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the business brain & the human heart


Before I get into the thick of it, I have to say that you all overwhelm me so often!  The first installment of the Lucketts Leftover Sale went live today and pieces were selling before I could even get everything live on the site.  So, I’m “listening” to what you’re “saying” and I need to have more things for sale online on a more regular basis.  That’s a part of a grand plan, anyway, but I can have sales like these until all of that is sorted out.


That means I need to do some shopping just for you!  Let me know in the comments what you’d like to buy, so I can order it/hunt it out.

If you missed out on pieces this sale, I still have a lot more to list and I will work on that tomorrow (Friday).  As I did with this sale, I’ll list items as “coming soon” in the online shop, so you can check them out and have time to select what you want to buy when the sale goes live, which will be Friday, June 3, at 9:00 PM EST.

We’ll all be so cool hanging out on our computers together on a Friday night!  Woohoo!


So, I shared back in February, an acknowledgement.  Most days I’m just winging it and feel pretty much in over my head with this whole running-a-business/CEO thing.  In the beginning, I longed for growth.  Now, in those overwhelming moments, I wistfully remember those scrappy days when it was just me and my paint brush and my hair in a bandana.  (If you remember the bandana days, you’ve been with me a long time!)

That post I wrote, as most pour-my-heart-out posts usually do, led to something pretty cool.  A reader sent me an e-mail that said something like, “I saw you wanted CEO lessons and my sister does that!”  Seriously?!  I was sort of half kidding about CEO lessons and didn’t know they were a real thing.  She gave me her sister’s information and I decided to contact her.  It was at least worth a call.

That call was the perfect blend of professional and touchy-feely and I knew that it was exactly what I needed.  So, a couple of months ago, I started working with Joy of The Frontline Group as my “CEO coach.”  If you are super quick at putting two and two together, you might have guessed that it’s the same Joy who was featured on decorating dilemmas.  (This isn’t a commercial for her, by the way, but just a part of the story.)

I started working with her and I can’t tell you the relief and encouragement I feel when I get to talk through all of the things pinging around in my head.  Not just to Jeff or my mom or Kriste, although they are all amazing people, but I can talk to someone who has launched businesses, dealt with growing pains, felt the pressure, understood the challenges and the opportunities, and, most importantly, could see things clearly that I couldn’t, because I was just too close.


She’s walked me through some big, obvious decisions that I should’ve made a long time ago.  She’s pointed out things that should be a no-brainer, but they just weren’t.  Joy has challenged me to grow in a lot of ways, but also voiced the fact that it’s okay to say “no” and it’s okay if I don’t want this business to get any bigger.

It’s sort of like therapy for business owners!

These sessions have also made me see more potential in my business than I have acknowledged and made it clear that I have been the biggest obstacle to realizing that potential.

I’m too hand’s on with stuff.  I like flexibility and an organic workflow.  I don’t bring in enough help to accomplish tasks quicker.  I stink at delegating.

You might be surprised to know that my team consists of me and two part-timers – Kriste and Heidi.  That’s it.  (Well, Katie comes for about four hours a week and hangs out with us, but she has twin boys and limited availability, so she can only get so involved.)

So, that’s me and two part-timers managing the milk paint line (all of the retailers, new applicants, marketing, advertising, PR, promotion, customer service, etc.), all of our social media, two blogs, buying & selling antiques, making over furniture, writing look books, working on freelance projects, developing new ideas and products, managing the online shop, packing & shipping…  and there are probably another dozen things I’m forgetting.

Basically, I’m a crazy person and I have two people who are willing to join my crazy on a part-time basis.  Katie can only take it in two hour doses, twice a week!

Yeah, it’s a lot.  And just typing out that list makes me realize how crazy it is and no wonder I feel rushed perpetually!  No wonder I can’t implement all of my ideas.  No wonder things languish on my to-do list.

I am a bottleneck.


Not only am I a bottleneck when it comes to productivity (even though I am highly productive, there are only so many hours in the day), but my emotional investment in this business can be a bottleneck as well.

I struggle with the balance of my business brain and my imperfect, sensitive human heart.  The balance between what I want to do and what I can do.  The balance between what is best for others and what is best for my business and, by extension, my family.  The balance between the professional and the personal.

There are times when I wish I just had it all figured out and the balance was easy and obvious.  But there is a piece of me that recognizes the beauty in my deficiencies, fears, struggles, and bottlenecking.  Without 100% confidence in myself alone, I have to look beyond myself for strength to make tough, but right decisions. Courage to put myself and my ideas out there.  Wisdom to ensure fairness and integrity in my business dealings. Discernment to know which opportunities to pursue and which ones to decline.

And love.  To make sure my heart isn’t run by my business and my business is run with heart.


All of this to share that I am working on it.  All of it.  Priorities, focus, followthrough, growth, balance…  And I’m making progress!  I’m putting together job descriptions for people I hope to hire to grow with me and my business.  I’m carrying a notebook, so I can write down ideas, thoughts, to-dos as they come to me.  I’m setting alarms, so I don’t miss so many appointments and meetings.  I’m climbing the mountain one step at a time.

This isn’t one of those neatly-knotted posts with a clear point to the reader, if you didn’t figure that out, yet.  This is just one of those heart-to-hearts that I need to have with all of you every once in a while.  To keep it real and encouraging.  To remind you that there are joys and struggles in every season.

To let you know that I’m still just Marian – a stay-at-home-mom/pastor’s wife who nervously started a small business to make some money for groceries and diapers.

And you’re just watching how it all unfolds…


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  1. Colleen Day says:

    Dear Marian,
    I’m a follower of your blog from way back and I wait with anticipation to see what today’s blog from my friend will bring. I love your design style and your business sense. I have been lucky to meet you at Luckettes and take a class with you. Since you are taking requests I am looking for 2 occasional chairs like you had at Luckettes and would come pick them up if you found some. I have been wondering how is your son doing if you choose to share.

  2. Chris says:

    There is a very interesting book you might like, “Rise of the Creative Class”. Even tho I know you don’t have time!

  3. Jennifer says:

    Hi Marian!

    Can’t imagine juggling all that you have on your plate, but in reading this blog today, it’s very apparent that a couple of full-time folks could lighten your load immensely! Leave the tedious tasks like order filling and house cleaning and paperwork to those who are good and experienced with those things. Spend your time on the special tasks…..the ones you love to do and where only YOU are the one with the expertise. As much as we perfectionists love to think that nobody can do it as well as we can, there are people out there who can do an excellent job and just want to help you shine! They are the folks you need behind you. They are there….just waiting for you to find them!
    I look forward to hearing about your “new hires” and how life has beome so much easier and a lot less stressful!

  4. You are larger than you allow yourself to be. You are already at (rock star) the level to move wherever you want to go. Don’t shy away from it!

  5. Mary Denney says:

    Your post makes me smile and realize that I too, must learn to say no and make sure I can get through with the things I want to do and not hold back on the “what-ifs” that plague me.

    And I’m not a CEO. I’m a retired woman with too many irons in the fire!

  6. Ashley says:

    I would love to see you have more linens/textiles (and baby clothes..those were too cute to look at in your posts). Oh, and obviously ironstone :). Ironstone isn’t something that is readily available in my area (southwestern TN), or I just haven’t found any in my area at least.

  7. I love when you write these posts. It keeps me motivated and from going crazy as I struggle to build my own creative business. Thank you Marian.

  8. Brenda Zedlitz says:

    I am looking for an industrial cart like the one you had at Lucketts.

  9. Rebecca M says:

    Hi Marian, you were interested in items your blog followers are collecting and would like more of? Well I can say I collect English Ironstone, American Sweetheart pink depression glass, OLD hat pins, and linens. Looking forward to your new shop! Rebecca

  10. Cheryl McIntire says:

    Thank you for sharing Marian. As always I am in your corner cheering you o pin and delighted that I have been the recipient of several beautiful pieces of your work. Sending my best . Cheryl

  11. Trina Williams says:

    So sweet. So honest. So human. May God continue to bless you, so that you may bless us!!

  12. Naella McLaughlin says:

    I think this is my favorite, most heart felt, most motivational post by far! Thank you for writing this.

  13. It’s a joy to read your blogs and get to know your business. You speak for many entrepreneurial women. Remember how much you have done and know there is plenty of time ahead.

  14. Sharon Rexroad says:

    I loved bandanna Marian and now love brown boots Marian — can’t wait to see your next transformation!

  15. Angie Boughton says:

    I too have been following your blog and look forward to each one. I was happy to be able to meet you at Lucketts a couple of weeks ago. My sister and I were lucky to get VIP tickets and enjoy the beautiful Friday weather before the rain started. We bee-lined to your tent when the gates opened as well as everyone else! Man, you were crazy busy! Good for you! You definitely deserve it. I would love to be able to attend a milk paint class with you if you plan on offering one in your free time (Ha! Ha!). I am close enough to be able to drive up. I tell my husband I would like to come up (I’m in Maryland) and be a free intern and learn all your secrets to success! He thinks I’m joking, but I’m not! :)

  16. Frances Kaklikian says:

    Hello Marian,
    I went to the Lucketts event,however I was there on Sunday after church, not knowing it was canceled. I was even more upset at not getting to meet you. Oh well. . . I have they to look forward to next year.
    I purchased one of your new look books and a tee shirt earlier today and can’t wait to get them.
    I really hope you sell more of the braided jute trim that you sold out of. I will be watching for it in se you get more.
    Thank you &,
    God Bless,

  17. Sandy Basham says:

    this is why everyone wants you to do so well – you’re normal :) best of luck with it all

  18. Gail D. says:

    I’ve been visiting your blog for, it must be, several years now, and I find your growth amazing. It is obvious that the leader of your life is firmly in place and you and your husband have built a stable and happy family together. I wish I had had our wisdom when I was young, but I drank and caroused and threw it away. Too bad! But I am in balance now and have finally established a compass to focus on. Kudos to you…

  19. TKraft Art & Interiors says:

    Marian, LOL that’s exactly why I was attracted to you in the first place and started following MMS, because I too am an eclectic bandana and paint covered overall wearing kinda designer girl who gratefully realized I was not alone. Plus, I love that you wear your heart on your sleeve, your daily faith and devotion to acknowledging the creative gift you were blessed with and the overwhelming desire to share it and to do it all with joy is contagious and uplifting to us on the other end of the social media line. You’re the anchor for a lot of us, I believe in what goes around comes around and the spark that I get from your daily design inspirations and insights inspires me to pass it along on my end. Being a good delagator is easy to do when the receiver is receptive, and by judging from your number of followers you’ve already aced in that category. Good luck on the next chapter. xoTK

  20. I am one of those who have been reading your blog since you had about 300 readers. I even wrote you for some business advice more than 10 years ago! It has been a joy to watch it all unfold and you move from the young woman in a bandana to an entrepreneur with so many possibilities in your future. Thank you for sharing the ride!

  21. Jo Parkins says:

    Dear Marian
    I follow your posts all the way from the UK! I love reading about what you do, and I think you are so brave to step out and do your own thing. It’s amazing how much you’ve achieved, and it’s a joy to read how many people like me out there are rooting for you. You are an inspiration- even in your weakest moments we love to hear how you muddle through!
    Jo xx

  22. Cindy A. says:

    I am so glad you are selling more items on line! I love all the “sold-out” items and wish I would have been on-line Friday to get a few things for myself. I am always looking for old kitchen items, anything with crocheted lace, galvanized items, enamelware, and any old or new treasures from France or Germany. I can’t wait for your expanded on-line store!

  23. Marian, I just wrote a similar post about “how not to do it all” and burnout, I love that you open your heart and share that you struggle as well, it’s not easy, I think we creatives have so many ideas and intentions but its so hard to do it all. I am most proud to part of your extended team and if you need any help I would love to help you more. You are always such an inspiration to me and so many others, even when you don’t have it all together, that just makes you human. You’re doing awesome Wendy @ Front Porch Mercantile

  24. Maureen says:

    Dear Marian,

    I have follows you for awhile now. I look forward to all your posts everyday. You are inspiring. You see potential and beauty in things where no one else might. I find encouragement in your posts. They actually give me inspiration. So thank you.

  25. Jennifer Phillips says:

    OMG I just love your honesty, your human-ness. Without your heart an a wing and a prayer Miss Mustardseed wouldn’t be here. You’re doing just fine. All of us envy your courage to take that first step. Just keep taking them one at a time. Need I remind you of the haul you pulled together for Luckets!

  26. Thanks for being real……in the m “perfect” world of the Internet, itsceasyvto tgink everyone has it figured out and you’re the only one struggling. Thinking you’ll never make it or get it figured out! I needed this today, thanks for being a blessing. And I’m praying for peace and the Lords perfect will for your business!

  27. I read your blog every morning while sipping coffee my “lets get this day started fuel”. You inspire me to keep going when those demons of doubt start tugging on my heart and jumping in my stomach. I worked the retail game most of my life until a horrendous back injury took me out. God is good and my surgeon was too. Science has come along way and my kids sometimes call me too Mom on occasion. I started decorating my house for something to do them I started decorating our daughters home then I started thrifting. It got real as the too cool for me teens would say. I love to paint, reclaim and upcycle real furniture and everything wood. I now have a booth on our town square. God is amazing. When your whole life changes and he is in control AMAZING things happen. You truly inspire me! You help me put the fear of success behind me and help me just keep chugging along. Thanks Miss Mustard Seed for keeping it real 😉

  28. PaulaGross says:

    I am interested in the German brushes if you can continue to offer them, especially the vegetable and bottle brushes. Love your blog and you are so inspiring,
    Thanks Paula

  29. Linda says:

    You always inspire me. Thank you! Marian

  30. Amy Harris says:

    As a avid reader that is also trying desperately trying to raise two small children, juggling a part time job and trying to get my creative business off the ground, my eyes filled to the brim with tears reading this. You put your heart out there in every bit of what you do, it is so obvious. This post was touching, uplifting and real. Its enlightening to hear the backside (true story) and know that with hard work dedication, a paint brush and a look book (or two) that someone small could grow to something great. Thank you for not only this post but so many! You are truly an inspiration to so many.

  31. i remember the bandana. i was also just asked multiple times this week to write a “day in the life” post for the blog as customers are so curious what i do with my time and where the battery packs are stored. i haven’t put my post into words nearly as well as you did with this one. the heart to business conversation feels very familiar and i am glad to read how well you are doing and seeing the comments above what an inspiration you continue to be. congratulations for pushing through it and being you. from a blog standpoint i love that yours is still truly a “blog”. i love seeing your furniture, your home and what you’re up to instead of sponsored blogs that no one can relate to. have a great weekend.

  32. Marion,
    I’ve been thinking about your business and am going to offer some unsolicited advice. Whether it resonates with you depends on which, of all the things you do, you love the most.

    You can hire people to do much of what you’re doing now, but you can’t hire anyone to create the amazing hand painted furniture that, IMO, you don’t do enough of. I’m thinking especially of the landscape dresser and that exquisite bed you created and sold a while back. Pieces like those are Miss Mustard Seed Originals, and they could sell for way more than you’ve asked for them. You could also do hand painting on the wooden parts of some of the more special furniture you reupholster and make them Originals as well. Your Originals would be where you spend most of your creative labor, and they would be priced accordingly. The other furniture pieces could be executed by your employees under your direction–that is, you would envision what needs to be done with them but not actually do it. You’re doing some of that now. The Original line, however, would be the primary focus of your creativity. (You would, of course, continue to develop new milk paint colors.)

    I believe that if you poured your energy into the Original line, it would become famous. Not blog famous, but really famous. I read a lot of decorator magazines, and I’ve never seen anything like your painted furniture. I showed your dresser to two of my sisters, both of them very discerning, and all three of us with very different taste in furnishings, and they loved it too.

    You indicated in this post that you’re all over the board in what you do and are getting some help with that. You do need to be a CEO, but a creative CEO, spending at least 60 to 70% of your time on what you love, and the rest in oversight to make sure that your brand is maintained exactly the way you want. You have an incredible opportunity before you–if the Lord tarries!

    • marian says:

      That is really great advice and a part of the direction I’m heading. I realized that I really love doing the hand painted pieces and I need to do more of it. Thanks for the encouraging, constructive words!

  33. My Favorite Post of All!!!
    I have been a loooooong time follower, I think before you even took advertisers on your blog! You have inspired more than you will ever know. you challenge me to do more and seek what God has for me and my tiny business. You just seem to go forward everyday and it is always seems like every move is always blessed!!
    It was my honor to meet you and Kristie at Lucketts this year for the first time and I’m not surprised at all that you sold out of furniture the first day!
    Your youtube “Design Ramblings” are one of my favorite things to watch while working. I think I’m almost through them all.

  34. Bonnie says:

    You are just awesome. Thank you for sharing this, for being real with your struggles and successes. It’s one of many reasons why you are so loved in your endeavors.

  35. Dianne Plourde says:

    I am still pretty new here & still just wetting my feet in this stuff … but I just want to say that the person you are inside has as much to do with your success as your talents & taste do. Thank you for opening your heart like this, from time to time. This is a really nice blog in so many ways and you set the tone for it by being yourself. Thanks for the enjoyment and lessons in life and style that it brings.

  36. Hi Marian

    I am such a huge fan of your blog and I am constantly inspired by your business and your attitude to business….as a small business owner I have the same challenges and dilemmas and as I am really putting major time and effort into growing my business this year , I can totally understand your crazy life…mine is just as bad!!!!!
    Please keep sharing the good the bad and the crazy….it makes inspirational reading!

  37. I just read this post and I loved every word of it! Thank you for letting me be a small part of your journey….it’s a privilege for sure! I love what you do and how you do it. It’s fun to “see” your brain open up to all the possibilities. I have no doubt God has GIANT things in store for Miss Mustard Seed. Happy to be along for the ride… :) (Now I have to get back to working on my family room….)

  38. tracy h says:

    I say make yourself happy first. I am looking for a pair of beefy corbels BUT don’t want to pay a fortune. Thanks for any help.

  39. I have followed your blog since your bandana days. Others have come and gone in my reading list, but you stay put not only because of your talent, but because of your heart. I am a small business owner myself and though our businesses are very different (I’m a CPA) I struggle with many of the same things you do. I have really enjoyed watching your business grow and change without losing the essential “you-ness” that makes it so special. Thanks for continuing to share with us all.

  40. AWESOME post Marian. After reading it, i was so happy to see that even through all the muck, you still value your heart as a vital part of the whole business experience. You being open to to the magic of possibilities and watching them manifest has also been one of my favorite things to observe through the years.

  41. Dear Marian – thank you! From one heart to another. That’s just all. Heidi

  42. Maggie S says:

    One suggestion I would have is to hire someone that can run a piece of the business (like the milk paint line or the on-line store) and give them the responsibility for that piece…with your over-site, of course.

    One of the problems of having people that “help” you is that it is still on your plate. I compare it to having your husband “helping”. It it isn’t his complete responsibility (like doing all the grocery shopping or cleaning the bathrooms), you still have to think and/ or plan what has to happen.

    I like the idea of your painting special pieces –but you have to free up the mental time as well as the physical time!

    I selfishly hope that giving up blogging is not on the list of things to cut :-)

    • marian says:

      Yes, I totally agree on putting people in place who can take ownership of an entire piece of the pie, so to speak. That’s definitely a part of my plan!

      No, I see the blog as the heart of my business and therapy for me, so I don’t see it going anywhere!

  43. Marion, thank you for your honesty. It helps me in my journey so much.

    Peace to you and your family!

    btw, love that pic of you!

  44. Kellie says:

    So inspiring! So encouraging! Thank you for being real.

  45. I love that you are not afraid to share your struggles along with your achievements! And the road along the way! Most people only share their achievements and it makes achieving ones goals so unattainable. Thank you for your willingness to share your heart.

  46. This was so heart warming to hear and I love how you can share your struggles with us and writing is a form of therapy in a way too am I right?! You have tons going on but you are one strong, determined, heartfull lady! Your journey is a great one and your on the right road so keep going and never up, everything will keep falling into place.

    Lauren | Lovely Décor

  47. Isela Lopez says:

    Hi Marian, I am fairly new to your blog but must say I enjoy it very much, I love your style an all your tutorials. I would like to see more of your textiles on your online sohp,I bought one of your hemp sheets for a upholstery project and it wasn’t big enough,have been waiting for more to go on sale and before I knew it they sold out.


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