Do you know how to do the happy dance? You will soon! Today Michael Phipps of phippsart.etsy.com shares his inspiration for the “Sneak Attacks” community project. Read on!
After several years of filling vending machines and stacking cans of food, I quit my job so my constant desire to create could be unleashed. Now on any given day I might be climbing scaffolding to work on a mural or using a microscopic brush on a book cover painting. When my sister introduced me to Etsy that first year as a full time artist, my mind started racing with ideas, and I decided I wanted to screenprint artwork onto shirts. Having screenprinted in college and then later in a friend’s studio (where my darkroom was also the bathroom for an indie rock venue), it was a natural transition. I still remember making those first few sales on Etsy. Even now, EVERY sale is a thrill, but those first several were special. The feeling back then was powerful enough to positively affect my entire day.
Several months later, the memory of that exhilaration got me thinking of ways I might help other shop owners feel the same excitement, so I started a thread in the Etsy Forums entitled “Make Someone’s Day,” encouraging others to find shops without sales and to be their first sale. This went on for a few weeks and was even carried on by other Etsy sellers, some of whom went on to form the Etsy Patrons Team. I also figured that if it were a thrill to get one sale, how great would it be to suddenly have a whole swarm of business in just one day?
Thus the Sneak Attack was born. I started a thread asking if anyone wanted to take part in a “Sneak Attack” and explained the concept. It didn’t take long before we already targeted two shops and had two more in the works. The excitement on the part of the shop owners AND the shoppers was so great that I knew I wanted to make this a regular occurrence. I quickly threw together the bones of a web site, which included a schedule of upcoming “attacks.” (The site’s now been completely revamped.) The response was overwhelming. For about a month we held Sneak Attacks every weekday, but that proved exhausting! So ever since we’ve been doing them Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
The Sneak Attacks are no one-man operation. I couldn’t do this all by myself — not even close. In fact, each “attack” is sponsored by another Etsy seller or buyer, who chooses the shop and coordinates it all. They start a thread in the forums, which serves as a sort of pre-game party before the appointed time. My biggest help through all this has been VintageEmbellishment. She’s done more to promote and support the movement than one could even imagine. There’s a long list of others who have made all of this possible.
I’m often asked how shops are chosen as “victims” of the attacks. First and foremost, no one should volunteer to be at the receiving end of a Sneak Attack. That’s about the best way to NOT be chosen. It wouldn’t be a “Sneak Attack” then, would it?! The shops need to have few or no sales, have been around for at least two weeks (preferably longer), they need to have some recent activity evident in their shops, and they need to have a good amount of quality, affordable products. We sadly pass by a lot of shops because they have blurry or dark pictures, incomplete descriptions, or nothing has been added or renewed for months.
Since the end of September, The Handmade Movement has sponsored 67 attacks on a total of 81 shops, resulting in 973 sales! That amounts to about $6000 worth of products bought from these up-and-coming shops over the course of just over four months. Here are the stories of just a handful of those shops.
Rachelherzog: “I had started my Etsy shop, Tickleworm, in September 2008. I put up seven items and kept working and adding more from there. (You check your shop like you check the phone for messages when you are expecting someone to call.)
In October, I was adding items, checked back and one of them was gone — at first I thought I didn’t load it correctly (operator error), but then more items were gone. I saw I had a convo message, checked it, read it, and still it took me a second…I just couldn’t believe I went from zero sales to a bunch in 10 minutes. I checked the thread and was reading what everyone was saying about my items…I couldn’t believe it! It felt so great! Even if people didn’t buy, they were saying such nice things! I honestly had tears in my eyes! PEOPLE WERE BUYING MY THINGS, THINGS I MADE!
The ‘Sneak Attack’ was my big break, so to speak. It kept me making more, better, different items! So now, I return every so often to buy from a shop that is being ‘Sneak Attacked’ because, well, it feels so good to do that for someone — and you get a great product.”
Desertnana: “For almost three years I was a more-than-merry Etsy shopper. I finally took the plunge and opened my shop, but felt like a resident of Whoville in Horton Hears a Who. Desert Nanas Retro Ranch was full of goods, and I was like a Christmas elf reading, shooting, and uploading. (On dial up, mind you…) Then on December 8th, after an hour of shooting more items for the shop, I clicked on Retro Ranch to see 5 new orders! As I read the first order, I suddenly thought ‘Wait-just-one-second…Did my sister do a big sympathy buy after listening to my repeated ‘Steven Colbert fist-to-the-heaven’ laments…??!’ But no: the buyer’s name is Heather (aka Winemakerssister), and in the message to the seller, it said, ‘SNEAK ATTACK.’
My personal orbit shifted its axis, and I danced the desert happy dance! I shouted like Sally Field in her infamous 1980s Oscars Speech, ‘They like me!’ All of the hours and days of banging my head against walls of technological confusion were not in vain! I have customers!!! WinemakersSister was the first of this ‘mysterious group’ (Hautetotes, VintageEmbellishment, The Copper Cauldron, KreatedbyKelly), to respond to my mail, and I was not surprised to learn that a volunteer group of Etsy folk do this as a weekly hobby to surprise and encourage new shops!
With this wonderful burst of encouragement I went forth, forever changed by the kindness of these lovely ladies, having gained a dear friend (love you Heather) and wanting to share and give the same kind of boost to new and struggling beginners.”
FartsyArts: “The ‘Sneak Attack’ is one of the coolest ideas to support new shops. KitsandCaboodles sponsored my ‘Sneak Attack.’ I am sure a lot of beginner Etsy sellers can relate when I say it takes a lot of hard work and outside the box thinking to get your shop noticed. Having a handful (or more) of people visit the shop AND purchase an item is a double bonus!! When I got the e-mail that I was going to be a ‘victim’ of a ‘Sneak Attack,’ I ran to my boyfriend in utter excitement and screamed, ‘I don’t know what this is but it’s going to be FUN!’ Once I realized what the whole game was, my eyes were glued on the clock and my finger was on my mouse ready to reset my browser!
…I am a regular visitor to the site to see who the next ‘victim’ is. It is a great promotional tool and so much fun to partake in as a seller and a buyer. I have participated in a past ‘Sneak Attack’ and the thanks you get from the seller spells happiness and it feels just great, and you get something cool for yourself too!”
Monkeysalwayslook: “I was, of course, completely thrown off guard when I finally realized that I was a victim of a sneak attack. I can’t really describe the feelings I felt except amazement, joy, surprise and overwhelming gratitude. Before the sneak attack, my store only had two sales. In my feedback to my buyers I said that this little gesture brought tears to my eyes, and when I think about it now, it still brings tears to my eyes. The generosity of complete strangers and the purchases that they made gave my little store the momentum and boost that has carried on to this day. Since the sneak attack, my store has had a steady stream of sales.
Because of the boost — and more importantly, the amazing generosity — of these people, I check in now and again at www.handmademovement.com to see who is up next — knowing that just a tiny purchase can make all the difference to the store’s success, and [that it brings] motivation and joy…to the store’s creator. I think this is what the handmade movement is all about: sharing in each others love, hard work, and care that is put into each and every item.”
warpeDesign: “Being ‘Sneak Attacked’ caught me completely by surprise. I’d only been on Etsy for a month and was still on the low end of the learning curve. It was a challenge to figure out how to make my cards look special and if I could catch someone’s interest among the ton of other cards that were posted every day. My cards are subtle, so it’s hard to make them jump out from a tiny thumbnail. The ‘Sneak Attack’ was a wonderful affirmation that I had something special and that I was showcasing it the right way.”
WontonLove: “It was a complete surprise. I was fairly new to Etsy at the time and never did I expect such craft activism to take place! The fundamental part of the idea touched my crafty heart. It’s nice to think that anyone can sneak up on you, from around the world, when you least expect it, and you get a bunch of sales to boot!”
Now it’s your turn to help create more stories like the ones above (and get some cool items in the process!). Check out http://www.handmademovement.com for the schedule of upcoming Sneak Attacks and join in on the fun!