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Running a Creative Business | Freckled Laundry

The next amazing entrepreneur I’d like to feature is my sweet friend, Jami of Freckled Laundry.  We became friends almost two years ago and it has been so inspiring watching her business, ideas and confidence blossom.  This is a real mom of three kids (one set of twins) who has stepped out and pursued her dreams with purpose.  I’m so excited that she took the time to share her story and her advice…
Hi. I’m Jami, the laundry lovin’ blogger behind freckled laundry.
freckled laundry
I can’t even tell you how honored I am to be among the business bunch here this week.
Thank you so much for having me, Marian!
I still consider myself a bit of a rookie when it comes to my business, but I have a story nevertheless, and I hope that by sharing my story, you’ll walk away with more confidence to start your own creative business. Over the past year and a half, I’ve learned what I love & don’t love, experienced awesome moments and growing pains, I’ve had to use the left side of my left brain a little more than ever, and I’m going to spill all the beans here.
My business journey started after I had been blogging for about four months. It didn’t take me long to realize, especially after watching Marian’s business grow, that the opportunities from blogging could take me further than I could ever imagine. Actually, let’s take blogging right out of the equation because I know that many of you don’t have blogs. Really, blogging is just another powerful voice for your brand, but the beginning starts with you.
It starts when we gather up enough confidence to move passed our fears and take a risk.
Some entrepreneurs are naturally confident and business savvy. I’m not one of them. And I would think that some of you aren’t either. It’s totally okay though. It just takes a little more work to get where we want to be, so keep reading.
Back to the start of my journey. My daughter was still an infant and I had been making baby shoes for her. When we were out and about, I would always get compliments on them and asked if I sold them. Of course, my answer was always no. I wanted to sell them but to actually make something for someone else and sell it to them? Yeah, right.
I don’t have enough money to start a business.
What if they weren’t happy with my sewing?
What if the shoes didn’t fit right?
What if they were too expensive?
What if they did well but I let the business and accounting go to pot because I hate numbers?
What if. What if. What if.
{insert me rummaging through the fridge}
“Babe! Where’s the Pepto?! I thought we had some in here.”
But, at the same time I thought,
What if they loved them?
What if they sold like hotcakes?
And then I thought a little bigger.
What if my dream of owning a little vintage chic shop filled my little shoes and other wares was actually possible?
I’d rather life a live of trying and failing than a life of wishing and regret, so I tried.
I shared a picture of the shoes on my blog and put them in my Etsy shop, which I had actually opened much earlier. Like a year earlier. Yeah. That whole confidence thing.
And they were loved!{sigh of relief}Little Business Lesson (LBL) #1: Believe. Take a risk.

Then, I did something else that would begin to change my creative path, and life really. Marian, who had been such a real friend and {can’t even find the right word} blog and business mentor up until that point, announced that she was invited to be a part of the Wild Rose & Co. bunch (remember?!) around the same time I put my little shoes in my Etsy shop. In an email to her one day, I wrote something like, “If you ever want a cute little pair of shoes to add to a vignette or hang from something in the shop…”
Imagine my reaction when she responded, “Yeah, that would be great…send me five pair.”
Oh. my. My shoes were going to be in Miss Mustard Seed’s space in an actual, physical boutique.
Did that just happen?!
{insert phone calls to my mom and sister}

LBL #2: If you want something, ask for it.


All of that to say that if I hadn’t just gone for it and taken the first step, I still wouldn’t have an Etsy shop or be in {a year and half later} a handful of retail shops in the U.S. and one in London.
I don’t think I would have done it so soon without a mentor either–someone who had already traveled my path. I had Marian. You have Marian. My resume isn’t nearly as sparkly yet, but you have me too if you ever need it. And I really mean it. Lean on someone if you can. There is very little in life that we can do well alone besides brush our teeth.

LBL #3: You can’t do it alone.


And for the record, my shoes didn’tsell like hotcakes. They opened doors.And I loved making the dozen or so pair that did sell. I loved those that bought them. I loved the feeling of being a creative business owner. I loved the drop of confidence in my bucket.
Now let me back up for a minute. When I sent that email to Marian, I didn’t expect to actuallybe sending her shoes. Yeah. That whole confidence thing. Again.I was a little underprepared. No professional business cards. No professional packaging. No professional labels, hang tags, etc. Looking back, I would have had all of those ducks in a row before sending an email because it did delay getting the shoes to her immediately.LBL #4: Be prepared and have your branding materials ready.

I made do though. I didn’t have hundreds of dollars for a professional branding package. I didn’t even have tens of dollars. What I did have was a yard sale stamp set, laundry, creativity and attention to detail, so I made everything I needed, which worked because I wasn’t sending 100 pair. I don’t have a photo of the business cards, but they were similar to my package tags, only vertical.

I also made a catalogue out of craft paper and glued in photos of shoe styles. Hey, I had to start somewhere and was able to create my branding materials without a big financial investment up front. And just to clarify, a big investment at the time would have been anything over fifty dollars.
Keeping it real, folks.

That said, you should really establish your brand from the start and keep it consistent. So, if you can afford professional looking business cards and tags, etc. that echo your logo, look and fonts, that’s the wiser way.

I wanted to sell other handmade wares too. I used the profits from my shoe sales to purchase supplies to make clay tags. I didn’t expect them to sell like hotcakes, but just like my little shoes, I loved making them and coming up with different styles. One day, I shared them on my blog and added a bunch to my Etsy shop.

They sold like hotcakes.

My awesome and supportive blog readers bought them and those with blogs of their own shared them, and their readers bought them, etc.

Wholesale orders started coming in too.

Oh. my.

Did that just happen?!

Remember LBL #4?

I was totally prepared for my Etsy sales.

Not so much for wholesale.

Again, I made do. I had already purchased a die-cut punch and started making my own package tags by printing out a sheet of logos and punching them out, so making several was much easier and faster than the completely handmade version above. I used my profits to hire Reni at Bliss & Tell Branding Co., whom I had connected with through Marian, to design and print a new business card. Around the same time, I hosted a giveaway for an online printer in exchange for custom customer appreciations cards that I designed in Photoshop Elements. (I think it would have been around $45 to have them printed.)

I now had professional and consistent branding materials.
Can I get a finally?

In addition to my shoes, I started selling my clay tags in Miss Mustard Seed’s space at Wild Rose & Co. When Marian was given her opportunity of a lifetime to sell at Luckett’s and eventually needed to leave Wild Rose & Co., I was invited to stay! Again, another door opened.

I started selling more smalls, incorporating the vintage laundry that I love so dearly, and had Reni (Bliss & Tell Branding Co.) design matching hairpin cards too. Reni is awesome and “gets” the handmade business. If I have an emergency business question, I call Reni. Remember LBL #3.

 

LBL #5: Keep your branding materials and style consistent.

I worked day and night for months rolling out and packaging clay tags so much so that they lost their lustre to me. My business journey was about discovery and I realized that although I love to create, I don’t love monotony. The creative part of me wantedneeded to work on something fresh.LBL #6: You have to love it.



In January, I decided to take a break from making clay tags, listen to my laundry lovin’ inner voice, and work on three new collections…one of which is a lifelong dream to design my own printed line of faded, vintage textiles. I am also a stay-at-home mom and was finding it very difficult to balance being a mom with my freckled laundry success. I just wasn’t ready. Who was going to watch my children? Do I even want someone to watch my children? Am I spending too much time on my own dreams, or am I teaching them valuable lessons of the heart? Is this what I’m supposed to be doing? Oh yeah. I had a whole Santa Claus list full of questions fear.

I still continued my wholesale relationships behind the scenes though and was asked to design a ruffled tote for the lovely farmgirls at the The Urban Farmhouse Market in Lousville, KY. (Lisa has been such a blessing and awesome business mentor too. Remember LBL #3.) I saw an opportunity to design a matching ruffled iphone pouch, so I did that too. freckled laundry was still in retail shops, but not online.

I wanted to be back online though. I missed making clay tags and decided that making them in limited edition batches would work and still allow me time to focus on the new collections, plan, sort out growing pains, etc. So, that’s what I did. I created a new style of fleur tags and a handful of ruffled iphone cases, and put them in my Etsy shop.
I was so afraid that being absent on Etsy for months would leave me in tears about a week later.
Disappearing usually does.
Well, I was in tears. Not because nothing sold, but because my shop was empty within 24 hours.
That is just another reason why I love that blog of mine. I disappeared from Etsy for six months, but I didn’t disappear online. I still had a voice. I shared my journey with my lovely readers, told them everything I’m telling you, they understood that thing above love, and they believed in me too.
{Okay. Tears. Great. Hang on while I go kick on some Adele.}
I didn’t start my blog with the intention of launching a business. I started it because I was bored while my babies napped and wanted to share my home projects. I thought that would be my business. (The design dream was much too, as Marian would say, pie in the sky to have even considered my own line of textiles at the time.) But, from a business standpoint, my blog ended up being a very powerful tool. And I really even hate to call it a tool because it implies use. It’s just a place where I share my life with other creative readers who get me.
LBL #7: Consider a blog.
It isn’t necessary and not everyone has the time it takes to blog, but if you do, you’ll go further faster.
Also, while I have supportive readers, I most certainly lost momentum on Etsy when I went missing for six months. Retailers interested in wholesale and those that didn’t read my blog couldn’t find me. I expected that when I made the decision to take an Etsy break. If you’re a little more dollar signs oriented than I was, I don’t recommend it.

LBL #8: LBL #6 is always most important, but try not to lose the momentum that you already have, especially if you want to grow!

I could have hired an intern to make my clay tags, but “letting go” is currently a growing pain. I’m big on attention to detail and spend just as much time wrapping something as I do making it. I could have hired an intern to wrap for me. Again with the letting go. But to me, at this stage in the game, the thought of someone else making my designs loses the connection and personal touch. However, I will go on record here and say that if anthropologie came a knockin’ for 10,000 clay tags I’m sure I would quickly think of a way to let go!
I actually did contract a seamstress for wholesale ruffled tote orders, but right now, I really want to make the things I sell on Etsy. I think that those who purchase wares in my own shop don’t just buy for the cute factor — they buy because I made it. I know it’s still my dream either way, but still. I have plans to add to the laundry crew in other areas though.

So, that’s where I am at today. I’m getting ready to share my new “softly spoken” collection next week and an almost finished {yet to be named} collection.

I’ve had time to prepare and brace myself for both success and failure of the new collections. Actually, let’s not even mentioned the f word here.

I actually have a pie in the sky dream for the “softly spoken” collection too.

Hmmm. You know what? I’m going to share it with you. Marian seems to have a magic blog over here. Everything she writes happens. ;)

(Kidding, of course. Every opportunity that comes her way is a result of the passion, work, and smart decisions that she puts into it. That and she’s just good people.)

BUT, on slim to none chance that we are, in fact, dealing with magic mustard seeds over here:

I would love for my cuffs and a few other wares in the new collection to be picked up by anthropologie. There. I said it.

LBL #9: Don’t be afraid to set a goal and humiliate yourself on someone else’s blog.



If my collections do well in brick & mortars and online, I’m going to use my profits to either invest in a new camera or hire someone to take professional photos of my wares and create a professional look book – a stylish catalogue of your products. Then, I’m going to send that look book to anthropologie–a business lesson that I learned from an interview I did with Christina Strutt of Cabbages & Roses.

Remember LBL #3.



After all, at the end of the day, it’s taking risks, building confidence, and an unbelievable love for what you make {or do} that will get you where you want to be.

Also, if you’re totally a “dreamer” type like me, that’s fine, but

LBL #10: Spend as much time planning and setting actual goals as you do dreamin’.

Wishing you success.
love,
Jami
Thanks again for inviting me to share my story, Marian!
I hope you and your family are having a lovely time in Maine.

P.S. If you want the nitty gritty on starting up your own Etsy shop, branding, packaging, etc., I participated in a selling handmade series and you can find each topic here.

 

Oh my gosh…I love this line, “It starts when we gather up enough confidence to move passed our fears and take a risk.”  So many amazing things start that way.  I think your story will really resonate with a lot of women out there, Jami.  Thanks so much for sharing it here.







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Comments

  1. I recently had the pleasure of “discovering” Jami and her fabulous blog and shop! She’s so creative and I loved reading her journey. I can’t wait for the day (soon) that I walk into Anthropologie and say, “I know this girl – she’s fabulous”, as I make a Freckled Laundry purchase!
    Kelly

  2. Your story is such an inspiration! I so want to run a creative business. I have done a few things successfully, but am still so motivated by FEAR! I am going to make a list of those things that I know I need to do, and then start doing them! I might have to come back and read this a few times to pump myself back up! Thanks so much for the encouragement! Life to the full, Melissa

  3. Sue Pagels says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post! I have two antique booths, started a page on FB “Reflections of the Past” showing some of the items I have for sale, and have been thinking about a blog. I really enjoy reading everyone’s blogs (especially MMS) and have learned a great deal so far. I do have a full time job, and my dream is to some day, do this for a living. Dreams are what keep us alive ~ Thanks for sharing your story!

  4. Thank you for being so candid. Your words were very inspiring and just like you referred to Marian, you too seem like “good people”. I wish you loads of luck–in the world of Anthropologie sales and otherwise!

  5. Thank you for posting this…my favorite post ever. I started to sell at an antique co-op in central PA this May. At 40 it was a huge leap of faith for me, and I am still shocked I did it.
    Just this week I was looking at the Lucketts blog and saw a piece of furniture I hand painted featured on their “new this week” post (it is the gray drop front dresser, with a design around the knobs). I felt horrible because the vendor who was selling it purchased it at my stand for 125, and she was selling it for 300. In other words, she had more confidence in my work than I did.
    I see I am not the only one with self doubts, but there are still way to muddle through till I get there. Thanks again, I was feeling really down and this post changed things for me. Thank you both for being endlessly inspiring!

  6. Hey for a girl with little confidence starting out~it was YOU who told ME to start a store~and so Maison Decor the retail shop was born. THANK YOU Jami!! I have no doubt you will live a life bigger than you can even dream~xo

  7. glad to see you on here Jami! you’re a sweetheart and I loved reading your story. I feel like we have a lot in common…besides having 3 year olds! love your advice especially about branding. one reason I haven’t commited to anything yet is because I want my branding to be consistent but can’t afford to get it done…yet! starting small, my pie in the sky dream is just to get my blog and branding items for the business side consistent, professional, and beautiful! Then I think I’ll feel like I’m ready to roll.

  8. Meike says:

    You are such an inspiration. I’ve just opened an etsy shop (PawedAtFurnishings) and I have a FB page but I really feel like you did in the beginning, all the lack of confidence, the questions, the doubts… I’m still so new at the stuff that I’m constantly unsure whether I’m doing it right as there’s so much other talent out there. So you kind of made my day with your story and your advice, proving that things can work out. Thank you so much!!

  9. Sally says:

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Maria Ward says:

    You go girl!!! Thanks for sharing. I think reading your story helps us all to realize we need to just do it!! (hopefully i will just do it too!)

  11. Great good sense. Thank you for sharing. Sarah

  12. I need posts like these once in awhile. Thank you!!!

    Goedele

  13. Both Jami and Miss Mustard Seed are “good people” and I am grateful to know both in blogland.
    You are an inspiration Jami.
    Cheri

  14. That was so COOL! I soaked up every single word of what you said. I also really like the way you talked about all of it, sharing your limited budget, and all your doubts, and the whole process emotionally and just physically what it all took to do everything. You seem like a really neat person… and thank you so much for sharing such good advice about it all…

    Cindy

  15. Your post literally brought tears to me eyes (sorry for the dramatics…) It’s so comforting to read about someone having the same thoughts and journey and learning how to just go with it and keep moving. I think that once we start believing in ourselves and push through our fears is when the magic happens. Thank you for inspiring words!

  16. Jami is amazing! I ordered a ruffled iPhone case and clay tags. One of the tags arrived cracked…she not only sent me two others, she included a special gift. At that exact moment I knew she would go far in reaching her goals, whatever they may be!
    I loved my case for about three weeks..then on a trip to NYC, it was stolen either at the Marriott or at a parking garage where we left our rental for a few hours. I couldn’t believe it, but someone must have thought it was worth whatever “punishment” they end up having to pay.
    I can’t wait to see what Jami accomplishes next!

  17. So true, so true. Starting a business, with no business experience is a bumpy ride, but also so rewarding! It’s so good to hear someone else sat they dont want to hire out labor. I also love the feelIng of knowing something I’m selling started and finished with me….and I don’t trust anyone else enough. :/

  18. Jami was one of my very 1st blog friends and I just love her!! Thanks so much for featuring her! xo Rachel

  19. Kathy says:

    Excellent information!! Thank you for sharing….very helpftul and encouraging to the ones newly stepping out! I do hope Anthropologie calls :)

  20. Nice to meet you, Jami! And THANK YOU, Marian, for another wonderful guest blogger story!
    Jami, you brought tears to my eyes, by lesson number 2!!! I read your post savouring every minute of it, drinking some tea!!!
    I will come back to it. ANd I will subscribe to your blog.
    Wishing you LOTS of SUCCESS, and YES, Anthropologie WILL CALL!!!
    Lesson #1, BELIEVE!!!

  21. So inspiring! I just took the leap last week to “go public” with what I’ve been doing for months now. It felt so good and the response has been overwhelming! There is no reward if you don’t take risks. You’ve shared so many great tips – can’t wait to put some into practice this week! I’m such a newbie at this whole own-your-own-business thing! Thanks!!!

  22. Very inspiring Jami! Thank you and Congradulations on your current (and future) success!

  23. sabrina says:

    Wow! How did you know this is exactly what I have been feeling?? The what ifs and fears have kept me away from the idea of owning my own little shop of vintage finds. Thank you for the inspiration and sharing all of your experiences! If you ever need an intern— (hint, hint) I would love to work with you!

  24. Barbara says:

    A genuine, entertaining and inspiring post. Thank you for writing it!

  25. I was one of the thankful readers of that post.

    I want God to bless our dreams of my making a good living doing interior design consultations, revamping furniture, and handcrafting home accessories and fun stuff for kiddos. This is because I love doing all these things, and because the commute to my relocated FT office job is slowly drowning me and my family. I just started my little blog and I’m taking classes, so I have made some first steps! I realize the value of putting this out there, so thank you for the opportunity, Miss Magic Mustard Seed. :)

    xo

  26. Deborah says:

    I love the messy nest necklace.

    Deborah

  27. Sandy says:

    Oh my! Just what I needed to read. I have been on the fence for a long time. I even took a class from my local SBA which is great free information. My problem seems to be “branding” myself so that I can then create an ETSY shop and website and order business cards, etc. I have painted furniture, made purses/bags out of military uniforms, made pillows out of vintage linens, and my sister is currently making jewelry out of military buttons. We also plan a large family/friend Christmas party every year (my sister has was a convention center director). Any hoo, as I was saying…I enjoyed reading your post because I feel better about not having all my ducks in a row. I am inspired to just step out on faith and still do something! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! : – )

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Karen of The Graphic Fairy shared her business story and tips earlier this week, and today, I am sharing mine. [...]

  2. [...] stuff done, making sure my blog posts were ready.  In the midst of all of that, I only skimmed Jami’s guest post.  I already knew her business story, so I didn’t feel the need to read every sentence in [...]

  3. [...] shaking in my boots and so nervous with just the thought of guest posting on Marian’s blog. After all, like Jami Clune said, it’s a magic blog. Now that I’m actually here, the nerves have turned into pure delight. I am honored and [...]

  4. [...] She wrote this absolutely inspiring entry on Miss Mustard Seed‘s blog. It’s called Running a Creative Business and it is just full of great advice.And that’s when I realized, I needed Jami’s clay [...]

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