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Inside Mrs. Money Mustache’s Top-Secret Five-Figure Etsy Shop

oil-mixFor the past two years or so I’ve been keeping a secret from you, and I think today it is finally time to spill the beans.

The secret is that my wife is no longer really retired, and in fact she started a business that is now big enough to fund our entire family’s lifestyle. Making this confession will subject both of us to the full fury of the Internet Retirement Police. But it’s worth it, because there are some valuable lessons in her experience that could be useful to other people hoping to take control of their own income.

I’m always fascinated and happy to see people making money through self-employment, (especially in fields that don’t require a university degree) because it presents a nice shortcut around most of the problems that the world of work presents to us. Prefer to set your own schedule? Go right ahead. Unhappy with work conditions? Change them. Want a raise? Company profits are under your control. Don’t like your boss? Just find a mirror and have a quick word with yourself.  Sure, there are loads of great jobs out there, but conventional employment is often only a small, boring slice of a life’s work experience.

The Etsy Shop

labeling-soap

You’ve almost certainly heard of  Etsy, a highly popular online marketplace that specializes in handmade, small batch products – most often produced by a single person. Almost everything there is cute, unique, and custom, which makes it a hit in the gift-giving and personal pampering markets. And because the focus is on small entrepreneurial business and relatively natural products, even Mr. Money Mustache can get behind the general theme without too much grumbling about clueless consumers.

My wife was a fan and an occasional customer, but also became curious about just how difficult it would be to make some of the things that were for sale – often at relatively high prices. So she launched an investigation, which has led to two years of fun and learning, and is still growing.

Update: When I first posted this article, we asked people to please avoid trying to track down her Etsy shop, just to keep her experiment realistic. A small percentage of good-hearted but mischievous Mustachians disregarded this request and flooded her shop with orders anyway. Almost her entire current soap inventory (over $1000 worth) was quickly sold out. So if you do find her shop, you’ll only see a few remaining products for now. You’ll have to use your imagination to picture what it usually looks like – an array of 20 different fancy looking soaps and other products.

So to continue this tale, let’s launch into an interview with the lady herself.

An Interview With an Etsy Entrepreneur

 

Mr. Money Mustache: Hello there wife! Thanks so much for allowing me to do this interview with you – I know you’re normally not a fan of the public eye.

So to start things off, what is it exactly that tempted you to get into the business of being an Etsy seller in the first place?

Mrs. Money Mustache: Hello husband! It is strange and fun to be back on the blog, so thanks for doing this article.

Becoming an Etsy Seller was a gradual process, as it is with many folks, I suspect. I was sitting around being all retired and, frankly, I was bored sometimes. At the time, I didn’t have a real plan for all my free time.

One day, while standing with a group of parents at the after-school pickup, I became enamored with these lovely wrap bracelets with pretty beads all the moms seemed to be wearing. I hadn’t seen them before and became curious, so I started shopping online. I found out they cost a small fortune and, not really being a jewelry person, I quickly dismissed the purchase.

But, upon further review, I saw they were selling on Etsy and this prompted me to think I could make one myself. So, I dove down into a rabbit hole of watching videos and buying supplies and I was hooked. Learning and making really filled a void in my life, so I went a little crazy. I made a bunch of bracelets, gave them to friends, and at a certain point, I had spent more than I felt comfortable on the whole endeavor.

This is when I came back to Etsy and the idea of selling was born. I figured if I could sell enough of these bracelets I had learned to make, I could pay myself back for all the stuff I had bought to make them recreationally.

MMM: Wow, that’s interesting – selling as an atonement for consumer guilt? It sounds negative when you put it that way, but it seems to have become a big positive in your life. So anyway, what date was this?

Mrs. MM: This was in April of 2014. That’s when I started my first shop.

MMM: How long did it take to get your first sale? And how have your sales ramped up since then? What was your busiest month so far?

Mrs. MM:  It definitely took a while to get my first sale. About 2.5 months after first opening my shop. But, I was so busy making items and learning about Etsy that I didn’t really notice the time pass. I remember it was a holiday-specific item (a fourth of July bracelet) and that’s when I realized the importance of holidays in retail (duh!)

My sales increased really slowly over time. I did so much research by lurking around in the Etsy forums and finding out what makes other shops successful. I created a lot of different products (necklaces, bracelets, guitar picks, even crocheted dish cloths!) so I could test them out and see which were successful. A wise man once said: “Work is better when you don’t need the money.” and he was right. :) I was able to do a lot more than a shop that can’t invest much due to money constraints.

My busiest time, by far, was the holiday season of 2015. In November and December of 2015 I was so busy that I couldn’t keep up and had to place my shop on vacation mode (Etsy has an option for that, which basically means: I’m not open for business at the moment.) During just those two months I sold about $10,000 of stuff. I was working constantly and it got in the way of family time and I realized I needed more balance.

blending

Blending various fancy oils in the home workshop, with a stick blender.

MMM: I noticed that even after your first shop became fairly successful, you actually started a second Etsy shop. What was the cause of this? How has the experience been, compared to the first?

Mrs. MM: Yes! I decided to start a second Etsy shop in August 2016. As an Etsy Seller, I really wanted to support other Etsy sellers, so I started buying stuff from them quite a bit. I purchased almost all my shop supplies on Etsy and I also started buying small gifts.

One year, I bought some handmade soaps for family members at Christmas and tried one out myself. I fell in love with it and realized how much better my skin felt. Of course, as a crazy-researcher-type (which is what I realize I am, post retirement), I decided to try making my own soap. This led to a second love and once I felt confident in my products, I opened my second shop, which sells mostly natural bath and body products (soaps, scrubs, lotions, and oils).

This second shop is so much more fun than the first. For one thing, I am making products that I love using myself and really believe in. I also had so much experience at making my first shop successful that the second one was much easier. I had a few customers that shopped at my first shop that immediately bought from my second shop. So, that first sale came much faster.

I also really love the “soaping community”. All the soapers I’ve met through Instagram (which is a platform I used to hate and now love) are so generous with time and information and they make beautiful products too. It’s just a completely different (and more fulfilling) experience this time around.

MMM: How do you decide what to make and what to sell – and which products to discontinue?

Mrs. MM: In both shops, I try a lot of different things. I follow my own feelings of what I’d like to wear or use. I like to make new items and sometimes they do really well and sometimes they don’t. I also find that in the bath & body world, you get repeat customers much more easily. So, they will let me know what they want more of, which has led me to keep products that I wasn’t sure if I should continue and making new ones.

I also follow my values. For example, right now many of my bath and body products are all natural, but I’ve also tried using ingredients that aren’t considered natural. I like to experiment and decide for myself what I like. But, after dabbling in fragrance oils and other “not 100% natural” ingredients, I find myself veering back towards all-natural. I’m trying out a lot of different packaging and am finding that this is a challenge as well, as I want everything to be eco-friendly, but also reasonably priced.

So, I guess I discontinue items that aren’t doing well and that I’m not a huge fan of either. But, I will always make new things (because that’s the fun part), so I will always want to sell new items along with the ones that stay on and sell well.

MMM: What are the factors in your success – Is this something just anybody can do? If not, what skills or personal tendencies do you think would create a good Etsy shop owner?

To take nicer photos like this, she had to figure out lighting, background, and camera - For both Etsy and MMM pruposes, we upgraded to a Sony alpha6300 with separate Sigma prime F/1.4 lens.

To get nicer photos like this, she had to figure out lighting, background, and camera. For both Etsy and MMM purposes, we upgraded to a Sony alpha6300 with separate Sigma prime F/1.4 lens. I love the camera – takes amazing film-quality videos too.

Mrs. MM: My success (or, my definition of success anyway) is probably due to incessant research. I am always researching. I read a lot and look at a lot of other shops and try to figure stuff out. It’s a fun puzzle and I think it is the most interesting part of owning an Etsy shop for me. I would get bored if I wasn’t doing that. The business half of my degree is finally coming in handy!

To be successful on Etsy, you need to understand how SEO (search engine optimization) works. Etsy has their own search engine, so you just need to figure out how to make your listings show up near the top, which is easier said than done!

Once you know that, you need beautiful pictures so that people actually click on your listing. Again, this takes a lot of research and some photography skills. I look at every single picture in a search result and figure out what makes me click on an image. I also look at my listing in that list and see if it stands out.

For example: I recently realized that I was clicking more on photos of soap with packaging than “naked soap”, so I changed one of my listings so that the first photo had packaging – and it did result in more sales.

Doing what it takes to get the shot.

Doing what it takes to get the shot.

SEO and quality photos are the two biggest things. After that, you need to give excellent customer service and ship your packages out in time. It helps if your packages look cute upon arrival too. That leads to good reviews and word of mouth, which leads to more sales.

MMM: What has been the biggest unexpected positive, and negative, in your experience in dealing with customers?

Mrs. MM: The biggest positive has come from my second shop, as I have built up repeat customers in a relatively short amount of time. These are people that leave me incredible reviews, send me a message that brightens my day, post their purchases on Instagram, etc. I am very surprised by this, but it does bring me a lot of joy.

The negatives used to affect me a lot, but I’ve learned that they will always be there. There are people that leave one star reviews without contacting me first. People can be pretty brutal when reviewing a product. I don’t think they realize they are leaving a review to a single person (as opposed to a company). It’s one thing to say “Amazon sucks”, but when someone says “You suck”, that’s totally different. Sometimes they are folks that own a competing shop on Etsy (or have a friend that does), so you know the review isn’t even accurate or relevant, but it still sits there staring you in the face.

MMM: I hear you on that Mean Internet Strangers thing. Sometimes I stumble across multi-page discussions on Reddit or Bogleheads, among people I’ve never met, who are just making the most bizarre and pessimistic speculations about our personal lives, or my motivation for writing the blog, or whatever. There is no practical way to set everyone straight, so you really just have to develop a thicker skin instead.

Mrs. MM: I think it’s a bit easier in the smaller world of an Etsy shop. There are also a lot of difficult customers, but I always answer all their questions and do my best and some of them have actually made large purchases or become repeat customers. One of my best customers in my second shop was someone that was previously difficult.

MMM: What do you think the upper limit on profit would be in an etsy shop? Do any of your role models or competitors seem to be running pretty big operations?

Doing the Math

Doing the Math

Mrs. MM: The sky is the limit! There are many shops on Etsy that started off as one-person endeavors and now they own huge businesses with many employees. Most of them move on from Etsy and start their own web sites, which makes sense as they no longer need the Etsy platform to generate sales.

Etsy also has rules about manufacturing help and the handmade nature of items, so if you get big and want to start selling different things, it makes sense to move on.

That’s not the goal for me, although I might use a helper during the holidays sometimes. (MMM himself has been known to sit on the couch and cut out hundreds of cardboard squares for my packaging material)

My goal is to keep making and to keep learning… not to have a huge money-making operation. My word for 2017 is ‘balance’. :)

I should also add that on the lower end, it’s very easy to make nothing, or even lose money on an Etsy shop. There’s a lot of competition, so it is not easy to get established. Hard work and endless patience are essential to get through that painful first year.

MMM: Hmm, there were no numbers in your answer, but I guess we don’t really know how any of those huge Etsy sellers personally. But based on their photographs of daily production I’d estimate that the upper limit might be in the $200,000 range of annual profit for a single-person shop. $1000 per day in sales, minus about 33% in cost of materials and other overhead.

But as you say, shops can get much bigger than that – they just usually leave Etsy, hire some employees, and expand into a standalone operation.

So let’s talk about your situation instead – what’s the net hourly profit you would say you make at this stage, now that you are established?

Mrs. MM:  Hmmm… that’s tricky because I keep wanting to make new things, so I am spending more than I would be if I were purely profit-driven. My first shop is at a stage where my profits are very good compared to my revenue because I’ve lost a bit of interest in that shop and am not spending much on it. Hourly, I’m guessing around $30 per hour. However, as a result of me losing interest, it has slowed down quite a bit and it is actually “on vacation” on Etsy at the moment.

My second shop is still in the growing stages, so profits are not that great at the moment. I’m also finally at a place where my prices are set where I want them to be. My up front investment was quite big and soap takes 4-6 weeks to cure, so that shop is still up in the air, profit-wise. But, I’m guessing it will become more profitable on an hourly basis than my first shop once I ramp up my operations by making larger batches (less time spent and supplies cost less when bought in bulk).

So yeah, good question. I guess my answer is: “I’m not sure. I should probably calculate that.”

wet_soap

A freshly poured batch of soap. This hardens overnight, and you cut it into 16 bars. 4 weeks later, it is cured and ready to sell.

For example, to make a 5 pound batch of soap (a “loaf”) takes about $20 worth of materials if you are using high-end stuff like coconut and olive oils. This takes roughly 2 hours of labor by the time you make it, clean up, and later cut and package the soap. You end up with 16 bars, which sell on Etsy for $6 each. So, your profit is about $80, for roughly two hours of work. But that work is spread over a month, so you need make a bunch of batches to keep things in stock.

MMM: Where do you see this hobby taking you?

Mrs. MM:  Ultimately, I want to be able to use this hobby for community building. I imagine owning a store somewhere on Main Street that sells my products, but also empowers others to make. I see myself teaching others how to make their own things and how to start their own shops. I see myself making alongside others and having this ongoing conversation about our common problems and our successes. I imagine connecting with other makers in a community space. I see us all teaching kids that you can make instead of buy, create instead of consume. You can own your own business while also doing the things you enjoy.

MMM (update): During the casual yearlong process of working on this article, we ended up stumbling upon an interesting, underpriced old building on Main Street, and are now about to purchase it. It will make for some interesting stories (and parties too), so I’ll keep you posted on that.

Mrs. MM: The maker’s movement is huge and is having a big resurgence in our modern lives. I am the type of person that never considered myself “creative”. I still wouldn’t use that word to describe myself, but I am now a handmade maker. I make stuff with my hands and they are sometimes even useful things! You can do it too!

I would love to go back in time (or forward in time) and live in a world where everyone is a maker of things and we just make and trade with each other. The simplicity and the community of that framework really appeals to me and it gets at the root of what makes us human.

MMM: During these past two years, I have mentioned your growing Etsy hobby, but never told anyone how to find your shop. And even with this article, I still want to encourage readers not to go out and try to find her shop on Etsy. We both felt that doing so would be a form of “cheating”.  Can you explain this philosophy?

Mrs. MM: It was really important for me to create my own success, independently. Success isn’t as fulfilling if you cheat! I’m pretty sure that almost every single person who purchased from me didn’t know my secret identity and that feels good.

I’ve built all of this myself, from scratch. I’ve also learned that many people will pay big bucks to cheat the system (whether it is online selling, blogging, etc). I’ve found that the harder, longer road, is always better in the end.

MMM: That’s really cool. And it’s also more educational for you. As a relatively high achiever with skills in software and technology, and no financial pressure, it can be argued that you are already “cheating” compared to most Etsy sellers.

But if you do it right, financial independence is the good kind of cheating – you preserve the learning and effort, but cut off the stress and any temptation to create shortcuts.

And even without financial independence, entrepreneurship is a huge advantage to add to your collection of life experiences. I have a bunch more stories of entrepreneurial friends I’ve been wanting to share with you, so let’s do it in the months to come.

 

Somewhat Related Reading:

50 Jobs over $50,000 – Without a Degree
Interview with a CEO – Ridiculous Student Loans vs. the Future of Education

  • Joe (arebelspy) March 8, 2017, 2:14 am

    So awesome! Super inspirational

    I don’t see how anyone can think retirement is boring. ;)

    Reply
  • Roadrunner March 8, 2017, 3:13 am

    This is very inspirational; congrats on your new business/hobby/hobby that makes money! This is something that people can even start as a side hustle while working. The opportunities are endless, people just need to grab them!

    Reply
  • Kristin March 8, 2017, 5:43 am

    This article gave me a chuckle. I too started an Etsy shop about 6 months ago to see how quickly I could get it up and running to challenge myself and just to give myself something to do. I like to be productive. I sell supplies on Etsy and I think racked up a little over 3k sales, but I find I get way more enjoyment trying to help my own customers with their shops, photos and products than I do with my own shop. I think a lot of folks have the assumption that it’s daunting and unachievable, but I find it to be quite easy with the exception of the photography portion. Congrats, the photography is beautiful!

    Reply
  • Kate March 8, 2017, 5:47 am

    This is so exciting to hear! I would love to hear more going forward on the business breakdown of selling on Etsy. I find when you are a maker of things that you are passionate about, it isn’t about the income and it’s about using your mind and learning. Keep up the great work Mrs. MM!

    Reply
  • The Green Swan March 8, 2017, 6:07 am

    Sounds like you found your calling! Kudos to you. And how fabulous that early retirement led you there. I have a friend who is artsy and after college she began selling on etsy. And my mother-in-law should probably sell on etsy, she goes around to craft fairs all over (not as much lately though) to sell her things and they’re pretty awesome. It’s just a part-time gig for her though. But finding success like that and doing something you love can be very freeing! Thanks for sharing this hidden side of the MMM household!!

    Reply
  • Michelle March 8, 2017, 6:22 am

    Awesome! Makes me wonder what sort of creative shenanigans I could get into when I reach the point of taking the early retirement plunge, decompress for a while, and start getting bored again…

    Reply
  • Rob March 8, 2017, 7:11 am

    Congrats. My wife sells ceramics (pottery and jewellery) but struggles with Etsy sales. She earns approx. $10k annually from bricks and mortar galleries, but very little on Etsy. I’m sure we aren’t doing all the correct SEO stuff. She considered a Shopify storefront at one point.

    Ultimately I’m hoping that her “passive” income, coupled with the stock dividends will get us to our desired early retirement income goal. Definitely do-able.

    If anyone is in Portland between March 22-24, check out the NCECA conference. Wife will be there with a booth representing her company that produces clay and ceramic supplies.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 9:01 am

      Nice! There are so many ways to sell and Etsy might not work for everyone. It is a lot of non-making work, which isn’t necessarily appealing to makers (although I consider my storefront a form of “making”). Yes, SEO is a MUST. Nobody will find you without it. And, pictures. They can’t just be good, they have to be outstanding. If you have those two things, then you just need patience. You really have to keep checking your SEO all the time. Like, I look up certain keywords and see where I am on the page. If you don’t enjoy it, it will likely really affect your sales. Ceramics on Etsy is also really tricky. A lot of people buy already made items and add initials to it, so the competition can be steep if you’re actually making stuff from scratch.

      Reply
  • Stafford March 8, 2017, 7:15 am

    Congrats on your success Mrs. MMM! My wife, is very creative and often makes these mini/permanent chalk boards for our kids as they reach certain mile stones in their lives (first day of school, birthdays, etc).. I keep telling her to start a shop. Maybe this post will give her some motivation!. Here’s to continued success to you and your shop!

    Reply
  • Debra March 8, 2017, 7:15 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Mrs. MM! So much of this article sounds like me (being “not a fan of the public eye” and not feeling like you’re creative). I’ve spent my life kind of denying my creativity because I didn’t see how I could make a living off of it, and I never felt creative enough. Your story is so inspiring!

    I dabbled in selling handmade items online several years ago on a different platform, but I didn’t have a good connection with what I was creating at the time, so I quickly lost interest. Last year I was inspired to learn a new technique, and I opened my Etsy shop in April. I work full-time at a job I don’t enjoy to keep padding the ‘stache a bit more before jumping into the FI/RE world, so it has been a challenge to put the amount of time into my Etsy business as I’d like. That said, I feel like I’ve been pretty successful so far (just under $5k in sales my first year) considering the little time I’ve been able to spend doing the research into SEO and marketing, which is so very important. I’m also in a very saturated market, so I realize I have a lot of work to do to achieve more. But it’s so exhilarating to hear that “cha-ching” while I’m sitting at work!

    I’ve also started thinking about ways of diversifying what I sell on Etsy (because I love to learn how to make new things) and how I sell those items. The next step for my current shop is to research wholesale—do you have any experience with that? I’m also thinking more about selling at in-person events. Do you think they are usually worth the time? Because I still have a full-time regular job, I worry a bit about balance.

    The Main St. space sounds amazing! I only wish I lived nearby to check it out once it’s up and running!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 9:10 am

      $5k in your first year is amazing! Congrats! I do notice that the more time you put into it, the more you get out of it, so you might be on the brink of something really big if you put the time in.

      I have done quite a bit of wholesale, particularly in my first shop. I have an account on Etsy Wholesale which has helped with that. Wholesale is tricky, as folks often expect you to sell your items for 50% off. Depending on what you do, this might make sense for you if making a lot at once saves you a ton of time, but if each item is made individually and takes a lot of time, you’re probably better off selling retail. Of course, you don’t have to offer 50% off wholesale. I’ve sold some of my items wholesale for just a little less than what I sold them retail. You can also have a completely different wholesale product line. Think about the items that make sense to sell wholesale and then create a linesheet for those items (you can look up how to make one). You can create completely new products for your wholesale line – ones that are quicker to make and really appeal to people in person.

      I do think in-person events can be extremely profitable, depending on the event. You probably want to go walk though the even prior to committing to it to see how it feels. The booth fees can sometimes be quite steep, so it’s worth attending in advance to see if it is worthwhile (and see what the other booths look like). I find in person events to be a lot of fun, but the preparation is often very stressful. It’s a bit like working on a wholesale order, as you’re making a ton of stuff ahead of time. On top of that, you want a nice display that looks good. I’ve only done indoor events so far because I don’t want to bother with purchasing a tent, etc.

      Anyway, I would say, try one wholesale order and one event and see how it feels. Once you know, you might find you want to do more or that it’s not for you. Go slow and you’ll figure it out.

      Reply
      • Debra March 10, 2017, 9:11 am

        Thanks so much for your insightful reply! I’ve been toying with the idea of going part-time at my day job so I can invest more time in my Etsy shop and exploring the endless new ideas I have. I would love to spend all day making and learning!

        Learning and constantly adjusting SEO alone is almost a full-time effort! It seems like there is a lot of conflicting information out there about Etsy’s search, and of course it is a bit different from Google. How did you approach finding the most relevant and accurate information on SEO? I’m finding it a challenge to sift through what is truly effective and what isn’t (not to mention Google changed up Keyword Planner in a way that is truly confusing).

        Your wholesale feedback makes me think I might be able to try out wholesale with a local shop to test the waters. Buying “locally made” is pretty big these days, and some of my products that will resonate with local audiences can be produced in larger batches. Thanks for the considerations about pricing. I’d read a few different theories on wholesale pricing, so it’s good to know there is flexibility.

        I can definitely see how in-person events could be stressful! My area has many well-attended maker markets, so the entry fees vary but are generally pretty reasonable. I have to admit, I’m getting the bug to try it out soon!

        I really appreciate the time you and MMM take to respond to all the comments! I’ve enjoyed reading the blog so much over the past few years.

        Reply
  • Jon March 8, 2017, 8:04 am

    stumbled upin your blog 2 days ago and already halfway through all of your blogs, i just have a question that maybe anyone here could answer i dont live in the US nir Canada.. Im from one of the 3rd world countries in asia, would the suggestions and advice on this blog work for me? im planning on saving 75% of my salary but unfortunately our salary here is 50 times lower than the minimum.. and stocks seems to be out of reach for general masses in our area..thanks for anyone that would give their advice.

    Reply
  • High Income Parents March 8, 2017, 8:17 am

    Thank you for the article. My son just came up with what I think is a really good hand made item idea and I hadn’t thought of Etsy. We are in the process of designing a website, marketingand looking into a kickstarter campaign. I wonder if we should test the waters on Etsy first. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 10:02 am

      It’s definitely worthwhile! If his items are made to order, you just need to make sure customers are aware of the turnaround time. You can always start on Etsy and simultaneously do the other stuff. The advantage of Etsy is that there’s already a customer base. The disadvantage is that there’s a big learning curve at first to get found.

      Reply
  • Caitlin March 8, 2017, 8:26 am

    Thank you very much for this article! I have been reading MMM for a couple of years now, but have only just felt comfortable enough to be able to start my FI journey (literally the last pay cheque I got – after a deep breath I opened an investment account and invested 60% of it). I’m so excited to work towards FI, and it was great reading about options after I have reached it. Much appreciated!

    Reply
  • Brian March 8, 2017, 8:51 am

    And the Internet Retirement Police have a whole new case file to prosecute you with…

    I really liked the detailed breakdown, and the confirmation that there are still challenges, fulfillment and, gasp, work on the other side of retirement.

    Reply
  • Barbara March 8, 2017, 8:52 am

    Oh wow! Love this post! Seems like you’ve done really well on Etsy – good on you.

    As a creative type, I’ve read a lot about Etsy – some good, some bad. Seems many people don’t realise you need good business sense, good presentation and good customer service as well as a good product. Also that it’s subject to the same rules of risk, reward and marketplace as any other product.

    What I am most excited about, however, is the Main Street shop! Please please PLEASE give us updates! I assume Mr MMM will help in fitting it out, but also in creating a space suitable for a Happy City.

    Reply
  • The Wealthy Accountant March 8, 2017, 9:27 am

    Awesome post! Heather (my daughter) has to read this. She wanted to pick your mind some time back but never followed through. The interview process is the perfect way to teach the process.Really enjoyed.

    Note to readers: Be sure to share this post with all your friends interested in Etsy and similar e-commerce.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 10:03 am

      She did pick my mind! I can’t remember exactly, but it’s possible I didn’t follow through…

      Reply
  • Colin March 8, 2017, 9:57 am

    I think Mrs. MM needs the same special highlighting in the comments section that the Mister enjoys, no?

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 10:04 am

      Yeah! I should be pink. ;) Just kidding.

      Reply
  • Jesse March 8, 2017, 12:01 pm

    I must admit, I found her shop against your wishes but have no intentions of buying anything. I promise!! Oatmeal stout, and coffee and cream soap is pretty freaking cool though. I might just have to try to make some myself…

    Reply
  • Marcia March 8, 2017, 12:19 pm

    I really enjoyed this blog post, and admit I was tempted to look for her Etsy shop! I have one really nice bracelet bought from a friend on Etsy.

    I also would classify myself as a “maker” and less of a “creative”. (Maybe it’s the engineer in me?) However, I find that the more I do it, the more “creative” I get. Or…I guess experience helps me figure out what is going to work, or not, when it comes to patterns/ colors/ shapes.

    Back before I had kids, I had several people buy things from me that I made – mostly baby blankets. I also had a few people pay me to hem their pants.

    For me, I find working with my hands and with fabric and yarn and color and beads to be therapeutic. Ever since I made it a goal to do some of it every day, it has really helped with my stress levels and sleep habits. Though friends have suggested I sell on Etsy, I cannot imagine setting up a shop to sell the 3 items (quilts and afghans) I finish in a year that I *don’t* just give away to friends and family members. I have several local friends who make jewelry and jams and sell them, and I love supporting their efforts (except I don’t really wear jewelry).

    I can imagine that soap would be nice and lucrative, and I do like nice natural soaps. I also enjoyed reading about the business and research part. I also enjoy research, so I can see the appeal there!

    Reply
  • Sean Merron March 8, 2017, 12:28 pm

    This is something that hits home with my family now that we’re on auto-pilot to retire early. We look forward to being creators and making whatever we need or something someone else needs with the time to do it.

    I already have some non-profit community ideas in mind and doing everything I can to speed up retirement so we can get started.

    Reply
  • Aspiring Maker March 8, 2017, 12:37 pm

    THIS is the inspiration I needed to take the plunge! I’ve been making cold process soap at home for a couple years now for home use and for gifts around the holidays (along with soy candles and some woodworking projects with my fiancé). We’ve been toying around for ages with the idea and how to properly market our products in a saturated market like soap. The intimidating bit for me is the time commitment to making such beautiful bars (like your swirls and multi colored bars!) — how long did it take for you to perfect the technique? I haven’t yet taken the time to learn, but feel it would be imperative to compete in the market. As you mention, the packaging and photography makes a difference in enticing clicks. At present, I’ve been using quite expensive ingredients since they are mostly gifts, such as coconut oil, olive oils, castor oil, and essential oils for fragrance. Do you have a sense of whether vegetarian/vegan soaps sell more than non-veg that might include lard or tallow? Any ingredients you found to be particularly useful in maintaining the composition and quality of the soap (lathers enough, etc.) while cutting down on cost? I saw your note above in a reply about the soap queen on youtube. I will definitely check that out. If you have any other resources that you found extremely helpful, I would love to hear about them. Last question… what’s your favorite soap instagram account you follow? :) Thanks for sharing your experience and big thanks in advance for answering my questions!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:03 pm

      Hi Aspiring Maker! Nice to hear from you. I love talking with other soapmakers! Sounds like you’d do great on Etsy with your variety of skills.

      As far as your questions go… I really don’t think you need to make beautiful swirls to sell soap! Rocky Top Soap Shop is one place on Etsy that makes really simple rustic bars, all unscented and vegan, and based on his sales numbers, he seems to be doing pretty darn well! He has great simple packaging and really has a cohesive theme in his shop. You know what you’re getting when you buy from there, which I like. In fact, there is a huge advantage to selling soap that always looks the same… you never have to update your listings! So, one color soaps are great and a direction I’m thinking of going, with the exception of limited one time soaps that are all pretty and swirly and nice smelling.

      Right now, I use a lot of expensive ingredients. All my soap uses predominantly pure olive oil and coconut oil as the base. Sometimes I use organic sustainable palm oil. I also use castor and most of my soaps have organic shea butter and/or cocoa butter. So, yeah, it can get pricey! But, I buy my supplies in bulk, which helps a lot. I use both essential oils and fragrance oils at the moment.

      I think plenty of people use tallow for their soap instead of palm. Many are going palm free and vegan too. I find most buyers don’t notice that stuff too much, except the rare few. Some may be scared off by the word “tallow”, but you can explain in your listings why you use it. I’ve seen many soapmakers that own goats and use the goat milk to make their soaps, which is so amazing to me! You can differentiate yourself somehow I’m sure.

      The biggest cost cutter for me was just buying larger amounts of oils/butters and finding places where the prices were better, while still being a quality product.

      Finally, I have a lot of instagram soapmaker crushes! They include: mimi_and_boo, treefortnaturals, handmadeinflorida, roughcutsoapco, auntieclaras, latherandcompany, saltedrockbathco, and a lot more. They are a lot of really inspirational soapmakers out there! One of the reasons I love instagram is because I can oooo and ahhh over all the soap! One of my favorite hashtags is #wetsoapwednesday. :-)

      Reply
  • Mrs. Picky Pincher March 8, 2017, 12:59 pm

    You can really make good money on Etsy. My sister is really accomplished at crocheting and she sells her stuff on Etsy for big bucks. She lives pretty off-the-grid and uses the funds to buy supplies for her farm–plus she just genuinely has fun crocheting. :) She also makes soap, but she’s not a fan of the regulations around making/selling soap for profit.
    Good on you for earning some pretty badass moolah, Mrs. Money Mustache! Sorry about all of those haters; just keep doing what you love to do and the noise will fade away.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:05 pm

      Thank you! I’m in awe of those crochet shops… I used to follow a lot of crocheters on Instagram and sometimes they would post videos of themselves crocheting… the speed was mesmerizing! I love to crochet, but it takes me forever to make something, so it’s not cost effective for me. That’s awesome that your sister can use her crochet hobby to fund her off-the-grid lifestyle!

      Reply
  • Bev March 8, 2017, 12:59 pm

    Congratulations on your success! I have been a maker/crafter for many years and am now retired to run our own family craft business! Although I have been on Etsy since 2008 and learned a lot about business from the site, my sales have not increased there. I have also started a small shop on HandmadeArtists.com (which has a flat rate and no final value fee) I have found that our best sales are in person at craft shows. My husband is an artist, our son a needle-felter and copper worker, and I spin, dye, knit, and make soy candles among other things! The craft life is un-ending learning and I found your post very interesting. Good luck on your building purchase. I’ve always thought that a community studio would be great if we had the funds, but enjoy working on our own schedule.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:08 pm

      You sound like such a fun family! I love that you passed this down to your son. I have seen people do incredibly well with local markets. They obviously know what they are doing and set up and take down in seconds (compared to my incredibly slow speed). I’ll have to check out HandmadeArtists.com. I haven’t heard of it before. Thanks!

      Reply
  • Lisa March 8, 2017, 1:20 pm

    Mrs. MMM, I just love this! Living in nearby Fort Collins, I am super excited about your shop opening. I love the idea above of offering classes, because I have heavily explored the world of homemade yogurt, breads, candies etc., and I have been thinking lately of learning how to make my own bath and body products. I am super picky about wanting things that are both natural and effective, and I am always wanting to make my own everything. Sounds like your shop could be the place for me to learn some new skills!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:11 pm

      Hi Lisa – making your own stuff really is addictive! I’m especially interested in learning to make my own cheese… We will definitely be hosting classes at some point, but it will take a while for us to get settled in!

      Reply
  • Chris March 8, 2017, 1:35 pm

    I’m curious if there is an internal conflict in earning profits from the consumerism this blog rails against? Are you not promoting repeat consumption of a trivial luxury item ? I get that we all need to make a living, and for those who are not FI just about anything goes. But as a family of similar financial status to MMM I would struggle taking money from people buying jewelry and fine soaps, who most likely are not in a position to be spending.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 3:31 pm

      That’s definitely a good point Chris, and I would say you are right: selling luxury goods on Etsy to a likely-indebted customer base has some logical contradictions in it. We talk about this occasionally, in our philosophical fireside chats, sipping wine by the fireside in our fancy house in the prime neighborhood of this now-exorbitantly-expensive town. The answers:

      – You don’t have to be perfect. The goal of this blog is “Slightly less ridiculous than average”, for a start.
      – At least Mrs. MM works to make her stuff as eco-friendly as possible (buying recycled packaging from Eco-Enclose, careful material sourcing, 100% wind powered electricity and bike delivery to the post office, etc.)
      – Any profits from the shop tend to go to improving the world (charity, further energy efficiency improvements, profits not spent on SUVs and gas)

      Not perfect, but good enough for a start. That’s all we are asking from everyone.

      Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:17 pm

      Right. Very good point and I’m glad you brought it up! Along with what MMM said, I also feel like it’s important to support small businesses and makers. Ideally, we’ll all be trading items like we did in the past, but for now, I like the idea of supporting other makers. I do think that the folks on Etsy are generally people that care about products being natural, enjoy supporting small businesses, and find that being environmentally friendly is important. That’s my kind of crowd. While my jewelry shop felt a lot more “unmustachian”, this one doesn’t so much. Mostly because I’m making products that I was previously buying from other Etsy sellers. Not to mention, they are consumable products that almost everyone uses anyway.

      I think this is one of the reasons I’ve stayed away from selling on other platforms, like Amazon. Etsy feels like a community of like minded folks and in a way, it feels like trading, as many buyers are also sellers. There is a great community there and it doesn’t feel like promoting trivial consumption to me at all.

      Reply
  • Brenda Linley March 8, 2017, 1:39 pm

    I did it!!! I caught up to the present! Love this blog, love this community. We have debt but thanks to this site I have been insourcing and we have a plant to be debt-free in a year and a half!!! Woot Woot! Go on Mrs Money Mustache with your bad self Etsy shop.

    Reply
  • Amy Rhoad March 8, 2017, 1:43 pm

    This article was incredibly inspirational to me. Thank you for sharing. After over 20 years in the “traditional-style” work force I am a new stay at home mom. Motherhood has been an amazing journey so far and I recognize my blessings everyday. I am also, at times, struggling to figure out what my future employment will look like. I need flexibility in my schedule – something that is not easy to find in traditional career paths. I have a degree in Math and I don’t consider myself creative. Yet, I have always loved working with my hands. I’m not yet sure what avenue I might take but I think with a bit of self exploration I’ll find my creative outlet… and who know where this will lead. Thanks again for all of this great info and inspiration Mrs. MM!

    Reply
  • Hands2work March 8, 2017, 1:48 pm

    I love this post. I have crocheted baby afghans for more than 20 years. For most of that time I refused to sell them and only gave them as gifts. Many, many people wanted me to sell them, but I didn’t want my favorite hobby to be a “job” so I refused. Then I had a boss who refused to take no for an answer and not only paid me to make an afghan for him to give as a gift, but paid me more than I asked for because he said I wasn’t charging enough. Pretty soon I was getting more and more orders. I created an Etsy store and also advertised my work on Facebook. Three years ago I was able to retire (at age 48) partly in thanks to this very website. I kept crocheting and even expanded my repertoire to shawls and lapghans and scarves. The funny thing was I NEVER sold one thing on Etsy. My business is strictly word of mouth and Facebook. Almost everytime I post a picture of a finished commission I get an order for another commission. It’s kind of freaky. I donate all my excess pieces to charity (silent auctions and the like) and that feels good. I look to the actual crocheting as therapy with a gift at the end. I would be crocheting whether I was making money or not. I now put all the money I make into our travel fund or to charity. I love being a maker!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:21 pm

      I love this story! That’s how a lot of makers get into selling. Just sheer demand! And yes, I can see how crocheting would be very therapeutic (it is for me too, especially when done sitting by the fire). I’m glad you started selling and that your boss helped you see the value of your hard work!

      Reply
  • Josh March 8, 2017, 1:57 pm

    Sooner than later on the entrepreneur stories is my vote! LOVED this one!! Appreciate you!

    Reply
  • Diane March 8, 2017, 2:30 pm

    Hi Mrs. MM! Just wondering if you can recommend a blog or website that talks about he gory details of opening an Etsy shop. Something for beginners, please. I make handmade modern style baby quilts and can’t seem to stop, so need to find them new homes!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:23 pm

      Hi Diane. That is a great question! But, unfortunately, I don’t have a very good answer. I think the best way to go about it is to just start your shop and then start reading the Etsy forums. There is a TON of excellent information in there. Ask questions too. That’s what I did and the forums are what helped me figure everything out. The same topics tend to get repeated over time, as new makers are always joining. It can get pretty pessimistic in there, so just watch out for that. Don’t fall for it and stay positive and keep learning!

      Reply
  • Derek March 8, 2017, 2:48 pm

    It is amazing how much one can make, setting their own hours, from home. Thanks for sharing this secret with us!

    I can attest to the fact that there are many people making a living off Etsy. Others I know have shut down their Etsy stores due to too many sales (took over their life).

    Mrs. MM, I am curious – how do you fulfill your orders (pack, ship, etc)? Do you find that a time consuming process? What things could be done to make it more pleasurable?

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:26 pm

      Hi Derek. Yes, the packaging and shipping takes a long time. With soap it is a lot easier because it has to be made before someone can buy. My previous shop was made-to-order and that got pretty stressful sometimes. I do all my shipping online through Etsy (shipping labels), so that makes things much easier. My postal carrier is great about just taking all my packages. So, at least I never have to leave the house! The main work is to label everything, grab the items for the order, wrap up the soaps and other items, and then wrap everything together into a package. I’m used to it, so it doesn’t feel too bad. I do a bunch at once and play music and it is quite enjoyable to make each order like a nice little gift for someone.

      Reply
  • Janie March 8, 2017, 2:59 pm

    Well done secret soaper Mrs MM, inspiring read.

    Im always crafting but mostly for my own pleasure. When the kiddies were little I did the rounds of craft fares, sewing during the week, selling at the weekend and have done other projects off and on over the years..
    But, when some items began to take off I would often hit a burnout (especially around Christmas) and found there was a fine line when making for fun became just like a real job again …go play kids! …mom’s got to fill those orders!

    At 60+ bars a day, do you ever get that you wish you never saw another bar of soap for a month.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:28 pm

      Nope! I love making soap! And, I don’t make that much soap yet… I’m excited to make more and more and more. I’m sure at some point I might get tired of it, but not yet.

      And yes, Christmas can get tiring… I wish people would space out their purchases throughout the year! :-)

      Reply
  • Laurie March 8, 2017, 3:02 pm

    My sister and brother-in-law have built an Etsy shop reaching the limits in sales you’ve mentioned. I never would have thought it possible!! But they found a niche, have really good marketing and photography skills, and have also branched out into Handmade at Amazon. They learned everything they know mainly from YouTube, Googling, and research, just like Mrs. MMM (oh, and they’re both graphic designers). Best of luck to you, Mrs. MMM! Love to see you on the blog!

    Reply
  • Shannon D March 8, 2017, 3:43 pm

    I sort of get the idea of not wanting to promote Mrs. MM, but at the same time, I’m someone who likes to support small businesses that have ethics and ideals I believe in and want to support. I am not really one who would generally consider buying luxury soaps for myself, but to support a business that I wholeheartedly believe in with regards to attitudes about the environment, consumerism, etc… I would certainly go out of my way to support that shop when I’m looking for gifts, or maybe even to treat myself. I did find the shop and I won’t feel guilty about purchasing from it. In fact, I’m excited to do so.

    Reply
  • Drew March 8, 2017, 4:04 pm

    I’ve been a long time devotee of this blog, and I generally love everything that’s written on here. However, I’m finding myself conflicted about the possible ethical implications of this business venture when taken as a part of the overall “Mustachian” philosophy. Most specifically, I buy bar soap at a normal cost of around 4 bars for $3. This works perfectly fine for almost everyone. However, Mrs. Money Mustache sells bar soap for $6 per bar, which to me is the definition of a “luxury” good. You might be able to argue to that this luxury item is “natural” and, thus, “better,” but you could make this exact same claim about functional superiority with any other luxury item from expensive clothes to fancy cars, could you not? I’d actually argue, first of all, that the claim to superiority of something being “natural” is just an example of the naturalistic fallacy at work (i.e. that natural is necessarily better when there is no basis for this claim). Even so, one main argument of this website is that the marginal benefit of luxury goods will never equal the opportunity cost of giving up your financial freedom to purchase them. To me, this is analogous to saying “I sell cocaine, but I don’t use it myself.” Is it ethical to enable the “Sukka Consumer” to waste money on luxury goods even though the Mustachian philosophy says they would be better off saving that money for financial freedom? This is, after all, their free-market prerogative. I don’t personally have a good answer for this myself, and I was more bringing up the question to see Mrs. and Mr. Money Mustache’s thoughts on the subject. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:19 pm

      Good question and thanks for it Drew – answered a similar one elsewhere in this stream.

      Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:36 pm

      Yes, good point Drew. My path to handmade “luxury” soap was a natural one and I truly believe that it has made a huge difference for me (vs. using the “normal” bars that many soapers call detergent bars). I also strongly feel that supporting small businesses and makers is much better than just buying soap at the grocery store. I’m not saying that you should always do this and I do get where you’re coming from, especially when you are saving, but just like I buy grass-fed beef and pay more for organic apples for my son, the same is true for soap.

      The point being, you should spend based on your values. Mine line up well with handmade soap (although I did start making my own instead of buying from others). In my case, I was buying soap anyway. I’ll be making lip balm and deoderant too, as I use those products as well, but want them to be more natural. BUT, there’s plenty I don’t buy (jewelry being one of those things, hence the conflict with my first shop).

      Not really a great answer, but I think it’s up to each person. Obviously if you’re in debt, then it’s a huge flaming emergency and you’re going to be on rice + potatoes + detergent soap, but I think many folks that read this blog are well beyond that.

      Reply
    • Mack March 8, 2017, 6:05 pm

      I hope I’m not butting in too much here, but Drew, I think the connotation of the word “luxury” may have a louder voice in this case than it should. For things I buy that aren’t necessarily “needs”, I look for what I call “affordable luxuries”.

      For example, I do not drink high end wine – the price difference between “ok wine” and “great wine” is enormous. But the price difference between “awful beer” and “world-class beer” is actually pretty small, so I choose Beer as an “affordable luxury”. The same logic can be applied to soap. The control, is limiting the number of things you apply this philosophy to, applying it to nothing if you have consumer debt.

      I think it’s important to remember that no one expects perfection in terms of spending, Mustachians included. MMM’s voice may boom down from the mountain and rage against wasteful habits, but in real life, we’re all human and carving out the best lives we can. This is of course just my opinion, but choosing those small, affordable luxuries in life does not a Sukka Consumer make.

      Reply
      • Joanna March 9, 2017, 12:55 pm

        Totally agree, Mack. Not to pile on, but the message I get from reading this blog is not “buy nothing” and certainly not “buy everything as cheaply as possible.” It’s “spend money in a way that’s aligned with what you really value.” There are people out there who would get way more than $6 of value from a bar of Mrs. MM’s soap–they might love the look, feel and smell of the product so much that they’d find it cheap at half the price. Those people should absolutely be buying this soap for the real value it adds to their lives, just as they should be decreasing their spending in areas that don’t add as much value for them, like perhaps the newness of their cars or the lightning speeds of their cell data. I am a Mustachian through and through, but I spend double digits each week on the best and fanciest butter money can buy because there are few greater joys for me than making croissants with insanely good butter.

        Way to go on the Etsy venture, Mrs. MM! This kind of advanced playing around and lifelong learning is exactly why I’m on the road to FI.

        Reply
        • Joanna March 9, 2017, 12:56 pm

          And by half, I clearly meant double :)

          Reply
  • Paula March 8, 2017, 4:24 pm

    Please write of an instance where you did not come out smelling like a rose. It seems like everything works out for the good for you.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:18 pm

      Sure, here’s a smelly one for you – http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/02/01/mr-money-mustaches-big-mistake/

      Also, all three of us have some pretty bad arguments in our house that you wouldn’t want to see. And I’m about to drink beer tonight, even though I probably shouldn’t. We’re not perfect people at all – just optimistic ones.

      Reply
      • Mrs. Money Mustache March 8, 2017, 5:42 pm

        Hahaha! And our son plays too many video games. :-) I also flunked my first year of University. My best friend died. There’s plenty of stuff, but let’s not get too dark. We’re all fiery optimists in this house, so things are never perfect. But, when writing for others, it’s good to keep things upbeat. We have enough depressing, negative news around us every day. We have plenty of people in our lives that tell us we can’t do it. I think it’s really important to remind others that you can do it, despite everything and everyone.

        Reply
  • Cathy March 8, 2017, 5:58 pm

    Well done you! I too am a person who loves creating items – mostly yarns and felted items, but I weave and do a little of a lot of things. There is a such gratification in doing it oneself – and I am heartened to hear that your Etsy shop is doing well. Furthermore, I appreciate your philosophy on not using this blog for marketing your shop – I’ve always appreciated that modesty, even when my hubby told me you were an Etsy seller…I was very curious and wanted to know your shop! However, it’s really great to know that you have done this without the powerhouse MMM blog to boost your sales. That makes people like me really hopeful.

    Reply
  • Brenna March 8, 2017, 7:01 pm

    I started an etsy shop a little while ago focused on selling some costumes I’ve sewn over the years and I can definitely relate to your fears of negative reviews. So far people have been very happy and I’d hate to disappoint someone. I love sewing so much!! I’d loooove to start a shop where I sew some kind of product and I have a few ideas floating around in my head but I’m struggling so much to find the time. My schedule is totally packed these days so something else would have to give and so far nothing has helpfully volunteered itself. The post “It’s Not a Contest” from 2014 has been bouncing around in my head lately, plus the “Nagging Voices of Success” one. I’m a new reader and I’m working my way through your blog (Feb 2016 so far) and it’s so great, changing my way of thinking for sure.

    Congrats on your etsy success Mrs. MMM! I hope to follow your example after I retire!

    (It’s always funny seeing references to Ottawa, my hometown)

    Reply
  • coyotewoman March 8, 2017, 7:25 pm

    Was wondering about liability. Since this is skin care product, did you get insurance so if someone gets a skin problem from using it, you aren’t having to pay out huge legal settlements? I had a friend who looked into doing something similar, she couldn’t get the numbers to work with insurance factored in and she didn’t want to lose her home and savings if anything came up like that.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:10 am

      You can get relatively inexpensive insurance for handmade businesses. The soapmaker’s guild includes insurance in their membership fees, which is nice.

      Reply
  • Andrea March 8, 2017, 8:22 pm

    Well done, Mrs. MM! I opened my Etsy shop in 2009 while working in corporate America, hustled like crazy, and it became my full time gig in 2015. If you study the market, sell quality materials, and treat your customers well, anything is possible, including it being more than a side hustle. I have one employee, getting ready to hire a second, and love my work. Even though I can’t fully retire yet, I am really enjoying creating while I get there.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:16 am

      Hi Andrea – thank you! Sounds like you’ve found great success – congrats! I might need to pick your brain… how do you find having an employee? It’s something I’ve sort of always dismissed, but I can see bringing on a student or someone that really needs the work to help with packing and whatnot. I am the type of person that likes things “just so”, so it is hard for me to imagine giving up part of the process to someone else. I imagine more having a partner that is a soapmaker and we do stuff together. I’m also thinking that my friend’s daughter, who is super interested in what I’m doing, could come help out in 3-5 years when she is a bit older. How is it going for you? What does your employee do?

      Reply
  • Chris B March 8, 2017, 9:37 pm

    I’m realizing more and more that some people have a much more entrepreneurial mindset than me. I’ve always thought of people with eBay, Amazon, or Etsy stores as hobbyists or desperate at best. Yet, this example shows something like that could lead to a decent hourly wage for a side gig. I guess I’m not optimistic enough about the business opportunities around me. Another example, I looked at real estate and found that unless I make generous assumptions about vacancy and repairs, it doesn’t yield more than 5% ON THE DOWN PAYMENT in my LCOL area.

    I know it pays to be selective about which opportunities to invest in. I know the key to success is to fail 1,000 times. But yet I haven’t found anything worth my scarce time. Am I being too pessimistic? MMM and MrsMMM seem able to pull five-figure side gigs out of thin air.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:19 am

      I think you just have to start small and then sometimes things grow and sometimes they don’t. Maybe you’re thinking too big right off the bat? Think about what you’re interested in and go from there. As far as real estate goes, it pays to research. We are set up with automated listing updates and sales and after years and years of looking at them, you know a good deal when you see it.

      Reply
  • Brenda March 9, 2017, 1:18 am

    Reading this is like seeing all the personal development books and blogs put into action, and makes so much sense. None of them have ever put it any better I don’t think, however much they say (and some say the same thing in a LOT of words). Here’s my take on your great story.

    First you have to start, then you have to keep going. Along the way you have to tweak, adapt and learn from successes and failures. It will take time to get where you want to be, and there will be unexpected lessons to learn. Sometimes you might have to start again, but you do that and keep going. And eventually you’ll get where you want to be, or somewhere even better. Your idea doesn’t have to be new, or better – you just have to keep at it and because most people don’t have that tenacity, you’ll end up in front. Most important, you do it because you love to.

    Is that about right?

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:21 am

      Yes! Well said. I think on top of all that, you have to believe in what you’re doing. You have to be in it for others, not just yourself. The money has to be secondary to the fun you’re having learning and helping others.

      Reply
  • Elizabeth March 9, 2017, 4:56 am

    Hi Mrs MMM – just wanted to pop in to say “Awesome!”. I am so happy for you to find your own success away from the MMM umbrella (I don’the want that to sound catty but I mean, from reading this article, you probably wanted to see if YOU could find our own niche) – the hard way is so rewarding. I have little ones still but in a couple years, when both in school, I keep thinking I will do something that I am passionate about. Hubby will be FI in under 20 months. I loved this article!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:23 am

      Thank you! I think that BECAUSE of MMM, it was very important for me to find my own thing. It was a good lesson for me to learn and it took a while to get here, but I might just be onto something now… we will see. It still seems small and insignificant, but I think it will eventually morph into the right thing that is all mine. :-)

      Reply
  • Summer March 9, 2017, 6:16 am

    Owning a store front is a full time job and is very stressful (all finances aside). Finding reliable employees to run your store is also very difficult. You can’t just close shop easily like an Etsy store when too many orders come in or you’re on vacation. Could you just sell your items to stores like Whold Foods or local boutiques or sell at Farmer’s Markets? I get the dream.. but after opening my own business location, I can’t wait to someday have my freedom back!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:28 am

      True. But, you don’t have to follow the usual retail rules. It’s fun to shake things up. In our little downtown, most places are closed on Monday. You can set your own hours. This is also why being FI is important.

      Our retail storefront is still just a pipe dream, but I definitely don’t want to be standing there day in and day out waiting for people to come in. The space will also be a creative space and a community space. In theory, I will want to be there and will be creating there. It will be a workspace. Also, there’s a chance we will be only open one week per month for retail. Why not!?

      I’ve done some wholesale and it’s not very fulfilling to me. I’ve decided to focus on local wholesale only (where I can meet people face to face) and will definitely sell at small markets too.

      I hope you get your freedom back soon! There may be something to be said for scaling back… customers will eventually learn when you are open and maybe it even creates a bit of scarcity for your products, which might be a good thing.

      Reply
  • Chris March 9, 2017, 7:01 am

    Thanks a lot for the post MMM. I’ve been wanting to start an etsy and/or t-shirt business with my wife for a long time.

    What’s really inspiring is your wife’s desire to create a community out of her efforts. I see this as being a perfect way to provide jobs for special needs adults. As parents of a special needs child, my wife and I are always thinking about what kind of business we could start that could provide employment for our daughter and others. This definitely fits the bill.

    I also have a question – A friend recently talked about how she stopped selling soap online because all the health regulations made it difficult to make a profit. Any comment on that?

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:32 am

      Love that idea! I saw a video a couple years ago about a father who started a car cleaning business so that his autistic son could have a job. His son absolutely loved it and also did a fantastic job with the cars. Eventually it became so popular, due to the quality of service, that it got bigger and bigger and is a big provider of jobs for autistic adults in the area. Such an interesting story. I love that it played to the strengths of his son, which was a win-win for everyone.

      As far as health regulations… in the US, you cannot make any claims about your products (like, cures acne! – which, many people ignore and keep doing) and must list all ingredients from most to least, but I don’t believe there are any other regulations. I know in other countries, like England, you need to get a license and your soap “recipe” needs to be reviewed and approved, but as long as you go through the process, you can proceed.

      Reply
      • Chris March 13, 2017, 10:46 am

        Thanks!! I’ll be googling that video when I get home. I have an autistic child who loves vacuums!! The car cleaning business is a pretty damn good idea!!!

        Reply
  • Betsy March 9, 2017, 7:56 am

    Wow! What a cool post. I love getting to hear about what you both get up to with your ‘free’ time. The “there’s life after work” theme is one of the parts of your message I like the best, so hearing what kind of cool projects you do is really fun. Mrs. MM, you must be so proud — and you too Mr. MM. I hope you will update us down on the road on the shop(s) progress and also the brick-and-mortar operation. Kudos!!

    Reply
  • Jennifer March 9, 2017, 8:05 am

    I love etsy and homemade soaps are one of the few things I treat myself with. We have made our own chapstick, candles and lotion bars. Soap just seems really complicated to me.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:35 am

      You can always start with melt and pour soap, which is just as easy as chap stick. Making cold process soap is a process that requires more of a learning curve, plus you have to be careful with lye and have the proper equipment, but once you get going, it’s not that hard. Especially if you’re keeping things fairly simple.

      Reply
  • Nichole March 9, 2017, 8:36 am

    Wow, congratulations!!!! This is so inspiring. I love it when people follow their intention. It takes courage to start something new. ❤️ I’m in Longmont too, and am beginning a creative journey of my own. I’m so excited to see what you do with the building you’ve decided to purchase in downtown!! Let me know if I can help, I’m pretty handy with a paintbrush.
    Warm wishes,
    Nichole

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:36 am

      Thanks Nichole! Hopefully you’ll come out to our business warming party. :-)

      Reply
  • Andrea March 9, 2017, 9:05 am

    Forget about the Internet Retirement Police and their judgement. I think this article is a confirmation of a reality that is neither awesome nor horrible: that people LIKE Mr and Mrs MM are almost constitutionally incapable of not being successful. Retire young? Gotta do something else on the side or go crazy. Empty backyard? Gotta build something. Something not ideal? Tinker, tinker, tinker.

    To have a Mustachian kind of success from an average person who, when confronted with ample free time, would watch a lot more tv and maybe go bowling a bunch, is a little tricky. It takes a bit of discipline (which gets easier as time goes on) and some focused goals.

    This is my way of saying: MMM and MMM are bred/raised/inclined toward exactly what they are doing now, and that’s awesome. We can emulate and be inspired to action and many of us will make excellent changes in our lives. But the natural-tinkerers or entrepreneurs will have it much easier, IMO.

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:42 am

      Hmmm… I see what you are saying and partially agree. What you’re saying sounds like MMM, but not necessarily like me. I needed a spark to get me going (and external motivation, like customers, helps a lot) and I think that anyone can get that spark by learning to know themselves. It’s true that if you get discouraged too easily or don’t have the confidence (or something more serious like depression or anxiety), it will definitely get to you and you might quit faster than another person, but I do think it is do-able for a lot of people. I might go so far as to blame our society for the general lack of interest in things other than television… and, one of the HUGE benefits of early FI is that you can figure out who you are and what you’re interested in doing. This is an article in itself, but the repetitive pattern of the everyday lives we lead, is likely contributing to the problem.

      Reply
  • SusieQ March 9, 2017, 9:55 am

    Love this! Some folks just need to “tap into” their God-given talents! I was selling on Ebay for 10 years, bringing in $10K year just working whenever I felt like it. BUT…..it took time to learn what sells, take good pictures, find quality items. So yeah, it’s work, but very fun & fulfilling! I’d definitely stop by Mrs. MMM shop next time we are in Longmont if she had one! :-)

    Reply
  • Jamie V March 9, 2017, 12:11 pm

    Mrs MM, I’m so glad that I read this article, and I’m so happy for your success! My boyfriend and I have been trying to come up with ideas for our own business, but we just aren’t very creative in that department, and we don’t know any entrepreneurs to ask to be our mentors (fear and $$ at the starting point are probably our biggest hurdles, besides having a business idea). :) I wish I could offer to help out at the holiday time when you may need extra help – I think it would be a healthy perspective of what hard work and success mean in such a small scale business, and I’d love to help someone with their business, if it was of interest to me. And I’d love to be positively affected by some of your enthusiasm and motivation! I find lots of people are just..not that way; it’s rather draining to be around.

    I’m learning to sew with a sewing machine, and I wonder how I could ever turn this into a profitable venture, to sell on Etsy, at a craft fair or farmers market, without losing my shirt.. I figure having my own quaint little storefront is a pipe dream, but it’s a beautiful dream. :)

    Again, I am so glad to hear about your successes, and I can’t wait to hear how the little shop does! Best of luck to you!

    Reply
    • Mrs. Money Mustache March 10, 2017, 8:49 am

      Helping someone out during the holidays is an excellent idea!! I highly recommend it as it will really give you perspective. I also suggest trying a lot of stuff out in a very small way, like you’re doing with sewing.

      As I mentioned earlier, I think people are maybe thinking too big. They’re thinking of the success and the big business before putting their toe in the water. You can start very small and see how things go. You don’t need a big investment to start, necessarily. Both this blog and my Etsy shops were tiny little steps that became big over a long period of time. Gradual work, with feedback from others, so you can let things move at a natural pace.

      Also, I feel like “coming up with a business idea” is something people talk about a lot, but it’s not a very realistic starting point. The idea should come to you naturally through your interests or when you see a need that is not being fulfilled.

      I’m interested to see where sewing leads you! It may not lead anywhere, but it will be a great new skill that might help you out in the future. Everything seems to end up connecting in the end. Good luck!

      Reply

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