How to Start a Business On Etsy

By Kate Riley June 21, 2011

Hello my friends, I have a very special visitor today.  Many weeks ago, I had a long conversation with Gina of The Shabby Chic Cottage and I was so inspired by her story I asked her to tell it here!  I first met Gina at Blissdom and we’ve been friends ever since.  Many of you know her already, Gina is the creator behind The Shabby Chic Cottage blog and Etsy shop

Gina has been a comforting presence and voice for me on all topics of small business.  If you have a desire to create and sell your handmade creations in an online forum, Gina has years of experience and an inspiring story to tell. 

Please welcome my friend Gina to share her story of how she started a successful business on Etsy, one that gives her the ultimate satisfaction of creating hand crafted goods, and also a few extra dollars in the bank for her creativity and efforts!


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Gina Headshot

“Hi y’all!  I’m Gina from The Shabby Chic Cottage.

I’m so very excited to be here today!  Kate is such a wonderful source of encouragement and inspiration for me, I was honored when she asked me to write up a post about how I started my business.

I didn’t start my blog with any aspirations of making money.  I had blogged for 2+ years on another blog that barely had any readers, but I’m a writer, so I wanted a place to write what I wanted instead of writing obituaries all day (part of my old “day job” duties.)  After 5 years of living in my childhood home, we finally were at a point where we could begin to remodel, and so I started The Shabby Chic Cottage in April 2009 to journal the changes as we went along, sort of a virtual scrapbook.  I had no idea where it would lead.

After about 2 months of blogging, I realized that I had finally found my voice.  Writing about my passion of decorating and remodeling was easy for me.  I simply told our story, and, luckily my blog found a following.

Three months into my blog, I started getting comments and emails from readers and friends that said over and over, “You should start an Etsy shop!  I want to buy that pillow/sign/piece you made.” 

I have to admit – I resisted Etsy.  I tried a few different sites and none of them really worked for me.  Finally I bit the proverbial bullet and signed up for Etsy. I instantly felt at home.  I was on a site full of others just like me, trying to sell the pieces that they had lovingly made.  It was inspiring!  It took some time before I found my groove, but within 4 months of starting my shop – a mere 8 months from beginning my blog – I was so busy with blogging and Etsy orders that I just couldn’t keep up and work a full time job.  So I turned in my notice!

It was a hard decision for me to quit my job since I loved it so much.  My old job was like working with family.  I had been there nearly 10 years and knew the ins and outs of basically every part of running a small town newspaper.  But all the things I learned from that job have helped me run my business.

I started my Etsy shop with no money.  Not a dime.  I began by using the materials I already had on hand to create pieces, then as I sold a few of those (along with blog advertising revenue), I started investing in blog ads.  My very best return on investment was right here advertising on Centsational Girl!

When I went through all of the supplies I had on hand, I began using some of my profits to buy more materials, and it was a domino effect.  Starting with nothing meant I had nothing to lose.  I took a lot of risks, and I still do.  Being adventurous in exploring different product ideas, keeping it fresh, and being courageous enough to jump out of my comfort zone is everyday life for me.  I thrive on taking risks. Aside from taking risks, there are some practical guidelines to follow if you want a successful Etsy shop. 

Here are my best tips to anyone wanting to start an Etsy shop:

Take great photos.  When selling online, remember your photo IS your product.  Customers can’t pick up your pillows or touch your towels.  You have to capture the quality of the produce with a great image.  Also be aware that you are competing with the big boys of your niche (For me, it’s Pottery Barn & Ballard Designs).  Strive for impeccable photos.

Tell all the details.  What size is your creation?  What color?  What fabric or wood is it made of?  What makes your piece special?  Why is your quality so great?  These are the things that potential customers need to know.

Stock up your shop.  The more you have to offer, the better.  Not only does it up your chances of making a sale, it also helps your SEO, because more pages makes it easier for shoppers to find you.

Name your products exactly what they are.  How can you find curtains with French script on them?  Google “French Script Curtains”.  Your product names are what people are searching.  Want to up the ante?   Here’s a tip: use the Google Keyword search to find the absolute best names for your products by finding out the exact terms that people search the most.

Spread the word and advertise where your customers are.   Do you sell children’s clothes? Then advertise on blogs that share kid’s craft projects. Do you sell aprons? Advertise on food blogs.  I love blog advertising, because the blogger builds a relationship with their readers and it is the best way to spread the word about your great products/company. 

You may not get a sale directly from that site every single day – but you are building brand recognition.  Pepsi does not advertise so that you stop what you’re doing and go directly to buy a drink – but when you do need to quench your thirst and you are shopping for a drink, Pepsi is going to be recognizable to you.  Bottom line, you need to build your brand!

Be consistent.  If you have a blog and a shop, make the jump between the two seamless.  Also be consistent with your packaging, shipping and even curate your products to fit your brand.

Have great customer service.   Return customers are essential.  They know you, know your brand and know what to expect.  Thank them, be good to them, and they will appreciate it and spread the word.  {*CG Note, Gina has earned a 100% customer service rating!}

Thanks Kate for inviting me to share my story here today. I am extremely blessed to have a spot in blogland and the handmade world.  It truly is one of my great passions.”


Gina, you are inspiring!  I love her story, how Gina continually challenges her own innate creativity by taking risks, but also applies the business sense she’s acquired through the years to her decision making.  Gina’s story is about to appear in a well known resource for moms starting a business too!  Read about it here.  

Here are a few of my favorite picks from Gina’s shop. 

ginas shop

1. medallion pillow cover; 2. butterfly paperweight 3.  french script tapers; 4. white votive holder; 5. red baker’s twine; script pillow cover.  

Here’s another true story.  Remember that wine barrel theme I was so focused on a few weeks back?  I was contemplating creating a wine stave or reclaimed wood votive candle holder.  I saw it in my head and started shopping for spade drill bits and hole saw attachments to recreate it.  Literally a day later I was talking to Gina via email about this guest post, went to visit her shop, and there they were, rustic wood votive holders.  Exactly what I was trying to recreate!  I laughed out loud, they were the perfect source for the look I love.

Thanks again Gina for sharing your hard earned knowledge and inspiring story.  You can catch up with Gina at her blog and don’t miss a visit to her shop filled with her handmade creations.





  1. what a great story! i love your shop gina and have started following your blog! i really enjoy my etsy shop too – have met so many wonderful people there! thanks for sharing!!

  2. Kate, Thanks so much for asking Gina to write this! She is such a fun person & very knowledgeable. I recently had her over to my blog to write a post on how to -and WHY you should- change your photo titles to improve SEO (During my ‘Spread Bloggy Love’ Series) and she totally rocked it and offered great advice.
    Great post Gina! xoxo

  3. Kate, thanks so much for featuring Gina today! She is such a sweetheart!
    I’m glad I followed the link from her blog to yours ~ I’ve added you to my favorites! :)

  4. Thx for sharing Gina! I’ve been needing to revamp my Etsy shop for awhile now; I think I know what I need to do to take Yuppie by Chyanne to the next level. Thanks to you.

    Wishing you & Kate much more success.

    Chyanne M.

  5. You have a great shop Gina! I’m an Etsy seller as well and your tips hit the nail right on the head. Your photos are fantastic and that makes a huge difference. I am constantly improving my photos and it pays off. Wish you continued success with your blog and shop :)

  6. Thanks so much for this. I am going to share this with my MIL who makes great crocheted tote bags out of grocery store bags (they are really cool!). I have been encouraging her to open an etsy store to sell them and she has been resistant.

  7. I LOVE Gina’s shop… and this posting was a great way to get to know her better…even though I’m no longer an etsy newbie, I am always on the lookout for great business tips. Thank you so much for sharing!!!!

  8. I have browsed many of the pretties in Gina’s shop! I was always dabbling in crafts and jewelry making gift for friends and family. Someone then shared Etsy with me. WOW! Craft fair 365 days a year! I finally jumped on board and the rest is history. I am a stay at home mom and was just able to buy this summer vacations airfare for 4. What a blessing! Thank you Gina for all the wonderful tips. I can always use help. Please visit me and my handmade banners at Studio1621.

  9. Wow after reading this I feel like I need to shut my etsy down and either revamp, or quit trying to play with the big dogs! You rock, and I love your etsy. Just my style.

  10. Gina, thank you for sharing your business wisdom with all of us! I have been trying to dive into the blogging world and this gives some great insight. Your shop is also very beautiful, keep it up girl!

  11. These are all great tips and advice. I started an etsy shop as well about 9 months ago.

    It’s encouraging to hear success stories from people like Gina. And I absolutely love her shop. Everything is so cute!

  12. Thank you for such an informative and helpful post! Life keeps getting in the way of me starting my Etsy shop but I consider it a delay and not a deterrent! This is such great info!

  13. A very inspiring and encouraging story! Great tips and advice. Good for Gina to follow her passion and how fun for her to watch it grow!

  14. Wow, Gina! Thanks for sharing! Its nice to see someone’s passion and hard work turn into something great. I love those scripted taper candles that were pictured – very beautiful!

  15. Great post! She makes beautiful things. Love your blog, I always end up pulling out a can of spray paint after I read a post.

  16. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story Gina!!! You have a wonderful shop and blog! I just started an Etsy shop 6 days ago. I’ve got one item listed. I plan to add to my shop and I love your suggestions and advice!!! Very poignant. Thanks to Kate for adding this post to her vast lineup!

  17. I have been reading your blog and enjoying it very much for awhile. Today I just had to finally comment to thank you for sharing the guest post from Gina. As a new blogger (with an Etsy shop), I really appreciated Gina’s insight and suggestions. I am anxious to put some of them into practice!

  18. How inspiring! My daughter wants to open an Etsy shop to sell her paintings {she is only 15} and we are about to bite the bullet. Thanks for this, she is as nervous that no one will want her paintings!

  19. Thank you so much for sharing your story Gina. Thank you Kate for letting her tell it here. There is hope for the rest of us! I learned a couple of things and I am keeping this post handy for when I need a boost of good advice. Thanks again!

  20. Gina,
    Wonderful! You inspired me to begin on Etsy and it is taking some tinkering but I think I am getting it.


  21. Wow…..I didn’t realize until I went to her blog that I am already a favorite of her Etsy shop. I just opened up my shop earlier this month and had several sales but I need ways to hang in there and create more. Great hearing here story! Love her stuff!

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