You’ve seen those big sellers on Etsy who seem to be making sales left and right. You have to wonder how they’ve made it to where they are: can they actually be FOR REAL? What’s their recipe for success? And just how do they do it?
This week’s installment of our Etsy Success Story series features Ana of anapaulaoli. In little over 2 years of selling on Etsy, Ana has breezed by 3,100 sales on the site — those fingers of hers must be mini crochet machines!!! She has been crocheting for as long as she can remember, draws inspiration for her designs from her children and learned to crochet from her neighbor. Since discovering Etsy, Ana has been able to quit her day job and stay at home taking care of her 2 children and her latest venture is in the coming release of her very own book this February: “Amigurumi World, Seriously Cute Crochet” is now available for pre-order in amazon.com & borders.com! Read more to find out how she made it happen:
How did you first hear about Etsy, and what made you decide to open a shop on the site?
Well, I needed a new mate cup (I’m from Uruguay and addicted to mate) and was trying to find a nice one in the Internet, so I googled all sorts of things and ended up looking at crafts. I then somehow found Etsy and spent hours looking at the shops. Back then Oli was 2 and I was working in a horrible, horrible office that I hated with a passion (just thinking about it makes me sad) and crocheting lots of toys whenever I had the time. My childhood dream was to have a little stand in Tristan Narvaja’s street market in Montevideo where I could sell my crafts (there’s some really nice pictures of the market in Flickr, you should take a look!). Etsy seemed like the virtual version of that little stand, so I opened anapaulaoli, and it ended up being the best thing that happened to our family
What do you think your key to success for selling on Etsy has been?
I was lucky to start my shop when amigurumi patterns in English were hard to find, so the word in the Internet spread really fast when someone found one and liked it and that gave me a lot of the exposure. Loving what I do so so much has helped lots too. I can’t stop making toys (I really can’t) so I list new patterns pretty frequently. I like it so much that I want others to love it too, so I offer my help and I really mean it, and I try to be as nice and accommodating as I can. I have a little teacher complex going on too, so I love to explain things and that comes in handy when you’re writing out patterns Having an array of prices, and offering deals is always good, because that gives buyers more options and everybody likes to save money…My pictures aren’t the best (I’m still working on my photographing skills!) but I try to focus on the toys; I like everything super plain and simple, and I think that helps because you can see them better. Developing my own, recognizable style has helped immensely too, and that just took time and lots of work. It happens naturally when you feel comfortable with what you’re doing and it becomes second nature. I do try to make different things once in a while though, so I don’t get too comfortable and stop growing…
How do you promote your shop?
I have a little blog with free patterns that I try to update as often as I can. It would be super nice if my life were exciting and/or glamorous and I could tell amazing stories and adventures there, but here I am with two little girls (Oli & Martina), a husband and lots of yarn, so I stick to patterns and the occasional random blah blah.
I also have a flickr account, and little business cards that I send with packages and stick in boards here and there when I get a chance. All my earrings and accessories and even my wallet are from Etsy, so whenever someone asks where I got them, I “Etsy” them like there’s no tomorrow and give them a card too! (I’ve been using “Etsy” as a verb for the longest time). Oh! and we all have Etsy pins in our coats — using your own kids for Etsy advertising is NOT wrong! I also have a book coming out in February (advertising for your own book is NOT wrong either!) “Amigurumi- Seriuosly Cute Crochet” and that has helped sales a lot too, because the book people (who, by the way, are super nice) do their own advertising, which leads to my name, which leads to my Etsy shop!
How do you handle such a large volume of sales in your shop? What systems have you created to manage the orders?
I do it one order at a time and kind of slow. Patterns are really not that bad because I e-mail them, but I have to be careful and not around crying/talking/demanding kids, so I always work on that when they’re napping or in bed. The whole label thing for toys is super boring and kind of intuitive and — again — slow. I am so not the greatest at this end of the toy world… I wish I had a secretary! I do leave feedback as soon as I’m done with the order (right after I send the pattern/come back from the post office and have deleted the Etsy e-mail and have marked the item as “sent” — by the way, how great are those little checkboxes?!).
Are your orders mostly from repeat buyers or new buyers…what do you do to gain repeat buyers?
They’re a good combination of both. New buyers are pretty exciting, especially when I’m their first Etsy experience, I feel like I have to show them around or something… We should all be extra nice to first time buyers, because in a way we’re opening the door to all the other Etsy sellers. Even if they don’t come back to our store, they most likely will come back to Etsy I always send an extra pattern or two with every order. Leaving feedback is really good for that too, because by checking their feedback I can tell if they’re a repeat buyer or not, and what they bought before.
Repeat customers always make my day. It’s so nice to know that someone likes what you do enough to want to come back. Lots of people are learning how to crochet with my patterns, and knowing that makes me happy. I know I’m going to sound super lame and dorky, but really, sharing what you like doing the most and makes you so happy has to be kind of like spreading “crafting cheer,” and that should be mandatory in Etsy!
How do you stay motivated? Does it come naturally?
I seriously think I’m addicted to crocheting toys. I can’t sit without a hook and some yarn and fiberfill, and I can’t stop thinking about toys I want to make. Having two little girls helps a lot too, since we’re always surrounded by toys and stories and make-believe stuff. I just wish I had more time and/or another set of hands. Imagine being able to crochet two things at the same time? I was watching Edward Scissorhands again not long ago and kept thinking how great it would have been if instead of scissors he had hooks. He might have poked an eye or two, but can you imagine the toys he would have made?!
Do you “Etsy” full time or do you have another job too? If you “Etsy” full time, were you able to quit your day job due to your success selling on Etsy?
I “Etsy” full time and LOVE it. When I was in maternity leave with Martina almost a year and a half ago, I started crocheting a lot more (lots of sleepless nights!). My plan was to go back to work in the horrible office part-time in the mornings, but they started having problems with that, and ended up offering three full days instead or something like that. Martina was too little so I couldn’t see myself leaving her for so long. Etsy was starting to pick up, and Franco was about to finish his doctorate, so we decided that I should quit HorribleOfficeville and Etsy full time, and it was the best thing ever.
Being able to work here on the couch in my pajamas with the girls around is so so nice. Etsy gave us so many opportunities, and so many amazing things have come from it, that if it were huggable I would give it the longest, tightest hug in history — does it count if I hug Rokali?
What is your favorite current Etsy Feature?
I really like the geolocator, and I’m obsessed with it. I try to geolocate (is that a verb?) Etsy shops from everywhere. If I’m watching the news and they mention a place and I have my computer with me I immediately geolocate the shops there to see what they’re up to. And I type “Uruguay” there every day to see if there’s any new sellers from home
What features do you use most on Etsy?
The relist button and the geolocator!
What goals do you have for your Etsy shop 1 year from now?
I hope I can continue to grow and improve and that it shows in the way things go in the shop in 2008. I want to challenge myself and make new things. My notebooks are full of ideas that hopefully will come to life.
Anything else you want to add?
I really never thought I’d be able to live from what I love so much. I remember when I was little I used to think how cool it would be to just make toys all day and not have to work Thank you Etsy!
Check out anapaulaoli’s top Etsy picks are in the gallery below: