From the biggest branch to the smallest leaf

Those of you who are my friends on Facebook will know about my strange Ebay discovery a while back- an old postcard sent to my grandparents in 1936 from a lady called Rose. I was freaked out and excited at the same time to find it – how on earth did it end up for sale on a international marketplace and also how did I manage to discover it amongst the (actual stat) one billion things on Ebay?

It’s got me thinking about family and who I am. Why do I love vintage and nostalgia so much? The fact I was searching for the postcard in the first place proves I am 1000% my Grandad’s Granddaughter. He was an expert treasure hunter (or toot collector as it’s known by some people, like my Mum).

He loved finding things on the street, going to jumble sales and discovering bargains in junk shops. Grandad made up for lack of monetary riches with a wealth of generosity. He always put up a Christmas tree with little presents hanging for the kids who lived on the road where members of my family lived in Leytonstone. The tree was filled with little bits, some second hand, some from the bargain shop, but everyone got a gift. On this tree there were always special presents for my cousin Surindar, my little sister Amber and myself to be given first, things he had singled out for his girls, special finds. I still have a very ornate precious vintage dressing table set he gifted from a junk shop, a 1940s rubber doll who came from a jumble sale called Pat, she was one of my favourites growing up despite being sooooo old fashioned and also a tin of beads he had collected over time from the streets of East London. That was my first business venture, making bracelets from those beads, I still have loads of them left, too special to sell. Nothing was worth much money or had cost a lot, he didn’t have a lot, but it’s all worth a million dollars compared to the contrasting, overly extravagant gifts we exchange these days. 

When he died, we found in the box room of my Grandparents small terrace house, boxes of presents waiting for people. It didn’t need to be a special occasion, he was just excited to make people happy any day of the year. He was a lovely, kind, warm and generous man.

I’m not crediting myself with having inherited any of these noble qualities from him but the treasure hunter gene is one I most definitely have. I wonder if he would have liked a shop of his own, nevertheless there is a lot of him is in my wee shop. If he was still alive I think he would have enjoyed helping me find the stuff I sell, it’s kind of a joint business even if he’s not here anymore, his impact is so strong. My love of vintage, nostalgia and hatred of our wasteful culture has definitely come directly from his influence. I have so much sentiment in me and that’s all come from him.

My store recently has had some lovely stories of precious items reunited with the person they are meant to be with. I sent a stuffed monkey to a lady in California who had lost all her worldly possessions in the wildfires. The start of her rebuilding her life was when she found a replacement of her precious favourite toy in my shop. Many people buy my vintage ornaments and trinkets because they remember them from their childhood, many are also bought as replacements for broken sentimental treasures. I thank all of my customers who take the time to write to me these stories of where the items I sell are ending up and how much they mean to the people they are gifted to. I love the fact that I play a part in helping something previously unloved on it’s journey to the right person, talking of which let’s get back to the postcards that clearly belong with me…

The Ebay listing never showed the front’s of the cards, there was just a picture of the back , they were being sold for genealogy purposes not sentimental. I was so excited for them to arrive. The front would clear up maybe who Rose was and why she was writing to my Grandparents. So now I can reveal….. the postcards fronts…..

It’s amazing to have them back in my possession, back where they belong. Another treasure discovered, but for once these ones belong with me. 

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!


My Pom pom trimmed vintage coat

A couple of years ago I bought a vintage coat from the US on Etsy. It said it had a faux fur trim, but when it turned up it was real fur. Instead of sending it all the way back to the US, I put it in a cupboard thinking one day I would do something to fix it up. This year I decided I had to finally, start doing all the things on my project mountain, so I set out to make the coat wearable again.

I’ve taken off the fur trimmings on the end of the scarf and replaced with neon yellow poms poms from Twilley’s, and finished off with some David Bowie badges from my vintage badge collection. I’m pretty pleased with it and it glad to give it a new lease of life.