Hard work paid off last month for an International Falls woman whose handmade products were featured on an Etsy bestseller list.
Felt vegetables made by Tawnya Schoewe, owner of Morgan’s Mercantile & General Store, received a bestseller badge from Etsy, a website that features millions of handmade, vintage, and craft supply items created and curated by independent sellers around the world.
“It’s so exciting,” said Schoewe, who makes 72 different felt products to sell online and at her Gold Shores Drive store that she has owned for about eight years.
Breaking into the Etsy market isn’t as simple as it might seem and comes with a significant learning curve, Schoewe said. Aside from offering a product people want to buy, sellers need to understand key words to write detailed descriptions and take good, eye-catching photos of their products.
“I went through a lot of redesigning of my products,” Schoewe said. “One thing I always said when I started making my products was I was tired of stepping on plastic peas, so I used that in my description.”
Fortunately throughout all the revisions, Schoewe said she’s finding success.
In addition to the bestseller badge, most of her products show up on the first page of related searches.
“If you were to search felt cupcake – mine is on the first page,” she said. “That alone was an accomplishment.”
Schoewe said she is unaware of the selection process used by Etsy to distribute bestseller badges, however, there is only one given per category. There are 1,865 small business owners who make felt vegetables, and Schoewe’s stood out above all.
“I’m feeling very blessed,” she said.
The sewing process isn’t quick, and to create a quality product takes time.
“I had to learn to slow down my stitches,” Schoewe said. “The stitches had to be small and even – that’s what makes a good product.”
Earlier this week, she was working on sewing kiwis. The felt fruit may be small, but each one takes around 30-40 minutes to complete.
Schoewe is talented with a thread and needle, and admits the skill is self taught – twice over.
Two years ago while working in her wood shop, Schoewe said she was moving too quickly and made a poor choice that cost her the tip of her index finger.
“It’s on my sewing hand, too,” she said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to keep my Etsy shop open.”
Determined to continue the hobby she loves – without a machine – Schoewe chose not to give up and taught herself how to sew again.
“I dropped my needle so many times,” she said. “(I experienced) a lot of frustration... but it was a challenge I was able to overcome.”
Recalling how far she’s come through her Etsy success makes everything worth it.
“I really enjoy this,” she said of sewing and creating the felt toys. “This is my release.”
Schoewe gives back, too.
Aside from purchasing her supplies locally, for every five toys she sells online, she donates a handmade toy to a child in need.
“That’s important to me,” she said. “Every child has the right to a toy.”