4.02.2014

Etsy makers in the middle: Ashley Jackson of JackZenHemp

Well, this is it folks - the second and perhaps final post in the short-lived makers in the middle series (unless other sellers reach out or I stumble across a shop that fits the bill). Today I'd like to share the story behind JackZenHemp, run by sole proprietor and stay-at-home single mom Ashley Jackson. Let's give this one a go good ol' fashioned interview style:

Why and how did you start your Etsy shop?

When I was a mere 8 years old, my great-grandmother brought back a shell and hemp kit from her yearly trip to Florida. I worked with the kit for weeks. I fell in love with crafting and from that age, I was addicted to re-using old things to create brand new creations. I admit that I was a dumpster diver, trying to find things to create everything from rock houses, to piggy banks. As a child, I loved playing "business owner" and would write pretend invoices to my younger sister who played "the customer". I didn't know it then, but I know now that I was destined to become a true business owner. At the tender age of 17, I became pregnant. I was still in high school and knew I needed a job. I suffer from social anxiety and find it VERY hard to communicate in person so when I heard about Etsy from my relatives, I jumped on it as soon as I could. At age 18, with an 8 month old son, I decided to join Etsy. I remembered my experience with hemp while walking through a local craft store. I bought some beads and hemp cord and began learning. I picked up the art of macrame knotting right away! And with the spirit of my grandmother guiding me, I opened up shop in May of 2012 and haven't looked back since.

What else do you do, if you don't do this full-time and how do you work your Etsy process into your schedule?
I am a single stay at home mom to my 2 year old son. At times it's very difficult to balance the two, but even from the beginning I have been motivated to hang on to my faith in my work. I'm determined to make ends meet on my own and I have since age 19. While my son takes his afternoon nap, I work on editing photos and network on social media sites. As soon as my son goes to sleep for the night, I start working on pending orders. I admit, it's very hard sometimes but I love what I do. Making hemp jewelry and caring for my child is my full time job.

You've had over 600 sales - congratulations! What areas have you had success with in terms of managing your shop, promotion, etc., that got you to that impressive milestone? You have an impressive number of Facebook followers as well - how did you build your social media following?
I am so grateful to have a large amount of people supporting my work. I have worked for my fans on Facebook. I collaborate with other hemp artists to create huge amazing giveaways for all of our fans. It's important, to me, that we reward our customers for supporting handmade and not to mention for purchasing ECO-FRIENDLY products.

What are your goals going forward? What are your frustrations or questions about Etsy as a forum as it has evolved over the last couple of years?
My major goal is to overcome my social anxiety and participate in more craft shows to showcase my work. The majority of my family is supportive of my goals, but I want to prove what I believe in. Eco-friendly and especially handmade is the way to go.

Finally, tell me more about your love of poetry. Is this something you'd ever consider integrating into your shop or products in some way?
I love poetry. I wish I knew how to integrate my poetry into my work, but, admittedly I haven't put too much thought into it. Poetry was my outlet in high school. I went through a lot during those years. I wrote about things I couldn't tell anyone. With a toddler running around the house and running a business, there's not a whole lot of time to write like I used to. As a young mom, I've run into the reality that I cannot do everything I want. However, I know now that I can do what I love and believe in while supporting my family. That's what truly counts.

WAHM! That's one heck of a work-at-home mom story, no? I find Ashley's shop and story incredibly inspiring and wish her much continued success. I think her products would do really well at craft fairs and I could see how she might have a niche audience in terms of blogs and other forums where she could pitch her products for further promotion and general buzz.

By the way, I noticed Etsy's last few featured sellers have been more or less sole proprietors with under 100 items in their shops and under (sometimes well under) 1000 sales. So maybe they're trying to mix it up, after all?

1 comment:

Nancy Emerick said...

I have bought quit a bit of beautiful jewelery from Ashley (and will continue to do so)she's very talented at what she does, and comes up with more and more beautiful ideas, keep up the great work Ashley!