By: Jade Shi
In light of the holiday season, the Smoke Signal recently sat down with Senior Ivy Kuo, who created an online craft store to sell her hand-made crafts. She shared her motivations, inspirations, and the efforts she took to get her crafts online and to customers.
Smoke Signal: How did you get started in making crafts, and what was your motivation for starting an online store?
Ivy Kuo: I started watching tutorials online and was fascinated by how many things could be made out of just a few supplies (polymer clay, wire, paint). When I finally bought my supplies a few weeks later, I was so excited that I literally spent all night making clay charms for my friends. My motivation was never to start a store in the beginning, it started out as a hobby, and it wasn’t until later on that I realized I could use Etsy as a way to reach out to other people and spread my love of crafting, as cheesy as that sounds.
SS: When did you first start your (first) store?
IK: I started my first store my junior year, around April.
SS: What do you think has been most rewarding about your store?
IK: I think it would be just seeing the smile on someone’s face once I present them with a charm, or hearing positive feedback from a customer. It’s the same feeling that musicians get when they realize their songs have touched someone, or a writer realizes someone enjoys their work. Just knowing that someone’s day is brightened whenever they glance at one of my charms dangling from a cell phone, or when a girl chooses to wear one of my necklaces in the mornings, drives me to work harder.
I was never really in it for the ‘money,’ because honestly the amount of work I put in and the cost of supplies didn’t measure up to what I charged. But I knew that going in, as I knew I was only going to charge a fraction of what my competitors did. One of the main reasons I decided to open my own store was because I saw so many other users overcharging their customers, and it just seemed unfair and unethical to me.
SS: I understand that you’ve closed your old store and are currently working on a new one, targeted toward a different audience? Can you tell us a bit about that?
IK: My old store was targeted towards a younger crowd, mostly young girls between the ages of 5-12. I made charms in the shape of desserts and Disney characters, and bow barrettes for toddlers. While I loved what I did, I took some time off to experiment with new mediums and decide which direction I wanted to head towards. I’ve decided to open up an entirely new store geared towards both girls and guys in the high school or above range, with more sophisticated cloth bows, personalized people charms (meaning I’ll make a mini charm of anyone), and jewelry. I’m also in the works of planning my Spring 2013 clothing release, which I’m really excited about!
SS: What are your favorite things to make? What’s most popular among your customers?
IK: My favorite items to make would be the people charms, where I make anyone into a miniature anime-like charm, complete with their favorite accessories and clothing to add a personal touch. I’ve even done their favorite fictional characters! My most popular item is the cake charm; I’ve had anywhere from little boys to my friends’ parents requesting them!
SS: Which crafts take the most time/effort? Do you have something you base your crafts on, or do you design them by yourself?
IK: Definitely my newer cloth bows, which I hand-sew. Each one can take me up to 30 minutes to make, but they’re one of my favorite items as I’ve been a self-professed bow lover since middle school. I base my crafts on current trends, tutorials, and anything I see online! Every form of art, whether it be dance or music or crafting, involves taking a traditional item you know people love, and interpreting it in your own original way.
SS: Is it difficult to open an online store? Can you run us through the process of how you did it?
IK: It was definitely challenging because there are currently so many online stores, but then again, isn’t life about overcoming obstacles to finally achieve something? I started off networking by talking to friends and advertising online in forums and blogs. The beginning is all about connections, because word-of-mouth really is powerful, and I was grateful enough to be surrounded by people who supported me and wanted to help me throughout the whole journey.
Then came the tedious process of actually hand-making my products and ensuring every single item was up to my standards. I also spent a great deal of time photographing, editing, writing the descriptions, contacting customers, and everything else that comes with running a little online shop. Everything was a great learning experience, and all of this taught me so much discipline and business skills.
SS: Is there any advice you’d like to give anyone who wants to open their own online craft store in the future?
IK: Remember that you’re not in it for the money, but for your love of art. Do your research, make sure you’re willing to make the investment, and always have a backup plan. But most importantly, have confidence in you and your work. If you have passion, patience, and perseverance, I guarantee everything will pay off!