TGT30 Interview: Laura Asmussen on Etsy

Guess what?!? This week, one of us is traveling but its not Bethany – its me!  Its not Africa or anything. I’m in San Antonio for my job but I am staying at a lovely establishment where you can DIY your own waffles….

in the shape of Texas…..

And that is a great segue into today’s post.

One of my items to-do is to list an item on Etsy.  I don’t really have a clue about what that item will be or how to do it.. BUT, I thought it would be smart to ask someone who has a successful Etsy shop for some tips.  I asked an old high school pal of both Bethany’s and mine to do an “interview” – Laura (Hefferly) Asmussen.  She lives in Texas (see, connection.) with her husband and three little boys, and she is the shopkeeper at Sweetheart-n-Sunshine focusing on custom changing pad covers, crib sheets, etc.

I LOVE this idea because if you’ve ever tried to shop for changing pad covers, you will find the options at Target are quite limited: pale pink, or pale blue.  So I guess there’s there’s tip #1, sell something that isn’t readily available everywhere. Here’s my “interview” with her below.

First, when is your thirtieth birthday? Anything you’re trying to get done before then?

First of all, thanks so much for inviting me to your blog! I’ve had more than one ten laughing outbursts while reading through the goal attempts and updates and especially the all too familiar memories. You two are just as clever and witty as “the good ol’ days!”  As for me, the big day falls on June 25th.  And, honestly, I have no apprehensions about it. I had my third little boy before turning twenty-nine, thus I often feel like I should be turning forty instead of thirty. But I must admit that I have attempted to pull a fast one:  I delivered my baby Grant last summer the day before my twenty-ninth birthday, ensuring that my birthday will go relatively un-noticed for at least the next eighteen years. We’ll see how that works! As for goals before the big 3-0, I can’t say that I have any one achievement that I’d like to see done before June 25th, though reading along with your blog has definitely inspired me to do something I previously would have never considered. Such as refinishing our kitchen table. It’s in desperate need!

I’m curious about the back story.  How’d you get your start and how has your shop changed since the beginning?

I started my shop in July of 2010 after some encouragement from a friend. I really had no intention of it turning into much, so I didn’t tell anyone at first. I kind of just thought of it as an excuse to sew a few extra things, and hey, if it made me a little money, great! My first goal was to figure out what items I could sell that would actually be cost effective. I wanted to come up with a novel item that people couldn’t readily find in stores. After noticing a major shortage in changing pad covers in baby stores, I spent a good week or so working on a pattern. As for the shop, all of the common simple shop names I thought of were already taken, so I had to attempt to come up with something clever. Since I planned to sell primarily baby items, I referred to my own little guys, Kolbe and Reagan. Their two favorite lullabies are “Goodnight, Sweet Dreams, Sweetheart” and “You Are My Sunshine.” Thus, Sweetheart-n-Sunshine was selected. (Being a former English teacher, yes, I did want it to be Sweetheart and Sunshine, but I was not allowed that many characters in my shop name. Grr.) Shortly thereafter, I invested in a few different baby print fabrics, made some covers, and listed them. Nothing happened. They sat there for weeks and weeks. And weeks.  Getting that first sale is the hardest part! Most customers rely on the positive ratings and feedback of others. Eventually, some brave soul purchased not one, but two of my covers. By Thanksgiving of that year, I had reached my one hundredth sale and was thrilled. It was at that point that I really started to believe I could turn my shop into a productive business.

As for changes, the shop has grown and evolved quite a bit since the beginning. Paying attention to what customers want, the prices they’re willing to pay, the speed with which they want things done, and the quality they’re expecting has helped me mold and shape my shop into an actual business that adds a significant amount of income to our family’s budget. I’ve added items, removed items, switched formats, made changes to shipping procedures and packaging…all kinds of changes! For example, a few months ago I made a major switch from selling my items as ready-to-ship to selling them as made-to-order. In that short amount of time, my business has grown by about 40%. It just takes a lot of trial and error both with selling as well as production to fine tune it into a well-oiled machine.

How much time do you spend on your shop per week?  And how do you possibly fit it in with 3 little boys?

I’m guessing I spend roughly ten hours a week on my shop. This is almost entirely during nap time! I made myself a promise when I decided to go all in with this little business that I would not let it interfere with my real job of being mom and wife. So really, 99% of the sewing happens when the boys are napping and Mark is at work. From time to time I will do a few administrative type things like printing postage, balancing my register, or folding and tagging items at night. I will admit that at times, it’s very tempting to see the allure of the growing business and want to give it more of myself. But I’m in such a limited stage in my life. My babies will only be babies once and I’d much rather see them grow up and be their mother while having a small business than have a large one and miss out on one of the most precious and important parts of their lives. It’s a fine line to tow, but somehow it always just works out and is worth it.

What’s the best part?  And the hardest part?

The best part for me is the personal satisfaction of feeling productive. I knew being a stay-at-home mom would be hard for me because I don’t sit still very well. Having my own business has given me the opportunity to be productive and successful in ways other than potty training, alphabet teaching, and discipline enforcing. One thing I was not expecting was how much I’d love the administrative/business side of things. It’s just as enjoyable as the sewing part! And of course, I love hearing back from customers when something I’ve created has made them happy and excited about feathering their nest for their little ones.

As for the hard parts, the biggest would have to be what I previously mentioned…finding a balance between this job and my “real” job. And the only other thing I can complain about is that since I’m constantly filling orders for the shop, it leaves relatively no time at all to sew for myself or our home. I squeeze in a few projects here and there, but not nearly as many as I’d like. I’m sure if my husband could chime in here, he’d also mention the fact that the house isn’t cleaned nearly as often as it probably should be, though he’s always willing to help me knock it out on the weekends.

Where is your shop headed in the future?  Any plans or goals?

Ah, the future. I certainly have lots of dreams of what the shop could turn into someday, but for now I plan to maintain the success I’m having and just enjoy it. As time allows and children get older, I definitely hope to expand the shop further and develop additional products to sell. I’m just trying my best to be patient with it and appreciate the goodness and blessings it has brought me thus far.

Thanks so much Laura!!

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About Mary-Hall

loyal southerner, exceedingly frugal, compulsive DIYer

2 responses to “TGT30 Interview: Laura Asmussen on Etsy”

  1. bethanybordeaux says :

    Laura – I had no idea you did this! I love the product, the effort you’ve put into the business, all of it. It’s such a good idea…and even though it’s Mary’-Hall’s list item and not mine, of course my wheels are turning…

    Please go check out Laura’s awesome store on Etsy and buy some cute things for your bitty ones!

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/sweetheartnsunshine?ref=ss_profile

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