Community Feature Thriving Online Business Started with Love for Creating Personalized Gifts
From doodling or drawing pictures as a child and “building the perfect gift” for family and friends, then teaching cake and cookie decorating classes, it’s evident that Kary Jones is naturally drawn to creating things. So, opening a small business sharing her talent for creating personalized gifts with others was a no brainer.
Kary, who is a 5-star Etsy seller and owner of Etching Tree, creates one-of-a-kind, custom engraved items. She describes her natural ability for design and aesthetics as “self-taught.” At least, that’s part of the story.
“Back in 2018 while my husband and I were on a road trip. We had purchased a custom wedding gift that had been engraved,” Kary explains. “I had mentioned to my husband that I could do something like that, and he agreed. I was just looking around at some of the things that were in the store, and they seemed very simple yet very thoughtful when giving it as a gift.”
“This store was kind of what I’d always had in mind that I wanted to create. I just didn’t honestly think that there was as large of a market for the custom gifts as there is,” she continued. “So, I started researching different lasers and manufacturers. Soon after that, I found the perfect laser engraver to start the business.”
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While she can’t recall one specific holiday or occasion as a defining moment, Kary has always enjoyed creating and giving the “perfect” gifts to friends and family.
“I remember always putting together gift baskets for birthdays, Christmas and baby showers,” she recalls. “That was always so much fun trying to find the perfect things to put into a basket. Any time someone I knew was having a baby, I would make a custom baby towel with their name or monogram sewn on it and the towel would be big enough to snuggle them up in so they could use it as they grew. One of the kids I used to watch would bring his towel that I had made him over because it was “magical,” and he said it was teaching him to fly.”
As far as favorite gifts Kary has given, that’s an easy answer. “One for my nephew, when he was getting married, I engraved on a flask for him,” Kary shared. “It wasn’t the flask that was my favorite though, it’s what we had engraved on it – an image of a place that is very special to our family that we shared with my late dad, his granddad. As soon as he opened the box, he knew exactly what the image was of. He absolutely loved it and was so happy.”
“The other gift,” Kary continues, “was for my father-in-law. We engraved the river and a replica of the bridge by the river that he has been going fishing at nearly his entire life. Going to this place is a yearly getaway for the boys in our family so this was something very special to do. This was all engraved on a piece of live edge wood.”
While starting a small business based on her love for custom gifts was a cakewalk, Kary says that the coming up with the business name was a little trickier.
“Coming up with a name was probably the hardest part of starting this business,” Kary admits. “You want to make sure that no one else has that name and that the domain is available to have a website. Then, I remembered as a child, when we’d go on vacation, my sister and I used to engrave our initials into trees so that we could always remember we had been there. So, just like that Etching Tree became our name. It is something creative and memorable just like the business I wanted to create.”
Kary spearheads the business but the Etching Tree, based in rural Sumner County, Kansas, is a family affair. Her husband, Chad, helps with maintenance and operations. Their children, Bailey and Madison, help create new designs and products.
Custom items include photo tiles, engraved stainless metal tumblers in all sizes, personalized slate and wood signs, monogrammed and personalized beer coolers, engraved leather journals, and ornaments, among others. Kary also engraves cutting boards as well as other items such as glass dishes or metal serving trays. She has even created a U.S. National Parks bucket list board for avid travelers to track their adventures through all 63 national parks.
Etching Tree can create almost any design and engrave on many different materials such as powder coated or stainless metal, paper, wood, acrylic, leather, fabric, tiles, and glass. The ID holders and leather coasters have been online best-sellers, but Kary’s favorite are the photo tiles and custom wood signs.
In fact, business has been going so well – more than 11,450 sales on Etsy not including large quantity orders from individuals or businesses – Kary has hopes of expanding.
“I would like to see the business grow its online sales with the addition of a new website, product offerings and designs,” Kary explained. “I would also like to see us in a larger facility where we are able to expand our current product offerings and add metal artwork to our portfolio.”
Their website – etchingtree.com – is currently under construction and is expected to launch this fall just in time for the Christmas rush. The new and more advanced site will allow customers to customize and view their design on any product live before purchasing. For example, they can choose their size of tumbler, color, and design with custom text and font. Kary believes this will improve the customer experience and increase online orders.
She depends on SKT’s 100 Mbps fiber internet for professional and personal use at home. “The service that we have with SKT has been a game changer while running an online business,” Kary shared. “If we did not have SKT internet service I do not believe that we would be able to have a smooth-running online business. We are always running multiple computers with multiple programs at the same time, and we do not have problems doing so.”
Kary continues, “I like that I always have internet. If there is any maintenance to be done or if SKT thinks that internet may possibly be affected, we get a call and email letting us know a day or two ahead of time. [Because of that], I can plan my day around this. I love that we are always kept up-to-date on what is going on.”
At the end of the day, while Kary is thankful for her customers as well as reliable internet service from SKT, she is most appreciative of her family. “I have to say I wouldn’t have been able to start this business without the love and support from my husband and children.”