There is a lot of amazing vintage on etsy these days. While shopping around, I couldn't help but notice a cute, well stocked, inspiring shop called Vintage Butterfly 94. Owner Vanessa was so sweet, and did a little interview for the Lune blog about her shop, dealing vintage, and running an online business. Check it out!
The Shop: Vintage Butterfly 94
Q. The Vintage Butterfly 94 stocks a full and inspiring array of
vintage housewares. Although there is a great deal of variety,
together they work as a collection. What key elements are you looking
for when choosing items for your etsy shop?
A. I'll answer with the questions I ask myself about the things I stock....
Has it aged gracefully?
Was it well-made in the first place?
Is it practical?
Is it pretty?
Does it make me smile?
I've tried selling things that don't fit that criteria, and it's way too much like work. I've got to really appreciate an item myself to put it out there for somebody else.
Q. I was impressed by the consistent, clean and attractive product photography you share with your shoppers. What tips can you share on how to photograph successfully for an etsy shop?
A. I'm SO glad you noticed! As I answer this, I have about half my store around me to re-shoot photos that I'm no longer satisfied with. I have done all kinds of crazy things over the years to get photos to work for me...from putting a magnifying glass in front of my old camera to get higher resolution, to making my husband take clothing shots of me modeling wool in 90 degree weather. I think the most important thing I can say is USE NATURAL LIGHT! I've tried light-boxes and they just don't compare to the soft, natural look of side light from a window. I compulsively check the weather for good days to take my photos and plan around that. Harsh flashes or blurry images with a cluttered back drop are just not going to sell your item.
I've just gotten to this point, but I am now only taking photos in two spots in my new house. In my old house, I would just try to get a photo wherever there was light, and my pictures were ok, but it kept the store from looking cohesive. I think that having a consistent look helps to cement my brand.
Q. Does Vintage Butterfly 94 sell vintage exclusively online, or have you offered your collection locally? If not, do you have plans of doing so in the future? Which venue do you prefer (online/local).
A. So far, I have only been selling my vintage items online and that has worked very well for me while my kids are small. I think the market is better online for many of my goods because tastes are so different in different parts of the world ...for example things that people like in Vancouver are much different from things that people like in Arkansas. For now, online is my preference.
Plans for the future? I have no definite plans, but I do dream about opening a local shop if I could get my parents to move closer to me. I grew up in a family business and I loved the face to face interaction with customers. That's the number one thing I miss while online selling. Both my parents are creative and skilled and I think a mixture of vintage and hand-crafted work would do very well in my area. And I'd love to give my own kids the experience I had.
Q. What item(s) have you sold in the past that you regret not kept for yourself?
A. It still stings..... I started going to garage sales with a friend when I was in high school. One of the first really old things I ever bought was a green and gold pendant watch for a dime. I can still picture the house I bought it from. It didn't work, but I wore it on a chain as a preppy accessory through high school, college, and three cross-country moves. Anxious to earn the money we needed to buy a house in Arkansas a few years ago, I sold anything and everything on ebay to make extra cash. I sold it in a mixed lot of crafting items. When I went to my jewelry box with the thought to wear it one day, I realized that I had done a bad thing. I'd had it for so long and I always just liked it....it was silly to part with it after having it for so long. I thought I had a photo, but even that is gone. It makes me sad.
Q. What advice do you have for someone just starting out in the vintage business?
There's an old adage "Well begun is half done." I did not begin well. When I started on Etsy, I just used the same user name I had on Ebay. Trouble was, I never had a store on Ebay, just weekly auctions. So I never really built a brand before. "Vintage" makes sense. "Butterfly" is what my name, Vanessa, means. There were already other vintage butterflies, so I tacked on 94 in homage to the year I met my husband. Trouble was, I counted on my fingers and missed it by a year....it should be 93. What a train wreck! My point...if you are going to start, go all in. Don't put your toe in the water and timidly think, "I'll just try this and see if anybody likes me." If I had started my shop with the thought in mind, "I'm going to build a really funky little online shop with a memorable name" that would have been a lot better, don't you think? But I was too scared to believe it would amount to much and I handicapped myself for the future by thinking way too small.
Q. What do you see in the future for Vintage Butterfly 94?
A. That's easy! I'm going to get all the photos updated and then I'm going to try pre-packing all of my items so that I ship things out as swiftly as humanly possible. Next, I want to develop better customer service techniques. I have a secondary shop of vintage supplies that I am going to consolidate into the main shop so I can stay more focused. And I want to expand my own line of handmade items made from vintage items. But my biggest goal for this year is to improve my store enough to be a featured seller on Etsy's main page. It may not happen, but I'm done thinking small! I am hoping that it's possible to improve a shop into being successful.
THE GIRL BEHIND THE SHOP:
Vanessa lives in northwest Arkansas. She's been married to her college sweetheart for 13 years and besides their day jobs, they pastor a church which they started from scratch 4 years ago. Vanessa and her husband have 3 kids (who are gifted, talented and hilarious respectively) and 2 mutts (Sidney and Peggy). Vanessa collects antique photographs of people in front of their houses and hammered aluminum trays. She likes people, but also loves to be alone with a cup of coffee by a sunny window.
Thank you for sharing your wonderful vintage world with us Vanessa!