Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Etsy Success—Sewing Pattern Licensing
I tell all of my creative friends, Etsy is Your place to discover and be discovered. It’s the truth for me. I was contacted through Etsy's conversation feature by one of Simplicity's design directors. She said she liked my clever products and thought they would make a nifty pattern. She offered me a licensing agreement and left her name and phone number. A tear or two trickled down my cheek. (My husband says I sobbed uncontrollably on the phone with him.) I flashed back to Summers in high school spent sewing my next wardrobe with Simplicity patterns, dreaming of being a designer. I wasn't dreaming anymore. I was just doing what I know how to do and putting it online for people to buy. This message was like someone knocking on my door and saying, "Remember that dream you had a long time ago? I am here to make it come true." This was so much bigger than anything I had planned for my little PDF pattern company. I had to remind myself how to breathe.
This is the story of a handful of design careers that got a boost when The Simplicity Pattern Company discovered us on Etsy. You can read more about me and why I started publishing my patterns at The Unofficial Etsy Featured Seller Blog. That frees me up to introduce you to 5 lovely ladies who are sewing up success with Etsy and Simplicity.
How Momo Made It
Speaking from experience, Joan Stroh of MomoMadeIt puts it this way, “People from all venues are scouting Etsy for fresh ideas.” Joan’s handmade aprons have been well scouted: appearing in Lark Books’ “A” is for Aprons, on various television shows, and featured in magazines. Joan’s aprons are reaching an even wider audience through her licensing contract with Simplicity than she could alone, making each and every apron herself. Joan says, “I am having a blast here on Etsy! I plan on staying here as well as staying true to the spirit of handmade.” She explains, “I really love what I do and the success that I have experienced, but I prefer to keep my shop personal.”
She advises, “Just put your best foot forward and always be mindful that your shop is out there for the whole world to see. “
Etsy helps us put our best foot forward with a constant stream of photography and sales tips.
Precious Pay Day
None of these designers have an overnight success story. Everyday we work hard to be successful. Mary Ayres of Precious Patterns had worked full time as a freelance designer for craft, paper and sewing magazines for a number of years before she opened up shop on Etsy. Tired of selling the rights to her designs, Mary was excited to learn from Simplicity that she would retain the copyrights and earn royalties under her contract with them. A prolific designer, Mary’s 4th packet of patterns for Simplicity is coming out this Fall. Sharing the business with her daughter has been rewarding for Mary. Commenting on her Etsy experience, Mary says, “We think Etsy is wonderful and we are so thankful we found it. Our business would not have succeeded without Etsy. I'm sure of that!”
Fueled by Friends
Often, when a product is a hit, it seems to have legs of it own. This is certainly true of Pauline McArthur’s creations. Funky Friends Factory started after Pauline’s toys became popular with her friends. Pauline says, “I’ve been sewing and knitting my own toys and dolls since I was a kid, but it took until my 30s (OK, mid-30s) to realize that you’re never too old to do what you love! …. and it’s been a great thrill for me to see other people get enjoyment from my creations. “ Encouraged by her pattern sales, Pauline is working on an email course entitled “Toy Making Made Easy.” Pauline and I share a dream of having our products picked up for licensing contracts with manufacturing companies.
Pie in the Sky
Joining us in that product licensing vision is Jennifer Novak of VioletPi. Never having published a pattern for her creations before, Jennifer was “guardedly ready to explode with excitement” when Simplicity contacted her about licensing. When she was satisfied that it was a real deal, Jennifer got on the phone; she says, “the first people I called were the ones who doubted the viability of this business I've started...I so wanted to show that following your passion can be exciting and lead to wonderful things.” Jennifer describes her dedication to her craft as “a true calling. It’s a real passion and I can only see more and more ahead. I’m obsessed. I went all the way through grad school as a painter and have chucked all that to make these little critters...this is SO much more rewarding.”
The Sweet(Pea) Taste of Success
Selling her bags successfully since 2003, Mary Miele of SweetPeaTotes had the confidence to email Simplicity directly and suggest her patterns to them. “I had always dreamed of having a pattern of my own in the Simplicity catalog. I truly believe that anyone can accomplish their dreams,” she says. Her first Simplicity pattern came out in March 2010. Mary says, “I am just as excited about this next pattern (due out next Spring) as I was with the first. I hope to continue working with Simplicity in the future.” Of her Etsy shop, Mary says, “I love having a shop on Etsy. It's great to be a part of a community with such talented sellers. I really enjoy working with my customers and creating special items for them. “
Prepare for Opportunity
The one thing I want to add to all of these success stories is that you never know what the big companies are looking for. It’s a fact that Simplicity was looking to expand their offerings in very specific ways when they found all of us. The best I can hope to do is to keep growing my line. As I build my body of work, I am building my chances of my design work intersecting with another company’s need.
Reading Etsy’s blog, I noticed that there is a big market for wedding related items here, so I put some focus on brides and bridesmaids. I was already into travel items just out of my own lifestyle and interests. The first set of destination wedding duffles was an actual order from bride who was shopping on Etsy. I am not sure if I would have thought of that on my own. Simplicity loved it too.
Since my slipcovers have been picked up for book features, my plan is to follow through on those with a slipcovering tutorial on video. There is a rumor that I am doing an entire book of slipcovers for IKEA furniture. My furniture set on Flickr may be responsible for starting that. With the right advance, I would love to make that happen, but it is just a rumor not an actual plan—yet.
Etsy provides such great resources on their blog. I suggest scouring the merchandising posts for clues as to what themes or marketplaces could take off for you. This is a little preview of what will be in my first Simplicity Pattern when it comes out in their catalog December 17th.
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