This Monday Chianne of MuffinPuffArt a UK based original, cute and funny button badges maker shares with us what got her here and what made her stayed.
RRoF - Tell us something about your shop, how you got started and why you wanted to start an online business?
MPA - Firstly I’m Chianne (real name Jo) and I run MuffinPuffART! Which sells badges, key chains, pocket mirrors and more with my illustrations and designs on.
Well I’ve always been a creative person. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing or making something, as it’s huge passion of mine.
I often got told off by relatives and friends for not perusing my art in a more serious manner. I get told many times by my work colleagues that “I’m in the wrong job.”
I had thought about selling my stuff before, but as always I’m my own biggest critique. I always thought “Who’d by anything you’d make? There are plenty of better artists out there.” Still the idea of selling my art always remained in my mind.
Then one day a friend of mine linked me Etsy. I check around and saw that there were so many people selling so many varieties of items that maybe I could make it work. So many cogs turned in my head and suddenly I had an overwhelming desire to try my hand at a business.
I made an account then and there in Oct 07 but I didn’t start actively selling just over a year later. I spent a great deal of time pouring over the listings and checking out all the other artisan’s and crafters.
I came up with my store name long before I decided to sell. I knew I wanted to make things, but it took me awhile to settle on Button Badges. I suppose I wanted to do something a little bit different. I know lots of artists online but few who actively make and sell Button Badges. I’ve not looked back since.
It cost me a fair amount to get started up, however I inherited some money from my late Grandfather and knew he’d be happy for me to spend it in such a way. He always supported my love of art.
So I ordered a badge machine from a local seller and got started under the store name of MuffinPuffART! The name is taken from my lovely little Jack Russell Muffin Puff Pastry. (Muffin for short) I realise her name is a bit of a mouthful but it makes me smile. She has been my mascot for several years, and I’ve even worked her into several of my designs.
RRoF - Is your Etsy Business your full time job? Or what or who does your Etsy shop shares your time with?
MPA - I wish I could say that my Button Badge business is my full time job, a girl can dream after all.
I have Chronic Fatigue syndrome, so working full time is out of the question for me. I currently work part time in a Primary School (Elementary school) as a Teaching Assistant. I work mainly with children with special needs. I can be challenging but is very rewarding. In my spare time I work on my Etsy store. I don’t think I’ll ever sell enough for it to become my main source of income, but its something I absolutely love doing and I do make some money from and at the end of the day that’s what matters to me.
RRoF - When you started listing your first few items, was the response what you expected?
MPA - I remember the adrenaline rush of putting my first items up online and watching them like a hawk for any views or hearts. To be honest not a lot has changed. I still sit there and watch my listings for views but a little less obsessively these days.
I waited and waited but didn’t get nearly as many views as I thought I would. It was a bit disappointing to be honest, but them Rome wasn’t made in a day and neither was MuffinPuffART! I have a terrible tendency to count my chickens before they hatch. I didn’t get discouraged though. I stuck with it and a few days later I got my first sale. I did a happy dance. It was an awesome sense of achievement for me.
RRoF -Looking back, what are some of the mistakes you think you've made when you just got started, and how you overcome them.
MPA - Mistakes. Hmmmmmmm, let me think.
My biggest mistake was signing up as my internet name “Chianne” rather than waiting till I found a store name and using that instead. Its now much harder to remember my Etsy address and doesn’t fit in with the rest of my webpages. Still I can’t change it now, so there is no point in worrying about it. Thankfully if you google my store name it brings up my Etsy store anyway.
I think my original photographs left a lot to be desired. It can be fairly difficult photographing things as small as Button Badges and doing them justice. I still struggle with light sources even today. I’m getting better over time. The more detail you can fit in the better, after all it’s the tiny icon of your item that pulls people in. If its blurry or just a bad photo people may just skip over it.
Not putting myself out there. I totally thought people would just come and find me. I didn’t make any effort to advertise or post around Etsy. So I didn’t get many views at all. I’ve now realised that you can’t just rely solely on people to find you. I’ve definitely increased my views from putting myself out there.
RRoF - Have you ever felt like giving up? What made you stay?
MPA - There have been a few times when I’ve looked at my store and wondered what I was doing but I’ve never really thought about giving up. This is my dream after all, my passion. Also I’ve invested a fair amount in my badge machine so giving up now is out of the question.
Business can be fairly slow for me. I can go for days without making a sale, but that’s okay, as I get so much pleasure from my store. It’s the journey rather than the destination that I enjoy most. Being able to sell the things I take so much joy making is the icing on the cake really. Its all good.
I do go through phases where I don’t touch my store for days on end and have creativity slumps, but then so do all artisans. You just wait ‘em out and then bounce right back!
RRoF -How do you promote? And in your opinion, which works best for you?
MPA - I do promote my store, but I can’t really comment on it success at the moment. I’m still new to advertising and finding my feet so to speak. I still get the majority of my views from inside the Etsy.
I’ve posted flyers around locally, but I live in a very small town so I’ve not drummed up much interest on that front. I’ve only had one sale from my own Country oddly enough. (For those who are wondering, I’m in England) The rest have all been from abroad. I have really shiny business cards which I hand out to people who display interest in my art. I also tuck one into every package I send.
I use a lot of different websites to promote my store. My most successful place I advertise at the moment is Twitter. I use feeds directly from Etsy which tell my Twitter watchers what I’ve just listed.
My favourite place to promote my Etsy is my blog, although it doesn’t pull in a lot of views. It’s my pride and joy as I’ve put a lot of effort making my blog fun to look at. I occasionally post about my store and business, but also post about all sorts of things that aren’t necessarily Etsy related. In my opioion it’s really the most enjoyable way to advertise. I think it has more of a personal touch.
I do also use other sites like Myspace, Facebook, Livejournal and Plurk but they aren’t as fun.
Like I mentioned, I’m still learning when it comes to promoting although I think I’m just starting to get there. I’m not nearly as good at this as some Etsy sellers.
RRoF -If you knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently?
MPA - Not to set my prices so low. When I first started out I was worried that people wouldn’t buy my stuff so I set my prices low. I was barely making any profit, what with postage, Etsy fees and Paypal fees. I felt guilty when I rose them at first, and thought no one would buy from me, but I knew I couldn’t go on only just breaking even.
RRoF - Any other thing, thoughts, advice, links,... etc you would like to share with the Newbies?
MPA - Something I always tell the children at work is, “Draw because you love to, not because you want to be the best.” The same applies for many things. If you punish yourself for not achieving what you want achieve or expect to achieve it really drains the fun from things. Always take joy from what you are doing. Creating shouldn’t be a chore, you should do it because it brings you joy.
I’d like to share a quote I read several years ago has been something that I have recalled time and time again when I’ve become discouraged. “Use those talents you have. You will make it. You will give joy to the world. Take this tip from nature: The woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except those who sang best.”
Thank you Chianne! Wishing you all the best!