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What can we learn about ‘men on Etsy’? What can the male sellers teach these ‘86%’?
To help out the gents, we’ve decided to shine the Shoplo spotlight on some of our favourite men on Etsy, the best sellers that come from Mars. We asked a multitude of questions about their business, how they grow and develop and how they find selling on Etsy.
Roy of Christ Centered Forge creates unique hand forged skillets, hammered copper bowls, to floral sculptures.
Kosmas of Aluminiopassions makes customised aluminium items, such as bracelets, necklaces, key chains and other gift items.
Howard Brown of Brown & Williams Clothiers and Temporal Outfitters does a lot in the way of Vintage British clothing and vintage modern/retro clothing.
Bryan of bryancronk ceramics makes utilitarian pottery and attractive, rustic, handmade ceramics for everyday living.
Damir of fireflygentsware specialises in custom made and one-off vintage gentlemen’s wear ranging from ties, tie clips, pins, and cufflinks.
Anthony of wakethetree creates fine modern furniture built for everyday use, handmade from beautiful solid wood.
How did you learn your skill to make your product?
Roy: I’ve been acquiring my blacksmithing skills over a span of about 8 years. I started learning on my own, mostly by reading books written by other blacksmiths, and also by trial and error. After several years, I started attending craft schools such as Touchstone Center for Crafts and John C. Cambell Folk School and I found that my skills increased exponentially by studying under a smith more advanced than myself.
Bryan: Needing to step away from the computer, I signed up for a ceramics class 8 years ago, and have been experimenting with pottery techniques since
Damir: I have been making things such as cufflinks for a few years as a hobby, just used the internet and went from there…
Anthony: My father is a woodworker. I grew up helping him in the shop and learning from him.
Newman (left) and Anthony hard at work.
At what point did you decide to work for yourself and not someone else?
Bryan: Pretty much now. I still currently have a 9-5 day job but am in the process of figuring out what it will take to be a creator full-time, and hope to be working for myself by 2017.
Roy: Up until about 4 years ago, I had a great career as a lead HVAC installation technician. One rainy morning, I got into a car accident on my way to work. That wreck caused me to have a spinal injury to such a degree that I could no longer work in that trade. I took a leap of faith that my passion of blacksmithing could provide for my family.
How did you hear about Etsy and why did you decide to use it?
Damir: I’ve been using it for a few years after I shopped on there once and said, “I can do that too!”
Kosmas: I heard through a friend who was also an Etsy seller. It was an opportunity for me to promote and sell my work outside Greece since nowadays my country faces a serious economic crisis.
When/what was the changing point in your business?
Kosmas: When my earnings from my Etsy shop covered my daily expenses. From this point on I decided to become a full-time Etsy seller.
Bryan: In the beginning, I posted all of my work. it was unfocused and scattered. A couple years ago, I started making faux bois style pottery, and it felt as if I found a voice. I put the new work onto Etsy and the reception was better than I expected. It was the first time I felt like I was on to something. My ceramics business and career is still in its infancy, but that was a changing point because it became clear what my direction and focus would be going forward.
A fine example of Bryan’s work.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced in your first year?
Howard: Getting our listings/ products to stand apart from all the other offerings on Etsy.
Damir: Getting customers. I have a Facebook page too. I found that the more items you have the more likely someone will buy. Also, really high-quality pictures help!
Anthony: Making sure that we were managing our money well. When we started out, we tried not to accrue debt. We wanted to work with what we had, little by little. I had to start a shop from scratch, so getting the money together for shop tools and equipment was a challenge. I had to learn to be more creative with what I had, to make due with less. We also had to adjust to our new lives and learn to create a balance between personal and business.
Roy: My biggest challenge I faced during my first year was breaking my dependency on a weekly paycheck. When you sell online, the amount of money you make in any given week or month greatly varies. When you have terrific sales, you better save some of that money. And when you sales are dry, you better tighten your belt.
No doubts about Roy’s work being functional and attractive.
How big is your team?
Roy: My team is fairly small. Including myself, there are five people who do work related to Christ Centered Ironworks. I do the majority of the forge work. I have two other blacksmiths that I sub-contract on an irregular basis. I also work with a local wood artisan to create crates for my skillets. My wife does everything related to the computer- bookkeeping, creating listings, replying to customers, social media posts, plus photography too.
Howard: Only 2 of us.
Kosmas: Apart from myself, my teammates are my wife who helps out when there is need and my little dog Joy who provides moral support.
Bryans assistant is also a great talker.
What does a day look like?
Roy: I wake up at 6am with my wife. We read our Bible, pray, go for a jog, and eat. After we’ve spent our time together, we wake up our children at 8am. I generally work from 9am to 5pm, stopping for lunch midday. If I’m cutting some deadlines close for orders, I spend two more hours in the forge after dinner. Normally we wrap up the evening with a movie and a prompt 11pm bedtime.
Anthony: I try to get up early in the morning for a run. Sometimes it’s 4 or 5 AM, but making the time to get some exercise and be outside is important to me. Some mornings I’m in the office, working through details with customers on custom projects, purchasing materials or doing design work. Then I work on shop projects. Liz spends most of her day in the office. We usually quit around 6 or 7 PM to cook dinner and spend a bit of time together, relaxing before going to bed.
Kosmas: My day starts at 7.30 a.m. and stops at 01.00 a.m. when I go to bed again.
Kosmas thanks one of his supportive Street Teams
Where do you find ways to improve your business?
Damir: I look around at other stores and keep up with what people buy. Changing prices, pictures etc. as the weeks go on.
Bryan: I read a lot. I read financial and entrepreneur blogs, keep up with Ceramics Monthly magazine, follow and watch what other ceramic artists are doing on social media. It’s a lot of trial and error, reading, and observing others.
Anthony: We keep up with other small business owners on social media and blogs. Liz reads some small business blogs and researches specific questions that we have. We try to keep a fresh perspective on things.
Anthony has a close eye for detail
What are your plans to develop the company?
Kosmas: My goal is to continue adding more listings to my shop. More listings mean more chances of making sales
Damir: I’d love to have my own gentlemen’s store but I don’t have the disposable cash right now
Howard: Eventually we would like to have a brick & mortar shop that acts as a vintage collective, where other sellers can exhibit their wares also, but the eComm part of the business will still be key.
How do you promote your business?
Howard: Through Etsy groups and facebook, as well as selling out at pop-up events and markets. We also take part in 2 or 3 fashion shows every year. I also handing out cards at costume events i attend.
Anthony: We keep up with our SEO and try to stay active on social media. We try to take advantage of press opportunities as much as possible.
Roy: We have recently been broadening our horizons when it comes to promoting our business. We’ve opened additional stores online with Amazon Handmade and Scott’s Marketplace. Earlier this year, we launched our own website with a blog and store. We’ve had a professional facebook page for several years, but made it a goal (that we started in June) to post something 4 times a week. We post everything from products to shop updates, what we’ve been doing for the day, a recent article we’ve written for our blog and more. We make videos of our products in use, and post them on youtube.
Roy feels sparks with his work.
What has surprised you the most in the e-commerce world?
Roy: I’ve really been surprised by the vastness of the e-commerce world. I’ve literally sold items that have gone to the other side of the world. I love to look at the “map” under the stats section on Etsy and see all the views I’ve had in various countries worldwide.
Howard: The number of people who look, like and re-post things even if they don’t buy. They “window shop” electronically and that gets us more exposure.
Bryan: The competition and how difficult it is to be found. You can’t expect people to find you because you have a good product, you have to find ways of shouting and getting people to notice you and generate interest.
Kosmas: What really surprised me was that there is so much demand from countries on the other side of the world for items in my shop related to Ancient Greek history and especially Spartan history.
Is your product for sale outside of Etsy? Do you make more sales there?
Bryan: Most of my sales are through word-of-mouth. I am lucky enough to have been contacted through Instagram, Facebook, and friends for commissions. Etsy sales are still relatively low for me, but I attribute that to the tactile nature of my product.
Roy: My products are for sale outside of Etsy. In the past, I’ve sold on eBay and CustomMade. In addition to my Etsy store, I currently sell items through my own website, Amazon Handmade, Scott’s Marketplace, and occasionally locally. As far as the flow of orders, my Etsy store brings in the most.
What do the girls think of your product? Do you have many female buyers? Do you market to them or men on Etsy?
Damir: I’ve had a few female buyers who buy my items for their partners, brothers and family etc. Although, I wouldn’t mind seeing a nice set of cufflinks on a girl’s shirt one day!
Kosmas: Most of my listings target men. However, most of my customers are women who buy them as gifts for men.
Howard: We find that about 20% of our clientele are women because many vintage men’s clothes are too small for the average guy today we find that a good many women buy our clothes. A large number of women who see our clothes rave about the looks and say they wish their men would dress that way.
Howard from Brown & Williams will keep you far beyond dapper.
What do you do in your non-work time?
Bryan: Outside of ceramics, I work full-time as a web developer and am fixing up an old house. I like to work with my hands, be it with a keyboard, hammer, or ball of clay.
Roy: When I’m not in my shop, I spend my time jogging, hiking, camping, playing with my kids, practising parkour and callisthenics.
Anthony: We love to travel, camp, hike and spend time in nature. We have a van which we use as a hybrid — it easily converts from work vehicle to camper.
What advice do you have for other guys/dudes/gents/blokes/ out there wanting to sell their own handmade work? What can we learn from men on Etsy?
Kosmas: To try the Etsy platform for sure but make sure they invest time and effort if they want to make sales.
Damir: Just do it – let your friends, colleagues and family know. Some of my friends have bought my items to give as gifts because each item that I have, there is only one out there so not everyone will have them
Roy: I encourage everyone to try a handicraft. If you want to take it further, set a small goal for yourself. Make a few items to sell. When you reach that goal, make a new one- this time larger. Keep growing! Don’t be just a dreamer- be a doer! Don’t be afraid to try new avenues- you may fail or succeed, but the thing that makes you truly successful is your attitude! Men- don’t be afraid of making pretty things! As far as I have observed online, women do most of the shopping.
Bryan- Find your voice and brand. I would advise other guys to know who they are and what their market is. I’m still working on this myself, but once I started putting effort into defining who I am and what I make as an artist, things started getting clearer, and a purpose to what I am trying to do and sell emerged.
Howard- Get out there and do it! Etsy is a great tool to showcase your crafts and handiwork. Don’t be discouraged if sales don’t come instantly… take good pics, write engaging descriptions and participate in Etsy groups. Also, think on what tags/ keywords will appeal to the customer you are trying to reach… what would THEY type into the search field?
1) Make sure you have a great product that you are 100% confident in from the start.
2) Take the best photos possible (they are definitely worth the investment when the customer cannot see and feel your product in person)
3) Stay as organised as you can.
4) Remember why you started. Consistently look over your goals and vision for your business. Don’t forget about the details or the big picture. Take a step back and analyse how things are going— this can be difficult when you are busy and wrapped up in the day-to-day. Liz and I have weekly collaboration meetings to make sure we are on the same page, to analyse what’s working and what’s not, and to find solutions together.
5) Strive to provide excellent customer service. If your customer isn’t 100% happy with your product, do what it takes to make it right with them. Try not to let any of your customers walk away without feeling good about their experience. As a small business, you rely on customer feedback to build your reputation and to make sure your product is the best that it can be. Don’t ignore criticism —use it to change your product so that it becomes better.
A good supervisor, like Newman at wakethetree is essential to success.
Thanks very much to our favourite guys for giving us an insight on how they work their magic!
Who are some of you favourite men on Etsy? Let us know in the comments!