Who said a successful business only needs a big investment and for you to go all in to start off with? It isn’t a truth lesser known that while you might need some big bucks to put in a business initially, you do need to have in you what it takes to be successful.
You do need talent and creativity running through your veins. You need to trust your instincts and your surroundings. You need to be impeccable at whatever product/service you’re providing and you’ll make it last.
For our next conversation with a small business owner, meet Alissa from Levysfriends on Etsy, who proved to the world that you don’t necessarily need money to take a business off the ground, you need talent. Read on!
Wow! Isn’t your stuff so amazing! Please tell us what your shop is about and how you came up with the whole idea.
My shop was born to give a home to all the designs and illustrations I made during my time in University. My scholarship was running out as I was finishing my Bachelor’s Degree, so I needed to come up with something to pay my rent. One day I searched Etsy for a birthday gift and thought I might give it a shot to sell my own illustrations.
How did you make your first 5 sales? Did you have to struggle a lot?
I started out with prints of my original drawings which didn’t sell at all in the first months. A friend asked if I could illustrate a portrait for him to give as a birthday gift. The recipient loved it so much that I thought I might try to sell portraits in my shop as well. I opened my shop in October 2015 and the first orders started to come early November as it was Holiday time and people wanted something unique. Back then the market wasn’t as saturated as it is now so I think it was a combination of a product that was relevant, good timing and a piece of luck.
Tell us about some roadblocks you might have faced. How did you overcome
The most difficult thing is to keep going even though you don’t see immediate results. I am constantly working and tweaking my listings to improve them. I remember how I used to obsess over my stats during the first year and how it drove my partner crazy. I struggled to create illustrations and portraits to stock my shop in order to get more exposure. As I am from Germany I also translated everything into my native language to reach my German clients as well. As orders started to rush in during the next Holiday season I was faced with the next big problem: How to manage my time and how to organize better. I had to learn not to overwork and take breaks and even turning away customers.
What are some of your goals? Did you start your business with a particular aim
I started out to give my art a platform and more visibility. After some time I noticed how happy and grateful my customers were. Their positive feedback means a lot to me and I love to create something special just for them. I also try to keep in contact with them on social media as there are quite a few who keep coming back and order more things from my shop.
My inspiration comes from everyday life and from people around me, from browsing a lot of other artists great work on the web or in books. Movies and music can be big resources as well. Always walking around with your eyes open and just being in the moment helps with catching up on things. Like for every other artist, art is always around me. I can never turn it off or take a vacation.
Tell us something about your family! How have they contributed to the shop?
My friends and family are my advertising department. They are always showing off my page to people who are searching for a special gift. When times are busy during the Holiday season, for example, they are a huge help with wrapping orders and helping with small things. My partner also keeps an eye on me so I don’t overwork and take enough breaks to enjoy my favorite ice cream on a sunny day. And of course, my first customers were my friends, helping out a struggling artist.
What is that one quote that inspires you and always keeps you going?
I’m not a big fan of quotes to be honest. My inspiration comes from everyday life and from people around me, from browsing a lot of other artists great work on the web or in books. Movies and music can be big resources as well. Always walking around with your eyes open and just being in the moment helps with catching up on things. Like for every other artist, art is always around me. I can never turn it off or take a vacation. I think this is the biggest difference to other professions. You are never done with your work, my brain is always processing things happening around me so I can maybe use them somehow in my work later. Nearly everything has an artistic value and can inspire me.
If you had to point out something unique about your shop, what would it be?
I think it would be my ability to create something unique for my customers. I had fun requests of things they wanted an illustration of and these were often the most enjoyable projects I worked on. I also try to give my customers the best customer service possible and I want them to be happy with the end result. The best thing about Etsy is that it allows people to work with artists together.
The most difficult thing is to keep going even though you don’t see immediate results. I am constantly working and tweaking my listings to improve them. I remember how I used to obsess over my stats during the first year and how it drove my partner crazy. I struggled to create illustrations and portraits to stock my shop in order to get more exposure.
How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of
I studied illustration and design at university so I could operate with Photoshop and Illustrator and have a basic understanding of photography. I am also lucky that my shop doesn’t require any big investments money wise. I only need my computer, some paper and a lot of time to create my products. I didn’t have to take any risks if the shop wasn’t going to be successful. How to deal with customers and to organize me in a productive and not time-consuming way is a steady learning process. I try to change up my routines and to optimize things from time to time.
This one needs special attention. What, according to you, makes people not
Impatience can be a big obstacle. A lot of new Etsy sellers expect to have sales immediately, but such things take time and hard work. Sometimes people need years to figure out what and how to sell. Also not constantly working and improving your products. Times and trends are changing rather quickly and you want to stay relevant with what you are trying to sell. I don’t mean to say that you have to adapt to every new thing but it is always worth keeping your eyes open.
Lastly, If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would
Gather all the information you can get for the type of product you would like to create or sell. There are so many resources on the internet that can help you. Also don’t be afraid to experiment a lot at first to see what people are interested in. That’s how you get a product that can stand out and get more traction with your art.
Loved the post? Check out our previous conversation with another successful Etsy seller here. Let us know what you think about this shop in the comments below! We’d love to know your opinions.