How did the idea for your business come about?
I've always loved antiques. Growing up in CT, little antique stores were everywhere. My mother had a passion for antiques as well and her good friend owned a shop in Greenwich Village. From the time I was a little kid, she would drag me down there (during the 60's and 70's). I just loved her friend David and remember thinking how "cool" everything was. After I started my jewelry business on Etsy, I saw vintage becoming popular and thought "What am I doing? I know this stuff, I love this stuff and I live in one of the greatest vintage hunting grounds in the country."...and so began whimsicalvintage.
What inspires you to keep at it here on Etsy?
I've been with Etsy for almost 3 years now. I'm a creature of habit and loyal to the core. I loved the community sense that I got from Etsy and decided to roll with the inevitable growth changes. I'm happy with my shops...I've met wonderful people, some are my customers and others are Etsy sellers. We'll see what the future holds, I'm not opposed to change but I am cautious.
To what do you attribute your success?
Customer service, first and foremost. I managed restaurants for most of my working life and have dealt with people on many different levels. The key is to make people feel comfortable. Let's face it, they're paying in advance to a person that they don't know and a product that they haven't tangibly seen. I think that deserves the best attention possible. I convo and email all of my customers, immediately after purchase with a thank you and a shipping date. I ask that they let me know when they receive their item, as I do offer a complete guarantee. If I have not heard from someone, I check in with them after a few weeks (or a little more for international orders).
I also try find items that are a little out of the ordinary and in excellent condition - I love each item that I sell...and am constantly tempted to keep most of them for myself. Thankfully, I don't have the room :)
I try to keep my prices reasonable and within the market price, so as not to undercut my fellow sellers...however, when I get a great deal...I usually try to pass it on. So to sum up...customer service, communication, quality, whimsy and pricing.
Best advice for fellow Etsians aspiring for success in our marketplace?
Set up your profiles and policies, they are very important. Be specific on location. Not only does this help your sales with the shop local tool but it also makes you more professional. People in Australia do not know where "Home of the Giant Lumberjack" is...I don't know where the home of the Giant Lumberjack is! I made that up but you get the point:)
Get to know your Internet marketing sources...I can't believe sometimes the amount that I've learned about this and as fast as you learn one thing, another crops up. Know what is good and what isn't...trying to follow all of them will drive you nuts:) Remember that there is a whole world outside of Etsy and market to them.
How do you go about marketing your business?
A lot of my business now is referrals and returning customers but I do a lot of blog reading and commenting (off Etsy blogs). I try to keep my own blog relatively fresh with a variety of topics and I do a monthly giveaway. I submit my blog and my sites to all of the search engines monthly. http://submitexpress.com is great for your blog but you need to add their button, so it doesn't work for Etsy...which is why I submit individually. Keeping blog mini's up that really show off your shop and rotating them is very important. I belong to http://vintagevillage.ning.com and that has been a wonderful resource. Lora from http://ElsiesAttic.etsy.com and Jane from http://YesterdaysPleasures.etsy.com have done a tremendous job with that site.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Any business takes time and dedication. Vintage selling can be very time consuming between the actual buying, photography, research...and more research. But I have given this my all...I have days that I put in 14 hours, the average day for me to spend on my shops is probably close to 10 hours. You really have to love what you do, take pride in it and plan on being in it for the long haul.
And love your customers, without them you have nothing. Know how to handle problems when they do arise...always keeping the customer happy. Sometimes the problem sale can turn into your best returning and referral business.
Thank you Heather for the wonderful questions and opportunity!