To use her own words, I am as pleased as punch to introduce you to Danielle Spurge. She is the owner of The Merriweather Council shop on Etsy where she sells embroidered initial necklaces.
The first year she was in business, she didn’t make as much money from her shop as she would have liked. She was working extremely hard, but her Etsy shop was not working for her. So, she changed her approach. And guess what? It worked! The second-year she doubled her profits.
In the years since she has built the Merriweather Council into an empire. Not only does she sell embroidered necklaces, but she also runs the Merriweather Council Blog and Podcast, using all of her experience to help other small business owners turn their crafts into profits. On her website, you can sign up for her Etsy masterclasses, access resources and get advice from industry experts to help you grow your business and see tangible results. Danielle’s site has over 7,000 creative community members, over 2,000 students have taken lessons and the Merriweather Council podcast has over 298,000 downloads.
Danielle is a huge inspiration to so many new business owners, so I asked her about her journey to entrepreneurial success and what advice she has for young women setting out to turn their crafting into a business that works for them.
Her Campus (HC): Can you share a little about your background and how you decided to start an Etsy business?
Danielle Spurge (DS): Like most creative people you’ll speak to, I have been crafting, making and being artsy my whole life. I ended up going to an art and design college and graduating with a BFA in 3-D fine arts with a concentration in fibers. I had no clue what I wanted to do after college, but I enjoyed the studio work and flow I was in during my senior year, so I decided to apply for graduate programs. That plan fell through. It’s interesting actually, when I look back, in high school I did my senior thesis project on blogging and online communities, and in my senior year of college, I did my senior thesis on the handmade movement and small business… almost seems like I knew exactly what I wanted to do all along, but because there wasn’t a lot of knowledge around those things at the time, no one close to me knew how to encourage that path. But when my post-college plan fell through, I thought, why not try? So, I started my handmade business and online community!
HC: What were some of the initial obstacles that you faced as an Etsy entrepreneur?
DS: My biggest Etsy obstacle when I started out was the reality that I only saw success when I pushed harder and hustled more. If I was in my shop constantly, promoting all the time, doing all the things… it worked. But as soon as I stepped away, it stopped working. This is obviously NOT sustainable or enjoyable. I had to figure out how to make Etsy work as a tool in my business. It had to work FOR ME, not the other way around. It took some time, but once I got there and Etsy was an asset to my business instead of a major time suck, things were much better. This is part of what we teach makers and Etsy sellers to do now - to use and leverage Etsy’s unique power inside of their own business.
HC: What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs wanting to start an online business?
DS: To my knowledge, there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur working online. As the world gets more comfortable using technology and purchasing more online, we are benefiting big time! I would encourage anyone who is considering starting their business right now to really go for it. Set aside an initial budget and do your research - don’t be afraid to invest. You’ll save so much time, headaches and heartache by starting now, making mistakes early and investing in yourself.
HC: What's the biggest lesson you've learned as a business owner?
DS: The biggest lesson I have learned is that investing is critical. There is no sustainable, profitable business that is enjoyable to run long-term on free services and 100% DIY’d work. We need to invest in our own education, in services that lighten the load and in people who can support our work. I couldn’t run my business entirely alone as it’s grown, but I also don’t want to. There is so much value in working together and having support and collaboration. It’s also important to let technology help you out and streamline whenever possible. So many things I put off, I wish I had done sooner.
HC: Do you think that running a virtual business as opposed to brick and mortar has advantages?
DS: It’s hard to say as I’ve never run a brick and mortar business. I’m sure there are pros and cons to both. The obvious pros to selling online are the flexibility of “hours” and open times as well as the wider reach. For parents, perhaps this is a huge asset as flexibility, particularly with younger children at home, seems essential. For me, the biggest pro of working online is the ability to bring my business with me whenever I want or need to go somewhere. I think it really depends on the entrepreneur's ideal lifestyle and how they want to design their days.
HC: How do you continue to engage customers and keep it fresh?
DS: As our business has evolved into being more education-based, we use our podcast to engage our listeners and followers on a seasonal basis. I would love to have new podcast episodes weekly all year, but we have found there is some old school fun to running the show in seasons and giving people something to look forward to. In any business, connections are huge for keeping that spark alive, and there are so many ways to do it. We work with product-based businesses every day and have seen them find great success in product launches, email marketing and TikTok or other short-form, casual videos on Instagram that are easy to produce weekly. Creativity is really what will impact this. The more time entrepreneurs have to be creative, the better all-around—they can share more!
HC: What do you see for the future of your brand?
DS: We would love to help as many makers see success in selling their work online as possible! We know our work has only just begun and now more than ever people are looking to create security for themselves and feeling the inspiration to simply do the things they want to do while they are able to try. We have big plans for our podcast as well as for our membership, and The Council in 2021, but for now they are all secret plans.