After a discussion last weekend on Twitter with some friends and seeing Grey's post on Heartsy, I thought it was time to share my experience with them.
If you don't know what Heartsy is, it's best described like Groupon for handmade items. Sellers of handmade goods submit their deal to Heartsy and if the deal is approved, then it goes live for a certain amount of time. Customers can buy vouchers for your deal and redeem them in your Etsy shop or elsewhere, like an Artfire shop.
I was first alerted to Heartsy in March after reading an article in the Handmadeology blog. After doing some thinking about it, and calculating how much money I could stand to lose, I signed up and submitted some items for consideration, such as my Ophelia's Sea Urchin Necklace, one of my personal favorites.
I also submitted the kind of deal I'd be willing to offer. I was pretty conservative, I think, keeping in mind that it takes a while to make every necklace I sell, and how much I could reasonably produce in a short time. I work a very full time day job, and Joey goes to school full time and works a full time job. Etsy is my second full time job that usually starts right after I get home and have dinner, plus most of every weekend. I knew I couldn't offer a huge amount of vouchers because I could never fill them all within a reasonable turnaround time. But still, I thought my deal was pretty good and I sent it off for judging, and we'll get back to that after this short digression.
You'll notice I said I was going to lose money on the Heartsy deal. It's true. I was offering a deal that would mean for every necklace I "sold," money was going to come out of my pocket. How is that, and why would I do it? The how is pretty easy. I try to keep my pricing reasonable for the customer but still high enough that I will make money even if I put items on a deep discount, like the recent 40% off one-day sale. There's this expectation of handcrafts that you shouldn't sell it for much more than your materials costs, because you're not a "real" business. Well, bollocks to that. None of the items used in the creation of my necklaces and earrings are cheap to buy. With the price of silver nudging $50 per ounce some days, the prices for sterling silver chain and findings has doubled and sometimes tripled from what they were. I'd instituted a slight price increase to account for it in January, but I'm also eating some of the costs because I won't sell something that I wouldn't wear. That means no silver plated wear items (unless plated/filled is all that's commonly available for the materials I need, such as memory wire), and good quality beads and findings. But, bottom line, I must still make money on each piece I sell. If I don't make money on what I sell, there's no reason for me to be selling it, unless I decide, which I did in the case of the Heartsy deal, that the monetary loss would have another benefit.
I was looking at the Heartsy deal in the same light as the blog ads and showcases I've purchased in the past - a way to get eyes on my shop and widen my customer base for future, profitable sales.
Now here's the part that's a little embarrassing. You see, in my day job I'm a Purchasing Officer. It's my job to read the fine print on things. Sometimes it's my job to write the fine print. So, you'd think I'd do a good job of reading the fine print on Heartsy, yeah? Not so much. I read the part where you submit your items for review. I read the part where your items will be judged by Heartsy members and if you got enough votes, you'd move on to the next step. I did not read that the next step was another judging panel made up of Heartsy staff and "trusted frequent buyers." I thought the next step was discussing your deal and ironing out the terms. So, when I got the news that we'd gotten the requisite "Yes, definitely" votes in the three-day time limit, I was expecting to hear back from Heartsy pretty soon with discussions of the actual deal.
A week or so later, I get the email from Heartsy. Only instead of a discussion of the deal, it was a "thanks but no thanks" email that stated that yes, my items had gotten through the first judging, but that the super secret judging panel had voted "no." The reasoning given was that my items were not unique enough to offer on Heartsy and they were looking for something else. Still, here was a five-dollar credit I could use for the shops they did approve, and I could submit my deal any old time I liked.
I think you've probably figured out by now that the email did not leave a good impression on me. No one likes to be told "no" and the tone of the email struck me as very high school clique, which is not the kind of tone I'd want for my business. You can also infer from this that I have not resubmitted my items to Heartsy again, and I won't be doing so in the future.
So, when all is said and done, what do I think of Heartsy? Well, I don't think it's for me, obviously. I have never purchased a Heartsy deal, and I probably won't. I can definitely see the point anti-Heartsy sellers are making that Heartsy is doing more harm to the handmade selling movement than good, turning it into a race to the bottom in terms of pricing, and leading the public into the thought that handmade shouldn't cost as much or more than something you'd buy at Wal-Mart. Handmade sellers fight against that mindset already.
On the other hand, as a seller submitting a deal to Heartsy, you should know what you're getting into before you do it and if you decide that it's something of benefit to your shop in either sales volume or exposure, then by all means, go for it. Here's a very handy article on calculating your benefit versus loss from Fine Heart Boutique.