Friday, February 24, 2012

an unlikely start of a handmade business

for some time i have been thinking about actually starting a series of conversations about being an artist and seller in the handmade marketplace.  i hope to cover a range of topics with the express intent of being helpful to others on the same path.  i hope you will join me in these Handmade Conversations.

to start this off, i am going to share with you the unlikely beginning to my own handmade business:

i started my own journey from "creative d.i.y.er" to independent business owner in 2007.

at that point, i had given several handmade gifts that garnered the response "you should definitely sell this!"  to which i replied with the standard eye-roll and yeah right attitude.

then, in 2007, a woman i went to church with approached me about making baby items for her soon to be opening baby and children's boutique.  that was my start.  i had never really seen myself selling the things that i liked to create.  i was already busy being a stay at home, homeschooling mother of 2 active young boys, and they were my absolute first priority.  but this opportunity felt "safe" and risk-free and i decided to try it (mostly because she was sooo persistent) and my husband and i figured that if it didn't work out, no harm done!

and actually, it didn't work out.  ha!  it turned out that she and i had very different ideas about how we would be working together, and i let that "business opportunity" fizzle right out!

BUT...

before i had a chance to write off the handmade business endeavor, i found myself asked to sell handmade baby items at 2 other local baby boutiques.  you see, i was pregnant with baby #3 and was popping in these other two shops to do some shopping of my own.  in each case, the shop owner complimented something i was using that i had made and then the conversation about selling my handmade items at their shops started.

over the next couple of years, my list of baby items grew extensively due to these two shops being so encouraging and asking me to make items that they wanted to carry, but perhaps didn't like what was available on the market.  they had so much faith in my ability!  i would then go home and start brainstorming and drafting patterns for these items.

because selling my items wasn't really my idea in the first place, i never beat the bushes.  i didn't knock on the doors of businesses or make phone calls, print business cards or have a web presence, advertise or research or even make a business plan.  instead, i strove to keep it small, intimate, and manageable.

the evolution of my business has been gradual, organic.  i opened my etsy shops.  the baby shops both closed within a year of each other.  my own baby girl is growing up.  another store would call me.  mommas are coming to me for other things that they want for themselves. the items that i enjoy making are changing.  then another brick and mortar shop calls me and i take it into consideration.  and so on...

you see, for me, being an indie designer and business owner is wonderful and scratches that creative itch that i constantly have.  and to be honest, i would love to devote more time and energy into this area and really grow my business instead of trying to reign it in and keep it small.

HOWEVER.

i constantly put my business and those creative drives in their place!  God has given me non-negotiable priorities to attend to first.  a relationship with Him, my marriage, caring for and homeschooling 3 awesome kids, running a household.  these come first!  at the end of my life i want to have put the first thing first.  i refuse to rob my family of time, love, attention, and energy to pour it into a business.  i will not trade the years that i have with my children at home for my own career advancement.  there will be time enough when they have gone to pursue my creative passions in earnest and see how far it will go.  for now, i am extremely humbled by the small successes in my business and count myself blessed to have the opportunity to exercise the creativity that God has given me.  i think that all of these experiences and skill building that i am gaining while my children are small are preparing me for something big when the time comes.

this is how i started, and this is my own personal view of my business and how it fits into my life.  what about you?  i'd love to hear how you got started and where you are headed!


3 comments:

Kristen at First Name Smith said...

great post. i love hearing about your entry into the business. you have such a talent!

Sarah Brewer said...

It was so good to read this and I am looking forward to your other posts on the subject! Thanks for starting out with setting the priorities in the right order; it is always a temptation to get those mixed up (I have a few things out of order myself at the moment, thankful for the timely reminder and so thankful for the Lord's patience and forgiveness.) :)

Katie @ minivan diva said...

I loved reading about how you got started and how you prioritize your life. Happy weekend to you. Hugs.