This is the story of my Etsy shop from the early days of selling handmade online. It’s also how I cut my teeth in online marketing and ecommerce.
In 2009, I had recently graduated from the university of Michigan and had Fridays off from my job at a the Aggression research lab studying the impact of violent media. It was a good time to start something. A colleague told me about a site called Etsy where she was selling her handmade yoga mat bags. Etsy was four years old at the time but hardly a household name.
As for my hobbies, I was into alternative baking. When researching recipes, i came across a blog post about how to send brownies baked in jars overseas. I bought some mason jars, poured brownie batter in (made from scratch of course), baked at 350 then put boiling hot lids and rings on until they vacuum sealed. Canned brownies. I found that it worked with cake too.
I wondered if I could make extra money selling brownies and cakes baked in jars on this etsy site. My jar cakes had a one month shelf life and I offered lots of unique flavors, including vegan and gluten free options. I called my shop Adore a Jar Bakery. Get it? I created a brand, blogged and tweeted and figured out how to use Etsy’s original keyword tool to drive sales.
I tested photos, pricing and item titles and descriptions. It was a great little education in ecommerce. Over the five or so years my shop was active, I had about 200 sales, each one handmade to order and frantically shipped at USPS on my lunch break in Buckhead. It was a lot of work and I probably lost money half the time, but I loved being creative with packaging, labels, and copywriting. And every positive review warmed my heart.
Customers loved my jar cakes, pecan pralines, vegan muffins, and granola. And the supportive, communal culture of Etsy was a great place to get my start as an entrepreneur.
I toyed with the idea of taking this side hustle full time and becoming a jar cake queen. Somehow I couldn’t make the jump because that would go against the very things I loved about Etsy – how it was truly handmade and amateur. Nowadays it’s hard to compete with the licensed pros who dominate Etsy.
Back in 2009 it was like a bake sale in the middle of Wisconsin.
As a buyer, I didn’t care that the kitchens probably weren’t up to code. I know mine wasn’t.
The point of doing things like my Etsy shop, or blogging for ten years, or investing time and energy in podcasts or my Flash Briefing is not to make money, at least not directly. If the product is YOU and the end goal is to sell your services, these are not measurable tactics. But they are powerful for education and fodder for marketing yourself and telling your story.