Hello and welcome to Studio Yelle's First Ever Blog!
So I thought for my first blog post I should give you all an introduction to me - Danielle and my first baby, Studio Yelle.
Studio Yelle has just hit the two year mark, and I've definitely grown both as a business and as a person. Running a small business means you'll have the highest highs and the lowest lows, you'll be in "work mode" every single day, but you'll learn so much along the way, and it's so, so worth it all.
So... how did it all begin?
Well, I've always been creative and massively in to art from being really young. I always favoured art over anything else academically. When it came to degree choices, I chose Graphic Design as I thought it would be the best way to actually be able to make money whilst keeping my toes dipped in the creative field!
I left Salford University in 2015 and got my first Full Time Big Girl job as a Graphic Designer in a start up cosmetics company. I learned A LOT in this job (because although my title was "Graphic Designer" I was also order packer, marketing assistant, copywriter, packaging design, customer service, accountant, and anything else you can think of that you would need in a small business... a bit like now really!) and I am forever grateful for the knowledge I gained during this time, but as any Graphic Designer knows, working in-house in a brand doesn't usually quench your creative thirsts as you're very restricted to brand guidelines and working on the same things all of the time.
Fast forward to April 2018
I'd just bought an iPad Pro and was doodling on it constantly in my spare time. One of my best friend's birthdays was coming up, and she is OBSESSED with Cher. I searched high and low for the perfect Cher card and I just couldn't find one that I loved, so I drew one on my shiny new iPad. At this time, I didn't have a printer, so I had to get a batch printed by a professional print company. Obviously when they arrived I only needed one, so as a person who always purchases from Etsy, I thought I would set up an Etsy shop and pop the rest of the batch of cards on and see what happened. Imagine my surprise when they all sold!
This Cher inspired greeting card was Studio Yelle's first ever product
Finding my feet on Etsy
After the Cher inspired cards all sold, I started creating more designs and purchased my first printer. This printer was TERRIBLE and was quickly followed by my second printer. I didn't really have a clue what I was doing and had the most time consuming process to make greeting cards. I had my handy scalpel and cutting mat from my college days and would cut each card individually with my scalpel and hand write all of my addresses on my envelopes. It would take me hours and hours to do any orders and I quickly had to develop new processes so I could actually get some sleep! At this point I was still working full-time, and every single spare minute I had was spent on creating new products, packing orders or growing my tiny business in some sort of way.
At this stage I feel I should really shout out Etsy, and I urge anyone who wants to start a small creative business to try a few products out on the platform. Without Etsy, I know for a fact my business wouldn't have grown as quickly as it did. There is a knack to getting seen on Etsy, but if you learn some SEO basics and keep your shop fresh I truly believe it is the best start to any creative handmade businesses life.
My Etsy stats for April 2018 - the month I opened my shop
My Etsy stats for April 2020
I remember my first ever international order very vividly! I heard that distinctive Etsy "cha-ching" at about 3am and shot out of bed (I DO NOT keep my phone on loud anymore at nighttime because of this reason!) and my little greeting card order was headed for Canada. I was equally excited and anxious. What if the customer didn't receive my order? What if something went wrong? But everything was fine and international orders kept coming in. Nowadays I sell about 50/50 to domestic and international.
Studio Yelle's first sales map. I would get so excited to colour in states as I sold to them! Now I have two states left to sell to - come on Wyoming and South Dakota! This was printed on my Terrible Second Printer which was pretty quickly followed by my Oh-I-Should-Probably-Splash-Out-On-Equipment-Now Printer.
Quitting the Day Job
Within a few months I was steadily getting one sale a day on Etsy and I was so so proud of this. I was interviewing for a new day job and would proudly take some of my cards along in my portfolio. I left the cosmetics company in June 2018 and started work at a digital agency in Manchester. Again, I learned lots in this job as I was working on lots of different things (the perks of not working in-house!), and this time was surrounded by a large team of people who were successful in their fields that I could learn a lot from.
However, that steady one order a day, quickly became a few orders a day and I was burning myself out. I would get up at 5.30, walk to the gym, hop on a train to work, do a full work day, go to the post office with my Studio Yelle orders in my lunch hour, get the train back, and work on Studio Yelle until I went to bed. My body was absolutely exhausted and my eye didn't stop twitching for six months! I was so determined to grow my business but I was running myself into the ground.
At this time, me and my now husband Chris were planning our August 2019 wedding. We had agreed that I would stay in full time work until after the wedding to help pay it off, and then after our honeymoon, I would hand my notice in at work and "try running the business" for six months to see if it took off.
However, in around May 2019, I was so so tired both physically and mentally and as the final wedding payments were in the next few weeks we agreed that I would hand my notice in earlier than originally planned. As it worked out, I started working for myself full time officially on the 1st of July 2019, which also happened to be my 26th birthday. I took that as sign that everything would work out. So far, so good. Taking the leap to quit my day job is the best thing I have ever done, and my business has grown so much more than I ever thought possible.
My first Etsy milestone! I now have 10,000+ sales and 900+ reviews
Tips and tricks
So that's the story of how Studio Yelle was born! I've learnt a lot of tips and tricks along the way on how to grow. Obviously what works for each business is different, but here's what works for me.
- Learn SEO basics. This is essential for getting seen anywhere. Learn about tags, product titles and descriptions. SEO is the best free way to drive traffic to your products. It takes time for SEO to start working, but it is worth putting the time in to get to grips with it.
- Don't keep your eggs all in one basket. I love Etsy, but I am under no illusion that my shop could be taken away from me at any time. Sell on multiple platforms and also have your own website is possible. You don't want to rely on one golden goose.
- Stay current. Keep an eye out on topics and trends, and release new products often. This keeps your shops and content fresh, brings new customers in, and gives old customers something to come back to.
- Be committed. I won't lie to you - running your own business is extremely hard. You have to be fully prepared to be married to your job. Sometimes my husband will tell me off if we're watching a film or having a meal and I jump to reply to a customer query. Of course you should have down time, and I'm guilty of constantly working (it's currently 9.30pm on Saturday and I'm writing this!) but if you put the work you will be rewarded.
Are there any topics you would like to see me cover in future blogs? Leave a comment below!