Tell us about your shop and the idea behind it.
Kin Ship Press is Dan Davis and me. We make hand-printed home goods and apparel out of our little home studio in Louisville, Kentucky. The Kin Ship started in 2009 as an art gallery, but we soon realized that organizing and showcasing other people’s work was totally exhausting, and we really wanted to just be making our own stuff. So, we stopped doing the gallery and started Kin Ship Press.
Tell us about your previous working situation.
I worked as a buyer/manager for a local boutique for almost 5 years. After spending many 16-hour days buying, selling, and promoting things that I felt little or no connection to, I realized that it was time to quit. Being kind of a workaholic, quitting wasn’t the easiest thing for me, but there were lots of other reasons that made me realize that I needed to move on. Financially, I wasn’t anywhere near being self-employed, but I knew that I needed to find a job that didn’t take up so much of my time and energy, so that I could work on Kin Ship. I got a few terrible temporary office jobs, and you know the kind: where 90% of your day is spent pretending that you’re working. I would sit there thinking about all the things I could be doing instead. Eventually I started working part time as a nanny for a 3-year-old girl. I did that for about a year and a half, while working evenings and weekends on our business.
How did you discover Etsy?
I’d known about Etsy for a few years, but I was kind of reluctant to use it for Kin Ship. I was afraid that our stuff would just get lost in thousands and thousands of listings, but my friend Kathleen of lolley told me that it was working out great for her and convinced me that we should give it a try — she was so right. Our sales in the first week few weeks on Etsy were more than the entire year that we had our own web store.
What is your favorite part of the process in design?
Most of the designs that I do involve photographs. I love packing up some of my old cameras and taking a random drive. The back roads of Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia are full of all kinds of gems. Most of the photos that I take are just for me, but sometimes I’ll take one and immediately know that I want to do something else with it.
What are your best marketing tips?
- Don’t be a jerk. People will find out and nobody wants to support a jerk’s business.
- Don’t be afraid of rejection. It’s going to happen. You’ll survive.
- Don’t try for world domination. You don’t have to be part of everything. Pick shops, blogs, magazines, and such to reach out to that would actually be a good fit for what you make.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
We once paid to be part of a curated online holiday shop and that didn’t seem to do much for us. As for business mistakes, in the beginning we were definitely spreading ourselves too thin. It’s easy to get carried away with all the things you could be making, instead of just trying to make a few things really well. We’ve been working a lot on narrowing our focus, editing our designs, and, as Dan likes to say, “upping our game.”
What is the biggest challenge you face during your daily schedule?
Since our studio is in our house, sometimes I have to fight the urge to wash the dishes, fold my laundry, or sweep the floor. I’m serious.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
If something goes wrong, there’s usually not someone else to blame — except the cats. Also, sometimes making the same thing over and over can get repetitive. But anytime I start feeling sorry for myself I think about how I spent four years of my life doing data entry in a cubicle at an insurance office and that gets me to stop my whining real fast.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
I love waking up without a sense of dread every morning. I really wish that for everyone.
What’s been your most popular item or line to date?
The “Counting Sheep” pillowcase has been the most popular so far. People seem to like sheeps and sleeps.
What is the most exciting thing that has come out of selling your designs through Etsy?
Sending off packages to people all over the world. It’s kind of crazy to think that someone in France could be sipping their morning coffee out of one of the mugs that I made on our front porch. Or someone in Russia is laying their weary head on one of the pillowcases that Dan printed.
What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
I would say try to not compare yourselves to others too much. Every person’s situation is different, so hearing what it took for someone else to quit their job might be completely different for you. I remember reading through some of the past “Quit Your Day Job” interviews and being so disheartened by reading things like “make sure you have one year’s worth of income saved up.” Although that would have obviously made things much easier, it wasn’t a reality for me. I’ve always lived paycheck to paycheck, so the option to save them wasn’t there. I didn’t qualify for loans or most credit cards, so those suggestions were also irrelevant. I just kept my day job until our business had grown to the point where it became obvious that I couldn’t do both anymore and that my daytime hours would be better spent working on Kin Ship. Luckily, so far that has proven to be true! So, if you’re considering a similar path, my advice would be to give it a try in a way that makes sense for you. Maybe don’t quit your day job right away, but build up to it. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. It’s still way better than regretting not even trying!
What goals do you have in store for the future of your business?
Our number one goal is definitely to get Dan working on Kin Ship Press full time too. That’s the dream. We also want to do more wholesale orders and maybe attempt a trade show. We’re working on a new line of home goods for spring 2012 that we’re real excited about.
Anything else you would like to share?
I would probably not be a quitter of day jobs if it were not for the encouragement and support of these fine folks: Amber, Brent, Ashley, Eagle, Kathleen, Mom, Heidi, Woosley, and Claire. A million and one thanks to them. And heaps of thanks to everyone who has supported our shop. Happy new year, friends!
Thanks for sharing your story, Hillary. Check out her work in the Seller’s Items below.