Sarah Hummel, '19

Sarah Hummel holds a canvas with the words "love grows here"

Being crafty has its perks. Junior Sarah Hummel was able to take what she loved doing and turn it into a business. Hummel recalls always being known for her creativity in high school.

“My friends would want me to make things for them, or any time there was a birthday they would get something that I made, whether they liked it or not,” Hummel said.

Originally, Hummel had not considered putting these items for sale. Her sister, Maggie, served as one of the biggest early supporters for turning her craftiness into a business.

“We’d make things to give to [Maggie’s] friends or people she knew,” Hummel said. “She’d be like, ‘you should sell these things,’ and I’m like, ‘yeah, right’. She had always pushed me to want to and I kind of would want to.”

Not knowing how to run an Etsy shop, how to promote it or what to sell, Hummel was reluctant to kickstart a business. At least until Katie Fischer Clune, Ph.D., associate professor of communication, and her introduction to public relations course. As part of the class, students were asked to complete a personal branding project where they could choose what they wanted to improve about their image, personally and professionally.

“In the class, I felt like everyone there knew what they wanted to do, so they were able to have a plan of steps they could take at that point. I still had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do,” Hummel said.

After consulting with and getting the OK from professor Clune, Hummel began taking concrete steps to get her Etsy shop, sHe Designs STL, off the ground.

“I’m really thankful for her class,” Hummel said. “Since it was a project, I had to do research. I had to have substance to the project. When I was starting the Etsy shop, I read about how to do it. I read tips of the trade. I did a lot of that so that I didn’t go in blind, which I probably would have had it not been a class, because I’m the person who skips over the instruction booklet and just tries to figure it out on their own.”

Hummel struggled with figuring out what products to sell and the ways that she could best publicize her merchandise after the Etsy shop was created.

“The hard part was deciding what I would sell,” Hummel said. “I like making custom things, I like making personal things. It was really hard to figure out what I could make and advertise it as, ‘But you can personalize it.’”

In the midst of figuring out what to sell, she received a request from her sister, Maggie, which helped her create one of her best-selling items.

“Her boyfriend was moving out of town and she wanted ‘open when’ letters, which were a pretty trendy thing,” Hummel said. “She had me write on the envelopes like, ‘open when you’re tired,’ open when whatever, and then she just put the cards in.”

Hummel had not considered listing the “open when” letters on her Etsy shop until she was encouraged by other family members to do so.

“My aunt and my sister and my mom and dad, said things like, ‘Well we can’t do it ourselves, so we would pay someone to do it for us’. That’s been the most sold thing in my Etsy shop, just the envelopes. I would have never in a million years thought to put that up unless someone told me to,” Hummel said.

Hummel found success in the envelopes, but wanted to find out what would be the best way to market her merchandise. She turned to social media.

“The marketing platform I was most interested in was Instagram,” Hummel said.

She conducted research into how other shops that make handmade or homemade items market on Instagram. In addition to finding an appropriate platform to market from, Hummel had to find ways to manage time between her shop and school.

“I have classes in the middle of the day, and normally if I had two hours in between class I’d do something else. I’d finish homework, or I’d go home and take a nap, or watch TV or run an errand,” Hummel said. “Now I have this other to-do list that’s what I love to do, and I have to keep making sure that I want to do it. For the most part, I think I just have to keep them separate, school and this job. Realizing that while they’re separate, the times can kind of overlap a little bit to get it all done within a timely manner. It’s still a work in progress.”

Hummel said that she has received a large amount of support from the Rockhurst community throughout the process.  

“The Instagram account for my Etsy shop is a business account. You can look at all of the insights and the demographics. It was funny because it was, 90 percent female, 25 percent KC, 25 percent St. Louis, 25 percent Nebraska and then ‘other,’” Hummel said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is the Rockhurst University demographic. This is so cool.’ I’ve really notched into them.”

“It’s fun when I do have it on campus and people ask me about it or people want to know about it or people order things. Or they ask me to do something, because my favorite part is doing something like that,” Hummel said. “It’s just really cool that people are looking, that people are listening, that people are interested. It’s a really cool pool of support that I have.”

Because the shop is still in its early stages, Hummel is unsure of where it may go in the future.

“Maybe it’ll grow, maybe it’ll just become something that I still like to do for fun, but don’t actually sell things. It’s interesting to figure out where it will go, but right now it’s at a good place, I’ll take it.”


Follow sHe Designs STL on Instagram HERE

Check out Sarah’s Etsy shop HERE