Design, Marketing, Stock, and Sales Advice from Michelle Acevedo

Michelle Acevedo owns and runs Imagination Couture on Etsy, a shop that provides props, costume pieces, and accessories for newborn and infant photo shoots. Her clients range from photography studios to new parents and discover Imagination Couture mostly through Michelle's very active Facebook page.

Below, Michelle shares her creative process, how she promotes her shop and finds new customers, and how she sells products that take varying degrees of labor at different periods of time to maintain engaging workflows and a healthy work-life balance.

What factors would you say have contributed to Imagination Couture's success? What gives it a competitive edge relative to its less-profitable counterparts?

In my opinion, my shop has achieved success due to authenticity of the props I make. From sketch to photographer's studio, the designs are completely authentic. If one is inspired and creation comes from the soul, one will be sure to achieve success.

Michelle Acevedo* Tip - If you have an idea , research the product to see if there is already a prototype out there.

If there is nothing like the design you have in mind you will be the original designer of that creation.

My process is :

  1. dream
  2. sketch
  3. research
  4. design
  5. redesign 3 more times
  6. send creation for modeling
  7. feature the new item in my shop 🙂

Does your blog or Facebook page do much to drive sales in your shop? What other things have you done to market Imagination Couture?

Facebook is a fabulous way to market your shop! In my first year with a shop on Etsy I started to find professional photographers and specifically sought out newborn specialists. I attained over 5,000 Facebook friends, which is the limit of friends you can have! I had to make a fan page & encourage photographers & friends to subscribe to and follow my original page. This is a great forum to cross-reference promos and get "friends/fans" to check out the newest designs in your shop. Facebook is also great for finding photographers who you can help you with modeling your items.

How responsive have your customers been to special promotions and discounts? From experience, are you finding them worth the effort?

In today's market, most buyers are looking for the best deal on a daily basis. I know that I LOVE to get a discount! I will wait for a coupon to go shop materials/supplies and I will always shop for my kids ( I have 4 of them) when there is a very good sale going on.

That being said, I always have a promo going to cross reference my Facebook page with my shop. Moms like me love Facebook because it is such an easy, fast, and convenient way to catch up with friends and share what we love.

I started a blog a few years ago, but alas, my mom was really the only person who read it. I do not have the time or patience to market myself in a blog, but I SO love many of the great blogs/bloggers out there. My shop, my props, and I have been featured in many of the last few years.

Do mostly professional photographers buy from your shop, or do many of your orders come from new parents?

My orders come from predominantly professional photographers, but also the new mom, moms to be, grandmothers, and baby shower attendees. 🙂

How do most people find your shop? How have you promoted your work within the world of professional baby photographers?

Most people find my shop through Facebook. It's the best free promotional tool there out there.

Are most of your sales for made-to-order products or ready-to-ship goods?

Imagination Couture by Michelle AcevedoI create ready-to-ship items that are made to order in 30 minutes or less and also carry more involved designs that take 5-10 hours to create. This is the best way I have found to achieve more sales and keep some balance with life and family. This also breaks up the tedium of making the same item every day.

As an artist, it is nice to have variety and opportunities to play with something new to keep the creative mojo going. The items I sell that take longer to create have a reasonable creation time. I can work better if there is a realistic time frame in which to work up a beautiful design. Clients will wait for something beautiful and understand the process if communication is there from the start.

How do you contend with ongoing demand from clients (especially when it comes to rush orders and made-to-order goods) while also managing a family?

Ah, that is the question. 🙂 It has taken me a few years to figure this one out!

I would say the best way for me to find balance is:

  • Offer ready-to-ship items available in a quantity of X available items (that way you can re-list if you know you're going to have time to make them within the quoted time frame)
  • Offer all other items (e.g. crocheted / knitted) within a creation time that works for you.
  • Have it noted right on your shop announcements, and within product descriptions, that it is important to check on current processing/creation times to independently determine a likely turnaround time.

I have found that to keep my sanity and balance family, home, and "me" time, I need to have at least a four week wait going on crocheted items when it's busy.

If I have a lot of time, I go for it. When my kids are in school and business is slow, I can offer a shorter wait time and will go back and forth with creation times throughout the seasons.