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Topic: Crafty Business Interview #4 - Connie aka Barbolot  (Read 3151 times)
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jungrrl
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« on: February 26, 2009 09:38:22 AM »

Our next interviewee is the (re)fabulous barbolot. Her shop, www.ReFabulous.etsy.com, is FULL of awesome re-purposed goodness! Not only does she run a thriving etsy business, she also sells on consignment and wholesale, blogs about her business, homeschools EIGHT kids, and makes it all look easy.



When did you start selling your wares?  Was it a gradual process or did you jump right in?

I actually heard about Etsy here on Craftster.  I started on Etsy in June '07, selling recycled paperback wallets and pincushions.  I made my first sale about 2 days after opening my shop, so I was hooked!  I wanted to expand my shop a bit, so I began adding new items such as felted ipod cozies from recycled sweaters, pressed record bowls, recycled notecards (the notecards were a flop) and eventually pouches, totes, catnip mice and dryer sachets from reclaimed fabrics.


Was it hard to get started with your shop?

The hardest part for me was having the confidence to take the jump!


We know that youre also a mom to 8, who you homeschool! Shocked How much time would you say you put into your business in a week and how do you FIND that time?!

My Etsy shop is almost a full-time job -- I probably work about 35 hours per week on my shop (and sometimes more during really busy periods.)  There's a lot more work involved than most people think... I was surprised at how much time and work it takes!  But for me, it doesn't feel like work.  It's more like full-time playing.

I find time to work during natural pauses throughout the day.  I'll list items during our lunch beak, package orders and go to the post office in the afternoon when school is finished, work on some items before we start making supper in the evening.  I get my one-woman sweatshop cranked up once the kids go to bed, and work until I'm tired.  It helps that I'm a night-owl.


How do your family and friends feel about your business? Are they supportive? Not? Indifferent?

Most of my family members had never heard of Etsy when I first started my shop, and pretty much thought I was crazy.  Now my family is very supportive of me, with the exception of the non-crafty types.  They still think I'm crazy.


Where do you get your inspiration? 

As for inspiration, it comes from my every day life.  I live a pretty simple life -- kids (if you can call 8 kids simple... I guess it's all relative!), school, housework, crafting, sewing.  That's pretty much it.  My kids inspire me.  Nature inspires me with her colors and textures and seasons.  Housework inspires me -- I like to find ways to make jobs easier, with eco-friendly materials.  The fabrics and fibers I find inspire me.  I never know when it will hit!


Do you have a favorite place to look for things to repurpose?

Thrift stores are my favorite places in the world to go!  I like to visit other cities' thrift stores, just to see what's going on, but my favorites are Good Will and Thrift Plaza in McKinney, Texas.  They have such great stuff (rich donors!) and they have amazing sale prices.


We know you also have a blog, http://hello-refabulous.blogspot.com.  Is it solely dedicated to your business? Or is it just an all around blog about your life?  Do you feel its better for business to have it one way or the other?

I do include my family life on my blog -- they're such a huge part of my life, of me, it would feel strange to leave them out.  I try to focus on sewing, tutorials, thrifting and finds, with an occasional family/kid mention.

I feel it's better for a business blog to have a nice balance to it.  If it's always, "hey, look what I listed in my Etsy shop," not many people will want to read about that.  (Believe me, I tried that -- it stunk.)  I think people want to see what's behind the product and the business, and feel like they know a little about the artist's life.


How often do you blog?  Do you think it has helped your business?

I try to blog every day or every other day, but sometimes life (sick kids, migraines) can get in the way.  Blogging has helped my business... I've gotten some orders and blog features/mentions from people reading my blog.  (Thanks, sweet readers!)


Can you expand on the publicity you've received?

A couple of my pincushions, especially my goldfish pincushion, has made the front page a few times.  I'm always excited when one of my items makes the front page!  My lavender dryer sachets (also made from reclaimed fabrics) have been featured a few times, too.   My katamari pincushion was featured in the Storque for this photo.  My wallets, pincushions, totes and sachets have been picked up by the Gift Guides from time to time as well.

Some of my items have been featured by personal and shopping blogs (like Smidge or MightyHaus, and that was exciting!  I recently did an interview for Green Options/Crafting a Green World.  I did spy my sachets on CBC Montreal's website!


I know that you've also been a featured seller on etsy. What was that process like? How did being a featured seller effect your etsy store?

In June '08, just shy of my one-year anniversary on Etsy, I was chosen to be a featured seller.  Here's my interview: http://www.etsy.com/featured_seller.php?featured_user_id=5194412
It was a super-crazy time, as our 8th baby was only six weeks old at the time, and I had been on maternity leave from my shop -- it was very depleted!  The Etsy admins gave me just a 6 day advance notice, so I had to go into sweat-shop mode to stock my shop.  My amazing seamstress sister flew in from Atlanta to help with cutting and sewing, and my other sister and my sweet husband took over all the childcare and house duties for a while.  That whole experience was a huge blessing to me.  I had a wonderful time, and met so many fantastic people, but honestly, I was relieved when it was over.

Since being a featured seller, my shop's business has more than doubled.  The exposure was huge, and led to several consignment and wholesale opportunities as well.  It was truly a blessing, and something I wish every Etsy shop could experience.


Wow, that sounds intense! Did you see any immediate effects from your other interviews or etsy main page listings? Or do you think its more cumulative?

I think the immediate effects on my shop depend on the audience (and some luck) -- sometimes an interview or front page listing goes off without a single sale, but other times, I can get slammed.  I just never know.

I think for some sellers it could be more cumulative, though -- brand recognition, and seeing them and reading about them again and again could really help with their business.  I don't get that type of exposure, so it doesn't affect me like that.


What are your top 3 marketing and/or promotion tools/resources/techniques?

1. For me, listing and renewing items was a great way to get my items noticed.... But Etsy recently changed its method of uploading new/relisted items (in batches) so I'll have to rely more on other promotional means now.
2. I also belong to an Etsy street team: Etsy Texas Crafters.  I joined soon after opening my shop, and the members are super-supportive, and helped me promote my shop, make friends (and many are my best customers!), find resources and offer advice.   
3. Blog.  I blog about Etsy finds, crafty friends, tutorials I've tried, and share some tutorials I've made.  I leave comments on blogs I like, and many times they come back to mine.  Some people swear by this as a promotional tool.  I just like reading crafty blogs.


What are your best pieces of advice to other etsy sellers?

  • * Take great photos.  I can't emphasize that enough.  Use natural light, a neutral background (or at least one that's not too distracting) and never use a flash if you can help it.  There are tons of helpful articles on Craftster and Etsy on how to take better photos, and even how to build a light box.
  • * Don't be afraid to try out new items in your shop, and at different price points.  My lavender dryer sachets were offered in my shop as a way to destash my lavender (I had made myself some dryer sachets, and I loved them, but I ordered waaaayy too much lavender.)  Now, they are my biggest seller -- and I never would have expected that.
  • * The other side of that coin is to not be afraid to let something go that's just not working out in your shop.  You may love it, but your customers just aren't on board.  It's OK.  I loved my notecards, but they were a total bust.  I had to let them go.
  • * Fill out your Shop Policies.  You're doing yourself and your customer a favor by giving clear, concise information on your shop policies.  It protects you both, and you don't want to wait until a sticky situation comes along to try to figure out what your policies are.
  • * Make your customers feel special and important (they are!) by a convo to keep them posted on the status of their order, using clean, professional packaging (doesn't have to be expensive -- I use a lot of recycled materials for mine, and still get compliments on it), a thank you note, maybe a freebie and/or coupon tucked inside their order.  These things don't take a lot of time or money, but they make an impression and are important.
  • * Use realistic shipping costs, and ship when you say you're going to.
  • * Love what you do.  It will show.

So the final question is: what would you like repurposed onto your tombstone?

"Now she can sleep."   Wink


Thank you so much barbolot!
« Last Edit: February 26, 2009 09:49:06 AM by jungrrl » THIS ROCKS   Logged

jungrrl
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« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2009 09:42:44 AM »

barbolot was also kind enough to answer some questions directly, so I'm going to post those here, too!

So Barb.....when do you sleep? Wink

Seriously...where all the inspiration comes from? Was it hard to get started with your shop?

Thanks, jungrrl for choosing me for this... I'm really flattered! Smiley

As for inspiration, it comes from my every day life.  I live a pretty simple life -- kids (if you can call 8 kids simple... I guess it's all relative!), school, housework, crafting, sewing.  That's pretty much it.  My kids inspire me.  Nature inspires me with her colors and textures and seasons.  Housework inspires me -- I like to find ways to make jobs easier, with eco-friendly materials.  The fabrics and fibers I find inspire me.  I never know when it will hit!

The hardest part to starting my Etsy shop was having the confidence to jump in and do it.   Once I got over that, it wasn't hard at all.

8 kids - holy you-know-what!

Here's that age-oder: What are your top 3 marketing and/or promotion tools/resources/techniques? That is, if you can pin them down.

1. For me, listing and renewing items was a great way to get my items noticed.... But Etsy recently changed its method of uploading new/relisted items (in batches) so I'll have to rely more on other promotional means now. 
2. I also belong to an Etsy street team: Etsy Texas Crafters.  I joined soon after opening my shop, and the members are super-supportive, and helped me promote my shop, make friends (and many are my best customers!), find resources and offer advice.   
3. I have a blog, but I'm not sure how much that plays into people finding my shop.  I blog about Etsy finds, crafty friends, tutorials I've tried, and share some tutorials I've made.  I leave comments on blogs I like, and many times they come back to mine.  Some people swear by this as a promotional tool, but I don't really know.  I just like reading crafty blogs.



What is your best advice for organization of your time/supplies/shop?

(Its seems like there are no hours in the day with a single 9 month-old, I can't imagine how you do it!)



Time. . . .    Honestly, it probably IS harder with one baby.  I have two teen daughters that spoil my little ones rotten, and the little kids also keep each other occupied and entertained.  Also, I'm a night-owl, and get the bulk of my work done at night when the children are all asleep.  In the afternoons after school, I work on packaging, admin-type stuff, shipping, and some sewing, and the kids have their cherished free time. 

So, my advice is to squeeze in time whenever your schedule allows.  When your little one naps, grab a few minutes of crafting, listing, answering convos, whatever.  It also helps if you have your stuff organized to where you can grab it when you need it.....

Supplies & shop. . . .  
**Claim your own spot if at all possible.  I'd love to have my own studio some day, but for now, I claimed a corner of our classroom.  I have to keep the not-baby-safe stuff out of reach or put up in a closet.  My table and sewing machine are on the left (not in the photo), so everything is right within reach.


**Group like-items together, and if possible, within reach.  This way, you can work on your shop a few minutes, or a few hours, at a time, and your supplies are right there ready for you. 
Shipping stuff all together:


Herbal stuff together:


Fabrics organized:


**Safe entertainment for baby.  The little ones have a basket of toys I keep in there, so that keeps them happy while I work, and I can keep my eye on them, too.

And organization doesn't have to be expensive.  99% of all my shelves, craft boxes, drawers, etc. were picked up at the thrift store for a few bucks.

Hope that helps!  Good luck!
« Last Edit: February 26, 2009 09:49:17 AM by jungrrl » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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