Michelle Sharkey wakes up early and enjoys a cup of coffee with her husband. Then she takes her two Boston terriers, MileyJo and Stanlee, outside and showers them with love.
A little later, you can find Sharkey in her home studio working on creations for her flourishing Etsy business, Little Blue Feathers.
This is the kind of life an online business affords the modern woman.
Little Blue Feathers offers screen-printed pillows and women’s T-shirts from time to time, but its main line consists of handmade clothing and accessories for children … and dogs. In fact, Sharkey’s dog bow ties are the most popular items in the store.“Stanlee is very dapper in the way he stands and walks, which inspired me to create quality accessories for him to wear on special occasions”
‘Dapper dog’ inspires business
When you visit the Etsy shop, or stop by her Facebook page, you’ll discover just who the star of the show is. Her dog Stanlee models all the bow ties and dog accessories, and even appears on some of her screen-printed items.
“Stanlee is very dapper in the way he stands and walks, which inspired me to create quality accessories for him to wear on special occasions,” Sharkey notes.
She wanted other dog lovers to be able to spruce up their pups for parties in a tasteful way that gets them noticed, she says.
“If we put on a tie or a flower clip in our kids’ hair, why can’t we with our pups?” she says.
So Stanlee stands tall and proud as Sharkey takes hundreds of photos of him wearing her bow ties. He’s “a real gem,” she says. As for MileyJo, she prefers to stay away from the limelight. Sharkey calls her “the sassy one.”
‘Bright, fresh and whimsical’
Little Blue Feathers opened on Etsy three years ago. Just prior to that, when she turned 25, Sharkey’s husband gave her a sewing machine. Never mind the fact she’d never sewn before.Sharkey says she tries to think of garments she hasn’t seen in the stores
Each year since, Sharkey has taught herself something new to sew, and is filled with joy and satisfaction from those moments, she says.
“While I have spent most of my life not knowing how to sew, I can’t imagine a life without it now,” she adds.
Passionate about fabrics and creating unique prints, Sharkey sometimes thinks she could sew forever.
When designing for children, Sharkey says she tries to think of garments she hasn’t seen in the stores. You’ll see that reflected in her “M is for Mustache” onesie or the appliqued black sheep piece with big blue button eyes.
“I love mixing fabrics with different colors and prints, and adding texture with layers or buttons,” Sharkey says.
She describes her store as “bright and fresh, with a touch of whimsy.” The bright-white backdrop and colorful, textured fabrics abound in her shop, and you see the whimsy not only in Stanlee’s drooping ear, but also in Sharkey’s designs.
Little Blue Feathers displays this style with crisp, quality photographs.
“Stanlee and my photography are the two things that draw people to my store,” Sharkey notes.
Professional-quality photos and clear descriptions are the quickest way to get noticed, the merchant adds.
Chirping in others’ earsShe believes there is great potential for reaching a large audience by using Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, adding that even parents and grandparents are on these social media sites
But Sharkey stays on top of other strategies to market her shop, as well. She believes there is great potential for reaching a large audience by using Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter, adding that even parents and grandparents are on these social media sites.
In addition, Sharkey keeps a blog, which shares insights from the gal with the blue feather shop. In a recent entry, Sharkey reflects on hindsight.
She is filled with gratitude when she looks back on the day she and her husband decided to adopt Stanlee. If they hadn’t, she wonders if he would have been adopted and loved just as much by someone else.
“Stanlee has taught me to never give up, and he has inspired me tremendously with [Little Blue Feathers],” she continues.
She adds that she struggled through the beginning of her business, but she is thankful she remained committed to it.
On the move
Since Sharkey and her husband are “very on-the-go people,” having her business online has given her the flexibility she needs.
“We have moved three times in the past four years, and it is nice that I can run my business from anywhere,” Sharkey notes.
One of her biggest challenges is keeping up with the emails, blog comments and other messages she regularly receives. Sometimes that means enlisting the help of an assistant to sort through it all.
Business lessons for Little Blue Feathers were only learned as the merchant went along. Looking back, Sharkey believes it would have been helpful if she had taken business courses in school.“Having access to wholesale pricing, registering your business name, and following all of the business rules helps protect you and validate your shop”
Tips for others
While Sharkey praises the Etsy marketplace as a great place to get started in selling handmade items online, she recommends newbies do their homework first. She also encourages people to legitimize their business by registering it.
“Having access to wholesale pricing, registering your business name, and following all of the business rules helps protect you and validate your shop,” she says.
Then you will be satisfied, knowing you are the business person behind it all, Sharkey adds.
And that is how this modern business woman ends her day. After the fabric has been cut, orders shipped, and time spent outside for fresh air, Sharkey and her two “pups” get to enjoy some time with the man of the house before retiring to bed.
Visit Little Blue Feathers on Etsy.