Today I am talking to Pratima Aravabhoomi of Craft Street Design. I just love her inspirational prints and the mission of her business – to share the transformative power of words to spread kindness and love.
Press play on the podcast player below to hear the full interview.
How Craft Street Design Got Started
Pratima started Craft Street Design in 2015. She says, “I had no clue what I was doing. I had three other businesses that didn't go so well prior to that. But when I started Craft Street Design, I took inspiration from my own life.”
Pratima has always used quotes in her life.
“I put them up for inspiration and they help me through the day in more ways than one. At that time, the printable market was not, you know, that large so I had no idea whether the product would sell. And so yeah, I started with a lot of doubts, but I'm glad I did. It was just wonderful.”
Having quotes on display has helped Pratima through some difficult times in her life and I know a lot of us can relate to how seeing a quote can remind us of our purpose and give us encouragement.
“I was absolutely struggling so much. I had come to the country in a very new arranged marriage. I was very young- I was 21. It was absolutely crazy to just move away with a person that I didn't know, and it ended up being not a good fit.
“In the Indian culture arranged marriages are quite common and it had nothing to do with the arranged marriage itself. It’s just that he and I were very different people. It was just a hard time. I had gotten to the point of having to drink during the day just to get out of bed and to feel better. Not my proudest moment, but it was just hard. Getting through the day was hard.
“And at that time, I used to have these inspirational quotes around me. They were gifts from other people and I had them on my fridge and walls. And subconsciously, I think you just read them and they make impressions in your head.
“Eventually I knew I had to end the marriage. And it was just- I think the quotes gave me life. So I just wanted to make sure that I do the same for others. When I thought about what business to start, I thought, okay, that's a great idea. This should help other people as well.”
I love that these are gifts that people had given to Pratima that ended up encouraging and helping her through such a hard time. And now she is giving other people the ability to do that for each other.
It must have been so hard to move to a new country after marrying someone you just met. It’s just such an inspiring story!
Testing Product Viability on DarbySmart
Pratima wasn’t sure if her product would sell when she first started. Her first sales platform was on a marketplace similar to Etsy called DarbySmart. (The company was purchased by Grove Collaborative in 2019 and now has a new business model, FYI).
“I had a bunch of listings, and I tried to sell over there. And that's how I got my first $7 sale. It is not just that it was $7, but it was the fact that somebody wanted it. It's a validation that it's going to work. So then I started doing other things. I had my Instagram following, and I was quite active at that time on social.”
Expanding into Other Markets with In-Person Sales
“From there, I got some inquiries from yoga studios that wanted a couple of prints. And then I realized there's a whole new market that I had never thought about. I was looking to sell to regular people like me, who would buy for their homes while redecorating or something.
“But I found this whole market so I decided to actually go after it. And I started selling specifically to them in person. And that's how I got many of my first few sales.
“I had a list of yoga studios that I would Google in my particular local area. In the beginning, I just would show up at the studio, and ask who the owner was. I would try to call first but I would never get the owner on the phone because they're probably teaching. These are not franchises, the ones that I chose, just single-person studios that are running as classes or services, that type of thing. So I would never get the owner on the call because they're just too busy running classes. So I would just show up and talk to them and show them my samples. And then that's how I ended up selling to them.”
Shifting to Online Sales
The problem with selling in-person, though, is that it is very hard to scale. So Pratima began to focus more on improving her online sales.
“It's just a disaster trying to sell in person all the time so I started thinking more of online and wholesale at that point. I also got a wholesaling inquiry through Instagram as well around that time. So I had my first wholesale sale even before I knew what a line sheet or what any of that was. We sold it to the Disney Store in California at the time which was very exciting. So that was more validation.
“I still wanted to sell directly to consumers too so that's when I started my Etsy shop. About six months after that I also had an Amazon Handmade shop.
“I was making some sales in those online marketplaces but only about two sales per month on my own site. I just didn’t have any traffic to my website.”
This is true for a lot of sellers. The internet is a big place and it’s hard to be found!
Comparing Etsy versus Amazon Handmade Sales Numbers
Interestingly, when compared as annual totals, Pratima finds Etsy and Amazon Handmade to be about the same. But if you break it down quarterly, each has a different high season than the other. Also, different products sell better on one platform versus the other. She has a different type of customer on each marketplace!
“On Amazon Marketplace, I have men also buying and quite a bit of motivational posters sell on Amazon, especially during the months from January to March. For some reason certain campaign types of motivation posters, very harsh ones, are the ones that sell really well on Amazon. I have no idea why. But they also buy larger sizes, and they end up spending more.
“But on Etsy, I find a lot of people want to buy things about slowing down or things that are self-care related. And it's mostly women buying from me there.”
That’s so interesting how the different platforms seem to attract different customers.
Building An Instagram Following
Pratima is not as active on Instagram these days but in the early days of her business, she was trying to grow her following there. She mainly posted nicely-arranged product photos and looked for competitors with a similar aesthetic and a different audience to engage with them and bring attention to her own brand.
She says, “I didn't know where my place was in the market so I was trying like a bunch of different things. And I increased followers doing this.”
As a newer business owner, we often have to try a lot of things like that. I did a ton of things early on that are not necessarily massively scalable, but they really do help you get those first eyeballs on your shop and those first sales.
Using Facebook Ads to Get More Sales
Facebook Ads are not a magic ticket to instant sales. Pratima ran ads for several weeks before getting a sale. She was having trouble finding the right prices and crafting her sales pages to get a good conversion rate.
She says, “It's as you have taught us – it's an ongoing process.”
It really is an on-going process of testing and tweaking. I try to remind people that you might have a couple of campaigns without sales but that doesn't mean that that's how it's going to continue. We try to look at the data and see what it's telling us. Sometimes the data is a little bit confusing and it’s hard to figure out why people aren’t buying. But I love that Pratima kept trying and her persistence paid off!
Pratima says, “After those first few sales, I think I was not scaling very much. I was still very scared. I was doing I think $100 a week or something after that. The conversion rate on the shop is still low but I managed to break even.I was profitable within about five weeks after starting. So it was fantastic.
“My click-through rates are very high. I average between five and 20%. It's very high. My CTR is excellent which is why I'm able to be profitable even though the conversion rate is not that great. If you look at the ROAS over the lifetime of the ads, it's around, I think five point something right now. It's been fantastic. And I've had a great Christmas quarter. It's been really good.”
Now that Pratima has this great click-through rate, she is trying to figure out how to solve her conversion rate problem. Her current average conversion rate is less than 1%. Once customers add a product to the cart, they usually check out. So she is trying to figure out what is stopping people from adding a product to the cart once they have clicked through from the ad.
Testing Different Ad Images and Headlines
In addition to working on her conversion issue, Pratima has also tried different types of images in her ads.
“I've tried different creatives, right? I've tried lifestyle images. I've tried prints without frames and prints with frames. I even added an option to buy frames after a customer asked if it came with a frame in an attempt to improve conversion.
“From an images point of view, the print along with a frame with some lifestyle items around it is the one that works best.
“I also need to find a different background for my prints because right now the prints are on white paper against a white background. I think a different background could help set it off but I haven’t done that yet.”
As far as ad copy goes, Pratima has tested ads with and without headlines and the ads with headlines usually do better.
“I have a bunch of different ones. The very first one that we worked on in the intensive, that's the one that still is working really well. It's called ‘the most thoughtful gift ever.’ Then the second one that's working really well is ‘most heartfelt gift.’”
I have seen that having a headline really helps the picture stand out against the rest of the feed. You don’t want people to just think, “Oh, nice picture” and keep scrolling. You want a headline to call out what it is and draw attention to it.
Despite these problems, Pratima is still doing very well with her ads. Let’s dig into her numbers a bit.
In September, she spent $700 on ads and made only $890 – not a lot, but still a profit.
In October, she spent about $4,000 and made $12,300 – a lot better!
In November, she spent a lot more to take advantage of Black Friday and the holiday season. She spent $23,000 and made $56,000 – wow!
In December, she scaled back on ads because she figured most people were done shopping for the holidays but she still made a lot of sales.
“So, yeah, it's been a really good quarter for me!”
Testing Audiences and Product Combinations
Because Pratima has so many different variations of her main product, she is constantly testing different quotes with different audiences to find the best match. And then once she has added a customer to her list, she has future opportunities to sell other quotes via email offers.
Once you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to just start testing options! And really, there are so many different ways to set up ads – different audiences, lifetime budgets, creative, etc.
Advice to New Business Owners
I asked Pratima what advice she would give to someone else just starting out in a new business.
“Don't give up. I've had so many ups and downs. You know, I've had the business goal of six figures the very first year and I've had the wholesale business side of the business take off, all with zero sales on the website. And then I've had that tank this year. I've had fantastic Facebook ads, and then they have tanked sometimes. So you know, there's lots of ups and downs. Be prepared for it and not give up. I think at the end of the day, that's what matters.”
Connect with Pratima
Bitimerce.com – business coaching website