Monday, March 2, 2015

Artist Showcase - Gopher Shop

Welcome to this week's artist showcase featuring Alicja Suska from GopherShop.  Alicja's shop carries handmade felt bags, boxes, cases and accessories.  Here is one of her lovely items:

Tell us a little about yourself and your creative business.

Hi, I am Alicja and I run my handmade business named Gopher. I make bags, boxes, cases and other accessories. In majority of my products I use felt but, from time to time, I also add other kind of fabrics. On daily basis I am an interior design student but, telling the truth, I dedicate almost every moment of free time to creating new items. I feel that handicraft is something I really love and I can express myself in. I sell my products on Etsy which I consider the best place to present and sell handmade goods online. I hope that in future it will become my full time job.

 How did you get your start?

At the beginning I was planning to sew bags. Designs were already prepared in my head. I wanted to create something simple but interesting and original for myself. My dream was to make bags which were different from those in city malls.

The start was quite difficult. I had to learn all by myself as every sewing course I found was connected only with clothes. Also tutorials in the internet were rather basic and not satisfying for me. The only way of learning was to analyze construction of bags available in shops and making mistakes, actually tons of mistakes.

That was the beginning - difficult but fruitful. Encouraged by family and friends I decided to open my Etsy shop with handmade bags. Then, thanks to my partner's suggestions, I came up with the idea of making boxes and cases for different devices which are the biggest success for now, as far as sales are concerned. 

 Where do you get your inspiration from?

It is hard to answer this question in one sentence. In general, my designs are inspired by needs of people I meet in my everyday life. I am trying to analyse their behaviour all the time. I observe their shopping habits, listen to their complaints, etc. Then, I usually design products which are improved versions of those which already exist. For example, many people would like to posses set of storage boxes in different shapes and sizes that match each other. Gopher offers CD storage boxes, vinyl storage boxes, DVD storage boxes and other boxes you need on your shelves in the same colour or texture.

Anyway, sometimes inspirations comes out of the blue - at night, during the walk or while taking a shower. I am not able to name the source of the idea, it just comes. 

 What has been your biggest successful moment so far?

I think it was my first sale. It happened after a very long period of hard work without any effect. I became discouraged and sceptical then. This sale was not a large financial success but it gave me the motivation to continue improving my business. It showed me that my products are worth buying and, as a conclusion, I should develop my business. I was so proud that someone appreciated my work and uses Gopher's bag in everyday life. 

 What challenges do you face selling online?

Selling online is not as easy as many people think. Reaching the customer is the biggest challenge I face. The Internet is huge and it is difficult to find a small shop there. Advertisement, social media campaigns are effective but it takes time to get enough views to sell something.

Another challenging aspect of selling handmade products online is mass production that offers extremely low prices. My job is to convince people that although handmade products are more expensive they are better as far as quality is concerned. I use better fabrics, stronger stitches and take care of every detail of the product. That is why at the beginning as a handmade seller you should realise that your products are not dedicated for everyone and that you should concentrate on the proper target. You also should not pay too much attention to "why is it so expensive?" type of questions.

What advice would you give someone just starting out on Etsy?

Be patient, this is the most important from my point of view. Instant success on Etsy is very rare and mostly happens to those who sale small and cheap items.

Secondly, add new listings as often as possible and stock virtual shelves of your shop which big amount of products. Your admires and customers would like to see some fresh ideas all the time. Many Etsy sellers claim that this is very effective solution.

As the last advice, I would list high quality of product photography. You can find many tutorials how to make excellent pictures on budget. It is not very complicated and gives good results. It is easier to encourage someone to buy your product or include it in the treasury list when it is well presented.
Thank you Alicja for sharing your story with us.  If you want to see more of Gopher Shop, follow her on Facebook.
Next week we'll choose another Etsy store to feature.  If you would like to be considered, just drop Zoica or myself a note via Etsy convo.
Thanks for stopping by...
Until next time,
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