Dana, the jewelry designer behind dlkdesigns, had the creative bug since she was a wee one watching Bob Ross paint landscapes on PBS. Working a 9-5 desk job throughout her college career she didn’t feel her full potential and creative energy were being utilized. After taking maternity leave with her first child, Dana jumped into opening her Etsy shop. These days you might catch a glimpse of Dana on her pink bike with a wicker basket full of packages. While she says she’s working harder now than ever before, Dana loves that she can schedule her work around her family life.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
My earliest memory of creating began around the age of seven. I vividly remember watching Bob Ross painting on PBS. I found creating something on a blank canvas to be mesmerizing (and I dug his Afro, too!). I would go outside our apartment door and watercolor paint like I was a master artist.
Tell us about your previous working situation.
I worked full time while putting myself through college. After graduating with a BA in Communications and Advertising I never truly had the job of my dreams. I was born with an entrepreneurial spirit and never let go of the dream deep inside to be a business owner someday.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
Of course! I started my own website selling jewelry well before I found Etsy, but I quickly discovered that just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come. I was successful with local shows. Knowing there was a market for my work was a huge confidence booster. I am grateful now for the experience because I learned a lot by building my own website. It was around that time that I first I discovered Etsy while shopping for an item through a Google search. It was easy to have dreams of quitting my day job for two reasons: I never had a job I truly loved and I was on maternity leave with my first child and knew that, after her birth, there was no way I was returning to my 9-5 desk job. With the support of my wonderful husband I began to make my dream a reality.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
I really did not do anything to prepare ahead of time. I am all about jumping in and doing it. I am not really a planner, but have since become one.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business?
- I enjoy promoting via my Facebook Fan Page. I do have a blog, but I do a horrible job of keeping up with it. I tend to use FB as my blog, showing new items and releasing sales on occasion.
- My very best marketing tip is customer service. If you provide fabulous customer service each and every time word of mouth about your work will come back tenfold.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I have not made many business mistakes that I regret. There really are no regrets, I look at all of it as a learning experience and with each year I get smarter and spend savvier.
- I am an early bird. I get up around 7 a.m., make coffee and proceed to answer emails before my 4-year-old wakes up.
- We have breakfast together and I walk her to school.
- Once I return home I organize work and orders that need to be created, as well as send photos of map requests for the customers’ approval.
- I try to have all resin poured and orders off to the post office before my little girl is finished with school for the day.
- Many days you will find me on my pink bike with my wicker basket filled with packages. I am lucky that the post office is within a mile of my house.
- I try to reserve the late afternoon and early evening for my daughter and hubby.
- Every day I work in some type of exercise or yoga at this great studio near the beach. It is a great motivator and mood lifter!
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
The absolute best part is that I can schedule my work around our family life. However, don’t be fooled: yes, it is great and truly is my dream come true, but I honestly have absolutely never worked so hard in all of my life! The only thing I miss about a “real job” is that you go to work, do your work and go home. As a small business owner, your work is constantly on your mind, from outstanding orders to what can I do better, etc. I find it extremely hard to shut off, hence, the yoga.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
The hardest part is that I’m responsible for doing it all. I am the artist, photographer, customer service, shipping, and accounting departments. That’s on top of mommy, wife, housekeeper, and cooking commitments.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
My advice is that once you know you have a market for your work, make your business legitimate. I wish I would have set up a business bank account first thing and applied for a business license. When funds are coming into PayPal and you have a PayPal debit card you are not really thinking of taxes at the end of the year or paying into Medicare and unemployment.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
My number one goal this year is to set up more wholesale accounts. I have a few, which is a great way to have some sales that you can depend on.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would like to thank my super supportive husband and my fabulous customers who keep coming back to request a unique and meaningful handmade gift. I will always be grateful to Etsy for allowing me this opportunity to share something I love with others. I always say that I am doing something that my 85-year-old grandmother, while raising her three children in the 1950s, could never have imagined.
Thanks to Dana for sharing her story. You can see some of Dana‘s clothing line in the Related Items. Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.