A couple months ago, I was looking for gifts for my daughters' volleyball coaches for our end-of-the-season awards receptiona and party. I picked out some cute little coffee cozies by Etsy seller Jenngee, and contacted her about a custom order using volleyball fabric. She was happy to accomodate my request! And, even better, the "coffee corsets", as she calls them, came out PERFECT!! I had such a pleasant experience dealer with her that I thought I'd do a feature with her on my blog. She graciously accepted my offer, and since the party STILL has not happened, I thought I'd sneak this feature in before Christmas, since there's probably more than a couple people who still need gifts for those on their holiday lists.
So, Jenn...How'd you get started making coffee corsets, of all things?
*** I drink coffee. Lots of coffee. Last summer I was reading Quilting Arts magazine and came across an article about making fabric coffee cuffs. I decided to make one of my own using their instructions, but I was unhappy with the "bump" that was formed at the seam. On my sewing table I happened to have a recently purchased bag of eyelets and the idea of lacing up the cuff popped into my head. After many different trials (and errors) I created my own unique product and I named it the Coffee Corset!
Is this a full time or part-time endeavor, and what did you do previously?
*** I am a full time employee at a major university where I am a math nerd and computer geek. Luckily, my job is almost entirely online so I can fit it my part-time obsession with sewing pretty easily.
You have quite a few sales (1102!) in a year-and-a-half. That's phenomenal. To what do you attribute this? How do you market your business?
*** The sales I've gotten through Etsy have amazed me. While I knew I had something fun and unique, I had no idea I'd get this type of response! I attribute my initial success to simply having a unique product that people seemed to want - I did very little advertising for the first 4-5 months that I was selling online. Word of mouth is still, by far, my best marketing strategy. I have tags in every corset so that when someone asks a buyer where they got their corset they always have the website address of my shop right inside their sleeve. Repeat business is extremely important as well and I attribute about 1/4 of my current monthly sales to buyers who have previously shopped with me before. I think that providing excellent customer service, a product that is superbly well made, and an attempt to constantly introduce new/unique styles is the reason people keep coming back for me. As for advertising, I currently try to keep it fairly simple (I twitter, blog, post in the forum! s, use myspace, etc.) and I still rely heavily on word of mouth advertising.
What advice would you give a new Etsy seller trying to establish themselves?
***Post in the Etsy forums! Most of my first sales came from participating in the forums. People can't buy from you if they don't know that you exist. Also, take steps to get non-Etsy people into your shop. For me that meant giving out free/cheap samples to my friends and family who did lots of on-the-ground advertising for me just by using my product. Keep looking for new and fun ways to advertise. You don't have to spend a lot of money (or any money!) if you are creative and willing to put in some effort. Lastly, don't be discouraged if you don't start selling right away. Keep making small improvements to your product, pictures, listings, etc. and eventually the sales will come.
Check out Jenn's other Etsy sites:
...and her blog, for organziational tips for ADD crafters like me (a must-read!!):
I'm afraid now I have craft-room envy. I'm now planning a second floor on my house...and Jenn, I think your dogs would just loooove a zipline for those personal moments in the back yard. or you could litterbox train them...
So now I'm off for my first pot of coffee for today. Thanks for the interview, Jenn! I'll be back for more of those corsets!