A positive approach is one of the necessities to keeping a business running and taking it to newer heights. If you don’t believe your product/service will make people’s lives better, it probably won’t. You need to believe you are here for the long run.
You know what’s better? Along with a positive approach, if what you’re offering is equally positive and endearing then the sky is the limit for you.
Well, we know someone who’s all set to spread cuteness and joy all over the world. For our next conversation with a small business, meet Dani from Fun Usual Suspects who’s in it to win it with a goal to spread happiness with her absolutely adorable goodies. Read on!
Omg, your shop is so, so cute! Congratulations. Please tell us what your shop is about and how you came up with the whole idea.
In early 2014, in a conversation with my then boyfriend (now husband), we were discussing my artistic style and our collective sense of humor and how we might fuse them into something cute and unique. Something unusual and fun. And then, since he’s a movie geek, he paraphrased the quote from Casablanca where the police chief says “Round up the usual suspects” into “Round up fun usual suspects!” and the name just stuck. Our whole goal is to create and spread a little cuteness and joy into the world.
Share with us how your initial days on Etsy were.
I started out creating polymer clay characters for sale and just sharing my illustrations online, but it became clear that people liked my little illustrations and our puns and we expanded our offerings from there. Things started slowly, very slowly in fact, but we just kept true to our vision and kept moving forward a little every day, even those days where it seemed we were just spinning our wheels. On days when sales were slow, I’d create new stuff to add to the shop, or I’d take new photos for both listings and promotion (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken and retaken product shots), or I’d work on some other aspect of my shop. I won’t lie, there were days when it was tough. But being determined, recognizing early that this was a process that would take time and trials, and having people around me that encouraged me, kept me focused and determined to keep at it. It’s still a daily battle to stay on top of things, to keep adding and refining products and so much more, but now it’s more about finding enough time to do those things instead of in the early days when I wasn’t so busy with day-to-day operations.
What are some of your long term plans? We would love to know them!
I’m in the process of moving to a new office and production space so that I can continue to expand. We’ve got a lot of big plans for adding entire new product lines, creating whole new characters and themes, and moving into other areas and channels, both online and in the real world. Mid-term, we’re looking to wholesale more of our paper products to a few select retailers and we’d love to start doing a few home/gift/garden shows some time. We also plan on using our social media channels in some interesting ways to more fully fulfill our goal of spreading more joy in the world. In the long term, we hope to expand our offerings and channels even further and someday it’s a goal to have our own physical retail space to go along with our active online presence.
How do you push yourself through low times? We’d love some advice on this!
Having detailed plans and goals helps. During times when sales are slow, or you aren’t feeling particularly inspired, it helps to have a list of things that can and should be done that don’t require sales or even creativity. One of my favorite quotes, when I’m stuck, is: Just because you aren’t inspired, doesn’t mean you can’t work. The key is to remember that this is a process. Looking at any single day or even step of that process doesn’t give you the full picture. You have to trust that as long as you keep doing the right things, every day, that eventually the right results will happen.
If a customer isn’t thrilled, we want to know, because, regardless of the reason, it means that something didn’t go right. Either we need to fix something in our process or we need to be clearer in communication with the buyer so their expectations are properly set and met. I try to always remember this rule: A happy customer will tell one friend. An unhappy one will tell 10.
Please give us some tips on how to manage time better. We could really use them!
Oh, that’s a tough one. Everyone has different schedules and times where they feel more productive. For me, something I try to remember is this: Early in the day, early in the week, early in the month. By that, I mean that if I get started early, then even if I waste a bit of time or make a mistake, I have another shot to get it right and I stay motivated. If I wait until the last minute to do things, then things pile up, and it’s easy to get discouraged, lag behind and for the quality of your work to slip. Concentrating on having a strong start helps to build momentum.
How do you balance between your work and personal life? Must be getting too difficult at times, isn’t it?
I’m not sure you can really “balance” your work and personal life if you want to be an entrepreneur. I think you have to be at least a little obsessed with your business or your shop if you want to have real and lasting success. I’m lucky that I get to work with my husband on the creative side, and I have some part-time help that is invaluable as well, but there are times when you do have to work 18 hour days and when you are so tired you want to cry. Having a good schedule, and sticking to it, really helps. It also helps to think of yourself as a vital part of your business. Like a really expensive machine or a valued employee. You need to recognize that running yourself down or even just leaving no time to be creative, isn’t a viable way to manage a business for the long term. You can’t keep going to the creative “well” if you don’t fill up that “well” sometimes with fun and interesting experiences with family and friends. Having a dog and a cat helps too. They require and give attention and love and force me to take breaks now and then, which I really need.
What are some key lessons that you think other entrepreneurs should try to learn on how to make a customer happy?
Again, that’s a tough question because circumstances are different for different sellers. For us, we try to focus on the big picture instead of getting hung up on who’s “right” or “wrong”. We try to be partners with our customers, working with them to get them what they want and to delight them when they get it. If a customer isn’t thrilled, we want to know, because, regardless of the reason, it means that something didn’t go right. Either we need to fix something in our process or we need to be clearer in communication with the buyer so their expectations are properly set and met. I try to always remember this rule: A happy customer will tell one friend. An unhappy one will tell 10.
I won’t lie, there were days when it was tough. But being determined, recognizing early that this was a process that would take time and trials, and having people around me that encouraged me, kept me focused and determined to keep at it. It’s still a daily battle to stay on top of things..
Do you have anyone to help you out with the daily operations in your shop?
I do have a couple of part-time people who help me out with shipping and other office related stuff a couple of times a week (more when it’s busy). We have a few suppliers that we work with on our printing, for our plants, and a few other things as well. I also have someone that helps me with some of my photos and videos sometimes.
What, according to you, is that one thing that people are doing, and one thing they aren’t doing which are the reasons why they don’t succeed?
One thing that most people do that doesn’t help is they focus on the result and not the process and then they quit way too early before they let the process fully play out. You can’t become a famous novelist without first writing every day. It takes time, there are no shortcuts. And the one thing that people aren’t doing is being consistent for long enough before quitting (applies to products, lines, ideas, etc). It takes time for people to find you, decide to buy from you, and to recommend you to others. Give yourself that time and in the meantime do other things to make your shop even better.
Lastly, one advice that you’d like to give to our readers. What would it be?
Do something for your business every day. Even if it’s something tiny. Never go a day without doing something. It’ll help build momentum and keep you focused.
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.