Lisa here, and I’m thrilled to welcome you for a closer look inside the whimsical world of Bealoo Kids. If you haven’t met already, I would like to introduce you to Bea, the artistic painter and creative mind behind these creations. I think you’ll be as absolutely taken with her talent as I am! Join me, as we explore her magical domain of fairies and pirates …
You opened your Etsy Shop in 2007–more than 5 years ago! How has the online, handmade marketplace evolved over the years?
Well, like everything to do with technology it has definitely become more sophisticated. When I started selling on etsy you could really only edit your tags to determine how people found you. Nobody talked about having correct titles, using phrases in your tags, and of course, there was virtually no social media to worry about. Instead, everyone talked about posting in the forums to gain customers. I never bought into that, since it seemed like my target demographic wasn’t going to be found in the forums. There are a lot more apps associated with etsy now as well, which is something I haven’t delved into too much, except for “Etsy On Sale”. SEO has definitely changed over the last few years, and it is continually evolving. If you don’t pay attention and keep up you’ll definitely get left behind! And of course through social media there are way more avenues to market yourself. The only problem is there are still the same number of hours in a week, and that is what I find the biggest challenge now, to balance selling, with creating, with marketing and raising three kids.
I went back to your first Etsy sale on May 2, 2007. Do you remember what that felt like?
Gosh, I remember back to when I first started the etsy shop and we didn’t sell anything for what seemed like a long time, although it was probably only a month or two. I was trying to strategize how I could entice people to buy and decided that if I had some positive feedback it might help. My sister wanted to buy some of my art for a gift and I had her purchase it off of etsy instead of my website. This gave me a sale and a chance to have at least a tiny bit of feedback! Once I made that first sale other orders started to trickle in and that’s what felt good.
Please describe your “zone”. What does creating feel like for you?
For starters, if you had asked me 10 years ago if I would have seen myself in my basement painting fairies and pirates I would have laughed! I never thought I would be an artist, although I really was already an artist in the computer graphics industry making cartoons, but I was more of a computer geek. Having a family changes the mindset though, and once I had kids I started painting for them, but it takes me a long time to think about something in my head before I actually get started on it. I think that’s because I rarely have a large gap of time when I can work on something. Even once I get started painting or drawing I am often interrupted, but it feels good to get something out onto a canvas, especially when I’m pleased with the result. Sometimes I don’t like what I’ve painted but put it online for sale anyway and it’s a hit. The good thing about art is that it’s so subjective. Some people like what I’m not so fond of, which is good for sales, but in my head I always swear to myself that I’m going to redo that particular piece in a different way.
What’s your mood like when you’re painting?
As I mentioned before it takes a while for an idea to stew in my head before I get it out, and once I’ve started it’s like the flood gates have opened. I have to force myself to take my time to paint, so that layers have time to dry and I have time to think more thoughtfully about what techniques I’m going to use. In that way it’s good that I have my family around me, because it forces me to leave something I’m working on to go drive to piano lessons, or pick up from school. When this happens I’m always flustered because I have to stop what I’m doing, but in the end I know that when I come back to it I will have a new perspective or idea about how to proceed.
In addition to Etsy, you host a shop on your independent website (along with a blog). Do you get more sales independently or on Etsy?
For the longest time I sold more on my website. I’ve had my Bealoo Kids website since before I started my etsy shop, but a little over a year ago I entirely re-did my website to make it look a lot nicer and include a blog along with it. Since etsy changed the way people search for items and offered instruction in ways of doing your own SEO with titles and tags my sales have steadily increased. I definitely spend time editing my titles and tags to ensure that I’m being found. That is a lot harder to do on my own website where I have to ensure there is some way I’m being found in the millions of sites that might sell kids wall art. Last Christmas season was definitely a turning point for my etsy shop and now some months I sell more on etsy, some months I sell more in more on my online store.
Do you sell your art anywhere else?
Before the recession I was selling wholesale to a lot of stores here in Canada. Mostly I sold my stretched canvas, but over the last couple of years I’ve slowly stopped. Business has been bad for a lot of the stores I was selling to and because my product is made in Canada I wasn’t able to drop my prices enough for sales to be worth it any more. I am continually being told by experts that I should never stop selling wholesale, since it’s part of how I should be able to increase online sales as well, but I was spreading myself too thin and was beginning to feel overwhelmed. For the same reason I stopped doing trade shows as well, which hasn’t seemed to effect me that much either, although everyone said that it would. I live in western Canada and almost all my sales come from Eastern Canada and all over the U.S., despite doing local trade shows, so I didn’t feel I was giving up too much, and my online sales have been steadily increasing despite all this. To me it doesn’t matter so much what I should be doing, what matters is whether or not I can balance family with work. I am also a designer for a company in Rhode Island that makes canvas and plaques that they sell to department stores, and I do also do freelance work on a regular basis.
What is your most effective technique for marketing Bealoo Kids?
I think I’m still trying to figure that out! I do etsy search ads regularly, and I have tried facebook ads. My advertising budget is pretty low, and usually my best business comes from being featured or talked about by other people. Social media is definitely important. I try to get my name out there by commenting everywhere I possibly can. Sometimes I ask myself if it’s really worth it, but if I neglect SM for a few days I see a definite decrease in sales. Sometimes I get sucked into the vortex of technology and go off in tangents trying to read every article on how to increase sales using social media, or how to make a million dollars off of pinterest, but there just isn’t enough time in the day to figure it all out!
Is your creative business a full-time job for you?
No, it is not. Part of me wishes that it was because I think I could do so much more if I devoted more time to it, but I made the decision a number of years ago to stay home with my kids. I had a great job to go back to at one time, but it would have involved working more that 40 hours a week and so I chose to create Bealoo Kids instead. It’s almost another job trying to figure out how to balance it all, but I have only one more year until my youngest goes to school full time, so we’ll see what happens after that!
What has been your proudest handmade moment?
Bealoo Kids was featured on the cover of Costco Connection magazine in Canada in May 2010, which was an issue featuring Mompreneurs. We received a lot of business from that article, as well as a lot of fan mail! That article came about because of hours that were spent trying to get our name out there. We entered a contest posted in tiny print at the bottom of one of the pages of the magazine and this is what came of it.
What piece of advice would you offer somebody who is starting out on Etsy and looking for their first sale?
Learn everything you can about etsy SEO optimization!
Thank you, Bea. It’s been absolutely enchanting! And thank you all for reading! Please be sure to check out Bealoo Kids’ website and Etsy Shop for more amazing artwork. You can always read more by me at Marketing Creativity! Until next time and all the best, Lisa Jacobs