How ColourblindZebra got started

Introduce your Etsy shop and tell us your story. How did you begin and decide on what to sell on Etsy, and how do you create your products?

Hello! I am Abby, and I run my shop, Colourblind Zebra, which sells badges, stickers, clothing, and more to empower chronically ill, disabled, and neurodivergent people to feel proud of who they are and to raise awareness and acceptance. Colorblind Zebra’s badges help to get across messages about access needs that can be difficult to communicate when you’re experiencing chronic pain, fatigue, or anxiety.

I started creating artwork about chronic illness and disability in 2019 as a way to process what I was going through with my health. I have been chronically ill since the age of 11, when I had to leave school and begin online education. Needless to say, I have been through a lot since then—a lot of trauma, pain, and fighting to get the accommodations and education I deserved. All of these experiences made awareness so incredibly important to me.

Colorblind Zebra began as a hobby, but it quickly became so much more. My followers started to ask me whether I had a shop and how they could support my work, so I began the process of learning more about how I could do this. I contacted The Prince’s Trust, which is a charity that supports young people to start their own businesses. They linked me up with a mentor who guided me through the first two years and helped me write my business plan. My mentor is an incredibly supportive and inspiring person, and I will be forever grateful for the help and guidance she gave me.

Favorite items

What are your favorite items? What makes these so special? Why do you think these items might be selling well?

My favorite product range has to be my Rainbow Zebra Series! This collection includes an adorable rainbow zebra enamel pin, a holographic rainbow zebra keyring, rainbow zebra stickers, and rainbow zebra hoodies and t-shirts.

Rainbow zebra enamel pin
Rainbow zebra stickers
Rainbow zebra hoodies

Zebras are a symbol of rare diseases, which is what inspired me to create this series. In medical school, doctors are taught the saying "when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras." The saying teaches them that the causes of a patient’s symptoms are likely to be the most common (these are ‘horses’), but it’s important to remember that rare diseases exist and therefore so do zebras!

Getting sales on Etsy

How long did it take for you to earn your first sale and how do you currently attract customers to your Etsy shop?

It took a few days for me to earn my first sale on Etsy—this was an order for a rainbow zebra enamel pin (it has always been a favorite)! The key to earning your first sale is to make sure you have clear and engaging product photography, that you have implemented SEO (search engine optimization), and that you’ve completed all of your shop information. Customers like to be able to read about you, your story, and your products; it helps increase the trust that customers have in your shop if they’re able to see your policies, your background, and the personality behind your brand.

I post artwork about chronic illness awareness, neurodiversity, and disability acceptance on social media (@colorblind_zebra), where I’ve built a supportive community of like-minded people. My followers connect with my artwork because it accurately depicts what I and other disabled people go through on a daily basis, from chronic pain flare-ups and hospital appointments to the strengths that come with being neurodivergent and accessibility issues that affect our daily lives. 

Managing ColourblindZebra

How do you manage your shop? Are you running solo or do you have any team members? What tools or services do you use to run your shop and how do you handle fulfillment?

Colorblind Zebra is a one-woman show! I work as an illustrator, product photographer, website administrator, marketing manager, and many other things. Like many small business owners, I do everything. Thankfully, I have the support of my family to help me when I’m in a flare or struggling with my mental health.

On the technical side of things, I do use apps to help with running my Etsy shop, website, and social media. To schedule social media posts, I use an app called Loomly, which allows me to place future posts into a calendar view and plan what topics I’m going to cover. Loomly will then upload these posts to social media for the date and time I’ve scheduled them. I love the flexibility of being able to schedule posts because on some days I’m simply not well enough to be able to post or create.

To review my finances at the end of the month, I use Go Ker-ching to simplify the Etsy CSV file. The normal CSV file can be very confusing, which is something you really want to avoid when doing your finances. Go Ker-ching condenses this down so that it includes only the information you need.

The future of ColourblindZebra 

What goals do you have for your shop in the future?

My biggest goal is to expand my product range as well as add custom items to my shop. I would like my shop to cater to as many awareness causes as possible, so that everyone can find what they want. I would also like to find wholesale opportunities, especially in indie brick-and-mortar shops. I think so many business owners have the dream of being able to see their products in a physical shop one day!

Advice for new sellers

What’s your advice for a new seller starting an Etsy shop?

When you’re getting started, the most important thing is getting your shop found and building that customer base. To achieve this, learning about SEO is an absolute must. Search engine optimization helps your listings move up the search results page. Using relevant keywords means that people will be able to find your products more easily, which means they’re also more likely to buy!

My second piece of advice would be about product photography. The best way to think about this is by using your own experiences—what pictures and details do you like to see before you buy something? Do you like to see size comparisons? Different pictures of color variation? Clear, engaging, and quality photos? Chances are, if you want these things, your customers definitely will, too.