After attending Renegade Craft Fair Chicago, I just HAD to get to know some of the wonderful designers! Lucky for you, I’ve spoken with many designers, Etsy shop owners, handmade business owners and more. Get ready to learn from the best folks!
How did you get started with Etsy? When?
– Several months before I started my Etsy shop, I started a daily doodle blog. I started it because I wanted to have an outlet for my personal work and a place to try new things and push myself creatively. After doing that for several months, I realized some of the doodles could make fun and unique greeting cards. As I kept going, the idea of starting a greeting card shop on Etsy grew and I found myself gearing all of my doodles towards greeting card ideas. A few months later, I had about 5 cards finalized so I decided to start my shop. I created it about 10 months ago (March 2014).
What inspires you?
– Making people happy and making that human connection through my work. Sometimes the most random things inspire me! I try to find inspiration in everyday encounters or experiences that other people can relate to. For example, I live in Chicago and since I live near a bunch of restaurants, there are a lot of rats that hang out outside of my building. They creep me out, but I know plenty of other people in big cities experience encounters with rats like I do so I thought, why not turn that experience into something cute? I made a greeting card/print of a rat family in a trash can and under it says, “Home Sweet Home“.
What are the steps you go through when making an illustration?
– They almost always start out as a simple sketch. Even before that though, I keep a small moleskin with me at all times and I always jot down random illustration/card ideas in there before I sketch. My illustrations aren’t too complex, so the sketching usually involves working out unique yet simplistic ways to represent my idea. After the sketches are worked out, I sometimes decide to use paint or ink to recreate the sketch, and then I scan everything in to my computer. Depending on the illustration, the amount of work I do digitally from the scan varies.
What do you do to promote your shop?
– I have to say, this is an area I struggle with. I try to mix it up in regards to social media platforms and the type of things I post. I do this so that I don’t get too repetitive or post too much to a certain group of followers. Lately I’ve been posting more of behind the scenes and sneak peek photos to Instagram. I also use my daily doodle blog on Tumblr as a way to promote. I use Facebook to post bigger shop announcements.
What is your top-selling item? Why do you think it is so popular?
– Excluding holiday related cards and prints, my Spanish greeting cards get the most attention on my Etsy shop. I certainly wasn’t expecting them to become the most viewed and purchased items in my shop, but now it actually makes sense to me. There’s a large market for Spanish goods in general in the U.S., and you don’t see a big selection of greeting cards geared towards that market.
What are your biggest challenges selling on Etsy?
– Maintaining steady traffic to the shop. Something I don’t think I realized in the beginning was that when you’re in a time when your shop is getting good sales and traffic, it’s because you did something or multiple things to get people to go to your shop. You have to keep working continuously in order to keep that momentum – it won’t just keep going on its own.
What was it like going to Renegade for the first time?
– Oh, it was so exciting! I knew it was going to be a lot of work and late nights for the months leading up to it, but it was way more than I anticipated. All of the work was worth it though once the weekend was finally here! It’s a whole new experience selling my products in person and it was extremely helpful to see how people responded to different products. I think people are often more willing to buy things when they see them in person so they are able to physically touch the items and check out the quality. Being a new shop and selling at Renegade was helpful since I didn’t have the recognition; people who saw my products for the first time now know what they’d get when they go on Etsy to buy cards from me in the future. It was also just a great way to connect with people and make a personal connection with customers. I’m looking forward to selling at many more events this summer!
What is your favorite part about running your own handmade business?
– There’s something that I find extremely satisfying about personally doing every aspect of creating a product in my shop. From making the illustrations, to printing, to packaging – it is rewarding to be able to say that I was able to create something from nothing. I was able to come up with a silly idea and then turn that into a finished product myself. Along the same line, I think it satisfies my need to make things with my hands. I’m a Graphic Designer full time, so I’m always in front of that computer screen. This gets my away from the screen and allows me to play.
What is your dream in life, other than having a successful Etsy shop?
– My dream in life would be to continue doing work that I’m truly passionate about. I’d like to gear my illustration work towards making a positive impact in our society and to work with companies that share the same passions as me.
What tips can you give to someone wanting to start their own Etsy shop?
– My advice would be to dive in. I hesitated to start my shop for a while in the beginning, but you really just have to go for it. You won’t know until you try, and you’ll learn and grow faster if you just go for it rather than trying to get everything perfected beforehand. Another piece of advice would be to find out what makes you unique and let it shine though in your work. You’ll be more successful if you allow your unique personality show in your work, whatever that may be.
A BIG thanks to Katie for sharing her wisdom and insight with us! Be sure to check out her Etsy shop and support handmade!
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