Four Full-Time Etsy Sellers Living the Entrepreneurial Dream
By Wendy Rose Gould This article first appeared on SWAAY.
For those unacquainted, Etsy is a warm-and-fuzzy-inducing mecca of handmade goodies and vintage nostalgia items that are made available for purchase for anyone in the world with a credit card. It’s also the online destination for entrepreneurs who want to sell their products, be it original art, custom-made wedding gowns, treasures found at a dusty flea market, or luxe letterpress stationary.
With over a million stores – 86 percent of which are run by women – Etsy can be a somewhat difficult nut to crack. However, with dedication, a business development plan, and a solid product presented in a way that compels the traditional Etsy shopper to click “buy,” you can make a living by selling on the e-commerce platform. The four women featured below are some of the many who’ve found success at Etsy. We asked them about their backgrounds, merchandise, and how they ensure their business remains on a path of growth.
Barbra Salet of ILNP; Las Vegas, Nevada
PRODUCT TYPE: NAIL POLISH YEAR FOUNDED: 2012 PRODUCTS: 185 SALES: 19,823 FANS: 20,245
Tell us about the history of ILNP (I Love Nail Polish).
I started selling on Etsy in August of 2012, and if I remember correctly, I only had two or three polishes up for sale at that time. I genuinely wasn’t expecting much. My boyfriend suggested that I put some of the glitter nail polishes I was making for myself, as a hobby, on Etsy just to see if people would be interested. Since then, I’ve begun selling across multiple platforms and have grown my business to include 10 full-time employees.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
On a typical day, I wake up around 5 a.m., get ready, and arrive at the office a couple of hours before everyone else to plan my day uninterrupted. Work consists of a variety of things right now since our team is still somewhat small. This could be anything from handling customer support tickets, helping our production team with quality assurance reviews, developing new product formulas for future collections, engaging with people on social media, and so much more. There’s always something to do! I’ll typically go home around 7 p.m., and I do this seven days a week.
How did you grow your business from two nail polishes to 10 employees?
My boyfriend and partner, Jason, work together and he handles the business development side of things. We sell our products across multiple sales channels right now, and have only advertised in short bursts here and there as it’s quite difficult for us to keep up with the current demand with our current production equipment. The good news is that we have more equipment on the way and big plans for 2017! Another important aspect of finding success online is having excellent photography.
Customers don’t have the luxury of seeing your product in person, so we spare no expense on photos.
How many polishes do you sell, and what’s the average cost?
Our average product pricing ranges between $10 and $12.50. We sell quite a bit of product across multiple sales channels, including Etsy. Our profit margins are good however, right now most of our profits are re-invested right back into the business.
Which products do the best for you?
We have a lot of very popular products, but I would say one of the most popular shades we have right now is our rose gold Ultra Metallic, Juliette. It truly is an incredibly beautiful and timeless shade that is extremely classy. It’s hard not to fall in love with it!
In what ways does Etsy empower you as a female small business owner?
Looking back, I feel that Etsy was the perfect place for me to start my business. It introduced me to real people that genuinely wanted what I was making, so much so that they would pay for it! The first few sales, positive feedback, and communication from customers – not just friends and family, but people from all over the world I’d never met – gave me a sense of validation that I didn’t realize would help shape my attitude towards my own capabilities. It made me a believer in myself.
What advice do you have for women thinking about starting an Etsy business?
Do it already! Seriously, this is my number one piece of advice. Stop thinking about it and do it. Stop procrastinating and do it. Stop being a perfectionist and do it. Stop making excuses and do it. Not tomorrow, or next week, do it today. Do it. Don’t be afraid. It won’t be perfect, but you’ll learn and you’ll fix it.
Emma Barnes of Wildfawn Jewellery; London, England
PRODUCT TYPE: JEWELRY YEAR FOUNDED: 2014 PRODUCTS: 64 SALES: 4742 FANS: 6350
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I’m based in South London, which is where every piece of jewelry is made, and it’s all made by me. Every day is different, but usually starts with answering emails and then I get to making. Some days are spent wrapping and packing jewelry, and some are spent working on more admin-related tasks such as putting order addresses on envelopes or filling out customs forms.
What’s your most popular item, and why does it do so well?
My most popular product is the triple set studs. I created this setup for people who have more than one piercing on each ear – which is a lot of people – so I think it’s popular for that reason. It’s also a little bit different compared to the generic pair of earrings where both are the same. This listing allows for a bit of creativity!
In what ways does Etsy empower you as an entrepreneur?
The majority of Etsy sellers are female, and the fact that you can see so many creative and successful businesses run by so many women all in one place is empowering in and of itself. I’m also part of an amazing Etsy support network in London called “London Local Etsy Team,” which has over 1000 Etsy sellers as members. Running your own business isn’t always easy, and often means you work alone most days, but the team Facebook group is an amazing place for support if you need it.
How do you continue to grow and develop your business?
At first, I just had an Etsy shop, which was great because it introduced me to the world of e-commerce and selling directly to customers. I now have my own separate website that’s a great place to direct potential stockists. I’ve also begun to outsource some tasks that give me time to work on expanding my brand, too. An example of this is my work with a fashion agent who’s based in Germany and who contacts and manages relationships with stockists there. It’s been a great way to expand my business, as I don’t have the time or the expertise that she has in managing these relationships, but I still reap the benefits.
What advice would you offer women considering an Etsy business?
The first thing I would suggest is to join your local Etsy team, even if you haven’t listed anything yet. You can do it by scrolling to the bottom of the home page and clicking “teams” under the “Join the Community” tab. Starting a business is a steep learning curve, so being in touch with other people who have been on Etsy for longer will be helpful.
Cason and Kathryn Rainwater of WhenitRainsPaper; Atlanta, Georgia
PRODUCT TYPE: CUSTOM STATIONARY YEAR FOUNDED: 2011 PRODUCTS: 568 SALES: 17,467 FANS: 11,000
Tell us a little bit about your company.
When it Rains Paper Co is the story of two sisters who made their dreams a reality one rainy day. We specialize in paper, party, and personalization. Whether it’s planning a trip, hosting a Bachelor viewing party, or the regular girl’s night out, no detail is spared. Most people would say we go overboard. Us? This is our normal. Our lives are filled with spreadsheets and confetti, glitter and sharpies, scissors and checklists, and that was way before we started our paper business.
What are your most popular items?
There’s a real seasonal cycle, that’s for sure. From October through February, we cannot keep our calendars in stock. Beyond that, our personalized cake toppers do well, and in terms of paper goods, we’ve just launched five new designs of state-specific moving announcements. About a year ago, we added acrylic trays, and we design the paper insert for those. It’s been so fun to see where we can take the love of paper and apply it to other products.
What’s it like to work so closely with your sister?
We have always been oddly close. We run in the same friend groups and decided to get a house together when I graduated college. Basically, we are always together. Our only time away from each other was work, but then we decided to run our company full-time! Needless to say, we’ve learned the art of communication.
How do you divvy work responsibilities and continue to grow your business?
We both play different, but equally important, roles. From the beginning, we clearly defined our job descriptions to prevent any confusion. We have such similar taste and personality that we typically see eye-to-eye when it comes to designing. Cason is more business minded and can get caught up in the details, whereas it’s easier for me (Kat) to step away and see the big picture. Cason might be down because we haven’t met our daily sales goal, but then I remind her we are up 30% for the month. On the flip-side of that, Cason’s attention to detail helps us stay prepared for what’s ahead. She will be designing new Christmas products in July! As cliché as it sounds, we really are a great balance.
Maeven of MaevenVintage; Brooklyn, New York
PRODUCT TYPE: VINTAGE CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES YEAR FOUNDED: 2008 PRODUCTS: 140 SALES: 3071 FANS: 13918
Tell us about your Etsy store.
Buying vintage was a way I’d been shopping myself for as long as I could remember. Invariably, I’d come across quality pieces that weren’t my size, but that I could envision other people wearing and treasuring. It was then that I began buying and selling as a hobby. In 2008, a friend suggested I try Etsy and after posting a few listings with immediate sales, I was hooked. I’ve been listing ever since. I run my studio from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and I’m located in an old Art Deco style factory building that used to produce the original Eberhart Faber No. 2 pencils.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Most mornings begin with getting orders out the door and responding to customer emails. Beyond that my days vary a lot and I wouldn’t have it any other way. One day I might be sorting through an estate and another day will be spent restoring garments. My days also consist of shooting photographs, measuring, and working on listings or having customers over to shop.
How did you grow and develop your business?
My business grew the most when I decided to believe in myself and commit to it. I was spending all my free time dreaming of vintage clothing, and it may have seemed obvious to those around me, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I took the plunge and devoted myself full-time to Maeven. Once I took my business seriously, the other steps followed and I’ve been able to grow each year. I rented a studio space and I launched an independent website and store. I began selling at markets and trade shows across the country, and I hired employees.
What types of vintage items do best for you?
As with customers’ tastes, this is constantly evolving. I have to remind myself that what worked last year might not work this year. It’s important to stay connected to your customers and understand what pieces they are responding to, and even anticipate their future interests. In terms of sourcing, I tend to do the best when I both listen to my customers and trust my gut.
How does Etsy empower you as a small business owner?
Unlike other platforms, Etsy offers an amazing community of like-minded sellers. It’s probably no coincidence that I find Etsy to be one of the most encouraging, supportive and positive selling platforms and that 86% of Etsy sellers are women.
What advice do you offer women looking to start their own business on Etsy?
Keep your day job until your business can support your salary, or at the very least you have numbers heading in that direction and you have enough set aside to make that leap. Maybe you don’t need to wait years to make the jump like I did, but the invaluable time I spent learning was was when my business was in the hobby phase.