Thursday, August 5, 2010

Interview with Carla AKA reflections06

The ProSeller Corner Tell the world a little bit about yourself.

Carla My name is Carla Rolfe, and I'm a happily married Christian mom to 7 beautiful people, and grandmother to 2 beautiful grand-people.  I'm a native of WA state, but for the last 12 years I've lived in southern Ontario Canada. We currently have 6 cats, and one desperately insane beagle named Tulip.

The ProSeller Corner When did you start designing at Zazzle and what made you choose them?

Carla Zazzle wasn't really my first choice, but that's because the Zazzle they used to be years ago is light years in the ancient past from the awesome place they are now. From 1999 I was designing AND producing my own tees, posters and calendars and a few years later one of my clients suggested a fairly new Print on Demand site.  I checked them out and held out for another year and then went ahead and joined, and joined Zazzle at the same time.  Back then (2004, I think it was) it wasn't very user friendly and so I essentially left the shop just sitting. The big change came in the fall of 2009 after the other company made some changes that I just couldn't live with anymore. I stuck it out there for a few months and then decided to really jump head first back into Zazzle and see how things went. I began rebuilding my store from scratch, removed all the old stuff and began uploading the best of the best and creating new designs exclusively for sale at Zazzle.  From a business perspective, it was one of the smartest moves I've ever made! w00t, go me :o)

The ProSeller Corner Do you have any other stores at Zazzle?

Carla I currently have 4 shops at Zazzle:
  • Reflections Family Friendly Apparel and Gifts - This is my main shop and houses a HUGE variety of goodies from funny tees, awesome keds high and lo tops, business card templates holiday goodies (Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.) and pretty much everything else you can think of. I'd have a kitchen sink there too,  if they offered it for custom design.
  • Reflections Christian Apparel and Gifts was the second shop I opened.  For those who love to wear a message of faith, this shop has tees, totes, binders and lots of other great items.
  • Birthday Sweeties was my third shop and the one I honestly have the most fun with!  My husband and I decided after 27 years of being a mom to 7 kids and now 2 grandkids that I'd likely hosted or help plan more birthdays over the years than most people ever think about, lol. It's a blast to create the different themes and this is the store that is home to my Twiggy Tots line of stick kids (I've been drawing them since I was a child) and my giant eyed baby animals. To a child, a birthday party is a super-magical time, and making it as awesomely memorable for them as possible is a fantastic way to gift them with great childhood memories. What child doesn't like to go to school with a stack of awesome birthday party invitations to hand out? Kids love it, and I love to make it happen. Honestly, there isn't enough time in the day for me to work on new designs for this shop, and the list of "yet created" is rather large. 
  • End of the World Gear is my most recent shop. You've heard the ancient Mayan prophecy that tells us the world will end on December 21, 2012? Well, just in case those wacky Mayans were wrong (or right?), I've got a shop just for those who survived! My husband and I decided that a little thing like the world ending (and you being the sole survivor) shouldn't stop anyone from having a great t-shirt. :o)

The ProSeller Corner What has been you best selling product?

Carla My bestsellers tend to vary with the season.   

From my main store though, this shirt and this binder are top sellers consistently.

From Birthday Sweeties it's definitely hard to say which sells best because so many of them sell on a regular basis!

This one though was the biggest surprise, because it was originally a custom design from someone who contacted me through the store with a rather large list of specs for a custom design.  I poured my heart into this design for her (the swing set and the sandbox was drawn by hand first, then recreated with photoshop), and it ended up earning a TBA the day I offered it for sale, then a second pretty little red ribbon for most views.  I thought that was pretty wonderful. The customer who requested it? She loved it!

The ProSeller Corner What do you enjoy doing when you're not working on your store?

Carla Have you ever known one of those people with way too many hobbies? Yep, guilty as charged. I enjoy reading, sewing, drawing, photography, bird watching, writing, badminton, baseball, custom design for other projects (web, blogs, projector overheads, concert posters, etc.) and the list could honestly go much longer. Recently I've decided to become pro-active in my health and weight loss and so I've started walking a 1.25 mile stretch every day after dinner. Soon I'll be adding swimming, bike riding and getting back on my elliptical. I'm totally committed to getting into shape again after having so many babies!  I'm never at a loss for things to do, I can assure you of that.

The ProSeller Corner  How do you balance your time between Zazzle and life?

Carla That's an easy one: life and family come first. I love what I do as far as design goes, but that comes after the kids are fed, dishes are done, laundry is folded, etc. Usually, I'm in design mode first thing in the morning and then after the kids are in bed, but if there is some free time during the day for me to work on a project, I'll snag that time and do a little something.

The ProSeller Corner  How long had you been with Zazzle before you reached a ProSeller status?

Carla To be fair, I should answer this way: Even though I have been with Zazzle for almost 6 years, I never really worked hard on my store until September of 2009. From that point it took me 3 months to reach ProSeller status, but it was with A LOT of hard work, adding new designs (and on dial up still, if you can imagine that), offering them on nearly every product they'd look nice on, etc.

The ProSeller Corner  Getting noticed and becoming a ProSeller takes a lot of hard work and time. What advice would you give to those aspiring to become a ProSeller?

Carla You are correct, it does take hard work. Some of the things I did (and still do) that I would recommend:  Read the forums and learn from others. Offer designs on products you may never purchase for yourself. What I might like on a t-shirt someone else may prefer on a tote bag, so if it fits nicely, offer it! Offer items that can be customized and definitely personalized. Name your products well, give descriptions as if you were describing the product over the phone to a friend who can't see it, and USE the description tags well. If you have a pirate t-shirt for example, don't forget to use tags like ahoy, plank, eye patch and things like that, that people automatically associate with pirates. People search the marketplace for those things and if your pirate tee doesn't have them in the tags, they'll never see it! One final word of advice that I'd add is to not get discouraged if sales are slow. We've all been there and then suddenly things pick up again. Keep adding new designs and keep using rich descriptions and with time, your products will get noticed.


Jasmine said...

Lots of great tips Carla. Your shops are beautiful. I love that custom invitation. I can definitely tell you worked hard on it.

Laura said...

Very good tip on making good tags. This is something I need to make sure I focus on, especially because I'm just starting out. I'd hate to be lazy now and have to go back and redo everything later.

I love the story behind your Birthday Sweeties. It seems like you're having a lot of fun!! It seems to be a common suggestion of Zazzlers to create products that OTHER people would want and to branch out from things only you would buy. I was a little bit unsure of how to organize my store if I put graphics on multiple products, but your Birthday Sweeties store is very easy to use the way you've set it up.

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