Taught to crochet as a child, Jennifer Brown never thought her pieces would be enjoyed by anyone other than family and friends, let alone by an international audience.
In February, Brown started Montana Daisy Girl, an online storefront that brings customer inquiries from across town and across the globe as far as Australia and South America.
“My mom taught me when I was a little girl, but I kind of put it off for a while,” Brown said. “I needed a creative outlet and threw myself into it completely, and I love it, love it, love it.”
Since opening her virtual doors as a side job on Etsy, a website encouraging the buying and selling of homemade goods, Brown has sold 129 items including dishcloths, hats, bath loofahs and aroma bead sachets.
She hoped her numbers would skyrocket on Cyber Monday — the Black Friday for online shoppers. She enticed customers with a 20 percent discount by using an online code.
Brown said she hoped to make up for a pretty lackluster push on Black Friday.
“It was just kind of blah this weekend so far,” said Brown, who typically gets two to three orders per week. “I'm hoping for pretty high sales and a lot of pageviews on my site Monday, definitely.”
Brown's is not the only Billings business on Etsy. Lori and Tim Trafford, owners of Red Sky Design, have been in business since 2004 making leather products.
Though most of their customers are wholesale buyers, opening an account on Esty in 2009 has allowed them to tap into individual buyers.
They pushed their product on Cyber Monday by offering a 20 percent discount.
“It's gone really well so far,” Lori Trafford said. “We get a lot of orders from the Southern and Eastern states like Georgia, Connecticut and Rhode Island.”
The family runs its business basically out of their family room in Billings. The funds they raise through the business go toward a college fund for their two children, who also help out.
“It's a great side business, and a fun one,” Lori Trafford said. “It's showing our kids a bit of the entrepreneurial spirit.”
Billings-based Red Oxx offered free shipping to customers who spent more than $300 to boost its online sales on Monday, but CEO Jim Markel said that isn't their biggest sale date.
“Early December is the biggest online shopping day, not Cyber Monday,” Markel said.
“We see a nice kickoff here starting today, then it just continues to build all the way up to that point.”
Markel said the firm sees even more online traffic in January — after the holiday season is over.
“A lot of people get our products in the mail, and then we get a whole different wave of buying,” Markel said. “I can't describe how it happens. Once they get these boxes from Montana, they just go 'wow.' ”
Online sales have been key for Red Oxx, said Marke, who made the switch back in the mid-1990s.
“A lot of people hesitated going online, and they are feeling it now,” Markel said. “That is what I think is real, the economy is the online marketplace.”
Nationally, stores swamped customers with online ads and e-mail deals, and sales could top $1 billion, making it bigger than any single shopping day last year, according to The Associated Press. By late Monday afternoon, online sales were running 15 percent ahead of last year, according to IBM's Coremetrics tracking service.
Meanwhile, in Billings, Kris Carpenter, owner of Sanctuary Salon and Spa, Joy of Living and Joy of Kids, decided to put her focus on her own discount offer: a 12 days of Christmas program.
While she does make some sales online, she said nothing beats the experience of coming into the store.
“We are more,” Carpenter said. “You have to buy something in the store and experience it.”
Contact Chelsea Krotzer at email@example.com or 657-1392.