Do you have a skill that you'd love to teach to others? Or maybe you just love connecting brilliant women in business with each other and with new customers. In addition to selling handmade purses, Angie Gordon does both of these things. She teaches classes locally on how to open and grow an Etsy shop, and she created the Handmade Chic Artist's Fair – a twice-annual event for handmade sellers to showcase and sell their items.
Plus, I have to say, this conversation was one of the quirkiest and most fun we've had yet! You'll have to press play below to see what I mean!
On the Podcast
01:19 – The Road Less Patterned
04:06 – Encouragement for New Etsy Sellers
07:14 – Coffee + Etsy = Perfection!
10:23 – Advertising + Pricing
14:24 – Is Teaching a Business Strategy?
20:26 – Expert Enough
22:08 – Handmade Chic
26:44 – Craft Show Fees
28:44 – Craft Show Advertising
32:38 -Building a Reputation
38:17 – How many hours (& cups of coffee!) does it take?
48:44 – The grossest of gross story
Press Play on the Podcast Player Below to Hear Angie's Story
The Road Less Patterned
Angie got her start making purses quite a few years ago. She and a friend decided they wanted to make themselves bag. They found a pattern and tried their hand at sewing.
Angie quickly discovered that she hates using patterns! From the lingo to the little pieces to cut out and match together, Angie finds the process tedious and strange. So, she designs her purses in her head and comes up with a process all her own.
As Angie started wearing her bags, friends at school and church would ask for one. The business started to grow and spread organically, and all of a sudden, people she didn't know were asking for her bags.
At the request of a friend, Angie began doing home parties in people's houses, and her business continued to grow.
And once again, it was a friend who introduced Angie to Etsy! She started selling there in 2010.
Encouragement for New Etsy Sellers
Angie helps many brand new Etsy sellers get their shops off the ground with her classes, and one of the biggest misconception about selling online that she sees is that people assume if they simply put their work out there, people will come.
Selling online simply doesn't work that easily. You have to spend a lot of time and work hard to get found and get sales. And you need a lot of patience too!
The hardest part of selling on Etsy is getting noticed initially and getting your first few sales. But if you take a few minutes away from making your craft and figure out how to take great pictures, work on your listings to come up with the best tags and titles, and get your name out into the world with some marketing strategies, you'll start to see results.
“Don't give up!” Angie says. She's in several Facebook groups for handmade sellers, and she sees so many of them get discouraged really quickly. Angie didn't grow her business overnight – it took several years to get a steady stream of sales.
Coffee + Etsy = Perfection!
A few years ago, Angie started teaching workshops on how to get started selling on Etsy. Once again, the people found Angie! Friends and family would send emails and Facebook messages asking if she could help them get their shop started. But Angie didn't have an hour to spend with each person who asked.
A friend suggested that Angie gather a whole group of newbies and teach classes on Etsy. She found a coffee shop that let her use a room and a projector for free!
Lessons Learned from Teaching
Angie's first workshop was 2.5 hours long, very comprehensive, and when she finished, she saw nothing but deer in headlights!
She made sure the next class was smaller, and they started at the very beginning of opening their shops. writing their policies, creating an about page, and figuring our shipping. The women there literally brought out their laptops or ipads and got to work on their shops while Angie circulated around the room to help. Angie answered questions as they came up, and everyone left feeling equipped to open their first Etsy shop!
After that, Angie hosted a class on product photography, then branding, and she continues to bring on other experts to provide advice on various topics.
Advertising + Pricing
Angie started a Sheboygen, Wisconsin Etsy Sellers Facebook group, so she posts to the group when she's hosting a class. This alone, has been enough for Angie to fill her classes!
Angie charges just $20 per person for each class. She wants to keep it affordable for brand new sellers, but the small amount of money she makes helps to compensate her for her time.
Angie says that she spends the better part of a Thursday before class immersing herself in the topic she's teaching on, and putting together folders full of printed materials that everyone can take home. (Angie's so nice she even buys the ladies a cup of coffee for the class!)
Is Teaching a Business Strategy?
We were curious about whether teaching classes is something Angie views as part of her business, or just something she does to be generous to new sellers.
Angie considers her classes a hobby with benefits! She absolutely loves teaching, and she gets so excited when she has a class scheduled, but the small income she makes from classes is definitely not the meat and potatoes of her business.
For any women out there who may be considering starting their own classes, you should know that there are other ways you could do them. Angie chooses to make hers informal, but you could get in touch with your local Chamber of Commerce, or you could suggest that you teach a class to your local Community or Public College!
Many cities have a parks and rec department that offers classes for adults too.
You don't have to teach about business – you could teach about your craft or hobby. You could even host a one-day conference on your field of expertise!
It's easy to get excited about the idea of teaching others, but quickly count ourselves out because we don't think we're expert enough to do it. Sarah and I say “you're expert enough!”
There is always someone a few steps behind you that you can teach. And Angie admits that she still doesn't know everything, but she teaches what she does know. And some of the things she teaches took her years to figure out! She loves passing along what she's learned and giving someone else a shortcut.
There's also value in learning from someone who's only a few steps ahead versus five thousand steps. That person who is miles in front of you may not remember what it was like at the starting line. They tend to gloss over the beginning and simplify the process of getting started. The person just a few steps ahead well remembers what it was like, and all the exact steps she took to get where she is today.
Angie saw an illustration the other day that serves as encouragement: There's a guy running really slow, but he says, “I'm lapping everybody on the couch.”
Angie seems to have a trend of jumping into something fun that a friend suggested, and then later turning it into a something big! About 7 years ago Angie did a house party in her home to sell her purses. She hosted the party in November, and this time, she invited a few other maker friends to come and sell too.
The night went so well for the sellers that it became a tradition. After the second year, people started calling Angie and asking if they could be a part of it! 4 years ago, Angie had 14 people sell in her home, and 70 people walking through during a 2-hour timespan!
2 years ago, Angie and her family moved into an older home with a less open floor plan, the November event had 80 visitors who were shoulder to shoulder, so she had to find a bigger place! Angie moved Handmade Chic to the coffee shop where she had been teaching classes.
The coffee shop was so generous – letting Angie and the makers take over the entire shop, and even helping her advertise. She tried Handmade Chic in the summer to test out how it would go in the shop, and then they did it again in November. During the first summer event in the shop, they had 85 come through on a Saturday morning.
Last year, in the 3rd week of November, they had over 200 people come through the coffee shop during a 3-hour window!
Recently, Angie did another summer show at the coffee shop, and this time, she took applications and branded it as Handmade Chic Artist's Fair. It's official! Angie has been very intentional in branding her event as exclusively handmade items.
Handmade Chic has a problem, though, they're outgrowing the coffee shop! It's a good problem to have, and Angie is fervently looking for a bigger space for this year's show.
Craft Show Fees
Angie charges just $35 for a 5 by 5 foot space inside the coffee shop, because they're very limited on space! But outside, a vendor can take a chance on the Wisconsin weather and pay just $20 for unlimited space.
At this point, Angie doesn't take home a paycheck for hosting the craft fair. She uses the money in fees to advertise for the event. But this year, if they find a bigger space they can get more artists involved and have enough money to advertise and pay themselves too! (Or, as Angie says, at least pay her right-hand girl Kim who does a lot of work for the event!)
Craft Show Advertising
When Angie first turned her November open house into an event, she would go on Vistaprint and make post cards. She mailed them out to everyone she knew and handed them out at school and church.
Early on, about 90% of the visitors to the even were people she invited and knew, and then there were a few guests from other vendors.
To this day, people come to the show and thank Angie for sending out a post card! It may be old school, but that physical reminder can make a big difference for a local event. It goes up on the fridge, and people don't forget to come. Angie also orders plenty so that the other makers can hand out postcards as well.
Now that the show is growing, Angie runs Facebook ads too. She shows them to people within a 45-mile radius of Sheboygen, and a few months ago when they welcomed everyone to the show, they discovered that many visitors found out about it on Facebook!
Welcoming guests to the event and offering a door prize serves another function too – they're able to get email addresses so they can let all the attendees know about the event for next year.
Angie's local radio station advertises community events for free. They'll read them on air for a week or two leading up to an event. In addition, Angie hires someone to write an article about the event, and it gets published in local newspapers. Once again – free advertising for the fair!
Building a Reputation
Because Angie has been very intentional in her branding of her craft show, she's building a good reputation that will help Handmade Chic grow from year to year.
Friends love to tell others about which craft shows are great (and which ones stink!) Angie realized early on that visitors were coming just for the handmade items, and those with home party businesses didn't sell well. So she decided to make the show juried and only accept the right handmade sellers.
Angie's recommendation for a juried show: Hire yourself a “Kim”! There's nothing more difficult than having to turn down friends and family who want to sell at your show. But if you leave the decision to someone else, you can tell your loved ones that it's out of your hands. 🙂
How many hours (& cups of coffee!) does it take?
We were curious about the number of hours it takes to plan and put on a craft show.
Angie didn't have a number. She just had one word: INSANE. Between her June and November shows, Angie only has about 6 weeks of down time before she's planning again!
On the list:
- picking a theme and colors
- designing the postcards
- creating the applications
- receiving and deciding on applicants
- updating the website
- communicating with the artists
- advertising the event
- setting up the day before
- being the first one there and the last one to leave
Angie says when she's not physically working on the craft show, she's thinking about it, but it's something she really looks forward to.
The grossest of gross story
Angie described her funny mom moment in just that way! We'll leave it at that – you'll have to tune in to hear the crazy thing Angie's girls did when they were little. And shhh don't you dare tell them she shared this story on the podcast!