From My Bedroom (How I grew my Etsy business into a Physical Storefront)
It started out like most craft-type businesses do. I had a need, I couldn't find anything for my need, and thus a business is born.
That is the quick version. The long story is that in February 2016 I was about to get married in June, a destination wedding, and wanted to gift our guests with a cute little bag for the flight. I thought it would get them excited about the trip and help with little things like an eye mask, travel checklist, snacks, etc. I have to mention that in the back of my mind I already was looking to create a business. I wanted to quit my job before leaving for our wedding. We were going to be gone for about a month and I knew a new job wouldn't really be okay with this so soon and I always wanted to grow a business.
I had been creating small creative businesses since high school. One of my first was a pet sitting gig, then I went on to create clothing with my sewing skills, friends and family then started to ask me to design things for them with my design experience, so I started to do graphic design (still something I do freelance). I started doing social media consulting and basic web design. I tried to manage a band. I started a partnership blog, then dabbled in photography and then I honed into my feminism and co-created a feminist driven brand. Oh! I also started a vintage clothing shop. No one could say I didn't try. I tried, but nothing stuck. I think back a realize some of those things could have really gotten far, but life happened and time passed plus interest or markets stagnated.
So here was the perfect storm: I needed a new job, preferably something from home, with flexible hours and I would be able to leave for a month and continue once I came back. In the midst of wedding planning, I looked around for these treat bags/favor bags I could give to our wedding guests. I couldn't find a unisex type with great design. With about 3 months left before our wedding, I decided to make some, place them on Etsy and see what happened. I maybe had about 10 listings and had our first order within a day (Thank you, first customer, Jessica!). I remember that feeling, being at my 9-5 and seeing a notification on my phone saying something like "Congratulation on your first order". It was that first feeling that this could actually work. Then I went to work. Hard. I had a deadline. I had to get things going before I left for the wedding so when I came back I could hop right back into it. Those 3 months are a blur. I worked my 9-5 then went home then worked on orders till 1 or 2 in the morning, rinse and repeat. Finally, I gave my notice with a month left before the wedding. That last month I pushed out favor bag orders day and night. It was stressful. I created a small desk space in my bedroom and slowly bought supplies as orders came in. Everything was handmade and I demand continued to increase. It was everything I wanted.
I finally placed my shop on "vacation" (the first and last time I have done that), finished up the last of my orders and flew to Greece to marry my best friend. It was perfect.
I came back and slowly grew my shop. Added more listings, tried to focus on good photography, and one day I realized I didn't have that work-life balance anymore. Two years in all my supplies, work and orders were all over our apartment. I could never escape the infinite workload and kept telling myself "I'd rather save the money and keep it then hire someone". I did have some help off and on when there were way more orders than I could actually fulfill, but there wasn't a set schedule and I went with the "I'd rather fill the order and save the money than always have someone here" (pro tip: Don't do that). Finally, in January of this year (2019) I had grown enough it was finally time to find a consistent team member. I bit the bullet and then I quickly added another along with moving into our own creative studio in Downtown Los Angeles. These two people in the shop are the serious reason why we grew 40% more this year. Letting go and giving them the rains to fulfill orders and tend to daily tasks gave me the freedom to think bigger, start making plans, and actually dive into projects that would contribute to more growth.
We were already growing out of our studio and I was looking for space sometime in July and stumbled upon an ad for shared retail space. Personally, I love being able to make small incremental moves, so for someone to offer half their space for retail felt like a great next to move towards having our own retail one day. Try it out, ya know? Worked out a deal and then took some space at a retail shop in Highland Park, Los Angeles.
This is where it got interesting. I guess even with our share, the other business was not working very well and they needed to close shop just a few months after we moved in. They asked if I wanted to take over the full shop and I was about to choke. I never in my wildest dreams thought that would be happening so soon. I thought I was just doing a trial run for a little while to get up the courage to actually take on a full shop. Life isn't black and white and the answer wasn't easy. Sure, I'd love to take on the full shop, but could I? I negotiated a deal and realized things were going to work but it was going to be really tight for a couple of months as we tried to grow more, especially now as a local party supply shop.
We are still in the thick of it, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was a little bit of everything: luck, passion, drive, work ethic. All of it together brought me to where I am now. An owner of a little shop called Party Art Community. We focus on party supplies, small gifts and bringing affordable workshops to the local community. It's pretty dope to look back and realize how far I've come.