When Sharon Gatzke started making oilcloth aprons, place mats, and tote bags in 2009, she planned to give them away as Christmas presents. She had no idea that people would clamor for her wares — or that she would lose her tutoring job in 2011 because of state budget cuts.
Today, the Lebanon, Conn.-based entrepreneur is a full-time craftswoman and owner of Now and ThenCT. She sells her modern products with a retro twist via Etsy.com, farmers markets, and boutiques.
Gatzke recently spoke with the GoPayment Blog about what sets Now and Then apart from the competition and how GoPayment has helped her to increase sales.
GoPayment: How did you make the transition from tutor to craftswoman?
Gatzke: I have always had a love of art and crafts, and several years ago while vacationing in Maine, I visited a fabric store that was giving away instructions on how to make a tote bag. I thought the bag would make great Christmas gifts, but I also saw ways I could improve upon the bag’s design. I amended the original pattern several times and decided to make the bags using oilcloth instead of fabric, because oilcloth is long-lasting, waterproof, and easy to care for.
I started selling my items on weekends at farmers markets, but since I was laid off from my job last year, I’ve devoted more time to growing my business.
What sets your products apart from those of your competitors?
My bags are durable and practical and feature reversible designs. Customers use them for work and school, as diaper bags, and as beach bags. I make the handles of the tote bags out of lightly-padded fabric, so the bags are soft and easy to carry.
I have a lot of repeat customers who bought a bag three years ago and frequently return to buy additional bags as gifts. They love how the bags can be easily cleaned with just a sponge or a damp cloth, and that the designs don’t fade. My items all feature whimsical, one-of-a-kind designs, and I can also fulfill custom orders.
What other items are included in your product line?
I also make one-of-a-kind charm bracelets out of vintage buttons and oilcloth aprons and double-sided place mats. My aprons are very popular with women who work in school cafeterias, because they feature fun designs and stains can easily be wiped off. I also make an apron for children featuring adjustable straps, so the apron will essentially grow as the child grows and can be used for children ages 4 to 12. I plan to expand my product line in 2013 to include new items.
How has GoPayment helped your business?
I have increased my sales as a result of having GoPayment. Before I found out about this service, I could only accept cash or checks from customers. Now that I’m able to accept credit and debit cards, people often purchase multiple items. I’m now able to go anywhere and sell anywhere. It’s made transactions so much easier.