The Etsy Blog

Quit Your Day Job: Something’s Hiding in Here

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I guess you could say I started my first business when I was in grade school. I made my own stationery and sold it in a “shop” that I ran out of my bedroom (my parents were my best/only customers). It sounds funny, but I’m basically doing the same thing today.

Tell us about your previous working situation.
I pretty much had a dream job. I spent the last eight years at Anthropologie where I directed the company’s store and window display. Just before leaving I moved to their new wedding brand, BHLDN, where I designed the event decor product. I love the company, I love what I did, and I love the people I worked with — but one day, while in a meeting, it hit me. I knew it was time. I can’t explain it any other way. When I told Stephen I was ready to leave my job and focus on our business, he said “It’s about time.”

How did you discover Etsy?
We needed money to buy a new computer. I remember telling Stephen about this thing called “The Renegade Craft Fair” and how I imagined we could earn money if we made “stuff” to sell. He thought it was a crazy idea but went along with it. On our first day at Renegade we found our cash box full enough for a new computer. The day after the show, we had so many emails asking us if we had an Etsy shop. We quickly put one together.

What’s been your most popular item or line to date?
Hmm. This is a hard question. Our original mustache on a stick has been consistent for over three years. Our bow ties have us sewing night and day to keep up with orders. Our wood rings are something that we get lots of special requests for and our paint-by-number USAs sell as fast as we can make them.

What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
The obvious stuff is all true: wake up when you want, work in your pajamas if you want, drink champagne while answering emails if you want…but what I really love is that the risks and the rewards are all ours. Not everything is going to be perfect, but the opportunities we discover and the challenges we face are because of decisions we make. Feeling that type of ownership over what you do each day is liberating.

What do I miss? Not much. I would have to say the people I worked with, but I’m lucky enough to be friends with the people who inspired me most, so now we get together for dinner and drinks — not at the copy machine.

Did you do anything to prepare for making the transition?
We’ve kept pretty good records over the last year, so I had a solid understanding of how much more money we could be making if I had more time in our studio. I put my last few paychecks in a savings account and that was pretty much it. I think the most helpful part of my transition was the encouragement of our friends, especially Stu and Janet of Three Potato Four and Sue of Giant Dwarf, who are also self-employed.

What updates have you made to your amazing space since we last checked in with you?
It’s feeling more like a studio with a bed in it than a home these days, but we love it that way. We’ve updated our studio with a letterpress room, and we’re working on a sewing loft. Next we’re planning to redo the wood shop and create a permanent area for photography. Phew!

Your online presence makes you out to be an incredibly busy bee. How will time management be different now that your focus has shifted?
It’s true, we’re always crazy busy. We like it that way. We stay up late, wake up early, and spend every second we can in our studio. When I was working, I found it refreshing to come home and immerse myself in something that was mine. This hasn’t really changed since I left my job — now I just work in my studio around the clock.

What are your best marketing tips?

  • The best tip is: the golden rule. It sounds simple, but we treat people how we want to be treated: this goes for customers, shop owners, editors…everyone. It’s especially important because, over time, these people have become our closest friends.
  • Our second tip is “please and thank you.” A heartfelt thank you note goes a long way! Lastly: Take a LOT of photographs and make them accessible. We post process and product shots to Flickr so it’s easy for people to capture and use them for online features.

Have you made any business mistakes you regret?
Paying to be included in a curated shop is the worst thing we’ve done so far. We had a website we love offer us a spot in their holiday shop. We were really disappointed with the curated selection: it was way too corporate and impersonal. In general, we don’t really advertise, although there are a few small businesses we love to support, and a small ad is a great way to do that. We make mistakes every day, but that’s the beauty of it. There’s always room to improve.

What is the biggest challenge you face during your daily schedule?
Taking time for myself is a big challenge. I’ve discovered that I’m a classic workaholic. People have told me this for years, but I’ve just realized it’s because of me — not where I worked. I love balancing many different projects, and if my to-do list isn’t impossibly full, I find ways to add and add and add.

What’s the hardest part about running your own business?

None of it is easy. I don’t think anyone starts their own business because they want something simple or easy. It’s exhausting, but it’s yours. Somehow, that makes it ALL worth it!

Are things easier or harder working so closely with your significant other?
Working with Stephen is my absolute favorite part of having our own business. Something’s Hiding in Here is a true reflection of our collaboration together. It’s sappy, but even after all these years, we can’t get enough of each other.

What advice would you give someone considering taking the leap?
Just JUMP!


Is there anything else you would like to share?
We’d love to introduce you to some of our favorite people who also happen to run our favorite Etsy shops: Erin & Nicole, Sue, Sarah, Ashley, Anabela, Kate and Sian.

Thanks for sharing your story, Shauna. Check out her work in the Seller’s Items below.

Previous Quit Your Day Job posts

Watch our video tour of Shauna and Stephen’s place!