Trisha Mathis was a journalist before starting a family took her life in a new direction. Now a military mom to a 2-year-old, Trisha turned to Etsy as a place to launch a creative career that would allow her to work at home. She started Dry Humor Boutique as a quirky kitchen goods business before making the switch to greeting cards, a medium she describes as “limitless.”
We talked to Trisha about the path to becoming an entrepreneur, her unexpected journey into designing greeting cards and the efficiency tips she's hoping to learn from *you.*
Name: Trisha Mathis
Business: Dry Humor Boutique
Started: November 2015
Tell us a bit about how you started Dry Humor Boutique.
When I became a mom, I knew I would need to create a career for myself where I could work from home. I’ve had friends who had success with Etsy, so I started researching how to start my own shop.
When I finally launched my business last November, it looked a lot different than it does now. I was etching designs on mugs and other kitchenware, but I wasn't seeing the success I wanted.
I began using some of my pun designs on greeting cards instead of mugs, and I started getting a lot of orders. I eventually made the decision to completely switch to greeting cards when I realized I’d found a better niche. I really got into the pace of making the cards, too — they’re much quicker to produce, and they fit with my writing background.
Who was your very first customer?
I got my first customer through Etsy a few days after my shop opened. When I launched my store, Etsy told me to choose how much I wanted to spend per day on promotion. At the beginning, I went for the maximum amount, not knowing that was excessive. Once I got steady orders coming through, I scaled it down.
With Etsy I also need to constantly fine-tune tags and wording in order to attract more customers, so I’m always sure to do that.
When did you know your business was going to work?
Owning a business is a roller coaster of emotions! Some days are gloomy and some days everything seems to shine.
When I changed over to greeting cards, I started to feel better about where I was going. After I finally reached double digits in my orders per day, I felt confident in the turnaround. Many businesses don’t profit in the first year, but I started getting double digits within a few months! That was when I realized Dry Humor Goods was on a decent trajectory.
What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?
Personally, one of the most challenging parts is patience. I’m a bit of a restless person, although having a toddler helps me deal with that.
There comes a point when, as the owner of a company, I've done everything I can and the next step is to wait. That was hard for me in the beginning — I really worried on the slow days.
But, I learned that patience is key. I thought I had to be proactive and be doing something at all times, but then I realized that I didn’t!
What has been your biggest lesson learned in pricing?
I did a lot of research using Etsy's guidelines and materials, but for me the holy grail of advice has been from Gayle and Charles Curry, who also sell on the site. I learned a ton about pricing from their webinar and started understanding the importance of valuing my products somewhere in the middle of what my competitors are charging.
As a new shop owner, I’ve wondered about increasing prices, but I don’t think I’m there yet as everything’s working out for me right now.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I have to work around my toddler’s eating and napping schedule. We get up in the morning around 6:30am, then I feed her and spend some time with her. If I have a lot on my plate for the day I can work while she plays in the morning.
During her two-hour nap, I put every minute into Etsy — packing and shipping saps a ton of time! Throughout the rest of the day, I put in 20 to 30-minute slots of work online. If I haven’t gotten enough done, my husband goes on baby duty when he gets home and I work for a couple hours in the evening as well.
50% of my time goes into creation, 10% is devoted to new designs and 30% is packaging and shipping. The rest goes into custom orders and other correspondence.
If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you’d do differently when starting your business?
I wish I’d started out with greeting cards. I didn’t make a profit from the kitchen goods business, even though I launched around Christmas and got an initial bump in orders. My first company was a learning process and it got me to where I am now, but I wish I’d had the knowledge then about how the greeting cards would play out.
What is one tip you would offer to other small business owners?
If something isn't working, try not to worry too much. Don’t give yourself a short deadline to be an overnight success. Don’t be married to one product or one style. You never know where the customer base is going to take you. Always be willing to change and evolve.
What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?
My biggest challenge right now is progression. I’ve gotten myself to where I feel I’m trending, and I consider myself established. But instead of maintaining this, I want to improve. I’d love to know how people manage their time so they can create new products.
How can I make sure my days are more efficient?
Calling all you efficiency experts!
Do you have tips for Trisha that will help her tackle time management so that she can focus on growing her business and creating new products?
If you have a story to share about your own experiences, tell us more in the comments below. :-)