Karin of ValhallaBrooklyn started her business with the goal of large wholesale orders to shops throughout the United States and Europe. Once setting up shop on Etsy, she soon discovered she could make wholesale orders and retail orders together in order to support herself. With a new baby on the way, she made the decision to stay small and handmade rather than outsourcing her designs to larger companies. She now finds herself supporting her entire family through the endeavor and sure works the hours to prove it! Keep reading to find out what goes on in Karin’s 80+ hour work week!
When you first started selling on Etsy, did you have dreams or goals of eventually quitting your day job?
Yes, I was in the process of doing just that, but it was for doing wholesale to stores here in the U.S. and in Europe.
What was the deciding factor resulting in pursuing Etsy as your full time job?
I made pretty good sales right away, and decided that I’d rather have this little one-of-a-kind thing rather than starting a big wholesale business and having the bags produced somewhere else.
Did you do anything to prepare ahead of time?
I did do all the practical stuff with business license and setting up the monthly sales and taxes on a sheet; I do all the paperwork myself, too. It’s just me here, and occasionally my husband helps out. I used to make dresses, coats, and also children’s clothing, so I might try those ideas out again if time ever allows for it!
What are the most effective ways you have promoted and marketed your Etsy business? What’s your best marketing tip?
Word of mouth, and giving my cards to anyone who asks. I know people who make postcard size flyers with pictures and info on front and back and leave these at local coffee houses and hang outs.
When I lived in Brooklyn, that seemed to be a very successful way for many artists to get their stuff out there. You can also advertise for open studios, etc. I stay away from this as I work from my private home.
Get yourself a nice webpage, do mailing lists, blogs, etc.
Would you walk us through what a typical workday might entail?
I do different steps on different days.
- Sometimes I’ll cut out bags and linings three days in a row, and then the next couple of days it’s all sewing. I do most work in the morning and then again in the afternoon.
- I have zippers on long rolls, so I often get my husband to help cut and fix the ends on these.
- I work every day. I try not to, but it always ends up that way, unless we are away.
- I have my studio in our house so it’s really hard to “ignore” the fact that’s it’s there and that there’s always stuff to be done.
- At the beginning of each month I take a whole day for paperwork and deal with numbers from the previous month.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job? Is there anything you miss?
No boss! Vacation and days off whenever you please, I get to sleep in if I like, and no one tells me what to do. I wouldn’t change it for the world and I don’t know If I could ever go back to a 9-5 job. I’m pregnant right now and the first 3 months it was VERY hard to get myself in motion in the morning. I remember thinking: “How would I have dealt with a regular job? I would have fallen asleep all the time and been highly unproductive.”
I do miss the social aspect of a regular job: this is pretty lonely, and I’m here all day by myself. I also miss weekends being weekends: you’re off and don’t have to worry about anything work related. When we go on vacation I still think about the shop everyday; after all, I’m the seamstress, designer, accountant, customer service, shipping and packaging guy, leather hide shopper, cleaning lady, etc. I don’t lie when I say I work 80 hours a week most weeks.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?
I sometimes wish I’d done this with a couple of other people. I see that some Etsy stores are 2-3 people owning a shop together where they split the work. It’s pretty overwhelming doing this alone; I get a lot of requests for custom work and often have to say no. There’s just not enough time if I have to live a normal life on the side. Also, get a studio away from your home, unless you have incredible self-discipline and “close the shop” at 5 pm every day. I never get to do that: I often sew till way after midnight.
What goals do you wish to accomplish in the coming year?
In these difficult financial times I’ll be happy even if sales go down just a little. I also have other projects up my sleeve in the creative genre which I will jump to if next year should be disastrous!
Thanks to Karin for sharing her story and business with us! Check out the related items below to see some of her work.
You can find some of our previous Quit Your Day Job posts here.