We are excited to bring you a new Shop Spotlight interview! Today we are getting to know Ellen Ruben, the owner behind the Etsy shop, EllenRubenBagsShoes. Ellen has a wonderful line of handmade leather shoes and handbags and operates her shop from Tel Aviv, Israel. I love her positive outlook on business and I hope you enjoy learning more about her story. We also asked for her advice for new Etsy entrepreneurs. Read on to find out what she has to say!
Tell us about yourself and how you came to have your own business.
My name is Ellen Ruben, and I design leather handbags and shoes in Tel Aviv, Israel. I live in a semi industrial and colorful neighborhood filled with veteran craftsmen, designers, artists, actors and musicians.
My story as a designer began at a crossroads in my life: I had been living in Jaffa and working as a video editor, but I was hungry for something different. I quit my job and set out on the road, not knowing where I would end up. After three weeks staying with friends in Chicago, I flew to New York for a visit. New York struck me from the first second I got there; my “visit” became a stay of six years. One summer, a friend came to visit me. During his stay, he noticed my obsessive urge to feel almost any material that I passed. One morning, he took me to Parsons - the New School of Design and said, "This is what you have to do: study design and meet interesting people!” Within a few days, I applied for a course in shoe design.
After graduation, I was frustrated by the fact that the instruments and machines required for making shoes were no longer available to me. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop creating, so I bought materials from leather and supplies shops and went home to play with them. Suddenly, bags were the answer: they were much easier to make at home, and they didn’t require any special machinery. Over time, I refined my practice.
A short while later, I fell in love with an Israeli guy who was visiting New York, and I decided to follow him back to Israel to start over. I took my designs to several boutiques in Tel Aviv and worked to establish my brand. I also opened a concept store, which helped me gather the momentum and courage to finally begin my first shoe collection.
I opened my Etsy shop in 2014. Etsy taught me that the world is bigger than I thought; alongside industry giants and chain stores, there is still a place for us independent designers. It was now clear to me that I should always bring myself and my point of view to the table.
Your shop is very well organized, beautifully photographed. Can you talk a little about how you manage your Etsy shop? What are the most important qualities of your work that you want to capture in your photos?
I manage my Etsy shop as I run my boutique. I want the photos to function as a show case so they will reflect the aesthetics I believe in, trying to give the potential client a sense of how the item will look on her, and most of all to make sure that the atmosphere and style in the picture will match the lightness, elegance and femininity that I want to project. Most of the photos were taken by professional photographers in natural lighting and urban environments. The most important qualities I want to capture in the photos are simplicity, elegance and nonchalance.
What are some key things you've learned since starting your Etsy shop that might be helpful to new Etsy sellers?
My recommendations to new Etsy seller are: flexibility, kindness and patience. Be open to special customer requests, answer their questions as soon as possible, reward returned customers, and compensate disappointed customers. Offer sales in special events, be honest about the quality of materials, shipping policy, exchanges, returns and refunds BUT above all - be unique. Remember that you are in competition with other millions of designers so you have to stand out.
What are some different ways that you promote your Etsy shop? Are there certain marketing/social media strategies you've tried that have worked better than others for your shop?
I promote my shop in several channels. Both Etsy's promotion tools (renewals, Google shopping, promoted listing) and socials such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I also collaborate with successful bloggers. I think every seller should carefully examine what has yielded the best results.
Are you a member of any Etsy teams?
I am a member in several promotional teams that certainly have relationships between the members (Etsy sellers) because they work on the principle of promoting one another (Ex: Shameless Advertising, FriendsWithBenefits)
What is the most difficult thing and the most rewarding thing about selling your handmade items online?
The hardest thing about selling my handmade goods online is knowing that as a small business it is hard to stand out. Still, knowing that you have succeeded in reaching customers who are exposed to millions of products and have chosen yours, is overwhelming!
Do you have any specific shop goals for this year?
My shop goals for this year is to develop, to be influenced by styles I have not yet been exposed to and continue to create out of curiosity and the joy of creation.