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Halifax area artists and entrepreneurs named Etsy Design Awards finalists

Tina Kim’s sales of organic catnip toys have taken off thanks to growing sales on Etsy.
Tina Kim’s sales of organic catnip toys have taken off thanks to growing sales on Etsy. - Contributed

Area women’s businesses enjoy rapid growth thanks to popular online platform

Entrepreneurs Tina Kim of Feline Fun in Enfield, and Aime Cunningham of Thief and Bandit in Halifax are finalists in the Etsy Design Awards competition 2019, AKA the Etsies.

An e-commerce shopping extravaganza, Estsy.com was built byte by byte over the last 14 years. The website is designed to help visitors navigate through millions of handmade and vintage items produced by creators and collectors working in 35 countries.

Canadians produced 23 final selections from five categories: inventive décor, signature style, festive celebrations, earth-friendly and creative collaboration (including personalized items.)

Halifax’s Amie Cunningham is an artist and founder of Thief and Bandit on Etsy.com.  The “Rambling Rose“ twirl dress (shown here), is a finalist at the Etsy Design Awards, 2019. - Contributed
Halifax’s Amie Cunningham is an artist and founder of Thief and Bandit on Etsy.com. The “Rambling Rose“ twirl dress (shown here), is a finalist at the Etsy Design Awards, 2019. - Contributed

Two of the 23 Canadian creatives are Aime Cunningham, for a gorgeous dress called “Rambling Rose,” and Tina Kim, for a personalized organic catnip toy called “birthday cake.” Winners will be announced on Sept. 24. The grand prize is US$15,000 and US$1000 goes to the winner in each category.

To be selected as a finalist for the Etsy Design Awards is, in the words of Cunningham, “a really big deal.”

Cunningham joined Etsy in 2009 with a nature-inspired design and one screen-printed garment. Sales trickled in, Cunningham recalls, until May 2010. That’s when she was selected by Etsy.com to be a “featured seller”, which meant three days in a row on the front page of Etsy. The exposure worked.

“It radically changed my business,” explains Cunningham, adding that every year her sales, and business, grow.

Today Thief and Bandit employs a team including a team of “collaborative” seamstresses. The Thief and Bandit shop in Halifax houses a workspace, a showroom and a place to do fittings; Cunningham is keen to make her clothes work on all body sizes.

The Etsy judges selected a twirl dress, with pockets, from Thief and Bandit called “Rambling Rose” as a finalist in the signature style category. Cunningham says she chooses her fabrics, inks and processes with an eye on the environment and, of course, everything about the clothing is original.

“Etsy is a great avenue for a maker,” assures Cunningham, “Etsy is good at finding people doing exceptional work and pushing them to the top.” If a product is unique and very well made, people will find it.

Feline Fun

Tina Kim of Enfield, Nova Scotia, is an artist and founder of Feline Fun on etsy.com. One of her many organic catnip toys, the personalized birthday cake, is a finalist in the Etsy Design Awards 2019.  - Contributed
Tina Kim of Enfield, Nova Scotia, is an artist and founder of Feline Fun on etsy.com. One of her many organic catnip toys, the personalized birthday cake, is a finalist in the Etsy Design Awards 2019. - Contributed

Tina Kim sewed her first catnip toys for her own two cats. She says friends liked the toys, so she made some to give away. Kim then saw a selection of catnip toys on Etsy and thought she could offer the market something a little different using her combination of skills which include quilting, sewing and oil painting. Kim starts every catnip toy on canvas, painting what she wants to see and only then does she begin the process to make it 3D.

Kim opened her Etsy shop in January 2017 and drove her Instagram followers to her Etsy page. Kim says the orders started coming in and to date, Kim has sold more than 3,000 organic catnip toys on Etsy. Kim once sold her toys at markets but today, creating and making the toys ordered on Etsy takes all her time.

A finalist in the creative collaboration category, Kims’ “personalized birthday cake” organic catnip toy features the initial of kitty’s first name as part of the icing.

“I feel so happy, and I feel lucky. It was a hobby that represented everything I like, so I am happy to do it.” Kim attributes her success to Etsy.

Kim and Cunningham joined Etsy.com to market their hand-made products, and both found an audience and ready-made customer base. Search Feline Fun and Thief and Bandit on Etsy.com to learn more.

Tips for succeeding on Etsy

  1. Offer quickest delivery time. (TK)
  2. Give great customer service. (TK)
  3. Work your butt off. (AC)
  4. Post great photographs of your product. (AC)

This story appeared in the Halifax City Voice.

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