To celebrate and promote the unique and wonderful world of small business, we are beginning an interview series with small business owners. We will be discussing the nature of their business, what they are doing to set themselves apart from competitors, and looking at the internet marketing tactics they employ.
I am very excited to present our first interview in the series, with Rebecca Wagler, owner of The Ardent Sparrow.
How would you describe the products you offer?
Most of my pieces have an antique or vintage flair and I am definitely moving more and more in that direction! I love antique brass stampings of birds, leaves, and dragonflies. I am also beginning to work with vintage Lucite, moulded glass beads, and antique brass flowers. Working with older materials allows me to create unique and one-of-a-kind pieces with a great deal of charm.
What prompted you to start your own business?
I used to make jewellery back in my University days. When I started teaching I just didn’t have time with all the planning, marking, and reporting. The first few months after my first daughter was born were rather busy, but as she began to settle in, I began to long for some creative outlet! A good friend is getting married this summer and I thought it would be neat to make her earrings… And I was once again hooked! Friends then began to encourage me to sell it and I thought of Etsy… Now I’ve had several sales both on Etsy and as custom orders for friends and family! It’s taken off much more quickly than I could have ever imagined!
Is this your first time operating your own business?
Yes… And it’s very exciting!
In your words, what makes your business unique?
My jewellery is all hand-made and I spend hours scouring stores (both in person and on-line) for unique and vintage materials to create my pieces with!
What challenges have you faced in launching your business?
Getting the word out there has been difficult! Etsy has helped but the site is very saturated with jewellery makers already. I’ve had several supportive friends that have purchased my pieces as I’m getting started, spread the word to their friends, and supported through their own on-line businesses!
Why did you choose Etsy to host your online store?
Etsy has great services (for a small fee) and a built in clientele! I would LOVE to have my own site someday, if it ever comes to that… But right now, Etsy works and my own site is just a dream!
What other venues are you using to promote your business?
I have sold a great deal to family and friends. A store owner from New Jersey also saw my Etsy shop and asked if I would be willing to send her items to sell in her store so I’m currently working on getting some pieces ready to ship to her!
Your product images are beautiful – tell us about your process for creating these images?
I’ve always loved taking pictures… and I have a huge assortment of vintage china from my Grandma! Photographing my pieces as allowed me to bring three of the things I love together! I also use an antique German bible that belonged to my husband’s grandfather which makes a delightful backdrop to most of the pieces!
What equipment / software do you use to create your images?
I had never used any graphics design software before opening my store. When I saw what people were charging for banners and avatars on Etsy, I thought I would give it a try on my own. I initially edit most of my photos in “Picasa2”. I then use a combination of “Gimp 2”, “Serif PhotoPlus 8.0” and “Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2” to edit them further and add text. I still have a lot to learn but I love designing my own images to use on-line.
Where do you find inspiration for your jewellery designs?
Most of my inspiration comes late at night… And as a result, I’ve become a bit of an insomniac! I love old things… things with a lot of character so I always keep that in mind when I’m creating. I try to design things that I know even my Grandmothers would appreciate! I also enjoy browsing Etsy for unique inspiration!
How / where do you source your materials? Is it a struggle to find new and interesting materials to work with?
I get some of my items from jewellery supply stores but I find them overpriced. I was thrilled to find several sellers of incredible materials on Etsy, so I try to give them most of my business. I also search out second hand stores, looking for great items that I can take apart and remake. It isn’t too much of a struggle to find new and interesting materials but it can be a bit pricey!
Do you envision The Ardent Sparrow becoming a full-time gig for you as the business grows, or do you plan to keep small and very niche?
I would love it if the business became more steady but by the nature of the work, I will likely have to keep it small! It takes a lot of time to purchase good materials as well as to plan and design the pieces, not to mention actually putting them together! There’s only so much time I have to do all this in! My dream would be to expand beyond Etsy someday and have a small site with my own designs as well as a loyal following… But who knows? I would love to make enough money to continue to create, cover my costs, and make a bit of a profit.
Do you have plans to expand beyond jewellery into other types of art or decoration?
I would love to begin to carry some vintage items such as lovely tea cups, dishes, and other items for the home. I also have some other ideas for handmade goods, but at the moment, there just isin’t time!
Are you interested in learning more about internet marketing tactics, either by attending seminars or reading online? What have been your most influential sources (if any) for online marketing tips?
Right now I’m just flying by the seat of my pants! The only really useful tip I’ve gotten so far is to try and keep up a blog as they seem to help get the word out in the Etsy world. At the moment, I am looking for ways to improve my blog. In the future, I would definately like to learn more about on-line marketing if my business grows.
Will you give us another interview in one year so that we can follow up on your progress?
I would love to!