Thursday, March 17, 2011

Interview Recap

Late last week I was contacted on Etsy by a student at University of Western Ontario here in London.  She {lets call her K} asked if she could interview me for a paper she is writing on London women and their handmade business.  We arranged a meeting for this past Monday and I met her at Starbucks.  We had  a great chat and I’m excited to see how her paper turns out.  K had interviewed a few other women, so I’m also interested to read what they had to say.

Participating in the interview made me realize how much A Paper Buffet has grown from a hobby to a business.

I thought I would share some of the questions, and my answers, as best as I could remember with you. So here we go!


Do you have a University or College degree?

I have an Honors Bachelors Degree in Kinesiology from the University of Western Ontario; I’m also a Certified Ergonomic Specialist.


Do you have a full-time job?

I work for an insurance company, in their Disability Management department.  I help people return to work after illness or injury, and I also conduct Ergonomic Assessments.


Have you always been creative?

Yes, my friends  call me Martha ;) I think I have creative ADD, if that’s such a thing.  My mind is always working, finding new techniques, colour combos, and inspiration in various things.  Aside from paper, I also knit, I’ve painted, I enjoy decorating and creating floral arrangements.  Just this past weekend,  I was putting a teal salad bowl on my dining room and suddenly wanted to sew a table runner and place-mats.  I can’t turn it off!


How did your business start?

I had been making cards for a few years, when my hair stylist opened her own salon.  I made her a card, and she couldn’t believe I had made it.  She told me I should sell them, and offered to sell them at her salon.  I found out about Etsy a few weeks later, while visiting another stamping blog, and decided to create a shop.  I signed up for Etsy over the Christmas holiday in 2008, and officially opened in January 2009.


Where do you sell your products?

A Paper Buffet is on Etsy; I have my own website,, and I still sell cards at my hairstylist’s salon.


How is business?

Business is good!  2010 was a very good year.  I had more custom orders, and larger orders.   I don’t look at this as a hobby any more, or just trying to cover the cost of supplies.  I want to continue to make this business successful.


Do see your business becoming a full-time job?

No.  I love my job and want to further my career in Disability Management.  I enjoy my work, and also enjoy living a life my career allows me to have.  I enjoy having a creative outlet, but I don’t see myself doing this full-time…unless I win the lottery and can continue to travel with my lottery winnings ;)


What’s your biggest challenge?

Right now, I’d say time is a challenge, as is turning traffic into sales on my website.  My job can be demanding, my days can be long, and because I cover a large territory  I’m drained after a long day in the car.   With the websites the majority of sales come from Etsy; with my other sales from local customers I’ve met through some local art shows, or my friends and family.  It’s hard to get found on Google, understand SEO to increase your chances of getting found on the internet, and all the technical aspects that go along with having an online business.  I’m getting better, and learning so much as I go, but it’s definitely a learning process.


Do you advertise?

I don’t use paid advertising at this point; I have a Facebook Fan page, Twitter and my blog, however I’m careful how I use them.  I’m trying to find a balance between providing people updates about what’s in the shop, without being pushy.  I recognize that Facebook and Twitter are social media, and that’s how I want to use them.  I want my blog to be about me, and all my interests, not just a place to ‘push’ my product.


When are you most creative?

I always have an idea, and have numerous lists of new products or techniques,…that never stops.  But I do most of my work on the weekends, because that’s when I have the most time.  I try to use a few hours to create new products, and another chunk of time dedicated to photographing, editing and creating the listings.  My goals is to do the majority of that work on the weekends, and list during the week.  I’ll sometimes work during the week, depending on how I feel, and what the project is.


Have you met other artists in London?

Yes, just in the past few months.  I participated in some local art shows before Christmas and met quite a few London artists.  We chat on Facebook and Twitter and it’s been nice to meet other business owners, and learn from them or help them out. 


What do you like best about your business?

I feel very honoured that my customers are giving my cards to the important people in their life; to celebrate milestone birthdays, new babies, and weddings.  I’ve been lucky enough to sell to customers all over the world, including Singapore, Australia, Germany, Scotland and all over the US.  It means a lot to me that a customer thinks enough of my work, to give it to someone they love.


What are your goals for your business?

I set goals for each quarter, so my goal is to meet the targets I’ve set.  Overall, my goal is for A Paper Buffet to continue to grow, and to continue to be profitable.  If it ever stops being fun, I’ll take a break.


Is there anything else you’d like to say about handmade?

I think the handmade movement is just getting started.  I hope that more artists realize and believe that they are, in fact, artists and professionals.  I think that will translate to a more fair-market for our handmade items, and ensure customers feel good about local businesses and putting money into their local economies.


That’s it for the interview recap, I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into A Paper Buffet.

Happy Thursday!


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