This is a Frederick Review interview with Elizabeth King. Elizabeth has an Etsy store, Liz King Designs, where she sells custom heating pads and medical pouches.
Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your business.
Hi my name is Elizabeth King, I have an Etsy shop which is lizkingdesigns.com and I sell a variety of items. One being heating pads that have removable covers. I found I had problems with eczema and love using a heating pad, but when you share it with family the cover gets kind of gross and nasty. So I decided to make one for myself that had a removable cover. Then friends saw it and it kind of went on from there. The other business in my Etsy shop is pouches for epipens, medical supplies, emergency medication, for people with chronic illnesses, peanut allergies, bee sting allergies, etc. I find most of time parents order them for their kids for school, grandparents house, things like that. Personally, my children do not have any allergies, I got into this by mistake really. A friend wanted me to make something for her daughter and then somebody in her allergy group saw one and then I started making them more and now they’ve become very very popular.
When did you start your business?
I started my Etsy store in 2012 but I am actually a portrait photographer. We moved from the Maryland area to Kentucky so I had to kind of put the photography on hold. I’ve always worked in the house, so with my youngest in college my husband was like well you might need to get a job, and didn’t really want to do that so I started with a few things on Etsy. Then the heating pads took off. I still do photography but this has become a full time business. I now have several sewing machines, embroidery machines, a fabric room, it’s great. I’ve been doing it for 5 years and love it.
What was it that make you want to start the business?
I just like creating them. I find people really like them, they like that things are washable, especially the heating pads. If you go to a store, a microwaveable heating pad doesn’t have a removable cover, only the plug-in ones do. But I like working with fun fabric. So I find all these great fun fabrics, I think I am in a very small niche especially on Etsy so I’m not in a saturated market. So I still get sales, and unless sales stop where I need to think of something new, I really enjoy making these and don’t want to stop.
What sets your business apart from your competitors?
I don’t use just rice in my heating pads. I use a combination of a little bit of rice, buckwheat seeds, which I source from a company in Florida, and flaxseed, which I also source from a US company. It retains the heat a little better. Rice tends to scorch and start to burn so they start to smell bad. I didn’t want to be one of those DIY “here’s a piece of fabric, let’s put rice in it, sow it up, and stick it in the microwave”. I also use essential oils so If you want an aromatherapy effect I have different scents that people can add to their heating pad.
If you could go back in time, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
Keep pursuing. Don’t let a bad review derail what you are doing. Everybody is up to their own opinion. Do research and keep plotting along. Your first prototype might not be the best but I found as I was going on my product kept changing a little to the point where I got it down to perfection. But you need to just keep plugging along. If you have an idea just keep working at it. It will change along the way but don’t get frustrated. I found frustration was the one that could derail me the worst. I just found I had to have a positive attitude and keep plugging along. I would find what I was doing was working.
What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
I like the fun new fabrics that I can find. Fabrics that are colorful, there are just a variety of different patterns that I look forward to every season. I have so much fabric that I need to use that I am trying to put myself on a buying hiatus of fabric which is very difficult. I get the emails with “woah these pretty colors” and it is hard to restrain myself. I like the novelty ones too. I have started to try and find patterns with a more masculine color. I do a lot of floral patterns, but I found some with motorcycles on them, beer cans, soda pop, you know. So I am trying to get a variety that men and boys would like. With soccer balls and things like that.
What’s the toughest thing you face being a business owner and how do you handle it?
I only have two hands. I do all of the cutting, sowing, when it comes to the medical pouches I do all of the embroidering with my machines. It is just me, myself, and I. Now my husband is a phenomenal helper, he’s learned how I do my packaging, printing my labels, and I keep telling him as soon as he retires he is my CEO of packaging and distribution!
What’s the number one way you currently bring in new customers?
I really don’t know when it comes to the heating pads. They are good sellers and I am found high up in the etsy ranking so I really don’t promote those so much. With the medical pouches I use instagram, I have contacted a couple of allergists and I have looked online for allergy groups and support groups for medical things. Or I’ve had somebody who bought one “who is like hey do you mind if I show it to my support group?” That stuff helps with the medical pouches. Medical stuff is word of mouth and showing something that is unique. Most people do get a red pouch with the blue medical symbol but sometimes something different is nice. I offer a wide variety of colors for the younger kids just to give them something that breaks up the whole generic medical look.
How has technology played a role in your business?
Having a website for my heating pads is something I thought about but a heating pad is a heating pad. No one is going to go to heating pads dot com or whatever. I find etsy is for those unique items, those little things I find that works well for my heating pads. It works well for the medical kits but I don’t want to be lizkingdesigns for my medical kits. I like when people google epipen pouches or another one that I sell is for adrenal insufficiency or addison’s disease, that is another big seller. When people are looking for a medical pouch I want them to find my website for medical pouches. Because not a lot of people are going to look at an epipen pouch on etsy. My website for medical pouches is in the works!
What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to others thinking about starting a business?
Do your research. If you are planning to be on etsy, don’t assume that when you list your items that they are going to sell. There is an algorithm and you really need to search on etsy and outside to see what things are selling for, how they are being titled, how the algorithm works, get on forums, and ask questions. I think the biggest mistake is people who put up 10 products and assume they are going to sell and then get frustrated when they don’t. You have to keep your etsy shop fresh, you need to add new things, you need to tweak what you have, and don’t assume that it is going to sell. You really have to do your research.
For more information about Elizabeth King and Liz King Designs please see the information below: