The ETSY breakdown

Story Highlights:

  • Owning your own store has never been cheaper or easier, and now you can find competitively priced vintage items from anywhere in the world thanks to Etsy.
  • Meet two different Etsy individuals, their shops and start-up story behind them.
  • Tips for Etsy selling success.

Beginning in 2005, Etsy is an e-commerce website that gives users the ability to buy and sell pieces of art, handmade or vintage items, materials and supplies for only 20 cents a listing and 3.5% of every sale. Learn the Etsy in’s and outs through two  individuals: their stories, shops and tips for success.

 RAT BASKET = Stephanie Rodriguez Libanati

24-year-old Stephanie Rodriguez Libanati of Oakland, CA, sells used and vintage items in her online etsy shop: Rat Basket.

24-year-old Stephanie Rodriguez Libanati launched her online etsy shop, Rat Basket, last July  selling a mix of vintage and thrift  clothing and jewelry finds accumulated over the years. Fifty-four sales and five months later later, she says Rat Basket has sold over two grand all from items she’d paid mostly paid under five dollars for.

“In August I only had five  sales. Then in September, 11. Last month 21, and so far for November, today is the tenth and so far I have nine. I’ve found there is a correlation between the amount of items I post and sales I get” said Libanati.

Libanati said she recently reached her 5th page of listings at her online etsy shop, Rat Basket. Her advice to new sellers, “Realize your vision and what it is you have to say about fashion and put that forward.”

Libanati got her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Cal State Long Beach in 2010 and now works at a retail clothing store in San Francisco and  lives in Oakland with boyfriend, 27, Erick Lopez. He said

“The girl has it all figured out. Doing what she loves and making a living. For artistic people, Etsy makes that possible.”

Dissimilar to Ebay,  Esty has succeeded by serving a target demographic made up of independent businesses, artists and hobbyists. The website’s interface is informative and simple to navigate, it gives extensive advice for new sellers, and makes creating an online store, brand and business easier and cheaper for the average individual. By allowing artists to price and sell work directly, their are also able to keep their prices lower, making it better for consumer and producer overall.

The “Shop Local” feature on the Etsy homepage is a great promotional tool for creative businesses and individuals selling hand-made, unique, and one-of-a-kind type items.

ARTIST: Christina Platis

Original piece featured on 25-year-old Christina Platis’s artist portfolio website. The artist says her work mostly consists of watercolor paintings based on traditional tattoo art, as she is currently apprenticing at American Beauty Tattoo in Sunset Beach, CA.

25-year old artist Christina Platis opened her etsy shop last January after having an art show, “I realized I could sell my work.” She says she has also bought art using Etsy, and knows a friend who uses it to sell hand-made jewelry pieces and is sucessful,

“It can be rough getting your work out there. Whether it’s clothes, jewelry, or art. Make sure you have a good image for your shop, and you have to take time to make your items cohesive.” Platis said.

Artist Christina Platis uses her Etsy shop to sell original watercolor pieces and designs based around traditional tattoo art.

Platis also said that since using Etsy she has generally gotten nothing but encouragement to produce more work,  “It started out slow, but after learning all the tricks and tips, I have a greater understanding of what it takes to be a successful seller, not only on Etsy, but also outside of web stores.”

Etsy’s tips for seller’s:

  • Tag it up: Etsy allows you up to 15 tags per item posted, so be sure to use key words that will come up in Etsy’s search engine.
  • Personalize: a simple and creative lay out can grow a shop’s credibility and audience.
  • Price competitively: by knowing what other’s are selling, making it cheaper might ensure you more sales.


Story highlights:

  • Black Friday 2012 at Best Buy through the eyes and experiences of two bargain-hunters.
  • Top deals and steals!
  • How to get the most out of next year’s black Friday shopping extravaganza: research the deals ahead of time.

When I went back to my hometown last week for Thanksgiving two friends of mine were discussing the black friday deals and I decided to follow them on midnight after thanksgiving dinner to black friday at Best Buy.

The two friends were DIYster Kelly Hamilton (check out a former post about her here) and 23-year-old Corey Weaver of Lakewood, CA. Hamilton was on the hunt for a point and shoot digital camera, and Weaver was looking to score some video games.

Cory Weaver, 23, and Kelly Hamilton, 24, at dinner the night before black friday where we discussed our game plan.

Both went to Best Buy the Tuesday before and talked with an employee about how to get the most out of their first black friday experience. According to a Best Buy manager, shoppers could preview deals beforehand by going to their website. All discounts were labeled “while supplies last,” but depending upon the product, shoppers could receive many black friday 2012 discounts online as soon as midnight struck.

What brought the crowd out at midnight after Thanksgiving dinner were those products labeled as “in-store only.”

Hamilton said,

“It’s between the Sony NEX5N and the Canon PowerShot G15 for me. The Sony camera has a removable lens which is pretty cool for a point-and-shoot, but the Canon is a great model – they haven’t changed it for a couple years, and all the websites I’ve seen it on give great reviews.”


Weaver said, “It’s all about the Canon, it’s perfect to keep in your pocket and takes great pictures even in low light. I wish I was getting it.”

We arrived at the Best Buy in the Marina Pacifica mall in Long Beach at about ten minutes to midnight on Thanksgiving and there was a line wrapped around the side of the building. Hamilton and Weaver said that they recognized some of the people who were still in line since Tuesday night.

A woman who asked not to be named or photographed said she had been there since Tuesday after she got off from work at 5 p.m., “I am here to get Toshiba flat screen t.v. that will be on sale for $179.”

Some of the other black friday in-store only deals popular with the Best Buy shoppers were phones, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2  for just $179, and laptop computers like the Samsung bundle, a 15.6 inch screen and 4GB with a 500GB hard drive for about $350.

Once they opened the doors I was genuinely surprised by the lack of chaos compared to the stories that came out last year. Best Buy had the lines roped off so people could not cut, and let a large group of customers into the store about every 3 minutes.

The television and video game part of the store definitely filled in the quickest but everything remained  relatively normal as far as shopping conditions were concerned, except for the fact that it was midnight on a holiday.

Best Buy in Long Beach, CA at midnight of Black Friday.

I followed Hamilton to the camera counter where to her surprise both of her choices were on sale for the same price: $450. There were significantly more Canons available than Samsungs, but Hamilton confidently went with her gut and settled on the Canon without any regret.

We left the store at about 1:00a.m. and only had to wait inline at the checkout for less than 5 minutes because Best Buy had made it so that you could pay for your items within the department of the store you bought them.

Weaver made it out with two games: Assassins Creed 3 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2, both for just $29.99 each. Weaver said, “I’m so hyped! I already told my boss that I would not be making it in to work tomorrow because I doubt that I will go to sleep before the sun comes up.”

Punk Rock Rings from Recycled Plastics and Leather

Story Highlights:

  • Designer and photographer Kelly Hamilton is a 23-year-old from Long Beach, CA who makes rings from recycled plastics, leather and high quality screw-in studs.

  • Purchase her handmade one-of-a-kind designs online ranging in prices from about $30-$65 on her Etsy website, Did I Stutter.

  • In the future, Hamilton plans to branch out and has already began working on other jewelry pieces including bracelets, cuffs, necklaces and earrings.

Kelly Hamilton is a 23-year-old recent graduate from with a bachelor’s degree in studio art, emphasis in photography from Cal State University Long Beach. A self-proclaimed lover of arts and crafts since childhood, her current project has been her line of hand-made rings she sells on her Etsy site titled Did I Stutter, which uses recycled plastics, leather  and high quality metal spikes.

Founder and designer of the line, Did I Stutter, 23-year-old Kelly Hamilton of Long Beach, CA.

Born and raised just outside of Long Beach in the small Orange County city of Seal Beach by her divorced republican parents, Hamilton said her artist mother brought her up in a creative atmosphere, “My mom was always painting, quilting, sewing… you name it. Every year we made our own Halloween costumes, valentines, christmas cards and so on.”

Hamilton uses high quality, screw in metal spikes and recycled plastics and leather pieces to create her one of a kind pieces. Some of the items she has recycled from include old film canisters, jackets, key chains and a majority of her plastic coming from used plastic medical cannabis  containers (in true punk rock fashion).”Don’t worry, all products are guaranteed to be 100% legal,” Hamilton joked as I spoke with her on the phone about the direction she plans to go in.

“I’ve always loved art and fashion, I started out in college as a drawing and painting major before switching to photography. I would love to design and make clothing and all types of jewelry once I can finally get some money to fund my projects. I took a jewelry making  class while I was still in school where I learned a lot of skills I apply to the rings I make now.”

Hamilton plans to branch out beyond rings and has already started working on bracelets, necklaces, cuffs and earrings that she will be putting on her Etsy site and says up to this point she has mostly gotten her  line, Did I Stutter, out through word of mouth amongst friends and colleagues.

Jennifer D’Agostino is a 25-year-old hairdresser of Los Angeles, CA  who says she wears one of Hamilton’s rings every day and constantly gets complimented on it from clients.

Jennifer D’Agostino, 25, a hair stylist of Los Angeles, CA shows off her Did I Stutter one-of-a-kind piece.

D’Agostino said, ‘I seriously never wear rings but I recently came up on this leather and stud one that Kelly made me and I’m OBSESSED with it. My hands feel like a tomboy that finally found a dress they love.’

Kelly’s mother, Rona Hamilton, is also an artist who makes jewelry as well, mostly using beads she orders off the internet. Rona said Kelly has always been a creative individual.

“Kelly is always surprising me with really different ideas of how to use ordinary materials to make things that border on art and functional pieces.”

Her prices range from around $30-$60 dollars and can be purchased from her online store here. Also be sure to check out of some of  her awesome photography from her photography and illustration portfolio website here, look hard enough and you may just spot me in a couple of her shots!

Cal Poly Rose Float Club

Now I know some of you may be thinking that constructing a float is not necessarily a do-it-yourself kind of activity, but the annual Cal Poly  float, entered every year  by both schools in San Luis Obispo  and Pomona  since 1949, remains the only entry  in Pasadena’s  Tournament of the Roses that is self  built and designed, according to Cal Poly’s website.  Since 1949, Cal Poly’s float is the longest running collegiate entry and places sixth  overall in continuing entries since the first parade back in 1890!

That means that every year, beginning in February, a volunteer committee of about 10-15 people on each campus begin meeting every Saturday to design, construct, and decorate the float in order for it to be ready for the internationally televised parade on New Year’s Day. Through a hands on approach, students learn and develop skills in things like animation, welding, hydraulics, automotive maintenance, machining, floral design and more.

As the only self built entry, Cal Poly competes against professional float builders hired by corporations or sponsors that often have budgets close to $1 million. Over the last 64 tournaments, the student float has demonstrated innovation in technology and design: it was the first to use hydraulics for animation in  1968, the first to use computer-controlled animation ten years later in the 1978  tournament and the first to use fiber optics in 1982. Often recognized as a crowd favorite, Cal Poly’s entries have  won a total of 47 awards to date.

As the next parade approaches the students are working diligently to finish construction and begin decoration down at the Pomona campus. Check out their design below and watch for it live on January 1!

Cal Poly’s entry for Pasadena’s 2013 Tournament of the Roses is titled “Tuxedo Air” for this year’s theme, “Oh the places you’ll go.”

Nail Art Blogging Sisters and Entrepreneurs

“We began (nail art) as a way to experiment with art and push it’s boundaries” said Donne Geer, 24, about her and her sister Ginny’s nail art blog, Hey, Nice Nails!

Story Highlights:

  • Sister duo Donne and Ginny Geer make up the team behind the growing in popularity nail art blog, Hey, Nice Nails!
  • Branching out beyond the web, the two prepare to open up their very own shop in Long Beach in the next 2-3 weeks.
  • Hey, Nice Nails the shop will be the girls head quater’s, as well as a nail salon/art studio where the two hope to have DIY nights, tutorials, and other artist’s work for show and sale.

    Stephanie Libanati, 24, who lives in Oakland is a huge fan of the girl’s “fangs and the wu-tang nail art, I even got my boyfriend to sport a painted nail or two.”

Capitilizaing on the recent explosion of the nail art scene over the past couple years is the dynamic sister duo of Donne and Ginny Geer and their ever evolving website and brand: Hey, Nice Nails!

Beginning in 2010 on tumblr, HNN gained quick internet fame and today the site is awesome with an extensive archive of past designs, lists of their favorite polishes, and how -to’s  on designs and DIY nail polish recipes.

Since then the sisters have earned their manicurist lisences, built an etsy where you can custom order hand painted fake nails,  been featured in magazines like Marie Claire and Allure, participated in nation wide nail art events, done pop-up shops in underground art galleries and were invited  and traveled to New York fashion week  for the Ruffian show to blog about the nail art on the runway.

Now , at 24 and 26, Donne and Ginny have over 16 thousand online followers and have gone from part time bloggers, to full time entrepreneur’s as they prepare to open their very own space in the next 2-3 weeks  in the heart of the Long Beach east arts village district at 316 Elm St.

More than just  a  nail salon, HNN the shop will also sell retail and double as an art studio for local artists can show and sell work.  In addition to  being a place where fans can come to get their custom designed manicures and pedicures, gels and acrylics  The sisters plan to host art shows, events and DIY tutorial nights where anyone can come to learn the girl’s techniques.

“We’re going to have a polish library of used and donated polishes so people that people can use, it’s going to be like a haven for everyone who loves art and nails to come to.” Said Donne as I spoke with the two about the obstacles they’ve gone through in transforming their hobby into a fully branded business.

Ginny, who in the beginning took the behind the scenes role as photographer and graphic design, said “We’ve had a lot of online obstacles.”

They remember struggling to get their domain name for the website and having to learn how to watermark their images after many were being leaked on the web without permission or credit, the two have learned to roll with the punches .

Ginny said,  “I think just by sharing it allowed us to get a lot of feed back and just develop our content. There was a time where we were updating new content every day and by doing that it allowed us to really generate a lot of content and just get better and better.”