Colleen Johnson started her Etsy shop 2 Sisters Handcrafted in 2011, with the hope of supplementing her income to support her family through challenging times. Based out of Barrie, Ontario, Colleen has since honed her craft and tapped into a blossoming market for personalized jewelry and accessories—all while keeping her family front and center. From innovative product development to features in Academy Award gift bags and on hit television shows, 2 Sisters Handcrafted has undeniably found roots of its own as a small business.
Read on for Colleen’s tips on launching your own business, maintaining work-life balance and making the most of your precious time.
Can you tell us a bit about your business, and what inspired you to sell online?
2 Sisters Handcrafted is named after my two girls, Taya and Ainsley. My girls are my inspiration for everything, they keep me motivated to push forward and grow my business. My oldest daughter had a serious illness that had her spend a couple of months at the Toronto Sick Kids Hospital. My husband had to stay home from work to care for our youngest while I stayed at the hospital with my oldest. After she was well, I looked for ways to help supplement our family’s income to accommodate for those months off and the expenses we’d accumulated.
I provided childcare from my home while I thought about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. That Christmas, I purchased two pieces of personalized jewelry for my mom and mother-in-law. I had wanted one, but didn’t want to spend the money on myself. Having been creative all my life, I decided I would like to try making hand stamped jewelry and spent nine months taking courses, reading, learning and researching. I read everything I could about Etsy, including Etsy Success newsletters and educational blog posts on the Seller Handbook. During that time I made pieces for myself, and my family and friends. Nine months after I started learning, I listed my first piece and 2 Sisters Handcrafted was born.
What is your favourite thing about selling on Etsy?
Etsy has such a sense of community, there is really nothing like it. You can join Etsy Teams to meet people in your field or local area to learn and share experiences with. They have information on everything: learning how to list your pieces, photography, SEO, packaging, product descriptions, marketing and beyond.
It’s also how much you want to put into it. I’m still learning all the time and finding ways to improve. I know moms who use Etsy as an online platform to provide customers information about their company, and others who have brick and mortar shops but want an online presence. Some want to work on their shops as a place to sell their crafty talents, and many like me who have been able to develop full-time business.
How do you juggle being an Etsy seller with being a mom?
The joy of selling on Etsy is that I can make my own hours, for the most part. My husband works in shifts, so when he’s gone in the afternoon I can put my girls to bed and then work for a few hours. I can attend school concerts and daytime events. I take them to school in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon; and I can spend the whole day in between as a business woman and artist.
Some work does have to get done when they are around, but I’m able to save the computer work for those times so I can at least be with them. I love the ability to work my schedule around being with them first. It can be hard separating family time from business time, but I’ve learned that no matter how hard I try to be caught up on work, there will always be something else to do. I just have to choose to stop, walk away from the computer or studio, and be with my family.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up early to make my lunch for my girls, and answer overnight emails before they wake up. The next hour or so is about getting them ready and off to school. After I drop them off I’m in work mode; I finish emails and I’m hit the studio until it’s time to pick the girls up from school. I stop at the post office with my packages to be shipped out and then grab Taya and Ainsley.
Once my mommy hat’s back on, it’s all about emptying backpacks, making snacks and working on homework. I’ll sit with them for a bit and answer daytime messages, follow up on custom orders and supply orders. Then it’s dinner and family time. After I put my girls to bed I can finish up my computer work in front of the TV. If my husband is working, I’ll go back down for more studio time. Having my studio in my home’s basement can be both a blessing and a problem for a mild workaholic.
Would you recommend selling on Etsy to other moms?
Yes, of course! Where else can you be creative, make money by doing the things you love and
still be there for your children? I can make my family my priority and still be a successful business woman and creator. I can show my girls they can do what they love and make a living if they’re willing to work hard.
What are your top 5 tips for finding success on Etsy?
- Take the time to research and learn about Etsy before jumping in. Do you know about the importance of photography, SEO, policies, shipping costs, etc.?
- Get out of it what you put into it. It’s not likely you will be able to post a listing, walk away from it hoping for the best and be successful. You will have to drive your sales, find your customers and put the work in yourself.
- Answer your customers as quickly as possible. Let’s face it, you likely won’t be the only person offering a product like the one that you do. Your product may be unique in one way or another, but someone is likely offering something similar. Don’t give your customers the time to become impatient waiting for your response and go find that other someone.
- Keep your customers informed. Because my products are personalized they are made to order, which means production times can fluctuate. Customers don’t always read policies or shop announcements before they order. When I send a thank-you message for a purchase, I also let the customer know when they can expect their piece to arrive. It’s an extra step, but I find my customers are much happier with their products and service when they know exactly what to expect.
- Give them a reason to come back! Your product may be fabulous enough on it’s own for them to return and it should be, but was it enough to make them remember you six months from now when they need a gift? Make something about the process outstanding. That can be the communication, personal touches, extra special packaging, thank-you coupons to encourage them to return or any combination of the above. Maybe it’s something else entirely, but think about all the online purchases you’ve made that were memorable, and why they stuck.
Feel inspired by Colleen, but need help?
Imagine having the chance to follow your entrepreneurial impulses without risking your savings account. Our friends at Etsy have offered to help SavvyMom readers get motivated this January and February to do what they’ve always wanted. Learn from the Etsy experts of handmade and vintage business in a 4-week program designed to help you ramp up a creative business and find customers online.
Many Etsy sellers are Moms just like you.
You can open a shop on Etsy.com—the online marketplace for handmade and vintage products—and sell what you make or collect to millions of people around the world.
Get 20 free listings when you open your first Etsy shop. After that, it costs only $.20 to list an item for
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Colleen has been selling her personalized hand-stamped jewelry on Etsy since 2011 and has made over 2,600 sales. Pictured above with her daughters Taya & Ainsley. Photo by Colleen’s husband Scott.