Name: Maya E. Henderson
Business Name: Springtree Road Handspun Yarn & Fiber
Product(s): handspun yarn and hand-painted fiber
Years in business: 1 year, 3 months
The Business Challenge
I want to increase my customer base, how should I diversify?
Maya’s Business Challenge Insights
It all depends on your goals. Some people might want to sell their products online at a couple of different venues like Etsy, Artfire, etc., to get the traffic that can come from those sorts of online communities. They are very helpful for getting started and learning how to develop a business online. Another choice is to go your own way. I maintain the Etsy shop I started last year, but I also have my own shop that I run through Big Cartel. Big Cartel is not a community – each shop stands alone and you are solely responsible for finding your customers. So it depends on what you want for your business, how much work you can/want to put into it, and where you plan to be in five or ten years.
How competitive is your niche in the handmade market?
I think a lot of people who buy handspun yarn find it on Etsy, and I have a shop there. This is my second autumn/winter season in business and it seems that there is even more handspun out today than this time last year. But to put it in perspective, I get 10,046 listings when I search Etsy for “handspun yarn,” while “silver earrings” gets 215,811 listings. On the other hand, a pair of simple beaded earrings likely takes less time to make than to dye and spin a yarn. Once you’ve made the earrings and taken the photos, you can use the same photos every time you sell and relist. Ninety-nine percent of what I make needs a new photo every time. So it’s all relative, but to answer the question – I do feel the competition.
How do you locate and engage your users online?
I have a blog, a Facebook page for my business, a Ravelry group, etc., and you can find links to everywhere I am online at my home page. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for folks to find me and connect with me at their favorite places to hang out online.
How do you assess the success of your marketing efforts?
I check my Google Analytics to see where traffic is coming from, but I wish that I could get more information than GA provides.
Why did you decide to diversify your online presence?
For several reasons, but the biggest one is very simple – to see if I can. To see if I have what it takes to build this business into what I think it can be. There are several fiberistas I really admire who have done Big Things, but I’m fairly certain they’re really people just like I am. So, can I do Big Things? I’m not sure, but I’d like to find out. So my shop that I run through Big Cartel – it’s really mine. I’m not under anyone else’s umbrella. Scary. But I’m feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
Which marketplaces did you consider?
Big Cartel was the only place I seriously considered. It was the one I’d heard the most about and I’d seen other very lovely shops using Big Cartel. When I looked at the Big Cartel site it seemed simple enough to me – also important because I don’t have a lot of time to learn a whole new way of doing things. The price is definitely right, and your Big Cartel shop is customizable as long as you know what you’re doing and/or can hire someone to help you.
What were the criteria you used when reviewing additional marketplaces to sell your handmade goods?
I just really wanted something that felt like my shop, that it belongs to me. Since you can customize your shop, I think Big Cartel does a good job of that.
Why did you ultimately decide on a Big Cartel storefront?
Price and ability to customize. Even though I haven’t done that much with it yet, I would like to when I can. Also, my customers don’t have to become a member to buy things from my shop – no remembering a password and all that. You put items in your cart and pay through PayPal. I definitely wanted that. I like to keep things simple.
What kind of response have you seen from your customers with this new addition?
My customers have been completely wonderful. They’ve been so supportive; I couldn’t ask for more.
What are your overall goals for the holiday season and how do you plan on leveraging both venues?
I know from the reading that I do that I’m supposed to have a big plan for the holiday season and all that. But if this year is anything like last year, at some point it gets too crazy and you just have to hang on until about February. My overall goal is to balance my work and my life this holiday season.
Last year we threw up a tree the week before Christmas. I don’t want to do that this year. I have a 5-year-old. I want to decorate and bake cookies with her. So I’m going to try to keep to a schedule, work hard when I’m working, and relax when I’m supposed to be relaxing (hard for me). To leverage both venues … hmmm … I’m not entirely sure. Just as last winter was my first in business with Etsy, this winter will be my first with both shops open. So I think again this year it’ll be more about holding on than having a plan of attack, but come back and ask me next year and I should have more for you.