Ellebelleonetsy is an online Etsy store located in St. Petersburg specializing in baby and children’s items. Very rarely does one see a microenterprise business arrangement here in the US in which 5 people come together, agree consistently enough to stay organized, and work so well as a team to create and market their work. This group of mothers is an excellent example in which people unselfishly threw their best skills into the common pot to tackle a need, put their heads together to meet it, and as a result, share in the rewards.
Stacey whose day job 3 days a week is in Human Resources creates slings, tag blankets, and the embroidered objects, her mother, Tressie, a realtor in Illinois who crochets, and friends; Ann, who is employed part-time at target and sews quilts, Karie, who works part-time for her father’s mortgage company, and makes chalkboard placemats, chubbies, and nursing covers, and Jennifer who works full-time for a large financial company and makes dresses. Interestingly they all work outside their craft in very traditional jobs.
All 5 of these women started out making things for their own children and even though each only had one or two unique specialties, collaborating, they found, was more fun than doing it as solitary proprietors, and in no time their Etsy shop was full of useful and clever items.
Complete profiles on each of these partners are on the website http://ellebelleonline.com in the artist profile pages.
“I've always loved all kinds of crafts” says Stacey, “but I've found that I get a greater sense of accomplishment from creating things that are useful as well as aesthetically pleasing. For me, the vast array of already beautifully designed fabric choices makes creating something half as difficult.”
Ellebelle sells some of their products in stores... ironically none of them local because people have contacted them via Etsy to sell in their brick and mortars (stores). “We've had the most success selling at local upscale malls when they host craft events. We've tried traditional craft shows, edgier urban shows, as well as Family and Baby Expos and although they've been fun and profitable in their own ways, we do the best over all at malls.”
Because each collaborator brings different skills and experience to the table there is a lot of learning inside the circle that takes place. They tend to draw more from others inside the small group than from other artists in the field. “Working with each other brings "Ah-Ha" moments all the time” she says.
Stacey also admits that their children are a big motivator and inspiration. “We've all crafted at some level prior to having our children, but they bring purpose to what we do. I started Elle Belle because I received a sling as a gift and it made being a first time Mom so much easier for me and being a baby easier for my little one. She loved it and so did I. I wanted to share the experience we had with other Moms and I also knew I could make a sling better than the ones I used. My heart skips a beat when I see a Mom in the mall carrying their baby in one of my slings. I feel like I actually made a difference.”
The cooperative’s biggest ticket item sold was a quilt made of T-shirts commissioned by a woman for $450 while set up in a mall. “We had displayed a quilt made from baby clothes and she asked if we could make one from T-shirts she had collected from rock concerts.” It was an unusual request compared to the items they were used to making but the women were up to the challenge.
When asked which new techniques Stacey is interested in learning she said, “I would really love to learn to felt! We had a pumpkin decorating contest at work for Halloween and I wanted to felt my little pumpkin so bad! Can you even do that? I didn't have time to try it out because I was getting ready for an event, but next year I plan to have a field of felted pumpkins for sure!”
Coming soon is a super cute line of Christmas pillowcase dresses ready to debut at a show the 5 are doing this weekend, to be listed on Etsy afterwards (what’s left of them anyway). They'll also have the perfect stocking stuffers - Christmas themed Chubbies, and crocheted slippers. “We have a few more local events planned for the rest of the year, so we'll likely just post more of what sells well at those in the Etsy shop.”
Long term, Stacey hopes that their Etsy shop will be the primary source of income for Elle Belle. As much as she really loves doing local events, she’d prefer to have them be supplemental income for the shop instead of the primary.
These friends/business partners have an ideal situation; a blending of meaningful work and social interaction all rolled into one. “We're already accomplishing what I want most out of this business which is to spend time with friends doing something we love and sharing the resulting creations with as many people as we can.” It all goes to show that when you enter into a common vision with others what you gain is way more than you ever imagine.
Find that special gift that you will really use at: Elle Belle On Etsy
and read more about this inspiring business on their blog: Elle Belle Blog
Article written by Pippit.