Summit County residents find creative outlet through shops on Etsy

Jasmine Listou Bible
Special to the Daily
A lover of beautiful artistry, Valerie Connelly was drawn to Etsy in 2009 first as a consumer and then opened her own shop shortly thereafter. Her shop has been an evolving collection of her digital artwork and correspondence.
Special to the Daily |

Imagine waking up every morning and getting paid to do what you love. That’s the dream, isn’t it? Few folks posses enough gumption to make it happen or are crazy enough to become their own boss. We found four Summit County residents who were brave enough to give it a shot. They’ve all launched shops on Etsy, an online marketplace where people can sell their handmade creations. Hear their stories, and then head to their Etsy shops to check out what these locals are producing.

Shop: So So Hippo

Owner: Katie Buller

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Katie Buller loves sparkles, ruffles and lace, and she isn’t afraid to use them in her Etsy shop, So So Hippo. Buller’s vibrant and playful personality shines through in her line of girl’s clothing and costumes. Adorable polka dot dresses, layers of ruffles and holiday-themed outfits are each cuter than the next.

This Summit County resident has been creating with fabric in one form or another since childhood and discovered Etsy in 2011. She heard about the site from a friend’s sister and decided to check it out.

“I realized that it would be a great way to have access to huge group of buyers that would be interested in my niche products,” Buller said.

Buller opened her shop of cheerful, higher-end girls’ boutique clothing and has expanded to costumes and accessories and even included a few items for boys and babies.

The adorable and colorful shop has seen huge success during the past three years, with sales growing 40 percent each year. With more than 1,800 sales, business is, in a word, booming for this wife and mom, who has barely been able to keep up with the recent demand. Her husband lovingly jokes that there isn’t a single room in their house that doesn’t have sparkles tracked through it.

“I wish there were 48 hours in a day because I love to create, and the more I create, the more inspired I become,” Buller said.

While she relishes in being able to reach a national market, she is still as deeply in love with Summit County as the day she moved there 26 years ago. She realizes she’s at a crossroads and needs to adjust her plan for 2015 to keep up with the growing number of incoming orders — a pretty great problem to have.

Shop: Mallory’s Hangers

Owner: Mallory Ostrander

Mallory Ostrander is a newcomer to the Etsy scene, but she has already received three sales within her first few weeks of opening her shop, Mallory’s Hangers. Ostrander has been crafting her entire life. Growing up with a creative mother, painting, quilt making and art projects were daily occurrences. This passion carried through to her teenage years and into college, where she earned an art degree from Western State Colorado University in Gunnison. Since college, she’s lived in Crested Butte for a season or two and landed in Summit County with her husband two years ago.

This past summer, Ostrander started creating custom hangers for friends and family. She forms the metal into names or phrases, creating the perfect gift for a wedding, shower or any special occasion. Ostrander received such positive feedback that she decided to pursue selling her creations online. She investigated Etsy and found it appealing.

“It’s easy to use and worth the risk of not succeeding because there is not a huge financial risk,” she said.

Ostrander launched her shop in October and said she looks forward to what the future may hold. The relatively small time commitment required to create the hangers makes it easy for her to balance this with her full-time job. Though she’s not currently seeking a local outlet to sell her hangers, she’s open to whatever opportunities may arise.

Shop: Three Bees Knees

Owner: Valerie Connelly

Valerie Connelly’s Esty shop, Three Bees Knees Productions, clearly is the bee’s knees. These beautifully designed invitations and correspondence are lovely creations from the mind of this Summit County native. Her mountain-themed wedding invitation has an authentic feel with modern elegance. A lover of beautiful artistry, she was drawn to Etsy in 2009 first as a consumer and then opened her own shop shortly thereafter.

“When I first started exploring, I was so impressed by the amount of amazing things, the vast array and just what a cool concept it was to bring artisans of all types together with digital shops,” Connelly said.

Her shop has been an evolving collection of her digital artwork and correspondence. This has been a side venture for Connelly, who plans on ramping up her offerings and product line in the coming months. Her artistic talent is matched with business savvy, and she’s keeping tabs on online marketing and the power of SEO, or search engine optimization. She’s focused on developing a stronger online presence for birthday, baby and holiday greetings.

Etsy has been great for spreading the word about her wedding invitations, and she’d like to receive the same level of interest for her other communique. A lover of elegant design and fine paper, she dreams of someday opening her own paper store but understands the small pool of consumers in the mountain area.

“I would die to have a paper store, the papers I carry are phenomenal,” Connelly said. “However, I feel paper and invitations are too much of a niche for this area to support, and right now I am happy with my online exposure.”

The Etsy marketplace seems to be the best option for Three Bees Knees products thus far, and we look forward to seeing what she offers next.

Shop: Wild Balance

Owner: Annie Kerr

“I wanted something simple, slightly rustic and elegant at the same time. These were better than I could have hoped for. Absolutely beautiful earrings,” wrote one happy customer of Wild Balance Jewelry.

The delicate and raw, yet refined, creations are handmade bits of beauty from local Annie Kerr. She creates her jewelry in her Frisco home studio and then sells it through her Etsy store and to several shops throughout the county and the state. Her jewelry has been available locally since 2009, and in 2012, she decided that she needed to have an online option for sales and launched her Etsy store.

Kerr understands the importance of online sales and said she’s revving up her own website and hoping to increase her online presence in the months ahead.

“I will still maintain a small inventory on Etsy, because as I have witnessed the site gaining consistent popularity over the past few years. I recognize it as an opportunity to be seen (and) found and create traffic over to my site, as well as maintain repeat business,” she said.

Kerr embraces the art community in the mountains and has been grateful for its support. Each of her pieces harkens back to the inner beauty and balance she hopes her line represents.

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