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

Marian Parsonsmy business story, Running a Business26 Comments

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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26 Comments on “How my business began | part 6 | when it takes off”

  1. Love this post, Marian! Thanks so much for sharing your insight and experience, I can so relate to much of it, in terms of where you are, and where you want to be. It’s so true, that if you’re easy to work with and do good work, the ref reals will come – no matter what you’re doing. You are a true example of what is possible – thanks again for sharing!

    (PS – I met you in passing at Haven, and you were so sweet, even when I called you “Miss Mustard Seed” – your kindness and genuine self show through on your blog and in person). 🙂

  2. This time frame is amazing to me because you were so polished by the time I met you at the Luckets Spring Market in 2012.

    This series is helping me so much! I am in a preparation period right now, setting the stage for what’s to come. I like what I’m doing, but sometimes I yearn for bigger dreams. And this series has been so helpful by giving me the hope I need to be patient and present with what I am doing now, knowing that there is more to come and I will. E better ready off it then. So thank you!
    The Other Marian

  3. I love the heart that comes through when reading this particular post. I can feel your hopes, your dreams, and your jubilee when things work out! I cannot wait until the chapel market to get to meet you and take home a “miss mustardseed creation” of my own! I’m still bummed at not being to get the German bed that you painted. By far my favorite

  4. fascinating!! did you also receive offers that you turned down? if so, could you elaborate on why and how you made the decision?

  5. Hello! I am so enjoying your business series! Your experiences have greatly helped to encourage me in the shop I am selling at! Thank you for sharing. I look forward to more post in the series.

    I have been wanting to try your paint line for a couple of years now. Just a short time ago I was passing a shop that sells your paint and made the investment to buy some colors and other necessities to use your paint. I am very excited to try it. I love the unpredictability of it!

    Blessings,
    aimee

  6. MMS thanks for sharing this the highs and low and realizing that God will open the doors when He knows you’re ready. I love to read your writings, style.

  7. Love this, Marian…
    “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”

    Always enjoy your blog.

  8. Marian,
    I’m going to be doing my first show in Nov so I have a question for you.
    I want to have some less expensive items in my booth to sell along with my furniture pieces (candles, festive napkins, etc).
    When you buy your small add-on items to sell do you buy them wholesale or retail? If wholesale, where do you go to get them? I have my business license, tax #, etc but I don’t know where to go to purchase items like this.
    I appreciate any advice, suggestions, etc.

    Thanks so much,
    Lisa

    1. Lisa — I’m not Marian but I’ve bought doilies wholesale from Saro Trading in the past and know that they also carry napkins and other decorative linens plus candles etc. I was pleased with their pricing, the quality and the promptness of delivery. You can view their products at http://www.sarostore.com/ (No affiliation, just passing on a wholesale source that was good to me in my journey)

  9. Marian, The timing of this post is perfect as you and the other Wild Rose vendors have been on my mind- 5 years ago this week we opened at Wild Rose!

  10. Loved this post, Marian !!! Yes, God’s timing is perfect and patience is definitely a virture. It is a blessing to hear you reflect and share how He unfolded things for you. You are a gem!

  11. I seriously love this series! I’m headed to refill my booth space today and there are days the hour drive one way seems so long. Thanks for helping to keep me energized and focused like a boss lady! Big hugs, Coco

  12. Marian, when starting my business several years ago, I read and reread every single one of your posts on running a creative business. You have no idea how helpful those were to me and have always appreciated your generosity in sharing your experiences and wisdom. While my business is still very small, I now have retail space in a beautifully renovated barn, blog for a paint company, and am in the process of preparing for my second market. It has grown slowly and organically but I’ve always felt your influence and have taken to heart so many of the things that you’ve shared here. Now with this latest series I’m once again inspired by your journey and your generosity in sharing all that you’ve learned. Thank you!!

  13. Wow! Definitely gives us all hope to never give up on what we’re striving for whether it be in life or blogging. That’s amazing and good for you Mairan! What an inspirational story, keep up the great work.

    Lauren Baxter | Lovely Decor
    xx

  14. Hi! I was hoping you might be able to help me out with a few questions I had. I’ve been looking into sending photos in to place like BHG, HGTV magazine, and flea market style magazine, but I can’t seem to find out where I do that. Can you help me with any tips on that? Thanks so much!

  15. OMG Marian you are a true Godsend! I am in the beginning stages of building my business and your blog posts seem totally written for me. Thank you for sharing your humble business beginnings, they provide confirmation and encouragement to me and I’m sure many others! I have tears in my eyes as I write this thank you message because my spirit is deeply touched as I read your words. Transitioning from career woman to creative entrepreneur is truly a faith walk, thank you for being such an awesome tour guide!! Continued blessings…..

  16. I just wanted to let you know that the link to “Show Business Part 2” goes to “Show Business Part 1”.

  17. This series was awesome… I love how it all developed for you. … and i love how excited and delighted you were at each opportunity. I’ve seen how hard you worked over the years. Can you even believe how cool it all was and is….

    Cindy

  18. Thank you for sharing your story… I am currently pursuing a long time dream and find your journey very inspirational!! To read about your family’s needs, finding your gifts/ talents and putting them to work for you and then the beauty and training that goes on in the humble beginnings. And now you and your business are flourishing.. Again thank you for sharing..
    Continued Blessings to you and your family and your business

  19. Dear Marian,
    As a new Blogger & furniture artist starting out, I’ve been reading your ‘How to run a Creative Business’ posts with tears streaming -in gratitude for you. And with hope for myself. Every day since I realized my calling 5 months ago and picked up a paint brush for the first time in my life, I have marvelled at a talent I didn’t keven know I had. I’m leaving my corporate job to follow my passion because I believe that God doesn’t put a dream in our heart that isn’t meant to be there. Although I have no idea where this will lead, I do know I need to ‘let go and let God’. Reading your journey has been comforting.
    Love from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    Terri ❤️

  20. Marion,
    I see where your Starting a business series is not on this site any more! Bummer….I’d love to read getting started, nitty gritty stuff…
    Is there another place to find this part of your blog?
    I love everything you do! What an inspiration!!
    I love Lucketts and the fair is so much fun! My husbands band has played bluegrass at Lucketts many many times!! I miss Virginia and hope to move back when my husband retires in 5 years.
    Please let me know where I can find your business blog posts!
    I am trying to start an Events Planning business and although this is not like your business, the rules still apply!
    Sincerely,
    Becky

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