Saturday, September 11, 2010

Etsy Success Panel

Last night I attended the Etsy Success Panel, held at the Kenmore Live Studio in Chicago.

The studio itself is fascinating, like a glass aquarium television studio all at once modern, bright, white and filled with Kenmore appliances. When I arrived the sign advertised "Be on TV!" and a live cooking demonstration from 7-9. Felted acorn pie with whipped soap frosting? Rotisserie owl in cabochon sauce? I signed in on an iPad and found Daniellexo, Etsy admin extraordinaire (formal title: Seller Education Coordinator) whom I first met in person at the 2008 Chicago Renegade Fair.
The panel was hosted by a woman from the Kenmore studio and Julie Schneider (julieincharge) of general EtsyLabs awesomeness. No cooking (though the Bleeding Heart Bakery cookies and cupcakes served after were amazing), just a good discussion about business plans, marketing, shop improvement, craft improvement, getting to where you are today and getting to where you want to be in the future.
We "studio audience" members watched a short introductory video (same as above) on the giant wall between the oven and the refrigerator, and then panelists Danny Orendorff from Renegade Craft Fair, Emily Hamma Martin from Orange Beautiful, Daniellexo, and Ali Marie from DolanGeiman spent 90 minutes talking about all things art, craft and business.
For me, the most important (and least-discussed everywhere else) points were:
  • Have a business plan. Set tiered goals. Where do you want to be in 6 months? a year? 5 years? For the millions of things you want to do, from buying a better camera to setting up your own website to having your own brick-and-mortar shop, give yourself priorities and a time-line. If five major retailers aren't carrying your product in exactly three years, that's ok, but set those benchmarks to give yourself direction and incentive.
  • Keep track of customers. They bought from you in the past, they are more likely than the average shmoe to buy from you again. Make nice and stay in contact with short, interesting, regular newsletters. Reward them for returning and they just might.
  • Market to bloggers. Not just any bloggers, bloggers with good readership that is likely to want your product. Send the blog's author a personal email, make sure you've actually read the blog, and try to ask for something specific like to take part in a giveaway.
  • Stay aware of trends. Be yourself, but stay fresh.
After the panel was the meet-and-greet. I shmoozed with other indie sellers including Caitlin M. Peters of Wanderlustings and Mitsu Gee of Brown Sparrow's Nest, and the other two fabulous Etsy admins who were there, julietgo and ThisIsMark. I also ate too many cupcakes.

Tomorrow: Shopping Renegade! The weather is supposed to be decent.
When I woke up this morning to cold and rainy, I felt bad for the people selling at Renegade. At least it's better than...what year was it?..when the wind and the rain came in sideways and everybody's stuff got knocked over and ruined and foot traffic was abysmal.

Art: "lida" pendant by Wanderlustings, photo by Cari Ann Wayman
Motivate Notecards by Orange Beautiful

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