Social media ups sales for students

In Business & Technology /

Students turn to social media as an outlet to promote their handmade products. Colleen Marasigan reports

While social media has become a huge platform for budding writers, performers, and actors, it has also been a great source for launching a business.

Second-year Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) illustration student, Katia Engell, thanks Etsy and her blog for her business’ success.

Etsy is an online community that lets self-starting designers – who make jewelry, clothes, and even electronic accessories – reach out to a worldwide audience.

With Etsy, Engell has been given a huge opportunity to connect with buyers online, and what was originally a line only worn by family and friends has expanded to strangers.

While she hopes to branch out to more offline means of advertising, she doesn’t deny the success social media has given her.

“The younger crowd, which my brand is trying to target, is more Internet-friendly these days,” she says.

Third-year Ryerson journalism student Christina Dun feels the same way.

An avid sewer throughout high school, Dun designs, buys fabric, sews, directs photo shoots, promotes, and meets-up with clients, all on her own.

In the summer of 2011, what was first a hobby quickly transformed into her own fashion line: all.dun.up.

And after more than a year, her hard work has paid off. She likes to thank friends and social networking for that.

“It’s a complete social media brand,” she says.

With the use of Facebook, her Twitter account, Tumblr, e-mail, and word-of-mouth, Dun has been able to branch out to people in both Toronto and her hometown of Vancouver.

With the use of the brand’s Facebook page, Dun posts photos of products online – with price details – and within an average of 20 minutes she’s sold out.

Although Dun originally started out on Tumblr, she found that Facebook was much easier to connect with friends and other customers.

The social network quickly turned into her selling platform, while her current Tumblr site remains a portfolio for her previous work.

Aside from the use of social networks, Dun has also been given opportunities to showcase her work:

once at a Markham Youth Council Festival and another on MuchMusic’s New Music Live – an opportunity she got through a Twitter contest.

Engell will be showing her work at a craft show for the first time next week. Back in April 2011, Engell was playing around with ideas and various prototypes. In June 2012, she finally had a solid design for her wooden-jewelry line, ready to be mass-produced.

Engell feels that Etsy is the perfect match to sell her line, Solé Designs.

Starting with her blog, kittysnooks.

blogspot.ca, she presented her prototypes of designs. By then it was easier to connect with other designers, especially those who utilized Etsy. For Engell, free space on her blog transformed into advertising space for banners and buttons for other designers.

“When I broke into that Etsy community, I thought it was a good time for me to start up my own shop,” she says.

Her necklaces, made from untreated wood, are designed with the use of wood-burning (a technique that uses a knife-like stick that burns away at the wood to create designs).

The choice of wood was Engell’s way to carry a piece of nature wherever you are.

Her Etsy shop, SoléDesignsShop, opened on Sept. 8 of this year. Currently, her online store only sells necklaces, though she hopes to soon put out some rings and brooches.

Although Engell does everything on her own, she’s not looking for a huge team to help with the process.

The process of creating the necklaces has become so personal that she only wants to sell something she’s put the time and effort into.

Each design is unique and Engell plans to keep it this way.

“I try not to repeat because it makes it more special,” she says.

Dun goes for the same approach by reworking unique vintage pieces.

Although she is a lover for fashion – and the daughter of a retired designer, she jokes she’ll never be one herself – she knows how difficult the fashion industry is. That’s why for her, all.dun.up is a way to have fun, de-stress, and in the process save up for her future to move to New York City plans.

“It was a way to be more creative,” she says. “But it let me explore the fashion world on my own terms.” Although she’s a bit more preoccupied these days to make a huge collection, Dun is anticipating the winter break when she goes back to the West coast and can invest more time in her line.

While her main products are  scarves, Dun has previously created scarf-dresses and rompers. She hopes to eventually include menswear into her line.

And who knows, maybe this winter break she’ll try her hand at a Christmas theme, which like the rest of her line will be available for purchase through her social media accounts.

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