Visiting Elizabeth Johnson's Etsy shop, Pretty Smitten, will certainly inspire you to add more color to your life. From notecards to entertaining pieces to iPhone covers, each item is not only bright and well-designed, but can be personalized for extra fun.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth for the fall issue of Delighted. Read below to find out about how she started her shop and what a typical day looks like for her.
When did you open your Etsy shop and what inspired you to do so?
I opened my Etsy shop in 2009 after the birth of my first child. I have always known that I wanted to do something creative and I realized that it was the perfect time to take the plunge! Etsy makes it very easy to start a business. I was able to start slowly and really develop my brand into what it is today.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
We offer designs that take traditional elements, such as the polka dot and Greek key pattern, and add a modern, preppy twist with design options like our signature rugby stripe. We love to incorporate chic, new color combinations to reflect current trends.
What most inspires your designs?
I find the most inspiration from interior design and fashion. I love seeing a pattern or color combo on a pillow, painting or dress and then bringing to life again in my own designs. A simple stripe pattern can inspire a new design.
What is unique about Pretty Smitten?
Pretty Smitten is unique because we offer customers a truly customized experience. Our Pretty Smitten Design Staples allow the customers to build their own unique design by choosing colors, design elements and monogram style. We also offer some of our favorite color and pattern combinations on each product, which is great for the customer who wants a quick buying experience by relying on our design expertise.
What was the greatest challenge you faced during your first year in business?
My greatest challenge in my first year of business was simply figuring out how to run a real business. I started designing and listed items on Etsy almost immediately. As sales increased and I got busier and busier, I realized I still needed to set up the back end of the business. There’s a lot of accounting and paperwork that goes along with starting your own business and it took time to wrap my head around that part.
What has been your most exciting sale or learning experience since starting your business?
I think some of my most exciting sales come during the holiday season. I have families that have come back year after year for their Christmas cards and gifts. It’s so fun to hear from them again and it’s awesome to know that they trust Pretty Smitten to make their holidays special.
What is the best business advice you’ve received?
Some of the best advice I’ve ever received is to simply trust myself. Trust my design aesthetic, trust my abilities, and trust that I know what is best for my business.
Can you share about a business risk you took since starting Pretty Smitten? What came of it?
One of the biggest risks I took was discontinuing my party line. It consisted of hand assembled party items like cupcake toppers, favor tags and bag toppers. It was adorable and well loved by both myself and customers, but as we added two more babies to our family, I quickly realized it took more time than I was able to give. I was afraid to lose the loyal customer base and took a risk to do what is best for my own life balance. But you never know, maybe someday I will decide to add it back into the line!
What does a typical work day look like for you?
With three children under the age of five, there is rarely a typical day! I’m mostly a stay at home mommy and I work during nap times and at night. Two days a week I have help and those are the days I can really focus on Pretty Smitten. One of these days is devoted to packing and shipping orders. The other I try to reserve for new design work, photographing products and new business. Of course every day I’m responding to customers and fulfilling new orders. It’s a little hectic but definitely worth it!
How do you stay connected to your customers?
I try to respond to my customers inquiries as quickly as possible. I think customer service is the number one thing responsible for building trust and loyalty for my brand. And my favorite social media tool is by far Instagram. Photos are just fun and I love being able to ‘meet’ customers and share glimpses into my life.
How do you balance home life with work life? (Especially being a mom!)
It can be a challenge! But the one thing I always try to do is to separate work and mommy time. When I’m playing with my kiddos and taking care of them, I don’t want them to feel like I’m always checking my email. And when I’m working I want to be as efficient as possible. Separating the two as much as possible keeps me feeling less scattered, more focused, like a better mom and a better business owner.
What has been the most rewarding part of owning a small business?
The most rewarding part by far is getting to do what I love without sacrificing time with my family. My interaction with customers is also incredibly rewarding. I have customers that come back again and again...for gifts, for themselves, for holidays...and they’ve become friends. To see their names pop up in my orders or inbox always makes me smile!
Can you recommend any books or resources to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The team over at Launch Her is great! They have consultants available to speak on multiple business topics. I’ve spoken with consultants for both marketing and wholesale advice and have gotten some really great tips. Sometimes it’s also just great to talk out your plan, as it really helps to organize your ideas and get focused.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their own Etsy shop?
Take time in the beginning to plan: Get your product line in order, know what you want to start with and even where you can expand to in the future. And start managing accounting and finances right away! Trust me, it’s no fun to play catch up.
The Caramel Jar: Super yummy caramels!