Creating art is one thing, but selling it is entirely different. One popular option for selling artistic products is Etsy, well-known for being home to handmade and crafty items. Teresa Ambrosio was kind enough to let me cross-post an article she wrote about starting an Etsy shop.
I really appreciate Teresa’s openness about her journey. The truth is that creating a business is a lot of hard work, especially when you’re creating your own product like Teresa’s beautiful crochet! There’s a lot of failure and criticism, but there’s also a lot of empowerment that can come from getting your work out into the world.
Starting an Etsy Shop
by Teresa Ambrosio
How I started crocheting
I started my Instagram account for fun at the end of 2017 but I quickly realised that this would have been more than just sharing pics of myself in the lab. When I had less than 2k followers, I started getting the attention of companies that wanted to collaborate with me because they like my page and brand. However, none of them took me seriously and people wanted to take advantage of my time and experience asking me to do stuff for free.
Around that time, I started looking with admiration at the work of Samantha Yammine, Soph Cook and Heidi Gardner who managed to monetise their pages and science communication accounts in different ways, either by starting their own business like Science On A Postcard or through collaborations with companies. Since companies weren’t willing to cooperate with me, I started getting the idea of selling merchandise as a way to make extra cash as a student but I wasn’t sure how to do it.
My initial idea was to sell T-shirts with science-related hashtags but I didn’t want to invest loads of money on it because I am a student and, despite I am very good at managing my finances, I can’t allow myself to make a huge investment. The cost of printing 100 T-shirts is of about 400£ and I wasn’t sure whether I will ever have got my investment back.
I quickly realised that this would have been more than just sharing pics of myself in the lab.
After the summer, I broke up my ex-boyfriend and suddenly had loads of time to spend on my own. I started crocheting for fun and drawing designs of atoms on my diary. The first attempts doing atoms were a disaster. They looked good on paper but not so good when executed. I then started drawing possible ways of the word science and again loads of drawing that looked good on paper didn’t look as good when executed.
Finally, I had the idea of the bookmarks and the initial designs. At this point, I didn’t have any idea of selling, I started doing the first bookmark for myself because I needed one. I used to spend loads of time reading to fill the space after the break-up. I was reading 2/3 books at a time and didn’t have really anything at home to use as a bookmark.
I showed the bookmarks to a friend and he told me that they were really cute. I went home and started the Etsy shop, I didn’t have anything in stock back then but I was motivated to do my own things and making a hobby an extra income to support my education. After a few more failed experiments (am I talking about crocheting science or my PhD?) I created the bookmark science as it is right now and I was really satisfied with it. I just told myself “This is something people will be willing to pay for!”. I literally started making money by investing £5 buying the copper wire and a few envelopes!
I always had the idea of monetising my pages but I didn’t want to risk a huge amount of money at the start.
I didn’t sell much so far but I understand that my business is a super niche, How many people are passionate about science, crochet and reading at the same time? Plus the paper industry is steadily declining, people read Kindle or listen to an audiobook (I do it too!) but I have loads of ideas for the future such as moving away from the reading business and create more practical stuff and my sister suggested to start making some jewellery which sounds awesome to me. I just don’t have the time right now and due to the restriction of my scholarship, I can’t earn much on top of my salary because they might suspend my scholarship.
You do not need big ideas to success only loads of confidence in yourself and the firm belief that you will make it.
Tips on Getting Started
I have learned a lot from my business not only crocheting science but my Instagram endeavour overall.
1. Making your mark, your name and your voice heard it has not been easy as one may think. When I started this business, I entered a niche dominated by big names and I was just one of the many PhD students out there doing science communication. It took months, loads of work, slap in my face, burnouts etc to create my own brand.
2. People don’t buy your products, they buy you! If you start a business without a clear vision, you will not make it. People trust people, not material things.
3. Having a voice and doing unconventional things expose you to criticism, it took a lot for me to step up from it. Many people turn out to my pages just to criticise me, which is fair enough, but if you want to have an argument and engage in discussions do it all the time, not just when you have to tell me that I am wrong. I have come to ignore these individuals.
Some people will love you, others will hate you.
Many are jealous because you will be more successful with science communication than they will ever be with science. A few will make everything in their power to destroy your name and reputation. Others will make everything they can to lift you up.
4. Last but not least, do not allow anyone to put you on a pedestal. Once I read the Giulius Caesar from Shakespeare. The crowd cheered and applauded Antonio when he did his speech. The same crowd applauded Ceaser when he did his speech. Do not put yourself on social media if you are looking for validation or because you are following a trend. People who lifted you up will put you down in a heartbreak. Do your things and express your true self and do not be scared to do it. As I said before, some will love you others will hate you. Both fine by me!
I hope this can motivate others to start believing in themselves.