Story by Julie Schneider
Published on Feb 06, 2014 in Seller Handbook
When Forbes staff writer Hollie Slade was researching a story about running a small business from home, she went to Etsy to find shop owners to profile. Specifically, Slade was looking for shop owners with at least three staff members. After perusing the About pages of several shops, she found two that fit the bill:Bread and Badger, a sandblasted drinkware shop owned by Amanda Siska, and Dock Artisan, a shop selling wooden charging docks for mobile devices owned by Joel Young. Both shops describe their at-home workshops and list their shop members on their respective About pages, which landed them spots in Slade’s published story, “Running a Startup from Home: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”
Your shop’s About page gives you a chance to tell the story of your business. In turn, About pages all across Etsy collectively paint a portrait of the community as a whole. An informative and captivating About page can help create a devoted following of customers. It can also spark unexpected opportunities, including press coverage and collaborations. Amanda and Joel reported a spike in traffic from Forbes readers in their Shop Stats. Amanda notes that her social media fans were duly impressed. Being featured in the story, she says, has had “a lot of impact in establishing our credibility as a shop.”
But figuring out the best way to put your shop’s story into words — and images — might seem daunting. With that in mind, here are four tips to get you started.
Tell Your Shop’s Origin Story
The best About pages feature a memorable story that describes how the shop owner got started. “People need to connect the product and the story with the person who made it,” says Joel Young of Dock Artisan, which is based in Murphys, California. ”Otherwise, it’s just this cyber land of ‘Where does it come from?’” Joel traces the evolution of his family business, including the initial creative spark and notable milestones, on Dock Artisan’s About page.
On Bread and Badger’s About page, Amanda Siska describes how she dreamed of being a tattoo artist before discovering that glass engraving is similar in technique, but, she writes, “without sterilization and possible regret.” Amanda also describes how her husband, Sean, quit his day job to help her expand the Portland, Oregon-based business. If you develop a case of writer’s block when you sit down to write your story, imagine you’re explaining it to a customer at a craft fair or to a friend. Then, put those words to paper.
Captivate With Beautiful Photos
High-quality images are another key to great About pages. This is your chance to give customers a behind-the-scenes look at your company, so include images of yourself practicing your craft in your workspace. If you’re hoping to attract press coverage, be sure to upload five professional-level, high-resolution photos (those measuring at least 1,400 pixels wide). This shows you’ll be ready with the good stuff if the press comes a-knocking.
Around the time of his Featured Shop interview in 2012, Joel of Dock Artisan sprung for a session with a professional photographer. He says the investment has served him well. “If you’re an online company, everything you have is your pictures, your product, your workspace,” Joel says. “So, don’t skimp on pictures and don’t skimp on quality.” If hiring a photographer isn’t in your budget, take your own publicity-ready photos and organize a photo shoot on a budget by using readily available elements like flattering natural light, simple backgrounds and props for context.
Vive la Différence
Highlight unique materials, production processes and anything else that might help your shop stand out. For instance, Joel Young’s About page describes the ecologically sound practices that his shop uses to source local materials for their product lines, which fuse nature and technology. “We believe in natural selection when it comes to harvesting our wood,” he says. “Every year, storms come through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and blow over trees and break limbs. We give this wood a new life with purpose.”
Across the world in Vilnius, Lithuania, Inga, Kestas and Viktoria from Bure Bure Slippers use their About page to explain how they source wool from their herd of Skudde sheep and use ancient felting techniques to create their line of shoes and slippers. They paint a vivid picture of their mountainous rural organic farmstead through striking images and connect the dots from their free-grazing flock to a finished pair of cozy footwear. On Bread and Badger’s About page, Amanda explains how she and her husband do their own sandblasting in their garage using a CrystalBlast cabinet and 60-gallon air compressor.
Meet and Greet
When you include photos and information about you and your shop members on your About page, you put a friendly, approachable face on your business. On her About page, Valerie Lloyd, founder of Seattle-based vintage craft supply shop Smile Mercantile, writes: “I like to think of the Smile Mercantile as an old-time general store with friendly and reliable folk (me) working behind the counter. I have a deep love for history, and I find that living with vintage pieces connects me to the past, and the people who were here before me.”
Bread and Badger’s About page includes a smiling image of Amanda Siska and the names and photos of her husband and shop member. It also links to Bread and Badger’s website and Facebook and Twitter accounts, encouraging people to interact with the business in a variety of ways. “If we were a brick-and-mortar storefront, I would be sitting in the store talking to people and they’d be able to walk right up and talk to me,” Amanda says. “I want customers to know about me, my business and even my family. That’s the kind of thing that I would talk about if they were to meet me in person, so I don’t need to be too shy about that online either.”
What are some of your tips for telling your company’s story? Share in the comments!