Browsing posts in: Blog
My-Journey-to-a-Handmade-Business
Apr 26, 2017 0

My Journey to a Handmade Business

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.

Timeline-border-copy

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. :)

Check-out-this-Flamenco-shower-curtain-from-Anthropologie.
Aug 13, 2016 0

Trend Watch: Ombre

We all know that trends come and go. Some are fleeting while others stick around long after they’ve worn out their welcome. Some we get, and some… well, some just entertain us. One thing is for sure. Trendy notions and ideas keep our wardrobe interesting, keep our home decor fresh, and keep us on our toes.

We love the current trend called ombre! Its origin is French meaning “to shade.” This gradual fading of light tones into darker ones can be beautiful, and we are now seeing this technique on everything from fabric to home decor to even hair and nails!

Check-out-this-Flamenco-shower-curtain-from-Anthropologie.

How-cool-are-these-funky-pink-walls

Celebrities like Ashlee Simspon, Jessica Biel and Drew Barrymore are making ombre hair popular. L’oreal even jumped on the bandwagon with an at-home ombre hair painting kit.

Click-here-for-tips-on-ombre-hair-application

Of course, our favorite items are the adorable laundry bags we make ourselves out of ombre polka dot fabric paired with mondern vintage prints.

Adding-Homemade-Touches-to-Your-New-Home
Aug 13, 2016 0

Adding Homemade Touches to Your New Home

Any time I move into a new apartment, I always think of the bare walls and functional furniture as a blank canvas. While it never really starts to feel like home until I’ve livened things up a bit, I love the process of doing so – whether that’s with lovely art pieces, colorful table decorations, or even just some strategically placed knick-knacks. All of this can be great for instantly humanizing a space. Of course, I also really look forward to a good excuse to buy some new art, or to while away a few hours making crafts.

I have a few favorite art prints that have been with me through several moves, but my first priority is usually to find new ones to accompany them and decorate my walls. It’s a nice way to introduce a lot of color and visual texture to my home. Simple, plain cardboard or plastic frames are a cost effective way to show off some detailed prints that won’t distract from the art itself, which is the real star of the show. They’re also lightweight, so won’t require you to make holes in the walls; this is especially useful for rentals, where that’s generally frowned upon.

Choosing a wide variety of different art styles is helpful, but careful placement is the key to avoiding clumsy looking displays. Personally, I have a collection of vintage posters that I find look good together in an even display with different sizes of frame. Their art styles are nicely complementary, and really brighten up even the darkest of rooms. Of course, every print is different, so you should use your best judgement. Usually, though, placing like with like is a good strategy.

Older apartments are usually a little bit more charming than newer ones. They may lack that tankless water heater or fancy recessed lighting, but they have so much personality. If you want a little bit of that in your modern apartment, the right kinds of rustic furniture and decorations can go a long way. I love to browse flea markets and the like for old pieces that most people would ignore. I’ve found a few real treasures – decorations like wall mirrors or antique chairs that need just a little love and care. If you don’t have the time or inclination for that, however, even a simple thing can bring a touch of class. Rather than throwing away old wine bottles, I like to use them as candle holders for dining room or coffee tables. Of course, there’s not much to them at first, but if I let a few candles of different colors melt over the necks of the bottles, that changes. The colorful wax drips down, hardens, and builds up over the bottle in layers to give it a rustic, European charm. This is particularly nice for mood lighting, when the flame of the candle will light up the rivulets of wax in a variety of lovely ways.

Counting-Smiles
Aug 13, 2016 0

Counting Smiles

In the midst of a depressing economic recession, I discovered a delightful escape – if only for a day. Take your puppy on a family outing. Okay, so it wasn’t really a family outing, just my husband and me, and Boxcar isn’t really a puppy – she’s a 15 year old pug (in dog years, that’s 105). But yesterday we took the Jet Express across Lake Erie to Put-in-Bay. For those of you who haven’t been, Put-in-Bay has been coined the “Key West of the Midwest.” It was cool weather for a lazy summer day, and we weren’t about to spend it indoors. So we grabbed our sunglasses, our wallets, and a little cart made for hauling boating supplies… only we transformed it into Boxcar’s chariot for the day.

Boxy can no longer walk or hear, and she has more cataracts than teeth, but nonetheless she was excited to be included in the excursion. Here’s the real kicker. People could not stay away from her! At one point, my husband said he felt we were in a zoo because of all the pointing, stares and smiles. But hey, it was all good.

From collegiate boys in Budweiser hats and no shirts to small children wanting just to pet her, Boxy’s following grew. And as the day went on, the intoxication level of the Put-in-Bay crowd grew as well. One girl wanted to share with us how her little dog just passed away last week. She needed a sympathetic ear. A young man talked to us endlessly how he was planning to adopt a dog because he and his wife could not have children. He wanted confirmation. And one dude with a red, white and blue bandana tied around his forehead and dressed in Daisy Duke cut-offs came to pet her, too. He, apparently, just wanted to live in the eighties again.

My friend Carolyn joined us once on a similar excursion with Boxcar and commented that she wished she had a device to “click” the number of times people smiled when they saw our dog. She believed it was a therapeutic service we were performing.

So yesterday, having a few drinks in a few bars and toting around a paraplegic pug was our contribution to people looking for a reason to smile.

Memories
Aug 13, 2016 0

Memories

I just returned from my annual family vacation. Fun, as always. Too much food. Too much chaos. But fun. And except for losing the annual family talent show (my first loss ever), I can’t complain about anything. In case you are wondering, I have ALWAYS won the talent show. But there was dissension in the ranks this year, as family members demanded a more democratic judging process. What was wrong with my being judge, I’ll never know. Nonetheless, it was quite a humbling experience to lose to an elementary school trio posing as Sonny, Cher, and Chaz.

Family vacations are always bittersweet, and this one was no exception. My brother’s fiancee joined us, as she greatly yearned a respite from her daily routine. Her father passed away 2 weeks ago. He was elderly and ill. But losing a loved one is always difficult, so she welcomed a chance to relax in the sun, cookout in the evenings, and watch Sonny, Cher and Chaz take down a legend.

Where am I going with this? My week with my family reminded me how important these connections are, and even more so if we don’t always have our loved ones by our side. Recently, our company debuted a novel little cuff bracelet lined with men’s vintage ties. What makes this item even more endearing is the fact that you can send in your own ties to be made into bracelets. What a unique way to keep the memory of someone special alive. Convert Grandpa’s ties into sentimental gifts for all his granddaughters… use up Dad’s old ties for his daughters to wear on their wrists, an ever-present reminder of their father’s adoration.

If I owned a tie, I would definitely have it made into bracelets for Sonny, Cher and Chaz as reminders that next summer… they’re going down.

still waiting on the video of the winning performance, but here’s a look at “Cher” out of costume…

and “Sonny”…

and don’t be fooled by innocent looking “Chaz” …

Painted-Wooden-Spoons
Aug 12, 2016 0

3 Wood Craft Ideas For This Summer

Like paper crafts, wooden projects are so beautiful to me. I’ve built a lot of stuff with wood in my life, but I never consider myself as a woodworker because I don’t want to limit the uniqueness and imagination. From headboards to console tables, here are many things fit just about any decor and are oh-so-festive. It’s always feel the achievability when you’ve finished a wood project you spent time and effort on, especially on special occasions. If you want to save money and add a personal touch to your gift, see 10 more projects after the jump.

DIY Rustic Pallet Coffee Table
There’s no lack of coffee tables to buy in the modern era. But you can build your own heavy, rustic and substantial wood coffee table at home. Furniture with beautiful wood grain that makes your house looks like it’s been in an old farmhouse somewhere for ages. You will need to find a decent pallet, clear wood stain, a handful of wood screws and a best miter saw for the project. Don’t forget look around Youtube to find some good tutorials before starting your project.

DIY Pallet Plaques
This cute little picture frame is so simple but makes a great photo prop or sign for your wedding or special event. Creating your own one, do it yourself sign is so much easier than you think. Of course, you can sell this kind of frame too. Innovation is endless. One of the smart ideas is painting colors of your choice too. Another option is to choose different type of texture with a different wood.

Washi Tape Mini Wood Pallet Coasters
It’s fun and easy to make a set of four coasters for yourself. You can show off your personal design style with this washi tape craft idea. You will need wood craft sticks, a craft knife, a pliers with wire cutting blade, sand paper etc. All the tools and materials can be bought at joann fabrics but hobby lobby is also an option. While you can find some coupons online to save many cash.

Map pins, separated by region
May 21, 2016 0

A Love Requited

The new craftgasm booth banner
Luckily for me, Crafty Bastards has loved me back. Here are a couple of press mentions that craftgasm has gotten from the show!

Nole of Oh So Beautiful Paper was kind enough to post pictures of my booth on her gorgeous blog (and was nice enough to let me reproduce them here).

Map pins, separated by region
The Foggy Bottom Blog wrote a super-nice little paragraph about my stuff in their round-up of the event:
Their upcycled cards and pins are unique and hip, and make you feel totally awesome about buying them. Plus, everything has a perfectly sharp sense of humor.
Scroll down past all the pretty pictures to see their assessment of some other awesome vendors; I missed the text part my first time through because I was so busy flipping through their images.

Pearls of Wisdom from Marion Barry.
And last but not least, I was absolutely floored to be selected as one of the Washingtonian’s favorite vendors in their Crafty Bastards post. Getting that email was pretty much amazing and made my week.

It’s been so fantastic to hear from people who I met at the show and to get orders these past couple of weeks from those who said they read about my shop somewhere. Thank you so much for supporting handmade and making it possible for me and my crafting colleagues to do what we do!

Vintage Valentines
May 21, 2016 0

Vintage Valentines

I picked these up a few months ago, intending to send them out for Valentine’s Day. Instead I forgot about them until this week, meaning only one (a duplicate) found its way to anyone. To make up for it, I’m going to share them here with you.

You can find all seven designs here, available for you to download and use in any medium you like. There’s a dragon one that came with these that I don’t think is quite as vintage as the rest, but otherwise, they’re all a similar style to this little lady. Fit four on a sheet of cardstock and they’d be perfect as last minute Valentines for a classroom — or anyone you’ll be seeing on Monday.

If you use them in your own design, please share a picture of it – I’d love to see how it turns out!

(Of course, I’d appreciate if you continued to keep them free and available and didn’t sell them. That would be kind of crappy of you.)