Congratulations to our team member nicholasandfelice, who just reached their 5000th sale on Etsy today!! To celebrate this amazing milestone, Felice has taken time to share their Etsy story with us. This post is a little long, but once you start reading it, you'll love it so much that you have to finish the whole thing!
How long have you been selling crafts? How did it start?
Back in my early 20’s I started making jewelry and selling it at Grateful dead concerts. Yes, I was one of those Deadheads in the 80’s traveling around selling stuff outside the concerts. I made beadwork jewelry. Then I got a job in Key West Florida for a winter working for a jeweler stringing her necklace designs and then another who taught me some simple wirework that I got to sell at their stores.
I’ve always been crafty and into making things. My father was self employed and had an “Art Store” at one point in our lives where he cranked out oil paintings to match peoples’ couches. He gave me the confidence to believe that I could make stuff and people would buy it.
Then in the spring of 1987 I went to Guatemala with some friends to learn how to buy and import Guatemalan clothing. Nick was there traveling with a girlfriend who had just dumped him and taken the guide book and towel leaving him all alone in a foreign country and without much money (Poor Nick). We met and I hired him to help me carry all the stuff I was buying and have been together ever since.
We lived in Toronto for 2 years, during when I took a “real” jewelry making course and started wholesaling my metalwork and bead jewelry while Nick went to school. At this time the quartz crystal pendant trend was very popular. We had a friend wearing one and Nick looked at it and figured out how to wire wrap the crystal. We rode the crystal pendant wave and traveled around the country selling our jewelry to New Age stores, craft fairs and at concerts. We eventually settled an hour north of Eugene Oregon so that we could sell at the weekly Eugene Saturday Market. That became our main source of income besides some wholesale accounts.
How long have you been selling on Etsy full time?
We’ve always been selling jewelry full time. We joined Etsy on May 26, 2006.
What is your specialty?
We’re pretty good with the wirework. We started with wire wrapping sterling silver around stones and glass. Over the years our designs have become more complex and have a Celtic look. About 7 years ago we took a trip to Victoria, Canada and saw a woman making wired hanging bottle. We thought it was a great idea and came up with our own version of the idea using aluminum wire and our Celtic designs. The aluminum wire sent me in a new direction and we now have a popular line of aluminum earrings and pendants and shawl pins. Nick taught himself machining and acquired the skills to do all sorts of jewelry and metal work. We have a line of stamped and engraved jewelry that includes lots of quirky geeky and science related designs as well as animals, Celtic and Asian character designs etc.
Is there a turning point for your Etsy shop? Did it suddenly or gradually take off?
We had our first sale about 2 weeks after we listed our first pair of earrings on Etsy. Our pictures were terrible and our descriptions were awful. We kept adding more and more to our shop and working on the photography. We still weren’t selling very much to be all that impressed with Etsy or ourselves. Then the week before Christmas ’06 (about 6 months after we started on Etsy) we started having sales every day. We’ve been doing well since then with steady sales and very busy Christmas sales.
How do you keep customers coming back to your shop?
We consider customer service a major part of what we are offering our customers. We’re kind of maniacal about it and treat our customers the way we would want to be treated. Because this is our livelihood we are online all the time (except when we are sleeping or out of the house.)So we always answer convos and emails quickly. We also always send an email and convo as soon as we get an order to let them know we received it and when we are shipping. We’re always polite and upbeat and follow the “customer is always right” model of business. We are crazy about sending out orders as soon as possible which is usually the same or next day unless it is the weekend obviously. During the Christmas rush we may get a little behind that goal and send out orders in two days. We want shopping with us to be a pleasant and easy experience without any hassles for the customer so they will want to come back and tell their friends.
We also know the importance of having new products for our returning customers to stay interested. We are always thinking about new ideas and trying to work on them and trying to figure out the next big thing.
We don’t do anything fancy with our packaging but everything gets wrapped in colored tissue paper and put in a simple brown gift box and tied with a nice piece of chenille or fancy yarn. We put a little handwritten “Thank You!, F and N” and a smiley face in a heart on the invoice.It only takes a second but it’s a nice little touch and I really do feel grateful for every single sale.
How do you supplement your Etsy income?Do you sell your jewelry outside of Etsy?
We sell most weekends at the Eugene Saturday Market and at their Holiday Market. We have another small local craft fair we do in the Fall. We have some wholesale accounts too and get new ones every once on a while from store owners finding us on Etsy. Nick’s other business is selling small lathes and milling machines online for a small US manufacturer. He also does some paid blogging for the “Tool Monger” and has other machining related projects going on all the time for different customers.
what is your daily work schedule? How many hours do you work every week?
This is a hard question to answer. We tend to get up 8:30ish.Get the coffee going right away and check the email. Get our 2 young sons happy with food and yes dare I say it- TV or computers, legos or whatever they are interested in. Max goes to preschool from 9:30-11:30 3 days a week. So I take him there then come back and print out orders and send confirmation of receiving the orders and when we will ship. Nick spends the morning answering emails and phone calls from his customers from the lathe and milling machine business, faxing in orders. I start packaging and making the same items that sold so we can relist throughout the morning while entertaining our 6 year Henry with his various projects and needs. At 11:30 I’m picking up Max and dropping off Henry at Kindergarten. Then sometimes I’m ready to go to the post office with the mornings’ packages or else do some errands with Max and get home and finish up orders. Then it’s time to pick up Henry and do after school stuff like Karate classes or play dates or errands. During this time Nick is working on jewelry or bookkeeping or fun projects. There are a lot of variations to all of this. We live a pretty flexible lifestyle.
I spend a lot of time in the evening working on jewelry and deigns or catching up on stuff to be relisted or new ideas. And more coffee.
How do you promote your Etsy shop?
Nick and I both have blogs:
We have a flickr page. We have a deviant art page that we rarely update.We now have a facebook business page.
We don’t really do anything else.
I don’t think the blogs have really brought us all that much business but there have been some people that started reading our blogs and become regular fans and customers. I think they mostly just add a nice way for a customer to get a better feel for who we are and who they are buying from. I think that is part of the Etsy experience and blogging helps round that out for those that are interested and curious to know more about us. We keep business cards on us all the time and hand them out if the situation seems appropriate and not weird or pushy. We have had a couple of really lucky breaks as far as getting on other peoples blogs and mentioned once in “Cookie” magazine.
But honestly we really don’t understand or know why we get people coming to our shop and buying.I suspect having proper and good Tags has a lot to do with being found in the Etsy and google search systems.
What is the most challenging part as a full time Etsy seller? How do you handle it?
We often feel like we are in a never ending craft fair with Etsy. It’s really hard for me to not constantly check the email and shop and answer convos right away even when it’s the weekend or late at night. It’s our livelihood and it’s up to us to keep it going so we are our own worst bosses in some ways. We are exploiting ourselves!
Your shop name is Nicholas and Felice. How do you two work together? Did you encounter any problems being a couple and business partners at the same time?
We’ve got a ridiculously co- dependent relationship so it works out really well. We’ve been together almost 22 years and been apart about a total of 11 days. We have a natural sort of division of labor. Nick does all the bookkeeping, CNC and stamping designs. I’ve evolved into the wireworker although Nick is just as good at it. I do the photography and convoing of most stuff unless it’s related to custom stampings and engravings.
How do you balance between family and work? What is the most challenging part about working from home with two children, and how do you manage it?
Ha! How do I even begin to answer that? I do most of my work at my desk in the dining room so I am constantly stopping and starting work in between getting the kids stuff and doing things with them. We have a couple of different shop areas and most of Nick’s machining shop is in the converted garage that is just another room of our house now. So we are always around the kids and trying to get stuff done. They are still pretty young (4 and 6) but soon enough Henry will be in 1st grade all day and Max will get to Kindergarten in 2 years. It’s crazy and we are running around in circles trying to get as much done as possible. I actually don’t know how we do it all. I just try to remember that there really is time to stop working and cuddle for 5 minutes.
Share your best business advice with us.
Make customer service paramount.
Share one of the strangest things that happened to you as crafters.
Nick came up with his “HTML ” earrings (They are a dorky geek joke based on HTML computer coding for those who don’t get the joke.).They got mentioned on dig.com and made it to the front page of the website for a whole day. We were bombarded with sales and he made about 40 pairs in 24 hours. They still continue to sell well. Oh and we had a woman in China who is a programmer order a pair from us. It felt good to be doing are part to help the trade deficit.
One of the coolest things that ever happened was a friend was wearing a pair of our earrings while she was traveling in India. Another friend of ours who didn’t know this person saw her in the market place in a town in India wearing our earrings and said “Hey those are Nick and Felice’s earrings!”
Anything else you would like to add?
Some of our best selling products came from customers. I had a customer ask me to make a treble clef shawl pin. We already made treble clef pendants with aluminum. I didn’t even know what a shawl pin was and if aluminum would be a good metal to use for it. She thought it would be perfect and she was right. It’s light weight so it doesn’t pull on the shawls like a big chunky metal pin would. After I made hers I didn’t think about it again but someone googled shawl pins and that sold one somehow came up in her search and she asked me to make her one too. Then I realized it should be in our shop. That design kept selling quickly and then the ”Duh” light came on above my head and I realized a lot of my Celtic big selling pendant designs would work great for shawl pins. The shawl pins have become a big part of our shop now and sell really well. I’ve been amazed at the great word of mouth advertising from knitters, especially on Ravelry (a knitting forum).Then we got really lucky and the wonderful Deb of Fearless Fibers bought one and sent it to her friend Anne Hanson, who has a popular blog, and she wrote about it. The response has been wonderful and we still get knitters buying the pins from us and saying they saw it mentioned on her blog.
So I guess the moral is pay attention.