How Penny Quit Her Full Time Job to Sell Jewelry on Etsy

Today we’re interviewing Penny Cordova of Penny’s Treasures. Penny is a little bit different from our normal collection of coaches and artists and teachers. She is a metalsmith and jewelry designer who sells her jewelry on Etsy, and she just recently left her day job to focus on her jewelry-making passion full-time. In this interview, we talk about what it’s like to make that transition and how you would go about starting a business where you’re making things by hand and selling them to people individually.

Penny:  I worked at Walgreens as an assistant manager for a long time and made pretty good money there, but I always felt like something was missing in my life. I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. I had started making jewelry off and on about 20 years ago and I had taken a lot of metalsmithing classes. I really felt like that was what I was passionate about, so I decided to start making jewelry to sell and I sell it on Etsy.

I started this long before I left Walgreens, I would say in about 2008. I left Walgreens just this year so it was about six years ago, but I was working full-time so I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it. It’s very time-consuming just making the pieces. Then I have to photograph them and edit the photos and create the listing, so it’s a long process. Earlier this year, Walgreens went through a restructuring and I basically was given a choice to stay on or leave. I decided to leave and pursue my passion.

Meredith:  So while you were still working at Walgreens, how successful were you in terms of selling your jewelry through Etsy?

Penny:  It was pretty slow. Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it. Now that I’ve left Walgreens, I’m devoting a lot more time to updating my site, changing my titles and tags to improve the SEO, and doing things like getting on social media so that I can market it and grow it that way.

Meredith:  Many people say that if you’re planning to leave a corporate job, something like Walgreens, then it’s a good idea to start off part-time in your spare time and build that up until you realize a big enough income that effectively takes over your actual “normal job” salary. Were you in that position, or did you just take a leap of faith and say, “Well, this is going to work. I just need to get on and do it”?

Penny:  I took the leap of faith. My jewelry business is not making anywhere near as much as I was making at Walgreens, but I knew that I needed to devote all of my time to it. Working at Walgreens left me with virtually no time to spend on making jewelry or getting things listed, so I have a lot of money saved up that I had from the years of working there. I just left, quit my job, took the leap of faith, and now I’m trying to make it work.

Jasper:  So what plans do you have, because I’m thinking that jewelry-making is one of these businesses where it’s really difficult to outsource the actual art, right?

Penny:  You could always find someone. I could design one piece and then outsource it to someone who could make duplicates of it. A lot of jewelers do that, but I really love the creative process. I love making the pieces myself and I would really like to keep on doing that. If I were to outsource anything, I think it would be the photography or the listing, things like that, or social media content.

Jasper:  It’s interesting for our listeners, because the art world is very different than other things. Artists want to keep doing their art and then build a business at the same time, so there’s some tension there between all the stuff that needs to be done to sell the thing that you’re making.

Penny:  Yes.

Meredith:  So are your pieces all individual, or do you have a range that you make over and over again?

Penny:  Up until now, all of my pieces have been completely different from one another. I’ve never made the same design twice. They’ve all been unique and one of a kind. Recently, I thought I need to create a line that’s cohesive with different pieces that could go together like a necklace and earrings or a bracelet and a ring, so that’s something I’m working on right now — developing a new line. Then I’ll offer it with different variations in color or shape maybe.

Meredith:  Very cool. So do you exclusively sell this though Etsy, or do you actually do a stall somewhere or anything else?

Penny:  Exclusively online on Etsy, but I have started doing craft shows. This past October and November, I did several shows in the Houston area. I intend to continue doing that, but I’m also looking into getting my pieces into a boutique somewhere, maybe on consignment or sell them wholesale.

Meredith:  Interesting. There must be a lot of competition involved in getting into a boutique, so how do you go about that?

Penny:  Well, I’ve been going around and just checking out some shops that I think would be a possibility and talking to the owner or whoever is in there, finding out who I would need to get into contact with about that. My next step will be sending out emails to those contacts to let them know what I have available and that I think my pieces would be a good fit with their shop, and just see what happens from there.

Favorite Resource: Etsy

Penny CordovaGuest – Penny Cordova – Penny’s Treasures

I am a designer of unique genuine gemstone and metal jewelry. I make everything by hand with much love and care. Please check out both of my websites at and

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The Queen Takes Tea Off Aaron Sanchez’s Reclaimed Firewood

In an article in the Albuquerque Journal last week (8/13/2014), Jeffrey Mitchell, director of UNM’s Bureau of Business & Economic Research argued the need to recognize the importance of arts and culture as an economic force in New Mexico, “that’s bound to grow,” even amid the new economy following the Great Recession. Apparently 1 in 18 jobs in the state are in arts and culture. The article coincided with an interview we had scheduled with Aaron and Daniel Sanchez who are probably one the best representatives of the artistic contribution to the local economy. We certainly commend any initiative to encourage more artists to make a living doing what they are passionate about, and we hope this interview – and others – go to help encourage others looking to try that it is possible for them.

Aaron & Daniel SanchezWe took our gear on the road with us for this interview in order to see the amazing high end artistic furniture of Andy Sanchez and his sons, Aaron and Daniel. If you are an artist or maker then this show is for you, because the Sanchezes have really taken their business to the ultimate level. Even though they operate out of a small village in New Mexico their reach is global with their furniture gracing the showrooms of high-end stores in New York, London, Paris, and with other countries soon to be added. They are very much at the top of their game.

Andy and his sons made cabinets and furniture for a primarily local market. However, when the import laws were changed during the Clinton Administration they soon found that they were competing against much cheaper imports from India and China. They knew it was a game they couldn’t win, and they knew that they had to change up what they were doing.

Aaron takes up the story:

It started when we were working in a high-end environment working on the trim for a very expensive house being built by a very wealthy Marylander. He wanted everything as perfect as humanly possible, and it gave us an insight into the affluent market. For them quality is the key. That experience changed our thinking and we moved from making cabinetry and furniture into a more high-end artistic furniture.

Arron & Daniel Sanchez in their workshopIt was then we started using the local Alligator Juniper, one of the first to do so. Alligator Juniper is a protected species, found only in the South West. You cannot take any green wood – you are only allowed to take dead-standing wood, most of which is taken for firewood. It is a very slow-growing tree and much of the dead wood we take can be anywhere from 1000 to 2000 years old. But because it is dead we can use it straight away – there’s no need to kiln dry it first.

We embraced new ideas and new designs, because we knew that if we could separate ourselves from the pack, people would take notice.

What really turned things around was when we started going out the furniture and trade shows in other states. We needed to reach both a bigger audience and a more affluent audience, and that wasn’t going to happen in New Mexico. To do it we had to invest both time and money and it was really a leap of faith for us.

Juniper WoodArizona was one of our main markets at the time. We were selling our tables for about $6000. Gradually we increased the price, up to about $9000. We were at one show and we were on day 3 and we hadn’t sold a single table. One of our friends there, who sold to the same market said, “Try putting the price up to $12,000. So we did, and immediately we had two customers fighting over the one table. Just by increasing the price we effectively sold the table twice over. We reached a point where we were too expensive for that particular market – but not expensive enough for the market we were trying to reach. We were reaching a new place, which at the time we didn’t really understand. You have to understand your value.

Web marketing has been very important in terms of broadening our market. Now I can work hands-on, as if I’m in the same room as a person, and work with them to build them a very personal piece. Google Analytics has been very important in terms of showing us how people are finding us, what they are interested in. For instance, we know that for the Texas market, they are more interested in our rockers; in New York they are more interested in our smaller coffee tables.

Andy Sanchez toolsWe have a client in London whose wife is connected to royalty, and he likes to through these business parties. At one particular party he actually invited the Queen of England to attend and she actually dined at one of our tables and we were told that she actually remarked on how beautiful she thought it was.

We are certainly at the top of what we do, but you can’t ever just stay in one place. You’ve always got to be thinking up new things to offer and new techniques and styles to use if you want to stay ahead of the competition.

Listen to the full interview:

See their “Top Tips” video on YouTube

Guest: Aaron & Daniel Sanchez – Andy & Aaron Sanchez.
Andy Sanchez & Sons

Andy and Aaron are award winning western cowboy furniture artists. Their studio is located near Santa Fe, New Mexico, however their work can be found throughout the world. Andy and Aaron’s work is featured in several galleries, including Harrods of London and the Patrick Mavros Gallery in London, where it has received compliments from the Queen herself.

A common theme in our furniture is the use of live edge. This preserves the natural state of the wood. Combined with the smooth finish we create truly one of a kind signature pieces.

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