I have an interview today with a bubbly and vivacious woman who makes her living customizing shoes. I found her shop on Etsy when I was doing a round-up of TOMS. I am so impressed by her entrepreneurial spirit and success. So here is Sandra Ramirez in her own words.
I paint shoes (mainly TOMS) for a living! Never thought I would say that. Seriously…never. It has been a crazy journey, but I have loved every step of the way.
I went to college to become a teacher (I THOUGHT that was what I wanted to do with my life). Well, actually I had always wanted to start my own business doing crafty things and have my own line of awesome goodies like Martha Stewart (minus the jail time) and have my own show on HGTV or something. But, I thought…”yeah right. That will never happen…so teaching it is!” I guess you could say that I started with my back up plan! Ha.
So immediately after graduating, I received a job as a high school English teacher. I was so young and it wasn’t what I imagined it to be…I sort of hated it. (Props to all of the teachers out there!!!) So I started painting shoes on the side (because I’ve always been super artsy–I minored in Art and Majored in English in college). I taught for two years and then I was let go from teaching (blessing in disguise).
So I was jobless and really wanted to start my own business. I started painting different designs and blasting social media. I didn’t sell anything for about 6 or 7 months and then I sold my first pair! I almost died! I thought, “Wow, seriously? Someone wants to buy something that I made?! OMG!!! This is AMAZING!!!” And then I did a little victory dance…for about a week.
It was slow for a while and didn’t really pay the bills. And I didn’t really want to go back to teaching. But after lots of prayer and tears…Christmas hit! I sold around 40 pairs of shoes and my life has been forever changed! This past Christmas was my second year selling on Etsy…and my orders had…wait for it….more than QUADRUPLED! I hired not one, not two, but THREE employees to help with all the orders. I was SWAMPED…in a good way.
Now my orders are pretty steady and I am making more than I was when I was teaching…crazy blessed.
I definitely use social media to promote anything and everything! It is a gem! I didn’t realize how much Pinterest actually affected traffic flow until I saw the numbers piling up in my Shop stats (great source to check btw–to see where your traffic is coming from). Most of my customers are actually referred from Pinterest! So Pinterest, Wanelo, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Blogs, etc. are all great sources that should be utilized. How will someone know about your store if you don’t tell them? So post away! Just don’t be annoying about it. 😉
I just started my own website (www.fruitfulfeet.com) so I am not selling purely on Etsy anymore. Etsy takes a huge chunk…I paid thousands…yes thousands…to Etsy last year. Yuck. Don’t get me wrong, I love Etsy and I am still selling on Etsy…and will probably always sell on Etsy, but it doesn’t hurt to have your own site as well, right? Just make sure you don’t have your personal website link on your Etsy…or you WILL GET SHUT DOWN. Probably not a good idea because Etsy’s SEO is phenomenal and will take a while to build SEO for your personal website. 🙂
I currently don’t have a studio because I really don’t want to pay the overhead (I’m a cheapskate) and I purchased a really nice house while I was teaching (and I can write off part of my house on my taxes–yayy!). I use two of the rooms in my house (I’m single, so I only have one roommate). One room is devoted to painting. I have all of my art supplies and whatnot in there. The other room is solely for storage. I buy a huge shipment of TOMS at a time and have several bookshelves where they are all nicely stored.
Photography is definitely key to selling online! I can’t emphasize that enough! No one will buy your product if you have horrible pictures. I know when I am searching for something, I won’t buy it if it looks like the picture was taken by a 5 year old (no offense). So make sure you have lots of lighting–natural lighting works best. I’m no professional at photography and I use a simple point and shoot camera, but I still try to make it look presentable. The picture is the only way that your buyer can see what they are buying. They can’t touch it or hold it. So you have to sell it with merely a picture…and maybe a quirky description (I don’t have interesting descriptions, but I’ve seen some great descriptions out there that make me want to buy the product–maybe that’s my English major side coming in to play).
I have a ton of repeat customers because of communication and quality. I take pride in my work and I don’t want to be given a bad name. Yes, it takes 4-6 weeks to receive a pair of hand painted shoes, but I communicate and let them know. I do a TON of weddings and several customers even send me wedding photos! It is seriously so rewarding! 🙂
I don’t really have a favorite artist, but I’m obsessed with Martha Stewart! Haha! I love cooking, crafting, and creating…and that pretty much exemplifies Martha. Haha…first name basis. Plus, she has her own line of pretty much EVERYTHING you can think of…that’s going to be me! Watch out, world! 😉
Dreams for the future? I definitely want to have several employees and my own line of stuff…maybe even create my own line of shoes. Who knows? I’m still young (just turned 27) and I have the world at my fingertips! 😉
My best piece of advice to give (I know it sounds corny and super cliche, but…) is to follow your dreams/passion! When you love what you do, it shows. People will want to buy into whatever you are trying to sell. Take pride in your work. So what are your dreams/passions…make a list. Do it. Right now. Go!
Such a great interview, such honest and real advice!
Here are some of Sandra’s links if you want to check em out:
Oh my goodness. I just had too much fun working on that fairy-tale wedding themed post the other day and I have been itching to work on something equally as delicious. Today I dug into the fashion of the 1930’s and there were certainly some gems to be found in Etsy-land. So I was wonderin’, maybe it makes sense to wear 1930’s fashions in my 30’s, 1940’s fashions in my 40’s, 1950’s fashions in my 50’s and so on…although it’s hard to imagine being inspired once I hit the 90’s. But I guess rules are made to broken!
My husband and I are dreaming of buying a small mid-century atomic ranch here in New Orleans and I can’t help but think about how I would decorate it. I know that vintage wallpaper has to be in the plans somewhere….ok, maybe in every room if I had my way! Lol, at least one wall! Here are some Etsy picks that I love. A lot of these papers come from shops that have quite a selection of great vintage papers. You can see the links below the images, but some shops to check out are:Elementstyle, thriftypyg, frausvenson & kitschykoolage Thank God for Etsy!
I could see using any(all!) of these papers somewhere in the home from my daughter’s room, my office, the kitchen, bathrooms or the foyer I just want these amazing patterns everywhere.
What do you think, do you like wallpaper? Would you use one of these?
Some people would find this to be just about the furthest thing they could imagine from their dream home, but when I see a house this well preserved it makes me freak out….like call-my-husband-in-from-the-living-room-to-see-it freak out. I have to say he wasn’t nearly as enthused as I am!
This house is actually for sale in New Orleans right now, it could be mine! If I had enough income to get a home loan! Which I don’t. But still. A girl can dream.
Wow! This post today is totally why I write a blog and focus so much of my energy on scouting out Etsy awesomeness. I never knew how much great vintage wedding stuff there was because I had just never looked. Especially the stuff from the 30s. That’s where my choice of theme stemmed from, 30s dresses are just so appealing to me. They look like they are pulled straight out of a Disney movie….or maybe Snow White looks so perfectly thirties because she came to be in 1937….yeah, that’s it! Either way, I really enjoyed doing this post and I hope you enjoy it, too! XOXO, RW
This week I am happy to present an interview all the way the from Netherlands! I have actually visited the Netherlands when I was a little girl and have fond memories of my time there.
I was drawn to Pauline’s shop because of her ultra light, bright images and perfect minimal styling. Her taste is spot on, as you will see.
Can you introduce yourself to my readers?
Hi, my name is Pauline, I’m Dutch and live in a very small village on the Dutch and German border. Our house is actually the last one in The Netherlands, the hedge around the garden is also the border between our countries. I have always been interested in ‘old’ things, even in ‘old’ people: I grew up in the same little town as all my grandparents, I even lived next door to them, and loved their stories of the old days and old ways. In my day job I am a concept developer and copy writer at an advertising agency. But I have also studied art and history, so all these things come together in my hobbies: finding retro items and then finding out as much as possible about them!
What sparked your interest in vintage?
It wasn’t sparked, I guess, it was just always there, in my genes. I used to be more interested in antiques and vintage, say more romantic, more French style objects. Since I live here, my interest has been caught by more retro and designer items. It is just a small change in interest, but it brought me into a complete new world to explore. I like the history of things. The everyday history of the people that have used the items as well as the history of the development of an item, or the designer or potter that made them. But I also can enjoy the shape or color or design of an item without knowing much about it. When it brings a smile to your face you know it’s a good thing!
Do you have any collections of your own?
Oh yes, I’m an avid collector.
Actually, the collecting made me start my shop on Etsy. In two ways. As I was looking for things to add to my own collections, I often found interesting things that were not for me, but that I was sure would be of interest to other people. I used to leave them at the flea markets, but now I buy them so other people can enjoy them. And on the other side: by selling some items then I can afford to spend a bit more on my own collections.
My main collection at the moment is West German Pottery (WGP) of the sixties and seventies. But I have quite a bit of Czech glass as well. And Scandinavian tableware. And Czech pottery. And Dutch pottery. And fifties paintings. And Italian souvenir ware. I hope my husband is not going to read this…! I used to hide things, but I (well, my pots) have come out of the closet about three years ago 😉 I try to keep these things in groups and not have them all over the house. When I can’t open the door of the washing machine any more I know it is time to shift boxes and start selling again!
Is Etsy your sole source of income?
No, my shop on Etsy is just for fun, it is a hobby. With a full time job, a family, a dog and a large garden there is not much room left to do more than just potter about a bit in my shop. I hope to think that when I retire I can actually spend some more time on it.
Do you use social media to enhance your success on Etsy and if so, how?
No, I do not. It is actually because I do not have the time to do so. And I find that when people are looking for an item, they find you anyway. But it would be good to get more impulse buyers interested. I try to be good at describing my items in different ways to gain interest. This is a good tip if you want to have your items treasured: try to be creative in your description.
What has been your biggest Etsy success and your biggest Etsy fail?
My biggest Etsy success was the vase I listed and then thought I had done something wrong because I couldn’t find it in my shop. I think it had been online no more than one minute and someone had already bought it. But it took me a while to realize that!
My biggest fail so far. As a matter of fact I have not yet had a big fail. Fingers crossed. But strange things do happen. I once sold a clock to a lady in Norway. She paid, I sent the item and then it returned to me after some weeks. It could not be delivered, said the label. I tried to contact the lady several times, even through her Paypal account and by googling her, but never heard from her again. I kept the parcel for a full year and then sold the clock again. But I keep wondering what happened to the lady… I think I will never find out!
What are your favorite places to score vintage treasures?
Oh, there are so many places, but my favorites must be the large German fleamarkets in the Ruhrgebiet. I go there with my friend Werner (another Etsy enthusiast). We meet in the morning at about 7.00 o’clock in a parking lot somewhere in Germany and then go on to the markets. These markets do not only offer an amazing array of goods, but the catering is a lot better than in The Netherlands too. Kaffee und Kuchen in the morning, Wurst und Braten in the afternoon. At the end of the day we are too tired to speak but it is a lovely way to find unexpected treasures.
What is your favorite era for vintage things? Why?
My favorite era is the seventies. Maybe that is because it reminds me the most of my youth. I was a very happy teenager in a small town that offered everything you could want for. My parents were not very strict so we were able to go out a lot and try out all kinds of different styles: mini skirts, maxi dresses, flared trousers, platform shoes, you name it, my sister and I wore it.
Favorite vintage icon?
My favourite vintage vase is this Otto Fat Lava vase from the sixties. It is a real icon and very sought after. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it on a stall between Barbie dolls and pink childrens dresses. It is so bright, so yellow and yet so robust, so basic. I just love it!
Thank you so much, Pauline, for sharing with us a little piece of your life in the Beautiful Netherlands!
Visit Pauline’s shop, Coollect, here.