How LilMonstersBirdToys 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?

I am Shawna Theobald, and my shop is Lil Monsters Bird Toys, where I design toys for small parrots that encourage natural behaviors such as destruction and foraging. I started out making toys for my own birds long before I started selling them. The ones at the pet store were not geared toward my small birds, even though they were marketed for them. They were made of materials too hard for small beaks to chew and interact with, so I was spending a lot of money on items they wouldn't play with.

I am part of an online parrot community where I saw that there was a demand for products like this beyond my own home. In 2017, I tossed a few quick toy ideas on Etsy using the parts I had bought for my own birds, not really expecting them to take off. To my surprise, they started to sell almost immediately. I make my toys using primarily natural woods and materials because these are not only appropriate and safe for parrots, but they also love them! Safety is a big concern of mine, as I have personally had a parrot die from an improperly made toy. I never want anyone to experience that heartache!

Favorite items

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

Some of my favorite items are the balsa and pine shapes I make. These are pieces of wood that are cut into shapes like dinosaurs, rabbits, squirrels, and more, embedded with beads and adorned with other fun materials. I love them, and I think my customers do too, because they are so cute and unique, while also really demonstrating in one toy the foraging and destruction focus I try to have. They are really customizable, too, which I feel helps set me above a lot of other shops. They are absolutely some of my best sellers year after year!

Cocoa - Chocolate Easter Bunny Toy for Birds, Balsa Bird Toy, Easter Bird Toy, Parrot Toy, for cockatiels, conures, budgies, parakeets, etc
Foraging Toy for Birds, Dinosaur Foraging Toy with beads and/or millet for small birds & parrots, Tyrannosaurus Rex (Trex) Bird Toy
Dino Foraging Toy, Balsa Parrot Toy, Dinosaur Shaped Foraging Toy with Cork, Beads, and Millet for Small Birds and Parrots (Balsa Spike)

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 me only a week to start selling items, which was really surprising to me! I currently attract customers primarily using Facebook, and Instagram, and posting in online community forums. Being an engaged member of the parrot community is probably one of the most rewarding ways I get my name out there!

Managing LilMonstersBirdToys

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 am the only person working at this business! I have taken over part of the garage and the entire basement of the home I share with my husband and two sons. My main tools are a bandsaw and drill press, but most of the time spent working is just using my hands to assemble designs. I do have a Shopify storefront too, so using Trunk to keep my inventory synced across both platforms has been great. I also use an app called Materials Inventory that keeps track of my raw materials, which helps when I have so many products that share items. This way, I am not manually adjusting inventory between listings. Since implementing trunk and materials inventory, I have seen quite a bit of organic growth because items are no longer out of stock because I am worried about overselling. I use Pirate Ship for shipping as it integrates across both Etsy and Shopify, but I mostly use USPS because of the free boxes and free pickups, which save me a lot of time and money.

The future of LilMonstersBirdToys

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

I would love to invest in a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine and a laser cutter. The CNC would free up some of the time I am using now to cut things by hand while also giving me more freedom to get creative. The laser cutter would allow me to make some wooden items in-house that have been discontinued or are harder to find lately. Both would allow me to expand my offerings and keep my fulfillment times low.

Advice for new sellers

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

I think most people starting out tend to undervalue their work! It’s not just about materials and transaction fees; it’s about your time, too. Don’t sell yourself short; price your items so that you can keep making them while also having money for yourself. I would also suggest not starting out right away with paid ads. Focus on making sure your photos, descriptions, and keywords are doing most of the heavy lifting first, and post on social media! If you can post stuff that your target audience will find interesting—not just your products—you will slowly build a meaningful following. A few thousand potential customers that are interacting with your content are so much more valuable than 10,000 accounts that promoted a follow-for-follow deal.

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

Question: How much is your monthly revenue?
Answer: $3500

Question: What is your average profit margin?
Answer: 50%

Question: What is your shop’s conversion rate?
Answer: 2.5%