Saturday, November 14, 2009

Featured Seller - Happy Elephant Designs

Shannen of "Happy Elephant Designs" got her start making Christmas Cards for her family in 2005 using scrap booking materials. As happens with many paper crafters, her family loved them and convinced her to begin selling them. Shannen then found someone who would create a website for her and began trying to sell her cards through it. Because this was a small venture and she didn't have the funds for advertising, the website wasn't very successful. Shannen shifted her focus to eBay, but found it expensive, and she didn't care for the format. During this time, "Happy Elephant Designs" was also featured in some craft shows. At this time there were very few people selling cards at craft fairs, and Shannen had a little success. However, she was discouraged by the number of sales necessary to cover the cost of her booths. Finally, Shannen saw an etsy seller on Martha Stewart and decided it would be the perfect place for her to sell her cards. etsy does the marketing for her and is much cheaper than the cost of web hosting or eBay. She's been an etsy seller since 2008.

In addition to etsy, Shannen sells her cards on "Happy Elephant Designs" are also available at two local galleries in Cleveland, Ohio, "Artefino" in the downtown area and "The Local Girl Gallery" in Lakewood. Additional upcoming venues include a boutique in Singapore, a Pro shop at a gymnastics school, a locally-owned bakery and local office. Now that Shannen is selling in local shops, she is changing her sales strategy. She's starting to focus on stationery and invitations in her online shops and sells individually crafted cards at the mom and pop stores.

Shannen says that the environment inspires her, whether it's what’s outside her studio window or the supplies and papers around her. Fellow artists also inspire "Happy Elephant Designs." When she experiences "writer’s block" she just looks around at all of the talented people on etsy and the ideas start coming.

Shannen's favorite colors to work with are greens, maroon, whites, and blues. However, she's inspired by her environment and the seasons, so she's now working on Christmas cards and those colors that work best with Christmas. "Happy Elephant Designs" products do lean toward the warm tones. Shannen also enjoys incorporating a variety of textures into her designs. She recently acquired an Epic Six that embosses, debosses, cuts die cuts, and letter presses. There are also sewn elements to be found in her work, adding yet another dimension to her creations.

The best piece of advice that Shannen has received from other etsy sellers relates to pricing. It is important that we value our work. Pricing is difficult for Shannen, as it is for most other card sellers. At times, she feels like she is competing with Wal-Mart and Target with their mass-produced cards priced at $1.00. However, Shannen was advised that if she underprices her cards buyers won't see them as quality products. A person looking for cheap cards is not shopping on etsy or 1000 Markets. Buyers come to etsy and 1000 Markets for quality handmade products and are willing to pay for that quality.

Shannen's advice for new sellers: Get involved in the community. When she first started on etsy, she assumed that she just needed to post her products and forget about them. Needless to say, she didn’t sell anything in the beginning! Then Shannen discovered the forums and received great advice, some clients, and great tips on photography. That is also where she found the street teams. Shannen currently participates with the Etsy Greetings, Cleveland Handmade, and Paper Street Teams.

Shannen's current favorites from "Happy Elephant Designs":

Season's Greetings Card

School Bus Card

Thank You Green Leaf Card

And mine:

Thank You Card in Purple and Blue


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