Entrepreneur and card maker Eileen Daniels likes things that sparkle.
"I must be part magpie because I am always drawn to cards with lots of glitter, sequins and sparkly embellishments," the owner of Eileen Rose Designs says.
Daniels, an eBay Top-rated Seller, has been adding these flourishes to her one-of-a-kind greeting cards for years. She turned her hobby into a full-time job five years ago, when her husband retired early because of health reasons.
"It seemed like a good idea to try and increase our income," she recalls. "My first idea was to make and sell my homemade cards, an extension of my hobby. I soon realized that I could not produce enough cards on my own to make it viable."
Daniels knew she would need to sell more volume to offset the family's reduction in income, so she began researching suppliers of printed greeting cards. At the same time, she began buying card-making supplies in larger quantities to churn out more of her own creations. She listed the additional inventory on eBay, and before she knew it, she had a well-rounded eBay Store any card shopper, or even card maker, would want to visit.
"I was also lucky enough to find a printer who now supplies me with all my do-it-yourself wedding stationery, which can be personalized by adding embellishments—back to the card making supplies—so it all ties in together and makes sense," the seller says. "Whatever the occasion, I hope I will have something suitable to express the right sentiments."
Daniels further expanded her product line by adding unique cross-stitch patterns.
A family affair
Designs for Daniels' creations come from original drawings and photographs done by her daughter Mary, a photographer and color-pencil artist. The partnership seemed "natural," Daniels notes. Mary still lives at home and continuously creates new graphics that translate well into cards and cross-stitch patterns.
"All of the cross-stitch patterns that I sell are created from her original works of art, the most popular being the Phantom of the Opera and Jack Sparrow," Daniels points out.
Homemade cards feel more special because someone has taken the time and effort to create a card just for you
Together, the mother-daughter duo has produced cards Daniels hopes anyone would be happy to receive. "I don't sell any item that I wouldn't happily buy myself," she adds.
Indeed, homemade cards have a unique appeal that sets them apart from other greeting cards—something that definitely drew Daniels to them when she first started making them.
"They just feel more special because someone has taken the time and effort to create a card just for you," Daniels explains. "And no two handmade cards are ever really the same, even the commercially produced ones have little differences: an extra sequin here or there, a ribbon in a slightly different place; no card is ever perfect and that is the charm of them."
A selling resolution
Having now opened an Auctiva Commerce Store, Daniels hopes to reach a new set of customers who will be smitten with her creations. The store is a fairly recent venture, but it's started off on a good foot. In fact, although Daniels was still putting the finishing touches on the shop and adding inventory in late February, she had already gotten her first sale!
"I started the store in January 2011," Daniels explains. "It was one of my New Year's resolutions. Among the usual New Year's resolutions (lose weight, exercise more, win the lottery etc.), I decided this year to add a couple of work-related resolutions, things that I wanted to do but kept putting off for one reason or another, mostly because of the time and effort involved. So if I made it a resolution I would have to do it."
A second store—off eBay—would allow her to offer seasonal cards year-round without having to pay listing fees, so shoppers could browse and buy cards for all occasions any time of year, Daniels reasoned.
"It's too expensive to keep 300-plus different Christmas cards on eBay all year 'round," explains Daniels, who typically has hundreds of items listed on the site at any given time. That number shoots up past 1,000 during holidays like Mother's Day and Christmas, she adds.
Daniels saw the opportunity to open an independent store as a way to gradually decrease the number of items she keeps on eBay, reducing her fees, while selling more of her items at the same time. "The Commerce Store seemed the perfect solution to both problems," she asserts.
Auctiva saves me hours of listing on eBay, and a small fortune in photo charges
Saving money and time
Daniels learned about Auctiva Commerce through Auctiva, having used Auctiva's eBay listing software to create, market and manage her listings on eBay. Both software products have made selling online much easier, she says.
For instance, Auctiva's image hosting has allowed Daniels to add multiple images of her cards to eBay listings at no added cost, so shoppers can see exactly what they're getting. And as Daniels moves into the Auctiva Commerce world, the ability to transfer saved eBay listings into her off-eBay store has saved her a lot of time.
"I wish someone had told me about Auctiva when I first started [selling online]," Daniels says. "It would have saved me hours of listing on eBay, and a small fortune in photo charges."
She admits that running her own online business can be challenging at times. One of the biggest hurdles she faces is getting traffic to her listings, but the challenges don't outweigh the satisfaction she feels of owning her own store and being able to bring in supplemental income for her family.
"For me, the best thing is the ability to work from home and choose my own hours and, of course, the low start-up cost," Daniels explains. "I would never have been able to start a business if I had to rent an actual shop!"
Still, she advises sellers considering the start up of their own store need to research the items they want to offer and have a "genuine" interest in their products if they decide to sell online.
"It will take over your life," Daniels points out. "Try to plan ahead and have attainable goals. Don't expect over-night success, it will take time and hard work. Selling online is not necessarily the easiest option, but it can be rewarding when you get it right."