How KelsieCakes 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?

Cake and flowers have always been two of my favorite things. When I was 3 years old, I used to play in the backyard, making mudpies "for the birds," as I explained to my mom. I decorated these little dirt patties with wildflowers from the yard, and I loved it. Who knew that innocent toddler play would foreshadow my life’s passion and small business? By elementary school, I was fully immersed in Martha Stewart magazines and Family Fun. They always had these amazing cake ideas, but my mom was not a baker. And with five kids to corral, she did not have time for my pie-in-the-sky ideas of what a birthday cake should look like. So, I learned how to bake and decorate. It started with box mixes and cans of Betty Crocker icing, but soon enough I was immersed in the world of Ace of Cakes and reading my aunt’s 1980s Wilton class book.

I went to college for business management in preparation for running my own bakery. I worked in more bakeries than I could count during and after college, everything from a regional grocery store chain to luxury wedding cake studios. But it turns out that I don’t really like the baking part. I want to be artistic and colorful and not have to worry about whether I set the oven timer. With sugar flowers, I’m not beholden to the same deadline as a cake. I don’t have to worry about the flowers going stale. If I mess up a design, I can just make a new flower. One of my bakery jobs was at a regional grocery store chain. My manager was complaining about sugar flowers for a friend’s wedding cake, and I thought, "Hmmm, I bet I could sell that."

In the spring of 2015, I joined Etsy and got my first sale in November. My second sale was three months later, but I was already hooked. I’ve been taking sugar flower classes from incredible teachers like Robert Haynes and learning business skills from entrepreneurs like Ashlyn Carter. I always tried to learn everything myself, but the more I invested in learning from the pros, the more my Etsy shop grew. These days, I get the most out of practicing my craft every day. It’s so cool to look back and see how much my art has improved over the last 8 years.

Favorite items

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

My favorite flower to make is a dahlia. It’s very time-consuming and detail-oriented, but I think that’s why I love it so much—I can really flex my creative muscles. Plus, a real dahlia is just so inspiring in texture and color. Nature is magical! I don’t sell a ton of dahlias because they are incredibly time-consuming, but the final design is always well worth the patience it takes!

Large 4" Purple Dahlia Sugar Flower

My bestselling flower, which is quickly becoming my new favorite, is the white and gold magnolia. This is a flower I’ve been making for years, but in the last year I adjusted the style a little to make it easier to create and less fragile during shipping, which is a win-win for me, and it’s become even more popular with my customers! Magnolias are such well-known flowers, especially in the wedding realm, and adding that touch of gold really glams them up.

Magnolia Sugar Flower

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?

I really took my time with setting up my Etsy shop. I signed up for an account in April but didn’t make my first sale until November 2015. Part of it was being afraid no one would like my flowers, so I didn’t even try to put anything out at first. I recall visiting my parents for Thanksgiving after I had just shipped that first order. It was exhilarating, and I was so proud to tell them about it. My second sale didn’t come until February 2016. After that, things just snowballed. The busier I got, the more designs I came up with and listed. Most of my flowers are inspired by custom orders I’m asked to create.

These days, a lot of my customers come from Pinterest, Etsy searches, Google searches, or referrals. I post a variety of photos and videos to my social media platforms (mainly Pinterest and Instagram) to build brand awareness. Working with a social media brand strategist and investing in professional photography and a graphic design/website rebrand last year made it a lot easier to show up consistently online.

Managing KelsieCakes 

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?

I’m the "wearer of all hats" in my business! My husband helps with boxing up orders or taking them to the post office, and I’ve even taught him a little bit about how to make sugar flowers. I’m such a tech nerd, so it feels like I’ve tried every software option out there! Right now I use Asana for my to-do lists, Shipstation for shipping, Dubsado for managing custom orders, Wordpress for my blog, Canva to create listing graphics, Adobe Rush to create listing/explore/social media videos, Adobe Lightroom to take photos, AWeber and Convertkit for client communication, Trunk for inventory management (and being able to bundle products! I love it), MileIQ for tracking my mileage while driving to the post office, and Wave for bookkeeping.

I do all the shipping and fulfillment myself. I recently moved to a pre-made product model instead of making every flower from scratch for every order. I keep a stock level of each flower that I have listed online, so it’s a quick process to grab the flowers I need from their storage boxes and package them up. I do also offer custom orders, which take longer to create and ship. I’ve got limited time to spend on those, and I really love the creative freedom my customers give me!

The future of KelsieCakes 

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

One of my main goals is to increase the number of custom orders I can accept. I adore the creativity of these orders and want to devote as much time as possible to creating them. That means I need to work on streamlining my processes and finding ways to diversify my offerings without sacrificing my own time. I’m researching the potential to branch out into Amazon, wholesale, and in-person selling at cake shows and wedding events. My website is still brand new, and I’d love to create more brand awareness around my website and take advantage of all the customizations that WordPress and WooCommerce can offer. And of course, with all that branching out, I’d love to hire employees and artists and create more educational resources (or at the very least some fun YouTube videos). I’ve got big goals and dreams!

Advice for new sellers

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

"Good enough is perfect." If I had waited until I felt like my products were "perfect," I never would’ve started! And looking back at the first products I sold... I am so grateful for the customers who trusted an untested newbie Etsy seller like me. My skills and proficiencies have increased so much since I began. Remember that your customers are people too, and when in doubt, treat them as you would a friend. I’ve had a very small number of customers try to take advantage of me when I err on the side of caution, but many, many more customers are appreciative of my willingness to be vulnerable and honest with them.

My first 1-star review stung so much, and I cried for days after that. With almost 1,000 5-star reviews under my belt now and a better understanding of who my people are and how I can help them, I’m much more confident and less emotionally attached to poor reviews. My products and my shop aren’t for everyone, and that’s okay. I wish when I was starting out that I had asked for more help. I spent a lot of time reading business books, listening to podcasts, and downloading freebies without spending a dime on my education, but when I started investing in business courses like Copywriting for Creatives and Ashley Tindall’s Biz Blueprint, that’s when I really saw the potential for my shop and my brand to grow. The confidence that comes from trying and failing, asking for feedback, learning, and growing isn’t something that I take lightly.

Some sellers really get inspired by hearing numbers. Feel free to share these if you like.

Question: What is your shop’s conversion rate?