Here is an interview with Jeff from Hand and Hide. His shop caught my eye while browsing Etsy one day and I noticed he is rockin it! With just under 7000 sales at prices ranging from $55-$350.
Tell us about your creative business and the story of how you started making and selling.
Hand and Hide offers functional and aesthetic leather goods, specializing in all-leather cases for smartphones, tablets and other devices. The company was born out of my need as a traveler for a comfortable and stylish way to carry camera equipment while traveling around North Africa in 2006. After searching for existing products and finding them all lacking, I decided to make my own camera bags. I made several prototypes of different designs, but it wasn’t until I was in Morocco that I stumbled upon the ideal material: leather. I watched and learned from local leather craftsmen and then started crafting my own bags.
I continued working with leather, making bags and cases for friends and family and finally decided to take the leap into starting a business when I moved to Portland in 2011. I started selling in local craft shows. Through other vendors, I heard about Etsy. I opened my shop and within a few weeks got my first order! Fast forward to today: we are now a team of 4 people working out of a large studio space in the industrial east side of Portland.
3 tips for sellers who are just starting out selling on Etsy.
1. Figure out as early as possible what your unique selling point (USP) is and communicate it to your customers as clearly as possible. There are likely thousands of similar products on Etsy – what sets yours apart? When we started making iPhone cases, I did a search for similar products on Etsy and found 17k listings! I was about to give up, but after doing some more research, I found that almost no one else was offering an all leather case that allowed allows you to use the phone without removing it. That became our USP and we ran with it.
2. Take great photos of your product. When selling online, your customer can’t hold and examine your product like they can in a brick and mortar shop, so you have to recreate that experience as best you can through your photos and descriptions. Try to think like someone who sees your product for the first time and try to answer all of their questions through your photos or description.
3. Take the time to learn how Etsy’s SEO works. Etsy is a fantastic marketplace and has a ton of visitors looking for great products like yours, but that doesn’t do you any good if they can’t find them. There is a lot of information out there on best practices for Etsy SEO, so I won’t rehash that here, but I will make one suggestion: add new listings to your shop regularly and keep an eye on how your products rank for relevant searches. Figure out what is working for your best performing products and tweak the tags and title of your under-performers.
What is your largest source of traffic for your shop?
3. Looking at our stats, over 90% of our traffic comes from within Etsy. Of that Etsy traffic, about a third is from Etsy search, which highlights the need for good SEO. We use promoted listings and had tremendous success at first. That has changed significantly in the past year, but we still use them as way of widening our audience.
4 of your favorite items and tell us why you LOVE to make them!
My favorite item is our convertible smartphone wallet case – the mult.e ( www.etsy.com/listing/267667691 ) I’ve been using our phone wallets for years and when one of our customers asked for a more flexible phone wallet, I went to the drawing board. The result is a wallet that allows you to remove the phone section when don’t need your whole arsenal of cards and cash. I love that you can use the pass-through slot on the back side for a couple of cards.
I also love our riveted bike bags ( www.etsy.com/listing/85187586 ) I designed this originally as a stitched bag, but when we stated getting wholesale orders, the hand-stitching was too time consuming, so I re-designed it. I love the result – not only is it much faster to produce, it is also much more visually unique.
As an avid traveler, I love our leather luggage tags (www.etsy.com/listing/241354166 ) I originally designed these for a couple who wanted them as gifts for their wedding party. I get most of my product ideas from customers!
Finally, I love our knife roll ( www.etsy.com/listing/268909340 ) I designed this for my nephew who is a chef. The Italian leather that is made from is soft and has such character. It is very expensive, but perfect for the knife roll.
5. Etsy has enabled me to become a small business owner. I truly don’t think I would be in business if it weren’t for Etsy. I sold through Etsy almost exclusively for 3 years before adding e-commerce to our website and selling through other channels, but Etsy still represents about half of our income. Last year, I bought a house in Portland and Etsy played a huge role in making that possible. I sometimes have to pinch myself. Not that’s it’s been easy, but I would have never imagined that I’d be able to do it. Thanks Etsy for allowing folks like me to pursue their dreams!