The CraftStar is a unique boutique in the online world: a vibrant, innovative, e-commerce platform for creative small business owners. Read on to see how Bethan Davies built The CraftStar as a unique community where she helps a wide range of crafty business owners grow through support, education, and passion.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your entrepreneurial journey.
I’ve always been a crafter. My mom says she can remember me “gluing things together” from around four years old. My career, however, was in broadcasting and I spent over 25 years producing TV and Radio shows; most recently for Ryan Seacrest and his production company.
I got very ill five years ago and had to have a heartbreaking emergency hysterectomy. Not having children, but wanting was a horrible experience. I decided the best way to get through it was to keep going, and not dwell on it. I went back to work after three days rather than the six weeks recommended by my doctor. That wasn’t one of the best decisions of my life.
About six months after the surgery, I got really sick. If it was bad before (which it was to need three blood transfusions and emergency surgery), it was terrible now. I take the blame as much as my doctor should, but nobody followed up with me about the effects an early hysterectomy would have on my body. Along with the kickback from all the hormones they pumped into me. I was a mess.
It got to the point I couldn’t continue doing my stressful job with the 3 am wake-up calls. So, while I was getting put back together again, I got out my crafting supplies and started making jewelry. A friend suggested I sell on Etsy, which I did. I loved it. I loved being able to connect with like-minded creative people online because I was too ill to go out and have a social life. That all came tumbling down when Etsy began making their steps away from handmade and the people who built their site. This sparked an idea in my head.
Soon after, I was asked to do a short consultancy at The Home Shopping Network – training their hosts and producers in this new world of “broadcasting.” With today’s social media, “broadcasting” is a misnomer the messages are very narrow, and broadcasters need to amend their ways of doing things. My spiel is about “narrow-casting.”
I learned a lot in my time there, and came away with the biggest question that started my entrepreneurial path: If the likes of HSN and QVC can make billions in moving pictures, why can’t creative small businesses? Ta-da! The CraftStar was taking shape in my head.
Do you have any specialized training?
Being a crafter really helps run a website like The CraftStar, and I have quite an extensive business background from previous jobs (for instance, I was Head of Business Development and Entertainment for the BBC in London for several years.)
Give us an example of how you landed one of your first users.
Our founding sellers are mostly people I met through my time selling on Etsy. We had become friends, and so many of them were looking for an alternative. Many still are!
What do you believe has contributed to your success?
I believe we’re on the path to success. We’re still the new kids on the block, and it takes time to bed a new e-commerce site in. Especially when we’re self-funded, and our competitor is a multi-billion dollar giant!
How are you currently growing your business?
Persistence, passion, and more persistence, passion! I won’t pretend it’s easy growing an online business like ours in such a crowded space, but I do believe we offer something that no other site does; we genuinely care about our sellers, customers, and their small businesses. After all, we’re one too!
What advice do you have for women who want to have a successful online boutique store?
I think I’d be better off answering this question in reverse. The likes of GoDaddy and Shopify and so on drive me absolutely insane! They make it sound SOO easy to pop up a website and become a millionaire overnight. It just doesn’t work that way, and we’ve seen this over and over.
A seller on The CraftStar might decide to close their shop because they’re not getting the sales they wanted but will usually come back after three months. Around 85% of our sellers come back, which means we’re doing something right! It took me ages to figure out what was going on in those three months, but we worked it out.
They will decide they don’t need a “community” site like The CraftStar, and that they would be better off with a standalone website. So, they spend one month creating the site, one month with their family and friends going through it and hopefully buying something, and then one month wondering where all the traffic went.
Unless you have A LOT of money for advertising, and these days I mean A LOT, or you have a massive repeat customer base, you’re not going to make it as a stand-alone. Why? Because you need those other shops around you to bring in traffic. Running an e-commerce store, on any platform, is a challenge. Think about it: If you’re on The CraftStar, other CraftStar shops aren’t your only competition. EVERY item online is your competition! That goes from the high-end prices of Bloomingdales to the perpetually on sale items at Cost-Co online. So, when you look at it that way, ANY sales that you get as a creative small business deserves a huge pat on the back for a seller!
Sooner or later sellers realize the benefits of having a community around them all promoting the same venue.
What’s different between The CraftStar and other online e-commerce sites like Etsy?
Based on my experience selling on Etsy, and when I decided to move forward with The CraftStar, I wanted it to be community-based and on a broadcasting platform. We are very community-focused, and if there’s one thing I’m proud of, it’s that. We all help each other, even if we’re selling the same sort of things. We also do a lot of video content, whether it’s live shows or “Video Business Cards” for our shops, or shorter videos for Facebook, etc. … video marketing is the future, and we’re the only ones doing it. It’s going to be really important pretty soon.
On those “don’t feel like it days,” what motivates you to keep going?
The sellers. I’m very aware that creative small business owners often rely on sales for income. We do whatever we can to help them get out there.
NOTE: The CraftStar has gone out of business. Please see this article for other places to sell your handmade goods.
Thanks to Bethan Davies for sharing her story!