Kirsten Devitt is a maker and the founder of Each to Own, an Etsy shop offering handmade jewellery, with more than 200 pieces in the store ranging from laser cut and painted wood to bright glitter acrylic and a large array of coloured pieces. She lives with her family just outside of the beautiful town of Murwillumbah in Northern New South Wales, Australia. With her partner Richard, they work out of their off-the-grid studio on a property in the little village of Stokers Siding.
“When we moved to the country we moved to acreage that did not have power or running water. With so many amazing innovations occurring in the renewable energy field we just thought we would give it a good go. We live completely off-grid and the studio was no exception. We run all of the machinery off solar power.”
“My husband works part time with me so we have a lot of opportunity to hang out and create together. Our little boy is a bit more interested in soccer and surfing than earrings and brooches,” she says with a smile.
After selling some pieces to friends and family, the couple decided to start a business in 2009 and to open an Etsy shop in 2011. Today, they stock over 50 retail locations in Australia. How did they achieve this growth? “I have let the business grow slowly and organically. I am not great at PR or pushing our sales agenda—if people want to stock us or wear us they usually find us on their own and approach us,” she explains.
“It has been 10 years of very hard but enjoyable work. There have been many hours put in the evenings when out little boy is asleep, and many weekends spent working when we could have been with family and friends. I have learnt that you have to sacrifice a lot of your personal time for your work if you want to make a living out of it. It has to be something that you are very passionate about to make it work.”
Why did she choose jewellery? “I had always loved wearing jewellery and I guess that you could say it chose me. I don’t think many people sit down and think what type of thing will I make?—at least I hope that they don’t. It is a little more organic than that, and their path would more likely be that they find that they have an interest in a certain thing and they follow their heart there.”
The maker community was one of her favourite aspects of Etsy in the early days. “When I began with Etsy the community was so strong and lovely. You really did feel that you were a part of something—a movement, a feeling, a time. We had an amazing support team in Etsy Australia and we had our own local communities, such as Brisstyle, a group of artists and crafters who live in and around Brisbane, offering workshops, trainings, markets, exhibitions and social get-togethers. I met some of the best friends that I have every had in my life and there were great opportunities for exposure and promotion.”
But things are not the same today, she explains. “Etsy has changed greatly over the last few years and is very centralised to the US, so there is not that feeling for me any more. I’m sure there are great channels for support in the US but I don’t feel that with Etsy anymore. I believe that the company has had to change to adapt and it is not that inclusive anymore, sadly.”
Lucky for them, their products are extremely popular, and they can rely on their fans to spread the word. “We have an amazing network of wholesalers who really support getting our brand out there—they are a great little army!” she laughs. “I also like to use social media such as Facebook and Instagram to keep in touch with our customers. I feel that those channels lend themselves to a visual medium like jewellery.”
While being visual is important, Kirsten thinks that there is more to being successful at running an Etsy shop. “I think that great photos, clear and concise descriptions and a knowledge of all the features that Etsy offer are essential to getting noticed but to get sales you need to produce a product that is original and something that people want. There is no use in copying others or making something that doesn’t fulfill a market or purpose. Add to that a lot of hours and hard work and you will have a successful business.”
“The most challenging thing is the time that you have to put in spent away from family and friends to establish yourself,” she adds, “but once you are there if is the challenge of time management to keep the business growing and your family happy and together. Still, I love that I can now work my own hours in a creative job that I enjoy. I call the shots and I get to say yes to the projects that inspire me and no to the projects that I think won’t benefit us long term.”
What are her goals for next year? “We have some exciting collaborations in 2019, and I am looking very much forward to our new website and working in some of our older mediums, such as wood and paper, and making some new products for our bricks and mortar shop in our local town.”