If someone had told me that I would be a business owner a few years ago, I would’ve laughed. I am not a business minded person. I have always dreamed of selling antiques, decorating for clients, and working for myself, but I was certain I would mess up my taxes and finances. I was certain I would fail. Necessity (and my mom) pushed me to start this business, not any grand vision or confidence in my own abilities.
My husband is a youth pastor and ministry is not a career field you go in to if you want to make a ton of money. I left my job as a recruiting manager to work with my husband and later became a stay-at-home mom to our two precious boys. We could manage on one income and, although things were tight, we could support our family. Then…the school loan came due. We had to start making payments and had no way to make them. We also had a string of mishaps that left me feeling down and in tears most days.
One day, in my sad state, my mom told me to stop crying and start using my talents to make money. “But what about insurance…what about supplies…what about costs…what about taxes…where will I get clients…what if I fall off a ladder into a can of paint?” My mom said she and my dad would be my investors and I should “just do it.” Mustard Seed Creations was officially filed as a business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania the next week. My parents bought me a laptop, painting equipment and supplies, a copier/fax/printer/scanner, a Cricut, projector, Quickbooks Pro, marketing materials, a web address, training with an accountant, furniture to get me started…everything. My husband was 100% supportive and offered additional help with the kids and even put together my first advertising flier.
My first sales attempt was at a Christmas Craft Market hosted by a local elementary school. I paid $45 to be a vendor for the day and hoped to sell the 150 hand painted Christmas ornaments I had been working on for a few weeks. I sold a lot of ornaments, but overall, the show was a big disappointment. Especially because I was surrounded by vendors selling things that were “Made in China”, not made over their kitchen counters, like mine were. Lesson #1: craft shows were not going to be the right venue for me and I hated painting small things like ornaments.
I needed to find a shop to sell my hand painted furniture and promote my decorative painting and mural business. I knew this, but I was scared and nervous about asking shop owners. I also had no idea how an arrangement like that would work. So, I did nothing.
When my parents came to visit in December of 2008, my mom pressed the issue and drove me store to store in downtown Gettysburg to market my hand painted ornaments to sell. I stopped at about five shops and heard the expected answer, “We’ll take your card and call you if we’re interested.” The last store I went into was Accessories – Fashion, Home and Kids. I walked up to the counter and showed them a sampling of my ornaments, expecting the same response. This time, the owner said, “I love them. Why don’t we price them and put them in the shop right now.” Shock cannot express my state. Professionalism was thrown out the window as I sat on the floor in the middle of her shop and priced my ornaments. I was shaking with excitement and I had to ask for her name about three times, because I kept forgetting it. I started babbling about other ideas of selling painted furniture and antiques in her shop as well. Several months later, I asked Denise, the shop owner, why in the world she “took me in.” She told me that she just had a gut feeling and really couldn’t explain it. I spent over an hour in the shop that day, pricing my ornaments to sell and acting like a lunatic. All the while, my amazing mom waited in the car with my boys (a 5 month old and a 2 year old at the time), doling out lollipops and bottles and watching Toy Story on our portable DVD. Have I mentioned how amazing my mom is?
Fast forward a year and a half and my furniture and antique sales at the shop have become my primary source of revenue for Mustard Seed Creations. We moved to a larger shop to accommodate our growing inventory, Denise and I have attended Antique Fairs together and opened an Etsy shop to grow our audience.
I have discovered that owning or co-owning a shop someday is a dream of mine. I recently decided to drop the mural and decorative service aspect of my business and focus strictly on the “goods” side (refurbished furniture and antiques) and my blog/writing. I’m also hoping to get into some sort of design/decorating services and I have a couple of e-Book ideas bouncing around in my head.
The bottom line is that this business has not only become a financial help to our family, but it has given me a creative outlet that I couldn’t have imagined. I love thrifting, decorating, and DIY and now it’s my business. I “have” to go to yard sales and thrift stores and auctions. I often tell my husband as I’m going out the door at 7:00 am on a Saturday or rubber-necking as we drive by a yard sale that, “It’s my job.” I also get to own and use top-of-the-line equipment like my paint sprayer and projector. The entire experience has been terrifying and rewarding all at the same time.
I learned a lot along the way and will spill every detail, misstep, resource and bit of wisdom that I have to share. If you’re thinking about starting your own business or you’re even curious about the process, you won’t want to miss this Workshop Series!