By Bethanie Hestermann
Who doesn’t love learning from the best? Taylor and Katie Smith of the Studio Sisters run a top 1%-ranked Etsy shop that sells vinyl stickers + other goods. In addition to being Queens of Etsy, they also offer educational tools for other sellers who want to maximize their own creative businesses! Taylor and Katie believe a rising tide lifts all boats. They’re for collaboration, not competition. We absolutely need THESE types of influencers in our feed + community.
In today’s blog, the Studio Sisters share two things everyone can do right now to start seeing better results in their creative businesses. They reveal some of their secrets to success on Etsy, like the importance of having a five-year plan + showing up every single day.
What did you ladies do before starting Studio Sisters?
Katie: I am a self-taught surrealist artist, and before Studio Sisters, I ran a creative DIY blog and did freelance work as an affiliate and brand influencer for art supply companies. I really wanted to focus more on my own creative work, so after we built the Studio Sisters brand, I narrowed my affiliate work down to just a couple of companies, and now I focus mostly on my own designs.
Taylor: In my past life, I was a teacher! I have a BA and MA in cultural anthropology. I was an anthropology professor at a community college for 6+ years before I taught ESL online with a private company, right up until we started Studio Sisters.
What inspired you to open your Etsy shop?
We had both previously had other, smaller Etsy shops in the past, and we both shopped on Etsy as consumers, so we were familiar with the platform and how great it can be. In March 2020, I (Taylor) became worried I would lose my job due to the pandemic, so I suggested we start an Etsy shop as a side hustle, and it quickly took off. I didn’t lose my job, but because our Etsy shop grew so big so quickly, I resigned from my company and have been fully self-employed for 1.5 years now.
Tell us about your business?
Studio Sisters is a creative sticker and paper product brand for people who:
~love living a creative lifestyle
~try new things (even when they’re hard!)
~want to document their adventures
~and believe in collaboration, not competition
What inspired you to start educating other sellers?
Our founding principle is that a rising tide lifts all boats, and we are here for that! It was a natural extension of our business to begin teaching others how to grow their handmade businesses, especially as people began asking us for services like Etsy shop auditing and coaching. We knew we wouldn’t have the time to offer individual coaching alongside our Etsy shop, so we took our step-by-step strategy and turned it into a self-paced course for other Etsy sellers. It’s also helped us grow as Etsy sellers to work with others in the handmade business community!
What do you think is the number one thing holding small business owners back from thriving on Etsy?
Lack of consistency! We see a lot of sellers who will go five days to months (yikes!) without logging into their Etsy shop or posting on social media, etc. Imagine if you had a brick-and-mortar shop and you went days or weeks at a time without opening your store or adding new merchandise … it wouldn’t be very successful, right?
Most small business owners on Etsy don’t have any systems or plans for growth, or they start with one and don’t stay consistent. Running a small business is hard, but if you are committed to the sustainability of your business for the next five or more years (and if you’re not, why are you here?), then you have to be willing to make a plan and stick to it. It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but you do have to show up every single day.
What are a couple things everyone can do right now to start seeing better results?
1. Improve product photography.
2. Make a plan for growth and stick to it (including a content calendar, new products, seasonal items, etc.).
How has social media been instrumental in your business’s success?
We LOVE that social media has brought us a community of people who love our stickers and our art (and our Etsy course). However, it’s important to note that we made more than $80k on Etsy in 2020 before we even had an Instagram account. Social media is an amazing tool and one of the best things you can do for your business, but it’s not the only tool, and it’s easy to rely too heavily on social media without making sure your website, your Etsy shop, and your selling platforms are fully optimized.
What is your number one piece of advice for sellers who are afraid to get in front of the camera or sell on social media?
Start small. You do not have to jump in front of the camera with your face or dance on video or push sales right away. Start with your hands making your product. I (Katie) started with pictures of my hands painting, and then I moved onto process videos of my hands and my canvases, and now I feel really comfortable showing up on camera. I’m also really bad about blinking in photos and I have definitely had those I-feel-so-weird moments, so I started taking pictures of myself with my eyes closed while holding my products. It turned out to actually be a signature style of mine! Find ways to embrace your comfort level!
What are you the proudest of in terms of your business?
We’re most proud of how intentional our business is. We created a business where we get to show up every single day and work with each other. It’s the perfect blend of creativity and problem-solving/analytics. We work the flexible hours we want and love to tackle long-term, big-picture projects. We both love the blend we have of content creation (imagination) and the business side of producing physical and digital products. I (Taylor) don’t think I could imagine a better job than creating every day with my sister.