Meet the Owner: The Gem Co. & One Stitch Away (GIVEAWAY!)
One of the greatest parts of blogging is it gives you opportunities to talk with other creatives and support small business ventures. I had such an opportunity that I’m sharing with you today! Amy is from my hometown, and although she now lives in Detroit and I’m in Chicago, I’ve been following the growth of her businesses (yes, plural) and she’s been such an inspiration. She clearly has a passion for making and sharing beautiful things, and I wanted to know more about her story. I also wanted you to see her wonderful work and be inspired by her.
Amy owns 3 Etsy shops: The Gem Co., One Stitch Away, and Carissima. Each one is accessory based, but has its own unique vibe, and everything is gorgeous. In my interview, I asked Amy about how she turned her side gig into her business and what she plans to do next. Get to know her, ogle at her items, and check out the giveaway at the bottom!
What brought you to Etsy and owning your own business?
I really stumbled into Etsy! In 2011, I got married, my brother started college, and my parents were empty nesters. My mom, Annamarie, is a very talented seamstress, and she began making mittens from old wool sweaters. I suggested starting a shop for her, and that’s how One Stitch Away was born. I ran the business and shipping side of things, and my mom made most of the mittens. I eventually added the infinity scarves and headbands, and in the spring I took over the whole business from her. My mom still helps; she makes tons of pairs of mittens every fall and winter. She and my dad also help out at craft shows and art fairs. In the beginning, and still now, I really loved doing Etsy because it was a great distraction and time filler. I was teaching middle school, and my husband Ben was in grad school. He was gone a lot for school, so One Stitch Away kept me really occupied! Ben is also my #1 supporter. He has always encouraged me to try new things and grow my businesses. I’m lucky to have him 🙂 In 2014, I decided I wanted to try my hand at some beading and jewelry making, and that’s when The Gem Co. started. This business was a little different because I had 3 years of experience from OSA. I started things off with more of an investment, and really focused on branding and consistency. But, Etsy is really saturated with jewelry, so I would say it took a solid year to see true growth and success from The Gem Co. After the first year, I got into a groove and developed a better understanding of my customers and products. I should also add that my dad owns his own business, a family business that’s been around for 3 generations, so I have had an incredible amount of support and guidance from him. After my husband was done with grad school (praise!) we moved to NYC, and I stopped teaching and began doing Etsy full time. Leaving teaching was hard, I enjoyed working with students, but we knew Ben’s job was rotational, so a permanent teaching position wasn’t a good idea. This leap was what really excited me, and with the support and encouragement of Ben, I was able to pour myself full-time into my 2 businesses. It was a risk, but I have loved every minute of it. This spring, we moved to metro Detroit, and we will move again in the winter, so the flexibility of my job has been wonderful.
How has the business evolved over time? Is there anything you wish you had done right away that you do now?
Over time, I would say I have learned to be much more patient. Selling online is unique, because you don’t have store hours, and you sell to people around the world. I’ve sold to Dubai, Australia, England, Spain, and more. I have also learned that an upfront investment is okay and necessary. This is where my dad comes in, “but Dad, should I spend $60 on business cards, really?” and he responds with, “YES!” I really freak out over spending my business’ money, but it’s a good thing. However, spending your business’ money, which is your own money, is scary! But, with the aforementioned patience, it has paid off.
Do you ever find yourself in a creative rut? What helps you stay inspired?
I struggle with the rut, because I do have products that sell really well that I find myself remaking over and over. These would be headbands, scarves, and jewelry. I stay creative with the mittens! They’re so fun and we have never, ever made 2 pair alike. I mix and match all the different felted wool from different sweaters and choose different buttons for each pair. The first few years I would only make mittens in Oct-Dec, but now I make them year round. This helps me stay fresh and keeps things different. I would love to say that I start every day or week with a schedule or plan, but that’s not true! Every day, I try to keep things mixed up, working on both jewelry and other items. This keeps me from getting bored or tired of my work.
What’s the most difficult part of your business? How do you combat that?
The most difficult part for me is knowing when to spend money and when not to. As I mentioned before, I sometimes hesitate over necessary things like business cards, but I’ve also been known to jump into pricier purchases without giving it enough thought. In the past year I have worked to hone this skill, but it’s a challenge for me. I also try to stay on top of my books, but this can also be overwhelming. To combat these things, I enlist the help of Ben, who patiently will go through bank statements and account overviews with me. I also try to set aside a day to purposefully do paperwork, usually with the reward of working at a coffee shop and eating scones.
What would you tell people who are thinking of starting their own business? Would you recommend Etsy to other creatives like you?
Do it! It’s big and scary but great. There’s nothing more rewarding than building something you can be proud of. It’s never too late or too early to change careers. I was torn to leave teaching, as I spent 4 years and a lot of money earning a degree to do so. But, I still use my degree every day, just in a different way. I wanted to pursue something different, and if you’re considering doing so, try it out. Ask lots of questions, and investigate other seller platforms to see what’s right for you. Etsy is just one of many ways to put your products out there. I usually recommend Etsy because of its presence and traffic. Etsy will cost more than other platforms in the long run. You pay for listings, plus a percentage of every sale, but personally, it’s been worth it. I tried to set up my own shops via Wix, Squarespace, and now Etsy’s Pattern over the past 3 years, but I am simply incapable of bringing people to those sites in the same way Etsy can generate its own traffic. Etsy also is really seller friendly, and there are so many forums, groups, and collectives where you can ask questions, meet with local sellers, and learn.
There’s a lot of opportunity here to compare yourself to others in negative ways – do you struggle with that and how do you respond to it?
Social Media, we can’t live with it, or without it. My mantra has always been to be supportive. Especially as a woman, I want to encourage other female sellers and shop owners to flourish. However, comparison does happen. When it does, I remind myself that someone else’s success is wonderful, because it really is, and has no bearing on my success, personally. I want other shop owners and creatives to be happy, and I want to be happy too. In order to create a community of makers who encourage each other to be successful, we have to be supportive of one another.
What does the future hold for your business? Do you think you’ll always be on Etsy?
The future is exciting for both me and Ben. Because his job is rotational, we have lived in 2 different cities, and will probably move back to NYC this winter. We loved living in the city, and it provided me with access to materials, inspiration, and a community that helped me grow my businesses. I started a third shop, Carissima, a wedding sash and accessories boutique, while we were living there. In the future, I would like to open a brick and mortar store, selling local handcrafted items, and offering rentable work space for individual artists, classes, or groups. I have been working toward this goal for the past 2 years, and will continue to do so until we are settled in a community. In the shorter term, when we move again, I would like a separate studio workspace outside our home.