Marcia of KahiliCreations has been selling on Etsy for over a year and is already seeing enough success to contribute a significant portion to the household income. Marcia has not had to return to her day job of Power Point presentations and meetings; instead she’s in a position to stay home with her family and get creative while making a living. The joy of working from home comes with the pressure of being responsible for her business’ success, but Marcia has carved a definitive path for herself on Etsy. Today she will share some tips and tricks that she’s picked up along the way.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
In the early nineties, I really wanted all of the cute necklaces the girls on Friends were wearing. Since I wanted about fifty of them and couldn’t afford to buy them all, I went to a bead shop and made every necklace I ever wanted. Then my friends wanted to buy them. Around the same time, I got addicted to international travel, which is a bummer when you don’t have a lot of money. I could always afford my plane ticket and hotel, but I needed spending money. A big gelato a day wasn’t going to cut it for me in Italy. So, I started selling my pieces at work and jewelry parties.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
I haven’t had a real day job since having my first child six years ago. After years and years of working for other people, I knew that I would eventually have my own business. I was actually thinking about opening up a small bakery or sandwich shop before I discovered Etsy and all of its Etsy goodness. My main goal when I opened my shop was to sell enough jewelry to buy our weekly groceries. As soon as my sales increased after a few months, I knew that I could really grow my business if I put my mind to it.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
Oh, definitely. Besides all of the usual business start up stuff, I sketched a bunch of designs, read The Tipping Point and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and the Lovemarks books by Kevin Roberts. I got a Tax ID number so I could buy my supplies wholesale.
I put a lot of thought into my branding and packaging. My all-time favorite packaging was when I bought a bottle of fragrance from a Comptoir Sud Pacifique boutique. Inside the perfect shopping bag, my bottle was wrapped in matching tissue paper which was placed in a gorgeous microsuede bag. I felt proud and special walking down the street with my CSP bag! Silly, but true. I tried to emulate that experience. So, I found the perfect paper boxes from Thailand to house my creations. Then I made jewelry like a mofo.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
Other than listing or renewing every day, I’d say my most effective promotion was a large CPM banner buy over a network of blogs with high traffic, geared towards women. I bought 130,000 impressions to run over the course of three days. Even though only 342 people clicked through on the ad, I see them as 342 potential customers. Using Google Analytics, I could see that they were viewing at least 10 pages in my shop. Users from one of the blogs, a site where women dish about makeup, viewed an average of 12 pages in my shop and the bounce rate was only 20%. These people are quality leads. I’m not sure how that translated into sales, but I’ve had a lot of “new to Etsy” customers in the past weeks.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I find that sponsoring giveaways and such, while fun, has had absolutely no impact on my traffic or sales. I can’t Twitter or blog to save my life. The few times I’ve participated in the Forums, you could hear the crickets. I also tried advertising through Project Wonderful, but I haven’t found any sites that brought me any meaningful traffic.
Walk us through your typical workday.
- 5:30 a.m. – My 4 month old’s favorite time to get up. I’ll talk with him while I turn my computer on. Check email and answer any convos. Read the news online. Check my hearts on Craftcult.
- 7:00 a.m. – Attempt to get my 6 year old up and ready for school. Luckily, my husband makes breakfast and packs her lunch. I’m in charge of fashion and grooming. I’ll pack up any orders that I don’t have to alter, and he drops them at the post office.
- 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Coffee drinking, picture taking and editing, description writing and listing, all while making faces at the baby. Might do some Swiffering (as my beloved Roomba is broken) and laundry. I’ll make a few things while the baby naps.
- 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. – Lunch break. Husband comes down from his shop and we eat, catch up on our day and watch Gordon Ramsay yell at people on BBC America.
- 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Catch up on convos and pack up any new orders. Hubby picks up daughter at school and drops off my packages. If I’m lucky I can get a quick nap.
- Usually, the mail person shows up around this time. I greet her by clapping and jumping up and down. I love getting new supplies!
- 2:30 – 7:00 p.m. – Family time.
- 7:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. – This is actually when I get most of my work done. The kids are asleep and I have a chance to stare at my gemstones and findings and come up with some designs and make some pieces. I scan the web for more places to advertise, try to update my flickr and glance through the fora on Etsy. I also check my supplies and re-order what’s needed.
This is a typical day if I don’t have any sales: Wake up, no convos, no sales. I sulk all day, complain to my husband at lunch that I haven’t sold anything. His eyes slowly glaze over. Then, I come to the conclusion that my shop sucks.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
Other than a weekly paycheck, bonuses and paid health insurance? No! If I had to come up with one thing, it would be going out to lunch with my friends. I do not miss PowerPoint presentations, meetings, justifying my existence and pretending to work when I was really shopping online.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
I am responsible for the success of my business. I can’t go to the Marketing division and tell them their campaigns aren’t working. I’m also in denial about how much I spend on supplies, so I dread the financial end. Dealing with returns is also difficult. If someone says, “This really doesn’t go with my skin tone,” I need to understand that it’s just that and not take it so personally.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
When I first started out on Etsy, I wasn’t listing every day and my sales were sporadic. As soon as I found my groove I realized that the more I listed, the more I sold. I should have also really worked on my photography, as my pictures at the beginning weren’t very good. I know it’s been said ad nauseum, but pictures are key to success on Etsy.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
I wish to cultivate more repeat customers. I have many loyal repeat customers, and they really sustain my business. I love them dearly. I eventually want to expand more into bridal jewelry, but then I catch an episode of Bridezillas and get really scared. Just kidding! I’ve worked with a lot of brides since opening my shop, and they’ve all been wonderful. Some just buy from my shop and convo me afterward telling me it’s for their special day.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I do. In another life, I produced websites for a living, and I have to thank Etsy for giving me the opportunity to open up my shop with ease. Also, I get to stay home and be with my family, get creative and make some money! This is the first job I’ve had that I look forward to every day.
Thanks to Marcia for sharing her story. Have a your own questions to ask? Come on by and chat with Marcia Wednesday, June 10th at 7 p.m. ET in Etsy’s Virtual Labs.
You can see some of her beautiful jewelry in the related items. Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.