Okay. So I’m not really selling crafts online with Karen (and hubby), but I would certainly try if I had an ounce of artistic blood in my body. I know Karen from SITS, and she is going to tell us a bit about Surviving the Etsy Madness. Her Etsy shop, Native & Pilgrim, features some really cool stuff. Do stop over and see what she has on display after reading her interview.
What was Your Background in Crafting prior to Starting Your Home Business?
I’ve always played around with making things. My mom taught me how to sew and how to crochet. My dad tried to help me develop artistic skills. I’m usually the first one in line to sign up for arts and crafts activities or classes at school or church. I learned tatting and Native American arts and crafts from close friends. Using books and the Internet, I have even taught myself to do a few different things. All of these things I did for the fun of it and to make things for myself, family, or friends. My husband has skills in a variety of areas as well and he keeps learning new ones.
Why Did You Decide to Go Into Business for Yourself?
My husband lost his job and the economy was making it difficult for him to find even a part-time job. We needed to do something to help our income and I knew it would be good for him to use his skills so the job situation wouldn’t be as depressing. This was a huge step for me since I’ve always been happy working for other people and I’m terrified of having the entire weight of a business on my shoulders.
What Startup Costs Were Involved?
I chose to open a shop on Etsy because having an account was free. Listing items in my shop cost twenty cents per item and then I would pay a percentage of each item sold. Using Paypal to process payments was also free to set up and then they just take a percentage from each sale. Registering our business with the state and getting a business license with the city we live in was actually pretty inexpensive. Most of the items we initially listed in our shop were made from supplies we already had on hand. Since I was able to design our logo, shop banner, etc., the only other startup expense was the business cards we ordered.
How do You Market Your Business to Obtain New Clients and Customers?
I started my blog to increase exposure to our shop. Once people are looking at my blog, they often see my Etsy shop widget and click through to look at my shop. I also link up to different blog linky parties. The advantage to having a blog is that I can showcase what I’m working on and still be able to link up to those parties. There are a few blogs that allow linking to Etsy shops, but not very many. Our shop was chosen for the American Express Small Business Saturday last year and we received a free Facebook ad. One of the advantages to having a shop with Etsy is that they promote the site as a whole and that takes care of a lot of the work involved in marketing. I try to regularly add items to the shop and renew existing items so they show up higher in the search results once people start looking around. One of the more interesting things I’ve done is to wear some of the jewelry we make. When I go to business meetings and events, the jewelry gets noticed and I’ve had custom orders resulting from it.
What Challenges Have You Faced in Your Business?
Standing out is always tough, especially on Etsy. It’s also hard to compete with people who aren’t Native American, but make similar items and price them lower. Even though it’s illegal to represent your work as being Native American if you aren’t actually Native American, it’s hard to catch everyone. Finding the time to keep up with the business has been tough since I still have a full-time day job and do some tutoring on the side. My husband does what he can to help, but most of the business side of things is still my domain. Having such different types of items in our shop has been a challenge. Some people would suggest having multiple shops, but I decided to make the best of it. That’s why our business name is Native and Pilgrim. It reflects mine and my husband’s heritage.
What Skills are Necessary to be Successful in This Type of Business?
You really need to be able to look ahead. Too many people start a crafts business by producing something that is popular at the time. They get frustrated with low sales because too many people are offering the same product. Those interchangeable beaded watch bands are the most recent example. If it’s popular now, you’re already too late and you need to come up with something else. Find the next new trend or find a new way of doing things. Whatever type of crafting you do, make sure you keep improving your skills. Quality counts! Selling online requires good marketing skills and persistence as well.
What are the Top Resources for Gathering Information on, or Getting Started in Your Industry?
My blog has been my way of coping with the adventure of selling online and I hope it will help others who decide to try it. Handmadeology is the best resource for Etsy sellers by far. Etsy has its own blog and has regular articles to help sellers and to show how successful sellers were able to quit their day jobs. I highly recommend joining an Etsy team. Teams are great for sharing experiences, asking questions, and finding resources.
Where Can We Find You Online
Check out my interview with with a handmade jewelry seller.