Interview by: MargotBianca
Tell us a little bit about how your business all began.
I left my Human Resource Management career for full time motherhood almost sixteen years ago. I love being a mom and I’m thankful for this time, away from a paycheque, that allowed me to see what I really wanted to do. As my two daughters grew older I decided to return to college through night school and follow a more creative career path in interior decorating. Upon graduation I opened my own company Wallis Designs. I worked independently on many successful residential projects. Around the same time I started making jewelry for myself mostly because I could never find what I was looking for in the stores. While doing this I could not shake the idea of selling my jewelry in a bigger way.
How did you get started on Etsy?
After a local bead shop owner told me about Etsy I probably spent about two months looking through Etsy and lurking in the forums before I decided to make the plunge of opening my own shop. I was a little nervous, but more excited. There was little to lose in trying and I was determined to make it succeed. Almost three years ago now I opened my Etsy shop and my website (nancywallisdesigns.com) on the same day.
Do you remember your first sale on Etsy? Do you know who bought your first item from you, or do you know how the sale came about? Do you remember how you felt?
Oh yes, I definitely remember it. It took 24 days to be exact. It was a holiday Monday and the whole family was home and everyone knew the instant I knew. I was jumping up and down and everyone came running to the computer to see the #1 by my sales numbers. It was a lampwork pendant necklace bought by Alice (no, not ‘our’ Alice). She was sweet and I was so pleased when she received it and loved it. I felt like I was walking on a cloud that day.
What is your favourite part of being a shop owner on Etsy?
- I love to be independent.
- I like the fact my jewelry has new homes around the world - such as England, Australia, Singapore, Ho Chi Ming City, Micronesia (I actually had to look that one up). Places I could never reach at a local craft show. I like to imagine my customers in these faraway lands wearing my jewelry.
- I like the flexibility it provides for our family.
- I like the people I’ve met - supportive shop owners and fantastic, friendly customers.
What challenges have you faced during the process?
- Trying to stay visible in a saturated jewelry category.
- Keeping up to date with search optimizations and Etsy changes as my computer knowledge is learn as I go.
- Maintaining a balanced life – trying to stay off the computer at night and weekends as much as I can.
What inspires you?
My design process definitely starts with colour. I love to play with coloured glass beads and different metals. I let my inspirations such as travel, nature and a little romantic whimsy take hold in my jewelry.
Sometimes the best inspirations can come from accidents such as spilled beads. Looking down at a ‘mess’ I noticed two beads that settled next to each other. There lies a colour combination that I would not inherently go to but are beautiful together nonetheless. I like to be surprised by these things.
Capri, Nancy's inspiration for the bracelet pictured right
There are many jewelry sellers on Etsy, and I have heard that it is difficult to stand out in the crowd. I wonder if you can talk about the specific things do you do to succeed, aside from being an active member of the team, to make your product and brand stand out?
Trying to stay visible is a constant struggle and sometimes I don’t think there is much rhyme or reason to it. Good sales one week can lead to no sales another week. This can get really frustrating. With experience, I’ve learned to cope better with the ups and downs. I try to focus on the things that I can control.
- Make a quality product you can be proud of
- Consistently list new items
- Watch what sells and does not sell in your own shop - find a balance between creativity and saleability and be willing to give up the items that don’t sell
- In the case of jewelry, wear your product and carry business cards wherever you go
- Take care of your customers
During slow times I take this opportunity to build stock, get caught up on paperwork and even take some personal time.
As I look over your sales from the past couple of years, I notice a clear evolution of your work and photographs. Can you tell us a little bit about your professional development?
Over the last three years my work has definitely evolved. My evolution has more to do with my own obsession with beads and compulsion to bead shop and the creative energy these new finds bring. I can get bored easily so change is essential for my well being rather than an intentional design process.
More significantly though I think my photographs have improved. This is a constant process. I have tried shooting outdoors and with a light tent but I have now settled into a fairly routine process of indoors with natural light. It’s very glamorous as I settle myself on the kitchen floor beside my glass sliding door with a northern exposure. Sometimes my dog Mabel will sit with me for a little company. I use a Canon Power Shot SX10IS point and shoot and I use the macro settings. I do a little photo editing through Picasso but recently just bought Photoshop Elements which I have to learn how to use.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
My family is definitely the most important part of me. I’m married to my high school sweetheart and mom of two young teen girls. I’m pretty busy after school and evenings performing my ‘taxi’ duties to various activities. You can regularly find me volunteering at the school, at our local arena watching my oldest daughter play hockey and at the dance studio watching my youngest.
Recently my husband and I joined a yoga studio where we have become hooked on hot yoga. Before this I didn’t even like to sweat so if it’s any inspiration for anyone – if I can do this anyone can! I’m now there 2-3 times per week.
After years of kind of losing myself in mom duties I have recently gone back to singing and I have joined our church band. Rock on Mom! This has really opened back up a part of me that I didn’t realize how much I missed. I definitely think I’m finding more of a balance in my life of work, family and myself.
Check out Nancy's Etsy Shop!
Nancy's Blog: nancywallisdesigns.blogspot.com
Nancy's Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/wallisdesigns