Thursday, June 18, 2009

Interview with an Etsy Expert: The House Of Mouse

I recently included an article written by Anna from The House of Mouse with some excellent advice on tagging in the Etsy Tips and Tricks series, and she very kindly agreed to do an interview and share some of her etsy tips with us. Anna has over 670 sales and a successful full-time mouse-making business, so it's definitely worth taking some notes!

How and why did you start selling on Etsy, and where did the mousey inspiration come from?

The first mice that I made were Christmas presents for my family and friends back in November 2007. My grandmother owned a small shop in a tourist village called Mousehole in the UK, she made small felt mice in costumes to sell in her shop, along with a lot of other mousy themed pieces like mugs, plates and ashtrays. She and my grandfather passed away when I was only 3, so I don't have any memory of her. But my parents still have some of her mice at home, they peek out from corners and shelves all through the house.

I have always enjoyed making things and most Christmases I give my family handmade gifts. My mice are quite different from my Grandmothers ones; they are slightly larger and their shape is different, but the idea of dressing them in costumes is the same. My family and friends were so happy with their mice, and many of them said I should sell them, I can hardly believe how well they have been doing.

I knew about Etsy from an artist website community called www.deviantart.com , I had been posting my paintings (www.annagreaves.deviantart.com) there for a long time and had come across several etsy sellers shops through their deviantart galleries. So I was already aware of etsy before I started sewing my mice.

Maria The Ballerina Mouse

Do you have a favourite mouse? Do you ever get any bizarre custom requests?

Choosing a favourite mouse is always hard for me, because they feel like my children. I really do love every one of them. I have a special place in my heart for my angel mouse, because her wings were so hard to figure out how to make, and I am pleased with the solution I came up with. I love Naomi and Milo the mom and baby mouse, little Milo's huge eyes just hit the awwww factor for me every time. I also adore my Dangerous mice, especially Axel the executioner mouse with the little severed mouse head. Some people say I am sick when they see him, but there is something about the cuteness and macabre together that make me laugh.

I get custom requests all the time, most of them are normal, while a few of them have been a bit strange. One customer asked for a walrus-mouse, which was very tricky to do. What parts of the mouse did I need to keep to make it recognisably a mouse? And which bits did I need to also make him a walrus? He was a representation of an in-joke between siblings. In the end I rather liked the moulrus, as he came to be known.

Edward Scissorpaws Mouse

Can you tell us a bit about the creative process involved in making a mouse?

I have a HUGE list of ideas for mice that I want to make, I keep them in a little book. I also have a page on my blog for people to make suggestions. I literally have hundreds of mice that I want to make. Ideas for a mouse hit me all the time, while watching a movie, reading a book or flicking through channels on the TV etc. I get great suggestions from fans all the time. I don't think I will ever run out of ideas.

I try to make a new mouse every week, so on a Friday I look through all my ideas and pick a new mouse to make. I use google to find out everything I can about my chosen mouse and pick the characteristics that he or she should have to make them recognisable.

I sew up a basic mouse body, with feet, tail, nose, ears and eyes already on and then I start work on clothing him. I have a wall of ribbon that I use for the mouse clothing, so I pick out colours and fabrics to use. sometimes I don't have the right thing so a trip the supply store is needed (my favourite kind of shopping!)

If the mouse needs a tricky accessory then I spend some time deciding the best way to make it, sometimes I can do it with card or felt, rubber foam or a drinking straw. occasionally they require me to mould an accessory using polymer clay. The finishing touch is when I put their whiskers in.

Charles Darwin Mouse

You have turned your store into a highly successful business. What advice would you give to new and not-so-new etsy sellers?

There is so much to learn on Etsy. I guess my biggest piece of advice to sellers here is to read all the material available on setting up and running your store. It amazes me how few people are aware of the storque and it's almost unlimited resources to help you improve your store and get the sales you want.

When I wanted to open my store, my bank messed up my credit card application and it took them 4 months to get it to me - it was annoying at the time, but really it was a blessing - because I spent all that time reading everything I could find on taking great photos, writing store policies, customer service and loads of other things.

When my credit card finally arrived (this was back when you to get a store on Etsy you had to register a credit card with them, you can pay your bill with paypal now) I was more than ready to open my store. It got me off on a great start.

This blog post has links to some of the best resources I found for new and struggling sellers.

I regularly blog advice for sellers, you can find links to all my posts here.

Harry Potter Mouse

Is there any particular advice you have for international sellers?

Being a seller from outside the USA can be daunting here, the best way to feel part of the community is to join a team that is based in your country, you can find the whole list of Etsy teams here. The European Street Team has been wonderful for me, they gave me the advice and support I needed when I first arrived. Having friends on Etsy who can help you with problems specific to the country you are in (shipping issues for example) is really valuable. I am sure that if it was not for the EST I would have had a much harder time getting to grips with this site.

Yoda Mouse

What kind of promotion do you do? Do you promote much off Etsy, and do you have any insight into reaching new buyers (non-sellers) that you'd like to share?

I have tried a lot of different promotions. When I first started on Etsy most of my promotions were within the site. I joined a team that makes treasuries featuring their members and that resulted on my mice getting on the front page quite regularly. I also made a lot of treasuries, although I have less time to sit and wait for one to open now.

After about a year on Etsy I started to focus my marketing away from Etsy. My main places to promote are:

1) My blog http://lifecraftinessandeverythingelse.blogspot.com I blog almost every day to keep readers coming back. I also run a monthly giveaway there, which is proving to be very popular, and it helps more people from outside etsy aware of my shop.

2) I have a facebook fan page which I keep updated all the time with new mice and updates from my blog.

3) I also use twitter to expand my fan base and keep people up to date with what I am making. I can promote my giveaways, blog posts and other news through twitter too.

Both Twitter and Facebook are great free ways to promote because you can target your posts at the people most likely to be interested in what you are doing. They are also highly viral sites, in that when people comment on your posts their friends see your work. Both sites provide a linking and networking base that helps word spread about your shop very fast with a minimum amount of effort on your part.

I use flikr, myspace, deviantart and some ning networks as well to promote any new mice that I make. Setting all these things up takes time, but once they are done you don't need to spend more than 3 hours a week on promotions. (I spend about 6 because I blog about tutorials, which take time to write, and I have a second blog just for fun http://fortheloveofcute.blogspot.com)

I have stores on dawanda.com and Artfire.com , although neither site is as buyer-friendly as Etsy so my success of those sites have been minimal.

Naomi and Milo Junior- Mother and Baby Mouse

What is the next step in the 'Anna and her mice take over the world' story?

I am currently stocking up my Star Wars mice for an exhibition in Florida in July. The show is called Stitch Wars, an exhibition of handmade Star Wars Themed art - which my mice were just born to be a part of!

Once those orders are complete I am going to keep making new designs and working on my promotions. There is lots more for me to learn and improve on. I hope one day to be able to afford to pay someone to share the work load with me, or perhaps outsource the basic mouse shape so that I can produce more. I don't really know how to achieve this yet, I have more research to do. But since I found The House of Mouse I have had the constant feeling that the sky is the limit, I never know what is going to happen next!

Mr and Mrs Mouse the Bridal Pair

. . .

All mice can be found at TheHouseOfMouse.etsy.com
Visit Anna's Blog Life, Craftiness and Everything Else for more great info

11 comments:

  1. What a great interview. So interesting. And Anna's mice are fabulous, each is so full of personality.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a great feature on an inspirational lady. Thanks Nicky :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very interesting interview - thankyou!

    ReplyDelete
  4. lovely read! love the yoda mouse! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Fantastic interview with an incredibly creative seller!

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a fantastic, and inspirational interview. I have a little stormtrooper mouse sitting on the bookcase at home.. love him!

    ReplyDelete
  7. The shark hoody is inspired!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Such a wonderful story and interview, give me the drive to do more with what I'm doing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anna was the very first Etsian to give me some advice and I'm so glad she was. She has been a real inspiration to me..

    And the mice are just so darned cute!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great interview. Her mice have always been one of my favorites on Etsy

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for commenting :) Morphologica

Blog Widget by LinkWithin