How VulpineVinyls 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?
Hey there! I’m Jenny, and I’m the owner of Vulpine Vinyls. We’re a small business focused on novelty and gift items, and I run the business out of my home in Milton, Vermont. I got started on Etsy in 2016 when I decided to start selling my crochet crafts as a fun way to fund future crochet projects. I enjoyed crocheting, but it takes a lot of time and materials, and it’s not an easy craft to make money at. When I decided to start selling on Etsy again, I decided I would move away from crochet and start researching what I would sell. I was gifted a Cricut Maker in December 2020, and I started playing around with different projects. I made matching water bottles for my son and his best friend, some baby bodysuits for my new niece, and some "Naughty Boxers" for my husband for Valentine’s Day. The boxer briefs were a hit with family and friends, so I decided to start selling them first.
With my first product planned, I started Vulpine Vinyls in January 2021. We were going into year 2 of the COVID pandemic, and I worked the night shift as an emergency dispatcher and call-taker, which was an incredibly stressful job in a very toxic work environment. My side business became a great stress reliever for me, and my family and coworkers helped me research and come up with funny sayings that could go on men’s underwear. I spent a lot of time researching Etsy SEO (search engine optimization) and how to be successful on Etsy, and I was very prepared when I listed my first item on Etsy under my new business name. Valentine’s Day was approaching, and four days after I listed my first item, I made my first three sales! I sold 53 pairs in January and 82 pairs in February. From there, I expanded into women’s underwear and started experimenting with adhesive vinyl on cups and plant pots.
The business started to quickly take off, and I started having hope that I could actually make it my full-time job. I found a less stressful day shift job in March of 2021, moved to part-time work in September, and made Vulpine Vinyls my full-time job in November!
What are your favorite items? What makes these so special? Why do you think these items might be selling well?
My favorite items to make are the "Fuck Off, I mean...good morning" cups, my funny succulent pots, and the "Caution Choking Hazard" and "Caution Slippery When Wet" couples underwear sets. These never fail to make me giggle, and I love making more mature, sarcastic items. It’s very much my family and my style of humor, and I love the process of bouncing these product ideas off of friends and family.
These items have been my best sellers since they were first released, and I think that’s because a lot of people have a similar sense of humor and enjoy the non-censored nature of our products. They make great gifts and are in a moderate price range, which makes them very popular around the holidays. I also noticed that the more unique the item is, the more likely it is to sell. When I first began expanding my product range, I tried selling popular designs and items like t-shirts, but they just weren’t selling. I was too focused on trying to find something that was popular and sold well instead of creating something new, unique, and fun. While finding inspiration from others happens naturally, trying to copy another business's best sellers won’t bring you success. I won’t pretend like I was the first one to ever think of putting funny sayings on underwear or succulent pots, but I did try to come up with my own unique sayings and designs.
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 made my first sale four days after listing my first item on Etsy, and I was very lucky in that sense. I did a lot of research before listing my first item and made sure I was utilizing Etsy SEO to the best of my ability. Currently, I do not direct outside traffic to my Etsy shop. I take advantage of Etsy’s built-in customer base and do my best to make my items as easy to find as possible by using Etsy’s tags and item titles to add keywords customers are searching for that relate to my products. Any time I promote my business, I direct people to my independent website since I have more control over the customer experience and there are lower fees associated with my website vs. Etsy.
I currently have a business page on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest, though I am not as active as I’d like to be on these social channels. It can be difficult to find time to make original content while also fulfilling orders and managing my business, but I hope to carve out more time for these in the near future, or maybe hire someone to run the channels for me!
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 currently the only person working in and managing my business, though I have hired my cousin in the past to help with order fulfillment during my busiest season in 2021 before I made this my full-time job. When I worked with her, I used Quickbooks to manage payroll, though I don’t use it anymore. It can be very difficult to manage everything on my own, and I rely on my husband and mother for occasional help organizing my workspace, putting away inventory, or bringing packages to the post office. I work with a tax professional at the end of the year to file my taxes, but other than that, I manage all other business aspects myself.
I currently sell on Etsy, my personal website, Amazon Handmade, and wholesale on Faire. It’s difficult to manage inventory between all these sites, and unfortunately, there’s not a great way to integrate an inventory management system at an affordable price for a small business like mine. Thankfully, my items are all made-to-order, so I keep a close eye on my inventory of underwear, plant pots, cups, and materials like vinyl. I also have a yearly calendar with average sales per month and estimated inventory needed for each month to help me keep track of my ordering needs. Each site has its own interface for shipping and fulfillment, and I utilize PirateShip for any other shipping needs. To help me determine pricing for my products, I have a Google Sheets spreadsheet filled with formulas that calculate my expenses for each item, fees associated with each selling platform, and my average earnings per hour at different price points. It’s become a great reference and helps me determine whether adding a new product line would be profitable before I invest in any new inventory.
The future of VulpineVinyls
What goals do you have for your shop in the future?
I have huge goals for my business in the next few years. I hope to move away from making my items and move into a more managerial role in the company, which will allow me to dedicate more time to promoting my business, researching new platforms for selling, and creating new designs and product lines. I hope to do this by hiring employees for the production process and eventually moving into local commercial space. I love what I do, but I think I could do so much more by dedicating more time to creating and advertising, and I’d love to feel like I’m contributing more to my local economy by employing people in my community.
Advice for new sellers
What’s your advice for a new seller starting an Etsy shop?
My best advice for a new seller on Etsy is to do a ton of research before jumping in. Make sure you fully read and understand their seller handbook and their policies, and research as much as possible about Etsy SEO. While I did a good amount of research before listing my first item as my new business, there is so much more that I could have done to be better prepared.
I also highly recommend diversifying your income streams as much as possible if you’re going to rely on this income to support yourself. Etsy (and similar platforms) constantly make changes to their algorithm and the way your items show up in searches, and they can shut your shop down for any infraction, perceived or real. Etsy actually changed the way my items show up in searches recently, and it has tanked my views and sales as a result. Etsy has a mature content policy, and with most of my items being mature items, they are censored to a point to avoid people stumbling across them when they weren’t searching for more mature products. They previously had not been limited to "mature" searches, but for some reason that changed, and many of my items will not show up unless you specifically type "mature" into the search bar. For example, previously a search for "Funny Boxer Briefs" would have many of my items show up, but now most of them do not show unless you search for "Funny Boxer Briefs Mature". If I had not diversified to other selling platforms, this drastic reduction in sales on Etsy would have resulted in me moving away from the business and into another full- or part-time job while I worked to build my sales back up.
Some sellers really get inspired by hearing numbers. Feel free to share these if you like.
Question: How much is your monthly revenue?
Answer: My monthly revenue ranges anywhere from $5,000 a month to $20,000 a month, depending on the season. October–February is my busiest month, with summer being much slower. In my first year, I made about $68,000 on Etsy alone.
Question: What is your average profit margin?
Answer: My profit margin varies a lot since I offer free domestic shipping, and shipping costs can vary greatly. My average profit margin is likely around 10% after I pay myself and after overhead expenses. Meaning I have about 10% of every sale to invest back into my business.
Question: What is your shop’s conversion rate?
Answer: My shop conversion rate averages around 2.5-3%, which is fairly average for Etsy and other online retailers.