Great advice from Sam owner of Magnolia Leatherworks on Etsy.
1. Tell us about your creative business and the story of how you started making and selling.
It’s a seriously long story. Back in 2008 I got the itch to do a hands on, 19th century-ish craftsman style trade. After touring Charleston with my family, I for real “knew” I wanted to be a blacksmith. But after thinking about having a forge in my 2 bedroom townhouse, I figured that was probably a little outside the scope of our HOA!! lol! I’d always been into the cowboy culture of the old west, so I decided leather would be a bit of a safer venture!
In March of 2008, I got a phone call from my dad that my mother had passed away. My mom and I were super close, so to say that my world came crashing down that day would be a complete understatement. Literally, a week later I went to Tandy Leather and picked up a leather work starter kit. The first project I made was a key fob and I stamped a design of an owl onto it from a necklace my mother wore. AND…it didn’t totally suck! haha! I mean, it mostly sucked, but for a first project, I was hooked!
I made the rest of the projects from the kit and took them to my day job, where my co-workers encouraged me to start selling my leather goods….so I did!! That was back in 2008, and I’ve had a completely booked production queue from day 1! It’s been an amazing outlet which saw me through some immensely tough times. It sounds cheesy and cliche, but having the outlet of leather work literally saw me through some of the toughest times of my life.
2.3 tips for sellers who are just starting out selling on Etsy.
1) One of the best tips I ever heard from Tom Bilyeu (founder of Quest Nutrition Bars & Impact Theory) is – “If you’re not embarrassed by the first projects you ever did, you waited too late!” Get started now! Refine as you go, but start now!
2) Make things that are hard for you to sell! If you look at the stuff you make and you REALLY want to keep it for yourself, you’re probably on the right track!
3) Let’s be honest, there’s a good chance someone else is probably making something similar to what you make. Find a way to cut through the noise! Be it your personality, your marketing, your photography…find a way to make your products cut through! You are literally the only version of you on the ENTIRE PLANET! Find a way to make that reflect in your business!
3. What is your largest source of traffic for your shop?
Quite a few of the items I make serve a really niche market, so google loves my shop! Instagram is a pretty close second.
4. list 4 of your favorite items and tell us why you LOVE to make them!
Cable Tacos - These guys are so so so simple, but obscenely useful! I did a challenge on instagram a few weeks ago to see how many of these I could find around my house. I have SEVENTEEN in use, and I still found FIVE cables that needed to be wrapped up in cable tacos! You can’t have enough of these!
El Quattro Holster – First off, I’m obsessed with western gun leather! I designed El Quattro from a photograph of a super rare holster in a gallery book of western holsters. It ended up being one of my top sellers! To bring life back to a really rare western holster pattern was a true joy!
Leather Incense Holder - My wife grabbed some sticks of incense as an impulse buy several weeks ago. I’m a hippy at heart, so the first time she lit it up, I was brought back to my high school memories of burning incense with my buddies and listening to Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, etc. I was up late one night and was like…”I should make an incense holder…” so I did! lol! It’s shockingly handy, and is really beautiful. I’m obsessed with geometric rosettes stamped in leather, and each of my incense holders comes with a totally unique, hand stamped rosette. I love them all!
Nº 4 Credit Card Wallet – I designed this wallet year ago, and it has stood the test of time! It’s beautifully simplistic and wildly functional! If your current wallet is giving you back pains, first off, you’re probably carrying too many Olive Garden gift cards! Dump the excess junk in your wallet and make the switch to a Nº 4 Credit Card Wallet! If fits perfectly in your front pocket, and literally disappears when worn in your back pocket!
5. How has your success selling on Etsy changed your life?
For the past decade, Etsy has been a great source of supplemental income for our family, and as of 2019, I am a full-time leather worker! This would literally not be possible without Etsy!