Editor’s note: This is one in a periodic series called Stepping Up, highlighting moments of compassion, duty and community in uncertain times. Have a story we should tell? Send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Stepping Up.”
Kim Ramirez didn’t give her online presence much thought — at least until the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramirez buys vintage kimonos in Japan and turns the fabric into tote bags, clutches, garments, even pet neckties through her business, Saisei Apparel. She sells primarily at Pike Place Market and a few other stores. She opened an online store in 2018 on Etsy, a retailer platform specializing in handmade goods, but it hadn’t been a priority for her.
When Ramirez could no longer sell at Pike Place Market because of Washington state’s shutdown of nonessential businesses due to the coronavirus, her online presence became imperative.
“It forced me to do something, but a lot of things have changed since 2018 on Etsy,” Ramirez said.
Thanks to the Pike Place Market Educators program, started a couple of years ago by a group of five artists and crafters at the Market, Ramirez got the help she needed to succeed.
The program pairs artists with an expert with similar skills. During the coronavirus shutdown, the focus has turned to helping artists make sales online. Mentors are helping with things such as search-engine optimization, updating Etsy shops, developing other online presences and using social media.
“When the market closed to everything but essential businesses, we rallied as a group and forged this new program,” said mentor Miranda Arney, owner of Perennial Leather Provisions. “Anything we can to do to gain and improve their internet presence.”
Mentors give a one-hour consultation, and Ramirez got fast results after improving her Etsy site with advice from mentor Rayana White, owner of WithTheRain, who makes fleece boot liners and is now also making face masks.
On Monday, Ramirez got a congratulatory note for making 10 online sales, all in a couple of days after getting help. Ramirez sent White a screenshot of the note.
“That is a huge uptick for me,” Ramirez said. “To be honest, I had neglected my Etsy store. Things have changed since 2018 and I was struggling with how to list things on Etsy, or even if I had my own website. What this (consultation did for me), it gave me the ability to work with someone who is successful and could walk me through all the screens and she actually reviewed my site and made notes. She had some wonderful ideas that I wouldn’t even have thought of.”
Before the consultation, Ramirez had made one sale total on Etsy since opening the store in 2018. With White’s help with such things as hashtags, categorizing and making better titles for products, Ramirez saw an immediate surge in business.
“Without her, I wouldn’t have made these sales,” said Ramirez, who also credited Maggie Mountain, daystall program coordinator at Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) for connecting her with White.
The Pike Place Market crafts market began more than 40 years ago and represents 225 local and regional craftspeople. Artists must follow a strict set of guidelines and everything must be 100% handmade.
The artist community at Pike Place Market coming together to help one another is not surprising, the artists say, because it is a close group.
“The Pike Place Market community is amazing and is one of the things that inspired me to go full time into doing this,” said Ramirez, who said she worked in the tech industry before coming to the Market in 2018. “Walking into that Market every day, and seeing the artists and how wonderful they were — and how long some of them had been there — that was inspiring. And on a whim, I decided to apply for a space.”
Ramirez looks forward to when she can return to the Pike Place Market, but because of the consultation she is better prepared to weather the absence.
The one-hour consultations with the mentors are sponsored by the Pike Place Market, but Arney said more help is available if needed.
“They can re-sign up with the program, but a lot of mentors are taking questions and following up to make sure they are getting what they need with the program,” Arney said. “It’s really exciting. I helped someone make their Etsy site on Friday and they made their first sale on Saturday. It was great to see the quick results and it feels good to connect with members of our (artist) community. This program helps us stay connected and moving together.”