Tell us about your shop and the idea behind it.
Our shop is MaejeanVINTAGE, it is run by my sister and me. Our shop carries an assortment of vintage fashion, accessories, supplies, and décor!
Tell us how you discovered Etsy.
My sister and I discovered Etsy a few years ago from one of her friends who raved about it. We decided to list this adorable 1980s black jumper to see what the selling experience was like here. The jumper sold in about a month and we were instantly hooked on Etsy! We sold on Etsy for a few years as a hobby, under a different shop name, then we opened MaejeanVINTAGE in May 2010.
What steps did you take to prepare for transitioning into full time Etsy selling?
My previous job was teaching full-day kindergarten at an urban school in Pennsylvania. I loved it, but last June my position was eliminated. Many schools in PA (and throughout the U.S.) are laying off teachers due to budget cuts. So I began substitute teaching full time, just as I did right out of college, which felt like a big step backwards. However, since I didn’t have all the grading and lesson plans to tend to in the afternoons and evenings, I started putting a lot more time into our Etsy shop. The results were amazing! I couldn’t believe the amount of sales and traffic our shop was starting to get. Our listings were being featured in countless treasuries, and we even had items showing up on Etsy’s homepage. So, I made the decision to stop substitute teaching and see what things would look like if I worked full time on our Etsy shop. After a few weeks, I made the decision to permanently take my name off of all the school’s subbing lists and work full time on our vintage Etsy shop. Our shop just kept on getting busier!
The transition felt very natural. I didn’t prepare for it months in advance, but my sister and I consulted one of our family members who is a certified public accountant to assist us with making the jump from selling on Etsy as a hobby to selling on Etsy as a full-time business. He was very helpful with explaining bookkeeping and legalities. We are also fortunate that our mother has tons of bookkeeping experience. She makes sure to lovingly nag me at least every week to make sure I am keeping up with all the paperwork. It is good she stays on my case, though!
What is your favorite part of the process in sourcing and selling vintage goods?
Oh my, we love it all! It honestly doesn’t even feel like “work.” One of our favorite parts of this is probably going to estate sales and public auctions. The hunt of vintage and antique items is quite a thrill!
What is your favorite era to score finds from?
To us, each decade has its own special appeal. I have been into early 1900s art deco jewelry recently — probably a little too much because I have been keeping most pieces for myself! My sister Amanda is really into 1980s short floral dresses. She also has a soft spot for fascinator hats.
Any tips for hunting down great vintage items?
We have had some of our best vintage finds at estate sales, public auctions, thrift stores and yard sales. No matter where were find our treasures, there is a lot of digging involved. I think remaining patient is essential for finding vintage goods. Sometimes we spend an entire day at an estate sale. Typically, when we go to thrift stores, we spend a minimum of two hours searching. Unfortunately, sometimes you go home empty handed, but next time you could be going home with a car full of amazing items.
What are your best marketing tips?
- Utilize social networking sites! We have had plenty of customers who joined Etsy and made a purchase from us because they found us elsewhere.
- We are big on customer service. We both have the Etsy app on our cell phones, so we try to answer customers’ questions immediately.
- We offer a discount to all return customers. Many of our customers do come back and shop with us again! We love repeat customers and actually getting to know them.
- We spend time analyzing our shop statistics, looking at popular keywords, which items are getting the most views, trends in sales, and so forth. It is helpful to know which items are in the highest demand and try to meet that demand.
- We also try to stay active in Etsy Teams. We ended up being featured on Etsy’s homepage and Etsy emails a few times, due to being involved in Etsy Teams.
What’s been your most popular item or line of items to date?
Our best sellers are vintage costume jewelry, mid-century jewelry boxes, and retro purses. The vintage jewelry boxes are in such high demand, it is hard to keep them in stock!
Made any business mistakes you regret?
A business mistake I have made several times is underpricing our goods. I really love giving customers awesome deals, but I have to be fair to myself also, especially since this is my full-time career. I recently sold two Lucille de Paris crocodile purses for about a fourth of what their retail value is. My sister was on my case about that one! We have also made a few uh-ohs at auctions by accidently bidding on different lots than we intended to. We have ended up with some very interesting items from this, as well as some lofty donations for Goodwill!
What is the biggest challenge you face during your daily schedule?
I have a fairly short attention span, so staying focused can be an obstacle for me. Sometimes I will list a few items, then get distracted with something unrelated to the business. I now use a stability ball to sit on which helps me focus (a trick from the teaching world!). The exercise ball forces me to sit upright, engages my muscles, and when I need to, I can bounce around on it.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Although we love being entrepreneurs, sometimes sales will plummet for a few days and it can be a bit discouraging. However, things always come around again and we keep figuring out more efficient ways to do things. Additionally, being self-employed has been a lot less stressful than any of the 9-5 jobs I have worked, hands down.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
I enjoy virtually everything about not having a day job; there are countless perks! I oftentimes work in my PJs, and sometimes even with a green tea avocado mask smeared on my face. However, my favorite part is the flexibility. I can see my friends and family more, volunteer, play with our chihuahua, and spend more time with my wonderful boyfriend. I do try my best to work 40 hours a week, but it is amazing to pick exactly when I want to work. Of course, it is also amazing not having a boss to report to!
What is the most exciting thing that has come out of selling your goods through Etsy? Hearing the heartfelt stories from customers we have done business with. It is so fulfilling to hear how meaningful items from our shop are to customers. We have had customers buy vintage jewelry that their great-grandma used to have. We have even worked with customers who lost a precious piece of vintage heirloom jewelry and were able to replace it with a virtually identical item from our shop. We have also worked with individuals in charge of costume and design for major films and theatre productions. The customers we have worked with are so friendly and grateful!
What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
I would suggest trying it as a hobby or part-time job, and seeing what it can expand into. Check and gauge if it is something you could see yourself doing every day. It takes a lot of self-motivation and passion! Luckily, there is demand for vintage and antique goods and I don’t ever foresee that changing. I also think that selling online (especially on Etsy!) is a lot more cost-effective than opening an actual storefront downtown. In the last few years, it seems more and more individuals are doing their shopping online.
What goals do you have in store for the future of your business?
A short-term goal we have is to have at least 500 items listed in our shop by February. A long-term goal is for my sister Amanda to start working with me full time after she graduates from college. She will have a degree in business, so she will really help take our business to the next level. Another short-term goal is to do more advertising — my sister is already working on this! We are also considering opening a second shop which would specialize in vintage supplies: beads, repair jewelry lots, mismatched earrings, findings, and so forth.
Anything else you would like to share?
I have a wooden plaque right on my work desk that says “dream.” Every morning while drinking my coffee, I look at that sign and smile because my dream has become a reality! Furthermore, we want to give a huge thank you to Etsy for providing an awesome online marketplace for handmade, vintage and supplies!
Thanks for sharing your story, Laura Mae and Amanda Jean. Check out their work in the Seller’s Items below.