Tell us about your previous working situation and how you discovered Etsy.
I worked in the printing industry around fifteen years before finally going after my dream of becoming an independent business owner. I started from the bottom and worked my way up running a series of bindery equipment such as collating, folding and book binding machines before running an offset printing press. I had to work extremely hard to prove that I was capable of critical thinking and that, despite my feminine appearance, I was also mechanically inclined.
Though I found Etsy in early 2006 a few months after my son was born, it went on the back burner for almost two years so I could focus on being a new mom. I switched shifts at the print shop and found myself with a little extra free time. I soon opened Autumn Equinox with just a few pieces of simple wire jewelry. I am a completely self taught silversmith and I feel as though my business and my craftsmanship have grown equally over the last few years. I sometimes enjoy going through shops here on Etsy and looking at some of the first items they ever sold to see how they have grown as well. You can definitely see their progress and it gives reassurance that we all start out somewhere and as long as we keep working on growing our business, it will succeed.
How did your experience in the printing press industry lend to your skills of being an independent business owner?
My experience in the printing industry taught me that things don’t always go as planned, but a little ingenuity and creativity can get the job done. Sometimes the press ran poorly, parts wore out and broke down. When parts weren’t on hand, I had to make do with things like rubber bands, tape, and metal strapping to make the printing press run. It may not have been pretty and the press may have run slow, but the job got done and it got done faster than if I had waited for new parts to arrive.
How did you prepare for transitioning into full time Etsy selling?
Being a single mom meant it was going to take a lot more work for me to quit my day job. I worked day and night with no real days off for almost two years. While I was working at the print shop, I had a part-time job cleaning offices on the weekends to earn extra money in addition to running Autumn Equinox. It was good for me because I could bring my son to work with me and I didn’t have to pay a babysitter. It was good for him, because he got to see just how hard mommy works in addition to making jewelry and keeping up our home.
I also cut out a lot of extra luxuries from my budget:
- I moved to a less expensive area in Maine.
- I shopped around for new car insurance.
- Got rid of cable television.
- Switched cell phone plans.
Cutting back helped me save hundreds of dollars a month and with the savings, I can afford a discount health plan for me and my son. I’m also definitely saving a lot more money now that I am not commuting back and forth to work. I went from using almost two tanks of gas a week to less than one tank of gas a month.
Do you have any specific words of advice for single parents considering a similar path?
Be prepared for anything and always have a backup plan. I am currently attending college for a medical degree as I have always had a fascination with science and biology. If the business were to fall on hard times, I have the peace of mind knowing that I would still be able to support my family.
The best advice I could give to someone who is considering quitting their day job is to do your research and figure out what it is going to take for you to be able to quit. Figure out how much money you need to have saved for the slow sales periods and how much you actually must make to cover business costs and to be able to pay yourself.
What are your best marketing tips?
- If you make it and it is wearable, wear it. I wear my own jewelry and I am always getting compliments and people asking me about it.
- Keep business cards on you at all times. It’s also great because when people ask about the jewelry I am wearing, I have a few cards on hand.
- Join your local area team on Etsy and get to know its members. It’s a great way to meet fellow Etsy business owners, chat about common interests and a fantastic way to promote your business. Meeting fellow teammates in person can also lead to great friendships.
- List new items in your shop frequently. A few new listings a week will help keep your shop looking fresh and keep people interested in your business.
- Offer as many choices as you can in your shop. Offering different variations of items in your shop will broaden your target market and increase sales. Be open about the possibility of changing something around to get the sale.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I personally have not tried any promotion that was unsuccessful to date. I have a Twitter account, a Facebook fan page, a blog and a personal site. Although I don’t have a huge amount of followers, I’m happy for those I have and feel I am successfully promoting when I see a few likes and comments. Updating these sites a few days a week has definitely had an impact on my business.
Made any business mistakes you regret?
The only regret I have about my business is that I did not buy more precious metal when it was much cheaper. The precious metal market is at an all time high, and is another big factor in my business. I have to price items in my shop based on the price of silver when I buy it and I really dislike having to raise my prices to compensate.
What is the biggest challenge you face during your daily schedule?
The biggest challenge I face during my day is getting everything done in a timely fashion. I still set my alarm and wake up at five in the morning as I did when I was working a day job. This gives me a few hours before my son gets up to relist items that sold overnight and respond to emails. I then start working on orders that need to be finished and in the mailbox before the mailman comes in the early afternoon. With a young child running around, I can get side tracked and forget all about the task at hand. I am able to put him in preschool a day or two a week and on those days, I work the entire time he is gone to get as much done as I possibly can.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
The hardest part about running my own business is making sure I do not get backed up with paper work — the un-fun stuff about the business that has to be done that no business owner really wants to do.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
I enjoy that I can be creative all day long and not feel stressed. The day job came with a tremendous amount of stress and since I’ve quit, my body does not ache from standing on concrete floors for ten to twelve hours at a time. My sciatic nerve used to cause me debilitating pain and I had to endure many hours of physical therapy just to make it feel better for only a little while. Since quitting my day job, I have not had to go to physical therapy, and I have not had any leg or back pain.
I do miss my friends from work. We were a jovial bunch who played pranks on each other to break up the hum drum of the day job. Work wasn’t fun, but we tried to make the best of it.
What goals do you have in store for the future of your businesses?
I would love to eventually run my own brick and mortar shop filled with handmade items. In addition to making jewelry, I also love to sew, knit, crochet and paint. I enjoy making soap as well and I have just opened up a soap shop here on Etsy, soapymoosebathco.
Anything else you would like to share?
I would just like to say thank you to everyone for reading my story. I never thought that I would actually be able to quit my day job and do something that I love to do. It took a lot of hard work, determination and sacrifice, but I’m the happiest I have ever been. My last little bit of advice is: if you are not doing something that makes you happy, change it so that you are; you won’t regret it.
Thanks for sharing your story, Jenna. Also see Jenna’s accessories shop, autumnalequinox. Check out her pieces in the Seller’s Items below.
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