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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!

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  1. I think I held my breath the whole time I was reading your post. I have recently "retired" from a very stressful corporate job. I am in a position now that I can follow something I love vs the best paying job I can find and I love antiques, shopping, crafting, etc. I've been thinking about doing something along those lines as a source of income and here I find your message. I look forwarding to your upcoming messages!!!

  2. This sounds so amazing and exciting!! Can't wait for your next posting.
    (I appreciate reading about how supportive your parents are. It certainly helps me with my parenting.)
    Ladybug Creek

  3. Well, you have been blessed with a wonderful Mother, Father, Husband and boys. I am happy that you are doing so well. Thank you for sharing your story. There are a lot of ladies out there that would like to start their own business. You are very encouraging. I think it is all in God's timing and plan. Great post. sandi

  4. I came right over from twitter!

    Thank you for sharing this. I can't wait to read more! I too have thought about starting my own business. I'm not sure as to the steps I will take. I'm so glad that I started blogging because it has opened my eyes to a world of other women that are living and loving their dreams!

    BTW, you're beautiful;-)

  5. Jeralee says:

    You Rock! I loved reading your story and the obstacles you have had to overcome to make it a reality. Your parents are pretty darn cool for being as supportive as they are.

    Sorry if I missed the answer to this question since I am a fairly new reader, but where did you learn to paint so well?

    Did you study fine art in school or take lessons? Or was it just a lot of experimenting and learning on your own?

    Kudos to you!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your journey! I am embarking on my own journey to help my family with extra income via my furniture and DIY skills. You have been an inspiration and it is a blessing to me. Thank you!

  7. Your beginning business sounded a bit like mine.. I had a large scale catering business.. I walked around the neighborhoods with flyers into mail boxes trying to sell my "cakes".. well Mr. Postman sent me a letter saying I could be arrested for using the US Mail boxes.. then after many business cards being passed to anyone who would take it.. some stroke of luck hit me.. I ended up, the first year, with 40 employees catering to the University of Illinois faculty center.. it got so big.. scarey but wonderful! My thoughts are just like yours.. "Have an idea, stick with it.. it will all fall into place with lots of hard work"! Never doubt yourself.. just do it!
    I sold the business and now live in a nice townhouse in Florida.. enjoying the fruits of my work!
    Love this series your doing!

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. It was very encouraging to me. I am a SAHM, but my dream (for over 20 years) has always been interior design, and to have a shop of my own. I have even gone so far as to make a blog with my business name, but have not published it or registered my business. Like you said, I have many questions and fears, too, but I feel God calling me to do this. So, I am grateful that you have been successful and there is hope for me. I look forward to your next post. 😉

  9. Wow, I'm so impressed and I love your Mom! My mother and I were going to open a shop someday but she passed in 2002 before we could really put our ideas together. How wonderful that your Mom knew this is what your calling was and is and pushed you. I cannot wait to read more about this. My heart was beating faster and faster as I was reading, because its so exciting to here of someone's dreams coming true!

  10. I love your blog, I appreciate all the talents and gifts you share with us, and I am thankful that this is going well. How wonderful to have such a loving, supportive family! Linda

  11. Thank you for posting this! I will be following the series for sure, I dream of owning my own business someday too, but right now, it is just not feasable. I have a good job with excellent bennies, and since we still have small children, I can't give that up just yet. Someday though!!!!

  12. Our stories are so similar, My husband is a youth pastor too. And I stay home with our 4 girls. I have such a strong desire to start a design business but am so confused as to where to begin. Thanks for sharing. It helps reading about what other women have successfully done!

  13. Wonderful story. Congratulations to you!

  14. What a wonderful example you are for your own children. When they are older, I can just see you being the "wind beneath their wings" as your own mother has been to you. Best wishes to you and your family.

  15. Thank you for sharing your story. Like so many others, I would love to contribute to our family income by selling painted furniture/antiques/rehabbed items. And like so many others, I don't know where to start. It's nice to hear the story of someone who is actually living the dream! Can't wait to read more from this series. And your mom sounds awesome!

  16. fantastic, I can't wait for the next instalment!
    xx Karen

  17. What a great story! One I can relate to well.

    As a fellow small business owner, I just want to say how important it is to have a cheering section. For me, I got pregnant a month after quitting my full time job to start what I thought would be a career as a freelancer. Talk about being scared (with a baby on the way!)

    My husband was my BIGGEST source of support and still is to this day. My "freelance" career blossomed into a full time business that employs three people and two interns. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it was possible but my husband always knew and made me feel like I could do anything.

    Moral of the story: support from family and friends means more than a small business loan, 10,000 clients, etc.


  18. Loved reading your story. I'm a huge admirer of your work, so I loved hearing how it all got started. I, too, run my own business and it's priceless, right?? Thanks for sharing your story with me! -shaunna :)

  19. I so look forward to reading your series! Your story is inspiring, and I'm sure you have a tone of good advice~thanks for being willing to share!

  20. I can't tell you how many times I have wondered, "How did that person get started?" And I had wondered that about you as well. I enjoyed reading about your start and look forward to reading your next installment.

  21. oh my…i so related to your story…thank you for writing it. it was SUCH an encouragement…you have no idea HOW much!
    i look forward to more and more and more.
    judi 😉

  22. You're inspiring many… can't wait to read all about the journey!


  23. oh my goodness! I loved reading this. what honesty. you are inspiring!

  24. I am so glad you are sharing all this with me. Last year I left a career I hated but did for 20 years. With my husbands support we decided that I could start a business! I have some of the very same fears that you've mentioned and yet I feel it in my heart and soul that I'm heading in the right direction. I look forward to this series of posts and can't tell you enough how much you've inspired me so far. Our paths have crossed for a reason. Thank you for paying "It" forward.

  25. what a great post, so inspiring. we all want to be like you :)

  26. what a blessing your parents have been! there is nothing like the feeling of having supportive people behind you as you embark on a scary endeavor. i'm happy you're posting this and am excited to read about writing about your experiences (you know i love to pick your brain!) throughout the series!

  27. Loved reading your story and can't wait to hear more!!! I'm looking at buildings for rent right now!

  28. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I love the fact that your Mom recognized your talents and that it could be a solution to what you were going through at the time.

  29. I had goose bumps reading your story – some of your thoughts echoed mine exactly! I think the hardest part is getting out there and marketing yourself – it takes guts and a thick skin at times, and when so much of your blood, sweat and tears have gone into producing your work, rejection is scary. But you've proven that determination (and an absolutely amazing mum!) can be enough to get your ideas off the ground. Thanks so much for your generosity, it's wonderful of you to share so much with us. Can't wait for the next instalment! K xx

  30. First let me say…I'm so proud of you for listening to your momma! I'm a mom of a daughter your age and sometimes moms know best :) Also, I want to thank you and your husband for serving the Lord and His teenagers! I know ministry is a huge sacrifice financially BUT great are your rewards. I will hold you and your dear family in prayer that our Lord will meet your every need and hearts desire. I love your site and have learned so much. God has given you a gift…keep using it!
    Many Blessings,

  31. Ah! Talk about courage, but I think it must be paying off! Besides the money you make, you are an inspiration for so many!!! Definitely successful!

  32. Thanks so much for this post. You must believe in yourself and step out on faith because if you don't who will. I'm so inspired.

  33. Wow. As others have mentioned, you were so blessed to have so much support. Most creative types have a lot of insecurity in the beginning and how wonderful it was that you had not only your parents, but your husband as well. There are those of us, with the same insecurity, that didn't have a support system like that, and wound up giving up on our dream. So I say BRAVO! to you girl. To God be the Glory!

  34. Great post….very encouraging. I am a bit behind you in establishing my business. It is great to read your story. Thanks! Lisa~

  35. I started my interior desing business 20 years ago. Back then I was a stay at home mom taking in a few kids in a family daycare. But I loved decorating and making window treatments..I started making them for my daycare kids parents and decided to take a risk and start my own custom window treatment business. It paid off! Eventually I branched out and offered full services after getting more education. I love my job, and i think it teaches my sons how to be independent and rely on oneself. A strong mom is a good mom!
    Thanks for sharing, I can relate!

  36. Thanks so much for sharing that! Do you have any photos of your original ornaments you pedaled? Would love to see them!

  37. You go girl! Follow your dreams! You are so talented and deserve much glory. Thanks for sharing your story!!

  38. Fantastic! Can't wait to follow along. A really good thing you are doing. Many blessings…ooxx`jodi

  39. I absolutely loved reading your story. You are such an amazingly real person, and rediculously inspiring! Your Mum sounds like an absolute angel…. I feel like I am always learing something from you, so thank you for giving so much of yourself!
    :) Flick

  40. What an amazing family you have! It's so scary starting your own business – but exciting just the same. So glad you decided to go for it. Thanks for inspiring us!


  41. I indeed will be reading this series front seat and center. I'm so glad you decided to put your God given talent to work. And I'm glad He sent your Mom to push you in the right direction. We all need that encouraging angel on the side. :)

    It was meant to be!


  42. You are so talented, and I'm so happy for your business. What a great support system you have.

  43. Tu fais un beau travail.

    Bonne semaine


  44. This is going to be a great series! I can't wait to see/hear it unfold!

  45. Great post! This one made me tear up a bit. Your parents are amazing. Of course, so are you!

  46. What a great story! Thanks so much for sharing it and inspiring others! Your Mom and Dad sound so terrific. I know great things will happen for you!! Thank you for opening up and letting us share your journey.

  47. What a GREAT start to your story. I for one, keep getting that queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I think about "going it alone". I know that this is really the catalyst that is telling me everything will be alright.

    Thanks and I can't wait to read more.

  48. So inspiring!!!!! Thanks so much for sharing with us.

  49. What an inspiring story & your mom is awesome! Thanks so much for sharing.


  50. Thank you for sharing! It is great that your family is so supportive. I am blessed in that way too.

    If you have a chance would you mind sharing what type of sprayer you reccomend.

    Thank you again!

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