How Did I Get Here?


Welcome to my site everyone! If you're reading this, you are either a new customer or (more likely) one of my friends or family members. Either way, welcome!

Where did the name come from?

My husband and I bough a parcel of land from my father, with the dream of eventually building our home there. This land holds a significant place in my family's history, dating back to my great-grandfather's purchase of a 200-acre farm in the late 1920s. Over the years, small family farms faced challenges competing with larger agricultural operations in the area. Rather than parting with the farm entirely, subsequent generations acquired portions of it, establishing their own homesteads and passing down land to their children, including my generation. This collective land is situated along Ivanhoe Road. We chose 'Outpost' as the name for our shop, evoking a local, general store/apothecary feel - the kind of place that one could stumble upon a treasure trove of unique and quirky items. 

Why did you start Ivanhoe Outpost?

I have always had a unique, bawdy, and at times - outlandish -  sense of humor. Back in college, I would make ridiculous shirts with iron-on decals and googly eyes for my friends or last minute Halloween costumes (even going on to win a costume contest with something I put together in under an hour). I regularly scoured card aisles for funny, off-the-wall cards buying up stacks of them without a recipient or reason in mind and Etsy was always a must for me for gift giving. 

I work a corporate 9-5 job that I enjoy, but it doesn't allow for a lot of individuality or creativity. I found myself looking for something I could do from home that would also be an outlet for my random musings and offbeat (sometimes NSFW) humor. While scrolling through Instagram one cold day in December 2022, I saw a quick ad about someone's Etsy store which was enough to pique my interest. I read a blog post or two and added some notes to my phone figuring it would be something I'd lose interest in when the realities of life set in. What I found was I kept going back to that initial note and adding other ideas down and my interest remained. I was just too anxious to make the jump assuming it would be too much of a time commitment coupled with the fear that no one else will like the things I created. Eventually that phone note was 10+ pages of ideas and I thought "why not", followed quickly by "what's the worst that could happen?"

How did you set up your store?

Eventually I pulled the trigger setting up an LLC, getting an EIN and a bank account, then opening up an Etsy shop. With minimal knowledge (that might even be too generous), I dove in and made a ton of mistakes. I read blog posts, articles on Etsy, and went through a lot of trial and error. I created a Facebook and Instagram page but didn't know how to capitalize on those so I just kept posting images of the things I created with no real traction. 

After about 8 months I purchased "The Ultimate Guide to Selling on Etsy: How to Turn your Etsy Shop Side Hustle into a Business" by Noelle Ihli and Jeanne Allen. This book is chock full of information in a way that is very easy to understand. Normally I find myself rolling my eyes at business books as many are about 70% self-promotion and 30% (if that) usable information. This book was a welcome surprise to my normal cynicism.  It offered real information on Marketing via social media (hint: it's not just posting images of things in your store), the benefit of Google Ads, learning about keywords ("tags"), and other Marketing/SEO information. They also provided tips on your Etsy shop (for example, the importance of putting your picture on your profile and having a cover image that evokes the emotion to attract customers to your store).

What have I learned?

I have learned a lot in my self-induced crash course. 

  1. Research, read, connect, network. I fumbled through a lot of lessons I could have avoided had I tamped down my impulsivity and done some research ahead of time. I have since learned a ton about Meta business tools, Google business tools, buying domains and setting up branded emails and yet, I have so much more to learn. Etsy Forums offer a great way to connect with other Sellers, ask questions, ask for shop feedback or read up on other posts. 
  2. Put in the time. Setting up your Etsy store and being serious about it is a lot of work and time at the outset, but we quickly started understanding things that were a complete mystery at first. In fact, it even became fun as the previously confusing blog posts, articles, and books started to make sense. 
  3. Invest in tools that help your business. SEO tools are a lifesaver - not only can you see how your tags rank with others, but its a wealth of ideas for tags when you're struggling to find them. eRank and Marmalead are both popular, but there are others and you can use Google Ads for free to find keywords (keep in mind those will be targeted for Google searches and not necessarily Etsy searches). Avoid copyright/trademark infringement by searching the US Trademark Database. Companies regularly search to see if anyone is violating their trademark and will act quickly (disclaimer - I found out Sweater Weather is owned by Bath & Body Works by getting a notice!). You will also want to figure out how to create photos of your products (or mockups) - I'm still working on perfecting this. 
  4. Be willing to fail and try again. You probably won't get everything right at the outset, but the more you try, the more you learn about what works and what doesn't. I do things wrong all the time - it's not a failure if you learn and iterate. 
  5. Don't get hung up on "Star Seller" status - at least not right away. You should focus on setting up your store the right way, getting a handle on social media and SEO, and creating amazing products. Once you start getting some sales in the door, you can work towards that goal. Remember - you have to earn and re-earn that title every month and you can certainly burn out. 
  6. Keep track of your spending. You will probably need to spend money to make money, but it's easy to pay $5.99/mo. for this tool and $9.99/mo. for that site and $5/day on ads (and certainly more) - none of which seems like a ton of money, but it will add up if you aren't keeping an eye on it. I use a basic spreadsheet. 
  7. Know about your tax liability. Etsy acts as a marketplace and can take care of the sales tax issues that come with selling, another storefront may not do this for you and you will be responsible for collecting and remitting taxes depending on the state you're in, the state of the buyer, and whether sales tax is required and/or nexus is incurred. This is also true when you sell outside the U.S. I am not an accountant, do not take this as tax advice - please reach out to your own tax professional for guidance. 
  8. Have fun. If this isn't intended to be the sole income stream for your household, have fun and don't do it when it isn't fun anymore. You can, of course, close your shop but you can also take a break if need be. 

Thanks for reading through my very first blog post on this page! I hope you enjoy perusing my creations and find something just perfect for that impossible-to-shop for friend. 



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