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Routes with scaling an Etsy business

Dawn27

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Hi everyone, nice to meet you all! I'm Dawn, and I literally finished reading TMF *this morning* but oh my god it completely cracked open my perspective on my business, and made me realise how seriously I need to get in the fastlane :)

A little background (I'm not sure how much is appropriate to share here? Please let me know if I can give more information)
I design cute gift merchandise/stationery on a small scale which I sell through Etsy, using Instagram to build my following and drive sales. I've been in business for almost 6 months and have had reasonable success, with about 500 sales (all direct) and made about £3,500 profit with zero initial capital (I walked out of my job with no savings, not the best starting point but I made it work!). Most profits I've been recycling back into the business to expand my product range.

Now that I have some inventory, a decent fan base & know there is demand for my products, I am looking at the wholesale route (thank you @Scot for a great thread I read earlier!) Plus seeking other ways to scale the business & grow my brand big, definitely internationally. Getting wholesale down is my first priority, but potentially also licensing in the future.

As I said, until finishing TMF today I didn't realise how small I'd been playing & I'm ready to smash 2019! I'd love everyone's advice, feedback, suggestions etc and I'm so excited to have discovered this forum :)
 

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Scot

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Welcome to the forum @Dawn27 In assuming the thread you’ve read of mine was my wholesale thread.

First, I want to say that you’ve already accomplished more than a lot of people have here on the Forum. Congratulations on your early success.

Onto the actionable stuff. How scalable is your business? The items you make for sale, are they something that can be mass produced, or at least be produced quickly and efficiently by your or a contract manufacturer?

How many different sku’s do you have? Is it a set like of items, or are they all individual and custom?

Starting point would be to definitely establish what you want your product line to be. Pick your 10-15 best sellers. People always vote with their wallets, so regardless of which products you like, always go with the numbers.

I don’t have a lot of experience with catalog type wholesale. My wholesale efforts are very specific and targeted. But, @amp0193 experience with his previous business is right up your alley.

Look forward to seeing you contribute. Definitely consider starting a progress thread to chronicle your journey and keep you accountable.
 

Andy Black

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Welcome.

Stationary eh? How much of your sales are repeat business?
 
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Dawn27

Dawn27

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Jan 3, 2019
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Hi Scot, Andy & fastlaners! @amp0193 I would be so grateful for your input too :)

Thanks for the encouragement! Yes, it was the wholesale thread I was referring to.

Answers to your questions...

The items you make for sale, are they something that can be mass produced, or at least be produced quickly and efficiently by your or a contract manufacturer?
Yes - easily manufactured in much higher quantities than they are right now, I've just had to order on a smaller scale (at higher cost per unit) due to limits with budget / figuring out if the product will be popular. No issues with scalability there.

How many different sku’s do you have? Is it a set like of items, or are they all individual and custom?
So I trialled putting my designs on several different products, and 3 emerged which clearly sell the best. The 3 bestselling product lines are what I'm going to focus on and pretty much indefinitely create additional designs for. They have broad appeal and repeat customers love to collect them. In the future I'd like to put my designs on more things (like a homeware range in a department store) but for now I'm focusing on these three. As I said above they're all products which are easy to have manufactured on a very large scale. Bonus they're also small and light. Hope that answered the question whilst being ambiguous enough about what the products actually are! (from what I've read it seems that the etiquette here is to deliberately be a little vague?)

I also do custom/commissioned artwork but I'm moving away from that due to a) trading time for hours and b) high cost of my services doesn't equate to a ton of consistent sales over Etsy, whereas the smaller "trinkets" sell very well.

@Scot, would you recommend just one product line for now, or? It broadens my scope for contacting wholesalers & doesn't seem too ambitious for me because it's easy to get the designs on multiple products, indeed many of my fans love it and want to buy everything within the range!

Stationary eh? How much of your sales are repeat business?
Good question! So far maybe 10-15 individuals clearly emerging as diehard fans who have bought every single item I've created (remember I'm operating on a fairly small scale). Annoyingly, Etsy doesn't seem to let you access that exact statistic (repeat buyers) but I've definitely seen an increase in repeat business since I started growing. I offer a very high level of customer service and gift wrap each package cutely (doesn't take me long and I love doing it, but my customers consistently feed back how much they appreciate this) which I'd also attribute to the trend of repeat business. In a way I'd be sad to lose this "unwrapping" element of fun with going the wholesale route, but I'd probably counter this with extra cute packaging :)

Thanks so much for your comments so far and the suggestion of a progress thread to track my journey!
 
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Andy Black

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So far maybe 10-15 individuals clearly emerging as diehard fans who have bought every single item I've created (remember I'm operating on a fairly small scale). Annoyingly, Etsy doesn't seem to let you access that exact statistic (repeat buyers) but I've definitely seen an increase in repeat business since I started growing.
So this is already almost a subscription box business? "The Automatic Customer" is a nice and short read.
 
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Dawn27

Dawn27

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So this is already almost a subscription box business? "The Automatic Customer" is a nice and short read.
I'll look into that book, thanks!

I had considered doing my own subscription boxes at one point, but it's a slightly different beast; I'd sooner have my products in someone else's subscription box and let them take care of fulfilment. I've also seen others have success with whats known as a "club" format, whereby customers pay a subscription and have one new and exclusively designed product sent to them every month -- but still not mega scalable (shipping single units
to lots of individual customers, vs lotsa units to a handful of retailers or distributors) plus the packing takes up a lot of physical time. And means you have to be constantly designing and manufacturing a month or so ahead of the game to have the product/s ready...doesn't appeal as much since it's still direct sales, which I want to move away from.

I don't mean to sound dismissive though, if you have any more insights into the subscription box format I'd be very interested to hear them! This is only my knowledge based on recent experience and observation of competitors models (mostly fellow Instagram users).
 

amp0193

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Great work so far @Dawn27

To start approaching retailers:

1) Have a nice looking, cohesive "line sheet" --> invest in a designer to make this really sparkle.
2) Know your prices/terms you'd be willing to sell at.
3) Know how you're going to display them. Create an endcap, shelf unit, or something that will help retailers sell these things.
4) Get your feet wet showing your stuff to local retailers. Present your offer to them. Get their feedback on the product, the pricing, everything. Narrow in on the details of a scalable wholesale model that is a win/win for both you and the retailer.
5) Find showrooms or brand reps in your niche and partner with them. Commission will be 10-15%, but they have the connections to get new accounts!
 

Xeon

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Hi @Dawn27 , just wondering. Did you run ads on Etsy (Promoted Listings) or are the traffic purely unpaid?

Also, if I'm not wrong, we're not allowed to sell mass manufactured items on Etsy right (I guess everything must be handmade)? Many years back, I tried that but store got taken down after a few weeks and some sales lol
 

Kid

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Hi @Dawn27

I hope your wholesale route will go well.

As to:
from what I've read it seems that the etiquette here is to deliberately be a little vague
It's not the etiquette but a way to protect your products from being copied.
 
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Dawn27

Dawn27

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Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jan 3, 2019
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Great work so far @Dawn27

To start approaching retailers:

1) Have a nice looking, cohesive "line sheet" --> invest in a designer to make this really sparkle.
2) Know your prices/terms you'd be willing to sell at.
3) Know how you're going to display them. Create an endcap, shelf unit, or something that will help retailers sell these things.
4) Get your feet wet showing your stuff to local retailers. Present your offer to them. Get their feedback on the product, the pricing, everything. Narrow in on the details of a scalable wholesale model that is a win/win for both you and the retailer.
5) Find showrooms or brand reps in your niche and partner with them. Commission will be 10-15%, but they have the connections to get new accounts!
Thanks for the feedback @amp0193! Love your advice about starting off with local retailers for feedback. Regarding point 3) my products are individually packaged, but don’t have a shelf unit/POS...I imagine the smaller independent retailers won’t need this as they have their own displays, but you’re right about the larger ones. I’ll have to give that some thought!
Could you expand more on point 5) on finding showrooms & brand reps?

Hi @Dawn27 , just wondering. Did you run ads on Etsy (Promoted Listings) or are the traffic purely unpaid?

Also, if I'm not wrong, we're not allowed to sell mass manufactured items on Etsy right (I guess everything must be handmade)? Many years back, I tried that but store got taken down after a few weeks and some sales lol
Hi @Xeon! To my knowledge I don’t think it has to be strictly “handmade”, because we’re allowed to add manufacturing partners in our listings (eg if you are a designer and you make greeting cards, it’s fine to have these printed in bulk by a printing company) as longas you’re an independent creator.
I haven’t ran any promoted listings yet since they’re quite pricey but that could definitely be an option, I’m not sure how good the ROI would be though. Could always do an experiment and see how well it does!
I’ve also tried retargeting customers who have left items in their basket and offering free shipping, again though Etsy charges you per email and very few people have redeemed it.

Hi @Dawn27

I hope your wholesale route will go well.

As to:


It's not the etiquette but a way to protect your products from being copied.
Thanks for the clarification, @Kid! :)
 

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