Growing a Handmade Business to $100K+: 10 Lessons Learned (2015)

I get asked often about how I've grown my handmade business to the place it's at, six figures in sales in 2015 already. I started selling on Etsy in 2010 merely just as a hobby and in 2011 there was a dramatic shift once I created Dairy Fairy.  It paved the way for other lactation blends, while Dairy Fairy was my first lactation blend it is actually does the least amount of sales among all 4 lactation blends. Interesting right?

If you had told me one year ago what my business would be like today, I wouldn't believe you. I really wouldn't think it's possible. While I have been content for a very long time with the work that I do at the various "stages & phases" - I have also learned to dream much bigger and more bold.  I do have some goals for the next two years and five years; possibly even the next 10 years. I really have no idea what God will do with this business He has given me. It sure is a fun ride! 

1) Having a consumable product makes a difference, probably 35-40% of my monthly orders are repeat buyers. If you have a product that is more of a "gift" item like jewelry, art or knit wear; it can be a challenge to get customers to keep coming back to abuy from you repeatedly. You will have to think creatively to retain them as a customer and keep them coming back.

2) Humanizing my brand. Letting my customers know I'm just a typical mom like them, I share personal info about myself in my autoresponder so that people remember and can relate to me. People reply to it almost daily sharing more info with me about themselves! I make it clear I'm not a "company". 

3) Ship fast, even though it's handmade. This is so important since the majority of my customers are looking to increase milk production. I try to ship within 3-5 business days but always aim for 3 business days. We ship 500-600 orders per month. This year I broke up with using First Class mail, it takes too long and is unreliable. 

4) Newsletter marketing. I only send twice a month; it's perfect for my customers and I try to make sure I add value/tips/info to improve their life. I dont always aim to SELL in all my newsletters. The "hard sale" turns people off. 

5) I include my customers in the growth of my brand. I do this two ways, their stories are my cornerstone of marketing. I also have an Instagram brand ambassador program where I choose new people monthly to do marketing for me on IG.  This has been such a fun program to do, I believe business should be fun!

6) Adapting the motto Serve to Sell, even if that means recommending other brands & products AND health care professionals like a lactation consultant. It's important to think about the needs of your customers above your profit. I don't want to sell something to someone they don't need. 

7) This past year I've truly learned what it means to fall in love with my customers and not my products. In 2014 I enrolled in Marie Forleo's B-school, it helped give me clarity to understand my customers better. Much better. 

8) Embracing this Seth Godin quote, "Don't find customers for your products, find products for your customers." It's all about finding a way to fulfill their need. 

9) Personalize packages when they are mailed so it appears a gift is arriving, including cute candy and tissue paper. We ship 500-600 orders a month and I do have an assistant. I couldn't do this alone. 

10) Calling customers on the phone or texting as needed and being available to answer questions about products. Taking the time on the call to get to know them and their story.  Sometimes a simple 10 minute conversation can make a huge impact. 



  • Elke

    Dear Cindy,

    even if i have no business with handcrafted goods, your story, you, your way is such an inspiration for me as a BSchool Sister. i fell in love with you and your business and your products, i would immediately buy all of them.
    i am not your ideal client but anyway i would buy ;)
    thank you for showing up. go on. side by side.
    all my love and cheers

  • Meghan

    Thanks for the great post Cindy! I feel really motivate and ready to make smart choices for my new etsy business. My shop is – if you have any words of wisdom for me I’d be sooooo grateful :)

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