Something fun this way comes
Hey guys! Jade here:) We’ve got an exciting announcement on the Jam this week that you won’t want to miss! I’ll be sharing a little more about it at the end of this blog, so read on to learn more about this week’s amazing guest AND to find out more details!
Is your shop a side hustle or a full-time focus? When will you cross the threshold into your newly built handmade or vintage business? This week we talk with Paula from CLNandDRTY about when that time came for her, the decisions she made which helped set herself up for success, one of the top simple things she does to nourish a healthy community and some tricks she’s found to help overcome the challenges she’s faced with time and money. Sit back and crank up the volume for another great Etsy Jam.
Paula knew about Etsy pretty much from its beginning. She knew you could sell handmade goods and that there wasn’t too much method to the madness. So, when she was a broke graduate student she decided to give the whole Etsy thing a shot! Why not? She needed some extra money as most students do. She says that her strategy at the time was to find what sellers were selling the most of on Etsy. Is everyone selling jewelry?? Then she was going to sell jewelry too! Clearly this isn’t a strategy she would recommend now as a seasoned Etsy seller;) This would make for a difficult discovery of what your niche is.
Even though Paula had never made jewelry before, she was committed to trying the jewelry market out. She set a budget of around $100 and went to her local craft shop. Paula bought a bunch of stuff and made a lot of jewelry, but she didn’t sell a ton of stuff. She made a few dollars here and there, but she’s not sure she ever made a profit out of it. More often than not, she wouldn’t even be able to cover the table fee at craft shows.
Back to reality
After her first jewelry venture, she went into the “real” world. Paula took on a marketing job which she describes as “fine” and “ok”. This wasn’t what she wanted to do long term. She decided at this point to give Etsy a try again, except this time she was selling fine art. As a life long artist she loved to paint and went into this next Etsy venture with a little more strategy. She’d had many people enquire about the art hanging in her home and knew this was something buyers were at least interested in. Because of personal reasons, Paula ended up having to go part time with her marketing job which gave her the perfect opportunity to try selling her art on Etsy.
She ended up selling quite a bit and making a decent profit from this! Even though she was doing pretty well, however, she started to feel a lot of pressure to have a “real job.” She does say that the culture around being an entrepreneur has really changed over the last several years. She thinks it’s far more accepted now than even five or six years ago. At the time she caved under all the pressure and her little art business on Etsy petered out.
A battle and sunscreen
Back to the “real” world Paula went and got another corporate job. But, it wasn’t long before she started to feel the tug of the handmade world again! She was pregnant with her second daughter and had been making homemade sunscreen for quite a while at this point. She remembers a moment when she’d sprayed some conventional, store bought sunscreen on herself. One of her daughters was teething and Paula says she leaned over and pretty much ate the sunscreen off her shoulder!
Paula does not claim to be a health freak whatsoever. She does firmly believe that you need to pick and choose your battles. After reading about what was in the conventional sunscreen, this was a battle she was willing to choose. She was not ok with her daughter ingesting the chemicals in the sunscreen and no longer wanted to use it on herself or her girls.
So, Paula went online and started researching how to make a zinc oxide based sunscreen. The only way to get zinc oxide and shay butter was to buy it in bulk. Because if this she ended up making several batches of sunscreen. After using it on herself and her daughters she discovered that it worked really well! And since she had a ton of sunscreen left over, she decided to post on Facebook that she had it available and would sell it at cost. She sold through all of the sunscreen!
Beach weather, sunscreen wanted!
The next season, she started to get inquiries about her sunscreen. People had absolutely loved it and wanted more. So, Paula made another batch. Except this time she decided to sell it at a little higher cost. Again, she completely sold out! Due to health reasons related to her pregnancy, she once again had to leave her corporate job. It’s just not in her to sit still and do nothing and people were requesting her sunscreen once again. She had at least fifty friends wanting to purchase it along with people and friends they knew as well.
The requests were rolling in and people were wanting to know how to pay Paula. And she was wondering how she should handle shipping. It was at this point that Paula thought about Etsy once more. She knew it well, she trusted it and she wanted to do it right this time. Because her background was in communications and marketing, she wanted to start this new Etsy shop with a well built foundation.
Good, good, good, good foundation
First, she sat down and brainstormed what her shop name should be. She wanted something edgy, fun, urban and natural, but not crunchy and boring. She this based on what her shop was going to be selling. The inspiration for CLNandDRTY came from a meditation center that Paula heard about in New York named MNDFL (mindful). She thought this was super cool and ran with the idea for her own shop. She also made a logo and decided who her target market was going to be. Her market was women ages 25-35 who were a bit higher affluence and who had a little more spending money. She wanted her buyers to know that her products were more luxurious, super effective, natural and that they were getting a fantastic bang for their buck.
The FDA, well, they don’t play
Oddly enough, Paula no longer sells her famous sunscreen. Why not, you may ask! Because it’s actually classified as a medical product. Paula has learned a TON about the FDA. She says there are still sellers on Etsy who sell natural sunscreen, but she personally decided to walk away. She simply didn’t want to mess with the FDA.
Reaching for success
Instead of letting the whole sunscreen thing be a huge bummer, Paula decided to turn it around. She’d already built up a following because of the sunscreen and she was sure her buyers had other products they’d be looking for. So, she asked them what they’d like to be able to purchase at a high level of quality that they couldn’t find elsewhere. Some of the products that came back in answer to her question were deodorant, moisturizers and cuticle oil. Then, people started to specifically ask for facial skin care and that’s when things really started to take off!
We asked Paula how she stays so beautifully connected with her community of buyers. First off, she truly views her buyers not as just customers, but as her community. She says she’s told people within her community that she doesn’t care if they never buy a single product from her. She still values their opinion and values them in the growth of her business. It’s not about only earning a buck from them.
She also keeps up with everyone in her community through a vibrant Facebook page and Instagram. She’s had lots of conversations with buyers on Instagram. She’s also had a lot of in person conversation as well. Paula feels like a lot of being connected and having good conversation comes down to the character of the seller. She says we live in a time when it can feel like everyone has a business online or otherwise. Everybody wants to tell you about their business, but they don’t necessarily want your opinion on their business.
Serving vs. Selling
The way Paula tries to operate through her social media and in conversation with people in person is this: serve, serve, serve, sell. Serve, serve, serve, sell. This is at the core of how she tries to communicate with her community. She will offer what she’s learned about natural skincare. She’ll ask what they’re interested in as far as how things smell. She’ll ask through polls and videos on different social media platforms what her community wants to see from her in the future as far as products go.
She takes this approach instead of the “ Hey! let me tell you all about my amazing products, why you should buy them and all about the new sale I’m having”. She feels this in your face sales method is oversaturated and people are bombarded with it every day. Paula desires to have a true human connection with her customers and community. If you offer this instead of a sales pitch, if people truly connect with you, you will absolutely have them as customers. When they’re ready to buy they’ll trust you and what you have to offer and seek you out.
Takin’ it live
Another strategy Paula has is to use Facebook and Instagram live. She does this consistently throughout the month. She’ll always let her community know ahead of time when she’ll be doing a live video by posting little teasers to her Facbeook and Instagram. She often uses her time on camera to answer questions. She especially likes doing this when she’s received the same question from multiple people. You can always have a templated answer to email out for the same question. But, Paula likes going the extra mile and connecting with her community, so the answer to this for her is doing a live video to answer questions.
Connecting over Marmalead’s podcast
Not only does Paula connect with others about products and questions, she even connected with her community about being on our Jam! Paula is passionate about positivity and enthusiasm. So, not only did she tell those close to her what she’d be doing she also went onto one of her Etsy groups (shout out to the Facebook group Thriving on Etsy and Beyond!!) and told them how excited she was to be coming on the Marmalead podcast!
She also asked them if there were any outstanding questions she could answer or topics they’d like to hear her talk about with Gordon and Richie. She feels like doing this only helps to connect her with her community. Not only that it connects Marmalead to her community as well and intertwines all of us! She says while she didn’t sell any products from this announcement, again, this isn’t the point. She’s serving her community by being enthusiastic and excited to share what she’s doing and how much she loves and values Marmalead. Which we personally LOVE to hear!
Moment of truth
Paula officially opened CLNandDRTY in May of 2016. She says in the beginning she was simply buying materials and selling product and wasn’t tracking her expenses or profits. She wasn’t even paying herself yet. Yes, there was money coming in that she could use, but she didn’t know how much of it she was putting right back into her shop. At this point she had six months of maternity leave with her company and had five months remaining. This was a turning point for her. She had to really consider if she was going to keep doing CLNandDRTY part time only making a little money here and there. Was she going to go back to her demanding full time job again? Or was she really going to take the plunge and make CLNandDRTY a “true” business.
Paula got caught up in the thought of CLNandDRTY being a true business. She really started to wonder what a true business really was. She literally had to google “what makes a business”! After looking into it she realized, oh my goodness, I’m selling a product and making a profit…this isn’t just a hobby, it really is a business already! She was taken by surprise to learn that she was ALREADY a business owner.
Paula wants everyone to know, especially if this is somewhat of a revelation for you at this moment: if you’re selling things and making a profit, you. have. a. business. Get yourself an accountant! There’s a huge benefit to having an accountant.
Crisis and pep talk
With the knowledge that her business was already up and running, she sat down to run some serious numbers. Her profit and loss sheet basically showed that she had made ten dollars in profit. In this moment Paula wondered what in the world she’d gotten herself into. She’d been at this for five and a half months and only made ten dollars. All she could think was that she had no idea how to run a business and she was never going to make a living from doing this. Thankfully, that’s not the mind set she stayed in! She quickly began telling herself that she knew she was smart, she had a degree, she’d already been running stores and businesses for other people. So why couldn’t she run her own business?! This was her “ah-hah!” moment.
She immediately got Quick Books, started looking at inventory management and listened to every business podcast she could find. Paula got really specific with her time. She committed that two hours of her time every day would go to business management. Whether that was looking up her numbers, doing accounting or setting goals, it had to be something related to managing her business. She also began setting financial goals like how much she wanted to make a month and how much she’d like to grow a month.
She also committed to learning more about social media and messaging. What kind of messages did she want to send and how often? How much should she post on social media? Suddenly, there was less flying by the seat of her pants and more strategy behind everything. Paula says while she doesn’t always have a specific strategy for every single day, she’s made fantastic progress and it’s been working.
Does it come naturally?
Richie asked Paula if being more business minded and strategizing came naturally to her or if she had to make herself take on that mind set. Paula said her background in retail management was goal setting, which really was a benefit to her. The company she worked for previously had their employees set financial, health and personal goals. An example of a health goal would be something like communication and how you market.
Let’s say you’re running a handmade business and Etsy has an amazing stats system. This allows you to find out what you made in December of 2016 compared to December of 2017. How much did you grow? Now, say you’re looking ahead to December of 2018. How much do you want to see your business grow? Paula wants to see her business grow 100% year after year doubling her income. Think ahead to how much you want to grow your profit. Keep in mind if you keep growing the way you want, other areas in your business have to grow in order to increase your profit.
If you want things to keep growing what needs to change? A couple things that will need to change are these: double your listings (doubled listings, doubled sales) and when the time is right hire someone to help keep up with the inventory and all that comes with it. Paula also suggests using a good planner or put up a big calendar on your wall. She will use these to highlight upcoming holidays and what kind of product launches she’ll do with those. Her current goal is to not fly by the seat of her pants. She does say she’s been better about not doing this year after year.
Paula recently listened to a podcast by Seth Godin. He talks about how people often fail in business when they’re always functioning in emergency mode. This is concentrating only on what needs to be done right now in order to function. For an Etsy seller this is normally filling orders.
While this is important, Seth says instead of only paying attention to the things that are urgent, you need to be spending a set amount of time thinking about the things that will bring about the most change in your business.
Something Paula will do to save time and allow her to think ahead and strategize, is to put her phone on airplane mode and batch schedule all of her social media posts. This can be super time consuming and shouldn’t eat your time up when there are things like Hoot Suite and Later that can post for you. Taking the time to get your posts scheduled will definitely save you massive amounts of time in the long run.
Paula also stresses the importance of email marketing which can be batch scheduled as well with services like Drip and MailChimp. She says if you don’t have an email list, start it today!
Time management matters
Time management has been something Paula has had to learn. Above she talks about batch scheduling and thinking ahead about different strategizes. These are all forms of time management and fantastic ones at that! She recently had someone ask her how she manages her time when, because she owns her own business, she must be available 24/7 for her customers. Paula says being available 24/7 is absolutely not something she agrees with or adheres to. She is very careful to work when her two small daughters are out of the house, which is regularly each day. Otherwise, if she’s with her family and happens to have her phone in her hand, she might answer a customer here and there. But this isn’t normal for her. She feels that a customer can wait until the next morning if she’s with her family in the evening.
Keeping your sanity
This isn’t something she’s ever gotten push back on either from her community or customers. Might you lose a sale from doing this? Possibly. But you have to keep your sanity. For Paula, setting firm boundaries have helped in the sanity keeping process. She has certain hours she works, she has an office she works in and at the end of the day the doors to her office close and she’s done. She really tries to not go back in once her work day is finished. The same goes for time boundaries. If someone messages her when she’s outside of her work hours, she will probably not answer. And that’s ok. When she’s back in her work hours once more she will give her customers her undivided attention. Another commitment she’s made to her family is to not be on her phone between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m..
Now, there are times and seasons when things are gonna be crazy busy! There will be points when you’ll want to be on your phone or working all the time because you’re making a ton of sales. Paula says the way she guards her time in these busy seasons is to hire someone seasonally. She actually put out feelers on her social media, asking if anyone would want to come package product for her. Paula offered to either pay them in money or products. She said most people wanted to be payed in product! Paula says you have to ask for help at times. This will help you to keep your sanity.
Cut off for December
Richie asked Paula when her cut off is for Christmas orders. Paula chose December 15th as her last day for orders. This ensures that she can get everything out and to her customers in a timely manner. She says again, it’s all about quality over quantity. Could she push it a little longer and make more sales? Sure! But if a customer buys a gift from her for their mother and that gift isn’t in their hands to give by Christmas, guess who isn’t buying from her again next year? In the long run, this could potentially hurt your sales. Instead, Paula chose a cut off date and does a count down to that date on her social media, shop announcement and through her email list.
We were SO thrilled to do this jam with Paula! She was truly amazing and positive. Make sure to check out her shop CLNandDRTY as soon as you’re finished here! Paula invites anyone who’d like to, to reach out either on her shop, FB or Instagram. I (Jade) can’t wait to try her facial products!! I always tell you guys to make sure you listen to this week’s jam, but you especially want to do that this week!. There were lots of details and more in depth conversations going on that weren’t captured here. And like I said at the beginning of the blog, we have a super fun announcement on our jam this week! But, you have to either listen to the podcast or watch our jam on Youtube to officially learn about it! SO make sure you do that!
Happy selling, everyone!
Etsy Jam Scoops
- How she started
- Giving art a try
- A battle & sunscreen
- Beach weather, sunscreen wanted
- Good, good, good, good foundation
- Personal communication
- Connecting over the Jam!
- Not by the seat of her pants
- Growing, growing
- Planners, strategizing & growth
- Emergency mode
- Batch scheduling & email marketing
- Time management & boundaries
- Cut off for December