Thursday, June 08, 2006

Busy Bodies interview

I blogged about these little people on Day 152 because they are about the cutest things I’ve ever seen! Heidi was nice enough to let me interview her.

1. What drew you to opening an online store?

After learning how hard it was to sell my designs “brick and mortar” style it just became the next logical step to try selling them on the internet. Discovering CafePress by accident led me to start thinking about it more seriously. They made my idea possible.

Were you in a related field?

Yes. I’m currently an illustrator and graphic designer and went to college for graphic design. While in college, I earned money in the summers drawing and airbrushing caricatures at ValleyFair amusement park in Minnesota. After about 5 years of doing that I decided to give airbrush T-shirts a try and painted tons of shirts my last summer at ValleyFair. I learned a lot about the T-shirt business: what kinds of designs sold, what prices people were willing to pay. I later opened up my own T-shirt booth at the Dakota County fair and sold my first BusyBodies designs there, each airbrushed by hand. They were the most popular designs at my booth.

2. When did you open your store?

August 27, 2003.
The “I Golf,” “I Fish,” “I Grill,” and Bride & Groom designs were the first designs in my store.

3. What is harder about doing this then you thought it would be?

Marketing and time. Making my shop visible to potential customers and realizing the hundreds of hours it would take to create designs, tag them, price them, organize them, etc.

4. What do you like best about being an online shopkeeper?

There’s so much I enjoy, but here are my top three:
• The global market. It’s incredible that I can sell my designs across the globe.
• The People. I’m so inspired and encouraged by the people I’ve met through my store. There are a lot of great people out there and I’m honored so many of them actually spend their hard-earned money on my artwork. I’m truly grateful.
• No Day-care. The best thing is that my CafePress income is just enough to enable my husband to work only on weekends so he can care for our baby during the week. That is truly priceless.

5. During the very first month, what do you wish you had known then that you do now?

That my hard work would pay off eventually. It’s easy to lose motivation in the beginning, working alone in the basement on hundreds of little stick figure people, wondering if anybody will even care. Persistence pays off. Had I known it would be this successful, I would have had my store open much sooner.

6. Could you share some of the marketing you’ve tried so far (on or off line) and what has worked and what hasn’t?

•SEO! If you don’t know about it, read about it on CafePress. The best investment of your time is Search Engine Optimization. Have things labeled properly in your store and people will find you.
• I continue to use them for advertising.
•Google AdWords. Easy to set a budget with them.
•Various free online listings and paid ads on interest-specific sites (with a niche market).
•Prompt, courteous responses to people’s emails always pays off. If you want your business to spread by word of mouth, you need to take good care of your customers!
•Early on I used web rings, forums & link exchanges to get noticed, but learned that those generally don’t convert to sales. These methods seem to just get traffic from other web designers looking for traffic. And they just don’t look professional on a store, so I’ve been removing them from my site.

7. What other sites, blogs, etc. do you have if any?

I currently have four more CafePress premium stores in the works that I’m really excited about. Hopefully they can all go live in the next year. Other than that it’s just BusyBodies Stick Figure T-Shirts & Gifts. Please stop by and check it out!

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