Climate Change

Hopefully we all do as much as we can at home to preserve the environment – multiple kinds of recycling, donating things we’ve outgrown to the charity shop and repairing things instead of just binning them. This year I’ve started to think more about these issues and how they relate to my responsibility as a seller. Before I ramped up my Etsy this time last year, I always reused branded boxes for my orders as I didn’t need too many, but as demand became higher and I felt like I needed to up my game I bought some nice plain white ones for my shop, and as has as always been my business philosophy (until now) the cheaper the better – maximum profit is my goal otherwise what’s the point of having a business.

I closed my Illustration shop straight after EML for a wee while to rethink my overall strategy. Improving my shops environmental footprint and ethics is one of the key elements I want to address. My greetings cards have always been printed on white inkjet card bought in bulk cheaply, with non sustainable inks because vegetable ones are expensive, envelopes are not made of recycled paper and then they are put in non-biodegradable cellos and a board back envelope. That’s a huge amount of non-ethical things all going into the production of one tiny card. I have been toying about how to make my products more responsible and my timing couldn’t be better.

My studio buddy Lynne has started a Social Enterprise called Re:Craft. Re:Craft is an arts and crafts materials reuse and recycling shop based in our studio. Lynne accepts donations of second hand, part used arts and crafts materials. Re:Craft also takes dry recycling items such as wine corks, cardboard tubes, tin cans etc. they are then resold at reasonable prices. It’s a brilliant iniative that’s going so well and guess what Re:Craft also stocks? – used packaging materials. Re:Craft has made me think about my business, not only products which I’m working on but also how I wrap and present my orders.

It’s important that things from my vintage shop arrive unscathed but why can’t the packaging be reused. Can my customers begin to understand why things may not look so pretty, it’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I REALLY CARE. Surely I just have to let people know why I’m doing it and then they’ll understand. With that in mind I’ve designed some simple stickers to pop on my boxes letting people know why they are receiving an order in a reused box. Hopefully there will not be any reduction of satisfaction in the experience of buying from my shop and customers still feel their order is special and considered.

I’m not going to be able to totally ditch the packaging yet, we have a physical shop and things need some protection when displayed on the shelves but this year I’m going to work on not only order packing but also my actual products. I guess that’s happens when you grow up in business, money is not the sole thing that matters, being true to yourself is much more important. The caring aspect is a key thing that makes you different from all the big boys. Do things have to be more expensive, well yes unfortunately that is probably going to be true, but hopefully my customers will understand why and will support me in this transition.

Reusing old box rules

Find all old address labels, bar Codes etc on the box and use a permanent dark coloured marker to completely black out all bar codes and labels.

Check that the box is still solid and not torn or crumpled, check the packing tape is strong enough to hold.

Pack your items well and secure the box properly. Place your new shipping label over the old, blacked-out address.

Download the printable sticker sheet here to use on your own reused packages to let people know you are saving the earth by reusing a box.

Download to print sticker sheet here

And follow Re:Craft here to keep up to date 

Organising Etsy Made Local

This is the third year of our Etsy Made Local event at the Briggait which brings together two sets of sellers of 70 for a weekend market in December. This year I thought I’d write a post about how we do it (and how much it takes out of us).

WHAT IS ETSY MADE LOCAL

Etsy Made Locals are organised all over the UK on the same weekend in December to bring together the wider Etsy community and encourage people to shop small and locally. I am part of a team of volunteers who have organised the Glasgow event for the past 3 years , the others being Lynne from Squinty Stuff, Mairi from Maram Jewellery and Katherine from The Canny Squirrel (and also thanks to Lynsey from Stitchcraftblog for her help with the first 2 years). We volunteer our time to not only running the Glasgow Etsy Team day to day, but also to arranging the market. It’s a huge amount of work and a mammoth commitment on top of our own shops, full time jobs, children, washing mountains and pets.

WHEN DO WE START WORKING ON IT

We start the process in June, when we open the applications window. This year we had over 6 times the applicants to places available, so we extended the event by a day to meet demand. It is very tricky whittling down the list, You are forced to turn down some good people in order to make the lineup balanced. It’s difficult to objectively curate the fair as you really have to forget your personal tastes and look at everything with fresh eyes. It’s a huge amount of shuffling around sellers on paper, moving from list to list and making very hard decisions to get it right. We then have to split the sellers into potential Saturday and Sunday lineups and then make them balance, which adds an extra trickiness to the process. We then start a final discussion between the four of us, a bit like the X Factor judges where we argue our final cases for moving people in and out the lineup. This year the process was really hard, I can reassure you that none of the decisions are taken lightly, there were so many great applicants and some really tough resolutions were taken, I really hope that everyone who applied understands it’s not a personal attack on their talents and products if they don’t get a space. It’s just how you successfully curate a fair that people of all ages, tastes and backgrounds will want to come to, and more importantly will want to buy things. We are starting after a couple of years to understand what products will sell and what may potentially struggle, and we have to take this into account. These items however may well be perfect for future ventures. We hope that one day we will have the opportunity to work and include everyone in the team in one of our events. All in all this selection process takes about 2 weeks of hard work.

After the selection is made comes my most hated job of the process, the admin. Extracting all the emails, making up millions of lists with various details, double checking the lists, crapping yourself when you send out the emails to the people on the list in case sent it to the wrong list, the lists really do go on, This is truly the worst bit of the WHOLE process and by the time we have collected the table fees, finalised the lineup and paid all the bills it’s around the third week in August, then it’s time to take a week to calm down before the next phase.

 

SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER

It’s September and we’re now in the hard sell period when we have to get our event out there and let people know about it. We strive to get our stall holders sales before and after the event, so we share their work daily, make up a huge monster reference blog post with links to all their shops, publicity pics get sent out to all kinds of organisations, flyering is done and endless rounds of copy are written for various publications and purposes. We work really hard during this period and I hope that shows. By now we are all starting to panic about our own Christmas strategies for our shops. For the past 2 years I have really failed with my own Christmas stock due to Etsy Made Local and the self imposed torture I put through, worrying that no buyers will turn up, vendors won’t sell anything and people will be angry with me. This year I’m determined not to miss out on my own sales, so have started planning ridiculously early to make sure that I indeed can make a good show at the fair for once.

 

 NOVEMBER

November last year was, I think we would all agree a bit too much. On top of everything, we held a Press and PR night, with very tasty signature Tunnocks cocktails, goodie bags full of vendors stuff, a photo booth and workshops which took a huge amount of organising and put so much pressure on us.

On top of that we also decorated two huge windows of our venue with displays. Come the close of the event, all of us pretty much felt like we were dying and consequently we took a huge several month long break at the beginning of the year which seemed in hindsight to be relatively counterproductive.

 

This year we have decided not to do so many things that are specific to EML and rather concentrate on a more longterm strategy. We have set up a committee of volunteers to help us with our tasks, we are so lucky that 40 amazing team members are willing to give up some of their free time to help us out . I’m really hoping that without the energy drain of last years Etsy Made Local lead up and with our new amazing helpers alongside us, we will have time in November to be able to forward plan for 2018, but of course still have the most successful EML to date.

 

DECEMBER

It’s Etsy Made Local, and it’s time to put up the tables and let the people in. Last year we extended our event to 2 days, opening times extended by several hours and also our amount of sellers grew by 10 per day from the previous year. It really helped even out the frenzy of the first year which was quite frankly terrifying and make for a much nicer shopping experience. In the first year I had gone from having sleepless nights about no-one turning up to realising there was a queue of people right round the block who desperately wanted to get in. It was a very strange experience to stand on the Briggait balcony and realise everything was alright after months of winding yourself up. I will always remember this feeling and although I will try to not have quite so many nightmares this year, I can reassure there will never be complacency. The hard work always has to be put in to make it a success, people have to know where it is, when it is and also very importantly why they want to be there, that is always going to be our job.

All in all in 2016, we had around the same amount of customers on each of the 2 days as we had had on the first year, but obviously having 2 more hours open time it was a lot calmer and better for everyone. This year despite us starting off with planning a one day event (mainly because we were all spent), we are to follow the same formula and run a 2 day event with the same amount of sellers, hopefully everyone will enjoy it as much as the previous years. It’s amazing to see all your hard work pay off and result in happy people all round, both buyers and sellers alike coming together to make small businesses prosper.

 

We really hope to see you all there. Here are the event details .If you are a Etsy seller based in Scotland and would like to keep up with our plans for 2018 please join our team here and also make sure to follow our facebook page for updates here.

 

 

 

 

2017 Etsy Shop Ramp Up

I’ve had an Etsy shop since 2010, I set it up when I was on maternity leave, but I had to go back to work when Marnie was only a few months old so never really did anything much with it. I’d get sales and occasionally add more stuff, it was a nice surprise to sell something but I never really considered that it could make a huge difference financially, as I didn’t have the time to dedicate to it properly.

This year I was threatened with potential redundancy (which btw never happened) and decided that I had to start really making my small business work, just incase. It’s been such a hard task and all consuming but I think I can say I’ve managed to turn things around, so I thought I’d just write a quick blog post on what I’ve ramped up in my store in 2017.

(Fingers crossed) next week, I shall hopefully reach in my Etsy shop, double the TOTAL amount of sales that I made in the whole of 2016, which is very exciting.

Obviously I don’t sell on Etsy full time, I don’t rely on the money, I have a monthly wage, so I know this makes my Etsy experience different from others who’s shops as their only source of income. With a full time job, child, house to keep (kind of) in order, Glasgow Etsy Team and then actually packing and sending the things I sell, there isn’t too much spare time left to work on the shop, so I’ve had to be clever and very organised with my time. Due to the unpredictability of my job, all of my work on my shop is done early in the morning or when I get back home, which is hard, it’s really difficult not to just give up when you’re tired and just watch telly instead. I have to be clear with myself about what I’m trying to achieve and setting a financial goal is the easiest way for me to keep focussed.I set myself a target of paying off a loan by the end of the year (which I have already done, hurrah).

So now the Etsy part…

To kickstart the makeover process in January I assessed all the things already in my shop. I retook some pictures, rejigged my shop sections to make more sense and completely started from scratch with my SEO, using Marmalead to help generate keywords, which when you’re selling one off vintage items can sometimes be a bit of a struggle to think of. If you haven’t used Marmalead before I would recommend it, I don’t have a lot of time to research search terms, so the £15 a month Marmalead costs, for me is a total no-brainer. I also removed items I didn’t feel were a good fit for my brand anymore in order to streamline my shop and make it make sense. This whole part of the process took about a month.

In February I set myself a goal of how many items I wanted to have in the shop, it needed to be manageable but enough to get myself noticed. I decided to increase from 200 to 600 items, meaning that I will tend to sell at least a couple of things a day. In the grand scale of things that isn’t a lot of sales, but is the right amount for me to be able to cope with and also continue to make a financial difference. I’ve been closely noting down my goals and “to do’s” and have had to be very organised. I have been working most nights until quite late, either to get parcels wrapped or to replenish the shop stock on Etsy, and by the end of February I had an inventory of 600 items.

I’ve been tracking my accounts this tax year in Quickbooks to make sure that tax return time is quick and painless, and have been fairly good at updating it every day. It’s really user friendly and although it does cost a monthly fee, it was by far the simplest app I stumbled upon and it is easy to update instantly using my phone.

Come March my sales had increased and were becoming quite regular, at least one sale a day and sometimes much more, that was one major goal achieved – being able to count on regular sales.

April, May June and July, my real work was very busy so I just carried on topping up the shop, keeping my items around the 600 mark and my sales remained steady and dependable. This is when I achieved goal one – paying off my loan. A new bigger goal was introduced – saving up for a new kitchen.

August I decided it was time to start thinking about the big Christmas push. I had to plan not only how to make the most of the holiday season but also how I was going to cope with a possible rush of orders on top of everything else. I have been furiously photographing, photoshopping and writing descriptions for items to add for the festive period and they are all sitting in my drafts ready to go, I’ve set myself a target of releasing 10 listings a day, and with any luck that will mean that not only do I surpass last years sales by a mile but that I will have by far my most successful period by a long shot since I joined Etsy. I have tried to be as organised as possible and have made sure all my packaging is bought and logically organised in the studio for Xmas, hopefully I won’t have to worry about stocktaking until well into the new year.

Throughout September I have been checking and organising my physical shop items, lugging heavy Ikea bags of stuff to the studio every day and putting them safely away in my storage boxes. This part of the process alone is very time consuming, making sure you have correctly noted which box an item is in so you can find it easily when it sells. I’ve failed at this a couple of times this year and had to search through 15 huge boxes for a tiny miniature china cat that looks pretty much the same as all the others in my shop, obviously I get quite angry with myself when this happens. I am very nearly done with this sorting part and my spare room is almost now back to normal and not an Etsy hellhole, I have an estimated few more days on this and then that’s the back broken on the truly hard work. I can’t wait, it’s been a slog and now it’s time to wait for the orders to come in and to move onto the next massive challenge (which will be the subject of my next blog post) – Etsy Made Local . It’s been a truly busy year but a satisfying one, and one where I can really feel proud of myself.

Have a good month and see you in the next post!