the rough and tumble world
I have determined that the best way to describe my etsy experience this season has been:
rough and tumble.
Even though my shop has been in existence since 2007...it was by and large neglected that first year. I didn't really start creating inventory until I moved to Atlanta in December 2008. That said...i didn't actually start selling things until mid 2009. These buttons were pretty much my first foray into the world of owning and operating a miniature paper craft shoppe.
Now perhaps you would think that since I am a business owner already I would have a decent sense of what it would take to be a sole proprietor. All I can say is...it's so very very different. At least it was for me, and I think a lot of that had to do with my approach.
As a graphic designer, I approach my work a bit differently. I have a long standing approach that centers on simplicity and clarity. I have found success in the collaborative environment I have created.
As an Etsy shop owner, I approached the whole thing a bit more casually. It began as an extension of my scrapbooking hobby. I also saw it as an opportunity to design and sell the types of things I rarely got the chance to design in my everyday work. It was also a way for me to share the types of vintage paper products I liked to use. I had no lofty goals or expectations. Each and every sale was a happy surprise...it still is.
This was the first year I knew I wanted to remain open and create a line of holiday products. I also knew I would only be traveling briefly during Thanksgiving and I would have plenty of stock on hand. WELL...things don't always go according to plan.
I did have stock...but not NEARLY enough to meet the demand. I wasn't prepared for Ali's fabulous tweet about my holiday milk caps. I underestimated how popular many things would be. I couldn't take advantage of some really great opportunities to get my stuff in shops and kits because I simply didn't have the time or resources. The closer we got to mid December the longer it took to get things packaged and sent. AND WHO KNEW it would snow two days before I left on my trip and I wouldn't be able to get to the post office. UGH. I ran out of supplies, my printer acted up, and some days I didn't get to sleep until very very late.
All of my thoughts surrounding this project were pretty small...and that resulted in quite a few stumbles along the way. Stumbles that led to some amazing learning experience and a wildly successful holiday season for my tiny paper shop.
I can't even begin to articulate what I learned...but the number one thing:
Plan for success.
I expected modest sales, modest interest and a very easy go of it. What I got exceeded my expectations tenfold and I would have been prepared had I treated it less like a hobby or craft project and more like the viable creative small business that it is. Lesson learned.
I am still navigating my way through the rough and tumble world of owning a small paper craft shoppe, but I am continually amazed by the never-ending support of friends and family. The kind words of so so many people and the occasional tweet by someone a LOT more popular than I:) I can't wait to apply everything I learned, I am bursting with ideas for 2011!
Until then, if you have a small shop or are thinking of starting one you can read some tips from a real pro right here.