The Keys to Success || The Story of Oktak

apron and coin purse available at Oktak

1. When and why did you choose to open an online shop on Etsy?

The first time I heard about Etsy was from a friend, Yukiko of Seabreeze Studio ( ), who opened her shop in 2005.

At the time, I had my own website with a shopping cart, but was struggling to expand my customer base. Most of the visitors to my site were following the link from my Japanese blog (, and probably about 80% of sales were to Japanese customers.

I checked out Etsy with great excitement, as I don't think there was a site that specialized in selling and buying handmade goods before Etsy. When I did, I was taken back by the low prices, and had doubts that it was the right venue for me. 

It took me about a year to finally open a shop in September 2006. I thought I'd test the waters by listing things that didn't sell on my own site.
Despite my na├»ve expectation that sales would be rolling in as soon as I opened my shop, nothing sold for the first two months! My main focus remained on my own site, and I didn't pay much attention to my Etsy shop until 2007, when suddenly, my items started popping up on the front page. This of course led to more sales, and I began to see the immense potential that Etsy had. 

embroidery floss 

2. What got you started in your craft?

My baby.
I worked for the Japanese Foreign Ministry before I had my son. It was a very demanding job, both physically and mentally. I hardly saw my husband during the week because I worked so late every night. It was fulfilling in a way of course, but very tiring and stressful.

When I found out I was pregnant, I decided I didn't want to continue that life style, and started thinking about a different career that was more compatible with family life. After my son was born, I dabbled in translation, and translated books from English to Japanese while caring for him at home.

One day, when my family and I were walking around East Village, I peered into one of my favorite shops that sold handmade bags. As I was admiring the bags, my husband said, "If you love it so much, why don't you do it yourself?" - this was an eye-opening moment.  I'd always loved designing and crafting, but never thought I could pursue it as a career. It suddenly dawned on me that there wasn't any reason why I couldn't.
Soon after that, I enrolled in a course in handbag design and construction at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

just a sampling of current coin purse designs

3. Who or what influences your style the most?

I'm not sure, but I love the bold colors and motifs of the 60s / early 70s, and the clean, simple aesthetics of Japanese and Scandinavian designs.  I also love the unusual and striking color combinations in traditional kimonos, and the happiness and freedom that I see in my kids' art work.
There are so many things that I find fascinating, that I really don't know what influences me the most.  

Aki's Muji notebook filled with her sketches and designs

4. How do you stay focused and motivated?

I try to think ahead and scribble new ideas in my 200 page MUJI notebook whenever something pops up in my head.  When I'm not focused or motivated, I look at that notebook and remember all the ideas I wanted to work on. 

the workspace

5. What would be your insight on " Keys to Success on Etsy"?

I think of my Etsy shop as a garden. If you don't tend to it every day, weeds will grow all over it, bugs will eat up the leaves, and the flowers will wilt due to lack of water. Even if it's just switching your 'featured items' or relisting expired items, you need to do some work on it each day to keep it from getting buried, both on Etsy and on major search engines.

Because Etsy is a huge site now, success relies heavily on how much exposure you can get.
Here are some ways I try to maximize exposure:
1. Add new listings as often as possible.
2. Try to make well-curated treasuries, supporting other shops and showcasing my style to the best extent possible.
3. Improve photography. ( I am constantly thinking about new angles/ backgrounds I can experiment with.)
4. Think one season ahead, and try to introduce new products on a timely basis. ( eg. listing items related to a specific holiday at 4 to 8 weeks in advance.)
5. Never say no to requests for interviews.

Having said that, the greatest key to success is your product. Before everything else, you must have an attractive product. I constantly ask myself why certain products sell more than others, what I should make more of and what I should discontinue, how I can be more unique and produce higher quality products. It's always important to look at your shop with the most critical eyes.

Oktak important information:
Owner : Aki
Founded: September 21, 2006


  1. What a wonderful interview!! Thank you so much Aki for sharing it with us ♥

  2. What a great lesson from a great person! Thank you and keep the good work.

  3. What a great interview! She definitely has pretty handbags.

  4. love your insight, thank you! and of course your product is amazing !


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