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Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus

By Katelan Cunningham · February 1, 2016

Running an Etsy shop is not all succulents in mason jars. Creatives of all types have daydreamed about starting their own Etsy shops, but if you want to become part of the 30% of Etsy sellers who have turned their shop into full-time income, you have to learn how to run a small business and build a brand.

We talked to Sara Charles who has her own fashion line that she started on Etsy in 2011. She designs, prints, and sews her entire collection and since she launched, she’s made over 14,000 sales from her Etsy shop alone. Woah. 

She let us in on some tips of the trade and told us about how she's continually bringing more focus to her brand image. 

 Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus
 Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus

Sara first launched her Etsy shop under the name Bark Decor in 2009 after she quit her graphic design job. She was selling prints and starting to get a lot of requests for screenprinted fabrics.

“People were getting more and more excited about the products, I was like, alright maybe I should focus more of my energy into it.”

After she taught herself to screenprint, what had started as something fun to supplement her freelance graphic design work was quickly turning into a viable option for a solid income, so she did the paperwork to make everything official. She wanted to trademark the Bark Decor brand name, but she was bummed to find out just how many brands had “bark” in their name. So she changed it to Simka Sol: her Hebrew name + “sun."

 Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus

“When the name changed, it really became more personal to me.”

With the change to Simka Sol, her line of prints, tea towels and menswear completely changed focus to a line of women’s apparel and accessories with a very specific look. You might call it boho modern romantic. She is a one-woman show, doing everything from designing the fabric to sourcing the material. 

A big part of the Simka Sol brand is the eco-conscious processes and materials. She said, "It dominates my process." When she started, she didn’t know much about the origin of the materials she was using, but now she does all of the research to find out where the fabrics are made, who makes them and even where the cotton is grown.

No matter how much she likes a fabric, it has to be organic and cruelty-free, or it doesn’t make the cut. “It's not restrictive so much, but it is a challenge. It actually does help keep me very focused." And that focus shows in her line of pieces. She even prints her fabrics using sun-activated inks — that’s the reason for the “Sol” in her brand name.

 Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus
 Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus
 Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus

“A lot of it is figuring out the logistics of manufacturing. Like, can I get this fabric? How much [fabric] can I get? What am I paying for it? What do I need to charge to make a profit? What kind of profit do I want? What do I want to pay myself?”

The logistics are Sara's least favorite part, but a really important part for keeping her business going. Without any employees, or paid services, she’s already running a very tight ship, so her own time is her biggest asset. "I like selling things that people can afford and it's getting harder now, because I do need to pay myself appropriately for the time and my energy."

In her Massachusetts home studio, Sara has six sewing machines, space to print and space to package. On a daily basis, Sara touches every aspect of her business. She starts her morning with emails, then goes into her studio to design, sew and print. In the afternoon, she takes care of packaging just in time to hurry to the post office every day by 5 o’clock.

 Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus
 Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus

This year, Sara’s goal for Simka Sol is making the brand even more focused, on and offline. For packaging, that means ditching the USPS flat rate mailers. When people get their packages, she doesn’t want them to have look it over to see who it’s from; she wants that instant jump-up-and-down excitement right out of the mailbox, so she’s going with custom kraft mailers and custom tape for the boxes.

“Everything inside the package, in my opinion, is so well branded. When you open it, it's like a little present. I just want the outside to reflect that ... I want that experience to be as fun, and positive, and brand-endorsing as it can get it.”

 Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus
 Fashion Brand Simka Sol Talks Etsy Success and Finding Your Brand Focus

She’s bringing that added focus to her clothing line by retiring items that she’s been selling for over two years and putting all of her design and production efforts on her spring and fall collections. She's tightening the curation of her shop to gain more control of her brand image.

“Going in the direction that I want to go, I really want to have a ‘less is more’ approach to the shop.”

This stage of curation is a familiar one for small brands. When you realize that people are buying what you're selling, the validation feels like an invitation to offer up everything you've got. But in the midst of the hustle, it's good to take the time to look at what you're offering and make sure that you're in complete control of how your brand looks and feels. It's a point of growth that's hard to find unless you're looking for it, and right now, Sara has it in full view.

To keep up with her latest collections, you can follow Simka Sol on Instagram.

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