Etsy Success: Soapalaya

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Alex has graciously agreed to share her Etsy Success story with us today. Her story is inspirational and beautiful; Alex proves that love of creativity and determination can truly work wonders. She is also be offering a giveaway from her soap shop (see above)! Please welcome this talented artist...

My name is Alex, and, I am the happy little shopkeeper for my two Etsy shops, Soapalaya Soaps and Necessities. I am very honored to be asked to share my "Etsy success story"! I can let out a tiny little sigh of relief because I finally do feel I've found a measure of success. But, as I sit down to tell the tale of how I got to where I am, I realize the definition of success is quite broad and is completely subjective to where you are in the present, and, where you have been in the past. This is as true for me as it is for anyone. You're are either looking for success, or, finally (hopefully) enjoying it. All that being said, I didn't just wake up one morning, discover Etsy, and, miraculously find that all of my dreams had come true. There were quite a few years prior to finding Etsy that I did frequently think success of any kind (as I perceived success at the time) was just never going to be where I was. While my story will probably relate to the stay-at-home-moms the most, I hope that it might also provide a bit of encouragement for anyone still struggling to find their own success.

Everyone has a *before.* For me, "B.E." (before Etsy) included being a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) and a wife. Prior to becoming a mom there was the 10 + years I worked a 9-5 job as a dental assistant. Before that I was a college student. Because my husband has a crazy, unpredictable work schedule, I chose to quit my "real" job (the kind where you get paycheck) when our first son was born. Six years after the first little fella came along we ended up with yet another one! Those two little boys are now young men. I am very grateful that I had the option to be able to choose to stay at home with them. I know full well that many women don't have that option. If I said I didn't miss earning a paycheck during those years it would be less than truthful, but, the rewards I've received from investing my time in my children will always be much more valuable than any money I would have gotten if I had been "employed". Still, the *paycheck* thing has a magnetic pull that you can't deny. It is a combination of the pure satisfaction of having your time validated in a tangible way, and, the benefit of having extra cash when you need it. There is a freedom in both of those that can create a real dilemma in the decision making process if you are faced with having to make a choice. As a mother, I know the pull between intangible and tangible rewards. I also know that many moms work hard trying to do both (bless them all!), but, for me it wasn't an option in the beginning. If Etsy had been around back then... well, things would have been quite different, I think!

During the years that I didn't have a *real job* I tried to fill in the little gaps of free time with sewing or doing something creative. Keeping busy making things has saved my sanity more times than I can count! My mother taught me to sew when I was around the age of six. That one thing is the best gift she ever gave me, and, it will always be a big part of who I am. Over the years I taught myself to do a lot of creative things. When I could find an instructor, I'd take a class. At the top of the list of things I enjoy the most is, of course, sewing and making soap, but, I'm also pretty good at working with stained glass, and, I have a loom that I love very much (a gift from my hubby). I always planned to eventually go back to work, but, the longer I stayed at home *making things* the happier I got, and, the more I realized I enjoyed it far too much to retain any interest in going back into the regular 9-5 work world. I couldn't shake off the desire to find a way to be able to make money doing what I loved, and, that prompted me to begin the search for ways to make that happen. Over the course of several years I tried just about everything: craft shows, consignment, and, even I braved the crazy world of the big on-line auction site. I learned a lot from all of those little adventures! To anyone still trudging along hoping to find what their vision of success is, I will say that you need to accept the reality that the average person, I feel, arrives at success a little later than anticipated, and, more often than not, may possibly discover success is actually something entirely different that what they had first imagined. That doesn't mean you should consider giving up if success seems slow to find you, or, if along the way you discover you need to alter your vision a bit. Stick with it and find what you absolutely LOVE to do - that thing you would do forever, even if you never got paid to do it. Always be willing to try new things. Keep learning and adding to your inventory of skills. If you do that and remain open to all of the opportunities you come across, well, you may just surprise yourself! Loving what you do is a must. What you love will change and grow with you, but, for today, where you are, put your efforts into what you love. Find the medium that reveals who you are and makes you smile. It may take a while, but, it is so worth the time it takes to find it. Although each selling venue I tried proved to be valuable in the terms of experience, they weren't a good fit for me in the long term. I certainly don't want to discourage anyone from giving craft shows or consignment a try. Those options have proved profitable for many, and, you won't know unless you try it! I found that to do the *make and take* thing while still wearing my mommy hat full time was asking a lot more of myself than was humanly possible at that time. I loved the "making" part... it was the "taking" part I had the problem with!

Finding Etsy was like finding a "haven" for the weary artistic soul I had become! However, I soon discovered that as much as I had hoped I'd finally arrived at the long awaited destination where the money would start to flow freely, I was actually beginning a process that would require even more hard work! There was a lot I needed to learn to be able to pull off selling anything in a marketplace such as Etsy. The initial joy of finding such a wonderful place filled with creativity, talent, and, amazing people had to yield to the reality that there was going to be an astonishing amount of work involved if I planned to have a successful storefront. One of the first things to put on your *to do* list is to make friends with a digital camera! A very close second to making a great product is learning to take great pictures. That didn't happen quickly or come easily for me. Technology, in the form of anything to do with a computer, initially was the source of great frustration! I did eventually figure out how to take a fairly respectable photo. Next, learning how to *sell* my product with a good description was crucial. Injecting "personality" into the written words that will greet your customer in place of your physical presence is not the easiest thing to do. I have the most trouble keeping it short and to the point! To that I also added learning to design and make my own labels and business cards. The first year I paid an Etsy seller to design a header for my shop. In time, I figured out how to do it. My shop headers are not the most professional you'll see around, but, I'm pretty proud of the fact that I *made them myself!*

When I opened my first Etsy shop, Necessities, I was very busy making good use of my sewing machine. Oh, how I love my sewing machine! I started to have a few sales along and was pretty happy about things. I had been making my own soap and laundry detergent for a couple of years at that point (out of real necessity because of allergies). I don't know why, but, I never once even thought of selling soap until the fall of 2007 when I decided to open a second shop (Soapalaya Soaps) "just for the holiday season." I wasn't really expecting it to be very successful, but, I hoped it might keep me busy for that short period of time. My original plan was to sell soap during the holidays and then set my focus back on my other shop. Fibers and textiles are my actual, true creative loves, so, they will never be far from where I am. To my continued astonishment, my soap shop stayed busy through the first holiday season and has never really slowed down since! I'm approaching the 2 year anniversary of opening Soapalaya Soaps. I'm not a top seller, but, I am a fairly consistent seller, and, that's worth a lot to me!

Etsy is many things to many people. To me it is synonymous with "opportunity." When you've spent years looking for a place to sell your products and hoping to have a chance to see a bit of profit, opportunity is everything. Like anywhere else, the playing field is competitive, but, if you can make your peace with the idea that competition is a good thing then you'll find that it only serves to sharpen you and make you push harder to be better than you ever thought possible. The greatest opportunity you will find is the chance to discover what you are made of. Yes, it is about the money - we can all agree on that! But, it really is far more than that if you want it to be.. The people you'll meet and the available resources are unique and amazing... I came to Etsy with my varied collection of experiences and abilities and found a place to make the most of what I already knew. I then found myself challenged to take it to another level. There's always another level! I've found help through the forums, links, tutorials, and, studying the many, many successful shop owners on Etsy that are such wonderful role models. I've spent a rewarding (and sometimes frustrating) 2 years learning how to run a business. I get to make stuff and talk to lovely people from all over the world! I have discovered that I dearly love the moment that I get to press the little button on Paypal to *request a package pickup.* Yes, I DO have packages that need to be picked up, thank you very much! I also get to enjoy that illusive paycheck I had been searching for all these many years! But, I found myself with much more than that. I've gained a wealth of information and discovered abilities I never knew I had. And, if that isn't enough, I can take a coffee break anytime I want to, AND, I get to go to work in my pajamas! Does it get any better than that?

So, here I am! I'm still a wife and mother, and, my boys are much, much bigger than when I first started out looking for my place in the world. I'm now a pleasantly pleased WAHM, and, I love what I do. While I don't yet sell enough to support my family (and I'm thankful that I don't have to), I am able to contribute what I earn through my two little shops on Etsy to make life a little bit better for my family - and that is wonderfully satisfying to me. I finally found what I was looking for and so much more!


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