You’ve seen those big sellers on Etsy who seem to be making sales left and right. You have to wonder how they’ve made it to where they are: can they actually be FOR REAL? What’s their recipe for success? And just how do they do it?
This week’s installment of our Etsy Success Stories features Shannon of greenbelts. Shannon is best known for her creative skill and talent in upcycling leather belts into new and fabulous dog and cat collars, as well as cuffs and other accessories. She lives and works in Seattle, has been selling on Etsy for almost two years and is quickly approaching 450 sales: now that’s a lot of recycling! Find the woman behind the greenbelts curtain in the interview below:
How did you first hear about Etsy, and what made you decide to open a shop on the site?
Avery, from EmpireEmpire, was my neighbor at one time (he has since moved). He saw some of my dog collars at a neighborhood party and suggested that I open a shop on Etsy. As soon as I visited the site for the first time I knew it was for me. I did a little research and opened a shop soon after that. I received my first sale five days after I opened. Yea!
What do you think your key to success for selling on Etsy has been?
Hummm, I wish I knew! I can tell you what I TRY to do. I list and renew often (3 to 6 times a day), I try my best to create unique items, I look up my competition every now and again to make sure that my items are still fresh, new and different, I contact my buyers as soon as I receive an order to thank them and let them know when I will ship the item, I attempt to visit the forums and Storque often to see who’s out there and what’s happening on Etsy, I visit Alchemy every day to see if I can bid on any requests, and I’m in the process of joining a couple of Teams right now.
What are the best and most effective ways you have promoted your shop?
Word-of-mouth! So far.
How do you handle such a large volume of sales in your shop? What systems have you created to manage the orders ?
My system is about as simple and archaic as it gets. When an order comes in, I send the buyer a confirmation e-mail right away, I put the item in a box, I print out the receipt and mark the day the package needs to go out. Then on the day that the packages need to go, I get up early, package everything up to go, print out my postage labels, and put them in a bag to go to the post office. I try my best to walk to the post office to deliver my packages so as soon as I receive an order I plan my days that I’ll be hoofing it to the PO. I live just inside the industrial area of Seattle so the walk is pretty interesting — miles of planes, trains and automobiles galore!
Are your orders mostly from repeat buyers or new buyers? What do you do to gain repeat buyers?
I would estimate that about half of my business is from repeat buyers. My items aren’t for everyone, but for those who do like them, they REALLY seem to like them. I feel the same way about certain Etsy sellers, too. I have many that I’m crazy about right now and can’t seem to get enough of their products. I love ’em!
How do you stay motivated? Does it come naturally?
My motivation deflates a bit when I’m in a sales slump, but as soon as I get an order I perk right up and it seems to get the juices flowing again. I’m one of those kind of people that thrives on praise and positive reinforcement, unfortunately. My ultimate goal with this business is to create something that I love and that other people will love too. I’m a people pleaser when it comes down to it and I’m ok with that. 😉
Do you "Etsy" full time or do you have another job too?
Right now, I’m a full time stay-at-home mom to my four year old son, Henry. I stopped working as a corporate graphic designer to start a family. Now I have two part-time jobs, freelance graphic design and Greenbelts creator, along with my full-time job as a mama. I used to say that I worked during naps, nights, and weekends, but now that Henry stopped taking naps I squeeze in ANY time that I have to get my other jobs done.
What is your favorite current Etsy Feature?
I love the new "->LAST" button when editing a listing. I’m also obsessed with the Treasury right now. I check it all the time. My heart beats a little faster when I see that glorious little gold star next to a list. Mmmmm. And to see one of my items on the front page, well, it’s pure heaven! 😉
What features do you use most on Etsy?
Renew, Add New Item, Forums, Treasury and Convo.
What goals do you have for your Etsy shop one year from now?
I hope to still have a 100% satisfaction rating. I would like to double my sales per day average, I’d like to work smarter and faster and I would love to be a Featured Seller on the front page of Etsy.
What piece of advice would you give to a new seller on Etsy who might be feeling discouraged? Do you have a quick tip or trick that you have learned over time you would be willing to share?
1) Check things out. An important thing I learned as a designer is to do a little research. See what others are doing, what are fads, what is successful, what your niche could be, where there is a need, etc. If you would like to "create" as a business, I believe that this background information can help you be successful. With that information you can go creatively wild and find an audience of your own to market your products to.
2) Learn the basics of Photoshop (or another photo editing program). Your product photos will make or break you. Play around with lighting situations, creative cropping, backgrounds, etc. Don’t be afraid to try different things — you can always change them. I’m still figuring out my images and change them out all the time when I’m not happy with how many views an item is getting.
What are you thoughts on the environment? Do you have any eco-friendly tips for sellers, or other ways that you try to make your business eco-friendly?
There are so many great green Etsy sellers out there today. I am SO impressed with what people are coming up with to reuse and recycle. I believe being green is not a fad, it’s a necessity. I find inspiration from others who are eco-friendly and strive to do my part. My whole business plan revolves around reducing, reusing and reclaiming.
Anything else you want to add?
I stuttered for a time there in the beginning of my business, because I knew what it took to design, develop and upkeep an e-commerce site on your own. I was overwhelmed with the prospect of doing it for myself. Then, along came Etsy — my knight in shining armor. Setting up shop was a dream, upkeeping it — a no-brainer and processing orders is simple. Thanks to Etsy, I can cut up my belts, sift through my buttons, hammer away and, basically, do what I LOVE to do. I can’t thank you enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you!