How RobandLean 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?

Hi! We are Rob and Leighanne Thompson, owners of Rings by RobandLean on Etsy. We are a married couple who just celebrated our 30th anniversary. We create custom, one-of-a kind, made-to-order rings out of a variety of materials, both traditional and non-traditional. We began selling on Etsy in late 2006. At that time, we were parents of young children, and we each made a lot of things for our kids (for example, Leighanne sewed clothing and Rob made wooden toys). Originally, we focused on selling kids’ items in our shop because we were already making those kinds of things in our daily lives. Somehow, as time went on, that product line morphed into making wooden rings, and then the wooden rings morphed into titanium, Damascus steel, gold, and silver rings. And we are still here, 17 years later, making our rings on Etsy.

Rob’s background is in machining and welding, which surprisingly translated very well to the creation of the jewellery pieces we make, especially paired with his woodworking experience. We collaborate on design and are so thankful that we are able to work together as a couple doing a job that we love. Since we use such a wide variety of materials, we source our basic supplies from multiple places, from local scrap companies and sawmills to woodworking supply companies and jewellery supply houses. We like to upcycle materials that wouldn’t be used otherwise.

Favorite items

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

We really love our titanium rings with prong and bezel-set gems. They are some of our favourite items because many people are unable to wear metals like gold and silver due to skin allergies, and creating a more traditional prong set or bezel set style in hypoallergenic titanium allows people access to ring styles that would typically not ever be a possibility for them. The prong-set engagement ring does sell quite well. We just recently added our bezel set design and expect to see good things from it as well.

Titanium Engagement Ring for Her Blue Green Moissanite (Etsy)
Titanium Engagement Ring for Her Garnet Bezel Set Ring, Etsy
Moss Agate Engagement Ring With Matching Druid Wedding Band, Etsy

And while these are not actually listed in our shop, we really love using our customers’ own materials to create rings that are meaningful and truly unique to them. Those custom-made, one-of-a kind rings are our true favorites. Our shop’s motto is “Your story. Our craft," and I think we get the most enjoyment when we’re able to use our abilities or talents to create a ring that tells someone’s unique story. Some of the most memorable of these have been rings that incorporate wood from a special home, wood from a favourite tree, stone taken from the spot where a couple met or got engaged, string from a relative’s guitar, etc. Any of our designs can be customised with a buyer’s own materials, and we work hard to make this process streamlined and easy for our customers.

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 weeks for us to get our first sale back in 2006, and that was a child’s plush toy. Once we began making rings, sales started coming very quickly. For now, we rely on good listings, good tags, titles, keywords, images, etc., to drive most traffic to our shop. We do some social media marketing as well.

Managing RobandLean

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?

We are currently running our shop with the help of some of our grown children, so we are a small team. Leighanne focuses on the administrative side: running the shop, organising orders, shipping, and customer service, while Rob focuses on making the orders.

We don’t use any tools or apps to control our inventory, etc., as we are a made-to-order shop, and a lot of what we do is extremely custom. It’s not unusual for a buyer to request materials we don’t have on hand or even send in their own materials for use in a custom ring.

We do use some outside tools like e-rank to help with keywords and to help us make sure that our listings are up-to-date. We use Adobe Lightroom for our photos, and we use Fusion360 to programme some of our designs.

The future of RobandLean 

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

We hope to continue making our custom rings on Etsy for as long as we are able. We truly do love what we do—we love working with people to create their own custom, unique rings, and we love that we’re able to work together as a couple in a creative way. We don’t strive to be the biggest seller or the highest-volume seller. One thing we have noticed over the years is that it is particularly hard to balance growth with the one-on-one aspect of making truly custom-made rings on Etsy, but that is our main goal. We strive to stay true to Etsy’s original marketplace ideals—for us, that is, continuing to create truly handmade items that are made to order. Providing excellent customer service is extremely important to us, and we always want to keep that as a goal. We do want to grow our standalone website more and would love to reopen the brick-and-mortar store that we closed during the pandemic.

Advice for new sellers

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

Make what you love; it would be horrible to be stuck running a shop that doesn’t bring you happiness. Don’t jump in expecting to make a lot of money with just any product, either; try to find a niche. And also know that if you do find your niche and are even somewhat successful, someone else is going to see what you’re doing and copy it. So continual growth and creativity are vital if you’re going to stay relevant. Don’t violate Etys’s terms of service, and make sure that your listings are up-to-date with excellent photography, tags, etc. The most important thing is to have fun and enjoy what you’re doing!