Starting A Business – My Story

When I put up my “Ask Miss Mustard Seed” post a few weeks ago, I received tons of questions about starting and running your own business.  The time has come for me to answer those questions, share my own experience, give some practical advice, and highlight some resources.  Welcome to my new Workshop Series, Starting and Running Your Own Business, brought to you by Mustard Seed Creations and Funky Junk Interiors.
I will post this series as I can, so there is not a set schedule.  Just keep checking your readers and e-mails, so you don’t miss a post!  First of all, I thought it would be appropriate for me to share my own experience in starting my business.

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!


Related posts:

Comments

  1. As a young pastors wife I can TOTALLY relate to small salary, tears, school loans and living on a budget.

    I love working with my hands and have been praying about an open door, wisdom and timing in the next step of my journey. I desire to help support my family but want to do so within the bounds of "home".

    I am thrilled to read your story and felt a comraderie whilst I read about your journey. You are awesome and very blessed.
    Janelle

  2. Good for you! smiles.

  3. Thanks for this post…I am looking forward to more.

  4. A heartfelt thank you for sharing your story and secrets with us. Many of us have the dream to live according to our passions and you've achieved it. Of course, we're anxious to hear the rest of the story. I've shared this post with my Twitter followers and might do so on my blog as well. So inspirational!

  5. Oh thank you, thank you for posting this! I so look forward to more! I am 7 months in to my own small business and was terrified to ask a small shop in our town for the opportunity to sell in her store. I was so thrilled when people started puchasing my products! Can't wait to read more of your story & wisdom. Have a wonderful day!

  6. Great story! I loved hearing how you started your business. What a blessing to have a mother like you do! Thank you for sharing your inspiring story… can't wait to hear more! :)

  7. Thank you for sharing this! It was a joy to read.
    What wonderful, supportive parents you have. I also am blessed with supportive parents, without them my crafting business wouldn't be where it is today.

  8. Great testimony! Take some time to focus on making that ebook; email me if you need any help with this!
    Leslie

  9. I just loved reading your story! Very inspiring and I can't wait for your new series!

    Chelsea

  10. This series is perfect timing for me–I know I need to make a change and work at something that fulfills my creative side. I'll be reading avidly and thanks for your insights in advance :)

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I am in the early stages of trying my hand at getting serious about doing what I love, and have had a few small disappointments, much like your craft show story, that were worth the time and effort solely because of the learning experience they turned out to be. I know that I will find my groove, but reading that designers that I admire and people that "have it" can start off the same way is a huge reminder to me to keep finding ways to do what I love, knowing that in whatever way they are meant to, things will come together.

    Congrats on sticking through the rocky start and getting to where you are. You are an inspiration!

  12. What an inspiring story! And your parents sound amazing!

  13. I am so impressed by you and the things you have done and the way you have over come fear! I love your Meg Ryan "do" too1!

  14. Miss Mustard Seed,

    Thank you so much for sharing. I am just getting going on my own business (www.snugasabugbaby.com) I am amazed at the initial investment (time and money). And even though the idea makes me really excited, it makes me even more scared. I see many parts of my story in yours…we are currently scraping by on my husband's income, but have school loan payments looming (30,000 for a Master's I probably won't use for any sort of career). I pray that someday I will have an inspirational success story to share…and am excited to continue following yours.

    -Alisha

  15. It was so encouraging to read your story! I am in a corporate position right now and I want OUT! I need something I love and enjoy, but have been scared. I know sometimes that God wants us to take that step of faith (even when it's out of our comfort zone) to see how He wants to bless us. Thank you for sharing!!

    • My new motto is, “If you don’t take the risk, you forfeit the miracle.”

    • Mila Wright says:

      Same here. I feel like I’m in prison working for my corporate job. I’m working hard on my own business and have been for a number of years. But it’s not generating enough income for me to quit just yet so I just keep on plugging away at it hoping it works before I can’t take the corporate job anymore and become the next bag lady. :)

  16. A timely read for me-thank you so much sharing.

  17. Just found your blog and I will be following. thanks!

  18. Wow…
    I love your mom :)

    Thanks for sharing your story. It's so encouraging for others.

    My husband is a music minister in our church, so I totally understand that the perks to that job are spiritual and not financial… LOL. I wouldn't want it any other way, but it sure does present it's challenges to our family of 8!

    I do feel blessed to have a supportive husband. We are in the process of merging our family room into what was a more formal living room. And the family room will be my studio where I can close the door and actually get work done. I love having my children around me, but without that seperate space to work in, I am always invading family space, and they are always "helping" (translation: I can't get a thing done!!!)

    I appreciate your candor, and the beautiful witness you are to being a devoted wife and mother as well as a talented business woman and artist.

  19. I'm a new follower (read about you on The Lettered Cottage) and am just so inspired by your story. What an amazing and supportive family you have. It's so wonderful that you got to chase your dream and even more wonderful that you have become such a success. Wishing you tons more!!! Btw, I'm a HUGE fan of "Guess How Much I Love You?" and that mural in the photo is just so beautiful. =)

  20. I'm new to your blog and came across this entry, about how you got started. Can I tell you how much I appreciate your candor? This is something I've always hoped I'd fall into, I have the same fears you describe, and a friend who's the one pushing me to get things going. We just haven't jumped in the car to go store to store, and with a full time job outside the home, a kid, dog, hubby, etc, I'm struggling to find the time to build up some inventory. But thank you for the inspiration, I know I need to make my opportunity happen!

  21. I have spent the better part of my afternoon glued to your blog! Wow, what an inspiration. I love that you shared your story. Yes, God does answer our prayers, how wonderful you had the courage to listen to your calling. You have inspired so many people, and given so much by all your advice. I am so grateful the business that has come my way out here in California, but I am SO inspired by your blog, your story, your tastes, WOW! How amazing that you can do this and still be full time mommy to your sweet little boys. I am just full of good feelings after spending all this time in your blog land. Have a wonderful weekend. -Karen

  22. Wow. My hair is standing on end reading this. We are so much a like and your writing tugs at the heart strings. I too have two little boys. I started a blog last week asking, "God where is this taking me?" My answer was clear. Have a point "A" and point "B", but don't worry yourself how you'll get there. If I want to walk on water, I have to get out of the boat! I desire a life of creativity and blogging. God will get me there! Tears. Thank you so much for your hard work blogging. I will be posting more of my refinished antiques on my blog in days to come. Thanks for touching lives! Mostly now, photos of my "Nantucket Cottage" in Oregon. xox [email protected]

  23. This post reminds me of our similarities. I needed to read this. I am definitely in fear & self doubt mode at the moment, especially as I applied for my EIN tonight, etc. I was overwhelmed with nervousness that I'm going to screw the financials up or fail. Then, I remembered you doing a business series & came back to scour your blog. Taking a break from the projects tonight, and I'm online looking for a good accounting software right now. I just keep saying to myself, "Believe in yourself, Jami Lynn." Comforting to know that this is how you once felt too. Thank you for believing in me. :)

  24. Im so Happy for you.. and I too took the same leap of faith-startng at a co-op(tiny space) growing to more- then able to quit my part time job to just focus on the space – TO grown to a semi partnr at another shop-then to my Very own shoppe.. If you love it -believe in it, it can happen..
    LOVe your Story..
    Karryann

  25. Beautiful story! Love that God is blessing you so greatly :o) Thanks to your mom for seeing your talent and supporting you!

  26. What an amazing & inspirational story, thank you for sharing! Your Mum sounds Amazing with a capital A; would she like to adopt me?
    Best wishes for your success.
    Mrs BC
    xx

  27. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm on my way out the door to get some supplies to make my own labels. I am so glad I found blogging! I was going to go back to school but couldn't financially afford to take time off of work or out of my pocket. I have read and re-read wonderful stories here and will continue to do so.
    I researched everything online and learned with other peoples direction and mistakes.

    The day I can tell my boss I quit because I how have my own, will be the best day of my life.

    If someone else can do it, so can I !

  28. I also own my own small business so I can totally relate to your story and I think others will love to read about your journey. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your next post. C

  29. moonindy says:

    Thanks for sharing your story. Your blog is such an inspiration to me.

  30. Your story was so touching, and so touched home that it made me cry; how great for you to take such a chance and have such wonderful family support.I am entering my first week out of the workforce(family circumstances have created the need for me to be home more), where I have currently been a visual merchandiser for a large furniture company. As I have thought time and time again while dressing up shop…"I could make that!", I have never tried, just planned:( Now with three closets of fabric, and tons of "just needs a little love" objects-your story has inspired me. That is a truly wonderful talent you have, not only to create, but to inspire! Thanks

  31. Laurie Marshall says:

    Your story is SOOOO familiar! I painted a couple of murals for friends, I painted some furniture for my daughters, but I was never able to put enough time and invest enough money in my dream to pursue those things full time. My mother finally took the bull by the horns in 2007 and purchased the license for a company she and I were going to run. We would repurpose things found on curbs and at thrift stores… we would create things for the home and out of vintage linens. I came up with the name – Junque Rethunque. In 2008 my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer, and she passed away in 2009. My sister and I are taking up the banner of Junque Rethunque and trying to figure out what exactly we are doing. We both work full time and we have a flea market booth to start… Your story inspires me to keep working at it, and keep hoping to make it my "real" job someday. Thanks for sharing. :)

  32. I find the story of your business inspiring! Businesses can really be of great help to one's financial stability, and to the country's economic status as well. I wish all good luck to your business! I've shared this to my friends already, and they find it very motivating, too. Maybe they'll be getting their inspiration from you in starting theirs. ;) Thanks!

  33. daniele says:

    thank you for sharing! You give all of us moms hope in pursuing our dreams! Blessings……….

  34. Isn't it worth it to share your experiences to others? I think it is always the later part of success. You share your story and others enjoy the perk of hearing it. Who knows, there might be billions out there that you've already helped, just by telling your story.

  35. Hi! Thanks for telling your story…I LOVE that your mom supported you by building your confidence and beliving in your talents and potential. It is inspiring!

  36. I know I am late to this party but I am finding pretty much everything from your website so inspiring. I am a mom of 3 (my youngest just turned 1) and I have left a career as a soprano with the SF opera to raise my kids. In my free time I have always been interested in design and started refinishing furniture a few years ago. Then friends started asking for help and now I have a little design business and I'm starting a blog. (theurbanorchard.blogspot.com) I know I will be visiting your site so often for advice and guidance–thank you so much for sharing so generously!

  37. It's not easy to start a business, specially if the issue about funding. However, in order to beat the odds of starting one, you need to decide and that's when you started.

  38. I discovered your blog via pinterest when I was looking for slipcover tutorial and then read about your story. I been wanting to start a business because I too have a young child to take care while at home. Now, I felt fired up and taking that next step. Thank you.

  39. Sarah says:

    I have been browsing your blog now for a couple of hours after having only just stumbled across it. I have to be honest, I am near to tears. Everything you are saying and doing is so close to my heart. I am currently a recruitment manager and after ten years I am finding that I am so unhappy at work it is affecting every part of my life. I have been praying for some guidance, some sign, some courage. I love being creative and making something old into something beautiful brings me true joy. I’ve been tossing around the idea of packing in my corporate life and focusing on my creations, but have lacked the courage to do so. I read dozens of pages of your blog and then took myself out for a walk as I needed to process all these feelings/ideas. I was praying for some clarity and took no more than two steps to be confronted with a big billboard that said “stop dreaming, start fulfilling’. Thank you.

  40. I love your mom! My mom and I used to do craft shows together, I enjoyed that so much. I had 6 boys and would not have been able to find time to get everything finished without my mom. Fast forward 20 years I just opened my own shop doing repainted furniture and other things I make. A couple of my boys also paint for me. I think it scared my mom at first me taking this risk but now she comes up and sits and visits and tells me she knows I was always supposed to do this. I want my kids and grandkids to know the sky is the limit. Can’t wait to read the follow-ups. Will be sharing this.

  41. I am so encouraged by your story! I finished my degree two years ago, and now that my kids are both in school, those student loans are a monkey on my back. I am blessed by your advice and the others who are posting on your site. I have my husband totally on board, and I am just going to GO FOR IT!

    Thanks so much for being so transparent and helpful! God bless you!

  42. Excellent submit, very informative. I’m wondering why the other specialists of this sector do not notice this. You should proceed your writing. I’m sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!|What’s Going down i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It positively useful and it has aided me out loads. I am hoping to contribute & help other customers like its helped me. Good job.

  43. After finishing this post, I looked up and realized you wrote it in 2010! Four years later, it resonated with me as much as it did with the ladies in your previous comments. I’m at Step One, still dreaming and scheming and trying to hide how scared to death I am. This series has been so inspirational to me right when I’ve started to have doubts. Thank you for sharing your experience and encouragement.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] you missed my previous posts on Starting A Buiness, My Story and In the (Very) Beginning, make sure you check those out before you read this [...]

  2. [...] My Story The Nitty Gritty Be Worth the Risk [...]

Leave a Comment

*

Starting a Business

Painting

Sewing

Tutorials