Today we're chatting with Jescalyn of Love Lila Ann on Etsy. This episode was originally a business brainstorming session that we did on Blab. So please forgive some of the sound issues we had! Overall, though, we had such a great chat with Jescalyn, and what makes her business unique is that she's an expert in her field.
Jescalyn has been a NICU nurse for several years, and she saw the struggles that NICU parents face each day. She wanted to create products that would solve their problems and make them feel more at home in the NICU. While she initially developed a onesie that would work with IV's and other tubing, Jescalyn quickly discovered that it would take a huge order from China or an enormous expense for each product to manufacture her onesies in the states.
Jescalyn switched gears and solved another problem for NICU parents – it's really difficult for them to personalize their baby's space. Jescalyn designed brilliant fitted sheets that serve double duty by working as a changing pad cover, as well as fitting on any of the 3 mattress sizes used in the NICU. She did this by using a cord lock system at the corners of each sheet. How brilliant is that?!
Jescalyn also created a fitted sheet that works on a typical crib mattress as well as a pediatric hospital mattress, and she's working on developmental toys for infants who spend months in the NICU and need more stimulation.
You can watch our complete video hangout below, or scroll to the end of the page for the podcast-style audio version.
What we Love about Jescalyn's Business
- It solves a real problem. There are so many beautiful products and shops to choose from on Etsy, but if you can pair something beautiful with something functional, you've hit gold. So many parents would love to have custom-fitted mattress covers or other products that serve a need while they are in the NICU.
- It's unique. Jescalyn's invention for versatile fitted sheets is so clever!
- It's beautiful. We mentioned this above, but it doesn't hurt that Jescalyn chooses gorgeous fabrics and patterns.
- It has great photos. This is one of the biggest problems we see with new Etsy shops – the photography is distracting, poorly done, and grainy. Jescalyn has beautiful, bright, clean photos. She's off to a great start!
- She's an expert. Jescalyn is an expert in the area her business will serve: NICU babies and their families. She's worked as a NICU nurse for several years, and she sees the problems and struggles these babies and families face day in and day out. Being an expert on a topic is an amazing way to grow your business!
How to Position Yourself as an Expert
- Step 1: Trust in your abilities! Jescalyn had a difficult time thinking of herself as a NICU expert, but she truly is! She's spent years working one-on-one with patients and families. She's honed her craft as a nurse, and even more importantly, she's listened and cared for families. She knows the struggles they face and how best to comfort them and encourage them. Sometimes it takes someone else affirming that you're an expert for you to really believe it and take ownership of it.
- Step 2: Write about your topic any chance that you can! With Jescalyn's background as a NICU nurse, we suggested that she skip ahead a few places in line and submit guest posts to large parenting sites such as Baby Center, Babble, or Parenting. Jescalyn has the expertise to write intelligently on topics that other guest bloggers can't. While some larger sites might require a writing sample, others are so eager for new content that they may not. Jescalyn will never know unless she tries!
- Step 3: Set up an email list with MailChimp. It's free for your first 2,000 subscribers. Customize your own little opt-in form (here's ours, as an example) and share that link everywhere. Jescalyn can use that link in each listing description, on her about page, and every time she guest posts or is featured somewhere.
- Step 4: Create a killer email opt-in. For Jescalyn, this could be a short guide to the NICU for parents, a checklist, a cheat sheet, a list of great resources for them, or perhaps even a guide on how to care for a friend who's just become a NICU parent.
- Step 5: Guest post on Mommy blogs, but with a more general focus there. Jescalyn could write about how to care for your friend whose baby is in the NICU. She could share great gifts or items a friend in that situation might need.
- Step 6: Write a book! Jescalyn initially thought that she'd create a book full of her and other NICU nurses' wisdom and offer that as her email list freebie. We thought she should go bigger! Even a small e-book, if it's full of helpful information, can do well on Amazon. We checked out the current offerings, and there's not much there for NICU parents. Most of the content is geared towards healthcare professionals.
- Step 7: Market yourself on Social Media. Pinterest and Instagram are great visual platforms. On Instagram, Jescalyn can use the right hashtags such as #nicu #nicugrad or #nicubaby, along with connecting with moms-to-be who are in the process of getting their nursery ready. Instagram makes it fairly easy to meet new people and build relationships. Connect with parents in private Facebook groups. Answer questions and lend support and the marketing will happen on its own.
- Step 8: Foster relationships with your email list and your social media followers by staying in touch! Share encouragement. Share quick tips. Be that voice of wisdom and care in the midst of an incredibly stressful situation.
- Step 9: Add more support to NICU families by adding more products. Jescalyn would still like to work on creating onesies that work around the cords and wires in the NICU. She's also working on toys that would promote premature infants' development.
- Step 10: Partner with other business owners and influencers to create an all-in-one package – similar to Freshly Picked's Newborn Bundles. Again, this will serve her audience well, but also establish more authority for her as she expands her reach and builds great partnerships.
- Step 11: Partner with hospitals by creating a great resource guide for NICU parents. It would include many great products that are designed specifically to support NICU babies, and of course, Jescalyn's products would be included.
- Step 12: Keep going! One step at a time. Before you know it, you're the go-to resource for NICU families!
Those are our twelve steps for Growing your Business by Being an Expert. What are yours?
We had some questions from our audience about getting started on Etsy. Here's what we had to say:
- If you are interested in getting started on Etsy, just do it! It is so easy to get set up just get your shop open with whatever you have and then you can tweak it and add things from there. By getting started, you'll figure out which products sell the best, be able to tweak your marketing efforts, and tweak your keywords to get found.
- Focus on Etsy SEO (search engine optimization) and use the right keywords in your titles, description, and tags. Keyword research takes time, but it can also bring you a lot of traffic in return. You can make life a little easier with the Get-Found Guide.
- If you're not sure what to include in your shop policies or on your about page, you can always look to other more established Etsy shops to figure out which points are important to discuss.
- Take great photos, or find a photographer who can take them for you. Your ability to sell your products rests on the quality of your photos.
- Before launching a handmade business take some time to think about the sustainability and scalability of the business. Can you actually make enough money selling this product to do it long term and full time? If not is there something you can change so that you are making enough money?