For our next conversation with a small business owner, meet Kaja from CertifiedDIYSupply on Etsy. We’re absolutely in awe of how
That’s such a unique shop idea you got! Oh and that number of sales is smokin’! Tell us,
what is your shop about?
I sell certified silicone and premium wooden supplies: silicone beads in different shapes and colors, silicone and wooden pendants, large selection of wooden beads – made in Europe, cords, pacifier clips and clasps (plus t-shirt yarns and newly designed nursing covers). My customers are mostly moms and retail shops who sell end products (pacifier holders, teething necklaces & teethers).
How did you come up with the idea? Could you please tell us about your initial days after you started your shop?
I have opened my first shop in 2015. Initially, I was selling knitted hats and photo props. I did not sell much because I had troubles with product differentiation. Simply, I did not know how to create a unique value proposition. In less than a year, I have updated all of my existing listings with new items: pacifier holders and teethers. It was in 2016 when my second child, daughter Mia, was born so the idea came from my motherhood.
This time the shop had more sales since I fixed few mistakes. I created a unique offer, optimized the listings with great pictures and description and started with SEO. I soon got tired of working in the middle of the night so in April 2017 I decided to sell off the inventory (material).
My initial inventory of supplies was worth around 100 USD and I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible. Surprisingly, I sold first wooden pendant while I was creating my first listings. Imagine how excited I was. This order was the beginning of my journey. Currently, I am heading towards 6000 sales.
What are some of the obstacles to look out for, that you faced yourself?
My biggest obstacle is to find suppliers who meet all the quality standards I require. Chinese prices are rapidly increasing so I am slowly turning to local manufacturers. I still personally check every bead before I pack it, which can be very exhausting and time-consuming. Time is a rare commodity for me because I have a full-time job in academics, two other small businesses, young children and a household to manage.
Fortunately, I am not facing problems related to demand although I am targeting the European market which is much smaller than the US. I am adding new items on a regular basis and I believe this helps me find new customers and retain them.
Do you have a team? Let’s talk about the helping hands behind your shop, ‘cause we know how important they all are!
Yes, I agree. A team would be very welcome, but I am still working alone. It seems that my husband will have to take over some of the packings soon. You can image how excited he is.
Let’s look at the bigger picture. Where do you think you'll be 10 years from now?
My goals are short-term because I live for today and tomorrow (and upcoming holidays). I know it sounds cliché but I have a goal to reach 1 million USD in one year. Ten years from now, I will travel the world with my husband and children.
What changes has your business brought to you as a person? How has it shaped you?
I have begun to appreciate the work of creators and artists. Now, I understand their prices and I support their work by promoting and buying handmade items. Besides, I have become very well organized and time effective. Who would not?
Do you have any advices on how to treat customers? Are there any mistakes you want
other sellers to look out for?
In my opinion, we have to treat customers with respect no matter how “special” they are. However, we have to play smart. I have three tricks to make my life easier dealing with their requests and complains. First, if they report a problem, I always give them at least 2 possible solutions, because people like to have control over their decisions. Second, some people are chronic discount seekers and I often hear my colleagues complaining about it.
My strategy is to offer them discount(s) that I am not promoting: 5-10% for their first purchase or for orders above a certain threshold.
You have to resonate your decision to avoid looking like you are at a local market selling fruits and veggies. Third, because I work alone, I still treat my customers very personally. I am polite but friendly rather than formal.
Please give us some tips on how to manage time better. We could really use them!
My latest mission is to start earning passive income. I am mainly focusing on big platforms with an established customer base. These customers already have the intention to buy products so it is much easier and cheaper to attract them rather than chasing potential customers on social media.
I am slowly outsourcing parts of the business to people who can do it better or cheaper: accounting, photography, production, and collaborating with locals, which is much less time- and money consuming. “Time is money” and sellers often forget to value their own time they invest into their business. At minimum, we have to focus on value-adding activities, outsource value enabling activities (accounting, HR, logistics) and get rid of waste. These are lean business principles.
If you look back, what were some of the mistakes you made that others could learn from?
I am still making mistakes because I am very active and I have a long list of new ideas to try every week. For me, this is a very effective way of learning and I am not ashamed of it. You have to have a competitive advantage and keep it simple (and cost-effective) in order to run a successful handmade business. Constant brand adaptation is very common these days so there is no need to heavily invest in a handmade business in the beginning. Entrepreneurship requires a trial and error approach. This is the only way to win this game. Besides, we must not forget to spend time and/or money on a product photography.
Last but definitely not the least, what has been your biggest inspiration in life?
My parents, successful entrepreneurs with great personality.
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.