Back in the fall of 2011, my wife Lizzy was browsing through a Martha Stewart magazine and came across a neat idea to make a cross-stitch family portrait. She decided to do it for her parents and sister that year for Christmas, and they turned out great. I suggested she sell them online and call them Stitch People. The domain name was available so we went to work.
She created an Etsy store and sold some pre-made holiday portraits. It never really took off. We decided to pursue the crowd that wanted custom portraits instead of pre-made items. Lizzy started reaching out to online stores to see if they wanted to list her stitch portraits.
She cold-emailed Uncommon Goods, an online retailer that specializes in, well, uncommon goods. My mother-in-law has purchased Christmas gifts there in the past, and this seemed like the kind of thing they would like. She heard back within a week saying they were interested, and the ball started rolling.
Within a few months, Stitch People went live on Uncommon Goods. At first there were only a few orders. We were worried that Uncommon Goods had priced them too high and that no one would buy. Once Uncommon Goods highlighted us in the Spring catalog, however, that all changed and Lizzy was swamped with orders. She used every spare second to stitch, and even recruited her sister and mom to help.
After several months of a steady stream of orders through Uncommon Goods, we decided to beef up our own online presence and sell directly from StitchPeople.com. Now we had a proven price point for the portraits and just needed to focus on advertising and building a great site.
I toyed around with the idea of building the site myself and hosting it on something like Digital Ocean. As I explored what this would take in Ruby on Rails and some ecommerce gems, I quickly realized how much work would be involved. I asked a coworker what he thought I should do, and he recommended I go with Shopify. So we signed up, used a basic theme, and officially launched our site in the summer of 2013.
Sales were very slow at first. I’m not sure we even made a sale in the first two months. I experimented with some Facebook and Google ads, which brought a decent amount of traffic to the site, but no one actually bought. I started putting time into the Facebook page and Instagram account. I grew the Instagram account to over 1,000 followers in just a few months, but that didn’t bring much converting traffic either.
As we continue to experiment with ads, we’re starting to really learn a lot about our customers. It’s a pretty high price point, which definitely puts it in the premium/luxury good status. We’ve found that most of our buyers are on the east coast, and a majority of orders are placed by women. These things have all helped us narrow the target market we’re using for our Facebook ads.
We’ve started getting pinned quite a bit on Pinterest, which still has a low conversion rate for us. But we haven’t done much to help guide the conversation on Pinterest, so we’re looking to spend more time there.
A good amount of traffic is starting to come from organic search results, which is really nice to see. We haven’t been running Google ads lately, but I’d like to do another round and really solidify the keywords and strategy there, too.
It’s been a really fun experience so far, and we’ve learned a lot. The orders from Uncommon Goods continue to come in, which gives us money to put into StitchPeople.com for maintenance and advertising. We’re hoping that sales on our website will pick up and that Lizzy will need to start hiring out the stitching consistently.
If you’re interested, head over to StitchPeople.com and order a portrait for yourself or your family. All of our customers so far have been extremely happy and have loved their portraits!