Tell us about your shop and the idea behind it.
The name of my shop is Whimzy Thyme. I became a lover of antiques and vintage sometime in my early thirties when I wanted to decorate a new home. I was always looking for something that would bring a bit of whimsy and that had passed the test of time. I love to collect “pretties” that are different and tell a story, things that have a past and were loved by someone else.
How did you discover Etsy?
My husband told me about Etsy. One afternoon, he was watching the Glenn Beck Show and Glenn had a guest that owned an Etsy shop. I went to the Etsy site and started looking around the wonderful vintage shops and educating myself. Within about two weeks, I had my own Etsy shop.
What steps did you take to transition into full time Etsy selling?
The company I had been working for sent out a notification that anyone who was at least 50 years old would be eligible for an early retirement package; I happened to turn 50 a few months prior to the announcement. After a few weeks of getting past the shock, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the next chapter of my life.
About 11 years earlier, I had booth space in several antique malls in Texas. I loved it! But reality hit once my son started college. Unfortunately, the antique business was not lucrative enough to pay college tuition. I had to go back to work full time. I closed down my antique business, packed all of my treasures and stored them in the attic. Isn’t it funny how things work out? I already had wonderful inventory for my Etsy shop. It was so much fun unpacking my treasures and getting them ready for their début on Etsy. I have now been on Etsy for 15 months and I love it. It is truly the best job I have ever had.
What is your favorite part of the process in sourcing and selling vintage goods?
My favorite part is treasure hunting. I can hardly sleep the night before a scheduled hunt. My favorite haunts are estate sales and onsite auctions — you just never know what you will find. I love estates owned by “pickers” and vintage lovers — people who appreciated the value of things that were made to last, that cherished items passed on from generation to generation.
What is your favorite era to score finds from?
I love the Victorian era. I love the beautiful glass and porcelain made during the latter part of that period. The Victorians set beautiful tables. I adore the celluloid boxes the Victorians had for dresser sets, gloves, collars, manicure sets, etc. I also love collecting linens from the 1930s-1950s, including tablecloths, pillowcases and hankies.
Any tips for hunting down great vintage items?
Get up at the crack of dawn if you are going to estate sales. Map out the locations the night before and decide which ones you will attend first. Get there early to be one of the first in line. It is always a good idea to put your money in a fanny pack or pocket; you need to have both hands free to hunt, pick and scour. I also bring reusable shoulder bags for smaller items. If you find something you like, pick it up; thinking that you will come back is not a good plan as it will surely be gone. When attending an auction, go to the preview and make a list of what you would like to buy. Decide how much you are willing to spend and stick to it so you don’t get caught up in the bidding.
What are your best marketing tips?
- Social media like Facebook and Twitter are musts.
- I have been very fortunate to find a fantastic Etsy team, the Vintage Etsy Society Street Team. The Vesties are a wonderful group of vintage sellers who work together to create treasuries promoting each others’ shops. We have fun games to promote listings we favorite via Pinterest and Wanelo.
- I have also invested in the Etsy Search Ads and SEO marketing. There are some very talented people on Etsy with shops that specialize in SEO.
Made any business mistakes you regret?
For me, one of the difficulties is packaging and shipping. I have made a few mistakes with underestimating shipping and not being totally prepared for packaging by not having the right size boxes. I have remedied the packaging issue by purchasing different size boxes along with peanuts, bubble wrap and tissue; I now have a corner set up in one of my bedrooms for wrapping and shipping. I also invested in a postage scale so that I can actually weigh items along with the shipping box to get a more accurate shipping estimate. Having the right equipment for packing and shipping makes the job so much easier.
What is the biggest challenge you face during your daily schedule?
Making sure I allocate enough “personal” time. I am very organized and have a driven, type-A personality. Those attributes are great most of the time because they keep me focused and less overwhelmed by all the tasks that need to be done to be successful. Sometimes, though, I must conscientiously remind myself to stop and “smell the roses.” It is important to take time out to exercise, take an afternoon off to play golf with my husband, or invite a friend to come over for coffee.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
The hardest part is not having a regular paycheck. If you are like me and need to be in control, this is one area you can’t control. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, sales will slow or be nonexistent for a week or so. Those are the most stressful times for me. I try to remind myself not to panic and to concentrate on other areas such as retaking photos, tweaking descriptions, or making more treasuries.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
I love being able to run errands during the day when there is less traffic, being able to work late and not having to worry about being awakened by an alarm clock the next morning. I love throwing on some sweats on cold winter mornings and knowing that my commute consists of going to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee, then turning on my computer to begin my day. Priceless!
What is the most exciting thing that has come out of selling through Etsy?
I love when my customers send me emails telling me they love an item and how they plan on incorporating it into their homes. My favorite is getting emails with pictures displaying the item. It is like receiving a gift from a friend where the connection is something you both love and cherish. I always buy things that I love. If it doesn’t sell, I get to keep it and make sure it is safe until it is someone else’s turn to treasure it.
What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
I would tell them to try it as a hobby for a while. Make sure that it is something they love to do, because it really is a lot of work. Most days, I spend at least 12 hours working on cleaning treasures, researching information, taking photos, writing the descriptions, researching tags and titles, and then finally listing the item. You also need to allocate time for marketing and participating on social networking sites. It is hard work, so being passionate about it is huge.
What goals do you have in store for the future of Whimzy Thyme?
Every day, I do research online, read newspaper and magazine articles, and talk to other shop owners. It is critical to be visible and vigilant. Etsy provides wonderful tools, forums and labs. I want to make sure I take advantage of these things to grow my business. I am currently working on expanding my visibility by purchasing SEO packets. I also plan to expand my business my by participating in local craft shows. My major goal with craft shows is to advertise Whimzy Thyme and make sure I tell people about Etsy.
Thanks for sharing your story, Debbie. Check out her vintage treasures in the Seller’s Items below.