Scrolling through her Instagram feed, I thought "I should interview her for the blog." Thus, the idea for a new series was born: Interviews with Creatives. Every month, I plan to share a fun Q&A with an online shop owner. And what better place to start than with one of my favorites? So without further ado... Let's meet Chelsea!
When did you open your Etsy shop? What compelled you to give Etsy a try?
In 2011 as a sophomore in college, I first opened my Etsy shop under the name CraftyInCollege. My most fulfilling hobby was crafting. When I needed to relax, have fun, or let off some steam, I would craft. Sometimes I would stay up till 5am creating things! I could never do that now! I began making handmade gifts for birthdays and Christmas, but eventually my crafts began to take over my apartment. I needed to start funding my slightly expensive hobby. A friend at work suggested I give Etsy a try. Five years later... here I am!
Tell us about your shop name-- why did you choose it? Is there a story behind that?
When I became serious about selling my items at a more professional level, I took a step back from my “CraftyInCollege” brand and decided I needed to create a new, unique brand that was true in what I believed in. I probably came up with 50 names before I landed on FaithLoveCraft. One night I was so fed up that I couldn't think of a "cool" or "catchy" name so I tried a new tactic: I wrote down all the things that were important in my life. From that list, I circled the three most important items and that was my faith, my love for my family and friends, and my crafts.
What are your academic and professional backgrounds? Did those fields influence your Etsy business at all? Do you see your Etsy more as a creative outlet or are you more business-focused on it?
I went to Grand Valley State University and graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Therapeutic Recreation. In a nutshell, you could describe my degree as working with individuals with a disability in a recreational setting to help improve their overall quality of life. My love for crafting really paid off while I was in school. At one point, I actually developed a device for adaptive crocheting to help someone who did not possess the full function of their hand. Part of my college program also focused on leadership and learning how to build a program from the ground up: including budgeting, marketing, business planning, etc. So that really helped prepare me for Etsy.
While my Etsy shop has always been a creative outlet (I always feel the “need” to make something!), I have become more business-focused in the past two years. I now use all profits to pay off my student loans. The better my hobby-business performs, the quicker I pay off my student loans. It definitely motivates me to work hard!
Is the Etsy shop your full-time job? Describe your typical work day.
I wish it was my full time job! One day in the future perhaps, but at this recent college-grad point in my life, I have too many things to pay off/save up for: a house, travel, children, the whole enchilada. During the day, I work full-time as a nanny for two children. Typically, I'm up at 5am and at my nanny job by 5:30. I am with the kids till about 4 or 5 in the evening. Then I come home, make myself some dinner, and unwind with Netflix and my orders! It's such a stress reliever for me. Monday-Thursdays are very long days but I somehow manage to make it work. I craft every night because I typically have orders everyday. When I don't have open orders, I am still working on creating new inventory for my shop!
Your shop focuses on handmade camera straps. What got you started in that direction?
When my fiancee and I first moved to Louisiana, I spent all day applying for jobs and walking around Baton Rouge trying to learn our new city. My camera was always with me as I took photos to spend home to our parents. One day, I stumbled across a DIY tutorial on pinterest about how to make your own camera strap. I immediately went to the store, purchased supplies, came home, and made it. I posted it to my Instagram to see what people would think, and I received amazing feedback! From then on my main seller was the camera strap.
What materials do you use? How long does it take to make them? What’s special about each piece (other than being handmade of course!)?
I typically use already-made scarves, but I do hand cut all the leather, fabric, and other materials. Then, I iron and sew everything together! Customers have the options of two finishes: metal clasps or nylon ends. I use little lobster clasps, nylon cords, and plastic widgets for those finishes. Generally each camera strap takes me anywhere from 10-30 minutes to make. Because each strap is made from scarves that I find, there are usually only 2-4 of each style! It really is like you're getting a unique, one-of-a-kind piece every time. I love what I do-- and that love goes into each strap!
What inspires you creatively?
I strive for that feeling of accomplishment once a project is completed. I absolutely love making things for other people, and working together with a customer to create something really special!
I find inspiration in a lot of places, but I mainly work with what I like and would want for myself. I always ask myself "Would I really wear that?" If I think I will, I buy that scarf or those supplies and create something with them. If I think "ehh, kind of cute for someone else," I don't buy those materials. So far that method has worked for my business! I strive to stay true to myself in what I'm doing and what I'm selling.
What are some of your favorite Etsy shops or Instagram accounts to follow?
I usually find inspiration and other Etsy shop owners via Instagram! I love how visual it is. I follow 866 accounts, and I truly love each and every post. Some of my favorites include: @maggiemisc (began as a small craft shop then switched to wedding planning), @fullofjoyhandmade (calligraphy and crafts), and @jellybirdsigns (wooden sign shop).
What do you love most about owning an Etsy shop? On the flip side, what is the most challenging part?
What I love most about owning an Etsy shop is the people I've met through social media who also have Etsy shops. It's such a close knit community of artists/crafters who are all about building each other up and providing support. The most challenging part is the business aspect. Making sure everything is legal and up-to-date is always a little terrifying for me. Do your research and ask a lot of questions when starting a new business! You can never know enough when it comes to actually running a business.
What advice do you have for other Etsy shop owners and creatives?
My advice for other Etsy shop owners and creatives is don't give up if you don't make a sale for the first month...or three months. It takes time to build up a name for yourself, to create a brand that fully defines who you are as a creative person, and to find/perfect that one item that represents your shop! Success does not happen overnight. It took me years to get to where I am today. It's a lot of hard work, but if you are willing to put in the effort you will succeed.
What are some of your future plans for your shop?
Well, as some of you know, I am moving to Colombia with my husband-to-be in July. Once there, I sadly will no longer be able to do custom orders. Instead, I will have everything pre-made and packaged so when an order comes in my helpers back home (my mother and sisters) can simply add an address and mail it out to the customer.
I am also working hard on a new line of canvas art since a decent amount of customers come to me for custom art, Things are changing, and there will be some trial and error, but for the most part my shop should remain fully functioning while I am out of the country! While in Colombia I hope to work on my calligraphy so I can incorporate that into more of my pieces as well.
Tell us about your upcoming move to Colombia! How exciting! What are you looking forward to the most?
I am SO unbelievably excited to move to Colombia! I am looking forward to learning a new language, becoming part of the community, and exploring a new continent! Sure it will be a little scary, and I will be terribly home sick, but I know that the reward from our experiences will be immeasurable. While there I will working in my degree field again to help build Colombia’s recently implemented Special Education program. Having a disability in Colombia is something people try to hide. It is my goal to change the way disabilities are interpreted and to educate people on best care for individuals with disabilities.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Chelsea!