Lori and Starbuck, the mom and pop behind happyfamily, decided to take the plunge into selling on Etsy full time after a school of dolphins made quite a fuss one day on the beach while the couple was talking about Etsy. With much success, Lori and Starbuck have been able to successfully band together to quit their previous day jobs in graphic design and engineering in order to support themselves and their two children through their Etsy sales. They both agree being their own boss, spending the day together with their children, and having the freedom to take each day one at a time were worth the jump; however, they advise others who are considering the same decision to be mindful that organization and helping hands are key.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
Before we were happyfamily, Lori was slinging pixels as a graphic designer in London while Starbuck worked as an engineer in Paris. We soon returned to the U.S., got hitched in Vegas, and suddenly found ourselves really, really bored at work. After taking a community screen printing class, we learned that we could make really cool designs come to life on fabric. We spent many hours designing and printing every scrap of fabric we could get our hands on.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
No, we didn’t know it was possible. Actually, we think a group of dolphins knew before we did! We were at the beach, talking about Etsy with a friend. Suddenly a school of dolphins started jumping around on the horizon. Our wise friend told us that dolphins are a sign of big changes ahead. In that moment we decided selling our tees online would be our “big change.” Sounds kooky but it’s true!
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
Not really. We’ve owned a retail store in New Orleans for five years and spent many 18-hour days making t-shirts. This taught us how to keep up with customer demand. We are both firm believers that you just can’t prepare for everything in life. We tend to follow our gut instinct in most things we do and somehow everything always works out.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
- Twitter has been great (@happyfamilyshop, if you would like to be our friend!).
- Blogs are fantastic exposure as well. All of those mentions add up and you can build your business one happy customer at a time.
- We also have lots of word of mouth business, especially from people seeing our birthday shirts at birthday parties and wanting one for their child’s birthday.
- Etsy itself gives us a 24-hour worldwide audience that has taken us in a whole new direction.
Walk us through your typical workday.
- As the sun comes up, our alarm clock (a.k.a Owen, our 3-year-old) runs in our room and jumps on the bed. Once his 15-month-old brother Evan hears us, our day officially begins! Breakfast is usually waffles or French toast as we check convos and respond to emails.
- Then it’s a walk to the playground, building train stations, or maybe just chasing each other in circles around the house. Our boys are perfectly content doing any of these activities 7 days a week.
- Next comes work for one of us. The actual work can be filling orders, cleaning shop, ordering inventory, making phone calls or just about anything that needs to be done.
- We have a quick lunch (cheese plate al fresco on the patio is a favorite!), then get the boys ready for an afternoon siesta.
- Naptime brings several hours of uninterrupted work time for both of us. It’s usually spent printing tees and packaging.
- After naps we visit the local farmers’ market for dinner supplies.
- At dinner we all talk about our day. Afterward there’s usually one last adventure before bath time, book time, and bedtime.
- After tucking in Evan with his glow worm and Owen with his frogs, it is back to work for the rest of this happyfamily. We work, work, and work some more and finally call it a night around 1 or 2 a.m. Our days and nights are very, very long — but very fun too — and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
Being able to make our own hours and hang out with each other and our kids all day is wonderful. We also appreciate that the sky is the limit for what we can do with our business. We miss employer sponsored health insurance! Private insurance isn’t for the faint at heart and it’s something you should plan for before you quit your day job.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Parenting and working at the same time is a tough combination. We are a true mom and pop shop.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
Organization is very important. You need proper accounting and good records of everything you sell. Advice for someone else — if anyone offers to help, take it. At first we tried to do everything ourselves but learned quickly that a little help can go a long way in making more time for your business.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
We are working on redoing our business website and starting a blog. We want to pay it forward (and backward) by featuring others who make and sell their own products, as well as keep better track of our own lives for our kids to look back on one day.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Ghandi
Thanks to Lori and Starbuck for sharing their story. Have your own questions to ask? Come on by and chat with them on Wednesday, August 26 at 7 p.m. ET in Etsy’s Virtual Labs.