Archives for category: Small Business Tips

I opened my Amazon Handmade store on May 12th!

Check out Exsect on Amazon Handmade

 

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Instagram ads are somewhat hard to figure out. I consider myself to be able to understand most concepts. But when reading the entire Instagram Advertising website it was still quite confusing as to where to start.

So I hired Kit. Kit is my virtual marketing assistant. And is now my #1 amigo when it comes to advertising on Instagram and Facebook. Kit works with my Shopify, Etsy, Big Cartel, Instagram, Facebook and more!

It is amazing. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Simply connect your phone to Kit and sent text messages to set up ads, market your products, post to Facebook, update your business Facebook page, run business reports and run advertisement reports. Initiate contact with Kit by texting “Hi” and have your task complete in under a minute.

The best part: monthly subscriptions to Kit start at $10. I opted for the $25 Kit Pro plan.

Highly recommended. I have chosen wisely and I am down with Kit. My homie, my beastie, my favorite (and only) employee, Kit is my savior. My lighthouse in the dark.

Don’t ever leave me. I love you.

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I found Kit while listening to the Unofficial Shopify Podcast.

In the Dec. 1st 2015 episode linked above, Michael Perry, CEO of Kit, explains advertising on Facebook and Instagram, the benefits and the wonders of carousel ads on both platforms.

Dig it.

 

If you sell on the Etsy marketplace and become even marginally successful, it is a given that you will encounter copycats. Design thieves. Unimaginative pathetic morons. Whatever you like to call them.

A few months back I came across a seller that offers leather luggage tags. Every single design was copied from an established Etsy seller. They copied six of my designs.

When I asked them to remove the listings they replied “but i want to said is design myself” (seller is located in China).

No. You did not design it yourself. Copying my exact listing titles is a dead giveaway that you copied the design directly from me.

They quickly removed the listing in the sample image below and the other matching tags that said “Wild & Free” not “Free & Wild”

And I am not against other sellers making leather luggage tags. Not by any means. Hell, I even sell blank leather luggage tags in bulk so others can use my exact supplies to create their own designs.

But blatantly ripping off other sellers designs if just ridiculous.

Enjoy this treat (my design is on the bottom):

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I opened a new EXSECT SHOPIFY STORE over the weekend. Although it seemed fairly easy to set up, importing from Etsy is a nightmare. After fixing all of the prices, variations, spacing in the listings, titles and links… I discovered last night that ALL of the tags have underscores in them instead of spaces. What a pain.

Sometimes I truly get tied of doing everything myself. I wish I could pass off the most tedious tasks to SOMEONE and have confidence that they will actually be done correctly.

Off to fix tags for HOURS!

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The Customer-Funded Business: Start, Finance, or Grow Your Company with Your Customers’ Cash

I was so absolutely excited about this book that I consumed it faster than most books I acquire. However, it left me feeling severely disappointed. Sure, many of the examples given in this book started out solely customer funded. But ALL examples ended up acquiring investors and or funds from other sources.

The synopsis reads :”Who needs investors?” Apparently, everyone in this book did.

The author also completely dismisses bootstrapping. Which in itself was questionable.

Sadly, I gained very little from this book.

As a business owner who does not intend on ever seeking investors or using debt as a way to grow my business, I could have skipped this book. I wish I would have.

 

Also: I listen to books daily on Audible. This book repeated a few names hundreds of times (example: Vente Privee and GUNTA (sp?). The names were repeated so many times that at one point I ended up screaming and skipping a chapter ahead. I hope I never have to hear these names again. Gah!

 

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For January 2016 I set a goal to target Instagram accounts with high amounts of followers for paid advertising and gave myself a $200 budget.

I personally have 13.7k Instagram followers (@aminabaker.exsect) and have always had great success with sales when posting items on my Instagram account. Why not target a much larger audience that just my personal followers?

I contacted Instagram accounts created and managed by private persons who curate handmade items. They offer to feature your item/shop/story for a fee. Usually $15-30 a feature. The fee guarantees the featured spot vs. wishful tagging and crossing my fingers for a feature (no time for that anyway).

I targeted 7 different accounts that collectively have 1,000,000 followers. I have features that ran or are scheduled to run on all of the following: @etsyusa @hellolovehandmade @handmadeloves @etsyfavorites,@etsyhunter & @etsyelite

My features are scheduled all throughout January-July 2016

I absolutely understand that ‘pay to play’ isn’t for everyone. However, I find it to be very interesting.

 

FEATURE REVIEWS:

Instagram @etsyusa : 106k followers – $31.50 a feature – 875 hearts on my feature

My Jan 30th @etsyelite feature was a success! I landed a huge wedding order of 100+ luggage tags plus a few other little sales here and there came directly from the feature.

Despite have a lower number of followers, @etsyusa has more interaction with their followers. I do recommend @etsyusa.

 

Instagram @handmadeloves : 125k followers – $25 a feature – 774 hearts on my feature

Ive seen no real ROI with my Feb 10th @handmadeloves feature. While I did have $427 in sales that day and 1007 views, there was no real difference in my stats from previous days this month.

There was an odd filter placed over my photo. Which is fine, but it looks a bit off.

ALSO, my @handmadeloves feature was scheduled for Feb 9th but was not posted. I had to email them the following day to inquire about why the feature was not posted. They then posted it that day.

For this reason, I would not recommend @handmadeloves

 

Instagram @etsyfavorites : 161k followers – $30 a feature – 1,156 hearts on my feature

I had a small uptick in direct views on the day of this feature. The featured item sold 3 times on the day it was featured. This accounts posts very often, sometimes up to 6 times a day. Your feature gets buried VERY quickly. Thus limiting the exposure.

 

 

Instagram @etsyhunter : 169k followers – $23 a feature – 1,460 hearts on my feature

I saw a HUGE uptick in direct traffic from this Feb. 15th feature. In fact, the most direct traffic views I’ve had in the past 30 days came on the day of this feature.

I also gained the greatest amount of new Instagram followers from the @etsyhunter feature (over 100) and the featured item sold 4 times on the day it was featured on @etsyhunter. This account posts 2-3 updates a day giving you far greater exposure.

I recommended @etsyhunter over all of the rest. I would personally use @etsyhunter again

 

My next feature is scheduled for March 14th on @hellolovehandmade

 

And so the adventure begins… indeed.

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How do you define success on Etsy? Is it possible to make a living on Etsy?

Yep.

My main Etsy shop shop grossed $90,000+ revenue in 2015. In 2016, my sales have increased by 33.41%, well on track to clear $120,000+ revenue in 2016.

But how could I ever know if that is considered to be “successful” among the 1.5 million sellers on Etsy? Etsy’s new rules allow for the use of manufacturing and staff (gasp!). If I am doing $100k a year as a single maker operated business, there must be hundreds of shops making 5x-10x that amount.

It is hard to figure out what success on Etsy looks like. Google “Etsy success” or “what is success on Etsy” and you will be bombarded with outdated articles, blog posts and Etsy forum threads. Etsy changes so rapidly that posts from 2014 are outdated. This blog too will soon be outdated, it is inevitable.

Craftcount lists my shop Exsect as the 15th top seller in the Leathercraft category. But only shops who have signed up to be ranked are listed here.

So WHO is successful on Etsy?

Shops with 1000 sales? 5000? 10,000+? Many high volume shops are suppliers with items that retail for under $5 or $10 with super narrow profit margins. Etsy success can not be weighed on published sales numbers alone.

WHAT is successful on Etsy?

As of this posting Etsy has 38,893,348 Items listed. Just 2 years ago I remember that number being 26,000,000. That is a crazy amount of competition and an insane amount of growth.

In the earlier days of the “treasury” front page, it seemed to be the same handmade panties, weird mini banners, you wash I’ll dry towels and concrete planters day in and day out. But these shops were not necessarily successful, they just had pretty photos that placed well with the other items in the treasury.

In 2016, treasuries are no more and with the newer constantly updating curated homepage, it can be very hard to know what is trending on Etsy.

Ive seen trending items on Etsy come and go : shabby chic, owls, chevrons, feathers, gypsy, rustic, foxes, sloths, personalized stamped jewelry, state specific items, tassels, french bulldogs, rabbits, cats, lace boot socks… fill your shop with these items and you may make a considerable amount of sales in a short period of time only to be left with a very dead shop a few short months or weeks later.

What do I know to be true?

I know one thing that is certainly true: To be successful on Etsy you MUST keep up with their SEO guidelines. If you do not, don’t bother listing. If you are not willing to consume the vast amount of literature that Etsy has made available to you in the Etsy Seller Handbook, don’t waste your precious time setting up a shop.

Another great piece of advice on Etsy : STAY OFF OF THE FORUMS. The forums are a time suck full of pessimistic, largely unsuccessful sellers whining about everything imaginable. It’s best to focus on YOU and your success.

If you list 10 items, only one many become a top seller. And in my case, the product that becomes the most popular is always the product I least expect to sell well.

And in closing, a small list of the most important things that helped me go from a revenue of $1900 in 2013 to $91,000+ in 2015:

  • Being proactive. Not reactive.
  • Doing my due diligence.
  • Discipline.
  • Sobriety.

 

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*Shipping monies collected are not calculated in the revenue numbers in the graph above.

**Exsect Inc. was closed for vacation for 3 weeks in September of 2015.

***Im not putting this screenshot here to brag. It is here just for income verification. So you know there ain’t no bullsh**.

 

 

Exsect Inc. is a single maker operated leather company with over 4,300 sales on Etsy. Featuring specialty designs, exclusive leather finishes, reclaimed leather creations and industry standard deviations.

Exsect Inc. is not your grandfather’s hobby shop.

Etsy: http://exsect.etsy.com
Website: http://exsect.com
Instagram: @aminabaker.exsect
Twitter: @AminaMunster

©2016 Exsect Inc ©2016 Amina Baker ©Amina Munster

 

 

In the leather industry, maintaining wholesale accounts with your suppliers is an absolute must. With just a little research, you can easily save 30-70% off of MSRP by simply submitting your business articles to your suppliers.

As all leather purchasers know, Tandy Leather publishes their retail prices and wholesale prices on their website. You do not need paid memberships to take advantage of the lowest offered prices. You simply need to set up an account with them. Be sure that this account is also tax exempt as the supplies you are purchasing are for resale.

Weaver Leather, Zack White Leather and Springfield Leather (just to name very few) all have wholesale sections on their websites. These sections are hidden from the public. Simply contact these suppliers to set up your account and get your mind blown with SAVING$!

All of these companies will require your tax IDs to set up your account.

While requirements vary from state to state, here is a list from wikiHow of things that may be necessary for you to have before beginning to buy and sell products:

• Local Business License: Typically, the city or county where you are operating your business will require that you have a local business license. Just call or visit your city hall to find out what the requirement is in your jurisdiction.
• Sales Tax License: If you live in a state that collects sales tax, you will most likely need this license. Having it will allow you to legally charge sales tax to customers purchasing your items. By calling your State Franchise Tax Board you can find out how to get this license.
• Federal License: This license really only applies to a very small portion of businesses that are selling products or services that are highly regulated by government agencies (i.e., if you are selling firearms or offering investment advice). If you think your business falls into that category, you can call your state government offices for more information. However, if your business is required to have this type of license, it may be best to hire an attorney to make sure you are complying with every law and have all the necessary licenses, permits and documentation.
• Seller’s Permit (also referred to as a reseller’s permit or sales tax permit): This permit is typically required for businesses that are purchasing wholesale products for resale. Usually your State Franchise Tax Board is the agency that grants this permit.

You can also set up payment terms and arrange credit with your suppliers, so make sure to ask them what kind of options they can offer you.

While most of my vendors do offer credit accounts, I NEVER suggest opening lines of credit for your business.

Running your small business entirely DEBT FREE is most beneficial.

 

Texas state leather wedding favors in antique brown sunburst leather finish by Exsect Inc.

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Exsect Inc. is a single maker operated leather company with over 4,300 sales on Etsy. Featuring specialty designs, exclusive leather finishes, reclaimed leather creations and industry standard deviations.

Exsect Inc. is not your grandfather’s hobby shop.

Etsy: http://exsect.etsy.com
Website: http://exsect.com
Instagram: @aminabaker.exsect
Twitter: @AminaMunster

©2016 Exsect Inc ©2016 Amina Baker ©Amina Munster

In April of 2014, I owned a considerable amount of Tandy Leather (TLF) shares at $9.63 a share. This holding had served me well since purchasing them in 2012 at a little over $5 a share.

However, something happened at Tandy Leather around April of 2014. I started noticing considerable price hikes on items that I had been purchasing for many years. After ruffling through receipts, it became clear that many items had gone up by as much as 50%.

Example: 2” Cowhide Strip x 72” – $20 (2006) – $21.99 (early 2014) to $31.99 each (4/23/16)

Gross.

That was it for me. Although the wonderful manager at Tandy let me haggle with him and we have kept the price low on many items I still use… I dumped my TLF stock and starting searching elsewhere for suppliers. Ive since found 4 other suppliers that blow Tandy Leather’s prices out of the water.

I would have never found these suppliers if it were not for the push by the Tandy Leather price hikes.

I keep a spreadsheet of all suppliers and who has the best price on each item (1/4 of it is below, TLF in column one).

In 2014, Tandy Leather went from being my #1 supplier each year and where I purchased 75% of my supplies to #4 in 2015. I now only purchase 20% of my supplies at Tandy Leather.

TLF shares now sit at $7.15.

Im happy to have gotten out when I did.

 

 

SuppliesBlog

Exsect Inc. is a single maker operated leather company with over 4,300 sales on Etsy. Featuring specialty designs, ex

clusive leather finishes, reclaimed leather creations and industry standard deviations.

Exsect Inc. is not your grandfather’s hobby shop.

Etsy: http://exsect.etsy.com
Website: http://exsect.com

Instagram: @aminabaker.exsect
Twitter: @AminaMunster

©2016 Exsect Inc ©2016 Amina Baker ©Amina Munster