If you’re serious about crafting, then you may have fantasized about ditching the 9-5, picking up the glue gun, and opening an eponymous Etsy shop.
Well, Alicia Shaffer from Three Bird Nest, is living that dream.
Shaffer is one of the most successful sellers on the online craft site, with more than, gulp, an estimated $65,000 a month in sales. But she tells Yahoo DIY that it didn’t all happen, overnight, though.
(Alicia Shaffer and family. All images courtesy Three Bird Nest)
Etsy may seem like a quaint little destination for vintage pendants and handmade birthday cards, but with 30 million registered users, one million sellers and over one billion in total annual transactions, this is not your neighborhood craft fair. This is big e-commerce.
Where most shops would love to sell 300 items a day, Three Bird Nest is selling over 3,000. (If those numbers don’t make you wanting to quit your day job, then you must really love what you do.)
Three Bird Nest has its own distinctive sensibility, but it’s not breaking the mold with exclusive, rarefied creations. Items similar to her lovely handmade, knitted scarves, wraps, headbands, beanies, boot socks and calf cozies (adorably irresistible) can be found elsewhere. So why is Shaffer cleaning up when others are coasting?
One thing that stands out is Shaffer’s passion for her work. “I love textiles, fabric, fashion, designs, and seeing how different colors and fabrics pair together,” she says on her site. When the seller’s passion comes through, the shopper connects with craftsperson.
But Shaffer also loves the business side. She happily absorbs the pressures that come from running her own mini empire. The creative process, from concepting, to production, to getting it in front of people to delivery is a high for her. To have a successful business on Etsy (or anywhere), she advises: you need to eat, sleep and breathe your brand.
Shaffer also designs for a wide range of women, which broadens her potential customer base. “She’s a mom, a student, a daughter, a bride, a woman going on a first date,” she says.
Shaffer first found success with handmade headbands in knits, weaves and lace, before branching out into a full line of knitwear and eventually, accessories and home goods. She opened her Etsy shop in 2011 when the headbands that she was selling in her brick and mortar boutique were flying off the shelves.
Dave Conrey, a writer who covers the business-side of the DIY world, profiled Three Bird Nest in a piece for Fresh Rag in 2013 and attributes her success mainly to her business savvy. If business plans look like gibberish to you, then before you ditch that day job for good, get a serious schooling in e-commerce sales and marketing.
Speaking to Yahoo DIY, Shaffer’s winning creative and business skills are apparent. Not only is she a sharp business woman, a mother of three kids (ages 4, 5 and 10), and a wife, she emanates a bubbly, enthusiastic and authentic energy. (And even more, she spoke while sewing a cuff.) Shaffer really is the Girl Boss of Etsy. Her husband Demetrious retired early from his post as a fire chief to run their home, mastering the cooking and kid organization so that she can continue to grow her empire.
Shaffer tells young Etsy entrepreneurs to be prepared for many failures, and to learn from them. One of her early missteps was “letting customers down,” she admits. She also says she erred early on by selling some products that “didn’t feel authentic to the brand.” Her takeaway is to find out who you are as a brand and grow your company from there.
With all Shaffer’s ambition and determination, it might seem like she would be ready to move on from Etsy. But she loves where her business is and she believes growth will come from adding more and more to the line, continuing to make customers happy, and continuing to evoke the mom and pop feel. She also has her own online boutique for Three Bird Nest, in addition to her Etsy store.
So aspiring Etsy superstars should learn from both Shaffer’s creativity and also her keen business sense. Before you hang up your day job, roll up your sleeves and hop into your Hedley and Bennet apron, there is a ton of research to be done about what it takes to make it big.