Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far? Were you always planning on working for yourself?
I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. But I always took great pride in accomplishing something (large or small). My parents demonstrated strong work ethic, creativity, individualism and incredible morals and values. This set me up for success – no matter what I chose to do.
I graduated from the University of Kansas with a BS in Journalism – not because I necessarily had a thirst for journalism, but because it was a practical degree to have. I worked in an uninspiring corporate environment writing technical proposals for a while after college. While I knew this was the next step I was supposed to take after college, I was unhappy – so I quit. I worked in retail for a short while, still unhappy in my “career”. It wasn’t fulfilling.
A little after my son was born my life took an unexpected turn. Everything as I knew it was flipped upside down and I was going to have to figure out a way to balance everything. I desperately wanted to be able to stay at home to raise my son, but I also needed a way to support us long term.
I have always been creative and loved working with my hands. As a little girl, I grew up surrounded by paint brushes, colored pencils and craft supplies – my mom is an incredible artist and I like to think that some of her creativity has rubbed off on me. I was also obsessed with jewelry as a young girl, especially my grandmother’s highly coveted, extensive jewelry collection. And I know deep down I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. I dabbled in making jewelry (among other things like photography and painting) for fun as a creative outlet while working full time. So after life got messy, I decided I would try selling my artwork.
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
I don’t have doubts about my future creative direction, but I do sometimes wonder where this path will lead. Companies and brands evolve over time and while I wish I had a crystal ball to gaze into, I deeply trust in my creative instincts.
Phew! That is a big question. I have so many things I yean to achieve (personally and professionally). And my number one biggest complaint (in general) is that there aren’t enough hours in the day. I feel like my mind is always racing with ideas and thoughts and to-do’s and more.
What has been your most successful marketing strategy – the best way that you have found to get you and your work noticed? And have you ever tried something that just did not work at all?
I truly believe that my loyal customers are my secret weapon. Repeat business has been a large part of my business. I think (I am going to give myself a pat on the back here) that I provide excellent customer service. I always try to put myself in my customer’s shoes.
Zappos.com is a big hero in my book and I would one day love to emulate them.
I have tried so many avenues that simply have not worked, but I’ve never given up. Each and every one has been a learning experience and a building block to the next venture. For example, I have spent thousands of dollars on PR companies (with little success) and I am at the tail end of running some pay per click campaigns that have simply not worked.
I haven’t given up on using a PR company again one day or running PPC campaigns, but for now, they aren’t a good fit for my business. You don’t know if something will work or be successful until you try it – so you’ve got to go for it. I am taking risks (some big, some small) and facing challenges every day and I will continue to do so. It’s the only way you can grow.
What key personality traits and life circumstances coalesced to lead to your success, in your opinion?
My life has not gone exactly as planned – but I guess that is how life goes. I am a single mom and don’t have much to fall back on. I believe that I wouldn’t be where I am today if certain events hadn’t transpired the way they did when I was in my 20s. Over the last decade I have developed a tough skin, I don’t take no for an answer and I have become a strong, independent woman. I know that this has helped me in my business. If I am rejected in any way, it lights a fire in me and I am driven to work harder.
I work (even though it doesn’t really feel like work) to build a beautiful life for my son and myself.
Everyday I feel so fortunate to do what I love and to be able to have the flexibility to be at home with my son in his early years.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful handmade business?
Patience! Things don’t just happen overnight – even though you may want or even need them to, they won’t. So keep at it and know that things will happen the way they are supposed to happen…as long as you have dedication, discipline and passion. Nothing comes easy. And success is made sweeter by the bumpy journey it takes to get there.