How to Grow from Etsy Shop to Wholesaler from Your Home Office
Welcome to the fantastic world of Marci Cheary, founder of stationery and curiosities company Little Ideas Studio! We recently got the chance to pick Marci’s brain about what it takes to move your craft brand from Etsy shop to wholesale manufacturing… all from a studio in your apartment. We’ll let her take it from here.
Tell us a bit about Little Ideas Studio
I can honestly say that my company’s story starts back when I was a little girl. I was always creating something. Always drawing something. Most of the time that something was Disney cartoons. That fantastical world Disney created for me has never left and has influenced me throughout my life. So in 2013, born out of love for the magical imagination of children, I started Little Ideas Studio.
It began primarily as a children’s birthday invitation company focusing on characters like mermaids, princesses, and dinosaurs. Little Ideas Studio started to evolve into a unique world that many children loved being a part of. Responding to my customer’s requests, I expanded my collection to include adult greeting cards and mini note card sets.
Testing the market before jumping in
My company has really grown since I first started it three years ago. At first I sold my cards directly to the consumer through Etsy, pop up consignment shops, and craft fairs. This was an exciting and nerve racking time. I knew I wanted to go wholesale and really grow my company, but I needed to see if my cards were going to sell first. I needed to know if I had a sellable product before deciding whether to go wholesale.
My cards sold, and I was thrilled! Now I needed to find a manufacturer. A printer, in my case.
Working out the manufacturing kinks
Wholesale is a different ballgame compared to smaller retail. Stores don’t order just one card. I was printing, cutting and scoring my cards all from home when I sold retail, but now I had to be prepared to outsource this step in order to keep up with the demand.
I researched carefully. I had a couple requirements: to use someone local so I could easily work with them, and to find someone that had low minimums. I didn’t want to invest too much in production at first.
The biggest challenge was how many cards to order and how often. I didn’t want to run out of stock or even have too much. I figured out the buying times of the stationery industry (usually the time of trade shows) and only placed my orders then.
Organizing yourself and finding the right stockists
Once I had a printer lined up, I needed to start selling. I started off slow, something I highly recommend to brand owners new to this sort of thing. It really helped me learn the industry and quickly fix any mistakes I made along the way.
I invested in a few things to help me stay organized and make my business look more professional. I opened up a UPS account, bought shipping supplies, registered with Quickbooks, and applied to Etsy Wholesale.
Etsy Wholesale has been wonderful! This section of their website allows you to organize your products into a line sheet which you then can share with stores you want to work with. There are a lot of e-catalog options out there now too – a good alternative if you don’t sell on Etsy Wholesale.
I then sent out press releases with my line sheet attached and slowly started to introduce my brand to the market. I only reached out to a couple local stores at first and the orders came rolling in! I knew I was onto something. Over time, I started feeling comfortable and more confident in the wholesale world.
Growing your business through the wholesale market
From that point I decided to go big and leap into my first trade show. This step changed my company from a hobby to a business. I could now reach a wider audience, which meant more possible orders. But let’s back up: I attended a few trade shows first to see how it is done. I took a lot of notes!
When I felt I understood the market, I attended The National Stationery Show as an exhibitor. They had a training course you can take to learn the ins and outs. I also felt just being and exhibiting there taught me more about my industry then I have ever experienced before.
Wholesale changes everything! And for the better…
My day to day work life has changed dramatically. I have to work on a schedule otherwise things won’t get done. I really have to plan my week out. I also take care of my twin girls full time so I have to make sure all my work is done before school lets out. Nothing gets done once they are home! Working out of my apartment studio alone can be quite challenging… it feels very lonely at times. Putting on Top 40 tunes helps with that!
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