How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I’ve always made things, but I started selling my work several years ago when we moved to Asheville, North Carolina for Stephen’s IT job while I was unemployed. Etsy had just started up and it was the perfect outlet to sell my jewelry.
Tell us about yours and your husband’s previous working situations and how you discovered Etsy.
Stephen worked in IT management for 10 years while I floundered between various restaurant, bookstore and gallery jobs. Stephen claims that I introduced him to Etsy, but I claim that Stephen introduced me.
How did you make the transition into making Etsy both of your full-time jobs?
We planned and prepared for nearly two years. Basically, we whittled away little by little at all the things that we imagined would block us from making this change:
- We streamlined our expenses and paid off large portions of our debt, made possible through the creation of a budget that we followed religiously on mint.com. We lived with the money we expected instead of what was coming in and created a savings safety net with the remainder.
- We grew a garden and now we’re excited about homegrown, home cooked meals.
- We found private health insurance to replace Stephen’s group plan.
- We now share one mobile phone and one car. It helps that we live close to the downtown area and can walk several places.
- We listen to the radio and read books more than we watch TV.
You must have a huge collection of vintage ephemera — where are your favorite places to discover new materials?
Thrift stores are a great resource for old books and clothing with great patterns. Asheville has a huge number of antique malls and we love sifting through those as well. It’s true, the studio is jam-packed with old books, maps and fabrics, but the rest of the house is just as full of all the things we find and can’t let go of. It’s a dangerous side effect of our work.
What’s your best marketing tip?
The most effective single thing we do is list often. We use Statsy to schedule our re-listings daily. Love that!
What’s been your most popular item or line to date?
The ring stack with a map location and a dictionary word has sold consistently over the years. The new favorite, however, are the monogram charms and necklaces.
And your most memorable custom request?
We had a request for a piece of jewelry that somehow reflected the idea of space and time — no problem. We had a vintage star map and an old physics textbook just waiting for someone to make such a request.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
There have been a few sad craft shows that we’d rather not repeat. Also, we rented a studio space for a while that cost way too much (we’re back in our basement now). We’re really cautious about making decisions and so far we haven’t made any huge mistakes. We work to squeeze the best out of everything and look for the positive even when things don’t go as well as we hoped.
What is the biggest challenge you face during your daily schedule?
- Betsy: Understanding what can actually fit into one workday. I expect too much from myself and everybody else, too.
- Stephen: The transition from drinking coffee in my pajamas to getting down to the studio to start work.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
- Betsy: I love the creative freedom that I have, but I miss having someone else hold the ultimate responsibility for decisions.
- Stephen: I love being with my wife and dogs every day, rather than the random office people at my old job. The biggest effect this change has had on me has been in terms of my happiness — I spend every day with people I want to be with.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Knowing something won’t get done unless you do it. The weight of that can be pretty stressful.
I’m dying to know, what are the pluses and minuses of working full time with your significant other?
The pluses are spending lots of time together, collaborating on projects and understanding each others’ workload and stresses better than before. This minuses are that we spend a lot of time together…
Good partners in life equal good partners at work. We get to use all of our healthy relationship skills every day like trusting one another, communicating expectations, appreciating our differences and enjoying each other.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?
We’d quit our jobs earlier! But having day jobs did some good things for us: it helped us buy our home and become financially secure. The only thing we wish someone would have whispered in our ear is that you have to commit to making changes. We were so excited every time we put another piece of the puzzle together. We wish we’d been more serious about reducing expenses and debt years ago.
Thanks to both Betsy and Stephen for sharing their story. You can see some of their work in the Seller’s Items below.
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