My Handmade Journey – Iceboxs Yard

My Handmade Journey – Iceboxs Yard

Hi, Friends! I’m excited to share with you this weeks edition of, My Handmade Journey. Jan is the creative mind behind Iceboxs Yard on Etsy and Bonanza. If you’ve never head of Bonanza I highly encourage you to check out her shop here.

Bonanza is a platform I’ve just recently learned of myself. Be on the lookout for an upcoming post where I share with you how you can use it with your online business.

Let’s jump right into our interview with Jan. She has shared some great advice!

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m twice retired with 2 grown boys and a 10 year old granddaughter I see daily.  I live with a beagle “foster failure”, Chippers, and am currently fostering a senior female beagle, Patty, for Tampa Bay Beagle Rescue.  

What do you sell?

I sell a variety of things but mainly started with Christmas stockings.  Last year I began expanding my pet items to provide a less seasonal product.  I still offer about 75 different stockings around the holidays, but love making the pet items, particularly bows and ties  I will be offering flowers for collars by the end of the month.  My favorite item is the Pet First Aid Kit, because it is so practical !

Without giving away your secrets can you describe a little about your process or the time that goes into making an item?

I’ve found that doing one step in the process for numerous items works best for me.  For example, when I make collars, I press all the fabric and cut for at least a dozen at one time; even if I’m doing 8 different fabrics.  After that I’ll cut interfacing, yards for 1″ collar, yards for 3/4, then 5/8″.  I sew by color – all the reds, all the blues, etc so I am switching out thread less often.  It also helps if I have to stop and come back to it, as I know exactly what step I was on.  And it’s rewarding to have a dozen new items done at once.
How long have you run your shop? Full time or Part time?  When do you carve out time to dedicate to your shop?

I started my Etsy shop in March 2015, part-time.    While my time should be my own, I can’t imagine carving out 8 straight hours a day.  I like to sew early morning, maybe a bit before the school bus comes.  I’m not much for TV, so I do sew or craft in the evenings too. But I also garden and do photography. 

 Photo Credit: Iceboxs Yard - Dog First Aid Kit Photo Credit: Iceboxs Yard – Dog First Aid Kit

How long have you run your shop? When do you carve out time to dedicate to your shop?

I started my Etsy shop in March 2015, part-time.    While my time should be my own, I can’t imagine carving out 8 straight hours a day.  I like to sew early morning, maybe a bit before the school bus comes.  I’m not much for TV, so I do sew or craft in the evenings too. But I also garden and do photography.  

Your favorite part of running your shop?

Creating!!  I make my own patterns.  I usually make a prototype or two and work out the process.  I love when customers tell me they like a product, whether ready-made or a custom order.  And sending me a picture of their pet wearing my creation or a stocking on their mantle is the best!

The least favorite part of running your own shop?

Marketing. No one warned me that running an Etsy shop requires as much time as the creating.  I naively believed “Make it and they will sell”.  I’m naturally an introvert, so Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest are chores for me.

What inspired you to start your shop on Etsy? Did you have an inspiration or support that encouraged you to do it?

I love sewing and creating.  I’d sold handcrafted items on other venues, but Etsy specialized in handmade.  My eldest son is encouraging from 3000 miles away.  My youngest thinks I have a fabric obsession, but helps with the shipping when I need it.  My granddaughter has taken an interest in sewing, and always checks to see what Nana is working on.  

 Photo Credit: Iceboxs Yard - Spring Dog Bowties Photo Credit: Iceboxs Yard – Spring Dog Bowties

What helps you to stay motivated and creating new products? Do you listen to podcasts or have any favorite Etsy guru’s you follow?

My sewing studio is known as the Nana Cave – it is my place.  Motivation comes from within.  I don’t listen to podcasts but I read several Etsy Facebook pages and the Etsy forums.  I also sell at a local boutique.  The owner is a great resource for new ideas.  Since I go there every week, I like to take new items.  It’s also made me more ‘professional’ – designing tags and displays.  I need to do what makes me happy.  Conventional wisdom says that mixing dog collars and aprons isn’t too bright.  But I like making both.  As a part-time seller, I have the luxury of doing this – I’m not dependent on the income to pay the electric bill.

Your best advice for someone thinking of opening a shop up on Etsy or for someone struggling with their current shop?

Plan ahead.  By December, I am SO tired of Christmas stockings, so I don’t make any in January, but otherwise, I make 8-12 monthly so I have 75-80 by September.   

Make sure you understand that you will spend hours EVERY day on your shop: checking stats and search phrases, redoing titles & tags, taking & editing photos, tweeting for bots, pinning, etc.  Selling at a craft fair is nothing like selling online.

Find an Etsy buddy.  I happened across another seller and we have created a great online rapport, even though she is on another continent.  We can complain, encourage, bounce ideas, review wording for difficult emails, etc.  We give each other ideas for products; critique listings, like each others social media posts / pics.  I never feel alone when I am discouraged and I have someone to celebrate the good things with.

Share with us a few of your favorite or life-saving Etsy resources. (websites, forums etc)

I do co-manage an Etsy Facebook page – no advertising allowed.  I’ve learned a lot about SEO.  It’s not the busiest of pages, but there is no drama and the members are helpful.  I’d suggest looking for a group or page where you would feel comfortable asking questions and responding.  Definitely read the Etsy Handbook and some of the forums.  

 Photo Credit: Iceboxs Yard - Spring Dog Collar Photo Credit: Iceboxs Yard – Spring Dog Collar

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Integrity is a big thing for me….doing the right thing.  I used to sell children’s hats.  But buyer’s wanted to see them on the heads of real kids.   I won’t use real models and stopped selling hats.  I sold adjustable collars for BIG dogs.  Their weight could cause the collar to slip, so I redesigned them to be non-adjustable.  I sent buyers the new version at my expense because to me, the safety of a pet was more important than the profit.  

As I was putting together today’s blog post and reading Jan’s advice I just kept saying to myself, “Yes… YES!” She is spot on in just about every aspect of her business.

She carries a large variety of items and sells on multiple platforms and that makes for a successful business and happy customers!



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