Stacie of Gingiber with her hands full of pillows
When I started my own shop on Etsy, I looked up the best sellers in illustration and found Gingiber’s shop right near the top. Her whimsical drawings were selling like hotcakes and I knew in that instant that I wanted to be just like Stacie in a few year’s time. Stacie recently launched a new website for her work and I knew she’d be a great maker to interview. You’re going to love the story of how she’s juggling her full-time work with two kids and an academic husband. It just goes to show you that even the big guns struggle with balance. Hehe.
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
I have always wanted to be an artist and eventually studied design and fine arts at a university in my hometown. But after graduation, I sort of “put off” pursuing art and instead moved up in management at a national coffee chain. I spent several years working erratic hours, and along the way got married and had my first child. It was around the time that my daughter was born that I was searching for artwork for her nursery, but nothing really suited my taste. So instead I put that old art degree to use and created my own prints. My husband encouraged me to try and sell my artwork and soon thereafter opened up a shop on Etsy. Gingiber was born.
For the next several years, I worked on Gingiber at night after my daughter would go to bed, all the while dreaming that I could create art full-time. My husband was a grad student at this time, so leaving a steady job (with insurance) in order to work on Gingiber was really not an option. That was until I became an Etsy featured seller in the winter of 2011. I had given birth to my 2nd daughter 2 weeks before my feature went live and suddenly Gingiber exploded! In January of 2012 I gave my notice at my day-job and my dreams suddenly became a reality.
Now not only do I run Gingiber full-time, but I have a lovely group of ladies who work part-time for me in order to keep up with shipping, fulfilling wholesale orders, and generally keep me organized. Gingiber is now sold in 50+ stores worldwide, and my Etsy sales are steadily increasing. Creatively I feel so full! And I feel like these are the good times, so I am trying desperately to cherish them.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
Finding time to create is so difficult. My husband just completed his PhD this past December, and with 2 little girls to take care of, I struggle with finding the balance of time. Also over the holidays, I had to handle a situation where a large Korean company stole my best selling orange fox pillow design and were replicating it in their factories for a fraction of the price that I can afford to sell them. However, through the power of social media, myself and the other artists who were also affected by this staged a large campaign to move for the removal of our products. Within 24 hours my pillow was removed from the site. I haven’t checked again to see if they are selling it again, but honestly that was such a stressful situation with a remarkably swift and positive outcome.
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
Hmmm. That would probably be my Etsy Featured Seller feature in 2011. It gave me the courage and momentum to believe that I could illustrate full-time.
Owl Tote Bag
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction?
Yes, I have struggled with what direction to take Gingiber. Being the type of illustrator that I am (appealing to a wide audience) I have recently decided to stop focusing exclusively on nursery decor and am trying to become more of a lifestyle brand. I am the type of person who has 100 ideas an hour, so figuring out the right direction to take my business is hard. I am actually currently working with Grace Kang of Retail Recipes. She runs a retail consulting business and it has helped me tremendously to identify the strengths of my business & how to grow in the right direction.
Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
Yes! I desperately want to turn my 52 Weeks of Dogs illustration project into a book, but haven’t had the time to shop around the idea to publishers. Also, I dream of someday working with big brands like Urban Outfitters, Land of Nod, etc. on an art licensing level. All of this will come in time.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
Absolutely! I find that I am so connected to my business that if I have a slow month of sales I become despondent & discouraged. But I have been trying to approach these slower times as opportunities to hold “flash sales” or work on a new project. Also whenever I am just in a creative funk, I try to change up my routine. That seems to help me get out of a creative block!
Custom Pet Portrait – Greyhound
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
Since my husband works in academics, my schedule is tied to the school calendar. Every day I wake up around 6 AM. My husband and I make breakfast, get the kids dressed and out the door by 8:30. I’m fortunate the my oldest (Violet) attends a free pre-school, so every day from 8:45-3:45 she goes to school. My youngest (Lucy) goes to a Kid’s Day Out 12 hours a week. So that 12 hours is when I get the lion’s share of work done.
I lease some office space near my home, so on those days that Lucy is at KDO I drive to Gingiber World Headquarters and fill orders. I have a part-time worker (Vanessa) comes into the office 2 days a week to ship Etsy items. I also have a part-time gal (Angela) who helps me sew pillows. And most recently I hired my sister (Angie) as my virtual assistant. I do anything from sew pillows, fold tea towels, print artwork, fill wholesale orders, etc. Anything that I can squeeze into my 4 hour block of time I get done.
When 2 o’clock rolls around, I lock-up shop & pick up Lucy from KDO. Soon thereafter we are back in the car picking up Violet from pre-school! Then I make after-school snacks, start dinner, and hang out with the family. By 7 PM the kids are in bed & then I start working again from home. I usually get my drawing done for new ideas in the evening hours, accompanied of course by a French Press and some Netflix. It is really a blur of a day.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
Partnering with blogs has been a valuable way to gain new customers. But definitely I get the best customer interaction from social media, specifically Instagram. I post on IG daily with sneak peeks behind the business. I launch new products there, host Flash Sales, and gain a great sense of what Gingiber customers are interested in. I LOVE INSTAGRAM!
Giant Handmade Sheep Pillow
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
Love what you do & share it with others. This is something that was drilled into my head when I worked for Starbucks, but it completely rings true. I love what I make. It makes me happy. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for a living, and for the 1st time I feel really and truly happy creatively. Also, plug into a creative community. Passion is contagious, so surround yourself with other makers who are also passionate about their work. Having a creative community is important when you are dealing with the day to day trials of running your own business. I have found an amazing group of makers on Twitter. Everyday we encourage each other, share our daily frustrations, and sharpen each other. It is wonderful!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
In 5 years I want to be more in the “creative chair” of Gingiber. I have more ideas than I have time to draw! In 5 years I hope to have some great licensing contracts with some of my favorite brands. And I want to see Gingiber products in retailers across the globe. Oh, and I want to publish books. And why not throw a fabric line in there, too? I like to dream big and work backwards.
Want to start or overhaul an Etsy shop?
Download this FREE 2-page checklist now - it's part of my Handmade Business Toolkit for Makers.
Don't make those common Etsy mistakes: make sure your Etsy shop is the best it can be!
(P.S. It’s also packed full of links to additional resources on all aspects of Etsy shop setup.)