As part of our series on pop-up shop entrepreneurs, BBVA Compass spoke with Kim Arrington, owner of the Etsy shop LittleHouseShop and a participant in an Etsy Pop Up event at a retail chain store.
While earning a degree in interior and commercial design from the University of Alabama, Birmingham artist Kim Arrington found her true passion—architectural drawings. It was that love that inspired her to open LittleHouseShop, an Etsy store out of which she sells watercolor house portraits, custom maps, greeting cards, and wedding suites. Her enchanting designs and growing popularity made her a natural choice for Etsy when selecting vendors for its pop-up shop. Much of her success, and her transition from designing event materials to opening her own business, she credits to the widely used peer-to-peer ecommerce platform.
Why an Etsy shop?
When Arrington first opened an online store, she created her own website. “I handled everything from online support to merchant services,” she says. “It was very time-consuming, and all the fees quickly added up.” She later shut down her website, with the goal of spending more time on her art and less time running an online business.
“Etsy was a way for me to sell my products without bothering myself with all the little details,” says Arrington. And the listing and sales fees, she says, “are worth it. I would be paying similar charges on my own website.” To make a strong profit, Arrington suggests incorporating fees into the retail price. “While some might say these fees are costly, the benefits of running a business through Etsy are tremendous.”
Participating in a retail pop-up shop
When Etsy approached her for the Etsy Pop Up, Arrington didn’t know what to expect, but was surprised by how easy everything went. “Etsy put me in contact with a representative who answered all my questions and offered suggestions about what I should stock up on.” They even sent her a card reader and Etsy-emblazoned point-of-purchase signs—items she didn’t have but needed.
On the day of the event, tables and promotional materials were set out for her. All she had to bring was her artwork and her business cards. “Everything ran smoothly,” says Arrington. “It was much easier than a farmer’s market. And there was no cost to participate.”
Bringing an online business in store
With “90 percent” of her business in custom artwork, Arrington says she rarely has the opportunity to spotlight her ready-to-sell pieces—an occasion the Etsy Pop Up gave her. She also brought samples of her custom maps and invitations, which were well received by the retail store’s customers. “Several people grabbed a business card and expressed interest in my custom work. And most followed me on Instagram immediately, right there in the store,” she says.
For large retailers, the goal is to identify local makers whose goods complement their goods, rather than compete with them. To satisfy the tastes of their customer base, the store may seek to represent a variety of styles and aesthetics —something Arrington noticed at the Birmingham event. “They were really thoughtful in who they brought together; no one was in competition,” she says. “The artist next to me, her work was primarily black and white with heavy graphics. Her prints appealed to one type of customer, while my watercolors attracted another.”
The opportunity to converse with customers in person was another aspect of the pop-up shop that Arrington appreciated. “For me, because everything I do is online, weeks may go by without seeing or talking to someone about an order. Everything is done through email or Etsy,” she says. Seeing customer reactions to work rather than reading them online, says Arrington “was really nice.”
The pop-up event was also a chance for her to meet other Birmingham artists and feel a connection to the local scene. “I rarely feel a connection locally because my business is worldwide, which is another benefit of Etsy—international exposure —but what happens is, you don’t interact as much locally,” Arrington says. “Birmingham is a very supportive community for local makers and artists, so it felt good to be part of that.”
Challenge your status quo
Participating in events like the Etsy Pop Up is something that doesn’t come naturally, says Arrington. “I’m not the kind of person or personality to really put myself out there and stand at a booth. That was a challenge for me,” she says. “But the experience was great; I’m glad I did it.” For those who might consider participating in a pop-up event, “I would say go for it. I’m definitely glad I did and will look for other opportunities like this one.”