover Etsy? Did you have any previous experience in selling handmade products? Why did you start selling online?
I have made hand made items my entire life but worked other jobs for a living until 1989 when I began my business, Way Cool Designs. I started selling on Etsy in2011 and my sales have been building ever since I started and now I am so happy with our little shop on Etsy because we live off the sales and get to create beautiful hand made books for people every day. It`s a passion. for sure.
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 wrap fabric entirely around a 1″ upscale binder, inside and out. Then we monogram it with the shoppers initials in mind and put journaling pages inside, that we created, wrap it up and ship it out. We use the highest quality of materials, binders, thread and pages for our books. You really have to have quality as your #1 concern.
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
Well, as I said, I have always made things for family and friends and finally found something that people wanted. Believe me it took a lifetime to find the particular item so it didn`t happen overnight. I considered myself for grateful to find a shopping site like Etsy to show my products. It definitely started out slow and has gained momentum. We have many repeat customers now on Etsy. It`s a wonderful thing. I enjoy helping people design the prefect book for their growing families.
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?
Wow, it`s is absolutely a full time job. Sometimes I am up early and work until 8 at night to get to where I am now. my original goal was to sell my monogrammed books but it did not take off right away. With time it grew and grew to what it is today.
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?
Sure, I had many concerns about getting started on Etsy. I wasn`t even sure how to engage on their website but everything has a learning curve and once you learn what and how to present yourself you always find ways to make your site more attractive and round those sales up. I follow the guidance that the Etsy teams have to offer. I find them very helpful in showing my products and learning how to be a customer myself and see the way they see my site.
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 started out slow and learned as each sale came in how to talk to the shoppers and find out their needs. So I would say that my sales came slowly at first and now I am lucky enough to have daily sales, or at least views that turn into sales if I am patient a just hear what the shoppers are wanting and fill their needs with my products.
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 another job outside of filling orders on Etsy. I am very grateful for that. My day starts with looking over what needs to be done that day. It`s usually a mixture of business related issues plus emailing shoppers to find out more about their desires so I can begin to make up their orders. We usually ship out orders daily to our customers. My husband has been a huge help to me. He makes books all day and I do all the paperwork. We have a nice system going and it works smoothly for both of us.
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?
We make monogrammed wedding and baby books so each order is customized for each customer. It`s important to get all the information about the order to then begin mapping it out, sewing it and proofing it to ship out. That is our daily routine. I print up order slips, and then we follow the order slip to fill the order with all the details that the customers have requested.
What is the biggest impact on the profitability of your shop? How expensive are the materials you use? How do you price your products?
We always buy wholesale so that means we buy in bigger quantities. Most of what we buy is online and delivered to our work place. Fabric, thread, glue, ribbons, shipping boxes, shipping labels, paper and others production needs. I price my products under everyone else`s to get the sale and offer free shipping. I really don`t want to loose that customer the very first time they see us. I want them to be impressed with us enough to say ‘I don`t need to look anywhere else, this product is exactly what I want and at a reasonable price.’
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?
We get so many ideas from our customers. If they want a certain fabric that we don`t carry I look for it and consider whether or not we need to bring it into our line up. Our fabric selections have grown a lot since we started. But we still sell the original fabrics as well because our books are traditional and some fabrics are still very popular. We also check on what`s happening in the design world. Like new colors every year and new combos of colors.
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?
We do have regular customers Internationally, and we ship them by way of USPO because we get the best rates there. Absolutely continue to offer free shipping. I added the shipping cost to the books and try to break even on the shipping. I use Etsy`s shipping service because it makes it so easy to ship and for bookkeeping. We promise a two week turn around time and if it`s a return customers we try to give them a free rush service.
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?
No, I think competition keeps you honest and current. It`s good to know what`s out there but I certainly don`t worry about it. i have a good thing going on myself and if someone else does too, i am happy for them. There are a few monogram book makers but we are all different in our own special way. We offer a great product at a very good price. I think we stand out to some shoppers because they have already purchased from us. And we have a good price compared to some.
How do you deal with disputes or bad ratings/feedback? How do you manage presale and post-sale communication and customer satisfaction?
I am emailing shoppers every day, answering their questions and showing them photos of our monogram styles and books of fabrics that they like to help them decide on their purchase. I haven`t had a bad review or rating.
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?
Oh boy, yes there is the occasional customer that needs more attention but, the way I see it, that`s my job, to make them comfortable with more knowledge so that we can make the best book possible for them. Yes, I am very happy about all the success that our shop has had. After 30 years of creating I have to tell you that everything does pay off, if you keep at it and always put the customer first in your relationship with them.
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?
Yes, social media is the way to communicate these days. And I use every option I can to put my books online and have people look us over on social media. i do a little advertising but most of our business is word of mouth. People like our books and tell their friends, family and neighbors about us and we grow from that. it`s beena blessing for sure.
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?
Well, if I`m being honest I would like to at more variations for the customers to choose from. Right now I have fabrics and ribbons and personalization listed. But I need to show the customers my monogram and font styles, my inside pages and more things that they pick for their order to be complete so we have all the details of the book in order to begin making it.
What are some things you did to set your shop for success on Etsy? What is one lesson you learned the hard way?
You have to play with the daily budget in order to get more views and eventual sales for one thing. Also, the most important thing I have found out will sound silly but you have to put yourself in the customers shoes and pretend that they do not know anything about fabrics or monogramming or anything about book making. In other words -you have to educate them about your products and how the books would fit into their lives.
What piece of advice would you give to new or established sellers or those considering selling on Etsy? How can they avoid beginner mistakes?
Just to learn as much as you can by constantly looking online for similar merchandise like yours and how to make yours different and affordable. Always know what`s out there and who your competitors are. And set yourself apart from them.