Jo of PeacockInvitations and her family were recently able to move into the house of their dreams because of the success of Jo’s wedding invitation business. After an illness caused her to seek out new professional opportunities, Jo set up shop on Etsy. Now busy with her new passion and success, Jo advises the importance of a good accountant and staying original.
How did you originally get into the business of making things?
Most of my family members are artists, all dabbling in theater, music, sculpting, painting and such. Honestly, when I was a kid, I was convinced I’d break free and go do something completely different, like become a human rights lawyer or a criminal psychologist. When I got older I realized my life was in cinema, so I ended up leading my career down that path. Even though I’ve always enjoyed creating things with my hands (scrapbooking, knitting, etc.) I never really intended to make a living doing what I do now.
Tell us about your previous working situation.
When I was young, my family lived in many countries to follow my parents’ work and dreams — which led me to speak many languages fluently. With that skill, and my passion for cinema, I worked as a sales and distribution manager selling artistic documentaries for the big screen. I loved it more than you can imagine, but unfortunately a genetic blood disorder I have led me to choose a different path — one that kept me closer to my doctors. During this time I met the love of my life, he asked me to marry him soon after, and we began the journey towards where we are today.
We planned a big, eco-friendly wedding to be held in Italy, near Venice, where I lived for several years as a child. We had guests coming from 32 different countries so I wanted the invitations to be something out of this world, as I already knew it would be hard to convince people to travel so far to attend our wedding. I had designed invitations for friends in the past, but never anything as elaborate as what I created for my own wedding. We wanted something vintage, travel-themed, old Hollywood, but with bold colors. Peacock feathers came to mind, which was fitting, as the bird represents loyalty, eternal love, fidelity, and good luck. Our invitations were a hit, and after a few wedding blogs and forums featured them I started receiving requests to create invitations in the same style and theme. Peacock Invitations was created soon after and our signature piece, the peacock-themed vintage passport invitations, was based on our own wedding invitations.
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams of eventually quitting your day job?
No, absolutely not, and it turns out I work harder now than I ever did before!
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time? Feel free to give us the nitty gritty business details.
Nope, I had a few good connections from my old job that were useful in this line of work (paper suppliers, printers, etc.), but that’s about all I had when I decided to give it a real go and do this for a living.
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
- I like to network, so a lot of my marketing is done through meeting and sharing information, tips, and supporting other artists who create handmade beauty within the wedding industry. We have a lot of competition out there — big companies who sell invitations and accessories for a fraction of what we do, but all I can say is: You get what you pay for.
- Other marketing outlets I use, apart from listing as much as possible on Etsy, are Facebook, Twitter, and ads with bridal blogs, eco-friendly blogs, and magazines when funds allow it.
- Good customer service is always key. I try my absolute hardest to make sure that our customer service is perfect. I take a lot of time to answer emails, phone calls, Etsy convos, and really try to make the experience of ordering wedding invitations an enjoyable step in our clients’ wedding planning.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion? Have you made any business mistakes you regret?
The only business regret I have is that for a while I took too many orders before I had a backup plan, if I were to get sick again. Running your own business is a 24/7 thing, so if you suddenly aren’t around to make things happen, your business takes a hit.
Walk us through your typical workday.
Disclaimer: Wedding season can get crazy in our world!
- I get up when my two kids wake up in the morning (one is 14 months, the other 3 1/2).
- Once the hubby and the kids are out the door to daycare, I have breakfast, answer emails, prepare FedEx shipping paperwork and other paperwork for my accountant.
- I finish any orders that aren’t done and package all orders.
- I design most of our creations during the day, or late at night.
- I answer emails, have conference calls and answer Etsy convos.
- I send proofs to printing and pick up proofs that are ready.
- I cut invitations, ribbons, melt wax seals and such for my packaging.
- As soon as my kids come home from daycare until 8:30 p.m., it’s family time. We try to put work aside and just be together.
- We always try to assemble invitations in the evening after the kids are in bed. We cut feathers, stuff envelopes, design new proofs and answer more emails.
- I usually hit the sack around 1 a.m. It’s a long day!
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
I enjoy being able to make my own decisions, and do what I want to do when I want to do it. I enjoy being THE boss, I have to admit that. I do miss stability and not having all the weight on my shoulders. Working 9 to 5 for me was a lot easier, but also a lot less rewarding. This just seems to be what I am good at, and I enjoy every moment of it.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Although I enjoy my life as it is, I rarely have time for anything else. I have my kids, my husband and my job. That’s pretty much it. All of my friends hunt me down online or on the phone if they want to talk, because they know that’s where they’ll find me!
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself? What advice would you give someone else?
Try to take it easy. Oh, and hire an accountant!
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year for your Etsy business?
I’d like to be able to hire more help so we can produce more beauty and reach a larger crowd. I also hope that by producing more, we can create a new budget line for those brides who love our work, but can’t afford the exclusive collections we have now.
Photo by wedding photographer, Kellie Kano
Any favorite Etsy Shops we should know about?
Oh, absolutely. I consider myself very lucky to be able to call several wonderful Etsy artists my friends. There are too many to mention, but amongst those I talk to on a daily basis are Marie from EmiciBridal, Yvonne from Bonzie and Jade from JadeRoseDesigns. There are several time zones between us but I love staying in touch with them and smile whenever I find a convo or email from them in my inbox. I like to support fellow wedding industry artists, so I came up with the idea of making an “Etsy vendor list” for all of our customers, and they receive discounts when shopping from those sellers. That list is now very long and, next to the fabulous ladies I just mentioned, it also includes BethanyLorelle, BaroqueAndRoll, OneLittleDove, FaeriedTreasures, OriginalsByLynnette and many more. I also enjoy creating Treasuries that include Etsy artists I love, so whenever I find the time I go treasure hunting on Etsy.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
The success our little business has seen in the last year made it possible for us to purchase our dream home this past spring, with a studio for our headquarters. So to all the brides out there whom we have had the pleasure of working with: Thank you! You have no idea how much we appreciate your business.
Another thing I’d like to share with anyone starting their own business: as long as you stay original and create something new, things will happen for you. I work hard at keeping our work one-of-a-kind, and strive to keep coming up with fresh, unique ideas. It pays off at the end of the day.
Thanks to Jo for sharing her story. You can see some of Jo‘s work in the Related Items.
Previous Quit Your Day Job posts