Barefoot Lake Handmade - Setting up Shop

{Welcome my guest Laurie from Barefoot Lake - to share her story about setting up a crafty business.  Do you have a story to share?  Email me! twopeasinapoddesigns at gmail dot com}

Where to begin???  That is a question I struggled with for a long time.  In the beginning of '09, I opened an etsy account with my shop name.  In December of '09, I made it a store account.  In November of '10, I FINALLY started listing items!

I was stalled on two fronts.  One, I felt like I needed to know everything about managing an on-line business - photography, blogs, etc, just to start one!  I was stagnated by the thought of not knowing something and making a mistake.  And two, I didn't know what I wanted to make!  Like many crafters, I have lots of interests!   I started keeping an idea notebook with all my creative thoughts and plans.  After almost a year, I decided a cool notebook wasn't doing me any good when I still had an empty shop.
I decided to focus on a few products.  How to choose?  It comes down to you just got to  pick something and go with it!!!  If it doesn't work, you can always change - after giving it an appropriate try.
I went with ironing board covers to start.  I had experience at them after making a few for myself and several for gifts.  It was a good, well thought out product since I had tweaked the pattern and found just the right materials to use (cording, stops,etc).  I enjoyed making them - who wouldn't love to use all those cool fabrics?  And it was a product that I thought would have a reasonable demand.  After all, just about every household owned at least one.
And I checked how many other ironing board covers were listed on etsy.  I also checked my costs and time vs. going sales price and felt it was a reasonable profit.  I hoped I would be able to sell them consistently and that would allow me to build a nice inventory of fabric choices without a big initial outlay of $$$.  I was a sales rep for 10 years before kids came along and it was all about the numbers:  commissions, profit margins, man hours. etc.  Some of that stuck with me, I guess!  If I was going to sew and not make any profit, I would sew for myself and friends and not sew to sell.  Personally, I think you need to approach it that way.
Then, I jumped in.  I didn't know everything but I'm learning as I go and I finally realized that's okay.  In just two months, I see improvements in my photography.  I have a blog address and I want to work on that soon.  Slow and steady is good!  The ironing board covers seem to be a good product choice. It takes time to build any shop. I always leave feedback for my customers and let them know that I did.  I'll also ask that they leave feedback for me.
It's slow at first.  Some buyers are more wary of shops with few sales and limited feedback.  Understandably so.  I have been burned once on etsy with non-delivery so I know how that feels.  As far as product selection, key fobs haven't been a good choice.  I thought it would be a great way to use up my extra fabric.  Currently, there are over 10,000 key fobs listed on etsy.  I guess I should have done the math on that one!  No problem - no permanent damage.  I haven't totally abandoned my cool, one of a kind, original ideas.  Hopefully, I'll settle in and be able to sprinkle those into my regular offerings to keep it interesting for myself and my shop visitors!   When you have steady sales and profits in one area, you can spend a little more time being creative on some other things.
I think it's also important to establish the pace that is appropriate for where you are in life right now and be okay with it.  I would love to try a show or two, but I'm really busy being cheerleader and chauffeur for the kids.  And lastly, just enjoy it!  It was really fun to know that on Christmas morning, someone in Hawaii got one of my ironing boards under their tree!

Thanks Laurie for sharing your story and shop advice.  To each of you, do you have any sage advice for new crafters wanting to set up shop?  Share them here in the comments!

Stop by tomorrow for part two...