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Interview with an Etsy Seller: Valmichaels

As some of you may know, it has been a desire of mine for a while to open up my own Etsy shop. I currently use it to sell my blog designs, but it hasn’t gone much farther than that. It is, however, still a dream of mine to some day run a full-blown Etsy shop. In order to get some insight into what it takes, I was able to interview the lovely Valerie, owner of Valmichaels, who has been selling stylish, colorful napkin rings through Etsy since 2012. Here’s what she had to say:

Why did you first open your shop?

It was a combination of having left over ribbon from making D-Ring napkin rings for my own wedding reception in 2011 and developing and running my own business. I am also a stay at home mom of two children (Brock 4 and Breckyn 2) and pregnant with baby #3 who keep me busy. I do miss working in a corporate setting however I can still put my business skills to good use through my Etsy shop.

Had you been making napkin rings for a long while before or was it a sudden decision to make revenue?

I was in love with these D Ring napkin rings when I was planning my own wedding reception. After searching the internet they were to expensive to buy, so after some research I found all the materials I needed to make them at an affordable price. After the reception was over I decided to use the remaining ribbon to make napkin rings and sell them in my Etsy shop.

How much time do you put into your shop each week?

Depending on my Etsy order work load I spend between 10-15 hours a week. This includes marketing on my Facebook fan page, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and forecasting my next ribbon color choices.

What are some things you like/dislike about Etsy?

I love Etsy for the fact that they promote custom, one of a kind, handmade items made by artisans all over the country. I opened my shop in 2012 and there have been some great changes for shop owners to enhance customer service (shipping refunds, faster product picture uploads, customer friendly review options).

Why Etsy? I know there are fees. Would you ever try selling on your own site?

I had heard of Etsy a long time ago when it wasn’t well known . I loved that they sold handmade items and that anyone could have a store. A good friend opened a shop on Etsy and she was talking very highly of it so that is why I decided to give Etsy a try. I have thought about Amazon.com and I did have some listings on Ebay but no longer use the site. I have also looked at opening up my own website but I love that I am able to help people and create napkin rings in any color to fulfill a customers needs. I think finding and creating exactly what a customer envisions is the best part of running my business.

What are some of your favorite shops? Do you buy from Etsy frequently? Do you appreciate other’s work more now that you know how much effort and work it takes?

Yes, not only am I a shop owner but I also buy from Etsy as much as possible. I would rather see my money go to individuals rather then a big box corporate retailer. I also belong to several groups on Etsy and love promoting products and my favorite shops on my Facebook Fan page and also Pinterest boards. I can’t live without my colorful Crochet Mug Cozies from Quite Crafty, adorable children’s apparel from Shooting Stars Art& Photography and my Knot earrings from BohoM.

Is ValMichael’s just a side job? Would you ever consider trying to craft full time?

Yes it is a side job and I love running my business. I have received just the right amount of business for my lifestyle. However, my first priority is my family. Once my children are older I would definitely consider putting more work into Valmichael’s and taking the next steps.

How big of a role do you think social media plays in making sales and getting your product out there?

I believe that social media is the way now to sell! You have to be everywhere to get your name out to potential customers.

You’ve been selling for a while now. What advice would you give to people like me who are just starting their shops?

Make a Instagram, Twitter and Facebook business account. Post your work/products everywhere. Connect and reach out to others. Find shops and people who are in the same kind of industries as you and ask them if they would be interested in doing cross marketing. Its FREE! I have a friend I met on Instagram who owns her own table decorating business (Table Decorate Celebrate) and shop in Australia. I mailed her sets of my napkin rings in exchange for her pictures she has taken of my product. I promote her and she promotes me! Its a great way to get attention and make connections everywhere. I also reach out to my friends who own businesses. I currently have a set of my napkin rings with business cards displayed in Midland, TX at my best friend’s makeup studio (Let’s Face It Makeup Studio). I have also donated my napkin rings to events such fundraisers and book release parties.

A huge shout out and thank you goes to Valerie for taking the time and putting in the effort to talk to me. Make sure to check out here site here or find her on social media: Twitter, Facebook.

A Smash Up of My Life

Well, winter break is officially over. I’m back on campus and loving it just as much as I always have. Before I left though, I was so thankful to be able to get a few snaps of a project I’ve been working on: my SMASH book. Don’t know what that is? An ingenious take on a scrapbook. I assure you, I am not crafty at all, but even I can do this! The pages are already so cute; half the work is done for you.
K&Company provides an insert in each book as well that explains the concept just a little bit better:
“It’s OK. Just smash it in. There’s always room, just like the junk drawer.
Nothing’s right. Nothing’s wrong. It’s all yours.
We say glue in the gladness. A note, a “quote”, a thought to jot,
 a snipping, a clipping, the idea that’s caught.
A card, regard, a tidbit, a smidgen.
 A doodle of a poodle or the feather of a pigeon.
It’s the smatterings of ordinary, extraordinary life.
 Messy and Beautiful.”
 USE3
^^ A true representation of what a Smash Book is supposed to look like. Clutter. Clutter. Clutter. This page literally took me about 3 minutes, but I am satisfied with how it turned out!
USE5^^ I posted this one, because I love the right side of the page. I’m so glad I saved part of the flowers that my mom sent me for initiation. I’m lost as to what I should do with the left side though. I love the bird so much and I don’t want to cover him up/ ruin the elegance of the whole page. Ugh. Suggestions?
USE
^^ An oldie but goodie. I believe this is the first page that I did that I was really satisfied with.
Prom 2013.
 ^^ This is definitely the page I am most looking forward to doing next. It is so cute and creative. I think I’m going to use my new label maker that I got for Christmas to fill in the columns instead of writing it all in.
USE6
^^ I still have so many more pictures to do. I contemplated bringing all of my supplies to school with me to finish them up, but that just takes up so much room. Oh the dilemma…
Interested? You can buy a SMASH book & supplies here… or visit your local Michael’s Store.

My Almost Vegan Cupcakes

It’s a cold and rainy day here in the Prairie State, so I spent the day inside, making Shape.com’s Vegan Chocolate Chai Tea Cupcakes. My cupcakes were “almost” vegan, because I used normal butter, and then, of course, I added the chocolate toppings (one of which was milk chocolate chocolate chips).

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Here are the changes I made to Shape.com’s recipe:
Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
1 c. almond milk
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. and 2 tbsp. Truvia baking blend
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. light maple syrup
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
For the frosting:
1/2 c. unsalted butter
3-4 c. powdered sugar
2 chai tea bags
1 tbsp. boiling water
3 tbsp. almond milk
1/4 tsp. salt
The instructions, however, I followed almost exactly except that I baked my cupcakes for 15 minutes, because I made minis (yielding 24).
They are absolutely delicious! Everyone I shared them with loved them. My boyfriend ate three before I could even get home from dropping them off (and he doesn’t even like sweets!).
All of the changes I made were very minor; most were just personal preference. The exchange of a tsp. vanilla extract for light maple syrup was simply because I ran out of vanilla, but they turned out great! I’ll be writing this one down in my recipe book for sure.
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It finally stopped raining, so I could take a few pictures outside! Yay!
Yesterday I bought a new camera, so I was stoked to be able to practice a little with it today. Expect more pictures to come; I can hardly put the thing down. I am absolutely in love with it!