how did you go from the corporate world to a modern kids furniture designer? what advice to you have for someone considering this move?
When I first left my job at A&E, my husband and I knew we’d have to cut back in many areas but soon realized after a move to California, that somehow, I had to make up my salary. My youngest was not even two at the time of the move, so I really didn’t want to go back into corporate hours and late night events and pledged to do anything I could to make some cash for us. I took on freelance marketing jobs but it wasn’t enough so I designed a website which touted my nanny/caregiver skills and within days became a nanny for two young children in my home for two years.
While I enjoyed being a nanny, my first love has always been creative work, whether it is web design, marketing design, or just plain old art. I was really missing that side of me ( my out-of-the-corporate-world self once designed garage sale signs so elaborate, folks said our garage sale looked like the interior of The Gap) and knew my nanny gigs were coming to an end so I knew I’d be looking for work again. During that time, my friend and I built a Tiki bar, stage, and luau tables for my husband’s 34th birthday. I had a blast and it brought back memories of all those childhood days tinkering in my Dad’s garage. My husband has always loved mid-century, modern style and we were starting to go that route in our own home. With that in mind, I started looking into what I could build – furniture that wasn’t as intricate or difficult as traditional/Victorian style furniture. My research showed a lack of kids’ storage options for parents who love modern design. Given what I was seeing on the net, one toy box would equal two days pay taking care of someone else’s kid. It looked like a good deal to me! I started with two toy box styles, The Gracie and The Sam Toy Box and figured it all out by trial and error and internet research. The first ones I built left A LOT to be desired yet my friends and family would cheer me on and tell me I was onto something. I naively believed them but I thank them everyday because looking back, that blind ambition and complete naivety is the reason I’m building three to four toy boxes a week now!
For someone looking to jump the corporate ship for a home-based business, I’d say go for it! It’s never been easier to set up shop on the internet but think wisely about your brand identity and overall marketing plan. The more professional you look, the more press you’ll likely get and in turn, the more sales you’ll get. Be prepared for even longer working hours; however, the good news is you can control when you work. I think the most important piece of advice I can give is to trust your gut. I’ve screwed up along the way not trusting my instincts but I find that, whenever I do, I succeed.
Tell us a bit about your creative/creating process.
My creative process begins with research first. For example, when I designed the Owyn Toy Box, I looked at what wasn’t being sold on the market, and then went with my own design ideas. I was also frustrated at the time with installing hardware and slow-closing lid support. They are sometimes very difficult to install and are rather expensive. I loved the idea of a branch with leaves so I designed the toy box with that in mind. My favorite find of the century is the pressure sensitive veneer that can be drawn on and cut with scissors and then adhered to the exterior or interior of a box. This became my branch. I still hand draw and hand cut each branch. I haven’t really found that sketching ideas helps me in the workshop because so much of the design is trial and error and can only be flushed out by actually putting it together. Sometimes I win, sometimes I fail miserably but I just keep trusting my instincts and so far, so good.
What is your ideal day?
My ideal day in the garage starts with knowing I only have to build one toy box but have three days to do it. I look at my production schedule, crank up the country radio, manage to drink half my coffee and then leave it there on the workbench for days, completely avoid the laundry sitting by our washer and dryer (which reside in the garage) and discover I actually have everything I need to build the toy box that’s due instead of having to stop everything and head to the hardware store or lumber yard. Obviously, I have to use the table saw and loud tools during the day so sometimes at the end of the day, I drag the half completed toy boxes to my family room where my husband I catch up on Tivo’d shows while I paint or polyurethane. I’ve found that if I watch TV while painting or finishing a piece, it makes it that part of the job, which is admittedly my least favorite, so much more enjoyable. Although sometimes my husband sometimes hates it because I’m always asking, “what just happened?”
name five things that are a constant in your daily routine.
- I never put on a work apron. I typically saw and sand in whatever I have on that day. Which on some days, includes a skirt. No heels, though!
- Country radio playing in the garage. Can’t seem to work without it even though I’m a huge fan of Cold Play, Dean Martin, and The Killers, I just can’t do woodworking without Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash in the background.
- I’ll have to drag my kids to the hardware store and they won’t be happy about it. So I do what all good moms do. I bribe them with candy. J
- I do all of my own invoicing/billing/order taking/email message answering so that is always on my plate. And to those of you who’ve received my messages at midnight, I hope I made sense.
- Stain colors embedded under my fingernails. Always. Maybe one day gloves will be a constant in my daily routine.
who are other favorite etsykids shops?
I love Dandy Social Club (formally eeny meanie) www.dandysocialclub.etsy.com , www.ciuccio.etsy.com (thanks!), www.doodlebugfinery.etsy.com
what is your top piece of advice for other etsy sellers?
My top piece of advice for etsy sellers is to take good clean photos without a lot of background noise and make sure your banner looks professional. Both of these seemed to help me along the way.
tell us something about yourself that we might find surprising.
I cry during patriotic songs. Anywhere. Anytime. I cried last summer during a 4th of July parade when a group of soldiers marched by. I cried during a recent Neil Diamond concert when he sang, “Coming to America.” I generally get teared up when they show planes flying by at warp speed over a football stadium. Don’t even get me started on the Star Spangled Banner being played at, say, a high school football game. I’m starting to wonder if there’s a support group out there for people like me.
Thanks Kiersten, it’s been great getting to know you.