Broke No More: Meet Tawnia Knittle-White and Her Wildly Popular Custom Wedding Favors
When a palm reader predicted Tawnia Knittle-White would own her own business someday, she brushed it off as nonsense. After all, she was in love with her steady job at Coors Brewing Company. But then she got engaged, kept coming up dry when she was looking for the perfect wedding trimmings. So, she decided to make her own.
The next thing she knew, she was selling her unique wedding favors and accessories on Etsy full-time — and wondering what else that fortune teller might have gotten right!
We caught up with Tawnia to talk about knowing when to quit your full-time job and the hiring tips she's hoping to learn from *you.*
I have a long, crazy background of having not-so-great jobs. But then I got hired as a quality assurer at Coors Brewing Company — an amazing position I thought I would never, ever leave!
Some time later, I got engaged and was looking on Etsy for cute wedding favors, but I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. I decided to make my own and put them up for sale.
Before this, it didn’t even occur to me that I could own a business. At first, my plan was just to earn extra money for my wedding. I never thought I’d be able to quit my job at Coors — or even that I’d want to.
To set upEverlong Events, I first did some online research on Etsy. Then I ordered supplies, started making stuff and took pictures of all my products. Honestly, there wasn’t a lot of planning that happened — I just went with my gut while choosing which products to produce. I thought about what *I* would want as a bride.
I now mostly sell muslin wedding favor bags, hand stamped with different quotes. I also make custom wedding welcome tote bags, and I’m starting to sell t-shirts, too.
When did you know your business was going to work?
I set a sales target and said that if I reached it, then I’d quit Coors.
Well, every time I hit my goal, I’d turn around and set a new one!
At the beginning of last summer, my sales were double my Coors salary and I finally thought I’d be OK, so I quit the company this past August and got married in October.
I still feel uncertainty, and I worry a lot about not selling what people want. I don’t ever want to be broke again! The good thing about being in the wedding business, though, and is that brides don’t worry as much about costs because they expect to spend money on their big day.
How do you price your products?
I take into account the cost of making my items and how long they take to create, but the most important thing I do is look at competitor pricing. I make sure I’m slightly more affordable than similar producers.
If I have a pricingquestion, I’ll post it on Etsy’s Team forums, where sellers can connect with other members. I belong to about 160 Teams, and there’s a wealth of information available. People talk about their experiences, how they started out, what they’ve tried and their failures and successes.
I’ve learned not to sell items that take too long to make. I used to sell wedding bubbles, which I sold in packs of 100 for $80. It cost me $13 for the bubbles and $7 for twine, shells and packaging. My Etsy fees totaled $4.40, leaving a profit of $55.60. It took 3 hours to roll each vial in glue and sand, and another to tie them with twine and glue a shell on each one. Next, I carefully cut bubble wrap to place around each vial and packed them tightly into a box, which took another 30 minutes.
The total time invested was 4.5 hours, not including drying time, leaving me with a salary of $12.22 per hour. It wasn’t enough, so I stopped selling them.
What is your most effective means of getting new customers?
I constantly add new products to my Etsy shop, and the keywords I've set up for SEO keep me on the first page.
Another thing I do is answer questions immediately. If I don’t, then the sale might go elsewhere.
I also recently started paying for Google AdWords advertising. When I started to use it this past August, I noticed a big jump in sales.
If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would do differently when starting your business?
I’d organize myself better from the start. I used to order supplies and just drop them in the basement. There were stacks everywhere!
Everlong grew so fast that I didn’t know what hit me, but I’ve finally gotten my office put together and organized. It’s taken since 2014, though, because I’ve been *that* busy.
How do you juggle other responsibilities and interests outside of your business?
I have three kids aged 2, 4 and 22 — although the oldest mostly takes care of himself! When I wake up in the morning I first take care of the kids, then it’s a mad rush to get everything done.
Right now, I try to complete orders every spare second I have. I like to turn everything around in a day or two before I’m buried because I’m getting 10 to 20 orders per day.
To be this busy so early in the year, I’m afraid for peak wedding season!
What would you like to learn today from a network of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?
I need to hire someone, but I’m worried about maintaining quality. How do I take on staff while keeping the same standards?
Do *you* have hiring tips for Tawnia?
QB Community members, share your own experiences around hiring and taking on extra help. We can't wait to hear your stories in the comments section below! :-)