Linda Funk, the owner of OpenSky's Amelia's Expressions, wanted to be an entrepreneur. Already working in direct sales through Pampered Chef, she felt frustrated by running a business that wasn't really her own.
Everyone has that little something in their relationship, and if you want to put it on a piece of jewelry, we can do that
"I wanted something unique," she says. Having had a long interest in jewelry, Funk decided to explore a line of personalized jewelry. Once she decided what she'd like to sell, she put her research skills to the test.
"I searched the Web to find information about things I could make," she says.
As Funk found interesting pieces, she tested them on social media. Soon her Facebook friends began to ask where they could get the pieces and how much they cost. And so her business was off. Funk opened her business first on Etsy in February 2013. That November she opened a store on OpenSky.
2 stores, 2 approaches
The merchant still has a presence on both marketplaces, and with her sales she was able to reach an important goal.
"I wanted to stay home with my kids," says Funk, the mom of four school-aged children, including her daughter, Amelia. "Now it's my full-time job. I make it work to do both."
With two shops to stock, Funk takes a practical approach to her inventory. Through Etsy, she can fulfill custom orders and one-of-a-kind pieces. "Everyone has that little something in their relationship, and if you want to put it on a piece of jewelry, we can do that," she says.
She's found that Etsy shoppers are more likely to shop for custom products, and the marketplace itself is geared toward fulfilling individualized and custom items. "OpenSky is hard for that," Funk notes.
The merchant hand stamps each piece she sells, something we think is perfect for a woman who started her own business so she could sell unique items. She creates custom pieces, mostly for her customers on Etsy, but also her own website.
Co-Pilot helps merchant grow
For her OpenSky store, Funk creates an overarching line of merchandise she believes will do well.
"I make things I would wear and wouldn't wear," she explains. "I make them for everybody." Her inventory includes necklaces, pendants, bracelets, chains, key chains and bottle openers.
Sometimes storeowners get too caught up in their own tastes. 'That doesn't really work'
The merchant notes that sometimes storeowners get too caught up in their own tastes. "That doesn't really work," she says. "You have to consider things for a lot of different customers."
As Funk's OpenSky business started to take off, she was invited to join the site's Co-Pilot marketing program. She finds OpenSky directs most of the traffic to her store, and the store had nearly 20,000 followers when we spoke. We asked how she'd gathered so many and her response was a little surprising: "I get busy and don't pay much attention to that."
Funk estimates about 40 percent of the people who follow her are actually interested in her products. "OpenSky will market to those followers," she says. "If something comes back into stock, they generate messages to them."
OpenSky also markets the news of sales and special events to those who follow her store. The marketing support also includes optimizing the stores OpenSky merchants operate on Facebook, blogs and wherever search engines roam.
Funk recommends sellers new to OpenSky give the marketplace a fair chance. "You can start small and build up," she says. As her business continues to grow, Funk is happy to be working with OpenSky, and includes the marketplace in her plans for the future.
"I plan to stick with OpenSky," she continues. "I have made money, and I'm doing well."
She will also continue with her Etsy store. Not only is that the place for her custom designs, but some customers are just comfortable with the payment options on the site. "Etsy uses PayPal," she explains. "OpenSky only allows you to use their checkout."
Put yourself in your customer's shoes. You just don't know everyone's story
Tips to succeed
As for operating an e-commerce business on your own website, Etsy, OpenSky or any other marketplace you choose, Funk has gained a wealth of experience over the last few years. She is embracing the business and life that she loves with the wisdom she's earned.
"Do what you love," she advises. "But you'll still have to work hard."
She told us that newcomers will need open minds, lots of patience and plenty of curiosity that leads to lots of questions. "Toughen up a little," she adds. "Have a backbone. Learn how to stand up to others, vendors and customers."
At the same time, she reminds us that you are the customer service department in your own business. She recommends extending the benefit of doubt in interactions with your customers.
"Put yourself in your customer's shoes," she says. "You just don't know everyone's story."
Sounds like great advice from an e-commerce merchant on any marketplace, and also for a busy mom. Combine the two, and you have Linda Funk.