Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Q&A with JA, Part 2: The Business

Today in Part 2 of my Q&A series I'm going to focus on the Business-related questions you guys asked. If you missed Part 1 of this series you can find it here.
What made you decide to open an etsy shop and start a business? Did you do it as a hobby or did you have intentions of it turning into a job-job?

I opened my shop in 2008 for fun. My friend told me about Etsy and it sparked my interest. I had always been a creative person but had never seriously thought about selling something that I made. Something made me decide to start out with paintings. (I’m not sure why, since it’s definitely not my best skill.) I remember picking up a ton of paints and canvases and spent a whole weekend, cooped up in my room, making painting after painting.

I remember my first sale. I remember where I was, and the excitement and disbelief that I felt. I became addicted. I was in the Etsy forums constantly. I was doing Saturday Night Sales every weekend (anybody remember those?). I was waiting for that magic number to hit so the treasury would “open” and I could snag one (anyone remember that??!).

Etsy was not the huge, successful, inspiring site it is today, and although I was trying my best, I definitely had plenty of room for improvement. I cringe thinking of my first product photos but it’s still good to think of how much I have grown along the way.

Years passed, my shop evolving along the way. Sales grew slowly and my shop continued to just be something fun I did on the side. Between 2011 and 2012 something changed. I started this blog. I started creating stronger relationships with customers and online friends. Most importantly though, I really started to come into my own with JAA. I developed my branding and it became very evident what my product and style was. All of these things combined set 2012 off to an amazing start and it was then that I started thinking of JAA as a full-time possibility.

For every card design that makes it into your shop, how many ideas get nixed?

Tough question! I can’t really say a specific number, but a lot of ideas do get taken off the table.

I start out just jotting down ideas, anything that comes to mind, regarding the occasion that I’m focusing on. Sometimes I will have an idea down, beginning to end, easy. Other times there’s the start of an idea but it needs to be developed into more if it’s going to make it into my shop.

Brainstorming is definitely the most intensive part of my creative process. I take it very seriously, in order to stay true to what I want in JAA. I want my cards to be relate-able, but original. I want them to be funny, but not snarky. If I can't develop the beginning idea with the right balance of everything I'm looking for, I move on. I'm pretty critical about it but that is how I have been able to develop the line I have today.

You've really built a community of creatives who interact with your posts, especially in the comments section. At what point in two years did you see that interaction pick up?

Another tough one! The beginning months of writing this blog are a blur for me. I don’t really remember when things started to pick up so I’ll give you an idea of what I did to get to this point.

I used to promote the crap out of every post. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, StumbleUpon. I’d submit craft posts to craft sites, recipe posts to recipe sites. I recently realized I don’t do that as actively anymore. I think that’s because I feel like I have a good group of readers here that I believe in and believe in me. My blog has become a lot less about getting views and more about sharing myself with you guys.
How do you sell yourself to achieve wholesale orders? How do you approach them and present your work?

I have been contacted by stores on Etsy, requesting wholesale information. I have also reached out to stores by e-mail. The e-mails I send are short and sweet. Sometimes they get me a new wholesale account, and sometimes they don't. I really think that all you can do is put yourself out there. You have nothing to lose.

Some day I hope to participate in trade shows that are aimed at wholesale buyers. I'd also like to get JAA representatives in other states. But, those are big dreams for the future.

Where do you get your inspiration from


As far as inspiration for designing cards.....since they are given from person to person, they actually can be a really personal thing. So I like to focus on the personal relationships I have, and the relationships I see around me. I draw inspiration from emotions, jokes, life.

Staying inspired in general is something that I rarely lose my step in. There's just so many amazing shops, artists, stories...there's so many "little people" just like me who are doing big things with their small businesses. All I really have to do is catch up on blog reading or check my Instagram feed for a kick in the ass to get to work. The handmade community is so incredible, you really don't have to look hard to get an extra surge of inspiration.

Next up, I'll be addressing questions regarding Self Employment! In the meantime, don't forget to enter to win some sweet wall decals from Wallums over here!


  1. Thanks for sharing! I'm at the very very beginning of starting my handmade shop and sometimes it's hard to accept that hard work doesn't immediately bring success...you just have to have patience and wait for everything to grow!

  2. I remember waiting for the treasuries to open up. I think I managed to snag one - and I was so thrilled. Haha! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love reading about how handmade businesses got started. Actually, I love handmade business talk in general. The more I read, the more inspiration I have to grow my own beyond what it is today.

    Can't wait to hear about self-employment!

  4. Thanks for sharing, it's fun to hear about the behind-the-scenes stuff of other creative businesses!

  5. Anonymous3:16 PM

    Your tips/answers are really great.
    Make us feel positive with our beginner small creative business too.
    It really looks like made with love.
    The tip about the contact with other shops is amazing.
    Is interesting how internet make us feel embarassing with these questions but the true is that this or that seller answers only if he wants.
    Congratulations and thanks for sharing.

  6. I love these posts! It is helpful to read about what other people have done to get where they are. I am still stuck and the start line (a few feet back from it actually...lol) but when I have time I pick away at things. Your blog is my favourite of the business-y blogs I read, you are very helpful and open about your experience and I appreciate it. And I love following your story! It's funny reading posts where you mention that such-and-such time ago you did this and I think 'wow, I remember reading about that!' lol. It's not often I stick with a blog so long.
    I also ramble far more on your blog than I post on mine...I think I need to do something about that...lol ;)


Thanks for the comment! I read them all and reply when I can. Please be sure your blogger account is linked to your e-mail so I can do so! (Tutorial on how to do that here: http://tinyurl.com/c6gh9fk) xo JA