Thursday, June 9, 2011

Guild Member of the Month - Cindy of RetroChalet!

The Etsy Recyclers Guild Member for the month of June is our beloved former team captain Cindy of Retro Chalet! Here is her awe-inspiring interview!

1.Tell us a bit about yourself (name, location, affiliations, and personal stuff).

Hi my name is Cindy. I live in the big city of Baltimore, MD but I'm a country girl at heat sneaking away to my cabin in the tiny town of Danforth, Maine whenever I can steal a moment. I left the corporate world 7 years ago to be my husband's Promoter and Marketing Agent. That is a job and a half. When I'm not helping him run his busy business, I like to write (I'm a published book author), I collect funky relics and make assemblage art out of recycled goods. Etsy is my stress-relief time!

2. How did you decide on your shop name? Why did you start your business?

I used to have an antique booth in a brick and mortar antique mall. I tried several locations, my last in Bel Air, Maryland. Since I am on the road so much this didn't really work for me--no time to go and straighten out my wares. I will also state here that I with Ebay since it started, but had stopped selling on them long ago due to rising fees, and an over-saturated market. When I joined Etsy there wasn't a big focus on vintage, and quite honestly there was a point where I wasn't sure if Vintage was on Etsy to stay. Since there weren't yet a ton of vintage shops I had a lot of name options. I wanted something that summarized what my shop would be. I came up with Retro Chalet after mulling around 10 different names with a friend, whose mother went "ding ding, Retro Chalet is so you."

3. What are 5 things you want people to think when they see your products/shop?

Funky, Retro, Unique, Mod, Upscale Junque!

4. What or who inspires you?

I'm inspired by a lot of people. Artists like Harriete Estel-Berman, Leo Sewell, who use recycled products in their wares. Andy Warhol because of the "phenomenon". I'm inspired by Rob Kalin who founded Etsy, and Seth Godin who founded Squidoo--both for the visions they had. Tim Adam, a welder and jewelry artist who decided to start Handmadeology, just proves you can do what you believe in, or create a need for something that's not there. I am also inspired by strong women who reinvent themselves to stay in the limelight for generations, yet do so much for charity too such as Sharon Osbourne and Madonna. I am inspired by my husband who did what he loved and became great at it. Most of all I'm inspired by nature - when I'm at the lake looking at the lovely mountains and majestic colored skies , the sound of the whispering leaves through the tall old trees, this is where I do my best writing and creating.

5. What are your best marketing tips?

You are your own best marketing agent. In other words, no one can explain or express your products like you. I learned a long time ago, not to compromise your vision or your voice.

As far as selling on Etsy, you have to work hard at it. You have to build a customer base and market your store. There are million of products here so make sure people are finding yours. You should be using tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs to get your product out there. It requires time and dedication.

My #1 tip would be to cut down on this time by using "cheat" applications like "Networked Blogs", which you can link your blog posts to auto-publish to your Facebook and Twitter account. You will do less work but have all three areas covered.

My #2 tip is that everyone should blog and have a visible link to their Etsy shop at the top of their blog. Here's my article on it.

My #3 tip is that practice makes perfect.

6. In ten years I'd like to be…

Looking out at my lake, working on book #5, and still selling on Etsy :)

7. Why should people buy handmade and vintage items?

Reusing vintage not only for decor but for functionality keeps these items out of the landfills. Many vintage items I find were made here in the USA, and they remind me of a time and era where people worked hard and this country was something grand. My Uncle took over my Grandfather's masonry business so that's 5 decades of masonry work in and around Baltimore. I can ride by the homes and say "My Grandfather build this..." or, "my Uncle built that wall." It makes me proud to see that kind of work.

When people can work so hard and produce something so wonderful with skill and pride, why not buy those products over mass imported products? Not to mention we have no way to regulate just how imported products are being made or if the work conditions (ie: child labor, chemical environmental issues, unsanitary conditions) are being met as these factories are in other countries. Sure--these products may be cheaper, but they also may be harmful to our environment and look at all the recalls. I feel if we continue the mass import trend and import cheaper products that aren't made here, that America is in real trouble because we've succumbed to giving up the ability to learn skills, trades and products. I'm so glad Mike Rowe addressed the Senate on this very topic.

I would think most countries share that same perspective about their own wares. I'm so glad Etsy has a community where you can buy handmade and vintage goods.

8. What do you enjoy most about the Etsy Recycler's Guild Team?

Mostly I love the fact you can network with people that share the exact same views as you.

9. What have been the most valuable lessons you’ve learned from other artists or Etsyians?

That you have to find your niche clientele, and that takes time.

10. What are the web addresses where people can find you? (website, etsy, blog, facebook fan page, flickr, etc.)

I'm all over the place:
Melmac Central Retro Chalet Blog
Facebook for Retro Chalet (goes to Etsy shop)


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