It is with the very greatest of pleasures that I get to introduce my dear and treasured friend, Abby, as this month’s Featured Entrepreneur! Abby and I first met at church a few years back and were connected by our love of vintage markets, crafting, Pinterest, deer antlers, fashion, coffee shops, entrepreneurship, the PNW and Jesus. Since then, we’ve developed a deep friendship and I can’t accurately describe to you how much I admire the way she engages with her husband, family, friends and community. I am more than grateful to have her in my life.
Abby currently lives in Durham, NC with her hubby Dave, her precious daughter Esther and her darling pup Butter. She has so many incredible passions in life and one of them handmade, artisan and local goods. As you’ll see, her Etsy shop, hails to that fact!
Read on to learn more about Abby and Othello Shop…
How did Othello Shop get started originally?
My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was in middle school, and then I learned to knit later on. One Thanksgiving about four years ago when I was home with family, all the girls (literally, every one of us!) got some big fat knitting needles and chunky yarn and went to town making scarves while chatting around the fire. Coziest thing ever, right?! I enjoyed knitting so much that I wanted to keep doing it, but knew I couldn’t keep all the scarves for myself (if you’re interested, The Fremont was the first scarf I made and kept for myself — love that golden, mustard color for fall!). So I decided to launch an Etsy business with a Northwest theme. At the time, we were living on Othello Street in Seattle, thus Othello Shop was born. I had a few sales online, but most came through craft fairs with The Biscuit Wives (!! :)) right around the holidays. Since then, I’m amazed how sales have been so strongly tied to the seasons. Literally the day the temperatures drop (or the first day of autumn, September 23, rolls around), I see a huge jump in online traffic, and pretty much the week after Christmas, all sales cease. Last year, my daughter was born on December 10, and I got six Etsy orders while I was in labor!!
The Madrona, buy it here.
What is it that keeps you going? What do you enjoy most about doing all of this?
Knitting is an activity that I so enjoy, and get so much stress relief and pleasure from. It’s one of my favorite ways to spend time when the weather starts to cool off, because I can still share time with family while knitting – working on the shop and being together don’t have to be mutually exclusive!
I love the act of creating with my hands. I love that I am producing something tangible that will add warmth and style to people’s lives. I love that people want to purchase something personal and homemade, even though they could find something similar in a store that was mass-produced. I also love packaging the scarves I sell — I attach a hand-written tag with twine, and a small gold animal (a moose, deer, elephant, etc). I think the touch of whimsy makes it special and fun, and makes it a great gift.
The Seward, buy it here.
Can you share a struggle you had in the beginning stages? Any struggles currently (either creative or business-wise)?
I had trouble keeping pace with orders in the beginning stages. Each scarf takes a couple of hours to knit, and if I got a bunch of orders in a week, it was hard for me to crank them out fast enough. After my daughter was born and I had 6-8 orders to complete, I bought extra needles and had my mom help me finish. We sat in my room with newborn Esther while I was on bedrest and finished them all, only a little bit late!
One current struggle is that my product is so seasonal that I haven’t figured out how to make it a real money-maker throughout the year. I’ve been brainstorming a few new products that could sell well year-round, so we’ll see how those do.
Another struggle (unsexy, but real) is shipping costs, and keeping those low, while still delivering the product on time, and safely.
The Ballard, buy it here.
What do you hope people will feel/think when they purchase and use your product?
I hope that people receive as much joy from wearing a big ‘ol snuggly scarf as I receive from making it. There’s a very specific feeling I hope to convey through my products: picture yourself in a cafe with a warm drink, a good book, and a little drizzle outside. The windows are fogged up because it’s so cozy inside the cafe, you’re lost in a great story, and you’re just loving the season. In my mind, the scarf makes the whole thing complete!
The Queen Anne, buy it here.
The Fremont, buy it here.
Any advice you can give a fellow entrepreneur and/or creator to help them find their way? What do you wish you had known earlier on?
I wish I had poured more time into social media for the shop earlier on. I would just promote through my personal Facebook account, and rely on Etsy ads, rather than creating new profiles for Othello Shop on Facebook and Instagram. The great thing about social media is that you can always jump in, so I literally just started an Instagram account for my shop today (!).
For those just starting out, I think if you can keep your craft a hobby and let it grow slowly to keep pace with the growth, that might help keep it manageable and fun. I really loved banding together with my buddies to do the craft shows. It was so much fun to plan our little booth, make signs, and work on the display together, adjusting as we went. It was also incredibly gratifying to make an in-person sale, and see a happy customer. Etsy doesn’t really afford that opportunity, so that was a nice change. Local shops and markets help expand your audience and generate traffic to your site. I think the landscape of merchandise is changing as people turn away from mass-produced goods and look for more personal, hand-crafted local work. I love participating in that!
The Magnolia, buy it here.
And, the burning question, how can we stay connected with you (virtually speaking)?
You can find me on Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/OthelloShop and on Instagram at @othello.shop. And just for this weekend, all scarves are 20% off with the code YAYOCTOBER. 🙂
Visit Othello Shop here.
Love you Abby! Thank you so much for sharing your talents and thoughts with FFNW!
Bundle up everyone!