What inspired you to open up your shop and start selling your vintage finds?
I never had ambitions to run a business, actually! I worked as an interior designer before I had my girls, but stayed at home after the first was born. I’ve always loved shopping for vintage goods, ever since my mom, who is an antique collector, used to take me out to flea markets with her as a child.
After awhile, I collected so many things that my house was becoming overrun and my husband said to me, "Ok.
What are we going to do with this?" I was maxed out and needed to reclaim some space, but also wanted to find a way to make all the cool stuff I’d collected useful.
I saw an advertisement forEtsyway back in 2008 and thought I’d give it a try. I had no idea how well I’d do, but I saw no harming in giving it a go.
It’s turned out to be a pretty successful move for me over the years. I’ve shipped items all over the world! But there have been ups and downs. Whenever I think I’ll never get another sale, I suddenly get a big boom of business, so I’ve learned to ride the waves.
There are a lot of vintage sellers on Etsy now, but we all have different tastes. I never look for anything specific, just for whatever catches my eye. Some of the sellers I buy from regularly say I choose the weirdest things, but it turns out there are other people in the world with weird taste — just like me!
When did you know your business was going to work?
When Etsy featured one of my products on the homepage, I got six or seven sales within an hour. This boom only lasted a day, but it showed me just how effective being featured could be.
Etsy only features good photographs of items on the homepage, so I decided to up my game. My photos weren’t very special in the beginning, but I took a photography class and got a better camera, which has had a huge impact on how my products look on the site and how many sales I get. I’ve been featured several times now, and each time I get a big sales boost.
What has been the biggest surprise so far after starting your own business?
When I started selling on Etsy, I never thought I’d send anything to South Korea, but I have. More surprising still is that it actually got there in one piece!
It’s really fun to communicate with people all over the world, and I just love how friendly people are on Etsy. I’ve had messages from people telling me that they like my shop, even if they haven’t bought anything.
How do you price your products?
While I’m shopping for vintage finds, my phone is always in my hand. If I see something amazing, I’ll use a site called worthpoint.comthat tells me what items have sold for in the past. Or, I look for similar items on eBay. If I see something I like, but there are 200 of the same item listed on eBay, I won’t buy it.
When I’ve chosen a piece, I usually try to sell it for double what I paid for it. If I find out it’s really rare, I’ll add more of a margin. My prices have generally gone up over time as I’ve come to find what works and what doesn’t, but there have been a few pieces I’ve regretted buying. Etsy requires sellers to re-list items after four months if they haven’t sold, and if I have to re-list I always lower the price.
What does a typical day look like for you?
This business is flexible, so I’m able to run it around my kids. After dropping them off at school in the mornings, I try to go to gym and run errands before heading back home around midday to photograph my items when there’s good light. Then I’ll package orders up and run them to the post office before picking my kids up again.
I try to list something new every day, so my shop looks fresh and to keep regular customers interested, but I don’t get around to doing this until late at night when my kids have gone to bed. It’s hard to switch off completely from running the business and I’m always checking my phone in the middle of the night to see if I’ve had a sale, which still gives me a huge rush.
I spend my weekends at flea markets with my eldest daughter, who loves to help out (she was once featured in a photograph that made it on Etsy’s homepage and she thought she was famous!).
I’m in Tulsa, Oklahoma and every Saturday there’s a big flea market at the fairground, which is my favorite place to find things. There are a few regular sellers there who love to hear where their items have ended up — they all have the opinion that if I can make something extra off their items, I should go for it.
If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would do differently when starting your business?
I would name my businesssomething more descriptive about what I do. I chose Bellalulubecause my daughters are called Bella and Lucy, but I think a different name would have helped to boost sales in the beginning.
What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?
I would love to learn more about advertising through social media.
I post regularly onInstagramandFacebook, but I know there are other ways I could promote my business and I’d love to find out what works on social media for other vintage sellers. Some sellers have huge followings, but I don’t know how to grow my audience and find those people!
How do *you* grow your social following and find new customers on social media?
QB Community members, do you have tips for Jill that could help her grow her following on Facebook and Instagram? How do you find new followers or reach new people on social media?