Today, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce to Ashley Forshner of East of Ordinary. This maker has cornered a niche market in the Halifax area, selling custom handmade bow-ties, ties and pocket squares. If you can’t find the perfect accessory for the men in your wedding party, Ashley can help you out.
Let’s begin with you providing a brief bio about yourself and your business:
East of Ordinary is a small business selling men’s accessories from Dartmouth Nova Scotia. I currently focus on bow ties, neck ties and pocket squares for men and bow ties for children. I specialize in making custom wedding accessories that allow grooms to have a little more fun.
I love when an enterprise is born out of sheer need or desire for an item? This was the case with your bow-ties and a desire for a certain look for your wedding. Tell us about this.
In 2012 I was planning a picnic wedding and being an unashamed lover of floral I knew I wanted floral bow ties for the groom and groomsmen. I honestly didn’t know where to look and I didn’t really know how to sew , so I sewed them by hand. It was after our wedding that I was asked to make them for a few of my friend’s weddings and a few months later I was asked if I wanted to start a business and be part of an Indie Wedding Show in Halifax. I worked on my skills and (machine) sewed up 30 bow ties that month for the show not knowing how it would do. In fact, I only thought of my name the night before! Needless to say the show went well and I was encouraged to continue being East of Ordinary.
You yourself experienced the challenge of trying to find a specific item in a small town. How do you think small businesses and entrepreneurs can really thrive in smaller urban centres or even rural areas?
Thrive really depends on what you want for yourself as a small business. Allowing yourself to grow at a rate that’s best for you is key. Take time to meet other makers and other small business owners they are often your best advertisers. For me, being specific about what I sell is important. I think it has helped me be more recognizable when someone is looking for a tie or pocket square.
In the age of internet retailing, how could we better encourage buyers to look locally for their needs and contribute to their own local economy?
As a buyer, I prefer local, I think most people do. Sometimes it can be hard to find the right local seller at the right time. As a seller it’s important to make it as easy as possible for locals to find your goods online. When it comes to etsy, enter key words for your products that will make it easy for a buyer to find you – such as the province, city and country on every listing.
At shows I think encouraging people to take your business card and add you on Facebook, instagram, twitter or etsy is important. It’s helps buyers to easily locate a seller when they finally need them.
You are quite new to etsy. What has been the single steepest learning curve for you when it came to selling online?
I think getting my name out there has been difficult. I am known more locally than online and my sales online do not reflect my sales locally. I’m working on getting more sales on etsy so buyers know I’m a trusted seller. This can take time.
Have you adapted your sales approach for the global audience that etsy provides? If so, how have you done this?
I try to take more time putting in my search words so local buyers can find me easily. I have continually been working on improving my photographs and I try to have a selection of ties and pocket squares that could appeal to varying tastes. As for the global audience, I’m still figuring them out. My first sales on etsy were to Paris, Australia and New York and I’m not sure how they found me. I think it’s the more one of a kind retro bow ties that brought them to my shop. Perhaps having a few unique pieces that are hard to find anywhere let alone in their own country has helped bring the international shopper to East of Ordinary.
Being involved with the Maritime Makers, what do you feel are the benefits of working as a team over going it completely alone?
Sewing can be a bit isolating, I love the opportunities to meet with other makers and see what people are creating. Joining with teams such as Maritime Makers is great for business. People are very supportive and encouraging. I actually ran into a fellow etsy seller a week ago and asked her so many questions. You can learn so much from other people who have found success in the global and local market place. Also, connecting with other makers is good for business. I am continually sharing other maker’s shops and passing along their information. I know people do that for me as well and I really appreciate it. Lastly, other makers really get it, they understand all the struggles of a small business, how hard you work on your product, that you have late nights restocking and early mornings filling orders and that you have a creative spirit that really loves to make.
Thank you so much Ashley, for telling us more about yourself and your shop. And to everyone reading, thanks for stopping by and visit us next week to meet another Maritime Maker.
(written by Carol-Ann Oster, of ThisBorrowedMoment and stringmealong on etsy.)