One of my goals for this year was to add the “Learn with me” tab on my blog. I want to add all sorts of fun things on there, things that I have learned along this journey we call life! I do not have everything figured out by any means, hence the title “Learn with me!” I want to share tips with you, but I would also love learning from you too! One of my big topics that I wanted to cover under this category is tips on running your own handmade business! I have learned a ton since starting in 2012 and I want to share with you what I have learned so far. I remember when I started out I was completely clueless as to what I was supposed to be doing. So I am going to highlight the major lessons, etc, I have learned along the way. I haven’t decided if I want to do a big continuous string of posts on this topic, or spread it out. Most likely I will decide as I go 🙂 To start out this series I thought it would be fitting to tell you my story. How I got started and such!
I never knew how to sew. The fact is I really did not enjoy sewing classes in middle school and high school. Looking back I think it was mainly because I did not like having to follow a pattern! As silly as that sounds, to this day I still can’t really follow a pattern. I am way to scatter brained to sit down and read all those directions! Or I think to myself, well that is silly, why would they put that step in when I can do it different? It has been a good thing, but it has come back to bite me a few times too! But in general, for me not following patterns has really opened the door for me to be my own kind of creative. To create things that are uniquely my own.
So I never really pursued sewing or anything creative. Then in college I had a roommate that was amazing at sewing. She just did things without patterns and I was amazed. I also have two sister-in-laws that are great at sewing and are SUPER creative. I would look at all of them and think, man I wish I could do that. It looks so fun. I could NEVER do that! Be careful what you say, you never know what you are capable of until you try! Seeing what they all made kind of inspired me. But yet again, I kind of wrote that off because in my mind I simply could not do anything that cool. After graduating with an associates as a Physical Therapist Assistant, my husband and I relocated to central Illinois. Where I was introduced to a ton of other creative people! I hadn’t really entered to much into the blogging world yet. Some friends told me about some blogs they really liked to read. And then they told me about Pinterest! Oh the creativity on there! I started reading blogs and pinning away on pinterest. I started with the easy no sew tutorials and projects. Some projects turned out great, others not so much! I still didn’t believe I could do anything on my own though. I followed tutorials and didn’t really stray to much from them. Please don’t ask me what the difference between following tutorials and patterns is, because I don’t know! I guess in my mind it was different. Maybe because it was a real person that I could see that had written and tried it out?? Beats me!
As my pinterest projects began piling up, I was also busy studying to take the boards. When I passed the boards I set out to find a job. All the while in the back of my mind I thought it would be pretty cool to be able to make and sell things. I landed my first job working at a hospital and nursing home, and I really loved it at first. As time went on I began to dive deeper and deeper into sewing. I began to enjoy sewing and creating more and more each day. I started to run out of things to make for myself, so I started making things for gifts. Then a local famers market opened up the summer of 2012. I decided to give it a try! It was fun getting encouragement from friends and others who bought my items. So in August 2012 I opened an Etsy shop. I was sure it was just going to take off instantly! Not so much. It took a full year for my Etsy shop to take off. I think it was because I didn’t really know what I wanted to make and sell. That coupled with my bad pictures, and lack of effort on trying to get noticed. Trust me, it was not magical for me. I had to work for it. I grew discouraged after reading others stories of how others, and how their Etsy shop just took off. They had a sale the day after listing! I wondered what was wrong with me. So I want to encourage you that success doesn’t always happen instantly! I had to work my tail off for success on Etsy. And I still don’t have a majorly booming shop, but I am so thankful for each and every sale, it is creating an income that is on track for my goal that I set!
By March of 2013 I was extremely burnt out with my job. After a ton of prayer and discussion with my Loren, we decided that I was going to quit my job and really try and grow my business. Now please don’t take this as “if you are tired of you job, just quite and it will all be ok”. I will be writing a post later on knowing when to quite your day job. Loren and I had a plan and knew by my quitting my job it would not ruin us financially. We also gave it a time limit. If my business hadn’t taken off by this date___ I would go back to work.
So now with the time to fully devote to my business I was super excited. I signed up for tons of craft shows and did open houses. Some were good, others were not so good. It was kinda lonely sitting at a booth by yourself all day. But hey I was willing to do whatever was needed to grow my dream. At this point my Etsy shop had still not really done anything. I was getting really close to our deadline and I was starting to get discouraged. So I sat down and decided I was going to create a new product to add to my shop. I will do a post about figuring out what to sell later. After lots of trial and error, my wallet was born. It was my last shot at making this work. I started it out with an introductory sale, and it took off. Both locally and on Etsy. I had finally found what clicked. What my niche was. And you know the best part? I LOVED making the wallets. By far it was my favorite thing. Funny how that works. When you find something you absolutely love, and comes naturally for you, it is amazing what can happen.
After lots of hurdles I was finally on my way to living my dream, and growing a handmade business. I absolutely love it. When I left my Therapy job, people told me, “you know, no job is perfect.” And I totally understand, but when you can’t hardly drag yourself into work, when you are no longer motivated to do your best, it may be time to think of something else. I love running The Ruffled Stitch, but it is not a perfect job. No job will be perfect, but if you absolutely love what you do, you can overcome the imperfections you run into. It was all worth it, because now I love what I do.
So that is my story. I want to share with you what I have learned along the way. I know that everyone is different so please don’t fall into the trap of well if that worked for her, it has to work for me. I was there. We are each made different and what works for one may not work for another. But you have to keep trying. You have to do different things. I hope these posts are an encouragement and a tool for you.