How to Start a Shop: A Totally Useful Interview with Four Entrepreneurs
Have you ever thought of selling your creations? Maybe having your own store? I am excited and delighted to try it for myself, and I'm a strong believer that in starting a new journey you need to talk to those who have gone before you.
And so I asked four of my favorites over for a virtual coffee. Meet Lacy, founder of Madre Beads, a hot new boutique with non-toxic wooden jewelry for kids and women. And Kim, creator of Design Life Kids, a fast-growing treasure trove of hip and hot fashions for your home, your children, and yourself. Meet Emily, painter and creator of Emily Jeffords Studios, a beautiful escape from the mundane where you can find original paintings, prints, and creative consultations. And finally, Gilit of The Bannerie, maker of glittery, fun-filled messages for all your celebrations.
1. What prompted you to open a shop?
I love the wide variety of inspiration in these answers! Where would you find yourself?
Sometimes everyone around you sees something about you before you do.
In this case I had been told for years that I should sell my stuff and start a business, but how intimidating does that sound? In the months before I started, my daughter was home with me, and the jobs I was looking for needed someone to work nights and weekends. I wasn't willing to do that anymore. I needed a job, I have a strong drive to create, and I've always dreamed of having my own shop. So I did it.
As a mom of three, I was continually frustrated with the jewelry options for mothers. Nearly all of the jewelry I had wasn't baby-friendly. Sharp metal certainly didn't belong in in my baby's mouth, and everything else I had hurt my neck when she pulled and yanked at it. I started playing around with some designs and did a bunch of research to find the best baby-friendly beads and finally came up with a concept I loved. Now, I make playful jewelry that moms can wear with the comfort of knowing their babes can enjoy pulling, tugging, sucking and chewing on it, too.
I opened my Etsy shop right after my college first art show. I had a nice body of work built up from my college days and needed a place to document, share, and send it off into the world.
I wanted to fulfill a dream after the loss of my husband.
I wanted to set an example for my girls to make the best of this life we have and not be afraid to go after your dreams no matter how hard they seem and how much work it might entail.
2. How long has the shop been open? What did you sell initially?
My shop has only been opened for less than a month!
It's going to be a year! Initially I was ALL over the place with every banner that I ever made and with anything that anyone asked me for even when I didn't want to make it. I always felt it wasn't the right move, but it took time for me to figure out what was the right move, which was to brand and focus.
I opened DLK on October 1, 2014. I focused mostly on children's clothing and a few toys but have expanded into a fun collection of modern housewares and decor!
3. How did you get the word out about your shop?
After my first baby was born, I was a stay-at-home mom, loving every moment, but I felt that I needed a challenge. I decided that I would create a painting-a-day and sell the paintings in my Etsy shop! Back then, Etsy was a much smaller place. I also blogged every day, showing my work to my natural market and reaching a few new people. This circle grew and became something small, but very supportive.
I began spreading the word about Madre Beads on Instagram. For the first few months, I gave sneak peeks that I hoped would lure customers in. I think the anticipation really got people excited!
Definitely though my blog and Instagram. That plus Pinterest are my biggest referrers,
Free social media is a small business owner's best friend!
Instagram was my support system and has become my best way to reach customers. Having a consistent aesthetic and being authentic has always been important to me there.
5. What's the best advice you can give to entrepreneurs considering starting a shop?
Start small with inventory. It's better to sell out than it is to sit on it. And breathe... being an entrepreneur really requires passion and dedication, but it's really an awesome experience if you can keep it fun.
The best advice I was given as a young artist, counting every single penny: Invest in photography. You can do it yourself, and you can totally DIY good styling, but invest time and thought in the execution and money in a good camera. Photography sells online.
Give your work the credit it deserves!
Plan way in advance and do your absolute best. I have started other small business before, on a whim, with no plan or purpose in site. As you can imagine, those businesses didn't do so hot. With Madre Beads, I took my time. I did research. I learned from my mistakes. I got feedback from friends. I made surveys and asked questions. I worked hard to develop my brand, even before I began making all of my products. I'm always putting myself in the customer's shoes.
"If I saw this photo, would I like it?" "Would I buy this?" Would I pin this?" "Would I give this as a gift?"
JUST DO IT! It's so easy to get caught in the planning and research stage, but go for it! You don't even need to publicize it right away. Take your time, get it set up, and slowly start spreading the word. The more you do it, the more confident you will feel (hopefully!)
Also, be prepared to work hard. It's not like being your own boss means you get to stop and have coffee whenever you want, it means you are in charge of EVERYTHING.
Even if it feels like you don't have a minute to breathe, or you won't be at your best, remember that you have to take care of yourself first and foremost.
Thanks so much, Lacy, Emily, Kim, and Gilit!! I loved hearing the origins of some of my favorite shops.
What advice would you offer?