good for the world

Etsy Featured Seller: Amanda Zehner (Living Threads Co)

This month on the blog we are all about Etsy, the online marketplace for “unique goods.” We have a lot of local people who use Etsy as an ecommerce tool, and they’re the best people to talk to about the platform!

We love businesses who love to help others, and that’s exactly what Living Threads Co. is all about. Founded by Amanda Zehner in 2014, Living Threads Co. features handmade textiles from around the world, in an effort to join these communities with the American market. Here’s what she has to say about Etsy as a way to increase online exposure/awareness to products (BEC questions in bold).

What made you decide to use Etsy as a marketplace for your business?   

Access to an already established customer base through a marketplace that attracts a similar demographic as Living Threads Co. is targeting. Access to resources and a network of other similar businesses.

Do you sell your products anywhere else online or in real life?

 Yes, a majority of our business is done outside of Etsy. We primarily use Etsy as a supplemental platform and another way to get our name out, help new customers and businesses find us and then direct them to our e-commerce website. We also sell in seasonal pop-ups and through wholesale B2B relationships to expand our impact on small scale artisans.

LTCo. Nicaragua Family Impact 2015.08.11 from Living Threads Company on Vimeo.

What has contributed to your success on Etsy?  

We view success on Etsy as relationship building and brand exposure but do not have a great deal of success in sales.  Creation of a shop on Etsy does not mean sales and business. You have to prioritize marketing and driving people to your Etsy shop.  That is not our priority as we choose to focus on driving customers to your own commerce site. However, the cost of maintaining inventory on  Etsy is so minimal that it is worth it to us to maintain it.

How do you stand out in this marketplace?  

We are a higher price point product then a majority of products on Etsy and as mentioned above, we strategically focus our energy on driving traffic to our own e-commerce site. However, I do think that our higher end quality product on Etsy helps us to stand out.

From the Living Threads Co. website. One way Living Threads Co. stands out (in our opinion) is their unique story and the fact that their products are not only high quality but have a direct impact on the lives of others.

What’s your advice for anyone considering selling their products on Etsy? 

Make sure that you have a strategy for driving traffic to your shop and standing out, high quality product images and a marketing plan with a focused effort to drive people to your site and convert that to sales.  Whether that is a blog, Instagram, Pinterest, or all of the above.

Tell us about your most interesting Etsy transaction (i.e. weird customer questions/requests, or a purchasing experience).

Have had great experiences purchasing from other vendors and greatly appreciate the ‘small business’  feel. Also being able to interact directly with the owner, have custom work done and have questions answered very quickly.  We have had people reach out about larger orders but have been on completely different pages cost-wise (there seems to be a lack of understanding of the value of hand made artisan products, which is why on our own site we try to tell that story really clearly).

One of our personal favorite items from Living Threads Co is this finger puppets set! There are also sets for other famous children’s books, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Goodnight, Moon.

(Just for fun) If you had $100 to spend anywhere on Etsy, what would you buy?

We would buy more custom handmade cotton tags for out handwoven blankets. I love being a part of the design process of each part of our final product and creating a final product that is hand made from fiber to tagging and supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs, artists and creatives from Guatemala to Maine or Colorado.  So much fun!

Thanks again to Amanda for answering our Etsy questions, and make sure you check out her website! 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Why You Give (Some) Information For Free

“It seems like a lot of social media people give information for free.” one of my friends mentioned today. The implied question being, why is that?

Giving some free stuff away doesn't mean your company won't make money. Mozilla in the tech world is an excellent example of sharing information to build value.

Giving some free stuff away doesn’t mean your company won’t make money. Mozilla in the tech world is an excellent example of sharing information to build value.

As people in the information business, we know it’s important to give some of our product for free in the way of blog entries, white papers, etc. Here’s why people give away something for free that they didn’t necessarily get for free:

Information builds credibility.

Does this person know what they are talking about? Do they seem like the kind of person I want to do business with? This is information people will want to figure out before contacting you.

Having free information out there for them to peruse allows them to see for themselves 1) This person is legit and 2) I may even like them as a person. These are both infinitely important in the service industry since the people you hire to provide services tend to be the people you spend time with. Information let’s people get to know you… and giving it away some for free means you are not some money hungry jerkface who’s only in it for the paycheck.

Information builds value.

You know who the best customers are in some of my experience? People who have tried to do it themselves. In trying to build a website or run a social media campaign, people will contact us saying that doing the job well is harder than they expected. They realize there is a lot to know and do, and that they need our help.

It may feel weird to think about giving away something you figured out but guess what happens when someone tries to do it? Some either succeed and love what they get out of it, becoming loyal potential customers. Others attempt and fail… but guess who the first person they think of to call is when they do?

It may seem counter intuitive but put information out there about your services or products. Having an understanding of what goes into either will show your potential customers what’s so valuable… and why they can get that value from you.

Information gives part of the story… and leaves people wanting more. 

Let’s say you read my article about Twitter hashtags (the most popular blog post I’ve ever written for no apparent reason). While it is helpful, it’s really like I’m reading you page 59 out of a book of things I know. Sure there is a topic but does reading it make you understand how to use Twitter entirely? Of course not. What someone with a deep knowledge on a topic can give you are tips and tricks but knowing that information in a context is infinitely more valuable.

What you know about what you do is more than you could write in 855 blog posts (you’re reading post 856 of this blog right now, and there are plenty more topics to cover, trust me!). And the more people know, the more they’ll want to know… if they are interested of course. But guess who buys stuff? Interested people.

Social media people are not silly people with gobs of free time on their hands. They know if they put out information, free information even, it’ll be good for their business. At least I think they are. 🙂

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Is Website Maintenance Worth It?

Here at Breaking Even, we offer website maintenance to our clients, whether we built the site or not. And here is when we give people choices: monthly fee or as needed.

Most clients seem to understand ‘as needed’ help. When they notice something extremely messed up on their website, they can give us a call. We can unhack the site or fix the major error.

The maintenance is a much harder sell but would really save some of these folks a lot of money (and possibly emotional distress) in the long run.


Here’s the thing: You can compare a website to anything that’s been built that you use in your daily life: your car, your house, your computer. All of those items require maintenance, most of it smaller tweaks to prevent larger problems in the future. You get the oil changed on your car regularly so it gives you better gas mileage and prolongs your engine life. You fix that crack in your foundation so it doesn’t get bigger and compromise the structural integrity of the house. You run software updates and regularly clean out files on your computer so it runs faster and you can keep it for five years instead of two.

You have to do the same thing on a website, and either you need to learn how to do it yourself or let someone do it for you. 

Here are the kinds of smaller things that need to be regularly taken care of on a website:

  • Add new content (delete old employees, change prices, add Pinterest icon to your social media bar, etc.)
  • Figure out/fix weirdo issues that tend to crop up over time (weird spacing around your images, archive links not working, etc.)
  • Update software of your website (if Wordpress do this quarterly, if you have Joomla do so around the software update schedule)
  • Update plugins/extra installed programs so they continue to function

You may not care about how your website performs but consider these scenarios which all actually happened to people I know:

  • Someone hacks into the server because your website software is out of date and that infects 100 other websites that share the same server.
  • A potential customer emails the contact form on your site for a price quote for a huge job and you never get receive it because you didn’t realize the form wasn’t working.
  • An employee who died over a year ago is still on your site, making some site visitors uncomfortable when they visit.

In other words, your lack of maintenance could not only make you lose money but could effect your customers and even people you don’t even know in a negative way.

So make sure your website is up to date on a monthly basis, whether you log in yourself and do it or pay someone like us to do it.  By fixing issues when they are small, it prevents them from becoming larger. In websites and in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Top 5 Things To Never Say To Someone Who Is Grieving

Yes, I know the BE blog is on break, but I was reading this old post that I wrote on my old personal blog after my father died two years ago. I thought it might be appropriate to rework it and post now.
I put my dog down last night, and for those of you who struggle to find words to comfort someone who is grieving, here is a little advice that may be helpful. Thank you to those who have wrote or commented; your kindness is appreciated.
I’ve learned a lot these past two years about losing someone important, first suddenly with my father two years ago, then rather slowly with my dog with her finally passing yesterday. More than anything during these times, I’ve noticed how many important people touch your life and reach out when you need them.
People have said some pretty comforting things to me but also a few odd things. I thought I’d pen a blog sharing these ideas because I find people often don’t know what to say.

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Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Too Cute Tuesday: Six By Six Art

I was having breakfast with one of my Vinalhaven friends this past weekend. She is helping run the non-profit daycare on the island and they have an upcoming art auction. The format is 6″ by 6″ art pieces, anything goes. She made some mention on how they may not have enough art.

Enter Too Cute Tuesday, where we have more artists and creative energy then anyone can shake a stick at (you know, whatever that expression means!). Plus, how hard can it be to cover a 6″ by 6″ piece of board anyway?

Sarah fearlessly weilds an exacto knife and mixes media.

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Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.