Mary runs a gorgeous Etsy shop called Charmed in Love. Mary’s awesome shop has a variety of yarn craft, jewelry and decor. I especially love her coffee cozies – they are a small, but significant way to reduce waste – just use them instead of paper sleeves to protect your hand from hot coffee, while keeping your coffee hot. I just had to ask Mary a few questions about her shop – see her answers below.
What inspired you to create CharmedinLove on Etsy?
Where to start? The back story can be a bit long, so I will try to condense it down a bit. A preexisting back condition was further aggravated by a car accident in the snow after returning to Connecticut from visiting my (now husband) in Washington State and then his family in Florida. We moved in together when he transferred back to the East Coast and headed to South Carolina for the first time. (He’s Navy.) Growing up near a base, I always said I’d never date military…that went out the window! Ha!
I transferred my position as a pharmaceutical technician with CVS from Connecticut to South Carolina. In 2006, he proposed to me, and we set a date for October 2008. Over time after the proposal, he was noticing how often I was coming home from work in incredible amounts of pain, and just how much of a toll it was taking on me. He urged me to leave my job, he’d take care of things and just wanted me to do whatever I needed to recover as much as possible, and to focus on planning our wedding.
Well, as you can imagine, I had a LOT of down time. I have always been a creative, art-loving person, and one day when we were out getting groceries and household supplies, I spotted a rather large kit for jewelry making. It really just started out as something new to try, see if I was any good at it and make some fun little gifts for friends and family. Quite a few of them started to tell me that I should sell them. For the life of me, I wish I could remember where I had heard about Etsy, but I am so glad I did.
What materials do you use and how do you select the items in your shop?
While I started out with and continue to use store bought supplies, early on I started working on finding items I could use, things from second hand, asking friends and family for broken or old things they didn’t want any more. I’ve got quite a collection of vintage and antique costume jewelry dating all the way back to my own great-grandmother.
I had taken quite a break from things after a move cross-country, but eventually I was feeling quite an itch to get my hands busier. Part-time college wasn’t quite enough. With my husband deployed over that Holiday season, I was home in Connecticut visiting with my family, 6-7 months pregnant. While there, I asked my mother to re-teach me how to crochet. She had tried when I was quite young, and all I remember ever making was a really, really long foundation chain.
I kept with basic acrylic yarn for quite a while as I was continuing to teach myself more and more as it was easier to work with at that time. I’ve progressed to using more natural fibers, cotton, alpaca, bamboo and other similar fibers. Cotton has been one I’ve used most for the natural fibers, creating reusable household items, and even accessories. It is a durable item to use and has its own unique look and feel.
Now that we’ve moved again, and we’re in the process of setting up a full work space for me in our office, I’m reintegrating my jewelry supplies back into my work. It feels like Christmas all over again as I continue unpacking and organizing my supplies, and new ideas are popping up all the time. Adding beadwork into yarn work is something I’ve been working on and hope to start launching those into the mix. I have some incredible vintage pieces to pull apart for their beautiful beads.
Some other things I’ve been working on are up-cycled materials, turning them into yarn for things like market bags and baskets for the home. I’ve also been collecting shells and other beach bits to work into some jewelry and other items. I am working very hard to get these two particular lines ready to launch!
What key ethics do you bring to your business?
I would have to say that my key ethics are very much personal ones. I strive for as much of a personal best at all times. I strive to push myself to put out the best handmade items I can and hold myself to a high personal standard for my products. I do have a wish to eventually use as much natural, up-cycled, and sustainable materials as possible, but I do realize that at this time I do the best with what I have. I want to be able to provide largely ethical items for people’s lives, from fun, beautiful jewelry and accessories to wonderful, classic reusable items for their homes. I have to admit, trying to figure out how to use all of the found or donated items I’ve collected has certainly lent to some seriously creative juices flowing, and quite a few trials to find the errors in order to be able to put out the best, longest lasting items I can.
What do you love most about your business?
What I love most about my business is that I get to be home with my daughter in this stage before she’s old enough to go to school. I get to spend this time with her, play with her, watch her grow, be there through all her milestones. She gets to see me doing something I love to do, and hopefully one day she will take an interest in learning the things that I do and finds a love for it as well. Even if it’s not something she necessarily does later in life, I hope she finds enjoyment in things the way I did with my own family growing up.
Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years? The next ten years?
I really hope to see my business finding the focus that I have for it in a year, a more recycled, up-cycled, found object, reusable set of products. To have my office and shop set up for the lines of products I have in my head. To be more organized and established than I’ve been to this point and to really be in full swing would be a dream. I’ve largely worked doing custom orders until more recent years, and never had a particularly dedicated space to work. Now, we have space to do so and I’m excited as it comes together.
Thinking about 5 years from now, which includes a move, and further out to 10 years, yet another move before my husband retires from the United States Navy. So, while a storefront isn’t necessarily in my head at this time, perhaps once we finally settle down that will be more of an option.
In the meantime, I would really love to have a brand that has a presence in retail shops in the places where we live. Currently that would be in South Carolina, and after this, possibly up in Connecticut. As of now, the plan is to plant roots in South Carolina or surrounding areas, and because of the oft-moving life, my focus has been on making my business workable from a more “gypsy” type view. Wholesale partnering with specialty shops is really what I feel would work for me, on top of my growing online presence.
Whom do you seek advice from for your business?
I can honestly say that I will take advice from wherever I can get it. I am an absolute sponge when it comes to advice. I have a couple friends that have their own businesses, one similar to mine, another in computer repair. They are saints when it comes to letting me pick their brains. It’s been a massive learning curve to move what I do from being a glorified hobby online to something more. I’ve become friends with other shop owners on Etsy, and have studied the things they do in their own shops, gotten advice on how to work with the changes that have been made in Etsy especially.
Advice comes from so many places, in so many forms. I would be a fool not to try to internalize it every chance I get, learning not only from my own mistakes, but the mistakes of others, and also from their successes. To be ok with trial and error, to see what works and what doesn’t, and to really take a look at the minute things that could be holding my shop back, or even holding me back, as an artist, photographer, marketer, and business owner.