Have you ever considered being a vendor with a deal site as a way to expand your business? If we're being perfectly honest, Sarah and I had never considered the idea! We wrongly assumed that deal sites were only for larger companies or manufactured items. After talking with Amy Gabriel of Gabriel’s Good Tidings, we discovered that many small, handmade businesses sell on deal sites as well.
For Amy, they’ve made the difference between supporting her husband through grad school versus struggling to get by. They’ve put food on the table for her family, and helped her husband to accomplish his goals. After listening today, maybe you’ll discover that deal sites would be a great fit for your business too.
Psssst! Amy was not only generous with her time and great advice, she's sharing a generous deal with all of our Brilliant Business Moms listeners! Grab 50% off in Amy's shop by using the coupon code BrilliantBizMom. Now through December 31, 2014. How sweet is that?! Thanks, Amy!
(This post contains affiliate links. Thanks!)
On the Podcast
01:54 – How Amy Got her Start
05:58 – Daily Deal Sites: 2 Factors to Consider
09:22 – Developing Relationships
12:06 – Quantity – How Much is Too Much?
13:30 – Making a Profit
14:56 – On Productivity
20:58 – Her other Half
25:26 – Jane.com Insider Info
30:13 – Details on Inventory
31:24 – How Making Friends can Grow your Business
35:55 – Using a Giveaway to Gain Subscribers
38:01 – What to Include in Your Newsletter
40:56 – Business Advice + Books
44:07 – How She Does It
46:46 – Amy’s Funny Mom Moment
How Amy Got her Start
Amy has had a sewing machine for as long as she can remember. Her mother and grandmother worked with her as a teenager to teach her the basics. She helped her grandmother sew her prom dress, and in college she sewed curtains and pillows. Sewing is something Amy has enjoyed as a hobby for years.
In 2012, Amy’s husband, Mallory, wanted to go back to school for a master’s degree. He and Amy both knew that for this to be possible, Amy would have to provide most of the family’s income. Amy and Mallory have two children, ages 5 and 7 years old.
For quite a while, Amy worked outside the home and had her Etsy shop on the side. After experiencing the 2012 Holiday Season on Etsy, and then learning about deal sites through a friend, Amy’s business really took off.
Daily deal sites became the bread and butter for her business, because she was able to get her products in front of a much larger audience, and sell large quantities at one time. Now, Amy’s business provides at least 75% of their family’s income.
Daily Deal Sites: 2 Factors to Consider
Amy notes two important factors to consider before signing up with a particular deal site.
1. How streamlined is their process for working with vendors?
Jane.com recently set up a vendor portal, which makes it easy to submit your product photos, bullet point the item’s details, lay out quantities and pricing, and then hear back yes or no. If a deal site isn’t organized or streamlined, you’ll spend much more time sending emails back and forth.
2. How much traffic does the site get?
There are many daily deal sites out there. You want your product to get in front of the most people at one time, because you’ll get a bigger return on your investment for all the time you spent taking photos, refining the contract, etc. Check out the site’s social media presence and connect with other vendors to discern their sell-through rates.
Sarah and I were curious about the process of “getting in” with a deal site. Is it difficult? What’s involved?
Amy confessed that for her, getting in was easy and she believes this is because her product, lip balm holders, had not been featured on any deal sites before, and deal sites weren’t quite as big when she started 18 months ago.
Amy offers these points for getting started:
- Keep in mind that your information is going to a real person, not a computer system. Be personable. Introduce yourself.
- If you have a mutual contact who sells with that site, let them know.
- Give them as many details about your product and pricing as possible up front. This makes it much easier for them to say yes versus them spending more time trying to get more information from you. For example, let them know what price you can offer for the deal, and what percentage off your retail price this would be.
- Include what quantity you can offer. (Jane.com has minimum quantities of 50 for handmade items and 100 for manufactured items.)
- Once you’re accepted for a deal, it’s fairly easy to keep re-booking and simply hone your price point and quantities.
Quantity: How Much is Too Much
Jane.com is always open to higher quantities from their vendors, so that’s the good news. However, Amy recommends starting small at first. Get your feet wet, figure out shipping and tracking first, and then book a larger deal when you sell out.
FYI, Amy’s biggest sale was 630 lip balm holders in November of 2013. (Wow! That’s a lot of sewing and shipping to do!)
Making a Profit
With a smaller ticket item such as a lip balm holder, Sarah and I were curious about making a profit. Amy accomplishes this by buying her supplies at wholesale cost since she sells hundreds of items at a time. She can purchase supplies by the thousands and maintain a healthy profit margin.
How does Amy manage to sew 600 lip balm holders at a time?! She offers several tips and tricks.
- Jane.com allows 14 days from the day of your sales to make the items. Amy generally takes advantage of the entire 14-day period.
- She divides her holders by thread color and sews with the same thread color on a given day
- Amy makes a game of sewing by laying out, for example, 2 chevron plus 1 polka dot, and repeating this little pattern over and over to help her change things up.
- She listens to podcasts, audiobooks, or music while she’s sewing to keep her brain engaged.
- Sometimes she sets a timer on her phone and resolves to sew for 30 minutes straight. She won’t look at her phone or allow any distractions until the timer is up.
- She sets small goals for herself like sewing 30 holders in the next 30 minutes.
- It helps that her product has simple, straight lines. The process can get boring, but she can make the holders very quickly. (Amy’s personal record is about 40 holders in 30 minutes!)
- When Amy receives a massive order, she calculates the total number of sewing hours she’ll need to complete the order. From there, she divides that by 6 (giving herself a day off) so she knows how many hours she needs to spend sewing each day.
Her Other Half
Amy knows one thing for sure: her business wouldn’t be nearly as successful without the help of her husband.
Although he hasn’t learned to sew (and since he’s graduating in December, it probably won’t happen!) but he knows how to cut materials, pin things together, finish the lip balm holders with hooks, and ship items.
Amy says that Mallory blesses her so much, because he’ll be gone all day working at an unpaid internship and then classes at night, then he sits down with her while they talk, watch TV, and finish each lip balm holder together. (They sound like an amazing pair! We love husband and wife teams!)
Jane.com Insider Info
Jane.com takes 25% of the total sales price as their commission. This is much higher than Etsy, but in exchange, your products are seen by thousands more people.
Typically a deal runs for 72 hours at a time, and Jane encourages more sales by playing on the urgency factor.
Amy loves the torrential downpour of selling with Jane.com versus Etsy, which feels more like a slow drip and a continual to-do list.
Details on Inventory
Amy used to pre-make everything before a deal would go live on Jane.com or before listing it in her Etsy shop. As her volume and business grew, that wasn’t possible anymore.
Jane’s policy is that you must have the item in your possession before the deal goes live. Amy always has all of the materials for each item on hand, but usually she’s sewn only 10% of the items, and the rest of her inventory is at different stages of the creation process.
Making Friends & Growing a Business
Early on, Amy reached out to several other sellers on Jane.com and became friends with them. Her circle has become invaluable as a source of advice and new business leads.
They give each other tips on which shipping systems to use, what label printers are best, and so much more.
They tell each other about new subscription box companies and offer new contacts.
When it comes to boxes, some will pay you a wholesale price for your items, whereas others will want the item for free in exchange for advertising. Both can be effective, but in the past Amy’s family needed the income more than the advertising, so she’s only agreed to subscription boxes who pay her for each item.
Through 2 subscription box companies, Amy has gotten two large wholesale orders. Making friends in your industry is not only a great source of encouragement, but it can help your business to grow as well.
Using a Giveaway to Gain Subscribers
Amy hosted a giveaway on MoneySavingMom in August. She offered a coupon code that was good for 7 days and gave her new customers 50% off in her Etsy shop.
However, Amy used a genius strategy to not just encourage immediate sales, but retain longer-term customers. She offered a coupon code for $5 off a $10 purchase for anyone who signed up for her email list. She gained many new subscribers this way, because people wanted a coupon they could hold onto for later.
Amy uses MailChimp for her email service provider (we do too!) and she loves it (same here!). Her coupon code gets sent to each new subscriber in her Welcome email.
What to Include in Your Newsletter
Amy sends a monthly newsletter and generally includes 3 things:
- New products – Amy showcases new products she has or new patterns and designs to encourage new visits and sales
- Discontinued/Clearance Items – Amy incentivizes sales of items that are in limited supply or are on sale
- Something Personal – Amy loves to give her customers a glimpse into her life. For example, she’s done a countdown to her husband’s graduation. There are people who sign up for Amy’s emails just because they like her story and following her family. They want to see what happens next, and they feel more invested in her business.
Business Advice + Books
Amy loves Purple Cow by Seth Godin. She takes his advice when it comes to offering exceptional customer service and appreciating each customer. She wants people to know how much she appreciates each Etsy and Jane sale. Those sales are how her family has survived grad school. “When you appreciate your customers, they will come back,” Amy says.
Her favorite quote comes from Rebecca Smith of Better Life Bags.
“We do not have to be non-profits to make a difference in this world. We can be a for-profit business that does things differently.”
How She Does It
Amy always works at least 10 hours per week, but sometimes, it’s closer to 40. Her work hours fluctuate based on the volume of sales.
Although she doesn’t prefer to sit at her sewing machine on a Saturday while her kids are out playing with their dad, but she views those sales as a huge blessing for her family.
She loves that she’s home all week with her kids, and she gets to be there after school and do many things that she didn’t get to do when she worked at a traditional job.
Amy’s Funny Mom Moment
Amy’s mom moment will crack you up, especially as we all get ready for Christmas!
Stay in Touch with Amy!
What do you think? Will you consider deal sites or subscription boxes as a great way to grow your business? We'd love to hear your thoughts!
~ Beth Anne & Sarah
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