What better way to celebrate Handmade May then by interviewing someone like you! Someone who weighed the pros and cons of turning their hobby into a money-making enterprise and TOOK THE PLUNGE!
So, I reached out to a friend of mine, Kristen, who recently launched her brand, La Belle Vie by Kristen. Kristen is a stay-at-home mother of two that has enjoyed the hobbies such as sewing, crocheting, and, more recently, vinyl cutting.
When did you start your hobby(s) – knitting/crocheting, vinyl, serger, sewing… there’s just so much?
Haha there is a lot. I have crafted as a hobby for as long as I can remember. I started sewing when I was 9, but only recently took up crochet (3 years ago) and electronic cutting and design (Jan 2017).
Where do you find your inspiration?
People mostly, I love creating things for others and trying to come up with something that compliments their personality or trying to accommodate their desire and vision if it's a custom order.
What was your biggest hesitation about opening your “store”?
Fear. Fear of succeeding and my hobby becoming a job to be borne instead of fun. And fear of not succeeding, of failing. Ultimately, it was the fear of not trying and regretting it that pushed me into it.
It’s all in a name – how did you acquire yours?
I wanted something that would stick out but I wanted something meaningful to me. "La belle vie" is French for "the sweet life," which pretty accurately describes how I'm trying to live my life.
After being diagnosed almost two years ago with Stage III breast cancer, and the subsequent treatment, I had a few close calls that forced me to take a look at my life and see what was really important. It made me take time to slow down and enjoy the little moments, the ones that happen daily seemingly unnoticed in the scheme of everyday routine and life. My husband, my kids, my family and friends, experiencing life to the fullest and embracing the ups and the downs as something to really experience as opposed to just going through the motions.
What other ideas/thoughts did you kick around?
Initially, I'm trying to keep my scope small, so that I don't overwhelm myself and I have time for the things that bring me joy and make life sweeter, but I'm planning a long-term goal.
So I wanted to make sure I didn't pigeonhole myself when I branded my shop to only be crochet or vinyl. I wanted to leave it open-ended so that I could do whatever I wanted when I felt comfortable enough to do it. I've only been "open" about a month or more, but already I've delved into creating and selling svg files on top of the other two. The sky's the limit!
What made you pick Facebook for your primary storefront?
I felt like it's a bit more relevant for my target consumers. And it gives me more control over my marketing. Etsy has a great customer base but it is hard to stand out using their platform. But I think having both is good as long as you understand the limits and work with or around them as needed.
While your store is still new, surely there have been some “oops” – what’s some advice for someone else thinking about opening an online store?
The biggest piece of advice is make sure you get paid before doing a custom job, or any job for that matter, even if it's someone you know. Whether it's because you're afraid to buy all the materials for a custom job that someone might bail on, or because someone might not pay after you've handed over the merchandise, up front is the best policy.
Second piece of advice is branding. Figure out what you want your niche to be and who your target customer group is and market toward it, with your shop name, logo, website, finishing touches like packaging, etc. All things to help you stand out.
I'm sure I've made other mistakes I don't know about yet...
Visit La Belle Vie by Kristen to follow her story and see more of her creations.