By Alex Hochstrasser
A Fitchburg State University student’s sewing hobby sparked an online storefront that has become a wild success.
Melanie Billings, a Junior at FSU studying Business Management and Accounting, manages her own online Etsy shop. Her shop has made-to-order, heart-shaped patches that have garnered a significant amount of attention on the web.
“For Valentine’s day, Queens of The Stone Age endorsed my patch online on their Facebook page and linked it to my Etsy shop,” says Billings, “Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy also posted a photo of my patch to his Instagram and it got a lot of attention but he didn’t link it to my shop which makes me mad.”
The online shop’s selection originated from Billing’s sewing hobby and grew from there, “I had a denim jacket that I wanted patches for so I thought I might as well make my own… My friend asked me to make a specific patch for them that said, ‘Touch my butt and buy me Pizza’ but they didn’t buy it so I put it online to sell it,” said Billings, “I posted the picture I took to my Tumblr which has a lot of followers and it got sent around.”
The shop was created with the name PizzaRoyalTea on Etsy in August of 2013 and since then has evolved into something that takes up much of Billing’s extra time, “Now we have Too Sassy For You and No, it’s all the same type of heart-shaped patches with the background painted. Sometimes I’ll do different things like pizza or eyeballs on the patches. They’re all different sizes and colors depending on which one you get,” says Billings, “They’re very sassy, I just thought of what people would want.”
From a Business major’s perspective, the most important thing for Billings right now is production management because she creates all her products by hand and ships them out to customers on her own time, “I have to make sure that all my products are consistent. I have to make sure I have enough supplies to make them beforehand. I have to make sure that the prices cover my expenses.
“The cost and time varies so I have to be aware of that too. I try to anticipate the sales for the school year,” says Billings, “Lately people have been buying more painted patches instead of the embroidered ones. It’s hard to anticipate what’s going to happen because my product is so new.”
Interestingly, Billings says that a lot of her recent sales have been to a more international audience, “My international orders have been increasing lately which is weird because they don’t speak much English in other countries but they want the patches anyway.” Currently there are no plans for expanding beyond the scope of a one-person operation right now but if given the opportunity to partner up with a larger operation, Billings says she would but, “I just wouldn’t do it on my own.”
The success of the shop in the past year has paved the way for even newer products like T-shirts with heart design phrases on them, “I’ve been trying to think of things because of the holiday season coming up. I’m kind of waiting on the T-shirts to see how people like them… I’m going to start screen printing things on my own”, says Billings.
When asked about marketing her products Billings explained, “Not marking a product is also a way of marketing a product too… I have other people do my marketing and advertising through #PizzaRoyalTea which is great.” For now Billings plans on gearing up on supplies for the holiday season over the next couple of months based on the sales increase of patches last year around the same time.
To purchase products from Melanie Billing’s Etsy store visit: https://www.etsy.com/shop/pizzaroyaltea