While many people talk about how great it is to start a business, very few are honest about how difficult it is to run one. The problems that confront small or handmade businesses, here I'm sharing the insights gained creating, managing, and running my Etsy business.
I started Orglamix on a whim after a bout with bad skin (adult acne, who knew?!) after the birth of my daughter. Essentially a mother that can create a healthier makeup than she can find. That’s how it all started.
Fall 2009, I can’t find a foundation that works that's not chock-full of nasty ingredients I can't pronounce; nor an epic eyeshadow that's healthy, but not a boring shade of beige. So I set out to create products that are free from harmful ingredients, offer amazing performance and are cruelty-free. I also observed a desire for simplicity, beautiful, healthy skin without the fuss. A seven step skincare regime, no thank you. Creating products that perform multiple functions, reduced the need to layer multiple products. And affordable because moms don't like to spend too much on themselves.
I started experimenting with mineral makeup. Within a few days I have my first eyeshadow. It's a bright, neon green shimmer. It’s by far the coolest color I’ve ever seen.
I push past my paralyzing fears and force myself to pass out samples. I'm shy, It's not easy. I give eyeshadows to everyone -- strangers at Starbucks, moms at the preschool and park, cashiers around town, even our local UPS driver took one for his mom (bless his heart!)-- no one was immune to my sparkle hustle. I sent a few dozen samples to a makeup artist friend-of-a-friend who was doing a runway show; and low-and-behold everything sold out within minutes. They wanted more. Within a few days, I've opened an Etsy store.
Summer 2010, it’s time to get serious about trying to sell on Etsy. I wanted to buy a swing set for our backyard. I needed to sell four hundred and seventy five eyeshadows. I wondered how many months it would take me.
I analyze and research. I spend hours on end observing shops studying what successful shops were doing. I was looking for the magic in what was missing in the market. At the time, it seemed every Etsy shop was doing the same thing, but with a different name: the same packaging, the same products-- even the same colors. There are plenty of me-too brands. I knew I wanted to be different. The philosophy and inspiration behind my products is a mix or organic and glamour. The possibilities made my mind spin with excitement.
Within a month I’ve sold over a thousand eyeshadows. Holy sparkle!
The next year proves that I can make more money putting in 40 hours a week into Etsy. Everything went back into the business, slowly improving everything from packaging, photos, products, etc.
Fall 2011, adding wholesale to my gigantic workload. I cannot turn away the business. My orders have grown from a dozen a week to dozens a day and I can’t keep up. I am making over a thousand of eyeshadows a month. I am answering over two hundred customer service convos and emails a day. 7 days a week.
My oldest daughter starts kindergarten. My younger one attends preschool for two hours twice a week, otherwise she's home with me. My husband is working out of state and commuting home on the weekends. I work night and day and when they sleep. I work through the weekends and when my husband is home.
All I do is work.
I have eighty hours of work to do and twenty hours to do it.
No one starts a business with the intention of offering the world’s worst customer service. No one ever intends to quit responding to emails. But remember friends, making the makeup takes time. And now it comes between making an eyeshadow that was paid for two weeks ago or answering a question of whether my foundation contain bismuth oxychloride? Or my turnaround might be? Or what color blushes are these swatches? Or am I taking custom orders? I didn’t want to triage my business, but that’s what happened.
And then I had a nervous breakdown.
I couldn’t do anything. I didn't feel like eating or sleeping. Or anything.
I couldn’t think. My mind was spinning.
I couldn’t even get on the computer.
I was empty. For six whole weeks, my brain sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me in silence.
I shut down Etsy.
And it's hard to look back.
Remember in the very beginning when I was planning to make four hundred and seventy five? That was my goal? Not thousands. I never imagined that my products would sell so successfully. Not because they don’t deserve it, they totally do. They’re awesome. I believe that that with all of my heart. I just didn’t realize that anyone could actually be so successful on Etsy. Or, more importantly, once achieved, what it would take to maintain that level of success.
I wasn’t ready for my small business to outgrow me within months of opening. I was living in a bubble. I was in constant motion, slowly spinning out of control. My kids deserved more from me. My marriage was disintegrating. My world was closing in around me until I shut down the Etsy store.
Fast forward a few years. My kids are a little older now. They are in school during the day. My husband is back home.
I become we. My husband + I work together.
Now we plan, strategize and prepare.
We look to grow Orglamix and our team, broaden our product line and completely overhaul our methods of production.
We make amazing makeup in every shade of the rainbow.
We partner up with brilliant beauty bloggers and beauty boxes.
We open a website and sell makeup and wonderful fragrances that ship from us to you within a week.
We connect on Facebook, Twitter + Pinterest and it becomes the main hub of information and business for Orglamix.
I can work the amount that I want and you don’t have to wait.
We are all very happy + blessed. We = my family + you, our customers.
Don’t get me wrong, Etsy is an excellent venue. There is no better way to start a handmade, crafty business in my opinion. It’s an amazing community and it drives tons of new traffic to your product.
The problem for me was outgrowing Etsy in a very short period of time, lack of support and not being able to hire the help I needed-- mostly in terms of maintaining customer service, which can become the main “job” of running an Etsy store. If a person were disciplined in spending hours a day answering emails, they might have great success. Otherwise, hiring an employee would be essential for running an Etsy store with high sales.
For now, I am moving on.
Hence the opening of ORGLAMIX.COM
And lastly, to all of the friends, family and fans that have supported Orglamix, my very deepest thanks. Please remember that supporting independent designers and small businesses means paying their bills and feeding their children.
My sincerest gratitude to all of you.