We got CoolMomPicks in the twin-maker at Etsy Labs! A visit from these bloggers was a special treat, considering that they come from near and far. Liz Gumbinner is in our neighborhood here in Brooklyn, while Kristen Chase lives in Atlanta, GA. The two met online while posting to their individual parenting blogs. After a certain synergy (and a name change from the former CoolMomSh*t blog), CoolMomPicks was born — one of our favorite blogs featuring reviews of gear for children and moms. Liz and Kristen are staying true to their roots: passion for supporting indie businesses and bringing excellent design to a wider audience.
Liz and Kristen’s moms were both crafty and that has informed these bloggers’ roots in craftsmanship, unique designs and independent entrepreneurship. When the CPSIA controversy hit, CoolMomPicks put up a special page of resources, which was key in informing many of their readers about the issue. Liz and Kristen both spoke to us about the importance for crafters and artists to take pride in their work — from the safety of children’s items to clear, beautiful item photography.
We here at Etsy admire their strong opinions and their dedication to high quality. This must be why their readers trust them — in addition to their good taste. For me personally, it’s always fun to meet internet friends face-to-face for the first time — especially when they have interesting jewelry! Liz and Kristen really do put the “cool” in CoolMomPicks.
After simultaneously barraging these two bloggers with questions while giving them a tour of our office, we talked over lunch about the handmade movement and blogging. Here’s a bit more from our chat and a follow-up interview we did with Kristen and Liz:
Can you give bloggers a tip as to how you built your audience?
It really started virally — we were already in the parent blogging community, so we reached out to friends and colleagues to tell them about this blog we started, and it just sort of took off from there. We don’t do any advertising. But we do have relationships with like-minded websites and publications (like The Storque!) and love linking to those we think are doing great things. It’s good karma, it often comes back to us, and there’s more than enough bandwidth to go around for all of us.
And while we realize what we do won’t appeal to every single person out there, we do really work hard to find items for a broad range of people, from the frugalistas to the celeb-obsessed designer diaper bag whores (heh). We also try and pay attention to the needs of more diverse families, single moms, or adoptive parents. But in the end, we just feature the things we love ourselves, and we think that being picky has created the kind of trust that keeps our readers coming back. It’s something we value greatly and take very seriously.
What other blogs do you enjoy?
Kristen: For as much as I complain about not being a crafter, I’m obsessed with crafty design blogs like Makeandtakes.com and Designmom.com. They inspire me to do more than the noodle necklaces with my kids.
Liz: For some reason I’m a sucker for guys’ gear blogs like Uncrate, and especially DaddyTypes.com which is the first blog I ever read. He drops all these fabulously arcane references to mid-century modern paint colors or whatever and makes me feel stupid. I love it.
What first showed you that you had a growing audience? A surprising spike in traffic from one of your posts, a link or praise from a better-known blog?
Fairly early on, a wonderful artist we featured named Michelle Caplan, a.k.a. mcaplan.etsy.com, told us that right after her review went up, Real Simple called. Then another shop told us that a producer from The View called after seeing the feature on her. We were like, “Wow — so now we know it’s not just bloggers reading us.” Soon after, Real Simple featured us as one of their favorite three parenting blogs, which definitely gave us a lot of legitimacy. (Thanks, Real Simple!)
Any new initiatives on the horizon? TV deals?
We have a ton of exciting initiatives on the horizon — you’ll just have to wait and see. [Cue evil laugh.]
How many people are working for you now?
The site really wouldn’t be possible without the help of our invaluable staff. We’ve got an amazing associate editor, Christina Refford, our head of ad sales and all around CMP VIP Julie Marsh, plus seven phenomenal contributors, a great designer, and some tech folks who all make us look good every day. But our dream is to have a person solely dedicated to giving us all foot massages all day. That’s when we’ll know we’ve really made it.
What have you learned about your readers? Do you notice any traffic patterns? Times of day or days of the week or seasons for moms online?
We definitely see big spikes around gift-giving holidays like Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Christmas. Also back-to-school shopping time is huge. Flag Day, not so much. At the beginning of this year we launched our first Ultimate Baby Shower Gift Guide (which included a lot of Etsians), and it was hugely successful so I’m sure we’ll be doing it again. People have babies all year long, it seems. Go figure.
We spoke a bit about good product photography and well-made items. Kristen remarked how beautiful, well-designed packaging is part of the experience of buying handmade or vintage. It adds to the allure and specialness of unique items.
Any other tips for sellers who want to submit their items?
We love when Etsians submit items for editorial consideration on our site, because our heart is always with handmade and small businesses. Here’s a few things that help (besides the great photographs, which can literally make or break your pitch):
1. Make sure you read our blog and get a sense of what we do and don’t feature. We try to make it pretty clear.
2. Tell us your story in a few brief sentences. We love to know how you came to make and sell your items.
3. Send us a few links to your items — skip the 300 jpg attachments.
4. We can’t help it but we love emails with personality. No need to be formal and write “Dear Ms. Chase and Ms. Gumbinner…” We’re not captains of industry. Just bloggers.
Thanks, Liz and Kristen!