Beon and Candy of leatherprince met online and dated long distance from Singapore and Taiwan before Candy moved to Singapore and the pair married. They have backgrounds in shoe repair and lab work and for a short while Candy helped out repairing shoes with Beon. It wasn’t long before they came up with the idea to take the leather stitching skills Beon acquired, pair them with Candy’s love for illustration, and develop the business idea for leatherprince. They both feel strongly that they would not be able to make a living selling their leather accessories in Singapore if it weren’t for Etsy’s global reach, and they plan to keep growing their business in the future.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I used to be a cobbler in Singapore working for my father and Candy was a lab assistant in Taiwan before we got married in June 2007, which ended a long distance relationship of three years. We met each other on the Internet, fell in love and got married, and now we run an Internet business together — amazing! Candy moved to Singapore and helped in our cobbler stall but we soon found the shoe repair work to be unsatisfying, as we both wanted to draw cartoons instead. At that time, I was learning leathercraft from our friend Cody. An idea flashed in my head that we would be able to utilize our own illustrated designs with colorful leather and this is how we started leatherprince!
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
We just thought that we could earn some extra income with our craft, but things became more successful each day. To be frank, we had extra pressure when we started in April of 2008, because our circle of friends and environment are predominantly Chinese-speaking and we decided to sell on an English-speaking site. A big thank you goes to our friend, Ling, who introduced us to Etsy and has helped us a lot along the way to overcome the language barrier and any problems we have faced. After 9 months of handling our shop, we sat down one day to discuss if we wanted to work on leatherprince full time as more than just a hobby.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
We didn’t really plan too much ahead. We don’t allow ourselves to think about failing on Etsy, we try to stay positive even when sales are slow; we take that time to focus more on our designs and always make new things to keep our shop fresh. There’s a Chinese word that means “fate,” which we strongly believe in; we can never know what will happen next but we choose to enjoy what we are doing right now and live happily.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
We will list a few new items or renew items 5 to 6 times a day or more in different time zones, this method works well for us. We have a blog, Flickr, and Facebook page for our social networking. We enjoy making custom orders, requesting that the buyer name the item for us and write a little story on why they wanted the design — this way, we can have record of why the design was created, particularly if we decide to sell more of the design in our shop. We find this is meaningful to us, using our craft to fulfill someone’s needs, and hope we can handle every request. We believe our best marketing is by word of mouth from our customers, family and friends.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
We think that every kind of promotion is good, we can never predict when someone will discover our products, so we just do as much promotion as possible.
Walk us through your typical workday.
- Candy wakes up at 6:30 a.m. to take our dog for a walk. She makes breakfast at 8:45 a.m. and I usually wake up at 9 a.m. We turn on the computer and have breakfast together before checking any emails or Convos from the previous evening.
- 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.: I answer all of our Convos and emails and work in our studio if there are any orders to fill. I’ll also work to build up our inventory or work on new designs.
- 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.: We have lunch and I take our dog for a walk, watch the news and get some rest.
- 2:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.: After some rest we go back to the studio to continue working. Candy packs orders if there are any left, then I go to the post office.
- 7:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.: Dinner and family time with our dog, Mao Bao, and our two cats, MoMo and Machi. We stitch our keychains while we watch TV.
- 11 p.m. – 2 a.m.: I surf the Internet, check up on our shop, and play Bejeweled Blitz for a while on Facebook if I have the time (that’s the only game I LOVE to play). Candy will go to bed around midnight and I usually go to bed after 2 a.m.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
We really enjoy being a team, being our own bosses, and having a break anytime we want. We are glad to have each other to share the workload and we brainstorm ways to improve our shop all the time. Sometimes we work alone and it’s so lonely! What I miss about my day job is my boss, my dad. He taught me shoe repair skills, as well as most of the hand-stitching methods we use on our items. Thank you, Dad!
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
If we could go back in time, we would do the same thing: start small, work hard, and focus on our designs to make them our own. This is the same advice we would share with others.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
We hope our business will get better and better in the coming year! We have opened a shop with Candy’s twin sister, Yen. She will be helping with our designs (and her own in felt) over at feltprince. We hope she can join us full time soon.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
We are very grateful to have Etsy to sell our products. If it weren’t for Etsy, we don’t think we could do our leathercraft full time. Thank you very much, Etsy! And thank you to all of our customers! I would also like to thank all of my family in Singapore for their full support and understanding. Thank you!
Thanks to Beon and Candy for sharing their story.
You can see some of their beautiful work in the Related Items. Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.