Style Blog Experiment: Why I'm re-launching my vintage shop and leaving Etsy

I have an exciting project in the works for 2015.

It’s a case study that I’ll be sharing with you every step of the way. From planning, to design, to profit - I’ll be sharing every move I make to build up this new business.

Want to see me build a business from the ground up? Make sure you sign up to get all the updates (so you don't miss any of my embarrassing mistakes and hopefully successes too).

Well, it’s not entirely new. As you know I’ve been running a vintage shop on Etsy for 4+ years now. For a while it was my main source of income. When I started making money blogging, I cut back on the hours I spent on my vintage shop.

But I miss the creativity and hands-on nature of working on a vintage clothing shop - so I’m rebranding, re-launching, and re-vamping in a big way.

So even though I have had a profitable online vintage shop for years, I’m basically starting from scratch with this. I’m moving off of Etsy, setting up my own e-commerce shop, and really focusing on branding, community, and being a stand-alone shop and studio. I'll have to find my own customers (which Etsy used to do for me). Sorry Etsy, but it’s time to cut the cord!


Why am I moving off of Etsy?

As much as I have enjoyed having my shop on Etsy, it is time to move on. I still think that the Etsy platform is a really good place to start out as a new business.

However, I don’t like not having much control over my shop, my appearance and branding, and everything else. One problem I have with Etsy in general is that it’s very hard to stand out as an individual shop. People tend to say “I got it on Etsy!” as if we’re one big store with multiple sellers, instead of individual shops.

I really want to have complete control over the way my shop looks, feels, and operates. I want a website that is creative, beautiful, and reflects the brand.

I want more than just a little banner at the top of my Etsy shop.

I also want to do more creative things - lookbooks, collections, possibly expanding into our own designs at some point. Basically, we’re going big-fish and hoping we can make it on our own.

I’ll miss the free traffic and easy systems that Etsy has to offer. I’m sure I’ll realize more things that I’ll miss on Etsy when I migrate my shop to the new e-commerce site. I haven’t dug into the back-end of the new site yet, so I’m not sure how smoothly it will run.

One of the biggest challenges is that I won’t be able to bring any of my customers with me from Etsy. That’s one of the biggest reasons to have your own website instead of using eBay and Etsy - those customers aren’t yours. You can’t collect emails. You can’t market sales or upcoming events to them.

So essentially I’m starting from scratch. No email list. No connections. No raving fans following me to my new site (yet!).

As a note, I’m going to start by using SquareSpace for the new site, blog and shop. SquareSpace has an affordable e-commerce solution. I host all of my other websites with them as well (including this one!). I will stick to what I know to test out the idea, and maybe move to another solution down the line if I need to. For now it will suit my needs fine.


What is it?

The new project has two parts:

  1. Style blog

  2. Vintage clothing shop

The idea is to be a blog with a shop instead of a “company” or shop with a small obligatory blog on the side.

The blog is the main attraction, but there is also a shop where you can buy items from the outfits on the blog.

I spent 4 years operating as a “company” - my name and face were not associated with my vintage shop’s brand. I’m looking to do something more personal now. I don’t want to pretend to be a big “brand” or “company” with a “team” - it’s just me, doing it all, and I’m okay with that.

Not to say I’m not a professional running a real business - I just want it to be more personal this time around. Like, hey it’s Mariah, that’s the girl that picks out each piece by hand and does all the styling and shipping.


Why are you re-branding?

When I started my vintage shop 4 years ago I called it Planet Queen Vintage, after the T. Rex song (still a favorite!). I love that name and the branding for it - who doesn’t love all things vintage space-themed? But I’m really looking for a fresh start this time around. New name, new concept, everything new. (I'll be revealing the name of the new shop + style blog next week, so make sure you sign up for updates if you want to be in the know).

I’m saying the word “branding” a lot in this post. But when I started Planet Queen Vintage years ago, I didn’t know that was a thing. I was not “into” business, even though I ran an online business.

Now I have a clear vision of what I want for the new and re-launched blog + shop. It’s actually closer to my original shop name even BEFORE Planet Queen existed. I’ve never felt so sure and clear and A-HA! about a design and brand before. Sometimes it just clicks, and this was one of those times.


Aren’t you afraid of confusing/losing people?

I thought about this, but honestly the fact is I don’t have much brand recognition as Planet Queen Vintage. I have social media accounts, but those I can switch over easily. Because I was on Etsy, I didn’t have a lot of branding besides a shop banner.

I make a living with my sales, but I didn’t have a loyal fan base of repeat customers. I want to change that and build that up around the new site - a community and a strong brand and style. You will see something and say “Oh, that’s totally Mariah”.

So I’m starting fresh. New name, new concept, new everything. And you know what? I’m pretty damn excited about that. Yes I loved Planet Queen Vintage - but I am just really feeling this new thing. It lights me up. So I have to respect that and not hold on too tight to something that feels kind of outdated and doesn’t inspire the same spark that this new name/brand/concept does. Even if that means taking a step back and re-doing a few things. I’m okay with that. It’s worth it.


The Style Blog Experiment

So, as I mentioned, one half of this business will be the vintage clothing shop, but the main dish will be a personal style blog.

This is entirely new territory for me. I’ve modeled, styled, done it all - but there’s still something nerve wracking about just posting pictures of yourself in cool clothes. Will everyone think I’m super-vain and hate me? Will I look dumb? What if I can’t make my face look un-terrible in pictures?

Not to mention the whole “fashion blogger” world that I know nothing about. That’s okay - I'm ready to figure it all out along the way.

Things I’m interested in exploring in this experiment:

  • Can you make money with a personal style blog?

  • What are the best ways to monetize a personal style blog?

  • Can I stand out in a saturated market, where competition is fierce and the girls all seem way cooler than I am?

  • What’s it like being a part of the style blogger community? Is everyone nice and supportive or is it a clique you have to break into?

  • Is a personal style blog a good way to funnel traffic and customers to my online clothing store? I’ve debated a lot about whether or not I wanted my website to be a blog with a shop and be really personal, or more like a shop with a small blog (more company-like). For now we're going with the former and we'll see how that works.

As I build this business and blog, I’m going to be explaining what I do and how to do it. Some things we’ll cover:

Setting up a personal style blog: what elements are important to include in a good style blog? What’s the quickest way to get up and running? What platform should you use?

Design and Branding: how the heck am I going to stand out? How can I brand something personally? What DIY options can you design your website with?

Photography and Style: how to take your own photos, equipment, developing a consistent style, editing photos, styling, etc.

Monetization: I will be planning out and experimenting with various monetization methods suited to style blogs, with total honesty. Let’s see what works! And the shop part of the blog - which will be pretty unique!

Traffic + stats: where does traffic come from? How can you promote your own style blog? How do you get noticed? What advertising methods are worth paying for and what should you do yourself?

Products, physical and digital: does having the personal style blog that shows off my personality and personal clothing collection actually increase sales in the shop part of the website? What happens when I try to incorporate digital items (if I go in that direction)? What other services and products can style bloggers sell beyond promoting other brands and advertising?

What I anticipate to be the biggest challenge of the style blog:

  • taking photos that look decent of myself
  • being consistent and updating regularly

I’ll be experimenting with various promotion methods and reporting back to you on what works. If you have any suggestions let me know.

I’ll be revealing the unique part about the vintage shop in an upcoming blog post.

If you’ve ever wanted to start a vintage clothing shop or a personal style blog - or just work in fashion - you are going to love this ongoing series. I’ll be (re)building this business from the ground up in front of you, all details will be shared here (good and bad!). I can't wait to see what happens! I have big plans for the shop - but we have to start at the beginning.