Contributor post by Michelle of EviesToolEmporium
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a mom to four grown kids and grandma to one, married to my college sweetheart. My likes are simple: real books, real letter writing, and dark chocolate! Oh, and I like cheesy, end-of-the-world disaster movies.
My college degree is in journalism. I write a book review blog, am a freelance writer, and am a blog contributor and Bible study/devotional writer for a Christian website.
When did you open your business and what make you decide to do so?
I joined Etsy in 2007 as a way to support my hobby of making cards. As an avid letter writer with many pen pals, I had been making my own cards and stationery most of my adult life and sold them in local gift shops. Discovering an online venue from which to sell them was an opportunity I wanted to explore and now, eight years later, I’m still here.
Tell us a bit about your products.
My shop was originally called Dear Friend Paperie but I changed it to Grace Notes by Cindy. A grace note is a musical term that refers to a note that serves as an “ornament” or embellishment to the score. It isn’t needed but adds something special and unexpected to the piece. As it applies to life, grace notes are the unexpected blessings that embellish life. Sending a beautifully simple card with your own words of encouragement is a wonderful way to add a grace note to someone’s life.
Each card is made by me, as I apply hand stamped, hand-colored, embossed, or printed art on the outside with the sender’s personal message on the inside being the main focus. I am drawn to simplicity and uncluttered space and this is reflected in my style with a “less is more” approach to the designs. I describe them as “beautifully simple”.
What inspires your work?
I enjoy sending and receiving real mail so making note cards is my way of encouraging others to engage in this lost art. It is a challenge as we become more of a paperless society and postage rates go up, but how sad to realize that the next generation will likely not have real, handwritten notes and letters to treasure or pass on.
What are your future goals for the business this year? What is your dream for this business?
My main goal is to continue making what I love and find ways to promote more effectively. (I confess I’m not a big fan of social media so it is something I do out of necessity more than because I want to!)
I mostly want my cards to serve as a motivation for others to take the time to write and mail a few real notes to someone who needs encouragement or a kind word.
What makes your business stand out from businesses that sell similar products?
I think the variety of card styles makes my shop appealing. There is something for everyone and for just about any occasion – from simple and classic to fun and whimsical. Some are hand stamped, hand-colored, and embellished; some are embossed with raised designs, others are printed using art graphics. I also make cards featuring my own original photography. I strive for quality and the feedback I consistently get is that the cards are even better in “real life” than what the photos show. That always makes me happy! It’s also a compliment to have repeat customers.
Tell us a bit about your work space. Do you have a separate studio?
I’m fortunate to have a room for crafting. We added a family room to our home several years ago and the former living room was unused so I took it over! It also serves as a guest room when needed but it is mostly mine, complete with a storage cabinet, bookshelves, two desks, a t.v., a work table, and a futon sofa. The room has windows on three sides so it is always bright. The best feature is the French doors that are primarily to give a guest privacy but allows me to close off the room if it gets messy!
What have you learned since opening your business that you wish you had known before hand?
I think one reason my business is more of a hobby these days is because I underestimated the time and energy needed to promote an online business through social media and with staying on top of Etsy’s SEO changes.
The competition is greater online than selling in a local shop, and sometimes it feels like I’m one tiny voice trying to be heard in a very large, noisy stadium full of people.
Etsy is different today than it was when I first joined 8 years ago. It takes more work, more exposure, and more listings to be successful.
Any advice for those thinking about selling on Etsy?
So often in the Etsy forum I see threads by new sellers who are ready to give up after a month because of few views or sales. My advice is to be patient, learn and apply the rules (SEO, etc), and be willing to do the work of promoting. I think sometimes a new seller opens a shop with an “if you build it, they will come” mentality and expects that Etsy will do the selling. Etsy provides the venue and some useful advice and tools, but the seller has to do the work.
New sellers also need to understand that what they make may have to compete with hundreds or thousands – maybe even hundreds of thousands – of other shops with similar items. It doesn’t mean they won’t be successful, just that they may have to work harder at getting found in the vast sea of listings. Again, being willing to work at promoting.
When you’re not working, what do you like to do to unwind and have fun? Do you have any hobbies?
I love to read, especially mysteries. I also enjoy doing embroidery and counted cross stitch, and making little felt toys for my granddaughter. I confess I’m kind of obsessed with her! In fact, those felt toys have inspired me to open a second shop with my daughter called Tilly’s Toy Box (http://www.tillystoys.etsy.com). We don’t have anything listed yet, but hopefully sometime this summer.
What is your favorite quote?
I have two:
Right is still right even if no one else is doing it. Wrong is still wrong even if everyone else is doing it.
What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.
Where can people find out more about your business?
I tell about my shop at my Etsy About page: GraceNotesbyCindy
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I appreciate the CIJ team leaders reaching out to me. Thank you!
If you would like to be featured, please go to the CIJ Etsy Forum and fill out the questionnaire. Please note you must be a member of the CIJ Etsy team to be featured.