The Etsy Blog

Etsy Success Stories: pdxbeanies handmade and vintage goods

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 Stories series features Nili of pdxbeanies. Nili lives and works in Portland, OR and has been selling on Etsy for just over a year and a half.  In that time, she has made over 3,100 sales while taking on the challenge and full time job of motherhood to boot!  When Nili started selling her crochet items on Etsy for some extra cash here and there, she never dreamed the business would turn into a full time job with the success that it is today.  Keep reading to find out how she does it.

How did you first hear about Etsy, and what made you decide to open a shop on the site?
I heard about Etsy through a friend who directed me to one of her friend’s shops (the fabulous meanbean). From there I just started poking around and finding out how everything worked. I toyed around with the idea of opening a shop for a few months before I actually did. Not expecting too much, I opened my shop on October 7th, 2006 and within 10 minutes I had made my first sale! I was floored and greatly encouraged to keep on listing my work.

What do you think your key to success for selling on Etsy has been?
There are certainly a lot of things that are involved in becoming a “successful” seller here on Etsy, and I probably couldn’t narrow it down to one key thing… But to name a few: working hard to develop a great product, having eye-catching photos, listing often and providing fantastic customer service (even to the most difficult customer! Remember, the most difficult customers will probably be the most vocal about their experience to others. If it’s a good one they will certainly point others your direction).

What are the best and most effective ways you have promoted your shop?
Listing frequently has certainly been an easy and effective way for me to promote. Also, opening a Flickr account has brought in a lot of business. I have to admit that I don’t spend a lot of time trying to promote my shop. Instead, I use the majority of my time developing a great product that will promote itself. I have lots of people find me just by word of mouth. Also, I’ve been fortunate enough to be featured in Parents magazine, Interweave Crochet Magazine and in several popular blogs. If you work hard to develop a fantastic product other people will want to talk about it for you.

How do you handle such a large volume of sales in your shop? What systems have you created to manage the orders?
Sometimes I have no idea how I’m able to handle so many sales! I’ll look back on the past week of orders and I can’t believe I got them all shipped out. But somehow it always gets done. 

Here is a day in the life of a Pdxbeanies order: I have a chime on my email (oh, what a happy sound!), so I usually know right when an order comes in. I read it immediately and address any questions or comments in the “message to the seller” section. Then the transaction email will sit in my inbox, usually until the next morning when I print out packing slips for the previous day’s orders. After printing the packing slip I move the transaction email to its appropriate folder, “to be shipped” or “waiting for payment." That way I know that all the orders have been processed when my inbox is empty. I then use the packing slips as a reference to collect or make-to-order all the products that were purchased. Once all the orders are assembled I log on to Paypal and use the handy-dandy “Multi-Order Shipping” tool and print out my shipping labels. Then I slap the label on the package and take a trip to the closest mailbox! After the order is shipped out I move the transaction email from the “to be shipped” folder to the “filled orders” folder in my email. I also go into my sold items on Etsy and check the “shipped” box next to the order. Doing these last two things is part of my “no order to be left behind” act to help ensure that I don’t miss anything.

Are your orders mostly from repeat buyers or new buyers? What do you do to gain repeat buyers?
I get lots of both new and repeat buyers. It is very rewarding to know that someone liked your product so much that they came back to buy more. To gain repeat buyers I try to give fantastic customer service and to make sure that everything I send out is made and packaged well.

How do you stay motivated? Does it come naturally?
Staying motivated does come somewhat naturally to me, I think. I really love what I make and I love the idea of selling what I’ve made. I have fond childhood memories of setting up bake sales or lemonade stands in my family’s driveway and selling to all the neighborhood kids. Now Etsy is my virtual lemonade stand! I do find, however, that I stay the most motivated when sales are coming in consistently. If I’m having a slow day I’ll find myself sitting at the computer all day waiting for the email to chime when I should be working on filling yesterday’s orders. It’s in those times that I have to remind myself that I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do and that people are counting on me to get their orders out. That always gives me the motivation to keep going.

Do you "Etsy" full time or do you have another job too?
I am a stay-at-home mom and “Etsy” every spare second…I think that counts as at least 2 full-time jobs. :)

If you "Etsy" full time, were you able to quit your day job due to your success selling on Etsy?
Being able to stay home to raise my children has always been very important to me. My husband and I decided that we would make the necessary sacrifices to allow me to quit my job after I got pregnant. After our daughter was born I started thinking about ways that I could make a little money from home to supplement my husband’s income. I had been crocheting since I was a kid and thought that this might be a skill I could use to make a few dollars here and there. At that time I had no idea how large the business would become. Now, the Portland Beanie Company provides a full second income for our household and I am still able to be a full-time mommy. The best of both worlds. Thank you, Etsy!

What is your favorite current Etsy Feature?
The new batch shipping editor has rocked my world! I had been dreaming of that exact thing for so long and now that it is finally here I can hardly believe it!

What features do you use most on Etsy?
Probably the “renew” or “re-list” feature. I also love checking out the front page. I don’t have time to browse the Treasury as much as I’d like so I really enjoy seeing the beautiful picks on the front page several times a day.

What goals do you have for your Etsy shop one year from now?
Well, I hope to still have my sanity… although that may be long gone by now. :o) Other than that, I’d like to still have 100% positive feedback, to have developed my photography skills a bit more (which includes getting a better camera), and to continue to love what I do.

What piece of advice would you give to a new seller on Etsy who might be feeling discouraged? Do you have a quick tip or trick that you have learned over time you would be willing to share?
Selling on Etsy takes a lot of hard work, discipline and dedication. It is not for the faint of heart! Be willing to go without sleep. Don’t get discouraged easily. Be flexible.


What are you thoughts on the environment? Do you have any eco-friendly tips for sellers, or other ways that you try to make your business eco-friendly?
Being a good steward of this earth is very important to me and I am excited to be part of this "handmade" movement, since Etsy is so committed to doing its part to to reduce the global footprint as much as possible.  The first thing that I do to make my business more eco-friendly is that I only use cotton yarn for my products. Acrylic yarn is cheaper, but it is man-made and is not the best choice for the enviroment. Also, all my yarn is produced either in the USA or in Canada which cuts down on the pollution made by trucks or planes transporting the yarn long distances. At some point in the future I would love to start making products using organic cotton yarn as well. I am still searching for the "perfect" yarn for this.  The other thing I try to be aware if is the amount of packing materials I use. After my business was up and running I started looking at how much packing material was really necessary for my beanies to arrive at their destinations in good condition. I found that I was able to cut back quite a bit. That also helped with my packing supplies and postage budget.

Anything else you want to add?
Thank you to all the Etsy sellers, buyers and admin who make this such a wonderful place to work and play. It is truly a joy being here and I plan on being in it for the long haul!

Please enjoy this recipe for my World Famous Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies: (okay, maybe not “world famous” but they’re really yummy!)

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 large apple, cored and diced

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix well. Add oats and apples and mix well. Drop dough in LARGE spoonfuls onto un-greased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool and enjoy! Makes about 2 dozen large cookies.

Read our previous Etsy Success Stories. See some of Nili’s work and her top picks in the gallery below.

  • NestaHome

    NestaHome says:

    Great article! I LOVE pdx beanies!!! It was the best gift I have EVER given someone...

    7 years ago

  • MissEmmasCloset

    MissEmmasCloset says:

    you are an inspiration to me. i have just started to set up my shop and would like to be successful enough to quit my job. (waiting tables on the weekends is getting old!) i have 2 kids and one is severely disabled. this is the perfect place for me to be able to be creative, have me time and make money in the end. (my hubby would like me home more as well!) some days the motivation is just not there. your story helped turn my day around. keep it up thank you!

    7 years ago

  • ArgyleWhale

    ArgyleWhale says:

    I think it's so cute that you added your recipe. sounds amazing and I'll definitely try it.

    7 years ago

  • NaturallyHip

    NaturallyHip says:

    Your shop is gorgeous! Way to go :-D

    7 years ago

  • backwoodsophisticate

    backwoodsophisticate says:

    My daughter was just wearing her pdx beanie this morning. We have had it since fall and it has been a staple in my daughter's wardrobe. We have gotten more compliments on that beanie than anything else any of us own, everywear we go, somebody comments. We LOVE pdxbeanies!!!

    7 years ago

  • mmmfiber

    mmmfiber says:

    Go Nili!!! Great article. PDX, PDX, PDX!!

    7 years ago

  • piperewan

    piperewan says:

    way to go! yay pdx!!!

    7 years ago

  • germandolls

    germandolls says:

    Great to see you again in this article! She is not only a lovely seller - but a wonderful customer to have!

    7 years ago

  • katelynjane

    katelynjane says:

    Congrats on the success!! Looks like you're headed in the right direction (:

    7 years ago

  • daniellexo

    daniellexo says:

    I love hearing your packaging/shipping process. Thanks for sharing! (And I'm going to try these cookies out this weekend! Sound yummmy!)

    7 years ago

  • angelgirlcandleco

    angelgirlcandleco says:

    It's very nice to know of successes on Etsy. I will take to heart Nili's advice. Thanks for the recipe! Can't wait to try it and the beanies for my grandbabies!

    7 years ago

  • nicholasandfelice

    nicholasandfelice says:

    Yay for Oregon success stories! You are a true Etsy inspiration!

    7 years ago

  • dancingcircle

    dancingcircle says:

    Congrats from a fellow Portlander! I just have to think there's something in the air around here - there are so many awesome Oregon estians.

    7 years ago

  • pdxbeanies

    pdxbeanies says:

    Thanks, everyone for your kind words and encouragement! I'm so glad that many of you are going to try the cookies! The apple chunks make them super moist and gooey... really, you have to try them. :o)

    7 years ago

  • f2images

    f2images says:

    Cookies sound great! What beautiful products you make. Love the little girl hats!! Your daughter looks just like you. Congrats on your continued success. Very inspirational.

    7 years ago

  • SalmonStreetStudio

    SalmonStreetStudio says:

    mmmm cookies! I meant to say: Congratulations Nili! : ) PDX Beanies (and the rest of the PDX Etsy Street Team) rock.

    7 years ago

  • cloud9designstudio

    cloud9designstudio says:

    congrats! :0)

    7 years ago

  • DaisyChains

    DaisyChains says:

    Oh my gosh where have I been! Congrats!! So cool to see you here. Hugs, Beck ;O)

    7 years ago

  • crochetedmagic

    crochetedmagic says:

    Thank you for such and inspiring story, I admire you!!!!!

    7 years ago

  • choiceinves

    Denisha from ArtzySandPlants says:

    I am a new seller on Etsy and I found your blog intriguing. I do so appreciate the cookie recipe and can't wait to try it. Thank you so much for the advice! ArtzySandPlants......that's me

    339 days ago