Outgrowing Etsy? How to Move On and Save Money

Outgrowing Etsy: The month I paid $3,400 in Etsy fees was the moment I was like "WTF"
All photos © Little Hip Squeaks

In the winter of 2010, Little Hip Squeaks was started at a kitchen table, in a one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. Originally a side project for founder Amy Richardson, to keep her hands busy during pregnancy — sewing newborn hats for her not-yet-born son, and the new babies of good friends from thrifted t-shirts.

With a background in Graphic Design, Amy started to design digitally printed fabrics, to be used for LHS hats and blankets, and opened an Etsy shop selling the wares. Within 8 short months, LHS became a full-time career and grew to add two more ridiculously awesome employees. After more than 5500 sales on Etsy, we’ve been lucky enough to open our own e-commerce site, add additional members to our team, broaden our product line and completely overhaul our methods of production.

I interviewed Amy, one of our most imaginative, optimistic, business-minded, and fun-loving clients, because I just knew you would want to hear her story! If you’re wondering how a business outgrows Etsy, you will be fascinated by this success story. Amy has packed this full of stellar tips that new businesses can use: you’ll see that Amy was diligent in all areas of business, from research, to investing her own money, to hiring, managing shipping, marketing, and being really open to growing and changing.

It’s also fascinating to see what a day in the life of a successful small biz looks like – Amy is not making anything herself anymore, so what does she do with her time? Find out below!

Interview with Amy Richardson of Little Hip Squeaks

How did you get your business idea, and what kind of market research did you do when starting out?

Once LHS went from ‘presents for friends’ to a ‘real business’ my entire plans changed; I spent a lot of time on Etsy looking for what was missing. So many people were doing the same thing, just a different shop, different packaging — same designer fabrics and the same minky backing. I spent hours looking at what other shops were doing right, in terms of photography, keywords, tagging — I knew that if 50 shops were doing identical Michael Miller blankets, that those were the things to set them apart. If I could combine those elements AND offer something original and more exclusive, then I knew it would be a home run.

Outgrowing Etsy: Surprisingly I was in the green from day one

How long did it take before your business started making a profit?

Surprisingly, I was in the green from day one. I was able to use my ‘real’ job to front the cash for LHS, and just kept reinvesting. Always reinvesting (STILL reinvesting). Almost every dollar of profit goes right back into the company, and every time that return is bigger and bigger.

How do you handle shipping and customer service and organize the back-end of your business?

Customer service is what makes your customers RETURN customers — and we have a massive repeat buyer count. The short answer — hire someone else to do it. When its your own business, you become so defensive about every complaint, every return, every late package. Even if you get 30 emails a day praising you and your product, the one email where the customer isn’t happy will stick with you. You’ll wake up in the morning dreading your inbox and eventually it gets out of control. So. Hire. Someone. Else.

Same goes for shipping! Hire someone! It’s costly to add extra people to your staff, but when the brains of the company can spend their time actually being the brains (or the creative, or the director, or the mogul) instead of packing orders and answering emails, then that translates into a better brand that can make more money.

How does a standard day of running Little Hip Squeaks go?

My VP of Operations usually starts the day before I do, answering emails and sending me texts while I’m at the gym about what’s on our plate for the day.

I have a really hard time focusing on one task at a time, so I try to break my day up into 30 minute segments. Most of my day is spent answering emails, responding to press inquiries, and taking conference calls. My production assistant usually makes it into the office around noon — we’ve been working on growing our apparel collection, so we’re tweaking patterns, looking over samples and talking with our manufacturer.

I usually check in with my (remote) Content Manager in the early afternoon to go over social media strategy for the week, and brainstorm or discuss any potential projects we have lined up! I try to spend the later half of the day being creative, planning our upcoming collections or designing new prints. There’s also several trips to the coffee shop nestled into the day, and obsessively checking Instagram.

Outgrowing Etsy: Customer service is what makes your customers return customers

What mistakes or setbacks have you weathered?

We’ve had a lot of trouble with keeping track of our inventory. We sell exclusively online, but still manage to oversell products on the regular. I’m terrible at math, and am sure that this is part of the problem — but we’ve just hired a Shipping Coordinator who will hopefully get things in check with our numbers.

How did you promote your business initially, and how has that changed?

I’ve always been really keen on working with bloggers — from day 1 that was my marketing strategy, and to this day we still maintain the relationships with many of the bloggers we started working with 2.5 years ago. Aside from that, the focus remains on growing our community, both online and off. Our social media following has been a huge portion of where we drive sales from, and now we’re working with Land of Nod, for a tour called ‘A Play Date with LHS’ that will be a great chance to interact with our customer base off-screen.

How did you know it was time for a new website?

Oh gosh, the first month I paid $3400 in Etsy fees was the real moment I was like ‘WTF.’ I was driving 86% of my own traffic (from social media) and our demand was going too high for me to produce with just my small staff of seamstresses. I knew we had to look into manufacturing, which at the time, was a BIG Etsy no-no (they’ve since changed their policies). I was really looking at the future of LHS, and knew that we absolutely needed our own web presence.

What were the biggest differences the Aeolidia-designed website made to your business?

The design and professional aspect of our own website, is of course, KEY to our success — but the biggest differences haven’t really been in sales and views, but rather in usability. The plug ins and customization that our site offers has made it such a massive time saver and amazing sales tool. We use Ordoro to bulk ship our orders, which I would estimate saves probably 10 hours of work per week. No joke. There’s also some really great tools that help with upselling and cart recovery, that have become an integral part of our business.

There’s also the huge sense of professionalism when you can tell people you sell on your own e-commerce site. Etsy is a really great tool for starting out, but eventually you need to make your own name on the internet. When you’re doing all the work, and you’re putting in all the hours to make your business run, you should be represented as such.

Amy Richardson | Director of Operations & Creative, Little Hip Squeaks

Learn a little more about Little Hip Squeaks

The Little Hip Squeaks website.

Christine here at Aeolidia designed the LHS logo and website. Read the behind the scenes story here.

Are you outgrowing Etsy?

What about you? Do you feel like you’re outgrowing Etsy? Are their fees eating you alive, and do you feel like customers are expecting a bargain that you don’t want to offer? Did you know that it can be much cheaper (once you’ve “made it” on Etsy) to move to Shopify, even if you hire us to design a custom site for you? I’d love to talk about your situation, and how we can help. Come say hi!

About the Author

Hello, I'm Arianne! I am a reformed shy child and picky eater, and you can now find me teaching at creative events and digging into Thai curries. I started making websites for friends in 1997, and never lost interest in building online homes for fascinating people. I have a great boss (me!) and I'm unafraid to play hooky to head out on an adventure. Some day I'll tell you about the time when, as a marine biology student, I was bitten by a baby elephant seal.

View more articles written by Arianne >

8 comments
  1. I love the way the Little Hip Squeaks website looks and works, and I truly admire the growth of Amy’s business. I do feel, though, that for most people who are doing well on Etsy and would like to have their own ecommerce site, the price to afford a custom site like this is just too high.

    • Comparing Amy’s monthly fees now vs. then, the custom site was paid for after just a few months, in fee reduction alone (and also more quickly in more wholesale orders and retail orders)! However, it’s super easy to set up a Shopify site using a theme from their Theme Store for a budget upgrade from Etsy.

      It’s important to note Amy’s mention of driving most of her traffic to Etsy herself, via social media. For anyone who is getting most of their traffic directly from Etsy, and not due to their own efforts, it would be a different situation, and sales could suffer if they moved.

  2. Excellent post…I had my own online shop with Big Cartel before my Etsy and did not really devote much time to Etsy at all until this time last year and now I am closing my Big Cartel and selling with Etsy only. I did consider switching to Shopify last fall but with the introduction of direct checkout and shipping labels on Etsy for Canadian shops I am not going to at the moment. Being a one person Artisan Shop I find Etsy drives the traffic to me and I can devote more time to creating than trying to market myself, that takes an incredible amount of time. I am finding it terribly difficult to keep track of two shops, just listing items is a double nightmare.

    While my sales have increased dramatically on Etsy, I for one have not outgrown it but Little Hip Squeaks were in an enviable position. I can so see their point.
    For now, I love the merchandising and marketing that Etsy does and though the fees do add up I consider it worth it at this point in time to have more time in my wood studio doing what I love while my shop continues to grow. I have not had any buyers who I would consider ‘bargain hunters’ on Etsy, mainly I have found wonderful ones who love handmade.

    I love reading about Etsy success stories and wish Little Hip Squeaks continued success, their site is wonderful, good job Aeolidia!!

    • Brenda, that is so great that your Etsy buyers respect your time! I have heard many tales from shop owners who find a lot of hagglers on Etsy. I’m thinking it’s likely something to do with the type of products sold?

      Yes, I think the critical point in Amy’s story is that she was driving most of her traffic to Etsy herself. Rather than bring traffic to Etsy, she decided to keep it for herself.

      In the case where the Etsy traffic is of great value of you, it would indeed be a big task to ramp up your marketing yourself and be able to keep busy on a system that doesn’t send customers your way.

      • Interesting… in the almost 4 years we’ve sold on Etsy, we’ve never ran into people trying to “haggle”.

        The majority of our shop traffic is driven from Etsy, so we think of our Etsy fees as our website/marketing fees really. So far so good!

  3. To be honest Etsy did work for me in the beginning in 2010 when I started my business. In the last two years or so it hasn’t worked as good for me. I just launched my new website and hoping for better results than Etsy. Jewelry is a saturated market and it is hard to be found on there. That being said the fees aren’t an issue because I believe that cost is part of running a business.

    • Yep, Etsy definitely provides a unique service, one that’s certainly worth the cost for some types of businesses, while other business types would be better served with a different solution.

      I have heard from many people that if you’re in a saturated market it’s a lot harder on Etsy. Thanks for your input!

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