Introducing Jo Stevens

This week we introduce the lovely Jo Stevens, an Etsy Steampunk Jewellery maker with a love of gaming and anime. Jo has very kindly agreed to give us the low down on her business and what inspires her makes, the personal challenges she faces and her future plans. Jo has been an amazing person to speak to and get to know and I hope you enjoy learning about her, her makes and her future business plans as much as I have. 
Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about you and your Etsy shop? Hello! I’m Jo, I’m 31 years old, I am currently living in Peterborough and I own an Etsy shop called lilJo’s Jewellery.  Being agoraphobic I had a lot of spare ‘indoor time’ so I decided to do something productive that I enjoyed doing and that would also help towards my household bills… and so my Etsy shop was born! lilJo’s Jewellery has Steampunk at it’s core and also some Cottage-chic with Boho jewellery and accessories for sale too.

[PS for anyone who is wondering what steampunk is, here is the Wiki definition: “it is a subgenre of science fiction or science fantasy that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery.” ]

I live with my partner Simon who I met online a few years ago. Like me he is a gamer and very much a fan of super heroes and all things Marvel. He is a bit of a stereotypical nerd with a comic book collection and character figurines in tow, but he is so lovely and just the right guy for me!
Together we have two cats. The first is Kittyfer, she is a rescue cat, she is very quiet and keeps to herself, but loves my partner to bits!

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The second one is Catcat, she was a stray and given to us by a neighbour who tried to take care of her but could no longer do so. She was in a bit of a state, skinny, worms, fleas, the works! But we got her all fixed up and gave her lots of love so she is now my happy, tubby, slightly loopy little buddy who follows me everywhere.

They are both gorgeous cats and it sounds like they’re very lucky to have ended up finding a home with you guys. Do you want to talk a little bit about your agoraphobia?  I was first diagnosed with depression, anxiety and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) when I was around 19. I went to numerous counseling, psychotherapy, psychiatry and cognitive behavioral therapy sessions but nothing seemed to help and the agoraphobia stated to develop.

Dealing with my agoraphobia can definitely be hard at times, I don’t really go out a lot but my family support me and I do manage to go out when I’m with them. Because of my social anxiety I just tend to try not to talk or interact with people when I do go out. That’s why Etsy is really good for me being that it’s all online.
When I do get an order my wonderful partner steps in and takes any parcels to the post office for me, so without him I probably would have failed at my Etsy endeavour. I appreciate his help and support very much!

Thanks for sharing this with us, Simon sounds so supportive which must be a great help. I’m sure there are people suffering with debilitating illnesses that will appreciate your honesty and find the fact that you have worked around your illness and set up your business inspiring, I know that I do. Tell us a little bit about how & where you work? I work from my home so when making jewellery I’m usually on the floor surrounded by findings and parts or at the dining room table whilst being attentively watched by my cat. By the window is another spot you can also find me, camera in hand, as I find natural light for my item photography works best. The majority of my time is spent at my computer desk where I edit and upload all my photos to Etsy and work on titles and SEO. I also spend a lot of time there networking and promoting via my different media accounts too.

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What sort of camera do you use for your product photography? I use a FujiFilm FinePix S1000fd with a 12x optical zoom lens to take my item pictures. After making a few items I take all the photos at the same time using natural daylight so they all come out looking the same. I then use Adobe Photoshop Element 8.0 to do all my editing which is mainly adding my background and logo. I am planning to get my background professionally printed so I can take my item photos directly on that instead of having to add it myself after, in the hope of cutting out a lot of editing time.

What inspires your work? I thought for a long while about what I should make and being a fan of Steampunk I was inspired by the beauty of items and photography I saw online and wanted to be a part of it and so I started to make Steampunk jewellery. But sometimes when I think of a design I just have to make it! Such as these little Alarm Clock Brooches.

What are you currently working on?  I designed and made my shop logo and cover picture myself and I have been designing a business card and shop poster for when I eventually start selling at craft fairs.

 Logo
As for my jewellery I am also working on getting more steampunk items put together ready to be added to my shop.

How have you found your Etsy journey so far? So far my Etsy journey has been exhausting at times but also very fulfilling as I really do enjoy creating my items and it makes me very happy to receive good reviews, and of course even happier when I hear the famous ‘Ker-ching’!

I have also found different places online, mainly facebook groups, where I can network and get support and advice from other lovely Etsy sellers. So being able to make friends along the way has been a great bonus!
That in turn inspired me to start my own group called ‘Shop Etsy UK‘ so us sellers have yet another place we can get together and help promote each other’s work!

 

Oooh, I ‘ll have to pop over and check it out! You say some of your Etsy journey is ‘exhausting’ at times (I soooo know that feeling). What do you enjoy doing to chill out and relax, if you have time to do that? I would like to say I cook/bake lovely things to eat as I would really enjoy that! Unfortunately I am terrible in the kitchen and although I have tried many times, things that usually can’t be messed up turn out wrong and I end up with another burn to add to the collection… so I shoot zombies on my Xbox instead! I also like to game with my partner as well or watch movies with him, that really takes my mind off things and helps me unwind.

Any lessons learned so far that you would like to share with other Etsy makers or online sellers? I have been very lucky so far and not experienced this myself as my customers have always been kind and polite to me, “knock on wood”. But I have seen other sellers who have not had this luck and have had very rude interactions from buyers. So I would say to other sellers, don’t let anyone bully you and always stay as polite and professional as you can.

Also, if you are anxious about your prices, play with adjusting your prices and see what works best for each item you sell. You could also play the ‘What would you pay?’ game which is usually found within Facebook networking groups. You may be pleasantly surprised so never under value your own work.

 

How do you package your items for sending? Tell us about anything you do to make the customer experience extra special? The items themselves are either in a ribbon topped gift box, in a jewellery sleeve or in a drawstring organza bag depending on the item.

I currently write out my postage labels but am saving up for a label printer and also some logo and return address stickers as I think it will give a more professional and branded look to my parcels.
Packaging Pic
I have also seen some ‘Review me’ stickers online and have added them to my wishlist as I think they are a great idea to encourage buyers to leave much wanted reviews!

They sound like a great idea, I’ll have to look out for some!  How are you finding the challenge of SEO, tags and titles and trying to reach a global market? SEO for me is not too bad actually. I try to use basic descriptive words mixed with specific ones and also spell things differently such as ‘Jewellery or mum’ for the UK and ‘Jewelry or mom’ for the US for a little added reach.

There is a lot of talk about the jewellery market on Etsy being over saturated and more competitive than ever. Do you think this is true and how do you keep your head above the crowd? Any thoughts on this would be interesting? Oh yes I definitely think this is true! There are just so many types of jewellery to be found on Etsy… boho, fine, costume, wrapped wire, bridal, beaded, resin..the list goes on and on so being a jewellery seller on Etsy can be very challenging!

I find my Steampunk jewellery sells the best out of all my items because it falls within a niche genre and I also try to be competitive with my pricing as most Steampunk items can be quite expensive.

 

Do you ever make the jewellery for yourself to wear? Sometimes I do want to keep what I’ve made but I have to keep telling myself ‘NO! Behave!’ I’ve still made a couple of items for myself though and a few for my family. Last year I made an amber range but as soon as I posted pictures of it my mum commented:

Mum: Oh! My favourite colours!
Me: Do you want one?
Mum: Yes.
Me: Which one?
Mum: All of them.
On the plus side that was her Christmas present sorted!

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 Your favourite make so far?
I  have two absolute favorite makes, one is this square steampunk pendant. I think it has a simplistic look but still so gorgeous displayed in it’s gift box and would make a perfect gift for a Steampunk lover!
The other is this Amethyst wrist watch, I tried something different with this watch, giving it a matching attached bracelet which I think ended up looking beautiful! I was a little bit sad to see it go but very happy someone liked it enough to buy it!

Your best seller? My best seller has been the matching Steampunk necklace and bracelet gift sets which come in a beautiful ribbon topped gift box! I really enjoy making these!

Have you had many sales abroad? If so where is your most exotic or furthest location? I have made a few international sales going out to Australia, Germany and mostly to the USA. One of my furthest location sales was a recent sale not to far from Hollywood which went to an American actress who appeared in quite a few of my favourite childhood TV shows, so I was very happy about that!

 

That sounds very exciting! So, what’s next for your shop? I am most passionate about my Steampunk items and my next plan for my shop is to start making jewellery and accessories with gamer and anime themes as I am a huge fan of these genres as well! As I have never sold at any craft fairs yet I would love to start doing so, especially at comic cons where I feel those types of items would be more sought after.

So you’re really into gaming and anime? I do play computer games and have done since I was around five so I do consider myself a gamer. I started off on the Atari playing the awesome 80’s game ‘Pong’! My favourite game to run home from school to play was ‘Super Mario 3’ and sometimes my family would have game nights where we would all play ‘Star Fox’ together which I really enjoyed! When I was a teen the ‘Silent Hill’ series was my all time favourite, it’s horror themed and I remember being genuinely scared at times when playing! Nowadays though some of my favourite games are ‘Fallout 3’, ‘Left 4 dead 2’ and the ‘Gears of War’ series. I really love gaming and will probably game for the rest of my life and will definitely teach my kids (when I have some) to game too.

As for Anime, again I started watching from a young age and my first one was ‘Project A-ko’ which I instantly fell in love with! Having a nerdy older teen brother I was able to follow along watching whatever he watched so started off on a lot of 80’s anime such as ‘Devil Man’, ‘Psycho City’ and my favourite, ‘3×3 Eyes’..which looking back was probably a bit inappropriate/scary for a little kid to be watching but I’m glad I got to watch them anyway!
I’ve carried on watching anime since and some of my fave ones are Hunter X Hunter, Hack, FLCL, Naruto and Attack on Titan. Anime is awesome because of how imaginative the story lines can be and also because of how beautiful some anime art is. This is why I am looking forward to starting a gamer and anime line of jewellery because both have always been present in my life and I have a real passion for them so it just feels like the right next step for me to take for my shop.

It sounds like fantastic plan and I hope you come back and tell us when you have your new lines ready so we can have a sneaky peek. Do you think your Etsy business is helping you build your confidence? I recently went to a Comicon in Birmingham with my partner, it was a birthday present because I’ve always wanted to go to one so it was my first ever one! I really enjoyed it and loved to see all the anime and gamer merchandise and lucky for me there was an outside area which I used a few times to just sit and chill when I got to flustered. Anyway, I just loved the stalls and saw items similar to my own so it just became an ambition! I hear from other Etsy people that they sell on stalls at craft fairs and I just think my items, especially when I start a gamer and anime range, would fit in better at a Comicon.

Interacting with like minded people would be lovely and definitely help with my confidence. I’m hoping to get started on my new range within the next few months if I can. I’ll probably wait for a few months after that to actually go to a Comicon because I want to buy stall stands and a shop banner and business cards first, so when I do go I am prepared and can set up a professional looking stall.

I especially want some pics if you do start selling at Comicon -I hope you’ll get dressed up for the occassion – keep us posted! Your Etsy crush? Definitely FelThink! I adore her whimsical and charming dolls, they are all just so stunning!

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They are gorgeous, I will be taking a closer look! So, where can we find you on the web to come and say ‘hi’? Apart from Etsy, you can also find me here:

A very big thank you to Jo for giving such a warm, honest and interesting insight into her Etsy journey so far. I’m sure you will join me in wishing her the best of luck in her future endeavors. Jo will be back in six months to let us know how things are progressing. If you have any feedback or comments then please do comment below or get in touch as we’d love to hear your thoughts and encouragement. 
Next week we will be featuring Tily North from Natalie North Designs, a Newcastle based home accessories designer. I’m really looking forward to that and in the meantime we’ll have a treasury of lovely goodies for you to drool over which will be published on Tuesday.
Finally I just wanted to give a little shout out to Amy Donoghue at Hope the Black Dog, an Etsy shop with a mental health message. If you visit her page and take a look at her story and her products you might find some inspiration to help talk about mental health more openly. I’m really happy that Amy has agreed to get involved in ‘Feature Friday’, in the meantime here is one of her makes…for every purchase £1 goes towards the Mind charity.
aboveallbekind
If you’ve managed to stay with me this far please can I ask that you share this article on social media if you get the chance and maybe pop over to Jo’s shop, take a look and maybe treat yourself or a loved one? 
Thanks for reading xx
PS On the Leapup #Feature Friday this week we meet animal artist Sarah Alicia Smith, worth a look. 
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