I do a lot of shit.
I’ve been building stuff online for 11 years now and I finally have something to say about it.
I started when I was in high school. I made a few blogs and WordPress websites about various projects I was interested in throughout the years and fancied myself a journalist-to-be.
I started writing professionally during college. My first foray into writing for money was a Fiverr gig in which I wrote 500 words for $5 (I was living in New York and desperate for money). In 2012 I started working as a tutor at the Hunter College Reading/Writing Center, in addition to having numerous (unpaid) journalism gigs and working other part time jobs while going to school full time.
After graduating from college, I moved to Philly and took a gig doing content and social media marketing for an e-commerce company in a very specific niche. I still work with that client today and I’m grateful for all of the experience that gig has given me over the years. Soon after starting that marketing gig, I started building websites professionally and launched my own marketing brand, Kaha Marketing––now Kaha Solutions––in January of 2016, which I still operate.
All told, I’d been involved in e-commerce for four years when I decided to launch an e-commerce brand of my own in 2018. I wanted to start building and marketing a business of my own which created tangible products, instead of just making a living off of marketing other people’s stuff.
Beginning my e-commerce journey
I started a print on demand brand on Etsy in January of 2018. I made my first sale in March, and then dozens more following it, and the shop kept growing from there. I have a designer who creates the designs based on prompts I give him, and I put up the listings and handle customer service. The printing and shipping is completely automated. To date, I’ve completed over 3,200 sales.
Revenue reached great heights in 2019 and even greater heights in 2020, mostly due to the Etsy Promoted Listings platform, which would often give me a 12x return on investment (ROI). My shop was picked up by Buzzfeed during the 2018 Pride season, during the 2018 holiday season, and during the 2019 pride season, which gave me nice boosts in traffic, awareness, and revenue.
But things started to change in August of 2019 after Etsy made some major changes to their ads platform by launching Etsy Ads to replace their Promoted Listings.
As of this writing, revenue is down this year 25% YoY on Etsy. However, it’s 30% YoY on Shopify, because I’ve been putting much more attention into my website since the downward trend started in August of 2019 on Etsy.
My Instagram got shut down in October due to “copyright issues” (debatable). It was a dark time and I considered giving up, especially amidst the declining revenue. But after a couple of days of whining, I simply re-launched, and I’m glad I did. My new account has more followers than I ever did on the old one.
Etsy Ads are integrated with Google Ads, which naturally have a much higher cost per click (CPC), whereas before with the Promoted Listings platform you could opt into or out of Google Ads. My return on ad spend (ROAS) has plummeted since they implemented this change, so I’ve been forced to re-evaluate my strategy for attracting traffic and double down on more sustainable avenues.
How I plan to turn things around
Sharing my journey with you. I’m documenting what I’m doing so we you can learn as I learn. Let’s learn together what works and what doesn’t for running an e-commerce business, which will in turn help me build my personal brand 😉
Continuing to work with influencers. This is something that continues to work well. When you find the right social media influencers to work with, you can really see a return on your spend. I’ve sent free products in exchange for posts from influencers in the LGBTQ niche and saw huge increases in followers, as well as direct sales. I’ve also paid influencers who brought me hardly any activity, so you have to choose wisely. It’s not just about follower count––it’s about engagement rates. I’m also doing a collaboration with an influencer right now that’s seen some success.
Focusing on creating more designs. At the beginning of last year, I had a regular design schedule and was putting up 50 new designs per month for a few months. I’ve started my design output schedule again, with my goal being putting up 25 new listings every month. Early on in my Etsy journey I read some advice somewhere that you should focus on listing goals, not revenue goals, and that’s what I did for the first year and a half or so. Within the past few months I’ve focused too much on revenue and less so on the actual effort I’m putting in and content that I’m producing.
Putting more focus on wholesale. Last year I had someone reach out through my website to place a wholesale order with me that netted me over $1,000 for one single order that took just a little extra work. I’ve since sought out other wholesale opportunities. Since the beginning of the year I’ve applied to Faire Wholesale and Urban Outfitters with no luck (both of them rejected me), and I plan on reaching out to some smaller shops about wholesaling opportunities before Pride season is in full swing.
Getting back to my roots with content marketing like this! And using it to build up the organic SEO of my brands. Mostly in the form of blog posts, and a pretty intense piece of content for the QueerlyDesigns website. Stay tuned for that.
Non-QueerlyDesigns related plans for 2020:
Launching a strictly dropshipping store (not print on demand) to fulfill a dream that I’ve had for five years now. I have notes about dropshipping in my Google Drive dating back to 2015, so I’ve been interested in e-commerce for a while. Apparently I thought opening an aquarium supply store was a great idea, which was probably influenced by the fact that one of my marketing clients at the time owned an aquarium store (wow, I’m so creative).
Launching a service that helps people design and sell their own merch. Basically packaging and reselling what I already do with my print on demand business. Because why not? I already have access to the design and printing services that are needed to succeed.
Stay tuned for some strategies on how to do what I’m doing, in your own niche.
Work with me
Marketing and e-commerce consulting services for anyone who’s looking to launch or elevate their brand. Fill out the form below to get in touch or check out kahasolutions.co for a portfolio of some of my work.