Meghan is a creative person at heart. She loves baking, party planning, graphic design and decorating. Several years ago she started up a small cupcake business out of her own home and baked custom creations for weddings, baby showers, birthdays and celebrations. While experiencing much success, Meghan found it difficult to keep up with the demand while working elsewhere full-time. There were also stronger regulations for home-baked goods which made this type of business less viable for her to sustain. She came to the decision to leave this behind and focus on other ways to express her creative side.
In January 2014 Meghan became a proud new mom to her daughter Avery. For Avery’s first birthday in 2015, Meghan was looking for some custom ‘chalkboard-style’ artwork to use for the party. This style of art features the child’s age, height, weight, and information such as milestones and favourites. She discovered that Etsy could be a great place to find what she was searching for. After reviewing the shops of several other artisans, she was disappointed to see that there weren’t a lot of designs that she preferred.
With a passion for graphic design and some experience through taking design courses, Meghan decided she would instead try her hand at crafting something unique for her daughter so she sat down with her laptop and got started. Using a chalkboard theme in the colours and style of Avery’s party, she created a collage that captured her daughter’s favourite activities, major milestones, best-loved book and other treasured memories. This would become both a focal point of the party as well as a cherished keepsake. After much admiration by friends and family, Meghan soon found that there was interest from others to order similar designs for their events and celebrations. It had been a while since Meghan had a small business but she recognized that there was a demand so she decided to take a leap and open up her own online shop.
Choosing an Online Storefront
A very popular website for selling homemade and handcrafted items, Etsy was Meghan’s first choice when choosing an online service for selling her artwork. She opened her shop in February 2015 and since then has received over 60 orders from customers all around the world. She also set up an Instagram account which she uses to post photos of her designs; and surprisingly, received a few orders through.
Setting Up Her Shop
To set up her shop on Etsy Meghan began by taking some time to familiarize herself with the website. “I had to do a lot of research at first to figure out the e-commerce end of it,” she says, “but Etsy is very user-friendly. There are a lot of frequently asked question forums and popular shops that give you guidance on how to become successful. But it’s to take that plunge to launch your shop. You should have so many items listed and you have to pay for each item to be listed so you really have to be happy with the items you are posting.”
As for supplies, Meghan found that starting up was easy. She says, “I just needed a laptop and some software and was able to be creative and turn this into a business.” At first she had to design her own logo and banner image and then had to set up PayPal. Being in Canada, Meghan says she also had to set up a currency exchange since Etsy’s website is based in the U.S. She continues, “you have to upload all your items and then you have to put in what each item is, how many you offer, when it was made, who made it, then you have to do an item description, which can be time-consuming.” For marketing her business, Meghan says that Etsy uses ‘tags’ which help with search results. She confides, “I’m still learning about tags… they describe your item so that people will find it in your shop. I’m still playing around with that, like how people search for certain things. There’s a lot to learn.”
Since her first few items were posted, Meghan now offers designs for party favours, cupcake toppers, banners, invitations, birth announcements and more. By offering digital files instead of physical items, her customers don’t have to pay a shipping fee. Once the graphic is purchased, it’s a simple online download or custom order via email. Her customers are primarily moms and grandparents who are looking for something unique. “The focus seems to be on birthdays, especially first birthdays, so that’s where I focus my advertising.” She also receives a lot of business from customers in the U.S. and Canada and has even received orders from Australia and Japan.
Being a busy mom and having her own small business on the side, Meghan finds that she is able to work in the evenings after her daughter is in bed. “I’m a full-time working mom… so finding the time to devote to it is sometimes a challenge. I would like to have a bigger inventory but I don’t always have the time.” She finds that this type of business works with her lifestyle because she can still devote a lot of time to her family. Her husband is very supportive of her work and she appreciates that her friends and family have also shown support through encouraging her to pursue her goal.
Her advice to others who are interested in opening a shop on Etsy is “it’s not that big of a leap because you don’t have as much overhead cost as you would with a storefront. I’ve made a few friends who have Etsy shops and one actually just opened her own storefront because it was a good opportunity to expand. But for me, it works because anyone can find me from anywhere in the world. It seems that nowadays a lot of people like to shop online. I say go for it and there’s so much information online that can help you.”
She also says that having high-quality photos are a must. One thing that Meghan is improving upon in the future is including more professional-quality photos of her work. She says “having crisp images is one of the top reasons you would get a sale so that’s one of the biggest things. Make sure the photos of your products are clear and eye-catching.” She’s now starting to ask her clients to send back high-quality photos of their children with her artwork. Meghan says that having children and babies in the photos with their chalkboards or birth announcements influences her sales. “I can use it to help promote my items. Once I have professional photos of an item, I get more sales on that one item than any other item because people see it in action. So my next step in the new year is to get ‘brand reps’ which are people who receive my artwork at a discounted price by promoting them for me.” She is also looking into adding more items and more categories to her shop so she can be more easily found through search engines.
Achieving Her Goal
Meghan says, “I definitely feel that I have achieved my goal which was to have a creative outlet. This is definitely fulfilling that need for me. I want to now continue to develop my skills so that I can continue to enjoy what I do. That’s important because I really enjoy what I’m doing right now.” She’s also proud of what her customers have said about her work. She says, “my first birthday chalkboards seem to be what’s most popular and people are just so excited because these are keepsakes for their children. It’s like a picture in time of what their child was like when they were a year old.”
Get in Touch
If you are interested in opening a shop on Etsy or have questions about how to get started, Meghan welcomes you to contact her via email, through her Etsy shop, on Instagram or in the comments section below.