A month ago today I reopened my Etsy shop. It has had a major overhaul in the photo department (at least, I think so because I worked my butt off on those photos and they better be good), and now offers international shipping to many countries, and has a lot more inventory. Taking a break from Etsy allowed me to reflect on my shop and how I could improve if I ever reopened. I also grew a lot as a person, which I’m hoping will help me succeed the second time around. This is a bit of a long story, so I’ve broken it up into two separate posts. The second part will be published next Tuesday.
My love for beading goes way back to when I was a kid, stringing plastic pony beads on plastic cord and making jewelry for myself and my mom. As I grew up and entered high school, I started looking into more serious jewelry making and found a ton of how-tos on YouTube. The local craft store even had a lot of the tools, and, of course, a lot of beads. I started out making things for family and friends, and even donated a few pairs of earrings for my church’s Christmas craft sale. It was fun, but expensive for a high schooler with no consistent income.
My grandma got me a subscription to BeadStyle Magazine, and they would occasionally publish articles of tips for selling online and at craft fairs. I’ve always liked the idea of being able to make something by hand and sell it to someone and watch them enjoy it and cherish it. Selling my jewelry would be a good way to keep making more, which I loved, since I would have some income to buy more beads. Craft fair booths, however, required a large-ish investment and inventory, which I didn’t have. So online it was! I found Etsy and it seemed like a good deal to me, given that there was no monthly subscription fee and high traffic.
I explored a little around Etsy, observing the community and finding inspiration in other jewelry items. Back then, I thought everyone’s prices for jewelry were outrageously expensive, but I know better now. I read through the details of how to set up a shop, and soon discovered I would have to wait until I turned 18. Then I read that you couldn’t sell vintage items and call them vintage unless they were 20 years or older, and somehow translated that into sellers have to be 20 years or older to own a shop. So I kind of gave up, and made little effort to grow an inventory in case I ever did open up a shop.
My First Shop
In January 2014, I was daydreaming and reading through how to set up an Etsy shop again, and discovered that I had been mistaken about having to be 20. Seeing as I was old enough, I opened up shop as quickly as I could. I originally named it Architectural Beads, since I wanted to become an architect. Some of my jewelry even made it into architecture school applications as examples of design.
I made a few sales just by flying by the seat of my pants, and grew my inventory from like 5 items, to 30. That was a lot for me back then, and I’m proud that I made that much, but ideally it should have been a lot more. I also struggled with pictures, pricing (If you bought something from me back then, you got a great deal!), and search engine optimization. I didn’t accept credit card or gift card payments, or offer international shipping. All of those things combined made for low views and sales, which was really discouraging. Also, I expected that once I had stuff listed, it would just sit in my shop and accumulate views and favorites and hopefully a sale or two. I didn’t know that an Etsy shop is like a plant that needs to be watered and pruned and fertilized regularly in order for it to thrive.
I soon realized that I was supposed to have a business license. Looking into all that paperwork and confused about taxes overwhelmed me pretty quickly. In June, just as my shop was starting to gain traction, I decided to close shop. Besides, I would be leaving for architecture school soon, and from what I’d heard, I wouldn’t have time to even think about selling jewelry. Not knowing what to do with all this jewelry I’d made, I gave a few pieces away to family and friends, but still had plenty left over.
Honestly, I was a little put off jewelry-making after all the stress it had caused me. I was also a little put off the idea of owning my own business for the same reason, but the hope that one day it might be better remained at the back of my mind.