Running a Business | Having a product line labels, flexibility & other fun stuff

On April 7, 2012, I shared some of my dreams for the future.  One of those dreams included having my own product line.  Here’s what I said…

“I love the idea of creating my own line some day.  A line of what?  I’m not sure.  Maybe furniture?  Accessories?  Fabric?  Again, I’m really open to how that idea transpires.  I do have a few specific ideas, but I’ll keep those on the DL for the moment.  I’m also really excited about the possibility of collaborating with someone else, but I have no idea who that is or what we would collaborate on.  I just like the idea of it.  This one feels most “pie-in-the-sky” to me right now, but so did the dream of writing a book…”

One of those specific ideas I decided not to share at that time was having a milk paint line.  Just a few weeks later, the doors were flying open to that opportunity and now, eight short months later, I have a line of milk paint.  It really is a “pie-in-the-sky-dream-come-true.”

Now that I am a few months in, I thought I would share some of what having a product line involves…

1.) Money.  My initial idea was to start very small and just sell the paint in my space at Lucketts and online.  That idea blew up when I started receiving e-mails, lots and lots of e-mails, from people who wanted to retail the paint as well.  The plan changed.  I decided to roll with it, but it soon became very obvious that I was in way over my head.  It’s amazing how quickly $.30 labels can turn into thousands of dollars and when you need thousands of labels and boxes and stickers and color cards and bags…yikes.  It gets pretty insane pretty quickly.  It’s all worked out just fine, but if I had to do it again, I would definitely have sat down with a calculator before jumping into things.  It also takes a while to make money on a product line with all of the initial investment and it’s good to know that upfront.

2.) Patience.  It took several months to roll out the paint and it was a loooong several months.  Customers were antsy, retailers were antsy, I was antsy.  We all wanted the paint ASAP, but it took weeks to get the labels designed properly and stock up on the raw materials and get the website ready and then get everything assembled and shipped.  If I had to do it all over again, I would get all of the design work, printing, packaging, etc. done before announcing my big idea.

3.) Flexibility. I had all of these ideas for packaging and marketing that would’ve been great if it was just me, but once the decision was made to bring on other retailers, I had to adapt.  You can have grand plans and spreadsheets and a checklist, but you have to be ready to chuck it when things start going in a different direction.  I do think this needs to be balanced with sticking to your guns as well.  I always had to remind myself that my name would be on these products and I wanted to be proud of it.

4.) Thick Skin.  This has been the hardest part for me.  I love milk paint, but not everyone loves milk paint and not everyone is going to love my milk paint.  I get one complaint and I take it personally and then I feel like I just want to quit the entire product line idea.  When I start to feel like that, I think about the iPhone.  Some people complain about the iPhone.  They hate it.  I don’t see how that’s even possible, because I think it’s the most amazing gadget out there (along with the iPad.)  But when I think about the iPhone, it gives me comfort.  It reminds me that not everyone loves everything and it’s okay if some people don’t like my milk paint.  There’s no need for me to take it personally or second guess everything. I can view those comments as a positive thing that will help me have a better product.

5.) Confidence.  I could also say a love for the product line.  If you don’t love your product, how can you have any confidence when you’re trying to sell it or get others to carry it?  You have to love it, stand behind it and believe in it.  It definitely helps to have others who love it standing beside you for those days when you need extra thick skin.

6.) Help.  This might sound like a no-brainer, but I’m used to being a one-woman-show and I have a hard time letting other people help me.  I don’t think I’m a control freak (maybe ask my husband about that one), but I like doing things.  Well, managing retailers was a lot more work than I expected, so I finally had to hire someone to help me, Faith.  She’s been a life-saver.  Jennylyn of Homestead House (the manufacturer of the paint) has been amazing as well.  My family has helped me price, stock shelves, make samples and all of the other things that are involved with putting a line on the shelves.  If you want a product line, you definitely need to take whatever help you can get!

To me, a product line really did seem crazy, but it happened.  You may have an idea for a product line and I want to encourage you to pursue it.  I love seeing Lisa Leonard ads on my side bar or putting on a sweatshirt with a Dear Lillie tag inside.  They’re women who had a dream and pushed through to make it happen.  It’s so inspiring.  You may have to wait for the opportunity or timing or circumstances to be right, but you’ll never know if you don’t try.  That brings me to #7…

7.) Not being afraid to try.  I’m pretty conservative when it comes to chasing a dream, believe it or not.  You can go for it without putting your entire life savings into it or mortgaging your house.  You can start small, start where it’s comfortable and you don’t have to have a degree in business.  Some things might flop, others will fly.

I look forward to seeing what new product lines start on the counter tops of stay-at-home moms, empty nesters and corporate drop-outs  in 2013…

 


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Comments

  1. Your posts are always so inspiring, and I always look forward to whats next for you! We have recently started our own line of provincial farmhouse furniture, and are having a hard time keeping up with the orders! Lovin’ it!! It’s so rewarding to turn a dream into reality…thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge, and for helping people like me take that leap of faith ;)

  2. Shaorn in Chicago says:

    Marian — been there, done that, thinking about doing it again in 2013! I sometimes laugh when I realize there’s a blog out there with a name that oh, so similar to the name my publishing company used to go under. Sometimes wonder if she used to buy my quilt books (of which i sold 10s of thousands, and to places like Michaels & Hobby Lobby) — and then I realize I’m onto bigger and better things.

    That’s the other thing about a product line — you, as the creator, are already likely creating the next big thing. And we can’t wait to see what that next thing will be with the Miss Mustard Seed logo on it! Congrats to you on your successes in 2012 and here’s to an even bigger (or better or bigger AND better) 2013!

  3. Sharon in Chicago says:

    That’s Sharon in Chicago (I tell people Shaorn is an Irish cousin or maybe Welsh)

  4. Congratulations and well done! You’re an inspiration to us all!

  5. Congratulations on launching your brand! We love it and think you have done an amazing job. Here is to much more next year!

  6. Marian,

    It is so funny – why do we always focus on the one negative thing out of hundreds of positives? I think as women we just want everyone to be happy and that is impossible. I have loved watching you build this brand of milk paint and as a milk paint user of more than twenty-five years, it is *awesome*. The texture and the colors and the coverage is amazing and I will be a customer for years to come. I would love to see a pink and a lavender in your milk paint line too :)

    I cannot wait to see what you do in 2013! Have a blessed Christmas!

    Sue

  7. Merry Christmas Marian~congratulations on following your dreams and having a dream team to make it all possible.

  8. Congratulations on your new paint line. I anxiously await your next endeavor.

    Got up early today to feed the horses and realized it was SUNDAY and I could relax. So . . . I picked up your book and was inspired for an hour–it was great to be warm and cozy and with a good book and my husband and dogs curled up beside me on the couch. THEN I got up and started my semi-busy day.

    Just got some new chairs for the family room–my husband’s purchase but I love them–so I am going to do somelthing you said–CLEAN first. Then we can move things around. You are SO right about a house looking fresh and new when it’s orderly Many of us don’t need new things, we need to LOVE the things we have and treat them with respect. Thanks for reminding me..

    Merry Christmas!

  9. Posts like these are so inspiring and helpful to me as I think about my own home-based business! Thank you so much for taking the time to give us your wisdom and knowledge. Happy Christmas! ~Aimee

  10. Hi Marian,

    Another great post. Thanks for the insight into what you are going through. I have just begun being the Colorado Distributor for Maison Blanche. Even though it isn’t my own, it is my own. Your advice is taken to heart by me.

    I still look over those 14 pages of notes that I took when you came to Colorado.

    Thanks for helping me get through the jungle!

    Beth

  11. Congratulations on following your dreams! Such an exciting year for you. We missed you at Circa Dee this weekend. hopefully we’ll catch you there in the Spring.
    Merry Christmas,
    Denise

  12. Congratulations on following your dreams and all your success!! You have inspired me to put myself out there and start working toward some of my own dreams too. Merry Christmas to you and yours!!

  13. Huge congratulations to you…and also an even huger (I know it’s not really a word) for sharing your experiences! I am SO looking forward to 2013 and getting my own dreams going!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.
    Nanci

  14. an even “huger” thank you! Is what it should have said. oops

  15. I’ve loved watching you grow and branch out! Opening my own little shop in March, although we’re currently using it as a workshop & staying pretty busy w/o being official. Thank you for the inspiration!

  16. I love reading these posts… they are so informative. It’s also be fun watching the whole “Milk Paint” process. When i first saw it displayed in a shop near my home, i was so proud for you, and the packaging looked GREAT!

    Cindy

  17. Thanks Marian for sharing this. I needed this to move ahead!

    Merry Christmas from Belgium
    Goedele

  18. Kelly says:

    I truly enjoyed reading your post while I am trying to recover from my pneumonia – a small gift from my wee one! Ha.

    Anyway, thought I should tell you that you should do two things: I think you ought to write a book on how to do your milk paint. You see, I like to have books near me as I learn how to paint and the CC in your video are good but confuses me.. You should try to watch yours with CC on. You will find a lot of funny words on it. I have laughed til my tears came out. A couple of time it said condoms. Sorry, had to say it.

    Two: open up another lucketts store in Gettysburg or Harrisburg! You can call it. The Lucketts II. I know I like to dream big.

    Go and dream bigger!!
    Merry Christmas.
    Your Deaf Chick Friend. Kelly. Xo

    • jaredshaver says:

      Maybe just an inexpensive E-book with different chapters/instructions: prep, mixing, painting, curing, distressing, etc….. with pictures of each stage.

    • Miss Mustard Seed says:

      Yes, those are great ideas. I actually have a woman working on transcripts for all of the slipcover and milk paint videos, so hopefully those will be available soon. I would also love to do a milk paint book. One thing at a time. :)

      Hope you start feeling much better. Take care!

  19. Thanks for your encouragement. Blog looks great to. Merry Christmas

  20. I celebrate you and with you! Miss Mustard Seed is more than a brand….it’s your heart and soul and you speak to the heart and soul of thousands. Congratulations on grabbing that pie-in-the-sky dream and making it a reality! You are one inspiring woman! I can’t wait to see how God uses you and blesses you in the New Year!

  21. Thanks for this post, Marian. I am feeling really drawn down and spread thin in my professional endeavors right now, and reading this was exactly what I needed. It makes me want to keep trying, even though I’m not exactly sure where any of this is leading. Thanks for helping me have the faith I need to keep walking through somewhat blindly.

  22. Denise T says:

    Catching up with some posts I missed during the stay in NC for Christmas. Missed this post. Thank you for this post. Right now I have been reading a book “What color is Your Parachute?” I am not sure where it will lead me to but I want to thank you for encouragement and positive words. Faith and Trust …. This token” Move Mountains” is a wonderful reminder in my home , so I see every time and keep trying to make the best of everything,

  23. Kathleen. Freund says:

    Marian,

    You inspire me in so many ways! I am a retired art teacher who is busy painting furniture with A S chalk paint and other paints as well. I am anxious to purchase and try your milk paint but don’t know where to get it near Columbus, Ohio? Can you send me some suggestions?
    I am thrilled to see what you do each day as I follow your posts on line. May 2013 bring you many exciting new experiences !

  24. Eve Luis says:

    Hi Marian,

    At last! A truly inspiring self made creative person who is not trying to monopolise the industry!

    You have just settled all my nightmares and concerns here and given me the confidence I was looking for, as I embark on a new venture here in South Africa with my own decorative paint line.

    As a struggling single mom, I am now taking my sideline hobby/business and taking a huge leap into unknown!

    Thank you so much.

    You have an awesome concept and business integrity. Well done. Wishing much more success and happiness.

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