My first job ever was working for Gamestop. I was sixteen years old, terrified, shy and my boss was a large and very-in-charge red-headed woman who could have frightened a grown man. I grew up playing video games, mostly Zelda, or watching my Dad play them while my Mom navigated with the strategy guide, so the job was overall a great fit. Looking back, the experience was priceless. I learned so much just in those few months I had that job. It was my first ever interaction with customers in a professional setting. While I have always had organizational skills and a friendly disposition, the challenge I faced was having to submit to such strict rules and policies. While I have never been a true rebel or refuted authority, it never sat well with me having to do exactly to the letter what someone else told me to do.
I’m independent, individualistic, creative and a forward-thinker. I felt like I couldn’t express myself working in retail. There were uniforms, phone answering jingles and sales goals, scratch that, sales requirements or you were given what to me felt like a good scolding. I understand a business is a business and we were there to sell. I simply didn’t feel like having to reach a number was motivation to sell gaming magazine subscriptions. I enjoy things when I’m given the freedom to want them to be better, not when it’s mandatory.
After leaving Gamestop, I decided to take a different path in the job hunt. I knew I loved children and the family setting, I wanted to be able to wear jeans and a t-shirt if I felt like it and wanted more of a ‘relationship’ with my employer. Shortly after, I had ads up everywhere looking for a position as a nanny. I worked for several families over the next few years until I found the one that really fit. I finally met the three boys I’d fall in love with and a job I will forever treasure in my memories.
I worked for this beautiful family for years. My job was mostly helping Lori with whatever she needed. I did the kid’s laundry, tidied the house, ran errands, shopped for groceries and occasionally picked them up from school or activities and made their meals. It was amazing. I guess for some people, that really does sound like work. It was a dream for me. The boys were smart and funny and so easy to love. They were 4, 5 and 7 when I first started working for them, the perfect ages in my opinion. And best of all, I felt like part of their family. Not the helper, not just the nanny, but family. And while I had a genuine respect for the fact that Lori was my boss, we were friends. We talked about our lives and interests all the time.
During my employment as a nanny, I got really interested in photography. It eventually sparked into a pretty successful small business and I assembled a lovely portfolio. I really loved doing photoshoots and focused mainly on creative portraiture and urban exploration. The urban aspect took me to incredible abandoned places across the Texas-Louisiana area. Until then, I had never been able to truly express my creativity. It was a very enlightening experience and my first real attempt at ‘working for myself.’ It inspired me to put my whole heart and mind into my own business and the entrepreneurial seed was planted.
Years of doing photography taught me two things: I have a passion for it but not as a business. I knew if I pursued it as a career, I would eventually lose focus and what I dearly loved doing so much would become a chore. Naturally, that wasn’t what I wanted so I stopped doing photography professionally and it became a simple creative outlet and remains that way today. I knew eventually I would find something that I loved in the way I needed to and turn it into a small business run from home. I trusted that. I believed in that.
For the next few years I worked at Starbucks Coffee, which is where I met my now husband and best friend, Dan. I can’t speak highly enough about my time working for Starbucks. I met amazing people, made wonderful friends and gained invaluable knowledge about customer service, product quality and standards and the importance of loving what you do. I think everyone should learn how to push through tough days, manage customer complaints and learn to work with people you disagree with. It creates a well rounded work ethic and a powerful ability to adapt to your environment. These are respectable tools you need in order to run a business for yourself because you only have you to fall back on. There’s no one else to clean up your spills. No manager to smooth over mistakes or issues. And there are no pay raises or promotions because you’ve reached the six month, year or two year mark. You reap what you sow and the more you put into your business, the more you’ll get out of it. Equally, if neglected or customer concerns are ignored, the business will inherently deteriorate. (This is strictly speaking of a one-person business like mine.)
Shortly after Dan and I got married (yay!), I discovered needle felting. WOW, I can make things with wool and a needle? Amazing! Wait, I could totally sell these. Would they sell? I’ll need a lot more wool. And a place to sell them. I naturally leaned towards Etsy and slowly Handmade By Brynne was created. It’s been almost two years since I opened my shop and a whole year of that was still spent working out of the home. I was extremely fortunate to be able to start working from home full time just a year after I started needle felting. Dan and I had a long conversation that day about me leaving the job I had at that time. We discussed how if my business was going to grow, what I needed most was time. I had the skills, the desire and the resources to make it happen, I just needed the time. It was a risk. A big risk and an enormous amount of trust from him is what really made it possible.
I am so thankful every single day to be able to do what I truly love, the way I want to do it. I am thankful for Dan’s job, our home and that life has allowed me a chance to choose my path to success. I try to remember that it can all be taken away and to stay humble when I start to take it all for granted.
Running a small business from home is not for everyone. I think the bigger picture here is finding happiness in everything you do. There is joy and adversity in every aspect of life, especially at work. It takes a strong and courageous person to focus on the beauty in life and to really learn from mistakes and to heal from misfortunes. It can also be a challenge to go from meeting hundreds of people daily to spending your world online. I’m still trying to find a balance, manage my schedule and to build consistency.
Since I started my little online shop selling needle felted animals, nature inspired things and now felting kits, I have learned so much. Staying motivated is top of the list right beside buyer happiness. There are still things I haven’t figured out and there will always be room for improvement and growth. Overall, my experiences up until now have given me a valued understanding of what it means to be in business for yourself.
Do you have a handmade business? I would love to hear about your experiences, too. We are all reaching for the same goal here so a support system is essential. I’d love to hear about how you manage your blog/shop and what you’ve learned as a small business owner.
Thanks for reading! Hope you have a great weekend.