Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Business or A Hobby.... Part 2

Yesterday, I blogged about starting my handmade venture... how I chose to make it a business rather than just a hobby and how it all came to be.

This (hopefully) short blog is going to be about how I started out with scarf and hat sets, branched out into handmade jewelry and what it's turned into today.

After trying to sell scarves in 90+ degree heat in August, it was clear that sales were going to be slow. There were so many quality scarves on Etsy as it was and lets face it... practically no one was thinking winter when it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

Jewelry was an obvious choice. Of course, it was a brainstorm... there was 5x as many handmade jewelry shops as scarf shops. But despite awful pictures, I eventually began selling some of my creations. Going into the holidays in 2007, Etsy was beginning to receive quite a bit of media attention and membership was growing quickly... as were shop openings and even worse, the competition in the jewelry category. the debut of the Gift guides at the end of 2007 opened my eyes to what I really needed to do to just stay afloat on Etsy.

The Gift Guides opened and well, I was disappointed that I wasn't selected for them. Clearly the reason was my images were pitiful and to compete, I would need to upgrade my camera. Despite not making the GG that holiday season and having a poor November, my shop began getting noticed in December and sales were pretty good at the end of 07 and the start of 08 (one of my items were briefly in the GG...before selling!)

It was in 2008 when I decided that I needed a niche. Jewelry was just too competitive to continue what I was doing. So I opened up my jars of sea glass jewelry and began a new line of jewelry.

Craft shows also became a big part of my business. The shows weren't really great, but I was able to actually see the reactions of potential customers as they viewed my displays. Seeing what they were drawn to, what they didn't look twice at and what gave them sticker-shock became valuable information in determining what type of show I would do in the future. These shows also indicated that Etsy was now entrenched in the handmade mainstream (is there such a thing), as no one knew what an Etsy was in 2007, but at least 50% of the customers that visited my displays in 2008 had heard of Etsy and many of them were currently members... in some cases, these shows led to online sales a week or two after the shows. Now I was really promoting offline...the shows became an advertisement of my creations.

The decision was made at the end of 2008 that I would phase out my glass bead/semi-precious stone jewelry making and concentrate solely on sea glass jewelry during 2009. The game-plan was to add several new shows to the mix, in hopes of driving more people to my online sites (yes plural...ArtFire and 1000 Markets shops were opened at the end of 08) Unfortunately, the economy continued to tank after the holidays and a great many people began tightening their spending habits and looking for extra ways to make money...less spending and more competition on Etsy.

In the next entry, I hope to share how the info we pick up at shows, leads us to select future shows, how choosing to limit my creations to a specific niche as fared, and the ways I've continued to expand my business.

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