What’s the idea behind your shop?
My shop has evolved from a strictly vintage store featuring antiques and vintage finds that I gather around the country to a store with pieces that I design and fabricate myself. I love industrial metal objects, letters, light fixtures, furniture, anything unique and from the machine age. They are becoming harder to find so I thought I would make my own. It all started while I was searching for a metal hotel arrow that I wanted to have in my shop — when I couldn’t find one I decided to make my own. Then I made letters and repurposed other objects into interesting light fixtures and furniture. Now I barely have time to go search at estate sales and auctions for those treasures. I miss the excitement of finding interesting pieces, researching and learning about the history of that object. You also meet people who are equally as interesting on the road.
Tell us about your previous working situation and how you discovered Etsy?
The winding road that led me to Etsy has been long and curvy. I went to college and studied architectural engineering, ending up in business administration. Then I spent four years in the Air Force — I joined three months before 9/11. My career field was logistics munitions. The military was an amazing experience and I enjoyed serving my country. After leaving the Air Force and coming back to Nashville I managed personnel for four years. I was working more hours on less pay so I decided to start buying and selling full time. A friend of mine, Darin, who has the shop Funky Quail, knew that I would love Etsy and as always he was right. From then on it has been a wonderful experience.
What steps did you take to prepare for transitioning into full-time Etsy selling?
What steps? I jumped in with both feet. I was engaged and starting a new business! Luckily the business aspect to owning your own Etsy shop is really simple. I went to the county clerk’s office and registered my business and got a tax ID number and started with $200 buying and selling.
What is your favorite part of the process in working with vintage materials?
I enjoy creating new pieces and re-purposing even more. Making an object into something people will use and start a conversation about can be addicting. In fact it’s hard to sleep sometimes when I have an idea for a new project. I also love it when a customer inspires me with an idea they have for their home or business.
What are your best marketing tips?
- Talk to people locally, get out and find out what’s hot.
- Respond to people quickly in the beginning, and especially as you get busier, make it a policy that you will return convos at a certain time.
- Think outside the box and find your niche. Finding your passion is easier said than done and sometimes life will get in the way of that. Listen to yourself.
- Don’t pay for advertising in the beginning. Keep working on your craft and come up with an idea that sets you apart. I didn’t want to buy and sell forever — I wanted to use my talents to create. Your product will market itself if you show it to enough people in different channels. If you’re an painter and take your work to an art show with 50 other painters it’s hard to get noticed.
- You’ll sell your product if you are excited about it and if the product is interesting. Do what you like, not necessarily what you know. Do not be afraid to try new things.
What’s been your most popular item or line to date?
The barn wood and metal arrow light fixture. I use a process to age metal that creates a rusty, corroded soft look and use reclaimed barn lumber to set it off. There is something about it that is alluring. The first one took me five hours and I had no idea what I was doing.
I attribute my ability to work with different materials — wood, metal, glass, electricity — to my parents. Dad can tell you something about any topic and my mother, Linda, has always known how to fix or do anything. I would watch her as she crafted, painted, made stained glass pieces or floral arrangements and it inspired me to make my own work.
What have you found to be an unsuccessful promotion?
I took some ads out in newspapers that did absolutely nothing for me. It wasn’t a lot of money but word of mouth and hard work pays off.
What is the biggest challenge you face during your daily schedule?
Interruptions, or rather life happening. There is not enough time to do it all so I hired Leslie, my dynamic hero, who has helped me keep track of all my emails while working beside me in the shop. I have trouble asking for help and I am so glad I did. There comes a point where you just have to get some assistance if you want to grow.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
Running all over town when I need to be in the shop working. I find that I must stay very organized and plan in writing what I am doing for the next day and week ahead.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
Well I have a day job, but not working under bosses is one good thing. I feel like I am more creative and can express myself without an under-qualified, overbearing “executive” taking my ideas. Can I get an amen?
What is the most exciting thing that has come out of selling through Etsy?
I sold a cowboy light fixture to Ronnie Dunn of Brooks & Dunn and got to go out to his place. Taylor Swift wants “SING” from me and I sold an arrow to Etsy which they used in one of their events. I sell to people all over the country and world and getting to meet new people is really the best part of it all. Making new relationships has been uplifting. With nice comments comes revitalization and the drive to keep on going.
- What advice would you give someone considering a similar path?
I believe the number one thing financially is, don’t fire your boss before you become your own. Start part time with what you do and put your frustrations from work into your passion. Make it happen and have a marathon runner’s pace. Slow and steady with a goal in sight.
What goals do you have in store for the future of your business?
I battle with having my pieces in major retail stores and keeping it smaller and personal. I think ultimately I will be satisfied If I have an outlet where I can sell many different lines or pieces to small to medium venues.
Anything else you would like to share?
Etsy has changed my life and brought out talent I knew I had but didn’t have the direction for. My grandfather could make furniture out of wood and I have always wanted to create, but my fear of being out of the norm kept me back. I am taking a chance, losing my 401(k), but being different and taking that step will give you energy you didn’t know you had. Live life to the fullest, work hard, pray, love, and you will be fine.