Today's interview features the oh-so-sweet Jena Coray from Reno, Nevada, the brains behind one of my favorite blogs (and a personal inspiration of mine!), Modish. With the recent launch of her wonderful consignment shop Modishoppe, she's stretching out her style and influence for the good of her wallet - but, as you'll see, apparently not for the good of her wallet! All of the images here are products available through Modishoppe.
What inspired you to start your site in the first place?
I had recently discovered all the big design blogs and started looking around for a blog that featured just indie design and cool indie/handmade products and couldn't find one, so, I decided to start one of my own! I figured if it was something I was interested in that there had to be other people interested too, and it turns out I was right! Plus I thought it'd be a fun way to make myself write every single day and put my Writing degree to good use! :)
What was your strategy for promoting yourself once you decided to start it up, and was it effective?
I just dove in head first and started it, then after a few days of getting my footing, figuring out exactly what I was going to write about (I wanted a focused/dedicated blog about specifically handmade goods) I emailed some of those big design blogs introducing them to my blog and saying why it was different. A few of them liked it, posted about it and I immediately started getting a lot of traffic from that. I wrote a press release, distributed it to other blogs and magazines, did lots of link exchanges with blogs and all the meanwhile sought out the coolest indie products I could find to make the readers I was attracting feel like coming back, bookmarking and telling their friends about it. All those strategies seem to have worked very well as it grew really fast and maintained a wonderful base of readers developed during those first few months.
How do you find all of the items that you feature? What makes a product really stand out for you?
Searching searching searching. I LOVE Etsy for finding new things and go to it at least a few times a week. I have a lot of "favorite" sites with big link lists of friends that I pursue to find new stuff. I always check up on consignment stores and boutiques to see what new designers they may have. I frequently feature people that email me introducing me to their sites. Usually I just end up following a trail of links until I hit something that makes me stop in my tracks. Items/sites that make me stop are usually just well put together and appealing to the eye, feature well lit, clear product photography and the items have to be unique of course, well made and just something that I'm personally attracted to in some way, whether or not it's something I'd ever buy myself.
What's your favorite aspect of running the site? What's the hardest part?
My favorite part is the reactions I receive from shop owners that I've featured who are so grateful to have been written about- it makes me feel like the site is actually useful and is helping small business owners out in a real, tangible way and that was the main goal in starting this whole thing. The hardest part is probably just trying to keep my wallet far far away from my desk while I'm finding things to write about or else I'm at risk of buying waaayyy too much rad stuff!
You also run Modishoppe. What inspired you to open a store for independent designers' products?
Well, I used to have a store selling just my own jewelry and that fell by the wayside due the success of the blog (and amount of time I was putting into it!) so I was always hankering to re-open the shop, but after finding so many other talented designers I thought it'd be even better to open up a shop that modish readers would be interested in with variety of stuff to choose from. Plus, my unnerving effort to find something that will sustain me just enough to be able to quit my job and actually spend my days in a creative, free way - not answering to anyone - was the ultimate motivator to just give it a try and see how it goes!
How did you go about making Modishoppe into a reality? Were there any bumps along the way?
The first thing I did was hunt down my favorite web designer ever, Arianne from Aeolidia design and see if she'd be interested in making the shoppe for me. I had never used a designer before but really just wanted an effortless, easy site that was really automated and pretty that I didn't have to tweak all the time. Then, I contacted many of my favorite designers to see if they'd be interested in giving it a try and entrusting me with their lovely items. I made advertising and marketing plans and tried to figure out new cool ways to present the products to make the shoppe look different and appealing. There were really no snags that I can think of as I wanted it to work out so badly and was really dedicated to getting it done and making it just how I wanted, that any little bumps were just that and didn't hamper my focus. I've found that when you really want something, I mean reallllllly want something with all that's in you and can envision yourself in that new life, it usually just works out.
How do you select the product that goes into Modishoppe?
Most of the items I've selected by contacting the designers- at first I just chose some of my favorites from past items that I posted on the blog! Now I get a lot of consignment applications from designers requesting their items to be in the shoppe. Modishoppe is reflective much more of my own personal taste than the blog in the sense that I want it to have an overall "feel" of feminine, vintage styled, hip but not too trendy, subtle, stylish. There are lots of really cute things that people propose to be included in the shop, but if I don't think it fits the "feel" I usually won't accept it because I want people to kinda know what they're getting when they come to the shoppe- if they're thinking of a gift for a certain person, they'll know whether or not modishoppe might have something they'd like because they know the style of items I usually carry. I'm trying to establish a "brand" of sorts I suppose.
What were some of the lessons you've learned along the way? Is there anything you'd wished you'd known or thought of before taking the plunge?
I've had to learn to trust myself and my skills and not be so scared to just dive in- I just have to always maintain a positive attitude and not freak out if I have no orders one day because I'll have plenty the next! And I've learned (er, am in the process of learning) that it is really really time consuming taking pictures and doing the bookkeeping and updating the site and creating ads and packing and shipping orders and that I just can't do it all now now now, but it's still okay to take a break and go to the beach on a Saturday. I'm really hard on myself and feel awful when I'm not working on the site because I always have a never-ending to-do list but I have to learn that that's just how it is and I deserve a break every once in awhile without the guilt, or else I'll eventually just break down!
Is there any particular advice you'd give to someone interested in starting a consignment shop?
I'd say get all your ducks in a row before you start- have advertising plans, have a consignment contract made up, have bookkeeping figured out, a return policy thought out, etc before you delve into the fun stuff. And most of all, be sure you're going to be really committed to it because it can become really big, really fast and you have to maintain your integrity with both the designers that are trusting you with their goods and your customers- it's a lot different selling 50+ designer's goods than when I just sold my own jewelry- it's a big endeavor so just be prepared! But once you're in it, it's really fun!
You are also a crafter. What are your biggest influences in the work you do?
I do still create jewelry (which will hopefully be included in my shoppe sometime soon!) and I really just love vintage inspirations and try to use mostly, if not all, vintage pieces in the creations. I like feminine, colorful beads, filigree and am kind of obsessed with the color green! I've also recently been inspired by all the incredible fabrics I use as the backgrounds for my pictures in the shoppe and you may see those find their way into my jewelry too!
What are your favorite crafts, and what made you pick them up?
Well, I'm an only child who constantly had to figure out how to occupy myself with a mom who has supported me in absolutely every whim I've ever had. I think my "craftiness" started with paint by numbers, then moved on to the friendship bracelets and neon rubbery keychain things (remember those?) then I got into needlepoint, then it was rubber stamping for a long while. When I finally found jewelry and beads around 12 years old I fell in love and started a mini empire selling polymer clay jewelry and beaded bracelets and macrame necklaces to all the girls at my middle school and had a little "shop" set up on the bulletin board at my piano teacher's house.
Are there any other blogs that you've considered a benchmark for Modish, and how have they impacted the site?
My main influences before I started Modish were design*sponge, decor8 and oh joy! I was totally infatuated with the colors and the style and the items they were finding. If I hadn't have found those blogs just at the right time when I was creatively bored and seeking an outlet for it, there wouldn't be a Modish at all.
What is your favorite part about being a member of the online crafts community?
I'm used to being such an individualist (aka: loner!) that it's kinda cool being considered part of any community at all! I like the feeling that I'm actually contributing to the livelihoods of small business owners, like myself, in even a tiny way, and I like feeling appreciated in a way that I've never really felt before. I feel obligated to my community of sponsors and readers to help keep this whole indie design, crafting, diy fire going! There is really no crafting community that I feel welcome to or included in here in my hometown, so this online thing is all I got!
Are there any sites or people that you think are really impacting the popularity of the community?
The Switchboards is just about the best thing that ever happened to me as a crafter. When I was starting my first online jewelry business I found alllll the advice that I could ever want on there and attribute my building my own site from scratch, having any orders at all and learning the ropes of the business world to that site. I also think the Sampler and Marie who runs it, Leah Kramer who's behind Craftster and Natalie Zee Dreiu and CRAFT magazine are all an incredible asset to the community as we know it.
Last question for you: any thoughts on how the community could improve itself?
I'd say that we all just need to support each other and acknowledge and appreciate each other's creativity and really work to create original things ourselves. Most everyone does that already, but it's hard hearing stories of people's ideas getting ripped off and I've had my own experiences with that, and it not only hurts the individuals personally, it really hurts the community as a whole. We all just need to stick together!