Tell us about your shop and the idea behind it.
The idea behind my first laptop sleeve was to create something special and unique, something made of top-quality sustainable materials. Using traditional German wool felt from Australian Merino sheep and pure vegetable tanned leather from Bavarian cattle was something I immediately fell in love with. The combination of these two materials allows me to create a 100% naturally made product.
Tell us about your previous working situation and how you discovered Etsy.
I finished my degree in product design during the financial crisis. It initially seemed like a setback — there was no one to employ a young product designer with little working experience.
I have always enjoyed working with my hands. When I was 16, I started a project producing bags from materials like tarpaulin and canvas, learning about sewing machines and working with different materials. While I was looking for a day job, I started making bags again. The day after I had created my laptop sleeve, I decided to try selling them on Etsy. The day after my shop opened, I had sold my first laptop sleeve and I started getting lots of compliments. People just liked the workmanship, the high quality materials and the fact that this was a handmade product made of sustainable raw materials.
What is your favorite part in the process of designing accessories?
Design is often is a long quest, a process of trial and error. But finally, you have this moment when the product you design becomes alive. For example, when I was designing my first laptop sleeve, I tried various shapes and styles. I had just attached the buttons to a sleeve when, suddenly, there it was! The placement of the buttons combined with the proportions created a friendly looking face. I knew that was it.
What’s been your most popular item or line to date?
My Hampshire laptop sleeve. People really seem to appreciate the “smiling face” created from the two buttons and the top’s round shape.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
I enjoy being my own boss, always having in the back of my mind that I could do whatever I feel like. But you find out very soon that being self-employed only works out when you learn to be very self-disciplined. I usually work 12 to 13 hours per day. Fortunately I really like what I am doing!
What tool or technique has been the most effective in getting buyers to your shop?
The key is to have great products made with exellent workmanship and a minimal design. My customers tell me they are often asked where to buy my products, so my best tool at the moment is the word-of-mouth recommendation.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
More and more people copy my products. I have seen some products using the same materials, same design and also the same proportions. While it may be a compliment to my work, I have started to defend my right of intellectual property. Designing and keeping up a functional laptop sleeve collection really is hard work. Finding a copy of your product at Etsy or any other selling place can be very frustrating, but in the end it takes more copying to create a successful product. You have to work hard, go through a creative process of development, use the best materials available, have good workmanship, and create something unique. That’s how success stories begin.
What’s the most exciting thing that’s come of selling your designs on Etsy?
Since I have started selling on Etsy, I have sent my products to every continent of the world — more than 30 countries. That is good motivation and makes me proud.
What advice would you give to someone considering a similar path?
1. To sell your product, you have to love it.
2. Take the best product shots possible.
3. Give your customers the best service you can. Always be reliable.
4. Deliver your goods promptly and your customers will be very happy!
Thanks for sharing your story, Clemens. Check out his items below.