In this episode we talked to Kara Buntin from ACaketoRemember. Two years ago Kara made the transition from selling wedding cakes full time to selling DIY cake supplies on Etsy. Join us for an awesome chat where Kara covers time management, pivoting her product line the misguided belief in 99 cent pricing, delivering wedding cakes through tropical storms and much, much more.
Etsy Jam Scoops
Before we start, we want to mention the Etsy Jam Scoops that we’re making. Etsy Jam Scoops are short clips of 1 to 5-minute chunks from the Jam that we pull out so for some of you who don’t have the time to listen to the entire episode can still skim the important topics out. We have a separate playlist on Youtube for these.
How did Kara get started on Etsy?
In my late twenties, I decided to go back to Culinary School to do wedding cakes because I like to bake. At that point, we were up in Boston so I said that was something I could do from home. But in between that, I worked at a department store in downtown Boston. I was in Jordan Marsh. That was a big store and it was very busy so I learned a lot about retail there. When I had the idea of starting a business, I already half knew what I need to be doing. Fast forward when we moved back to Virginia where my husband is from. At that point when we had my daughter, I started doing cakes. So that’s when I had experience running a home-based business.
That is how I ended up doing cakes and then when the economy went into recession in 2008, all the brides started wanting things for cheap. Everybody wanted to DIY their own wedding. To them, DIY-ing isn’t to save money. They do it because they like to and they want to personalize their own wedding by doing it themselves. I knew then that I can’t raise my cake prices that year because no one is paying for a big cake.
To supplement my income, I decided that I’m going to open a shop and sell some stuffs online for the DIY brides. I was selling sugar flowers and things that they could put in a plain cake to fancy it up. But then along the way, I realized that people who weren’t DIY brides were buying my stuff too. Other cake decorators were buying the sugar flowers and they were starting to buy some of the supplies as well. My target market became very strange because it’s cake decorators, it’s brides, and people who were making their first birthday cakes.
Transition from the Wedding Cake Business into Full-time Online Etsy Shop Business
I was doing both Etsy and my wedding cake business full time. I made a lot of money back then. But I knew I can’t keep this pace up and honestly, Etsy was a lot easier in terms of having to constantly seek out customers.
When you think of an online business, you think it’s so uncertain. So I was reluctant to take the leap and quit my wedding business and just do Etsy. But then I realized, wedding cakes are also uncertain. I’m out looking for customers and I can’t be guaranteed of an income either. I don’t know what kind of bookings I’m going to get so why not just do Etsy full time? That’s when I decided to not do any more cakes.
Are You Prepared When Something Goes Wrong?
There are a lot of things that could happen. But since I had been doing cakes for so long, I wasn’t afraid of the cakes anymore. Usually, the bad things happen when you’re delivering it. It’s because if you bake something and it doesn’t work, you can always rebake it. But if you’re delivering the cakes and you slam the brakes on; and the cakes goes into the box or whatever, you can’t redo it so that’s the nerve wrecking part.
It’s especially hard if you have little kids. My kids are now older so once they’re in school, you’ll have tons of time and you can do the work. I will say this: if you have a chunk of time, do the work. People think that they should go and get their groceries when the kids are not around. No. Go home and work and get things done so you don’t have to stay until 2 in the morning. It’s just a lot easier to do some work when there are no interruptions around.
There’s a really good book by Julie Morgenstern, Time Management from the Inside Out, and she says that you have to pick a schedule that fits your circumstances. For people who have families they have to balance, you have to look at yourself as the “Crisis Manager”; because you don’t know what’s going to happen on any given day. You have to build in extra time. If you think a work is going to take you an hour, give yourself 3. If you think it’s going to take you half an hour, give yourself two hours.
How to Know if Something is Worth Your Time or Not
I think this is a work in progress for most people. But I told myself this year and my resolution is to always say “What’s the best use of my time right now?” and a lot of times, asking yourself that question will pull you back from checking your email or checking your Facebook.
Kara’s Tip on Product Development
I love customer questions. I develop a lot of my products from customer questions. If someone asks; “Hey, can you do this in purple?” and a lot of other ones follow, then I take that as a cue that maybe purple is a popular color this year. Basically, you want to take your cues from what your customers are ordering, what they’re asking about, and try to get ahead of that.
Pricing your Listings
When you’re pricing your stuff, don’t try tricks. Just figure out your cost and figure out your labor. Think about all your overheads including your subscription to Marmalead. Figure out every single thing you pay for – all that goes to the pricing of your product. You don’t need to worry about tricks like the .99 cents at the end because the .99 cent studies don’t hold any truth.
How do you get new Customers?
Most of my customers are not repeat customers. I’m getting customers through SEO. I have a separate website and a stand-alone website and it doesn’t get the traffic that my Etsy shop does. That is because Etsy has such a built-in customer base. If you can’t get them into your shop, then there are things you can do in your shop to keep them there – like putting links or listings from one link to another. Second, making sure your pictures are good.
What Kara likes about Marmalead
I have a problem with finding good keywords. But you can go to Marmalead and use the Storm. I love that because I found some really weird keywords that I would never have thought of. So just be willing to look outside of what you are thinking of for your products and see what and where you can use it for.
Having a YouTube Channel for Your Shop
A lot of things that people don’t do but they should – is to have a YouTube channel for their shop. You can have a video of you showing the item and just turning it around. Having a 360-degree view of the product gives shoppers more confidence in buying it. People like to see that.
Personally, I use my YouTube channel to demonstrate how to use silicone molds. This is especially helpful if you’re getting reviews from people saying that they couldn’t get it to work. You can do a Youtube video showing it and explain how to get around that problem so that people can go and see it.
It’s a better shopping experience if the customers can see something in real-time rather than just describing it or looking at the pictures. It really makes a lot of difference for people.