Jake: Let’s get started! Just tell me a little bit about your shop and yourself.
Fay: My name is Fay Kortleven and I have a shop called My Cup of Retro which sells vintage and retro items from Europe. I’ve been running it now for two years, and it’s just getting more and more successful!
I currently live in the Netherlands with my dutch husband who is a partner in the business. I’m originally from New Zealand, but recently spent years in China where I worked in marketing. Now I work in the rural Netherlands and when I got here I was looking for something interesting to do with my time and I stumbled upon an Etsy shop!
Jake: What were you doing in China?
Fay: I was living in a city named Guangzhou working with foreign companies who were looking to operating and market their products in China. Before China, I was actually living in Japan — My friends always tell me I’ve lived multiple lifetimes in one!
Jake: So… you must speak a lot of languages.
Fay: I speak a lot of languages poorly.
Jake: Do you do your Etsy shop full time or part time?
Fay: It’s kind of my side hustle, I guess you could say. It’s my creative outlet, something to play around with. Also, when I began I just wanted to learn about Etsy and about online retail generally. So it started with quite the learning curve!
Jake: How did you get started?
Fay: When I moved to the Netherlands to marry my husband, I wanted to do a “high tea” or “afternoon tea” kind of wedding. So I was looking around for all sorts of old fashioned tea cups and plates and things like that. After the wedding I had a pile of them, which I grew into a shop selling high tea and vintage antique tea cups. It then evolved into a whole range of things that were popular and now it’s become mainly typewriters!
When I started with typewriters is when my husband came aboard. He’s an engineer and it turns out that he’s really skilled at fixing typewriters! He spends his evening fixing and cleaning typewriters and I sell them.
Jake: Where do you get the typewriters from?
Fay: In Europe, there are a lot of typewriters sitting in peoples’ attics and sheds. We pick them up from all over the place. Usually, they’re in quite good condition as Europeans tend to put things away wrapped in plastic in a shed for 50+ years. So we find these mint condition typewriters that just need a few adjustments, some oil, new ink and they’re good to go!
Jake: What was the process of starting with teacups and moving to typewriters? Were you responding to what consumers demand or what was it more of what you could get your hands on to sell?
Fay: A little bit of both. My main market is the states, where 99% of my sales go. I was finding that I can’t rely on USPS to get anything fragile to anybody — especially teacups! I was dealing with a lot of breakages. No matter how well I packed things the level of breakage was too high. With typewriters, we have almost zero breakages or damages on delivery.
Jake: Who do you sell to? Individuals, shops?
Fay: It’s hard to say but I suspect that a few of our repeat customers are shops. There are also a lot of people who want to hire typewriters or people who want to go to cafes to write on typewriters.
Jake: Hipster cafes! That’s great. It’s interesting hearing some of the challenges you don’t think of, like things breaking. I’m sure when you started you may not have been worried about things breaking a something that was going to be a challenge, but you sure responded effectively!
Marketing on Etsy
Jake: What advice do you have to a new Etsy seller just starting out?
Fay: I see a lot of questions out there about “branding” and whether you should only sell one type of product or multiple. I struggled with bringing in something that didn’t fit under my initial brand, you know typewriters not being tea cups. In retrospect, I don’t think I should have been so hung up it; I waited too long to change. Don’t be afraid to try something new even if it doesn’t fit totally with your brand. You just gotta go with what works. Being flexible is super important!
Jake: Being flexible can sure be difficult, but I agree! So you’re a marketing expert. What is your strategy around promoting and marketing your shop?
Fay: Get it out there as much as possible in whatever way you’re comfortable with. I use instagram , pinterest, a website, word of mouth. You have to try everything with an Etsy store — it can be hit or miss — so you gotta try it all out.
Jake: Are there specific outlets that you’ve had a lot of success with?
Fay: Yes, the promoted listings are very worthwhile but you have to play around with your settings on it to get it right. I have found e that the following rules have worked well for my shop:
- Only promote items that are worth promoting.
- Set the bid low and do not put it on autobid. If you do you will run out of your budget after a few clicks. I get a lot of sales by lowering the bid!
- Don’t promote your whole shop. Promote no more than 15 listings.
Jake: How do you know which items are worth promoting?
Fay: I pick the coolest things that I like the most!
Jake: You mentioned photos are so important, can you walk us through your process for taking product photos.
Fay: It has evolved! I started off taking terrible photos but then I eventually found a system that works. I have a room with beautiful big windows and when the suns out I sit at my table and try and take photos in natural light. If I can’t, I have two big natural light stocks(?) that I use and I set up a natural wood background.
Taking the photos is one thing, but trying to get a photo that looks really interesting with the shape of the typewriter is another. I use a program called photoscape to edit my photos. It’s a bit like photoshop — I taught myself how to use it — I try to make the colors as natural as possible.
When you take a photo the colors are often not accurate to the item. It’s so important to make sure that the colors are as accurate to the item as possible. So I sit here with my product beside me trying to make sure it’s matched as best as possible.
Jake: Your colors are great! When I look at your typewriters I feel like I am in the room with them.
Fay: Yes — I spend a lot of time on that. In fact, with my testing on Whatify I found that folks really like the brighter and lighter photos, so I spend time making sure that all of my products have photos that are bright enough.
Jake: How did you start to use Whatify? And speak more about what you learned from your results.
Fay: I did testing in the very beginning of Whatify. I received great customer service! Since I am a vintage seller I never reuse items, so I wasn’t sure exactly which items would be generalizable enough to provide valuable results. I was given advice about which type of my products to test, products that could be generalized across the remainder of my shops.
Jake: It’s good to hear that you got proper customer service! What insights were you able to find from the results of the test?
Fay: People want to see all sides of an item! Brightness and scale are important and close ups as well are great.
Jake: I see you incorporating that into all of your photos now. And it’s so cool because you can see the details of these old machines, your photos are awesome!
Fay: Yes and Whatify helped me get there. You gave me the external critique that allowed me to figure out how to improve it. I am always looking external critique to improve!