More and more online shoppers are turning to independent sellers on websites like Etsy and Not on the High Street to buy unique, often handmade, products. For sellers, it’s a way to monetise creative talents and enjoy business success away from the 9-5 day job, with the savviest running their online shops as a full-time business.
Andy Cordina, who launched her homemade greetings card business, Bettie Confetti, in 2014, is about to take this very path. After enjoying growing sales, driven by her Etsy shop, she’s readying to go it alone, leave the day-job, and dedicate herself full-time to the business.
We caught up with Andy, outgoing Marketing Manager at AAT, to discuss the success of Bettie Confetti.
How did you come to launch Bettie Confetti? Was there a particular light bulb moment that made you think “hey, I can do that?”
I got married in 2014 and like every Bride to be, completely obsessed about getting every detail right.
From the 300 origami flowers I folded out of vintage comic books, to the thousands upon thousands of hand punched confetti hearts I made out of the scraps of the same comics.
On the wedding day, a good friend of mine said to me “Andy you should do something with this. Everything looks so good and professionally done, you should consider making something out of this”. So from there, I decided to start making and selling my own confetti.
I quickly realised it was hugely time consuming and wouldn’t give me the greatest return. I did some research and bought a die-cutting machine to help speed up the process and then discovered the machine had a pen adaptor and boom… I was on my way to making and selling my first batch of Valentine’s Day cards.
Can you tell us a bit about your set up?
Originally I handmade every single card that someone ordered. I remember being so excited about my first few orders, I hand wrote the addresses in my best handwriting. Big mistake.
Since then, I’ve built a much more automated process. 95% of my cards are pre-printed with my designs with just a handful that I’m testing out being handmade. It means the quality is more consistent for the customer and it also means I have more time to focus on growing the business.
My two main online market places are Etsy and Amazon. I mainly chose them because their platform is really built with the seller in mind. With Etsy in particular, there’s a mutually beneficial relationship where the more you sell, the more money they make so they provide you with some excellent tools. There’s a load of statistics and data to analyse so you can continuously optimise your shop as a whole and all your individual items.
You’ve come a long way. How has the business evolved since you set it up?
Woah… that’s a big question. I opened up the Etsy shop in January 2014 and was looking at about 20 or 30 orders a week, all of them handmade. Fast forward two years and I’m doing about that every day. In busy times, I do almost 100 orders every day, which can be a real challenge in amongst trying to juggle everything else.
I’ve learnt a huge amount in the last two years. From production methods, to wholesaling to a completely different way of marketing to customers. It’s been an incredibly steep learning curve.
And this is all run from your home… what are the challenges around that?
Running a business from home can be hugely rewarding and potentially harmful at the same time. While it’s great to just be able to run upstairs and sort out orders, it’s really easy to let the business interfere with your everyday life.
For me it’s become really important to make sure you’re set up in a way that means you can close a door or cupboard or drawer and all your business stuff is out of sight. Otherwise you just end up living in a mess of business admin and life admin all together at once. It’s really important to try and keep those two things separate.
Without giving away your secrets, how do you go from an idea to getting something made and sold?
Test, test and test it again. Sometimes what I think is funny doesn’t have the reaction that I’d predicted and sometimes I have to admit defeat.
I like to take an idea and test it on social media – that’ll usually give you a fairly good idea of how people will respond to a product once you launch it.
Watching and analysing data from my customers and people looking at my shop gives me a fair idea of what people are looking for and the latest trends.
You mention testing on social media, how important is it, particularly Instagram, to what you do?
Social media is really important. It gives your brand life and lets people know that there’s an actual human behind the business. Until people realise that, they can’t connect with you.
Instagram in particular, is where I focus my efforts because it’s such a visual platform. For me, it’s more important to get it right on one channel than to spread yourself too thinly over a bunch of different social channels. If Instagram works for your business, or Twitter is a better fit, then focus your efforts on there.
In terms of content for your products, there are a lot of pop culture, modern life references: have you found a magic formula?
You have to strike a balance between being relevant and being realistic. I can print a card with a reference to Snapchat on it, I do so with the expectation that it won’t make it into the next range.
My new favourite at the moment is this Mothers Day card. This one reminds me of my parents when I was growing up and is something that as I’ve started to get older I’ve definitely started doing. It’s funny cause it’s true is the adage I live by for Bettie Confetti because it makes the cards more relatable.
Finally, you’ve made the decision to leave the day-job and run Bettie Confetti full-time. How did you reach that decision?
That is such a big question to answer. But really it all came down to a lot of hard work and feeling as though I was ready to take the risk. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind of commuting and working somewhere you’ve been a long time. It sometimes felt impossible to walk away from a steady income, nice pension and great work colleagues. But, at the end of the day you only get one life so why spend so much of it doing something that you don’t absolutely love doing?
After two years of graft, I felt like it was time to take the leap so I’ve handed my notice in and am going at it alone.