Friday, July 31, 2009

Tell u
s a little bit about yourself
Hi, I'm Sheryl Westleigh and I'm obsessed with cephalopods. So the personal details I guess would be that I'm 27 years old, I live in western Maine with my family and a large number of pets including a llama. I'm very into science and skepticism, I love to read, and play with polymer clay.

How long have you been in business?
Around a year but things didn't take off until I opened my Etsy shop at the beginning of October 2008.

Did you start your business full time? if not, what made you take that leap into running your business full time?
I did but it wasn't a deliberate thing. I had been working as a substitute teacher and there was a paperwork problem that led to me not having my certification renewed in time so suddenly I'm starting a business and the job I was doing was gone at around the same time. I live with my parents and they've been very supportive, if it wasn't for them I don't think I could have gotten Noadi's Art off the ground. Things are now going quite well so that I'm looking for my own apartment with the goal of moving this fall.

Did you write a business plan? or do you set regular goals to achieve?
I don't have a business plan at all, so far I haven't needed one. I do set goal for each month and have a calendar full of things to do each month.

What selling venues do you use?
I sell primarily online. is my main shop where I make probably 90% of my sales. I also have a shop at that is mostly duplicate items, off season items (holiday ornaments, etc), and a discount section. Offline I sell at a handful or art and craft shows and an art gallery in Bethel, Maine, but those account for a small fraction of what I sell.

Give us one tip on how you stay motivated (to run your business full time)?
Be curious, explore new ideas, techniques, etc. You might have staple items that sell well that you have to make all the time but mix it up with new projects. You never know when one of those might lead to a new hit for you.

Where do you draw your design inspiration from to keep coming up with fresh ideas?
I love science, I try not to miss nature documentaries and I'm always reading new stuff. Cephalopods and fossils in particular I really love which is why they show up so much in my work. I also love science fiction and fantasy so you see that influence on some of my work as well.

What is your best advice on customer service?
Care about your customers, always keep in mind that if they are happy with the experience they may come back and buy more. The most important part of this I think is to keep them informed, tell them when they're order will ship and estimated time it should take, let them know of any delays, stuff like that. Second most important thing is to send your orders out with care, pack them neatly in the box, a business card, and thank you note. Pretty packaging and a free item are also nice touches if you can do it.

What is your favorite tip you received from a mentor or someone in business?
It's not something specifically given as advice from a mentor. It's actually a quote from one of my favorite television shows Mythbusters which is "Failure is always an option". Not everything is going to work and you can't be afraid to fail, you have to take some risks. Failures can teach you a lot.

If you could offer one piece of advice to someone just starting a business, what would that be?
Don't do what everyone else does. Find a niche for your products, if you look at the most successful handmade sellers on Etsy they all sell something out of the ordinary. Someone might copy your idea but by the time that happens you should be established as the original (this is where persistently marketing your business is important).

If you were a tree what kind of tree would you be? LOL sorry had to add this, I feel like Barbara Walters - haha - I was going to take this out but there have been some great answers so I left it in :)
I don't think I'd want to be any sort of tree, they're stuck in one place. I'd hate to not be able to go out and explore.

Thank you so much for your time Sheryl!

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