Monday, March 11, 2013

Guest Post: Tips for Starting Your Own Online Business

I LOVE Katie's Etsy shop One Delightful Button.  Even more, in the little work we have done together, I have been incredibly impressed with her knack for business.  As a full-time mommy, I am amazed at the beautiful work she does AND the professional way she runs her business. Seriously, she has thought of everything and takes such good care of her customers! When I decided to take a break, I asked Katie to post for me and share some of the lessons she has learned from owning her own shop and managing the responsibilities of home and a very successful business.  If you have ever thought about starting a business (or, if, like me, you just think all of it is fascinating), this is a must read...

Why I'm Breaking
Hello E readers! (Not as in the kindle or nook...) Thanks for letting me share with you all while Elizabeth is away. I'm Katie from One Delightful Button and my little family is pictured below. I occasionally blog about us here

I am a wife and mother to a crazy little toddler, a few months younger than Sam living north of Boston.  I spend my time as a stay-at-home-mom and volunteering with Young Life (the organization my husband works for), but I also have been running a side business since 2009 selling my handmade crafts, which is what I am going to share about with you today...

I got started with my business in the fall of 2009 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which sounds a lot longer than it feels! I had recently heard of etsy and thought I love crafts and had always wanted to have a little cottage industry. I did not know exactly what I would do. I sort of knew how to sew, but did not have a sewing machine. I sort of knew some thing about photography and graphic design, but not a lot. I knew I loved vintage things so I went to this fun antique shop in Norfolk, Virginia called Country Boy. Country boy was a low-end antique store, which is the best kind if you ask me. Country Boy Antiques collects things from house that were going to be demolished like old windows and glass door knobs. I found an awesome jar of old buttons and thought, what could I make with these? I quickly thought of earrings and experimented with making a few pairs and opened my etsy shop. I did not have a name yet, but was calling it "KBowling Designs" at the time. Within a few weeks I had my first sale, despite my terrible pictures. Here is a screen shot of my first sale. I still am not sure why this person bought these earrings, but am grateful because it was encouraging to me at the time. 

I spent a lot of time tracking how many views I had on an item and obsessing over the details of my shop. At the time, there were chat rooms on etsy where you could promote your items. I spent a lot of unnecessary time in etsy chatrooms and was quickly becoming obsessed because I thought this was important to starting my business. Sales picked up some over Christmas, which was exciting, and I tried a few craft shows with a friend. Sometime shortly after Christmas I settled on the name One Delightful Button. My mother-in-law mentioned to me that a fabric button would be a nice addition to the shop and I began making things with fabric buttons too. 

I've continued to expand in others way with some elbow grease. I continued to do craft shows, advertise online (mostly on blogs), started to approach shops about selling locally, made crafty like-minded friends to help with advise and started to really define who I was as a business woman. It has been a great side-income for our family as our son was born in September 2011. It was my dream to be a stay home mom once our son was born and my business made it so I could do that. However, doing both is not always easy. I wish I had been able to "give it a go" more before our son was born because although I am completely home now, most of my time is not my own anymore. This was a lot easier when my son was little and immobile. If you are a momma or have been a toddler for a few minutes, I am sure you know what I mean. 

In the past few months, we have moved to the beautiful North Shore of Boston. It has been a little tricky maintaining our business while moving. Each summer my family goes to a Young Life camp for a month and I normally continue to ship from wherever we are. My husband really loves all the extra boxes in the car, but we make it work. He by the way is incredibly supportive and lets me bounce ideas off of him all the time. Some people have business mentors and that is great, but my husband is so supportive, I feel like with us being able to talk things out, having crafty friends, and reading blogs that have share small business advice, that I do not need a mentor (at least for now!). Running my own handmade business has been challenging at times, but also very rewarding and exciting to think I have built this company on my own and that it allows me to do something I love while still having time to care for me sweet boy (and pay for my Starbucks habit.) I am certainly no expert, but here are a few of my words of wisdom if you are considering selling online that I have learned in my past few years...
  • Stay true to yourself. Frequently, people will suggest new ideas to me. Sometimes they are wonderfully clever ideas, however, I will only make things that I feel like are true to me and things I want to represent myself.
  • Take calculated risks. I invested around $200 initially. I no longer use my family's own money my on my business, but I do use money I have made to continue to propel the business forward. Some great risks that I have taken have been new products, approaching shops, and advertising for a few examples. 
  • If you are selling online, take time to take great pictures. The picture is all people have to go by unless they have seen your product in person so make it a good one. You can use if you do not have photoshop. 
  • Package it pretty. Just because the item may be handmade, does not mean you should look like it. Great packaging kicks up your item up a notch. 
  • Set up boundaries..but know there are seasons were things may be busier, where you may have to have babysitter or order out dinner, etc, but decide how much you are willing to let the business encroach on family time. Some nights it's okay if I spend the evening stamping tags while we watch a tv show on netflix, but this cannot be every night - you get the idea? 
  • You have never arrived. Ouch. This is not meant to be harsh, but I think its just the nature of business if you want to stay in it. Steve Jobs said it better like this: "If you do something and it turns out pretty good, then you should go do something else wonderful, not dwell on it for too long. Just figure out what's next."

If you are a small business gal too (mmm, person? do men read this blog??), do you have any tips you would share? Also, feel free to contact me with questions or check out my shop (coupon code// emyselfandi for 10% off). thanks for reading!
you can also connect with me around the web...

One Delightful Button


  1. Thanks for sharing! I have my own Etsy shop and am trying so hard to make it work for us. I have very little sales, so it is not enough to help our family yet. But I keep trying anyway. I know these things take time. In the mean time, any advice is very welcomed. So thank you for taking time to share. Much appreciated!

  2. So true! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Hi! This is great. Thanks for sharing this tips. Love it!

  4. Starting your business, like any other affair, all boils down to taking risks. Except that you’ve got to be more calculated with this one, especially if there are many things at stake. The best advice I could offer is you’ve got to love what you do and stay passionate with it. Doing the things that interest you the most is the key to making sure you sustain the drive that started you in your venture in the first place. Thanks for sharing those tips!

    Mamie Patrick @ Focused Local Marketing

  5. Her hands must have been full with the baby and the business both vying for her attention. You’ve got to admire her time management skills for faring well in both aspects. Surely, it wasn’t a walk in the park. But I guess the more committed you get into this venture, the easier it is to maintain the high-level of determination, hard work, and passion you had when you've just begun with the journey.

    Clint Shaff @ Franchise Match


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