Monday, June 1, 2009

A Very Savor-y Interview!!

Last week I gave you a small teaser about something big I had cooking, and I deliver on my promises. If you're a fan, seller, buyer, or all three of Etsy, then you must know who Savor is. If you do not, sit up, and take note. I've been on Etsy a little over a year, and I scope a lot of bath and body sellers. Lisa Salamida, the owner and creative genius behind Savor, is the one of the most successful sellers on Etsy (13,200+ sales since she opened shop in October of 2007.) Her soap making comes from a love of cooking, and that passion is reflected in almost every single product she offers. I'll stop gushing now, and I'm very honored to present my interview with Lisa of Savor!

For those who are familiar with Etsy but have been living under a rock, tell us a little about who you are and what you make.
My name is Lisa, and I run Savor -- a shop that sells handmade bar soap, whipped soap, lotion, lip balms, and occasionally other bath treats. In addition to running Savor full time, I have a full time job as a computer tech (among other things, but that's the quickest way to describe my job's scope). Outside of working, my husband Mike and I enjoy camping on Mt Diablo, bike riding (he likes to ride Centuries, I'm more casual), gardening, running and cooking.

To say you’ve been successful on Etsy is an understatement. You have outsold sellers whose numbers are equal (if not less) to yours but have been on Etsy twice as long. What do you think has attributed to your success besides making a great product?

There are a couple key areas to focus on to drive a business -- customer service, which helps with repeat customers and word of mouth sales; advertising, where you display your items directly to interested audiences; and product photography (along with that is style, or branding). I think a lot of crafters/artists/shop owners list their items on Etsy and expect the sales to just follow. I have rarely seen it happen that way. To be a huge success, you have to get a lot of eyes looking at your shop because only a small number of them turn into sales. It's great when Etsy features you, but it's an incredibly small part of selling and doesn't draw in the audience you'll need -- being on the front page, for example, is wonderful, but probably only brings a sale or two. It's up to you to draw in the big traffic.
To get that traffic, spend time researching how to run a small business. I'd venture to say that most of us are really great at our craft, or have a good eye for vintage or interesting and needed supplies. But that doesn't even touch the business side of it -- knowing how to find your target market goes beyond the scope of this interview, but it's nothing you can learn about with a few hours at the library! I approached everything like this -- if I didn't know how to do it, I learned it, or consulted with someone enough to get me started.

(OMG-doesn't this look good enough to eat?)

Why haven’t you quit your day job yet?

This question is kind of amusing :) It pre-supposes that I want to quit my day job, and I don't -- I love it. It exercises a totally different part of my skill set, I work with awesome people, and I have fun pretty much every day. I have the freedom to run Savor at the same time, with a laptop, my "Savor office" is anywhere I am, including on the commuter train.
There's also the practical side of it -- my job provides some pretty incredible benefits. I've been there almost a decade, so salary and job security are fantastic. Inexpensive health care (I think it's like $20 a month), 401k profit sharing and matching -- with no limit, which is kind of unheard of! We also get fitness allotments (I use mine for gym membership), optical and dental allotments, heaps of vacation time, and multiple bonuses. Well, that's hard to beat :)
There are countless expenses that eat away at those raw numbers. You've got payments to Etsy and Paypal for your fees, you have the raw materials cost (materials, shipping cost to get to you, car wear and tear and gas when you pick up locally), insurance, business supplies (labels, printers, paper, ink, toner, envelopes, boxes, gift cards, ribbon, tape, bubble wrap, gift wrap), office furniture (bins, chairs, tables, desks, shelving, lighting), licenses and professional fees (memberships, classes), utilities (gas and electric, water, internet). You have to set aside funds to cover product loss, shipping damage, returns, product development that didn't work out. You have constant equipment upgrades, repairs, and money to put into research and development of new products. There are also fees for advertising, business cards, fliers, give-aways, and materials/furniture for craft shows.

I'm pretty fortunate that I have solid profit margins on my work, and that I'm supported well by doing a lot of wholesale. Savor is healthy and profitable, but I think "quitting my day job" would be incredibly irresponsible and short-sighted. To throw away a job that I love, and have had for 10 years on a business that's less than two years old seems silly :) The pressure of trying to live off of something that's frankly unstable is nothing I need in my life!

How do you come up with your cool product names?

A lot of products come straight from recipes, so I co-opt the name of the dish for the soap, like Polenta or Dulce de Leche. Other times, I draw from things I enjoy -- Original Gangsta because I like rap music, Ciao Bella because I am part Italian, that kind of thing. A new soap, Pacifics, comes from a Digable Planets song that my husband and I both like.

(Ok, do you lick the chocolate or bathe with it?)

What’s a typical day like for you?

A regular weekday goes like this -- Get up at early, relist sold items and thank customers, check feedback, take item inventory. Make breakfast, get my stuff together for work, and get on the bus to get to the train. On the train to work, I usually check reddit, answer convos, order supplies, see if anything's interesting on Twitter, answer emails, etc. At work, I do my regular job, and do "Savor things" as needed, and sometimes spend time on the Etsy forums just goofing off. I generally go to the gym for about an hour as long as I'm behaving myself! Repeat the train ride home, and once home make dinner with Mike, play with our kitties, just chillax. Spend about an hour or two shipping the day's orders, and then catch something on Netflix, or grocery shop, or cook some meals for the rest of the week.

On the weekends, we tend to go out Friday and Saturday nights, but spend much of Saturday afternoon making soap. Sundays we make more soap, wrap and package, and then spend the evening shipping. I like to sleep in on Saturdays, pretty late, sometimes until 2 in the afternoon.
Do you ever get tired of making soap?

Hm, not really. I get tired of making some scents, they get a little boring, but I'm always doing something new. Sometimes I'm physically tired, but I tend to have a lot of energy. It conflicts with me being lazy, which really I am! If I can get away with doing nothing, I will, happily, haha. But then again, I can work for 18 hours and not grumble, so it's sort of a split personality there.
You’ve only very recently started a blog. What took you so long?

I don't really even have one yet, although I have installed Wordpress and I'm having fun playing with layouts. I love graphic design, so that's one aspect of it I'm enjoying. I'm not sure how to answer "what took me so long" -- I just wanted a place to post things I wanted to share, like a dessert we made the other night (creme brulee ice cream, french sea salt and caramel sauce). I don't think blogs are very necessary for a shop, if that's what you mean. I just wanted to write one and I have some time on the train :)

Who are some of your favorite sellers on Etsy?

This is one question I'll have to be coy about. I don't want to shout-out and leave out people who should be mentioned :) I have my favorites public on Etsy so that'll have to do!

Do you sell anywhere else besides Etsy?

I don't sell directly elsewhere but I wholesale, online and to some B&Ms. Because I'm sending out all the product to one place and don't have to do a lot of customer service, it saves me on labor. While I love Etsy, I love wholesale from the business-perspective, it's what keeps Savor steadily profitable with much less legwork than selling to people one-at-a-time. We don't seek out any wholesale contacts at this point, they've all contacted us.
One thing I admire about you is your professionalism. There are a lot of haters out there who aren’t so happy for your success. How do you keep your cool?

I guess I didn't realize there were a lot of haters -- that kinda bums me out. I do see some jealousy on the Etsy forums, which I honestly find pretty revolting -- it's a turn-off and I'll disassociate myself from people who bash others for being successful. If stuff is happening outside of that, I don't see it. I don't have the time to fuss around elsewhere very often. If people truly hate on another person's achievements, then those are sad people. I hope at least their moms love them, because I bet they make other people pretty miserable :) Most people I come in contact with are pretty jovial, happy people, and not in an obnoxious way, haha :) Just people who have genuine passion and drive, people who are sincerely friendly and caring. It helps me be the same, because I am rather dark humored and cynical at times. Mike is definitely a positive influence for me, and the Etsy sellers I am close with are as well. My friends celebrate my successes and I theirs, and we commiserate when things go wrong and help bring each other up again.

I could have asked Lisa probably 20 more questions, but I contained myself! I love this woman. She is so put together and focused! I am not just an admirer, but a buyer. I urge you to check out Savor on Etsy. The photos are gorgeous, and the descriptions just transform you to a different place....Stay tuned for more profiles!


Burnt Mill Candles and Soap said...

great interview! it is always cool to learn more about the people behind the different shops :)

Creations With Heart said...

I left something on my blog for you!


Laquita said...

Great interview - I must go over and add her to my favs :o)

. Phydeaux . Phydelle . said...

Lisa is awesome and Savor rocks! You truly won't find better customer service - I'm a continual customer for that + the quality of her incredible products. You won't go wrong with Savor soaps - and you'll smell fantastic to boot! :)

Runako Designs by Dee said...

what a great interview!! Thanks Lisa for the awesome advice, and thank Patrice for the great interview questions. Being new to Etsy need all the advice I can get.

Anne-Marie said...

Great interview! I've had some of Savor's soaps and loved them! Great photography backed up by awesome products? I'm not surprised she's super successful on Etsy.

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