We're so excited to welcome our very first vintage seller onto the show. The vintage scene has exploded on Etsy since its inception, and if you're adept at finding treasures, it may be the perfect fit for you. Sarah Jane Janjirala has created a name for herself by creating a storefront on Etsy, Sweetheart Lane that's the one-stop shop for the best antique lockets on the market.
Learn the ins and outs of selling vintage, how Sarah has created a system that saves her time, and why niche-ing down can be very profitable.
On the Podcast
00:58 – Don't Go Back to Work. Do This Instead!
02:10 – The Allure of the Locket
03:21 – How to Become an Antique Expert
04:56 – The Narrow Niche Advantage
7:07 – How to Find Vintage Treasures
10:50 – 5 Parts to Pricing
13:06 – What is TCO and Why Does it Matter?
15:43 – Speedy Photo and Listing Tips
19:57 – Growth + Success: Sarah's Secrets
24:10 – What to do with Haters
27:11 – Sarah's C'est La Vie Mom Moment
Press Play on the Podcast Player below to hear the full interview.
Don't Go Back to Work. Do This Instead!
Sarah started her antique locket shop on Etsy just before her first child was born. After a year of running the shop on the side as a hobby, she and her husband had a heart-to-heart conversation. Sarah had a lot of debt from nursing school, and both she and her husband assumed the solution was for her to go back to work. Yet neither of them really loved that option. So, they got creative!
Her husband, who has a background in business looked over her shop and said, “I think you can do something with this!” With his analytical mind, her creative mind, and a lot of focus and hard work, the shop took off!
Keep reading to see what happened to Sarah's school loans… and did she ever go back to work?
The Allure of the Locket
Sarah chose to open an antique locket shop for several reasons.
- She grew up around antiques. Her grandfather has one of the largest collections of student lamps from the 1800's. Sarah has always loved and had an appreciation for vintage items.
- Lockets are both beautiful and functional. That's often a difficult combination to find.
- An antique locket has so much history and meaning attached to it. Sometimes Sarah finds them with a photo still inside, and she's able to pass that along to the locket's new owner.
- Antique lockets are much higher quality than jewelry made today. They last so much longer and are a great investment. Sarah says she has lockets that are 110 years old, and she can throw them up against the wall or her kids chew on them, and they're still fine!
- There are so many counterfeit vintage lockets. Sarah loves being an expert on true antiques and educating the consumer to make sure they're getting something authentic. She's a source that antique lovers can trust, and she's proud of that.
How to Become an Antique Expert
Sarah points to several factors that have developed over time that have allowed her to become an expert on antique lockets. These factors can apply to anyone who wants to become an expert within a vintage niche.
- Maker's Marks. A lot of lockets have a Maker's Mark so you can tell which company made it. For example, Wightman and Hough lockets have a little heart with W&HCo. inside. This company closed in 1922 so Sarah knows that all of the lockets she finds with that mark are not a day younger than 1922.
- Catalogues. Sarah has collected many reproductions of old catalogues to learn about lockets from different time periods and who was making them.
- Photographs. Sarah studies old photographs of women and children wearing lockets. This gives her a sense of which styles and designs were popular during which time periods.
- Dates. Some lockets actually have the dates engraved on them!
- Time and Focus. Because Sarah spends tons of time around lockets and focuses only on that niche, she's been able to dig deep and get to know her products and field very intimately.
Several years into her business, Sarah says she can look at a locket right away and know what company made it and the approximate year it was made. Pretty impressive!
The Narrow Niche Advantage
Sarah says there are advantages both as a seller and to the buyer because she's niched down.
As a buyer, Sarah helps out her customers by being the go-to, trusted source for antique lockets. She loves to shop on Etsy herself, and she personally hates having to scroll through tons of unrelated items within one shop. Instead, a shop that focuses on one thing sticks in her memory and she comes back to them for that product.
Sarah's selling philosophy is to think like a customer!
As a seller, focusing on one specific niche gives her credibility. Her customers can trust her expertise and experience. In addition, Sarah focuses on making each locket wearable. Many lockets she finds at antique shows need a jump ring, chain, or have a broken hinge. Sarah fixes each locket, makes it lovely and wearable, verifies its age and source, includes instructions on how to care for the locket and clean it, and wraps it beautifully. By focusing, Sarah can provide exceptional customer service.
How to Find Vintage Treasures
Sarah doesn't often go to garage sales or estate sales, because a vintage locket is pretty rare in these settings. Not to mention, as a mom to two very young children, Sarah can't go hunting every weekend.
Sarah goes to a huge antique show in Atlanta. She sifts through bags of jewelry to find a few treasures.
Sarah recommends another antique show in Brimfield, Massachusetts. If Sarah can go to this huge exhibition and spend a day or two, she can find 20-30 lockets. Sarah plans ahead and finds babysitting for her kids, but then she's got a lot of products to sell when she returns home.
In general, Sarah will attend a big event for one day once a month. She's often able to get all of her lockets for the next month in one day.
The fact that Sarah has a focused niche helps a ton at a huge show. She's not overwhelmed. She knows exactly what she's looking for and she goes to each show with focus and intention.
5 Parts to Pricing
Sarah uses five main criteria to decide on her locket prices.
- Condition. This is the biggest issue. The locket needs to close, function, and have all the stones. The better the condition Sarah finds a locket in, the higher the price she can demand.
- Rarity. For example, Pansy lockets in the antique world are super rare. The Pansy symbolized loving thoughts in the Victorian Era, so they're very desired by antique fans, but they're also more difficult to come by.
- Age. The older a locket is, the higher the price it commands. Victorian Era lockets cost more because they've lasted 100+ years versus a locket from World War II.
- Purchase Price. Clearly Sarah has to factor in how much she paid for the locket.
- Additions. Because Sarah ensures that each locket is wearable before she sells it, she has to factor in the cost of chain, jump rings, gift-wrapping, and more.
What is TCO and Why Does it Matter?
During her first year on Etsy, Sarah completely undersold herself. She wanted the average middle-class woman to be able to own her beautiful lockets… but she didn't factor in her own cost of doing business. Sarah hadn't calculated her Etsy fees, Paypal fees, materials, or any other overhead costs. She would simply double the price of the locket from what she paid for it. Sarah assumed she'd make a small profit, but it turned out that she was only making about $3 a sale! This was way too little for products that she was spending a lot of time on.
When Sarah and her husband got serious about her shop, they created a spreadsheet to calculate her Total Cost of Ownership. This is your total net profits after all of your expenses. Now Sarah can plug in everything she bought such as the locket, each piece of wrapping wire, Etsy fees, shipping costs, and more, and then she can figure out her true profit.
Sarah's pricing advice for other Etsy Sellers? She reminds them that they're doing something that the average person can't do. They're providing a service, and sometimes that service takes a lot of time. Etsy sellers shouldn't under-sell or undervalue their talents.
Speedy Photo and Listing Tips
The best thing about selling antiques is that they're one-of-a-kind, but this also poses a unique challenge! Every item has to be photographed and listed separately. How does Sarah manage to spend the time doing this and still make a profit?
Sarah's Listing Tricks
- Duplicate an Etsy listing. Sarah copies a listing that's similar. For example, a WWII-era sterling silver locket.
- Use a Listing Template. Sarah has a listing description template to make sure she covers all the details for each locket. For example, she always talks about the age, the era, the details and measurements , and maker's marks.
- Make Quick Changes. Sarah quickly adds her new pictures, changes the measurements for the actual locket and does a quick check to make sure the tags are still accurate.
She can do an entire listing in under 10 minutes!
Another trick? Sarah uses the Etsy app on her to make quick changes on the go.
Sarah's Photo Tricks
Photos are one of Sarah's biggest challenges as a vintage seller. She takes photos of exactly that item for every single listing. She wants every customer to know and trust that what they see on the screen is what they're getting when they buy.
With that in mind, Sarah has a formula: 2 front photos, 1 photo on the mannequin, one on the inside of the locket, and one of the back of the locket.
When the light is right, Sarah can quickly snap all five of these shots and move on to the next locket.
Growth + Success: Sarah's Secrets
- Think like a customer. If you wouldn't want to buy that item on Etsy then don't sell it. If you're frustrated by the shipping prices, then don't do that to your customers.
- Use beautiful packaging to wow each customer and attach more value to your products.
- Include all the details you can about your product in the listing description.
- Increase prices. Do the math and make sure your business is viable. Are you making a profit or barely getting by?
- Set a financial goal and attach value to every sale. Sarah and her husband set really clear goals, and with every sale from her shop, they took some of that money to pay off her student loan. It was so motivating for her to see how her shop growth directly impacted the family and their finances. In December 2014, Sarah paid off her school loans completely!
What to do with Haters
So… haters might be a strong word, and not what Sarah would call them. But what do you do about the people in your life who always have doubts about your endeavors? How do you respond to those people who don't think your shop or blog or business will amount to anything?
Sarah's husband had some wise words to share with her when she first got started:
“Don't take advice from people who have not done it for themselves.”
Isn't that so true? There are so many people in the world who are afraid of taking risks. Why would we accept their doubts as reality when they've never done the thing they're cautioning you against doing? Learn from those who have gone before, and Sarah has done just that. She wants to encourage moms that they can do it! If she can do it as a mom to two very little ones, then you can too!
Sarah's C'est La Vie Mom Moment
Sarah's adorable mom moment is just the epitome of working from home. She chooses to roll with the punches, put her kids first, and you know what? It all worked out in the end! Tune in to hear her cute story.