This month I spoke to Claire and Olivia from A Few Home Truths. They are based in Liverpool, Merseyside and sell a variety of customised items including mugs, coasters and pet ID tags. They have been selling on Etsy since 2012 and are a team of two, Claire being the owner of the business with Olivia her assistant plus Bradley the cocker spaniel puppy that hangs out at the studio. Their shop is filled with quirky artistic gifts to suit a variety of people, I particularly like the engraved bamboo coasters that have phrases such as ‘procrastinate, snack, panic, all-nighter, repeat’ engraved on them (this was so relatable for me at uni!) Their shop is all about personalised gifts, why buy a generic gift when you can get something sentimental and perfect for your loved ones? We had a chat about how they manage the business and what motivates them.
When did you open your Etsy shop & what inspired you to do so?
Wow I really need to think back on that one. It was back in 2012 when I first started the idea of researching house histories (now just a small part of what we do). I also joined Folksy at the same time – that fell by the wayside years ago! I also made the “mistake” of asking the forum on Netmums what they thought of my ideas – oof that was an eye opener!
Do you remember your first sale on Etsy? What did that feel like?
I was walking around the Trafford Centre and heard a kerching! My heart honestly missed a beat I was so excited.
How do you organise your day and manage your time effectively? (Do you follow a strict working routine or are you more organic with the way you work?)
Afewhometruths is a full-time job and I also employ Olivia who is my assistant, processing orders, dealing with customer service and social media. There is no working in pyjamas (even though I work from home) but there is plenty of tea, biscuits and cake. Olivia makes a mean banana bread!
Mornings tend to be spent processing orders and, depending on the time of year, the afternoons are more likely to be spent product developing and on marketing. Our post is collected at 4pm every day so that gives us a pretty rigid timetable to work to. We sell on various platforms and so have to make sure we are on top of them all.
Do you listen to music, audiobooks or podcasts to motivate you whilst working? If so, what?
The radio is always on and usually tuned to Radio City. It’s then a case of who gives in first and says “Is it time for a playlist?” and then Spotify goes on. We are pretty good at being accommodating to each other. Olivia loves musicals like Les Mis and has introduced me to Scott Bradlee and I sometimes persuade her to indulge me in some classical music. When it gets to Christmas though we definitely squabble as to when it is acceptable to have festive music on!
What is your favourite time of year to sell on Etsy?
I love being busy so Christmas is the best.
How do you get inspired to start a new product line, and how long does it typically take you to add a new item to your shop, (from the idea phase to hitting the publish button)?
We are really lucky to have quite a lot of equipment at our disposal, including a laser cutter and white laser printer as well as a sublimation printer and other little bits and pieces. I confess I am a little obsessed with things and have a notebook full of ideas which Olivia is often confronted with on a Monday morning to give her opinion on! We also have a little puppy called Bramley so he has inspired us to create a new line in pet products including look-a-like dog mugs. One of the advantages of being a small team is that things can move really quickly from the design phase to prototype and selling the finished product.
What is your favourite social media platform to promote your shop and why?
We are just testing out the Tailwind app to help regular posting and hope this will make a big difference to our Instagram account. Social media is definitely something we need to concentrate more on.
Do you use any other marketing strategies to promote your shop? (mailing list, flyers etc)
We are now trying to get the hang of Facebook advertising which, although very challenging in the setup, is actually proving to be fascinating. I am loving the psychology of a successful campaign, gaining cold leads and enticing them through the sales funnel to make a final purchase. (Haha – sounds as if I know what I am talking about there!)
What are your goals for your business for the next year?
We definitely would like to diversify and move into corporate sales and also building our own customer list so that we aren’t so reliant on algorithms over which we have no control. These last few months on Etsy have been a bit of a challenge but I am trying to be positive and view them as a catalyst to make us up our game.
What advice or resource(s) would you recommend to new Etsy sellers?
Be passionate about what you do and the rest should follow – but it will take hard work, resilience and testing. You also need to really understand your ideal customer and get inside their heads as to what makes them want to buy from you.
You can find A Few Home Truths over on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/aFewHomeTruths and via social media at
This month for our seller spotlight, we focus on Ren Ellery of Ren & Thread. Ren lives in Wigan in the North West with her husband and three sons and runs her business by herself from her home, she has been selling on Etsy since 2012 and is a team leader for the Merseyside Etsy team in charge of running the Instagram page. Ren was our guest speaker at our daytime meetup for February.
Ren has a strong background in textiles and found herself gravitating towards this medium of making art throughout university and beyond with her side projects involving making wedding invitations to doggy accessories which developed into the business she runs today selling pet art and pet portraits. This is a true passion as Ren and her family are proud owners of a Beagle and today the business thrives off the love we all have for our furry animal friends.
Ren has a distinct style to her art that really sets her apart from other sellers of pet related items. By hand, she cuts out different coloured fabrics to layer up (including a little fabric red heart) she then embroiders over this using the needle of her sewing machine like a pencil, stitching the details and characteristics into the fabric. The result is the fabric pets have a sense of personality and liveliness to them. One of her top sellers are the hanging Christmas decorations that feature different breeds of dogs (and occasionally cats) wearing sweet little santa hats, making them the perfect personal Christmas decoration. Ren & Thread also sell prints, coasters, wooden Christmas decorations, other sewn accessories and wrapping paper.
I had a chat with Ren to find out why she uses Etsy to sell her products and what inspires her to come up with new product lines.
What is your favourite time of year to sell on Etsy?
It has to be Christmas. Although I really struggle with the pressure of the big day myself; I love creating gifts for others. The response from happy customers when they receive their items gives me a real buzz and drives me to create more.
How do you organise your day and manage your time effectively?
I don’t!! I have to go with the flow. I do little bits of what I can when I can. If I need to be creative I usually do this during the boys nap times or in the evening when the boys are in bed so that I don’t have any distractions.
How do you get inspired to start a new product line?
Usually by being prompted by customers. I love being asked if I make a certain breed or item as it drives my creativity. Sometimes I can feel a little lost as to what to make now, mostly through there being to many options and I don’t know which to start with.
What is the most difficult aspect of running your Etsy shop:
Managing my time effectively, especially around the boys. I also find it hard to keep on top of my stock, making sure everything is listed with up to date photos. It seems to take so long to do each one.
What is your favourite form of social media to help promote your business?
It has to be Instagram. I love the grid and the ease of showing your work. I do find Twitter is good for driving traffic to my Etsy shop though and need to spend more time there this year. I do feel Instagram is very female friendly and Twitter is more popular with men in general. Instagram being about pretty pictures and Twitter more of a newspaper column.
What do you like about Etsy over other selling platforms?
I love how easy Etsy is to use. It’s really accessible to the customers too. It does everything I need it to without it taking a long time to learn or understand.
What advice would you give to new Etsy sellers?
Work hard at getting the best photo’s you can, learn about SEO to keep your shop buzzing and use social media as much as you can to drive traffic to your shop. You have to put in the hard work to get returns.
You can also find Ren via social media on:
and featured in the pet grooming store, 'The Dog Barn' in St Helens
The best way to get in touch with Ren is via Etsy at www.renandthread.etsy.com
If you have any comments or thoughts please leave in the box below.
On 13th October 2017 some of our brave Team Members are sleeping outside overnight again to raise money for the Whitechapel Centre - a local homeless charity.
This is the second year we have taken part as a team, and last year we decided to add a crafty element to our sleepout experience, making pompoms with our fellow sleepouters. The pompoms were later donated to the Whitechapel charity shop, Open Door.
This year we decided to go one step further, and we are inviting all team members - even those who don't want to sleep out - to get involved with our plan. We are making crochet and knitted "paper chains" which will be donated to the Whitechapel Centre and used as Christmas decorations in the centre itself. We will be making some of these on the night, but we are appealing to all team members to join in and donate some links to create a big chain garland.
One of this year's Sleepouters, Team Member Gemma Scattergood, of Girl on Purl Action, has tested out the idea and also come up with a really handy pattern sheet, complete with helpful photo instructions, which you can download here. We'll have copies of this available at September and October meetups too.
Each link should only take a short time to create, so if you have any scrap wool then please do give it a go. Any colour is fine - and you can hand over your unsewn links to us at a meetup, or get in touch and we can give you an address to post them to.
Once we have an idea of how many links we have, we will probably need some volunteers to sew it all together too, we will arrange an afternoon where volunteers can get together and do this over coffee and cake.
During June, we're running a month-long Instagram Challenge, inviting local makers to get involved with our daily prompts. You don't have to be a Team Member to participate, we'd love to see all sorts of creativity going on all over Merseyside.
To get involved, simply post on Instagram on the relevant day - your response to the daily word/phrase. Make sure you include the hashtag #merseysidemakers, and have a look at everyone else's posts too!
We've even made a handy downloadable planner for you to plan your month: