Podcast Episode 9: How to Launch A Successful Etsy ShopSep 30, 2021
Lizzie: OK. Welcome back. Hey everybody. How is your day going? I’m super excited to have my friend Alisha on here with me today. Say hello Alisha.
Alisha: Hi everyone. Thank you for having me, Lizzie.
Lizzie: And thank you for being here. You’re such a good sport being my first guest other than my husband who has to go along with my crazy ideas. So Alisha is like a local friend of mine who I adore and we became buddies through a bible study. We immediately liked each other because she’s always super well-dressed and cute.
Alisha: Oh, no. Hahaha!
Lizzie: And she will always say she isn’t but she is and she’s just super classy and lovely and then as we got going, I found – she found out that I run an Etsy shop and she wanted to learn a little more about that. She’s like, “Oh, I was thinking about that,” which we will have her share her stories soon. But then when I was getting ready to launch this consulting company, I sort of was like, “Hey, you want to be my guinea pig?”
So she was my first person that I actually kind of consulted with and got – you know, for Etsy. I’m consulted with other things. But for Etsy and it was super fun and interesting and I learned a lot from chatting with her that I could share with you all.
So I thought, “Who is the perfect first guest to come on?” It is absolutely Alisha. So beautiful friend, tell our listeners who you are, what you do and how you decided to start an Etsy shop.
Alisha: Well, first – to start off with first, my name is Alisha Donat. I am from Mississippi originally but I moved to Texas for a job and for extra training. I ended up staying, didn’t think I would. But then I fall in love with Texas. So here I am. Glad I stayed and then I actually work as a clinical pharmacist at a hospital.
So – and then I decided to start an Etsy shop because well – because we’re in the middle of a pandemic and I was, “OK. What hobbies can I rejoin or revisit during this pandemic?” and then one day you and I were talking and you said, “Well, I have an Etsy shop.”
Well, I was thinking about having an Etsy shop. I don’t know if I can really do it and you’re like, “Oh, totally, you will be fine,” as you always do and so I also have – you know, I was in pharmacy school. Not the cheapest school to go to.
Yeah. So I just kind of wanted to throw a couple more bucks at that every month. So I thought the Etsy shop would be a good idea to have a second stream of income that I could just use to kind of help pay off student loans a little bit faster. So that’s kind of how I got to wanting to start a shop.
Lizzie: That’s completely awesome. So for you, this will be a part-time project for you.
Alisha: Yes. It will still definitely be something I do like on – in the afternoons, after work or on the weekends, you know. So that I can just pick up for a couple of hours here and there.
Lizzie: I love that. OK. So – and this is one of my favorite parts of your Etsy-related story. So share with them, with our audience like what products you’re going to be selling and I think what’s really exciting also is how you decided to pick that product line.
Alisha: Yeah. So when I had really nailed down that I was going to start an Etsy shop, the next step was what am I going to sell, you know, and I don’t consider myself to be extra creative although I am left-handed and it doesn’t make sense that I’m not creative.
Lizzie: Me too, yes.
Alisha: Like I can’t paint to save my life. Like my handwriting is horrible. So I can’t [0:03:48] [Indiscernible] so then I’m like, “All right. I’m whittling down my options here.” So I went on Pinterest kind of for some like inspiration and I saw polymer clay earrings and it got me thinking when – so when I was in high school, my very first job was working at this super cute boutique in downtown Vicksburg, Mississippi and she sold jewelry. Like homemade – you know, not homemade but jewelry that she made in the shop. Being as young as I was, she kind of took me under her wing and like would show me how to make earrings and necklaces and bracelets and I kind of did that until I graduated high school. Then I never really picked it up after that.
Lizzie: It’s so crazy. You’re a professional jewelry maker.
Alisha: I mean, you know, there are things where you look back. Man, I guess I – that was really cool. In a moment, you just think, OK, this is my job, you know. I’m 15, 16 years old. All right. I’m, you know – so anyway, so I tied back that memory to how I used to make jewelry and I said, “Well, I need an updated version of this,” and polymer clay jewelry fit that. So that’s kind of what I plan on selling is polymer clay jewelry. I’m wearing some right now.
Lizzie: Oh, I love it! They’re so cute. It was so fun watching you make them in your kitchen and like using your oven and shopping for potential kilns and all of that.
Alisha: Yes, oh my gosh.
Lizzie: But no, I think what you’ve said here Alisha is so valuable for some of our listeners who are – they – the people who are in the really early phases like you. Haven’t launched yet, thinking about launching and – you know, or they have a shop but it’s not necessarily going the way they want and they’re thinking to themselves, “How do I pick what to do?”
What I want to highlight about what you said, I think there were two really important things that you said. The first one is you thought back to what do I – what skills do I already have? What do I already know how to do? What have I enjoyed in the past? What’s going to bring me joy now to make?
You are drawing on some experience you already had and in your case, it was professional. So, you know, you’re at a bit of an advantage. But like I sure wasn’t a professional sign maker before I started my shop. You know, I could sell knitted items. I’m a pretty good knitter now but I’m not a professional.
So you had a bit of an advantage. But it was just simply something that you had mastered before and I think that will be enough for a new shop owner and so – and then I think the second thing you said that is so helpful is that you wouldn’t look on Pinterest and you looked on Esty and you saw – you were looking for things that are trending and I think sometimes for people who are trying to consider what to sell or they’re having a shop that’s not taking off, sometimes one of the biggest issues is they just have picked a product that people aren’t shopping for right now Polymer, is that the right word? Polymer, right?
Lizzie: Clay earrings are massively trending. Like people are loving to buy them and I think we are on an earlier edge of that trend. It’s not even like, you know, a – farm house style signs are sort of on the way out and I’m looking at ways of pivoting. You’re at the beginning. So I think you’ve done a great job and I think that’s super insightful.
So we’ve talked a little bit already about what your goals are part-time. So for that being said, what will success look like for you? Like what do you want your shop to achieve that will – you will look at it and be like, “OK, this is what I wanted it to be”?
Alisha: Yeah. You know, if I’m looking at it in terms of like customer experience or what the customer wants, obviously I want a shop that will provide a need that they’re looking for and they will be of high quality, that will be affordable, that people can easily buy, give gifts, the whole process. Yeah, the whole process from looking at it online to getting it in their home will be easy and seamless and a shop that they can depend on to get things done right.
That’s my biggest goal. Obviously I want to have fun with it. You know, that would – just I have to watch it and try not to be too rigid because that’s probably my personal [0:07:50] [Indiscernible]. You know, like I’m a perfectionist, right? So that is something that I have to kind of rein in sometimes on this. I have to remind myself, “OK. Are you having fun? Are you enjoying what you’re doing?” and that’s part of what success looks like for me too, right? Because this is a hobby. This is not my fulltime job. It’s something I do on the weekends or after work. So those are the two main things is that people actually …
Lizzie: In addition to a super stressful job. Like you actually have a super high stress, intense job. So it needs to be fun and I would think make enough money to be able to throw some at the student debt.
Lizzie: Student loan debt, you know.
Alisha: Right, yeah. That will definitely be a secondary goal obviously is to make sure that I have enough money to throw at the student loan debt. That will make a difference obviously. But …
Lizzie: OK. Well, so do you – have you like any – is there anything you’re – OK. So I should back up and tell the listeners. Well, I guess I would invite you to tell them. Do you want to say where you’re at like in the process? Because we’ve been meeting for a few months now. We’ve talked through a lot of different ideas and I want to go into some of that mindset stuff here in a minute because it’s the way that you phrase it is so valuable. But let’s talk about where your shop is at right now.
Alisha: I would say my shop is at – probably at a very early stage. I’m not at all like an expert at Etsy.
Lizzie: You haven’t launched yet. You’re like …
Alisha: I haven’t even launched yet. No, it’s not on Etsy yet. I’m really – I have gotten to the point where I’ve worked out what I want. I know what designs I want. I know what color scheme I want and I’ve made some prototypes. You know, I would say about a dozen prototypes.
Have I made any final, final ones? That’s where I’m headed next and once I make the final earrings and photograph them, then I will obviously upload and launch the shop. But I’m like in the – I would say in the middle.
Lizzie: Yeah. Well, you’ve been really – what’s the word I’m looking for? Intentional about thinking through your brand because you’re coming from this perspective of customer experience. Like for you that is a priority. So you’ve just done a really good job of thinking about what – what is the brand I want to present? You already decided on the colors ahead of time. You’ve already made prototypes. So you’re not going to sell them. What has been so amazing about you and this is perfectionist too.
So I personally think your – the ones you think you need to throw away could be sold. They’re beautiful. But you’re trying to perfect your technique.
Alisha: Yeah. It’s really important to me that the clay is done right, that there are like – well, this might be impossible but that there are no imperfections. You know, I want to make sure that it’s presented in a way where someone can look at it and say, “Wow, this person knew what they were doing.” You know, I don’t want it to just be thrown together because I want to open an Etsy shop. So that’s my perspective on it.
Lizzie: It has been really cool watching you perfect that. So coming up through this, have there been any like fears or concerns that you’ve had about your business? Is anything kind of coming at you from that mentality perspective?
Alisha: Yes. You know, I think – again, it goes back to my personality and everyone is not like me. I understand that. There are way more people who are more relaxed than I am. But apart from me, I’ve struggled the most with like presentation. You know, how it’s going to be presented when – or how it’s going to be packaged. You know, is the logo going to be right? Is the packaging going to be right? Is it going to look good and make the customer feel good when they open this box?
I don’t want the box or product to be misjumbled and like broken or – you know. So that’s kind of what I’ve stumbled over a little bit. It’s making sure like is this going to look professional or not and, you know, I would stress to people that are maybe like me is that it’s OK. You know, if it’s not – if the first box you ship out is not perfect, it’s going to be OK. But obviously I’m still getting there myself, you know.
Lizzie: Well, you’ve had plenty of life happening the last couple of months anyway. So slow it down. But – so how do you recommend – if someone struggles with perfectionism – so I kind of struggle with perfectionism but I also have this like go-getter side for me that I think pushes me through it and I tend to just like throw the paint on the wall.
My way of overcoming it was I started by pricing my stuff a little lower than the competition so that people – well, A, so I could get into the algorithm and kind of have that edge over people who are filtering for what is the cheapest version of it. Then also so I could work with a customer and be like, “Hey, I have a new shop. Like please give me any feedback. Like let me know.”
But I realized that there are some. You know, you are meticulous. I will say at Alisha – well, I gave you a bit of a hard time about your perfectionism. Your attitude makes you like the ideal Etsy seller in the sense of the whole platform started by people who were just passionate about excellence and wanting to take care – like literally dazzle – use their artistic skills, the things that they love to do, the creative side of them, to dazzle customers, to share it with the world and your attitude is like so perfect and so beautiful.
I mean I still – I’m just still like – it’s more than good enough. Let’s go. But – because I give you a hard time. But truly like your attitude is amazing about it. So I wanted to give you that kudos. But how – for someone who is super, super perfectionist, how are you going to sort of overcome that? Like are you sort of holding yourself to – I will let you ask this. But are you holding yourself to, “OK, I’m going to do this next batch. It’s going to better than the last one and I’m going to go,” and then – or what are you thinking?
Alisha: Oh, totally, yeah. So, for me, even if I see like a little something, like a piece of fuzz in it, like I want to throw it away. But, you know, what I’ve learned is that not everyone sees what I see. Someone is going to see it and really like it for its entirety, you know. Not the tiny little imperfections. So I really have to walk myself through in looking at the whole picture instead of trying to nitpick little things all the time. That’s something that I have definitely learned about myself through this process is I learned a lot about me personally and that’s when –
Alisha: Yeah, and that’s one thing that I had to step – take a step back and say, “OK. Like this isn’t always right, to like look at the small picture and nitpick what’s wrong with that.” You have to look at the big picture, right?
Then – so yeah, I plan on like the – what I’m going to tell myself is set a firm boundary. Like the next batch that I make or the next round of earrings that I make are going to have to be the final. Like no matter what, you’re going to make the components and you’re going to put them together and you’re going to take pictures and this is what – how it’s going to have to be. If it’s not perfect, well then it’s not perfect, you know.
Alisha: No one is really probably going to notice except for me and that is like the mental block that I had to overcome and will eventually overcome when this plays out. But it has just been a really cool experience learning about yourself and learning – you know, that’s kind of what adulthood is about, right? Learning what things you can tweak and make better, you know, and I really learned that doing this – opening this shop.
Lizzie: That’s so interesting that it has affected sort of your internal processing too and how your – that you’re learning about yourself. I think that’s a part of running a business that people, you know, who are maybe new to it, don’t appreciate.
What do you think about mental roadblocks in all of that? Do you think that – is that really just piggybacking on the same subject or do you think you’ve – have you had any mental roadblocks? Like do you ever struggle with – I have a lot of clients who will talk about kind of being fear of being, you know, maybe judged by other people or criticized and I will just start that off with like a little story.
So for me, I had major impostor syndrome in the beginning with my signs. It was literally – it was a customer who raved to me about how gorgeous my sign was. That made me go, “Oh!” I wasn’t even on Etsy. I had my own website. It was someone here local in town who was a friend of a friend.
So I didn’t know this person personally but they were the one. They saw a piece I made. They commissioned another one from me just because of this other friendship and she – first of all, she did two things. She raved about how gorgeous the sign was and she was like, “You’re really on to something here.”
The second thing she did was she photographed it in a way I never would have imagined. Like I didn’t have the skill at that point to photograph at that point. It was a Christmas sign and she put it on her mantle with a bunch of gorgeous high-end decorations and she sent me a picture. She just wanted something rustic farmhousey.
So she sent me this picture and it totally reframed the whole thing for me and gave me the courage to go – to like go for it. But now as I go, you know, sometimes we will get a weird batch of wood or sometimes I will make a mistake with the paintbrush and I will look at – my process is – hopefully this is helping someone out there listening.
My process is I look at the sign when it’s done and I say like, “Would I give this to someone I really respect? Would I give this to a boss, you know, my husband’s boss? Would I give this to our bible study leader? Would I give this to my daughter’s teacher or someone that I just have a lot of esteem for? Is it good enough for that?”
If it is, then I’m like, “OK. We’re good,” and that’s kind of the litmus test. And I don’t know. Maybe with your level of perfectionism that would be a negative thing to do. So you will have to tell me about that. But I – yeah, I would love to know anything more around like mindset or the fear of people criticizing any of that, that you’ve dealt with and – yeah.
Alisha: Yeah. Yeah. For me, you know, I always grew up as a person who anything below perfect wasn’t good enough. But what I actually have learned through this – you know, I made a bunch of samples one time and they weren’t for the purpose of selling. It was just to practice the technique, right?
Alisha: And I gave them away to some friends. You know, I’m just like hey …
Lizzie: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Alisha: Wear them. You know, enjoy them. They’re not perfect or great in my eyes but like they will do. You know, like I love you guys. Here’s something for free that I made. So what happened was one of the girls was actually in college and she went back to college and she wore the earrings out to a coffee shop and she texted me one day and she’s like, “Alisha, are you still launching your shop? Because I went to this coffee shop and there were like two or three people that wanted me to tell them who made these and they wanted to buy them.”
I was like, “What?” The earrings that I made, oh my gosh, Lizzie. Like it was – the top and bottom weren’t even like perfectly aligned. They were like skewed to one side because I had drilled the hole wrong or something and no, I wasn’t going to throw them away. But she said, “No, I want to wear them,” and so she wore them and someone wanted to buy them off her. I was like, “What?”
Alisha: Yeah. So that gave me some confidence in like, OK, like maybe I can sell these. You know, at first I was thinking, “Ah. You know, I don’t know. Like do I still want to like go move forward with this launch?”
But then that compliment from a friend came at the perfect time and allowed me to continue, you know. So that’s kind of how I’ve come over mental blocks of like it not being perfect in my eyes. But when someone else sees it and they don’t really know any different, they actually end up loving it. So yeah, that was just one way, one example that has occurred.
Lizzie: No, I love that and it’s just – it’s so interesting that you had a similar experience to me.
Alisha: What I learned too was what wasn’t great in my eyes was great in someone else and the only reason I would have learned that is if I would have tested – made samples and gave them away and tested like what other people thought.
Alisha: And it’s not that expensive. Like polymer clay is like a couple of bucks for a couple of ounces or whatever or maybe more than that but it’s not expensive. So for me to make samples and give them out, well, it’s totally worth it because the feedback that I got kept me going and gave me that confidence that I didn’t have before to continue. That is really worth a couple of dollars that I dished out to make those earrings, you know.
Lizzie: Absolutely. I love that you did that. I love that you got the feedback. I love that it fueled you. We have to do that for ourselves. We have to fuel ourselves to keep going with our goals, with feedback and all of it.
So, OK, so one more – I guess I would love to know because for me, I launched back in 2015. It has been a minute and I can remember some of it very well and other parts I really can’t. So I would love to know from you what advice you would give someone who’s in the really early stages like you are.
You know, not everyone has gotten to work with someone who’s a fulltime seller and had the kind of help. So what would you tell them to get them going? Like what would you suggest?
Alisha: The advice that I would give them is to number one, make sure that you’re actually enjoying what you’re doing. If you don’t like what you’re doing and you’re doing it purely to make a – just to like turn a dollar, then it’s not going to be sustainable and you have to really enjoy the product that you’re producing too.
You know, like I really enjoy big, chunky earrings that are lightweight. See, that’s what I love. So you have to have passion about the product that you’re producing and you have to actually enjoy producing that product.
Another thing that I had to do as well is that I initially poured so much time. Like every waking minute into this, perfecting this product, right? That I eventually got burned out after a month of constantly doing it.
Lizzie: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Alisha: Yes. So like there was a time at the end of July. I was about to go on vacation. So I couldn’t wait to go on vacation to get away from my like creative space and that’s when – yeah, and that’s when I had to stop and say, “OK, something is wrong here. You know, I shouldn’t be doing this.”
So I started setting a limit on how much I would be at that creative space. Like maybe two hours at a time, then get up and do something else with my mind, you know. Not just pour six hours and stay up until midnight because I was doing that.
So setting limits and boundaries on how much time you’re giving to that creative business that you’re trying to make is – I think it’s important too because you can have passion about what you’re doing. You can enjoy the product that you’re making. But if you spend every waking minute and you’re not – and you’re sacrificing time with your friends or family for this hobby, then you’re going to end up resenting the hobby. So it’s important to put boundaries on that as well and that’s what I’ve learned too. Taking a step back.
Lizzie: I think that is so great and it wouldn’t even – it wouldn’t be something that I would necessarily off the cuff think to say because where I’m at, you know, there are plenty of days I don’t like painting signs. Like it’s a different – it’s a different animal now. It’s a fulltime thing, you know, and I’m looking at it from a different perspective.
I love what you just shared with someone who’s in those early stages because yeah, those first few years can be really grueling. You need to make sure that you set the boundaries, decide what you really want. I love how you have turned it into like I feel like you’ve hit all of the high points.
Like you’ve turned it into something that’s fun, something that’s serving a purpose, something that’s serving the greater community, something that’s developing you as a person. Like I feel like you have done such a good job of that and I really can’t wait to see where it’s going to go and truly like from your first samples that you thought were terrible and I was like, “Oh my gosh. Alisha, these are insane!” It's an amazing – I can’t wait. I can’t wait for you to share them.
Alisha: Yeah. I’m actually getting more excited about it lately. There was – in the month of August was kind of really tough for me. I guess we took the whole month of August off from making that – from developing the Etsy shop. So if anyone is listening and they’re in the middle of like a huge pause, it’s OK. Like you can get back to it. Just give yourself some grace because I really needed that month off to like reset everything. You know, I’ve just had a lot going on in my professional life and my personal life.
So that’s OK to like step back if you need to. Don’t feel like you can’t and now I feel like I’m coming in at a fresh perspective too. You know, I haven’t been like staring at this piece of clay jewelry for three hours and wondering what other color I can make it in, you know. Like oh.
Lizzie: Well, that’s awesome and I really, really appreciate you coming on to share – I’m even more – I was already appreciating it. But now I’m even more excited because I feel like what you shared wouldn’t even necessarily come out of me because of where you’re at in this whole mentality but you’re also so sharp, so talented, so much fun. So it’s perfect. So I know that you are – you don’t have any public social media because you’re not like – you know, that’s just not your vibe. But when you launch your shop, can I put it down in the show notes, like the link, so that these folks can come find you?
Alisha: Yes, please, please.
Alisha: I would love for you to do that.
Lizzie: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for joining me today.
Alisha: Yes, thanks for having me. It was so much fun to talk with you Lizzie.
Lizzie: I’m so glad you came. So I know everyone will love you and maybe we will have to have you back once you’re kind of up and going a little bit for like a round two.
Lizzie: OK. We will talk to you soon.
Alisha: All right, thank you.
Transcript by Prexie Magallanes as Trans-Expert at Fiverr.com
Are you thinking about starting an Etsy shop? Join me today while I interview Alisha Donat—one of my consulting clients-- who has been taking all the steps to launch her Etsy shop selling jewelry this year. I think our discussion will inspire you, entertain you, and get your wheels turning about the steps you need to take before launching your successful Etsy shop.
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