The Etsy Blog

Real World Education: A Student-Run Shop

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Caitlin_bio.jpg

Caitlin Betsy Bell learned how to sew as a toddler and got her first sewing machine at age six. Her love of fabrics and fiber art continued and she is now a student at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She runs her Etsy shop, NiftyKidstuff, while attending college.

In my freshman year at SCAD, I set up my Etsy shop, NiftyKidstuff, on a whim — I had already been selling my handmade creations since age fifteen at craft shows and on my own website. Little did I know that my seasonal business (which picked up around the holidays and craft shows) would become steady enough to be my job while in school. Being at art school, there are a lot of costs associated with all of the supplies needed for classes. Luckily I now have my Etsy shop to support these expenses!

Being my own boss while in school has taught me a lot of skills, with time management being paramount, especially in times like finals week (which, coincidentally, is right now). It is super important to budget time for school, work, and a social life. I am really lucky to have the sweetest mom who I can call on to help out if needed — she did teach me how to sew, after all!

I am studying Fibers with a concentration in Studio Production, so what I do for my Etsy shop really coincides with my studies. There is a lot of overlap, since I take studio classes like Screenprinting, Art Quilt, Weaving, Repeat Pattern Design, Embellished Surfaces, and Images on Fabric. Essentially I’m earning a degree to do what I already do, but it has been really influential in the thought and development of my pieces. These new skills allow my work to be a representation of myself as an artist and designer, rather than just making because I want to.

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My goal is to provide an alternative to mass-produced throw-away toys that saturate the children’s market today. I aim to design lasting items that are to be treasured and enjoyed for years to come. I also try to promote interactivity and pretend play through my toys. I always want to create something with impeccable craftsmanship, made from all-natural fibers of the best quality, in order to provide a unique and authentic experience. I put a little bit of myself and a lot of love in everything I do.pinkpretendsewingmachine.jpg

Etsy has been absolutely wonderful in providing me with the opportunity to work while in school. Being self-employed takes a lot of commitment, but the flexibility of my schedule and the opportunities that I find through the process make it so worth it. I will be interning this summer with Denyse Schmidt Quilts in Bridgeport, CT to learn more techniques, and then I have one more year left at school. I look forward to continuing with my shop — who knows what that future will hold!

Best of luck to you, Caitlin!
You can visit her website, NiftyKidstuff.com, or follow her on her blog.

Are you or is someone you know a student running an Etsy shop? Tell us in the comments below!

Quit Your Day Job Series | Handmade Toys | College Related Articles

  • adrienneaudrey

    adrienneaudrey says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I love your shop!

    4 years ago

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye says:

    Fantastic post! Continued success to you, Caitlin!

    4 years ago

  • AngelEllie

    AngelEllie says:

    what a great article...thank you Caitlin for sharing your story! I will be passing it on to others who are in college!

    4 years ago

  • UpsideDownsideDark

    UpsideDownsideDark says:

    The pretend sewing machine is totally adorable! Your ideas are brilliant and your success well-deserved :)

    4 years ago

  • Ayca

    Ayca says:

    Lovely shop! Thanks for sharing your story :)

    4 years ago

  • Nostalgia

    Nostalgia says:

    very cute toys!

    4 years ago

  • Waterrose

    Waterrose says:

    How wonderful to think of longer lasting, cherished toys for all of the kids that we love!

    4 years ago

  • BlushEnvy

    BlushEnvy says:

    I've admired your work for "forever"! I had no idea you were so young-and I mean that as a huge compliment! You have an amazing career ahead of you and some serious skills girl~ Best wishes~ Brandy

    4 years ago

  • EvelynX

    EvelynX says:

    Great story, it is nice to know that there are more fellow artists with their own shop while attending school. I am also a student running an etsy shop. I attend art 4 days a week and run my business at night and weekends. As a full time students it is very convenient to run your own business because I can spend as much or as little time in it and don't have to worry about having to commute to work after/before school. Also, by having my own business I can spend as much time as I need to do my homework :)

    4 years ago

  • locketmoon

    locketmoon says:

    I thought the play sewing machine was a sewing machine cover on a real sewing machine, it's so realistically shaped! Very cute items.

    4 years ago

  • poppyswickedgarden

    poppyswickedgarden says:

    omg that sewing machine is too cute! great article:)

    4 years ago

  • maggie16

    maggie16 says:

    It is wonderful to hear the story of someone who is studying (like me) AND successfuly running their own creative business! Thanks for sharing your story Caitlin - very inspiring to know that study + ETSY can work!

    4 years ago

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery says:

    Cool article handmade toys are just so damn cute!

    4 years ago

  • jellybeans

    jellybeans says:

    It's great to see other students out here! I'm one as well, and time is sort when you're trying to juggle both :)

    4 years ago

  • jaceylucus

    jaceylucus says:

    Fantastic work! It's so a joy to see what you can do on etsy while still attending school! You are so very talented and I can't wait to see where you end up! Congrats on the blog!

    4 years ago

  • dkgeneralstore

    dkgeneralstore says:

    Great story and what a lovely shop! Thanks for sharing!

    4 years ago

  • grayday

    grayday says:

    awesome products, love the sewing machine! Such an inspiring story, thanks for sharing!

    4 years ago

  • WoodlandBelle

    WoodlandBelle says:

    I love it! As a former art teacher I just get thrilled when I read about students making it on their creative talent. Congratulations Caitlin!

    4 years ago

  • badplatypus

    badplatypus says:

    I'm a college student too! It looks like there are so many out there, thanks for the great article!

    4 years ago

  • TheVintageApartment

    TheVintageApartment says:

    This is such an inviting & inspiring article - thanks for sharing your past, present & future love of sewing! I love your Pretend Sewing Machines. :)

    4 years ago

  • worksofwhimsy

    worksofwhimsy says:

    Great story. Let's hear it for imagination powered toys!

    4 years ago

  • LisasLittleCreations

    LisasLittleCreations says:

    love the sewing machine & your story. My daughter is now inspired to continue with her art work while finishing high school. Congrats!!

    4 years ago

  • caty99

    caty99 says:

    Wonderful items! Thank you for sharing. It's very inspiring and has given me a boost of energy and hope. Thank you!

    4 years ago

  • tracyray98

    tracyray98 says:

    I love, love, LOVE the pretend sewing machine and the decorate a gingerbread house in the sold items. I wish I would have thought of those toys! Super cute!!!!!

    4 years ago

  • recycledwares

    recycledwares says:

    very cute work and blog. i really like the sewing machine. what a fun toy for kids.

    4 years ago

  • DevineExpressions

    DevineExpressions says:

    wonderful interview.reach for the stars.Keep creating.

    4 years ago

  • busterandboo

    busterandboo says:

    So talented!!

    4 years ago

  • CaliforniaCraft

    CaliforniaCraft says:

    Very inspiring!

    4 years ago

  • AZCreativeStudio

    AZCreativeStudio says:

    Great story! Caitlin you are very creative!

    4 years ago

  • madebymarcia

    madebymarcia says:

    Everything you make is soooo incredibly cute!

    4 years ago

  • TeenahTime

    TeenahTime says:

    wow, looks a lot like my studio space

    4 years ago

  • RetroStock

    RetroStock says:

    Love your stuff-too bad my kids don't play with toys anymore!

    4 years ago

  • jcisco112

    jcisco112 says:

    So inspiring!! I love the idea that you already do what you are going to school to do! Cool!

    4 years ago

  • fingerstaches

    fingerstaches says:

    Oh, that sewing machine is so adorable!!! Congratulations on your success! We're running our Etsy vintage shop while in college too.

    4 years ago

  • UppityGlam

    UppityGlam says:

    It is great to read about a fellow student with her shop up and running. I am a Mount Holyoke College student, and I am currently in the process of taking photos and getting my shop online. So nice to hear your story!

    4 years ago

  • LilaJo

    LilaJo says:

    Amazing!

    4 years ago

  • OrangeistheSun

    OrangeistheSun says:

    what a great story. congratulations caitlin! your toys are just wonderful!!

    4 years ago

  • craftpile

    craftpile says:

    You're pretty amazing, Caitlin!

    4 years ago

  • monsterbugblankets

    monsterbugblankets says:

    what a sweet story! And I LOVE your square bear for practicing dressing--he is precious!

    4 years ago

  • TipsyTimeMachine

    TipsyTimeMachine says:

    Congratulations on your hard earned success Caitlin! Students are lucky to have a forum like Etsy to sell their creative wares. Back in the 90's I spent much time pounding the pavement to try and find shops to consign my work. Running your own business here on Etsy is a real business education, which is usually lacking in traditional art schools.

    4 years ago

  • Shellinae

    Shellinae says:

    congratulations!!!

    4 years ago

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage says:

    well done!

    4 years ago

  • EverydayEverythings

    EverydayEverythings says:

    You items are so cute. Congratulations!

    4 years ago

  • artwithallie

    artwithallie says:

    You are awesome Caitlin and so brave for doing what you love at such a young age! Don't listen to any fears you may have as you get older...stay true to you!! You and your courage rock!!

    4 years ago

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 says:

    Great cameo! Best wishes in all your endeavors!

    4 years ago

  • GoodGriefGlass

    GoodGriefGlass says:

    Such creative toys!

    4 years ago

  • daniellesdesign10

    daniellesdesign10 says:

    oh I love the sewing machine. It is just too cute! Keep up the good work.

    4 years ago

  • Evajune

    Evajune says:

    I'm in love with the suitcases in the first picture. You have a beautiful family.

    4 years ago

  • TwirlVintageCo

    TwirlVintageCo says:

    You go girl!!! The earlier you work for yourself the better. Brilliant ideas!!! Good luck with everything at SCAD, that is a wonderful program!!!

    4 years ago

  • hubinshow

    hubinshow says:

    I love your shop!

    4 years ago

  • ZZsROCKnRECYCLABLES

    ZZsROCKnRECYCLABLES says:

    Your shop is so cute , love the stuffed toys! GREAT WORK, and VERY CREATIVE! LOTS OF LUCK

    4 years ago

  • FloweryDeer

    FloweryDeer says:

    Great story. Like the toys!

    4 years ago

  • toutourouge

    toutourouge says:

    a big hurray for handmade toys!! love your shop!!

    4 years ago

  • ekobeko

    ekobeko says:

    I really like your ideas behind the production "design lasting items that are to be treasured and enjoyed for years to come" I remember my childhood toys. There weren´t many but they were the best!! Nowadays you often find kids rooms filled with toys but there are randomly ´something special´ that you will remember even when you are a grown up; and perhaps still own these treasures :) So, keep up the good work young lady :)

    4 years ago

  • davisdesignsau

    davisdesignsau says:

    How very refreshing it is to see the passion that such a young person has to become something great! Congratulations Caitlin! Wish we had a few more like you in this world!! I also love your stuff... you have a wonderful mind!

    4 years ago

  • friendsofmildred

    friendsofmildred says:

    what a cute shop! I´m a full time student who just opened a shop too, I´m studying patternmaking and fashion production, keep up the good work!

    4 years ago

  • starbitspets

    starbitspets says:

    I am also a college student running an Etsy shop ! I used to sell products on my own website too, but I found that Etsy was a much better way of getting the word out there. It is such an easy way to meet people who have similar interests! I'm just starting out, but I hope that one day I'll have the success that you have had Caitlin! Great job, and I love your shop. :>

    4 years ago

  • Vanessa Admin

    Vanessa says:

    I love your name! Caitlin Betsy Bell! Big thanks to your professor Pam for introducing us while I was at SCAD. And I had a great time meeting your mom too -- she seems so totally supportive and awesome.

    4 years ago

  • ilikeoldthings

    ilikeoldthings says:

    HIP! HIP! HOORAY! Love it girl!

    4 years ago

  • strawberryluna

    strawberryluna says:

    Awwwwwwww! That's my Tegan & Sara poster in your stunningly beautiful studio :) I am so glad that you like it so much. What an inspiration and a great article. I think that it's fantastic that you've accomplished so much while still in school and can manage to combine your interests and loves into not just a business, but an education. So cool. Your work is fantastic, cheers!

    4 years ago

  • WildOliveKids

    WildOliveKids says:

    Great inspiring article. My daughter LoveLeeSoaps is working her way thru college (Graphic Arts)with her etsy shop. She is learning so much more than a college would ever be able to teach her by running her own business.

    4 years ago

  • EvaCouture

    EvaCouture says:

    I am also a student running my own store! I started out on e-bay and by word of mouth, but now I am focusing more on Etsy. I am actually transferring to SCAD from Kent State in January and I cannot wait! It's definitely hard at times to balance being a full time student and living in studio (I'm a fine arts major), as well as finding time for my business, but it is definitely worth it! It's so good to hear about other people my age who also entrepreneurs! -Adrienna

    4 years ago

  • FerntreeFlowers

    FerntreeFlowers says:

    Good on ya! I love love love your studio space! And that desk...droooooool... :) angie

    4 years ago

  • ParisianDreams

    ParisianDreams says:

    You have a lovely shop!

    4 years ago

  • tippykwan

    tippykwan says:

    Your desk so cool!!

    4 years ago

  • emmawalshdesign

    emmawalshdesign says:

    Awesome work Caitlin, I am in the same position as you - I've been studying architecture for the past four years and since graduating I have actually gone in a complete opposition direction and decided to pursue a passion of interior design, artwork, jewellery and homewares and set up a website at the end of last year, i have since started studying interior design and small business management and have recently started selling on etsy as a wee source of income. The growth of my business has now allowed to me to quit work in a cafe in favour of focusing solely on my creative pursuits and I'm loving every minute of it!

    4 years ago

  • paperexploits

    paperexploits says:

    Beautiful post, and such lovely pictures :] I'm also a student, pursuing a degree in English Literature at the National University of Singapore. I love to send/receive things in the mail, and sell handmade stationery in a country that has little time and interest for such indulgences; most people here say 'move over, handmade cards-- e-mail is here!'. And that's a huge reason for why I love Etsy-- a whole community that stands up to say 'the heart and art that goes into handmade goods is worth it'? Heck yes!

    4 years ago

  • vivilian

    vivilian says:

    very very beautiful creaition!!! Thank you for sharing this to us!! I love your stuff so much !

    4 years ago

  • JeansVintageCloset

    JeansVintageCloset says:

    Very Sweet practical, Safe and soft handmade little ones items, I love the peace and tranquility of a pacified child, eyes aglow about a new undiscovered toy, Worlds of fun

    4 years ago

  • ezmireldagirl

    ezmireldagirl says:

    Wow girl - you sure keep busy don't you? I love, love, love your stuff! So creative nicely done!

    4 years ago

  • herbalphoto

    herbalphoto says:

    Great shop! I attend SCAD as well, I'm in the photography MFA program. :) Good luck with your business!

    4 years ago

  • atomicblue

    atomicblue says:

    I would love to hear a follow up on her internship at Denyse Schmidt! Really nice to see a young gal so driven.

    4 years ago

  • SewEnviousDesigns

    SewEnviousDesigns says:

    Wow. Impressive. Love your story and your items.

    4 years ago

  • CountrySquirrelsRUS

    CountrySquirrelsRUS says:

    Great interview, thanks for sharing! Keep following your dreams!

    4 years ago

  • ephemerascenti

    ephemerascenti says:

    Great story! Quite accomplished and focused for your chronological years! Congratulations, well deserved feature!!! Good luck Caitlin in all your future endeavors!

    4 years ago

  • peacefulpath

    peacefulpath says:

    Wishing you lots of luck and success! Your story is very inspiring!

    4 years ago

  • gallery32

    gallery32 says:

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing :) Trina

    4 years ago

  • beadworkbyamanda

    beadworkbyamanda says:

    Wonderful story! It's always great to have an income source since college is such a money sucker! I am also a graduate student and I work at the University of Rochester studying physical chemistry. I started my shop as an undergraduate my freshman year, nearly 5 years ago. I love all that is science and art, which is reflected in my shop as well. Keep up the great work!

    4 years ago

  • ClassicKeepsakes

    ClassicKeepsakes says:

    My Daughter is your age, and so very jealous! Congratulations. What a wonderful achievement.

    4 years ago

  • Littlepicture

    Littlepicture says:

    Very inspiring article.. and I love that little stuff toy sewing machine !

    4 years ago

  • VidGirlsandDolls

    VidGirlsandDolls says:

    Beautiful story! I also learn sewing from my mom.

    4 years ago

  • HollyDaise

    HollyDaise says:

    Gorgeous shop and love your philosophy! Lets hope the world wakes up one day soon to the evil that is mass production! Hx

    4 years ago

  • LesasPlunderPlace

    LesasPlunderPlace says:

    A heartwarming article for heartwarming creativity. Go Caitlin!

    4 years ago

  • EcoChicHandKnits

    EcoChicHandKnits says:

    Such a wonderful and inspiring story! Best of luck with your finals and for continued success in your lovely shop! Thanks for sharing!

    4 years ago

  • quiltytherapy

    quiltytherapy says:

    Congrats on going to school for something that you love and do well with. Keep it up.

    4 years ago

  • gypsystrunk

    Veronica Haley from gypsystrunk says:

    So happy to see that you are following your heart! Lucky you, an internship at Denyse Schmidt Quilts! LOVE her fabric! Best of luck all around!

    2 years ago