Nov 212013
 

My husband, John, bought his first pair of fake eyelashes this week. Yes, really.

Eyelash Kit

Okay, I admit that opening sentence begs for an explanation. As I mentioned in my previous post, I sold  my crocheted hats, gloves and scarves at the local Beaverdale Holiday Boutique last weekend. Among my more interesting customers was a little girl who stood about four feet tall who stood in front of the mannequin heads sitting on my display tables.

Booth 2

“Sister, Mother, Aunt,” she recited, pointing to each head. “Mom, why is the mother missing one of her eyelashes?”

Sure enough, my observant little sprite had noticed what I had not—that one of my mannequins had a naked eye. So, John (who does all of our grocery shopping) added eyelash glue to his list of eggs, bread and milk. He came home with a one dollar Elf packet that included one tube of a thick, sticky substance that I think is mostly wax, and a pair of fake eyelashes. If you ever watched Sandra Bullock struggle to become a beauty pageant contestant in the 2000 film, Miss Congeniality, you can imagine me struggling similarly to glue eyelashes to my mannequin’s eyelids. I have come to the realization that those things stick to anything but their recommended target. Eventually Gypsy Rose (below) got her act together.

DSCN8056

Another interesting customer was a little boy who latched onto one of the hot pink hand mirrors sitting on my display tables. He held the mirror up Romper Room-style (yeah, I know I’m dating myself here), turned his back to me, and began talking to my mannequin heads. At least, I think he was. My husband swears he was being greeted. Or maybe both. In any event, I thought I had time-warped back to the early 1960s.

The next thing I knew, the little boy walked to the booth next door where his sister was begging Dad for a seven-dollar necklace. “Dad,” he said. “I found what I want.” Of course it was the mirror. In the end, after he was informed by his father that the mirror was not for sale, he settled for a stretchy beaded bracelet. But on his way out of the room, he picked up the hand mirror once more, and turned his bracelet-clad wrist this way and that so the Mirror could admire his purchase. I have never been so entertained. Apparently, the same was true for the little boy.

Mirror

The third interesting customer was an elderly lady using a walker to propel herself from booth to booth. She was not funny or entertaining, but instead made an interesting remark that turned on the proverbial light bulb inside my head. “Your hats and scarves with those big flowers on them,” she said, “remind me of the Roaring Twenties.” I had never really thought about it, but I sew over-sized flowers on almost everything inside JN Originals. “Flapper girl,” I thought, “that’s my style!” And I started using that tag for listings in my shop. If you don’t believe me, look at these other Etsy items that feature a similar look.

[sh-etsy-treasury treasury=”NjIyMjQyNHwyNzIyNzQ0NTI3″ size=”large” columns=”4″ display=”complete”]

This November marks six years since I first began selling on Etsy. I started with crocheted, felted coasters and business card pouches, crocheted cotton spa cloths and crocheted, felted java jackets. When my shop expanded to include hats, scarves and gloves, I realized that not all of the items fit well together. This relates to the subject of cohesiveness, about which I have written previously in End of year shop review. Recently a fellow Blogging Business Artisans team member asked me if I had thought about consolidating my Etsy shops, since I manage three presently and have been contemplating a fourth for a long time. It’s a very good question because time management is already an issue when you make merchandise by hand for one shop, photograph it, write product descriptions, list it, advertise it through social networks, and track sales for the Tax Man. The answer for me, however, is not shop consolidation but instead branding. According to Etsy’s staff member, Michelle, in her post, How to Create a Cohesive Shop, a shop whose style can be identified easily by its customers keeps them coming back:

Creating a cohesive shop is the most important tool for branding yourself, and one of your biggest allies in your search for repeat customers. Customers who love your style will share your shop with others and come back again and again.

So, opening a fourth shop—possibly in 2014—may be in the cards. It all began, of course, with a pair of fake eyelashes.

© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Dec 312012
 

November marked my fifth year of selling on Etsy, a journey that began with a shop called JN Originals that features crocheted and felted personal accessories, continued with papercrafted items in Mister PenQuin, and extended with recycled craft supplies in 2nd Chance Treasures. Along the way I’ve learned lessons about marketing, photography, shipping and customer service. My journey has been made easier by becoming a member of multiple selling teams on Etsy, most particularly BBEST (Boomers and Beyond Etsy Street Team) and Blogging Business Artisans. In fact, one of the strongest pieces of advice I would give a newcomer to the Etsy scene is to join a team that reflects your interests, as this will shorten your learning curve. Visit the information-packed Etsy post, What is Teams? to learn more. I also recommend becoming familiar with the Etsy Seller’s Handbook. Finally, you can pick up lots of marketing and organizational tips by visiting such sites as Blacksburg Belle, written by April Bowles-Olin, and Handmadeology, written by a team of entrepreneurs.

One of the pieces of online selling advice that really caught my attention this past year is the concept of having a cohesive shop. In her post, How to Create a Cohesive Shop, Etsy staffer Michelle writes, “Creating a cohesive shop is the most important tool for branding yourself, and one of your biggest allies in your search for repeat customers. Customers who love your style will share your shop with others and come back again and again.”

Define your style

What is a cohesive shop? According to Michelle, a cohesive shop has a clearly defined style that can be summed up in just a few words. This makes it easy for both you and others to promote your shop through blogging, simply because it is easy to identify your style and describe it. Your shop may also be more visible if you have a well defined style because search results may better match what you sell than if your shop is a mixture of unrelated items that share no common theme other than that they are handmade by you.

For the first shop on Etsy that I opened, JN Originals, my style has evolved over time. In fact, when I first began selling on Etsy, I was like a lot of other sellers who are not exactly sure what they intend to sell. I remember starting off with felted wool coasters, crocheted hair scrunchies, and long, fuzzy scarves, none of which I make anymore. I added crocheted spa cloths and felted java jackets, felted needle books, felted wool clutch purses—and eventually, crocheted wearables such as flower brooches, scarflettes, headwarmers, hats and fingerless gloves. What I observed is that while all of these products share a common material—yarn—the ones that sell best for me are the wearables, particularly the ones that feature a flower as part of their design. Moreover, they are customizeable, which is a selling point. This, then, has become the style that defines my shop: crocheted wearable accessories featuring a flower motif.

Cohesive Shop Collage

Match your products to your style

Michelle points out that once you define your style, it is important to make sure that your product line-up meshes with your definition. Gradually, over the course of this past year,  I have been redefining the sections in my shop to include only crocheted wearables. To be sure, there are still some products that don’t quite fit. These include my felted wool java jackets which, despite the fact that they sell, sell infrequently and inconsistently.

DSCN5383

I am still wrestling with the appropriate home for the felted wool needle books I make, not because they don’t sell, but because they no longer fit the style of JN Originals. Perhaps they will move into a fourth shop that has been sitting on the Etsy site, product-less, for more than a year. This shop is Dancing Thimble, intended for fabric accessories—what I like to call “fabric solutions.” I can visualize a section containing sewing tools at this selling venue.

As of December, I moved out the spa cloths and the last set of coasters from JN Originals. What will also move out during 2013 will be the long, fuzzy scarves that were popular some years back (and seem to still be worn by Midwestern women because of our very cold winters and the warmth of these scarves), but are perhaps not so popular elsewhere. Likely these same scarves will sell locally at craft fairs, rather than online.

Having a defined style helps you to develop new products, or to modify existing ones that will conform better to your style. For longer than I would like to admit, I have needed to pull my felted bags from my shop to modify them to include the floral motif that highlights other products. The bag with the felted flower below, for example, is one I made for myself but whose style has never appeared in JN Originals.

Margarete Bag in Turquoise with Floral Accents (front)

Recognize who your buyers are

Part of having a cohesive shop is knowing who your customers are, and making sure that every product you offer is geared toward those potential buyers. For the most part, I have come to recognize that women and teenage girls represent my buyers. But I also realize that my buyers include those who like to crochet the same items I make. So, I have begun to offer crochet patterns to address the needs of this type of customer. My first pattern is a set of fingerless gloves that fits an average-sized woman or teen. I expect that in 2013 I will roll out other patterns, not only on Etsy but also at the Craftsy site. In addition, I intend to broaden my market by including some unisex items.

Match your shop appearance to your style

Etsy’s Michelle, in her post about creating a cohesive shop, advises sellers to tailor their photographic backgrounds and banners to their style to create a cohesive shop. My product backgrounds, which are a plain white, will remain so in order to show off the colors and textures of my work. My shop banner, on the other hand, needs some work. It currently features a pink background with tiny flowers scattered on it (which ties in somewhat with the floral motif I use), but doesn’t really tell you what I sell. We’ll see what the new year brings!

Creating a cohesive shop takes time and experimentation. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of products you consider to be your favorites, but don’t sell particularly well. Likely these are items you can turn into special gifts. In the end, it’s all about your buyer!

I’d love to hear what other sellers are doing to make their shop more cohesive; let me know in your comments below.

© 2012 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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