Shanah, the business brains and seamstress behind LittleHouses, spent 12 years working in restaurants and pubs before kissing her late hours goodbye to sell her clothing line full time on Etsy. When feeling discouraged, Shanah would peruse the Quit Your Day Job series for motivation to reach her own goal. She now spends her days sewing in a shared studio space with eight local designers and loves knowing her work supports her own financial needs.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
I have always been into making things. I learned how to knit at a young age and I was pretty much hooked on crafts from there. I sewed my first quilt when I was 15 and I loved the idea of creating something totally functional. I started up a small T-shirt and bag business with my best friend when we were in art school together. From there I got so excited about clothes and the prospect of being able to make them that I dropped out of art school and enrolled in the fashion design program.
Tell us about your previous working situation.
I have a 12 year background in the restaurant/pub industry. It really helped financially when I was first starting up my business. It is a very exhausting job, though, and I was starting to get really tired of the late nights. When I first started my business I would work all day sewing and then all night at the pub. I did that six days a week for almost two years. Even though it sucked at the time, it was totally worth it in the end.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
Oh, completely. I used to read the Quit Your Day Job articles all the time. I found them so inspiring. Anytime I would start to get discouraged or lazy with my business goals I would just read one of these articles and it would get me so motivated to keep pushing. I always knew that I wasn’t meant to work for someone else. It’s amazing to me how much this site has helped my career. If it wasn’t for Etsy, I definitely would not have been able to quit my day job.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
I actually was completely unprepared the whole way through! I honestly was just going from one day to the next. I had no solid business plan. I had no money saved and no financial plan whatsoever. I just went with what was working and hoped for the best; luckily it worked out in the end!
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
I haven’t done a whole lot of marketing but have had success posting ads on blogs that linked back to my Etsy shop. Posting to my blog and Facebook page have also been helpful marketing tools.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion? Have you made any business mistakes you regret?
I don’t think that I have had any unsuccessful promotions. I think any promotion is a successful one. If one person sees your shop who has never seen it before, it’s a success. I have definitely made a lot of mistakes along the way but I try to just learn from them rather than regret them. Running a business is very new to me so I’m taking it all in stride as I move forward.
Walk us through your typical workday.
- I try and get out of bed before 8 every day.
- I make coffee and check my Etsy emails.
- I do all my shipping invoices through PayPal at home, so I usually have a few packages to ship and drop off at the post office.
- Then I go straight to my studio, which I share with eight other local designers.
- I generally work on about ten orders at a time. I cut out all the patterns, sew them and package them up for shipping.
- There is usually at least one trip a week to the fabric store as well.
- I normally stay at the studio until about 6 or 7, and that is pretty much my everyday routine.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
I don’t miss a single thing! I still technically work a “day job,” I guess, but it is completely on my terms. It is so much fun being able to just make stuff, hang out with great girls all day in a super cozy, creative environment and know that I am only working so that I can make money, not so someone else can. It really is my ideal job, and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
The hardest part for me is keeping the paperwork and the finances organized. I never took a business course before so I am just kind of learning as I go. I made a lot of mistakes along the way but I’m also realizing that that is the best way to learn.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
The only advice I can think of is to save all of the money you make from the business and reinvest it. That’s something that I was really bad at in the beginning. I think I’m getting better at it now, but it took a long time to get organized.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
I’ve come to realize that fall is a really busy time for me, so this year I am going to be prepared! Last year kind of blindsided me and it was really stressful. I was totally behind the whole time, so my goal is to be more organized and prepared this year. I want my shop to continue to grow and the only way for that to happen is if I stay on top of it.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
As much as I love my current work situation, it is definitely a lot of work. I put a lot of hours into this business but the benefits of all that work are totally worth it.
Thanks to Shanah for sharing her story. You can see some of Shanah‘s work in the Related Items.
Check out previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.