In 2022, my two children aged (Millisent 15yrs and Gabriele 10yrs) and I set upon creating a small family business selling crystal and wellbeing items on Etsy so that they could learn important business, life and entrepreneurial skills to prepare them for adulthood. We never imagined how quickly it would all grow; here is our story about how Evergreen UK Boutique came to be and all of the beautiful experiences that we have shared together along the way…
Where It All Began
Being a yoga and meditation teacher, I have had a fond appreciation for holistic medicine, crystals and meditation for many many years. Our home is filled with buddhas, incense, crystals, fountains and handmade natural gifts as we spend the majority of our free time and weekends wandering craft stalls, garden centres, crystal shops and exploring nature because it brings such love and light to our lives.
If anybody ever asked me what my dream would be I’d answer “to do what I love for the rest of my life” which in essence meant turning my free-time moments into my everyday actions; to open a crystal and wellbeing gift shop. Although having never sold anything online before, and with my two children by my side, we had to learn the ropes as we went along, investing life savings into what we believed would be a small, but highly rewarding hobby of sharing the things that we already love and live by with others…
Choosing A Name For Our Etsy Store
I chose the name Evergreen for our store because of my love for nature and living in the countryside which is rich and vibrant with shades of foliage and rolling hillsides. I adore the concept of something being evergreen, eternal, healthy and healing and feel that others can also identify with the security and comfort of this word.
The word Evergreen came to me almost instantaneously at the very thought of having our own store and I just knew that it was meant to be for us. Because there are many stores on Etsy, the names that you may choose aren’t always available, which is why we had to choose Evergreen UK Boutique as we felt that it was the perfect way to capture the type of business that we are, were and wanted to be.
My 15yr old daughter put a list of fonts together to create a simple text logo and our business was born. Humble, simple, honest and kind. It all felt so perfect and was far easier to register on Etsy than we thought.
Creating Social Media
Having registered for our Etsy store, we knew that it would be important to have some form of social media to accompany it so that future customers could share in our journey and keep up to date on new product releases, sales and notices.
We decided upon having an Instagram page because it’s a social media platform that we use the most in our personal lives to keep up to date with friends and family, and so it felt natural for us to use this for our business. We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves and register on every platform available because of the time and effort that it would take to do, which would ultimately become too much for us. So starting small and putting 100% of our effort and attention into one platform meant that we wouldn’t spread ourselves too thinly and could realistically keep up with the demand for content and consistent posting.
We can of course at a later date grow to other platforms and places when the time is right for us. But for now we love and keep stock of our EvergreenUKBoutique Instagram page quite nicely.
Sourcing Our Stock
Speaking of stock, we had absolutely no idea where we could buy a large quantity of crystals from because it’s not something that you come across on a daily basis and businesses usually keep their cards quite close to their chests when it comes to sourcing stock due to such strict competition.
We happened to be shopping one sunny day when we came across a crystal market stall with a wonderful owner who had a very in-depth conversation with us about running a crystal business. Whilst buying crystals and herbs from him, we mentioned that we were about to begin our own online business (for which he didn’t sell his crystals online) and asked if he had used any wholesalers that he could recommend to us. His words were “I don’t have just one! I shop around everywhere!”
Upon returning home that afternoon we took his advice and registered for accounts with several UK based crystal wholesalers which required pre-approval before granting us access to their stock. This involved supplying the business name, address and bank details which typically took between 24-48hrs and our account was confirmed by email.
To begin with we cautiously placed stock orders for £200-£400 because some wholesalers had a minimum order amount whilst others offered the incentive of free delivery if you purchase over a set amount and we didn’t have the means ourselves to travel across the UK to collect our stock.
Our order amounts amounts soon grew from £200 to £1,000-£2,000 per order with each wholesaler over the coming months as we became more established, with the most we have spent in one month on new stock being £6,000 – all within six months of trading since opening!
In total we use five UK based wholesalers who personally travel to countries such as India, Thailand, Peru and Nepal in order to source handmade, sustainable and ethical goods for UK businesses to buy in large quantities. This allows us to help others to find work, create communities and have ethical employment to support their families which warms our hearts and fuels our passion to bring love, light and positivity to all.
Being a new business you may think that money is everything with most wanting to buy cheap and sell high to make the most profit possible but that isn’t our ethos. We believe in quality, kindness, sustainability and allowing items to speak for themselves and so we keep our profit margins low to over-deliver on quality, price and expectations. Whilst other similar stores to us heartbreakingly receive comments such as “smaller than I thought it would be” “overpriced for what it is” “disappointing clarity” and “not real” our customers kindly sing about our crystals from the rooftops, leave us five star reviews, recommend us to friends and family and come back to us time and time again.
In essence, we really wanted to provide to others the things that we already buy and love ourselves at an affordable price without scrimping on quality.
Sourcing Our Packaging
I knew from the get-go that I would only use recycled, recyclable, sustainable and eco-friendly packaging for our products, even though it comes at a much greater expense for packaging costs – especially to a start-up business – but to begin as we mean to go on is something that is very important to me.
Our packaging is therefore carbon neutral, fully recyclable and made from plants and recycled card which we print ourselves and cut by hand to ensure that each and every customers package is not only correct, but always of the highest quality, sustainable and something that we would like to receive ourselves. It isn’t about making money fast or breaking even on investment as quickly as possible, but in creating a business that will be honest, respectable and kind to the planet with the opportunity to be passed from generation to generation within the family some day.
It also gives us a sense of pride to create something so beautiful to send out to our customers, knowing that it will put a smile on their face, make them feel good inside and continue to bring peace, love and positivity to their lives long after they receive their items.
We have also spent a great deal of time researching and writing about the crystals and precious stones that we stock in order to create description cards and gift boxes tailored to specific needs including mental health, stress reduction, relaxation, detoxification and wellness to name but a few. To some it may seem like we have gone above and beyond but to us we believe that something is worth doing then you do it properly to the very best of your ability and the results will speak for themselves.
Organising Postage Options
We offer free delivery for the majority of our product range and therefore factor the cost of postage via the Royal Mail into the product price which much also include packaging fees, Etsy transaction fees and stock costs.
To begin with we would package our shipments as “large letters” and put them into a postbox at the end of the street with a stamp on the postal bag with the handwritten addresses. We got through a few books of stamps and note pads for addresses which was rather time consuming, and as the business grew and orders doubled, tripled and quadrupled we then invested in a thermal label printing machine so that we could purchase and print Royal Mail postage labels directly through Etsy.
Thermal printers don’t require ink which makes them super quick, easy and reliable to use and has cut our processing time in half. Now we simply bag up our orders and take them in a sack to the post office where each label is scanned for proof of postage and can arrive as quickly as the following day for most customers. We’ve stayed up until the early hours of the morning in peak times to ensure that orders are dispatched within 24hrs which was a bit of a juggling act at first but we’ve now found our flow for processing as time goes by.
Our next step is to consider arranging a Royal Mail collection so that we don’t have to take our packages to the post office for proof of postage. This would involve a postal worker coming directly to us to collect our daily orders which we will be looking into over the coming months.
Postal strikes across the UK crippled arrival times at the end of this year with some packages taking three weeks to arrive rather than three days for which small businesses received complaints over delayed Christmas present arrivals, negative reviews left online and broken or missing parcels. News outlets have shockingly reported sacks of dumped parcels in hedges whereby delivery drivers couldn’t cope with the mounting workload and long hours resulting in many deliveries never being attempted.
Each time something we have dispatched is damaged, lost or stolen in the post this cost falls upon us as a small business and wasn’t something that I had expected to ever happen as I believed that whatever you send via the Royal Mail would arrive safely at its destination. Sadly around 1/10 packages are affected by post and we have to either refund or replace these products which customers are usually very understanding of. We also include delivery notes about previous and upcoming strikes and delays in order to give a realistic and transparent timeframe for deliveries.
Displaying Our Products
Each item that we stock has been researched, written about, photographed by myself at home and uploaded to the Etsy store with measurements, descriptions, colour / size options and prices calculated for either a marketing budget or profit margin – which again is rather time consuming!
With a beautiful eucalyptus tree in our garden, I have spent many mornings, afternoons and evenings trimming fresh foliage for the pictures before photographing new stock with our information cards, gift packaging and rulers for reference to upload to our Etsy store and social media. Each time that I place an order with a wholesaler I set upon researching the new stock to write, print and cut out the information cards to speed up unwrapping, photographing and uploading the new stock as soon as it arrives.
And each time that I think we’ve stocked everything you could possibly think of for a shop I seem to find several new times to purchase in quantities of 5, 10 or 20. I’m forever telling myself that once I’ve written out and uploaded a new item I’ll never have to go through the entire listing process again as it’s simply a case of updating the quantity when restocking it in future.
On average I’ve been adding around 20-50 new products each month, some are as small as a penny whilst others are as big as a 2kg salt lamp, it’s the most wonderful thing to browse wholesalers for things that you personally love and can stock in your store to supply them to others. Updating new stock on our social media allows customers to keep in touch with us, be notified of sales and promotions and provide feedback for what they’d like us to source as well as their thoughts on our service.
As of January 2023 we currently have an active stock of 504 listings in our Etsy store with over 89 listings sold out.
Establishing A Thriving Small Family Business
On Etsy there is something know as the Star Seller Badge which is awarded to stores which have met all of the customer service criteria to have sold over a set value of stock, replied to every customers message received within 24hrs, achieved 5* reviews for products and dispatched orders within a set timeframe. The Star Seller Badge is based upon data collected across a three month period and so the soonest you can achieve a star seller badge is the fourth month of trading which is renewed every thirty days and can be lost and earned on the first of every month.
For our first month of trading in June we didn’t actually trade as our Etsy account was locked through a technical fault on the site and we had to await customer service assistance to release it. Therefore our first sale was in July 2022 and we earned our first star seller badge on 1st December 2022 with our second on 1st January 2023 – needless to say we hope that we will continue to keep our badge month after month, as it is displayed on each listing to give customers peace of mind and reassurance for trustworthy businesses online.
Replying to customers messages into the early hours of the morning – just as I would texts from friends – seems to be something that people weren’t expecting from us as a lot of stores have a strict 9-5pm operating window and don’t deal with any queries or dispatches until the following day.
Because it is our family store I have bundles of enthusiasm to assist people as quickly as possible with politeness, kindness and consideration just as I would like my own queries or concerns to be handled. As a result of this I have come to know our customers who query the meanings of crystals, need assistance with sizing, suitability and even gift ideas for their loved ones. Because we have a lot of products that are spiritual and focus upon mental health we also see a lot of sadness, suffering and loss and I’ve been in floods of tears upon many occasions packing orders for lost loved ones, illness and hardship as my heart aches for the struggles that people face.
I therefore think that it is incredibly important to show gratitude to our customers for choosing us, for supporting our small family business and for helping up to exist as an eco-friendly and sustainable business in todays modern world when so many disposable and convenience-led other options are available online. This journey has restored my faith in humanity and allowed me to feel such warmth and compassion towards others by handwriting message cards and carefully wrapping gifts for loved ones to receive.
The long hours, attention to detail and going the extra mile are all so wonderfully worth it as they say when you do a job that you love it will never feel like work. In the six months of having our store we have had over 5,100 sales and only get busier by the day! It is mind blowing to think what we may achieve in our first year and so motivational to share this energy and enthusiasm with others.
Sourcing A Professional Photographer
Being a small family business doing everything ourselves, we decided to have a commercial photographer come in to create professional promotional pictures of our stock to share on social media and our store images on Etsy as we felt a fresh pair of eyes and enthusiastic creativity would be in line with our growing business and emerging presence in sustainable the gift market.
It’s wonderful for our store and listings to look and feel homemade, but it’s also nice to have it look its very best and showcase some of what we have to offer in a more professional light. Businesses who work with creatives allow their niche expertise to shine through in areas where we may have little to no experience themselves.
We chose David Dillon Photography because of his stunning wildlife and landscape photography which we discovered some years ago and have been keen followers of online ever since. It was important to us to work with a photographer who understood our ethos and what our store and products mean to us, as we wanted the images captured to create an atmosphere and ambiance of peace, love and wellbeing.
For our photography session we had selected some of our personal favourites from our stock as well as a handful of our best sellers and some brand new items to showcase. We discussed the objectives for the shoot, looked through a range of backdrops, settings and arrangements and then decided on the final products, sizes and colours to be used, creating two beautiful images of our wellbeing and crystal settings.
Seeing as we photograph our stock on white marble it made sense to create the promotional images with a similar marble backdrop on a natural wood base as David explained the purpose of foreground and background placement, varying heights and balancing colours and textures to create the most aesthetically pleasing layout. This was followed by the correct light balance to allow each product and surface to show in its very best light without flooding the others or casting distracting shadows.
It was all so technical to witness the setup and shutter speeds necessary throughout, but incredibly awe-inspiring and motivational to see each set come together and the resultant images captured which we could never have achieved by ourselves. Whilst a lot of small businesses may not have the budget to hire a professional photographer to create promotional images upon starting up, six months into our store we think that this is such a valuable way to showcase our store as a whole and capture our ethos and the imagination of our customers to take a closer look and see all that we have to offer in our store. It really is this mixture of homemade and perfectionism which creates the most beautiful synergy and contributes to our vision for growth and longevity.
More To Come..
Our vision for the store is to expand into creating wider ranges of handmade soaps, hand poured candles and ethical clothing which we will either create ourselves or travel to craft fares, craft workshops and community projects who create goods to provide for their own business, families and to give back to the world.
It is after all our favourite way to spend a lazy afternoon enjoying the meaningful, heartfelt, organic, natural and cruelty-free offerings of artists and artisan creators at fares; we are incredibly thrilled to be able to share our passion and positivity with our customers and feel humbled to know the love and happiness that it brings to so many.