Just the behind-the-scenes on how we got started.
- It all started with an idea…
I started a business. It’s crazy to say now, but it’s true. I can’t believe it sometimes. It’s something that I had wanted to do for a long time now, and the fact that it’s real is just so unreal.
So why did I want to do this in the first place?
To make money, of course.
Just kidding. Mostly. Sure, I did want to make money. That’s why anybody monetizes anything, but there were bigger motivations at hand.
First of all, it just looked like fun! Running my own show looked like the best gig ever.
Secondly, I am a control freak. I like to plan, plan when I’m going to plan, and micromanage every detail, including where my money comes from and what I do with my time and energy. This leads me to next motivator.
I couldn’t find a job. Sure, as a college kid, it isn’t a huge deal, but to me it was. I needed a way to make money over the summer or year-round here and there, but after getting rejected by about 20 employers, I decided I wasn’t going to rely on other people so heavily. (The reasons I didn’t get hired were either because the places I asked weren’t hiring or they couldn’t work with my summer class schedule.)
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it was a creative outlet. I am such a crafty person, but I can only have so many crafts of my own. Eventually it just becomes clutter.
As for what kind of business, I threw around a lot of ideas. A first, I did scrapbooks. I’m a huge scrapbooker- I love it. After a friend of mine paid me to assemble one for her 18 month-old daughter, I decided to put myself out there, and I’d say it was a rather successful operation.
I got to thinking… maybe I could grow this. Soon I was jotting down notes about wedding invitations, designing stationery, designing and selling craft paper and supplies, and more. Then that felt too narrow and not as profitable, so then I started sewing decorative tea towels. I had seen a woman do it before; she had her husband’s aunt’s coconut cream pie recipe printed on fabric and use it to make some beautiful tea towels as gifts for her in-law’s. That got me thinking… I could do linens! Towels, napkins, throw pillows, blankets… but once again, so narrow.
Then it hit me… just do home decor in general.
The angels freaking sang.
It all really started over Christmas break of my freshman year of college. I was working at the quilt shop in my hometown as a way to make money for the spring semester, and I loved it. I was sad when 5 o’clock rolled around, and I was just absolutely devastated when I had to go back to school in January. I just loved going to work in the morning and creating beautiful things all day.
I got paid to do Pinterest shit, basically, and I wanted more of that. Even better than that is that I get to spend time with my family. I try to remember these things when business gets too business-y.
- I had the ideas. Now I had to actually make the things
Sewing took the longest. I sewed all summer long, making sure I had plenty of towels of various styles.
Knitting took almost as long. I knit so many cozies this summer that I watched all seven seasons of Game of Thrones in about two weeks (because who knits in silence?).
Finally the bigger, more fun projects came. Getting the materials for those things was so fun. My dad, boyfriend, and I loaded up in the truck to go cut barbed wire, dig through junked tin (praying we don’t see a black widow), pick up some horseshoes from a friend, a take a crowbar to torn down houses and barns.
Then we got to work making things. Sawing, measuring, painting, nailing (nail guns are the bees knees), and whatever else goes into it.
- We had things. Next step- sell the things.
Initially, this was going to be an Etsy thing. I thought Etsy was so cool, and it’s already set up for ameteur craftsman like myself; however, it just didn’t feel right.
Mostly (and I don’t mean to bash Etsy, but I totally am going to anyway) it’s too damn expensive. Etsy charges so many fees that would cause me problems. Either I didn’t make money because they took it all or I had to have expensive products so that I could make money after they took their cut.
So I did this myself.
I started by making sure I had everything together. I have four Excel sheets that keep track of debt (to my mom for buying supplies), inventory, breakdown of pricing, and the book. Once I priced everything, I logged it into Excel. Then I had to make price tags. This was actually a difficult process because I wanted to make sure my tags had the right information (price, where materials came from, told a story, etc.), were the right color, and used the right font. Those little details help contribute to the personality of your business, and that will help niche down your products, customers, and other decisions. When you know who you are, you know what you can do. That includes making the right decision between Garamond and Bradley Hand ITC.
I had the prices, but to sell them “legally,” I had to get a sales tax permit, which was a breeze. In Texas, all you have to do is go to the comptroller’s website and fill out a form. In two weeks or less, you have your permit and can start charging tax (and begin paying taxes). You also get a lot of phone calls, so you will quickly learn how to use the “block caller” button.
So let’s do business! We decided a great place to start would be Facebook. We could make a little bit of money to buy supplies for more projects and things, get our names out there, and maybe see what sells. It was a good free way to start, just to get our feet wet.
Next came the market. Our local farmers market was definitely on our to-do list, so as soon as I had the money, I contacted the folks in charge and mailed them a form. We were in.
And now we’re rolling
This part was the most exhausting. The week before the market was spent making sure everything was in tip-top shape. I spent hours typing, printing, cutting, hole-punching, and tying on price tags.
Then came the marketing part. I was on Facebook almost everyday trying to boost market awareness so that people would come check us out and hopefully buy some things.
Next came the baking. That sounds really out of place, but hear me out.
In my eyes, the people that buy things from us are more than a dollar bill. They are giving me a chance to live out a dream. They are giving me and my dad the opportunity to hang out and make things without turning into hoarders. They are so much more than their money, and I want them to know that. To show how much I appreciate them, I bake for them. For every person that makes a purchase, they can pick out a baked good for free. I like to keep it seasonal, too, because that just makes the experience so much better. For example, in September I made mini pumpkin muffins and mini pecan pies.
Next came figuring out the booth itself. I got pretty creative. I bought a 50 cent poster board and painted a sign to put at the front table. Then I took some shoe boxes, covered them in scrapbook paper, and haphazardly painted them to look shabby chic. The rest of it (tables and such) just came from around the house.
Before we knew it, it was market day. It was so hectic, too. The fam was trying to balance my sister’s volleyball game and homecoming, baking the thank-you desserts, loading the stuff, and setting up. We did it though, and were rolling before 9 a.m.
I’ll admit, it was kind of slow. Of course, the market itself was kind of slow. Still, we made sales!!! People saw our stuff, some bought them, and we go plenty of compliments. Most importantly, I had a blast!!
At the end of the day, there was still plenty of work left to do.
- AT THE END OF THE DAY
We took everything down and loaded up to head home. Now, we had to figure out what we had left, evaluate the prices, what sold and what didn’t, and look at the money money money. It was an all-day deal honestly! Then there’s looking at what we learned and how we can do better.
Oh yeah, and taxes.
- LOOKING AHEAD
There’s so much to think about beyond this point. Short-term things include, first and foremost, next month’s market. What to sell? Do we go seasonal? Where is it even at? Have we paid for that booth spot? What should I bake? Do I need to make more tags? Do we need to ditch a product?
I’ve also got this blog going. I’m hoping it and the real business stay super close companions. I also have an email list in the works, as well as social media. It’s all a matter of managing it and perfecting it (if that’s even possible).
Long terms goals are much more hazy, but they do exist. One of these days I think a brick-and-mortar home decor and gift shop would be neat, I’d maybe even sell other made-in-Texas products, like Circle E Candles or something.
Even more ambitious are my ideas to implement a craft lounge and develop a craft bot. The first one, the craft lounge, would basically be an open studio for creatives of all kinds. There would be sewing machines, woodworking tables, big tables for scrapbooking or laying out patterns, and lounge chairs for knitting. It just seems like such a fun way to build a community and cultivate creativity.
The last one, the craft bot, is less likely to happen, but I still think it’s a neat idea (it’s totally original, as far as I know, so don’t steal it). The craft bot would be an online, two-way resource for craft/DIY tutorials, specifically if you have a question. For example, “I dropped a stitch in this knitting pattern. How do I fix it?” and it would intelligently respond to you specifically. You could have a conversation as if a knitting expert were there with you. YouTube tutorials can get you far, but it’s a one-way street- you get no feedback. This bot would give you helpful feedback.
But alas, these are just ideas mostly. Then again, anything is possible these days!
Thanks again for your eyes, and God bless y’all!