Friday, April 23, 2010

Interview with a TeamSASsy Mentor: KreatedbyKarina

Interview by, adapted from a post on
The Etsy Business Tips Blog

Karina of KreatedbyKarina is a seller of luscious bath and beauty products with over 1900 sales on etsy. She kindly agreed to do an interview to share her perspective on achieving success on and off etsy.

How did you get started making bath and beauty products and what did you do before you started selling on etsy?
During a trip to England I came across a local soap-making class and took it on a whim..I immediately fell in love. Short, but sweet. Before I found Etsy, I was living in Toronto, Canada where I'm originally from and started selling my own bath and body products on the side at craftshows while maintaining a fulltime job as a caterer. I discovered Etsy in 2006 after I'd moved to the US, set up shop and haven't looked back since.

chocolate coffee handmade soapChocolate Espresso Shea Butter Vegan Soap

How much of your business is conducted through etsy?

Etsy is the only venue I can be found online. It's a large part of my business but much of my income is through craftshows (roughly I do about 2 shows a week during the busy season), wholesale accounts and private soap home shows. Last year I started doing Virtual Soap Shows held through my Etsy shop (it's like a soap party, but held online). What's wonderful is that Etsy has introduced us to doing wholesale as retailors contacted us through them.

coconut shea butter handmade soapCoconut Cream Shea Butter Vegan Soap

As someone who has been able to ‘quit your day job’, what is the main advice you would give to someone wishing to go full time with their business?
Develop a business plan. You can find free templates as well as a LOT of support through . Your business plan will cover your ideals and goals for your business, budgeting, marketing plans, fiscal projections for several years ahead, start up costs, etc. After you've done this, if you're wondering if it's possible to survive on your craft income alone, a good idea is to bank your regular job paychecks for a period of one year, and live off of what you make with your sales. This will give you a good idea on how much money is coming into the household versus what's going out, and if you can still live within your means.

handmade soap subscriptionHandmade Soap of the Month Subscription

Do you have any tips for sellers wishing to pursue the wholesale angle?
You may want to tag your items with the word "wholesale" I've said before, all of my wholesale buyers discovered me through Etsy---so retailors ARE searching on the site. You can also approach wholesale buyers yourself, by determining which stores "fit" the type of items you offer and then calling ahead to set up an appointment with the store's merchandise buyer. Don't just walk in and expect them to drop everything to look at your stuff, no matter how cool and wonderful they are. They won't have the time, and you'll leave feeling frustrated that you never had their complete attention and excitement over your items. Making an appointment is beneficial to both of you. Also, before diving into wholesale, be certain that you can afford to. If you're buying your supplies at retail cost, there's no way you're going to be able to make any sort of profit after lowering your cost per item to entice wholesale buyers. Remember, they will traditionally expect about 40-50% off the final cost. Source out wholesale suppliers for your materials, and buy in bulk when you can to lower your own costs.

ginger orange whipped soapCandied Ginger and Orange Peel Body Souffle Whipped Soap

Can you share your top tips for online promotion and how much importance would you place on this aspect?

I don't do a lot of online promotion---and in fact I'd say that most of it can be a waste of time, resources and energy. While it's great to join networking groups and participate in several crafting forums, mostly it's made up of other sellers--some of whom are your direct competition. Instead, I focus on offline promotions---doing plenty of craftshows, handing out business cards, and participating in sampler distribution companies (where you send in 50-100+ samples of your work and they sell them to interested parties). These things work the best for me. I recently put up a fanpage and have gotten a lot of hits from that. Also, try to be featured in as many blogs or print magazines as you can---you can email the blog owner and ask them about their requirements for being featured.

Is there anything you would do differently with the benefit of hindsight?

I would have started a Newsletter much, much earlier than I did. I used to write in a blog, and it got frustrating because I never had any idea if people were even READING it can be time-consuming to have to write in it everyday to keep it looking fresh. A newsletter is better, in my opinion, because you're already sending it to people who have expressed an interest in what you do and want to learn more about you. A good place to set up a free Newsletter is which allows you to maintain a list of 500 subscribers for free, and offers some statistics on who's opened and read your mailing updates.

handmade coffee shea butter lip balmMocha Java Shea Butter Lip Balm

Can you tell us something surprising about the lady behind the soaps?
I love doing everything I can by hand. All of my invoices are hand-written instead of printed out, all of my product labels are printed at home, handcut and then either hand-stamped or hand-colored (you wouldn't believe how much money this saves in colored printer ink yearly!!) it a lot of work? Definately. Surprisingly, it's also therapeutic in a way...I prepare several hundred labels every few months so that they are done ahead of time and I think it adds to the aspect of my business being "handmade". It's not uncommon to see me sitting behind my booth at a show with my clipboard, coloring away inbetween customers! It's a good conversation-starter too. :)