Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Double Agents on Etsy--Those You Know and Some You Don't

First a little context…

In April of this year, I lost my ‘real job’ due to ongoing health issues and knew that I was going to have to figure out a way to make it on my own. My best friend was already scheduled to come visit me the following week and during her trip, we drove down to Charlotte so she could meet my sister and my three little nieces. We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant, so, naturally, there was a fortune cookie waiting for me when I was done. When I finished my lunch, I cracked open that cookie, read the fortune inside, smiled and stuck it in my wallet. When I got home, I taped it to my monitor, and it’s been there ever since. It says:

A Friend in the Market is Better Than Money in the Purse
Words to live by...

When I opened my shop in August of 2007, I didn’t know much about anything except that I was nervous and excited and wanted to bead my brains out. My learning curve was beyond steep as I wasn’t familiar with selling online, much less with Etsy. I spent many an evening wandering into the forums lurking for an answer I needed. Slowly but surely, I figured things out, but I would be utterly disingenuous if I didn’t mention all of the help I got from Etsy suppliers all the way. They were my first lifeline on Etsy and the lucky recipient of my life savings that I was spending on beads and findings. At first, I was asking the basic and frequently annoying questions like, "Can you tell me why there are 985, 746 treasuries right now?" and "You can actually print shipping labels right out of PayPal? No way." As time went on, my questions became more frantic, “Hey, um, it's me again. Do you have just one more of that black bead you had last week that you said you were almost out of but I’m really hoping that you’re not because I dropped the last one in the sofa and I can’t find it?” And of course the much more common refrain of, “Um, I just placed a huge order with you, but can you hold it because I just realized that I need more stuff, but I have to go work so it won’t be until tonight that I can give you the rest of that list?” Their patience with me was (is) beyond astounding.

(Yes, Virginia, I’m high maintence.)

And then as I began to get into the groove of what I was doing, I was able to rely on several of my suppliers for advice on a whole range of issues like what type of pliers they recommended after mine broke in half in my hand and how to handle wholesale requests. By the time Christmas of 2007 came around, I had good working relationships with several suppliers and it proved fortuitous when my shop began to get busy or when I needed something in a pinch for a last minute bulk order. I realized very quickly how important my relationshps were with them; they mean as much to me as my customers. They are several Etsy suppliers that I absolutely cannot do without.

(Dear Etsy,
This is why I need the ability to sort my purchases by seller, not just by date. Thanks.)

But aside from the stalwart Etsy sellers we’ve all come to love, there are those lurking amongst us who are suppliers of a different breed. They are the double agents I speak of, and I’ve chosen to blow their cover today so you too can know who’s hiding in the bushes and how I found them. Much like the beautiful damsel who hangs on the arm of a tuxedo-clad spy as he wanders through a gala event with a deadly ink pen in his inner pocket, all three of these suppliers were unknowingly equipped with their own secret strategy…

# 1: The Treasury

First up is Deb Babcock of Blue Sky Pottery. About a month ago, I clicked on the Treasury link and a new one was seconds from opening up. I panicked because I was just killing time and yet, there was an open Treasury staring at me. Holy Opportunity Knocking Batman! So, I decided to make one called ‘Teal Tummies.’ The concept was anything teal that could be on or hold something that might go in your tummy. I filled up the Treasury and one of the items was one of Deb’s rice bowls.

I notified everyone who I’d put in the Treasury. Deb replied to thank me and said that she’d love to trade with me if I was ever interested, so I quickly went over to her shop because I love pottery, and Deb’s work is so fanciful, I could stare at it all day. It took me about five minutes to decide what I wanted, and BAM! Deb is now a double agent. I traded a couple of pendants for four little trees that she made for me, and they became the Whooville Tree Lot. Here's one of the four the trees we planted. Cranberry Scone...

(Never underestimate the power of a Treasury.)

#2 The Free Gift

Next up is one of my busiest double agents whose cover is pretty much already blown. In May of this year, I bought this tote bag from Jenny Nguyen of jennyndesigns.

I absolutely love this bag. The fabric is luxurious, the design is wonderful. I adore it. But along with my order, Jenny sent a teeny tiny little tote bag, a little paisley guy with only one strap. I hung him on my router antennae and started filling him with all of the business cards I was amassing from fellow Etsyians.

In July 2008, I had an idea about how to expand my nursing necklace product line. It dawned on me that the moms who were buying nursing necklaces from me are also very, very busy moms and were no doubt running out of the house at the last minute with baby to pick up siblings, run errands, get to work, etc., and I could see these mothers nursing away from home later in the day and realizing that they forgot to put on their nursing necklace when they left the house. So, I decided to design The Nurse Purse to address this problem. But I’m no seamstress, and I needed someone to make the ‘purse’ for me, so I thought and thought, and then I glanced up at the teeny tiny tote hanging from my router antennae and thought this thought, “Hmm, that’s a teeny tiny tote, and I need a bunch of very different and pretty teeny tiny totes….” I contacted Jenny to see if she’d be interested in designing and producing the purse for me, and the rest is history. The final product looks nothing like the teeny tiny tote, but The Nurse Purse has been a huge success, and is now sold in an online boutique as well! Below is the Contextual Nurse Purse, just one of the over thirty Jenny has created for the line.

word to your mother

(A free sample might get you further than you ever imagined.)

#3 A Gorgeous Color Palette and Stunning Product

In September of 2008, The Nurse Purse was selling well, and I was constantly on the hunt for specific and small gemstone donuts to use for the purses and was started getting frustrated when there were certain ones, like peridot jasper, that were really hard to find. I would end up buying large grab bag lots for the two or three that would be in there and that got expensive and tiring. Lime green is one of my favorite pendant colors and one of my best sellers, and I wasn’t about to give up, so I gave up looking for gemstones and decided to look for a different material altogether: glass. I remembered seeing a shop months earlier that made stunning glass discs and with only a little bit of searching, I found it again: Blue Seraphim. Jenn makes the most beautiful glass discs out of German and Italian glass, colors that I could stare at all day long.

Fresh Salsa

In doing just that, I realized that she might be able to help me solve my problem, so I contacted her to see if she could make her discs a little bit larger for me so that I could use them with my nurse purses. She said she’s give it a whirl, and my struggle to find lime green donuts was over. So Jenny and Jenn, unbeknownst to one another, are the double agents behind this particular Nurse Purse: In the Right Circles.

She knew where she came from and where she was going...little one in tow.

(All the time and energy you invest you in product and your shop...yes, it's worth it. )

So for all of you out there who sell supplies on Etsy, who drop dead every night after sealing package after package after package, who have address cross-checking nightmares dancing in your head, I thank you because you truly helped make my shop, Risky Beads, what it is today. And to those of you who collaborate with me on the twelve hundred ideas I have in my head, I thank you even more. The fact that you actually listen to my plethora of ideas at two in the morning is a service in itself. It's physically impossible for me to list every supplier who has helped me during my fifteen months on Etsy, but you know who you are. And if you're not sure, just check your convo ratio...yeah, that's me.


P.S.--And for those of you who, like me, survive on the supplies you get from Etsy suppliers, I've gathered some super-fab discounts for you below! Please pay attention to the codes, terms of the discount and special instructions, and please contact the supplier before you purchase regarding how they want you to handle the transaction. There are so many listed here, it was too cumbersome to list each seller's special instructions. All shops are listed in alphabetical order under their section.

And now, on with the goodies:

blueseraphim FREE SHIPPING CODE: frshp11 ENDS: 11/30/08
dbabcock 20% OFF YOUR ORDER CODE: risky20 ENDS: 1/15/09

amylynnesbeadmarket 50% off entire shop due to store closing! No code needed!
Beads2string 10% off & FREE SHIPPING CODE: riskybeads ENDS: 12/20/08
blacksheepbeads FREE SHIPPING CODE: riskybeads ENDS: thru 11/23/08
byjanelle 10% off order (excludes Swarovski) CODE: d10 ENDS: 11/30/08
humblebeads FREE GIFT CODE: risky08 ENDS: 12/5/08
Lululalaland FREE SHIPPING on orders of $50 or more CODE: rbblog ENDS: 12/31/08
macksupplies FREE SHIPPING on orders of $15 or more CODE: free shipping ENDS: 12/6/08
rjbeads FREE SHIPPING w/ no minimum CODE: No Risk ENDS: 12/02/08
yadanabeads 10% off (not incl. shipping) CODE: Lori10 ENDS: 11/30/08
yndigo1 FREE Shipping on Orders of $10 or more CODE: RiskyPromo ENDS: 12/1/08

adelehartlep 25% off reg. priced item CODE: riskybeadsblog ENDS: 11/30/08
evonnewee FREE SHIPPING on first class mail only CODE: FS-Risky ENDS: 12/31/08

ArtisticEphemera A FREE PDF Digital Collage Sheet titled "Ephemera Heaven" with a purchase of $5 or more CODE: RISKYBEADS ENDS: 12/31/08
schOOLLOcker 15% OFF $40 PURCHASE CODE: Risky Beads sent me! ENDS: 12/15/08
StarttoFinish $5 off an order of $20 0r more CODE: Risky ENDS: 12/31/08
StarttoFinishsupplies (on Big Cartel) 10% off entire purchase CODE: Risky ENDS: 12/31/08
theSupplyPantry offer cancelled as shop is temporarily closed.

Enjoy these great offers and check back for more articles about running a business on Etsy!


  1. Fab blog post - really enjoyed reading this.

  2. awesome post!
    I've never brought supplies from etsy as I have tons of stuff I amassed from years of loving art but I think I will definitely give it a whirl!

  3. Thanks Risky for this post! I really, really enjoyed reading it! It is a great feeling knowing when you collaborate with another artist/craftsperson on something and it works! Congrats to all of you!

  4. I really enjoyed your post ~ I've 'met' some seriously wonderful people through etsy both shopping and selling ~ thank you for sharing your successes

  5. What a truly wonderful post! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it-thanks for mentioning on the Etsy forum! I am now a blog follower and will definitely be checking out all of the shops listed in this post.

  6. Fantastic blog, wonderful read. Some really great tips how to get other people as suppliers.

  7. What a great post. I very rarely read long posts, but I couldn't stop reading this one. Thanks so much for all the discount offers at the end.

  8. I usually avoid the long posts too, but I really enjoyed reading yours! I love your fortune cookie anecdote!


  9. Very enlightening post. Thank you for sharing. I sure do treasure my customers.

  10. Wonderful article - I love to hear stories of collaboration - and of new friendships made. :)

  11. Great post, I'm fairly new to Etsy but I love the community that is there. This opens my eyes to some of the deeper relationships that await.

    Thank you

  12. Lori- so true! I love my ephemera and vintage goods etsy suppliers!!

  13. !!! The support at Etsy is fantastic! Wonderful writing, I appreciate the gifts and your story :)

  14. Thanks for the compliment to us suppliers! Always glad to help.

    Checkout the beads in my Etsy shop:

    and all the ones I haven't gotten listed yet on my blog:

  15. Don't forget soaps :) Lovely blog post!

  16. Lori... you'll be sick of seeing my face. I'm not getting any work done as I am reading your e-book and getting side tracked. I've decided to declare today a 'Lori Holiday' and just enjoy this amazing ride you are taking me on. I'll work tomorrow.