What do you make and sell on Etsy?
Revisions Design Studio was started with the idea of “re-envisioning” everyday pieces
of art. We find beauty in antique and vintage items and enjoy giving them a new life:
hence our silver spoon jewelry and accessories. We also create functional porcelain
products such as jewelry and home accessories.
Tell us about the faces behind Revisions and the roles each of you play.
Revisions Design Studio was created by myself, Michele Dugree, in May of 2008. Since then, it has grown to include fellow designer Janna Fox and my techno-savvy husband, Torrey Dupras. All three of us have been able to quit our day jobs to collabrate and form the team that is Revisions.
I have been the captain of this crazy ship. I do a little bit of everything, including all of our spoon rings, which are bent with my two hands. I work as creative designer, studio technician, bookkeeper, photographer and manager. I am also the one who handles all of our wholesale accounts. Janna works in the ceramics studio helping create our porcelain products by hand. She also handles all of our order processing, customer service and shipping. From stocking products to operating the lasercutter, Janna keeps everything moving.
All business done at RDS uses technical equipment in one way or another, and it’s Torrey’s main priority to keep all of it running smoothly. Whether it is coding our website, networking our equipment or programming our smart phones, he makes things work. He also handles all of our data analysis to help with directing the business.
How did you originally get into working with porcelain and metal?
I have been making things for as long as I can remember. When it came time to go to college, it only felt natural to immerse myself into a craft-based art program. I graduated from Northern Michigan University’s School of Art and Design in 2006 with a concentration in ceramics. The diversity of the studio facilities gave me a great chance to develop skills working in a wide range of materials. Changing mediums keeps things fresh and interesting for me.
Tell us about your previous working situation and how you discovered Etsy.
While still in college, I was fortunate to land a fantastic job working with a local interior designer. I worked directly with clients doing kitchen and bath design along with color and furniture consultations. When a new colleague came on board who had just moved back to the area from NYC, she introduced me to Etsy. (Thank you, Kaylie!)
I loved my interior design job and credit it for the business skills I have today. It gave me the confidence to take on complex projects under a deadline and the experience of working closely with clients. I operated my Etsy shop nights and weekends for about a year while still working full time during the day. When it became possible for Revisions to become a full-time commitment, it was a very hard and scary decision to leave my job of 5 years. Looking back, I have no regrets and I’m very glad I took on the challenge.
Did you do anything to prepare for making the transition?
The transition included preparing a larger studio space to work. When we bought the current building for the studio, we had to update the electrical to run our new larger ceramic kilns. We also had to invest in more tables, racks and slip-casting equipment. All of this required financing. Luckily I had been keeping great records using Quickbooks and was able to secure a business loan. The rest included a lot of hard work and tons of advice from other business owners and my wonderful accountant.
When did you know it was time to bring on part-time and full-time help?
This was a very exciting but nerve-racking time. The spring and summer of 2009 are such a blur! Torrey graduated from college in May, I quit my day job on June 1, the same week we decided to get married in August. Torrey made the decision to come on board to get things up and rolling. By July 15th, we had purchased a duplex — one half to live in, and one half to house Revisions Design Studio. We were marriedAugust 22, and that’s when the real work began! Two days after the wedding we started on a run of egg candles to be sold in select Target stores. I couldn’t even believe it! All because of an Etsy shop I started one year prior! Janna Fox joined our team in the fall of 2009.
What was it like landing a wholesale account for a major retailer?
It was complete elation, followed by a moment of sheer terror. Thank goodness for Torrey and his optimism. While I combed through the complexities of dealing with a large company, Torrey ran a spreadsheet analysis of every aspect of our business. This was a trial by fire moment for Revisions. Every move had to be perfectly coordinated for us to fill such a large order in such a short period of time. We considered this to be the defining moment when Revisions blossomed into a fully functioning business model.
Did you feel you had to compromise any of the handmade aspects of your production?
No, and that was the miracle. Through careful planning, we were able to keep everything in house and handmade. There were times when we were tempted to outsource different aspects of our egg candle production. After crunching the numbers, we found we could do everything in our studio more efficiently and for less. Besides, we loved the fact that we were able to attain all of our resources locally.
Any words of wisdom for those landing their first big wholesale account?
Do your homework and know what you need to compete in a world of big business. There are a lot of aspects of business that are not so glamourous. Ask yourself questions such as: What kind of liability insurance do you need to carry? What is the company’s payment policy? Be prepared to be responsible for anything that may go wrong. Many large retailers issue “charge backs” for mistakes made in shipping or order fulfillment. Carefully read the fine print and always plan ahead. All of this may seem overwhelming at first, but the sense of accomplishment after you pull it off is well worth it.
What are the ups and downs of working with a close friend or husband?
Working with Janna has been nothing by pluses. Now working with your husband, that can be another story. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to be able to share such a big part of your life with the one you love most, but it can start to feel like all you have in common. We have to make sure that every once in a while we go out for dinner without talking business.
What are your best marketing tips?
- We have a Facebook Page — become a fan! We are always offering exclusive deals and coupon codes for our Etsy shop to our fans.
- We also include a code coupon with every purchase so our repeat customers receive a discount on their next order.
- Also, it’s been mentioned a million times before, but relist daily! We snag a lot of new customers and favorites everyday this way.
What have you tried that didn’t work out?
During my first year I did a postcard mailing and it definitely wasn’t worth the postage. Besides, in a time of excessive junk mail, I’ve come to realize that not only are people desensitized to receiving ads through the mail, but it is also very wasteful. I find social networking to be much greener and more effective.
What do you enjoy most about not having a day job?
I love the flexibility of owning my own company. Torrey and I love to travel and having an online business allows us to work from anywhere. I also love having my own studio with my two adorable cats running around, Calvin and Hobbes.
Is there anything you miss?
I do miss the social interaction I had with my day job. It was nice seeing people face to face rather than just through an email. I also miss the high heels and dress clothes I used to wear to work. Although it is not very practical in a ceramics studio, I do get dressed up every once in a while, just for old times’ sake. I have also gotten more involved in the community to get out of the studio and network with other small business owners.
What’s the hardest part about running your own business?
When I first got into business I was constantly feeling like there was not enough time in the day. I found myself working from the time I woke up until I went to bed, seven days a week. Although I loved what I was doing, it didn’t leave a lot of time for myself or my husband. Since then, I’ve learned that time management and organization are key to running an effective business and keeping your sanity. The hardest part for me can be summed up in two words: finding balance.
What’s the future of Revisions?
We are currently working on expanding our product line. I am also working on a companion brand to Revisions called Urban-Analog. Urban-Analog will give us a separate platform to showcase our passion for upcycling and vintage restoration. Stay tuned!
Thanks for sharing your story, Michele, Janna, and Torrey. Check out their work in the Seller’s Items below.
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