How my business began | part 6 | when it takes off

Marian Parsonsmy business story, Running a Business

The last two installments of this series sort of overlapped.  In part 5, I shared about starting this blog.  In part 4, we left off where the consignment store I sold out of was closing their doors.

That’s where we’ll pick up the story.

This was the time in my business when it was really scary.  I had become comfortable with what my business had become in two years and I just imagined more of the same…selling out of a local shop, nurturing my growing blog, listing items in an Etsy shop here and there.  It was simple and safe.

Then things got uncomfortable.

The doors of the shop were closing.  Along with that, the door to my biggest source of income was closing, too.  I remember that sense of panic bubbling up.  We weren’t living off my income by any stretch.  It was still very humble, but it helped with the bills and groceries and we would definitely feel that loss of income.

I remember sitting with a notebook, writing down ideas of what I could do.  I started to apply to local antique shops and barn sales to become a vendor.  I also signed up for the Old Lucketts Fair, which would be my first time setting up a booth all on my own.  I resolved that, if I had to, I would pitch a tent and have tag sales in my front yard.  Really.  I was prepared to do that!

Then, interesting, surprising and awesome things started happening.

I received an e-mail from Flea Market Style Magazine asking if they could feature my blog in an upcoming issue.

Um, yes!

And then I received an e-mail from Better Homes & Gardens asking if they could photograph my home for their Christmas Ideas magazine.

AHHHHHHHH!

And then I got an e-mail from an HGTV.com editor, asking if I would be interested in writing tutorials for them on a freelance basis.

Pick me up off the floor.

And then I got an e-mail from the editor of Cottages & Bungalows, asking if I would be a regular contributor to their magazine.

Opening my inbox everyday felt like Christmas.  Dreams-I-didn’t-even-know-I-could-dream came true through e-mail.  

All of these opportunities were unsolicited and a total surprise to me. It’s like God closed the doggy door I had been crawling in and out of and threw open the double barn doors.

For those first two years, I needed a small door.  I wasn’t ready for the barn doors.  Even though I had a hard time recognizing it in myself, now I was ready.

I was in the clouds when we set up my space at the Lucketts Fair Saturday morning.  I had worked for weeks to paint, slipcover, sew, glue, glitter and collect things that were representative of “my look”.  It was just my mom and I in a 10 x 10 tent.  Our “check-out counter” was custom-made aprons tied around our waists.

Here are some pictures of the pieces I took to that fair…

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My very first German glass glitter letters!

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A hand painted French butcher’s sign.

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A love seat slipcovered in drop cloths.

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Painted lamp with grain sack shade and hand painted Livery Stables sign.

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Dresser with broken drawers, converted into shelves.

This was the first time on my blog that I shared “the build up”.  I revealed all of the pieces here on my blog as I finished them.  I was just excited about them and wanted to share how everything that I had found at thrift stores and yard sales was coming together.  What I didn’t know is that, as I was sharing them, readers were getting excited at the opportunity to buy them.

The Saturday of the sale was the day I learned the power of the community this blog had tapped into.

People drove for hours to get there in order to buy specific pieces.  It was the first time that readers came to an event just to meet me and take pictures.  My mom and I experienced it in amazement.

And to make it even better, a woman, who I didn’t know, came into our booth and quietly started pulling tags off of a lot of pieces.  I kept hearing the thump as another paper tag was pulled off a string and my excitement would build.  It turns out, that woman was Amy from The Old Lucketts Store and one of the creative minds behind the Design House.  She loved my stuff and bought so much that my booth was almost emptied.

The Old Lucketts Store was my very favorite antique store, so it was such an honor for me.  My stuff would be sold in the Lucketts Store and Design House!!  This initial meeting turned into an opportunity to work as a supplier for Amy.  I would give her first dibs on my pieces and she bought a lot of signs and furniture from me over the next few months.

And in September, just a few weeks after my most successful sale ever, I got another e-mail.  It was from Lynette, a blogger and antique dealer who wanted to open a co-op of venders about 30 minutes from my house.  She wanted me to be a part of it.  We had never met, but she just felt like I would be a good match and sent me an e-mail.

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(Lynette is in the pink.)

Shortly after I got settled at Wild Rose, Lynette asked if I would share her space at Chartreuse & Co, which was one of the places I applied to a couple of months before.  It was another amazing opportunity, so I said yes.

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(Our space decked our for Christmas at Chartreuse)

And then, I met Karen, aka The Graphics Fairy.  She not only became a business mentor and wonderful friend, but asked me to supply furniture for her space at the Lucketts Store.

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The last 6 months of 2010 were amazing and a time when it felt like things really took off.  It was the springboard to things to come.  And it was the time when I realized that this business had a lot more potential than I ever dreamed or hoped for.

Here are a few things I took away from that time…

Be patient and allow things to happen organically.

I had submitted photos to BHG before and was turned down.  I inquired about being a retailer at Chartreuse and Lucketts and wasn’t accepted to either.  In hindsight, I see that I just wasn’t ready and everything needed to happen in the perfect order, in God’s good and perfect time.  I will say that it never hurts to ask, so if your gut is telling you to go for it, go for it!  Just don’t be desperate.

Be worth the risk.

I wrote an entire post about this years ago.  There are so many people who took risks on me along the way… Denise, the owner of the consignment store, Lynette, who asked me to be a part of Wild Rose and her space at Chartreuse, Karen, who invited me into Lucketts, Camille, my editor at HGTV.com for over five years, Jickie, the editor of Cottages & Bungalows and the list goes on.  They all saw something in me that I didn’t fully see in myself and they reached out to me and gave me a shot.

And I took it!  If you read my blog back in 2010 (or if you go back and do some reading), you can almost feel the frantic energy in my words.  I worked so hard.  Too hard, probably.  I never missed a deadline and I endeavored to meet or exceeded expectations.  I made sure I was worth the risk they took.

Work for the job you want, not the job you have.  

I use to hear that saying in the corporate world, but it applies here, too.  I really wanted to be featured in a magazine, so I worked as if editors were watching.  Of course, looking back at the pictures and writing, there was so much room for growth, but that would come later.  I did the very best I could at the time and took it seriously.  If I wanted to be featured in magazines, I needed to act like it.  I think that’s one reason I ended up getting noticed.

Don’t be a diva.

This was a lesson I learned in the theatre business.  You can get jobs if you’re talented.  You will get jobs, keep jobs, get repeat jobs and referred for jobs, and jobs will fall in your lap if you’re talented AND you’re nice to work with.

Be a delight.  Be gracious.  Be humble.  Be flexible.

Don’t be high maintenance, demanding and temperamental.  Most industries are tight-knit.  Word will travel and, unless the world cannot revolve without you, your talent will not be enough to compensate for your attitude.

Up next, evolving as an entrepreneur (learning how to say no to good things, so I don’t run myself ragged, and gaining confidence in my talent and business intuition)…

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Other business-related posts you might enjoy…

How to start a business on a tight budget

Starting a Business | the nitty-gritty details & not-so-fun-stuff (like accounting, insurance, taxes, etc.)

getting started

The “Show Business” series (selling at antique fairs)

part 1 | is selling at a show right for you?

part 2 | tagging, branding & setting up the space 

part 3 | inventory, setting up a check-out & promoting your booth

part 4 | Pricing & Answers to FAQs

How my business began | part 6 | when it takes off

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