Originality Key to Successful Vintage T-Shirt Etsy Store Zen Threads
I don’t know what it is about screen-printing, but I absolutely adore just about any product that sports a simplistic hand printed design. That adoration doubles when it’s something from Zen Threads.
Owner Brandy Smith and her team have an incredible gift when it comes to capturing the California dreaming style crossed with an outdoor theme. Despite never being too fancy, these shirts go bold.
“I like to work with single color prints to keep a consistency within my designs.” – Brandy Smith
Recently I connect with owner Brandy to hear a little more about what spurred her opening a store and unlock some of the secrets behind her success.
Born In the Garage
“Zen Threads started as a hobby in my garage trying to create vintage style tees.”
Garages have to be the most versatile grounds for business development. From tech giants like Amazon or Google to thriving clothing lines like Zen Threads, we have the garage to thank for so many great businesses of our time.
Despite having a formal background in traditional art, Brandy was new to screen-printing. She didn’t let that give her pause.
“I have a background in Art Studio, illustration & painting. I am a self-taught screen printer/ shirt designer.”
When reflecting on what inspired her to launch her store, Brandy commented, “My love of art, animals, t-shirts, and California! Oh, and I needed to make my mortgage payment.”
I think we can all relate there, particularly to that last bit. Bills gotta be paid.
“This shop was also born from the need for supplemental income to support myself during a tough economy.”
After 18 months hustling in her side business, Zen Threads became Brandy’s full-time gig. This meant 50+ hour weeks. That commitment and seeing traction gave Brandy the ability to take the leap to making Zen Threads her full-time endeavor.
“It wasn’t easy letting go of a steady paycheck, but I like taking risks.”
She’s been expanding ever since. Today she employs an entire team of artists and screen printers to meet a growing demand. Brandy still puts in long hours, just slightly less than when she first started out, but she does it because she truly loves her work.
Keeping Things Fresh
“There is a lot of competition, so keeping things fresh and relevant is really important. I don’t want to sell the same thing as the next graphic tee shop, so I try to create things that will stand out and subjects that people can relate too.”
I give Zen Threads top marks for originality and keeping products fresh. Etsy lists almost 900 products for Zen Threads. Divide that by nine years and you’re looking at almost 100 new designs each year. To take that math even further, they are adding about eight designs a month.
Now, some of these could be designs repurposed on different products, i.e. a shirt design that shows up on a gift bag or button. Even still, the team has to resize the print, make the new product, capture stellar photographs and upload the design to Etsy.
Bandy didn’t launch on Etsy originally. Nor has she limited herself to a single platform.
“I originally started selling a few of my first t-shirt designs on eBay in 2008, with little success. A friend of mine told me about Etsy after I gave her a hand printed towel set for Christmas. I opened my Etsy store the next day.”
Even with tremendous success on Etsy, Brandy realized the importance of diversifying her channels. Zen Threads sells on their own website, Pinterest, Facebook and is still on eBay.
Zen Threads isn’t the only store diversifying their platform. See how expanding platforms played a crucial role in creating a growing crochet pattern store (and cornering the market).
Tips for Etsy Newbies
If you are starting your store today, Brandy hammers home the need to capitalize on quality photos and do your homework.
“Quality, clear images. Do your research. Take advantage of Etsy’s seller tools.”
In addition to making sure your products look good, Brandy encouraged sellers to “use ALL the search terms in your listings” to help improve your visibility.
Discover The Designs For Yourself!
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