Friday, January 23, 2009

A Woman, A Niche and A Successful Business

While most women would shriek if there was a mouse in their house, there is one woman I know on Etsy who has set out to change all that. At The House of Mouse you could be greeted by Vincent Van Gogh Mouse, Lulu the Belly Dancer Mouse or even Elvis Mouse, and these are just a few of the incredibly adorable felted mice that are just waiting for you to take them home.


Anna, the creator and owner of The House of Mouse got her start on Etsy in January 2008. Since then, her mice have been featured on the Front Page over 30 times and she has received over 5000 hearts. This comes as absolutely no surprise to me as the first time I visited The House of Mouse, I found myself smiling at how cute they all were and when I saw Frankenstein Mouse I actually laughed out loud.
I was so impressed with the creativeness and imagination that went into each mouse, I just had to contact Anna and see if she would let me have a closer look into The House of Mouse. I was so delighted when she replied back having answered all the questions I sent her. What really touched me was that she took the time to let me get to know her even though she was extremely busy with several custom orders - that's good people!

So now I want to share with you Anna's story and her piece of Etsy known as The House of Mouse.

Q. Tell us a little about your Etsy shop and what made you choose your particular niche?

A. My name is Anna and I make little felt mouse ornaments. My mice are inspired by jobs and hobbies, movies, special occasions, famous people, monsters and just about anything that grabs my imagination. Each little mouse has their own personality and character. I didn’t really choose my niche, it chose me!

Q. Where does the inspiration for the mice come from?

A. I originally made my mice as Christmas gifts for my family back in Dec 2007; a Photographer Mouse for my father who loves taking pictures, an Artist Mouse for my painter friend, Reading mice for my bookworm friends etc… They went down so well that I decided to sell them. I can hardly believe how well they have been received!

After Christmas I was inundated with other suggestions from the people that received them! I regularly think of other mice to make while doing my everyday things, I’ll be watching a movie and think “Oh, a Supermouse would be cool!” sometimes it is from finding an object and trying to see it from a mouse-size point of view. For example the Gladiator Mouse's shield is actually a particularly ugly earring I picked up at a car boot sale. Suffice it to say the ideas hit me all the time. I also regularly get suggestions from people visiting my shop or any of the social networks where I advertise. And there is continued stream of suggestions from my friends. I have a little book I always carry with me to keep all the ideas in.

Q. How long does it take to make each mouse?

A. A mouse can take anywhere from 90 minutes to 4 hours, depending on its complexity. I make the popular ones in batches to try to speed up the process a bit. I am a lot faster at it than when I first started.
Q. Do you have any marketing or business background? I ask because your expansion of your business into pins, gift cards and bookmarks shows really good business sense.

A. No I don’t have any experience with marketing or business. Before I made mice I was a professional oil painter for 3 years after I left Art Collage. (If you want to see my oil paintings you can go to www.annagreaves.com) They don’t teach you anything about running a business at art school, something I think is really lacking in the education of artists. But those three years did teach me about balancing my finances and keeping an eye on the books.

To be honest a lot of the business and marketing decisions I make are based on common sense and observation. I read a lot of advice on running a store on Etsy and off. I also buy a lot of hand made things, not only because they are beautiful but also so I can see what it is like from a buyer’s point of view. I make note of things that annoy or frustrate me and make sure that I avoid doing the same thing in my own store.















Q. I know that selling your mice is the objective, but do you ever get a little sad to see them go?

A. Yes I do. They are like my little babies and it is sometimes very hard to let them go. I have a few I keep at home, never to be sold. I love it when I visit family who have some of my mice, so that I can see the mice too and give them a little kiss on the nose.

Q. Have you ever had a request for a particular mouse that was a little odd?

A. Oh yes, several. But then you might argue that some of the mice I make for my store are a little odd. I am sure some people think I am crazy to make an Executioner Mouse with a little severed mouse head, or a Zombie mouse with blood down his front. I love the macabre and cute together, it tickles my funny bone.

Q. What would you say were the keys to your success here at Etsy.

A. Before putting my first listing up I read EVERYTHING I could find about selling on Etsy. I read all the FAQs and Terms and conditions, I read the DOs and DON’Ts of Etsy and I read all the links to tutorials setting up your store. I found the etsy blog and read all about photographing items, what to write in my policies, profile and shop announcement etc. You might say I was too well prepared! But it got me off on the right foot and I made my first sale on the day I listed my first item. For my first year on Etsy I was obsessed with my store, I was constantly looking for ways to improve and expand it. I ate, slept and breathed it. I also spent as much time promoting my store as I did making mice.

Now that I am into my 2nd year on Etsy I am able to relax a bit because my store is pretty well known already. I can focus on completing my never ending list of custom orders as well as finding some balance between my home life and business. But I am still looking for ways to improve; it is so easy to become dated.
Q. If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting out here at Etsy, what would it be?

A. Read up on everything you can find on making your store great and then implement it. Most of what you need is right there on Etsy already. I even put the most useful links all in the same place: http://lifecraftinessandeverythingelse.blogspot.com/2008/09/how-to-get-etsy-sales-you-want.html

Here are more places that you can find Anna and her family of mice
My Blog: http://www.lifecraftinessandeverythingelse.blogspot.com
My Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheHouseofMouse
My Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thehouseofmouse
My Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/thehouseofmou5e

I hope you enjoyed getting to know Anna and The House of Mouse as much as I did. Drop by her store and have a look around, I'm sure she has a mouse that would be perfect for you or someone you love.

www.TheHouseofMouse.etsy.com


20 comments:

Frenzy23

Those are adorable! Will she be able to continue selling them if that bill requiring testing for toys passes, seeing as they are more ornaments than toys? I sure hope so, they are unique little treasures.
It is quite impressive that she's never studied marketing/business. But I guess that comes naturally to some.

Audrey

Those mice are too cute!! I have a friend who is terrified of mice - it's tempting to get one.

Spelfenmeisje

Great article! She makes the cutest mice and with such detail!

glamspoon

thanks for posting this email interview. fun read!

Tamara Garvey

yay, anna! thanks for this great interview. she definitely deserves all of her succress. she has a neverending stream of mouse ideas, and her photos are beautiful!

St├ęphanie Kilgast

I own a mice too ^^
They're really cute and the shop is perfectly made!
She's a good model to start an etsy shop :)

Linda

Anna is a lovely person, and her blog is very useful for those starting at Etsy. Her mice are adorable.

Nicole

Awesome post! Thanks so much for sharing.

dinafragola

Great interview!

Xealous

Wonderful feature ~ I <3 The House of Mouse! :D

ingermaaike

Her fantasy is boundless and she is truly a kind person, which all shows through in her mice!

karuski

Great read!
I'm also amazed by the fact that there are no studies in economics in her background. She is an excellent example how things can turn out when you put all your efforts and enthusiasm into one thing, something you really love!

equivoque

what a lovely blog!

l'actrice

So great to read about Anna the Mouse. She really makes it happen:-)

Baroness Bijoutery

I love going through the House of Mouse..always cheers me up. You did a fantastic interview...it's nice to get more info on the artist than just what is in their bio...Thanks for a great blog....

Julie Jones

I love to see a face behind the cute mice. so adorable both you and the mice. :)

threemoonbabies

I love her little mice! Great interview!

Karmacrochet

I love my Frida and Diego mice. She is wonderful!!

Randomocity

Thank you so muc for that! I have always loved her stuff!
Tay
www.randomocity.etsy.com

FishStikks

I have been oogling the "House of Mouse" for quite some time and this made a wonderful read. Loved getting to know the woman behind the mice as it were.

Wonderful interview and wonderful blog!