The rise of online auction sites have inspired crafters to turn their passions into a business. Instead of just creating their craft for their personal pleasure, many have turned these hobbies into viable, money-generating businesses. Online auction marketplaces such as eBay.com and Etsy.com, which is dedicated specifically for hand crafted items, provide these hobbyists with the tools and virtual storefronts they need to sell their products.
Fatima Spencer designs classic handmade floral accessories for everyday wear, as well as special occasions. She turned to Etsy to open her storefront Flowers from Fatima http://FlowersFromFatima.etsy.com. While her business is still young, she has big plans for her handcrafted floral accessories business.
Learn what inspired Fatima to turn her hobby into a business and the challenges she is facing:
What inspired you to create the Flowers from Fatima?
When I was younger, my family and I managed a community action program for the improvement of our neighborhood, known as Spencer’s Community Beautification Program. One of the tasks of the program included the planting of flowers throughout the neighborhood. It was a beautiful experience. I gained such an affinity for flowers by the end of our service that I tried my best to reconnect with our Mother Nature in many ways. One of those ways was the replication of the inspiring flowers that I had grown. I wore flowers in my hair ever since. It was all thanks to my brother, Alex Spencer, who truly motivated me to create a business. He also came up with the beautiful and catchy name, Flowers From Fatima.
How do you describe your products? What influenced them? Who typically wears them?
I would describe my products as feminine, exotic, and beautiful. Those are the words that I most often hear when people see my work and I have grown to envision them in that light. My floral accessories are influenced by everyday sights in nature, my emotions, and classic trends that I notice through the seasons. For example, Swarovski crystals seem to be very popular. And so, I’ve been using them often in some of my designs. No matter what the style, it appears that younger to middle-aged women typically wear flower accessories for special occasions, such as weddings and formal dances. Of course, you have a few women, like myself, who enjoy wearing flowers on a regular basis.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced when starting this business?
Some of the greatest challenges that I faced throughout the start of the business were economic. I started the business with very little money. I did not know how I was going to build a successful business, but I knew that I was going to do it. I am grateful that the business is flourishing with the great deal of energy that I have invested.
Why Etsy? What are the advantages of being an Etsy seller? Does Etsy attract the type of customer you are looking for?
I chose to sell on Etsy because of the convenience and opportunity. Etsy is a great starting point for young entrepreneurs. Etsy offers great services, and a great way to network and gain exposure. Those are some of the greatest advantages of being an Etsy seller. With their easy navigation and developed audience, I’ve definitely attracted the type of customers that I’ve been hoping to gain with my business. It seems that brides LOVE Etsy, especially for special one-of-a-kind items.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far as an entrepreneur?
The biggest lesson that I have learned so far as an entrepreneur is to follow your heart, while taking in the advice of others. The greatest gift about being an entrepreneur is the freedom. Everyone can tell you how THEY believe a successful business should be run, but not every suggestion may be appropriate for you. You’re got to stay in control of your destiny. I’ve kept my ears open and have taken heed to the useful information while leaving behind the irrelevant. So far, things have worked beautifully.
How are you marketing your business? Do you use social media such as Facebook and/or Twitter?
Right now, I have been marketing my business through some social networking websites with greater focus, such as wedding and hair networks. I have also been featured in numerous blogs and magazine, online and locally. Outside of online marketing, I sell my product in two local boutiques and vend at various events. My business has been featured at a major networking event known as Goddess Night Out. I also bring promotional tools, such as business cards and brochures along with me, wherever I go.
How has the economic downturn affected your business? How are you preparing your business for the recovery of the economy when customers are more willing to increase their spending?
In the beginning, I did notice a very slow pickup. I started my business around Christmas of 2009. However, with time, I noticed that the business was blooming and customers were spending more with every visit. I am very hopeful and positive about this period in time. My customers have given me great confidence and such a positive outlook. I know that there are plenty of people who are willing to increase their spending, right now. It is just about using these times effectively.
What are the challenges of working and running a business from home?
One of the challenges of running a business from home is limited workspace. I love to create. As my business grows, so do the supplies. I often run out of space in my small apartment. My room is a garden, that just keeps growing. Eventually, my flowers will need a new home. I often tell myself that if I fill this room to the corners, a bigger and more comfortable home will materialize!
Right now, everything is just fine. I am enjoying the highs and lows of the business. When the demands are less strenuous, I use the free time to enjoy my life and my very loving and supportive family. Even with the height of demands, the business seems to be smooth. I love my business.
Are you doing the business full-time or part time? What are the pros and cons of doing the business full time or part-time?
Right now, this business is my full-time job. I worked solely on Flowers From Fatima, over the entire Summer. I will be going back to school soon, and this will become my part-time job again, as my education comes first. I would say that the greatest advantage of working full-time with my business is that there is no room for failure with the great amount of energy that I invest. However, that comes with its disadvantages. Withstanding the periods of slower business is difficult when you rely on the income from the business.
What are your goals for your business? How do you see the business five years from now?
As for short term goals for the business, I hope to make my first 100 sales by the end of the Summer. I think that I am well on my way. Long term, I hope to run a successful business that will create jobs for friends and family, where we would all work amongst people that we enjoy, love, and appreciate. Flowers From Fatima is still a very young company, but I have big dreams. In five years, I see Flowers From Fatima as a multimillion dollar company, with my product being sold in major retail stores.
What tips can you share to other women entrepreneurs?
For other women entrepreneurs, I would like to say one thing: You create your destiny. If you believe that you will succeed, success will come. A positive outlook on life will yield positive outcomes. As hard as it can be when it comes to business, try to focus on the positive elements and the achievements, rather than the elements that you don’t have. As entrepreneurs, we are working to GAIN and we must keep looking forward.