Meet the Maker – Megan Eckman of Studio MME

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know the amazingly talented Megan Eckman, who produces a line of DIY embroidery kits using her own designs out of Vancouver, Washington. Welcome, Megan!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

Megan: My initial leap was more of a shove. In order to pursue dual degrees in art and creative writing, my mother required I start a business before I graduated. I set up Studio MME in my senior year and I sold prints of my illustrations.

After I graduated, I moved to Silicon Valley and had to get a part-time job at Borders to pay rent. Eight months later, Borders filed bankruptcy and I danced out their doors determined to take Studio MME full-time and never work for anyone else again.

For the next year, I struggled trying to sell my prints. Then one night I stitched one of my illustrations onto scrap fabric and shared it on Facebook. The next day, I had tons of people asking if there was a pattern they could sew. With a terrifying leap, I switched over my business to that of embroidery kits and ever since it’s been a crazy ride upwards.

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Megan: I wanted Studio MME to be an alternative to the 1950s patterns still sold in craft stores and the punk offerings of Sublime Stitch. I wanted to be defined by my whimsical illustrations that I converted into embroidery patterns. I knew the way I created my designs wouldn’t make them extremely popular with those who were Master Embroiderers (yes, that is a real title you can earn) or those who loved the traditional Day of the Week patterns. Instead, I wanted to give people not yet into embroidery a new way to relax after work and feel creative.

 

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Megan: I create approachable embroidery for modern stitchers. I flunked my grandmother’s lessons so there are no fancy stitches in my work. I believe that crafting should be fun, not frustrating, so each kit is designed to be finished while relaxing in just a few hours. Sometimes I test the designs by having a beer while I sew. If it turns out looking fine, then I know it’s a good pattern. I’m all about initiating new people into this craft in the least intimidating way possible.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Megan: You can find Studio MME kits online at http://www.studiomme.com and http://www.etsy.com/studiomme. In person, you can find them in 70 shops across the country. I have a full list of my retailers here. Also, in just a few months, you’ll be able to find my work through DMC’s CommonThread line!

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Megan: Each day of the week has specific tasks. Mondays are admin days so all outstanding issues are handled, product copy is tweaked, etc. Tuesdays are photo shoot days. Wednesdays are play days, where I draw new designs and sew. Thursdays are wholesale days, where I find new shops, check in with existing shops, and hunt down those who haven’t responded to my pitches. Fridays are media days where I find and pitch blogs and magazines. Saturdays are another play day and then Sunday is OFF.

I’m up at 6am every day and amuse the cat for a bit. Then I work out and have breakfast. The ‘work’ doesn’t start until 10am. I work from10am to noon each day and then cook the ‘big meal’ with my husband/business partner. We’re back at work from 2pm to 6pm. After a short break for supper, we are back at it until 9pm. Everything gets shut down at 9pm no matter what. Then I read a book, watch a movie, paint, or just amuse the cat some more.

 

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Megan: 1. Will your product be profitable? I get new ideas all the time, but over half of them never make it past the initial burst of excitement because they don’t pass the profitability test. If I can’t make a profit from it, I’m not going to invest the time and money to make it. Be sure you run the numbers before you start buying supplies or website URLs.

2. How long do you/can you make things yourself? I’m the proverbial gym teacher: Those who can’t craft, make kits. I outsource much of my sewing now to my super fans who stitch up shop displays for me or test out new patterns. It’s important to consider how much you LOVE doing something yourself with your hands and how long you can physically do it without injury. By letting those who truly love to sew (and who are much better at it than I am) do that task for me, it allows me to grow my business more than if I did everything myself. Build an ‘escape route’ into your business plan that allows you to hand off certain physical tasks when you reach key milestones.

3. File correctly. I know this is really unglamorous, but filing your business correctly both legally and financially makes a huge difference. Not only do you perceive it as a business with a capital B, but you don’t get bit in the butt later by back-taxes or fines from your city and state.

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Megan: I get overwhelmed frequently because I have some anxiety issues. When I start to feel panicky, I go for a long walk. I live just a block from Fort Vancouver, the end of the Oregon Trail, and I wander around the barracks and parade grounds till I realize how lucky I am to be able to do that any time I like. If that isn’t enough, I go to the place where I board my cat on vacations and pet the cats there for an hour. Free therapy is sometimes the best therapy.

 

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Megan: 1. I hired my husband. In 2015, I took on my husband as a contractor. He has an MFA in photography so I set him to work shooting EVERYTHING. Instagram pictures, product shots, magazine shots, head shots, lifestyle shots, etc. You name it, he photographed it. With his new photos, we doubled our income that year. I had no idea professional photos could make that much of a difference.

2. I started selling just parts of my kits. I had lots of customers tell me they loved my kits but they already had so many supplies that all they needed was the fabric. We added pre-printed fabric to our product line and now we make about a quarter of our sales from that simple product. We’re now going to start up a club for our super fans where each month the fabric arrives at their door, ready for them to sew. Sometimes giving the people what they ask for pays off.

3. I cold-email shops like nobody’s business. Every three months I cold-email between 100 and 200 shops to pitch my kit line. I used to worry that I was being annoying or pushy. Now I know that they love seeing new work that they don’t have to go out and find for themselves. I always do the research to ensure I’d be a good fit first.

I’ve also learned that just because you don’t hear back doesn’t mean they don’t want your stuff. It just means they’re busy or it’s not the right time. I cold-emailed a ‘dream’ shop for 2 years before they emailed and said, ‘We’ve been in love with your stuff for years and now we’re finally ready to carry it!’

 

LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?

Megan: Last October, my oval embroidery hoops suddenly stopped being available. All shipments from Thailand were halted and no one, I mean NO ONE, could get their hands on more. So, two months till Christmas, there I was, completely changing more than half of my product line to take a circle hoop instead of an oval one. I had to re-sew every piece, photograph it, make new kit papers, tweak the designs, and explain the change to all of my shops (who had just placed their holiday orders). I don’t know how I did it, but I got all 26 designs changed over without a hiccup or delay in shipping.

I’ve learned now to do more research into my supplies and have a ‘battle plan’ in the event that something gets discontinued, held up in a port strike (which has also happened), or jumps significantly in price.

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Megan: I hope next year to contribute to the World Wildlife Fund, since so many of my kits feature animals.

 

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Megan: 1) Adobe Creative Cloud – My partner and I can share everything instantly between our computers.

2) Dropbox – I love being able to go on vacation knowing I can send out line sheets, update Instagram, and give blogs the images they want without having to lug my laptop around.

) Trello – Not only does this project manager allow my partner and me to divide things up by day, week, month, and quarter, but it has saved me a veritable fortune on Post-It Notes. If you’re a visual person like me, you’ll love this free resource.

 

LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Megan: You would see Studio MME kits sold in every state in the US, as well as in Waldorf schools to teach life skills to kids. Studio MME would have a team of employees, including a packer and a wholesale manager, allowing me to simply be in charge of design. And me? Well, my husband and I plan to roam around the country in a van with our cat for several months each year, being inspired by our surroundings.

 

LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

Megan: Korean rice bowls.

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Megan: This is embarrassing, but my playlist is full of musicals. When my partner isn’t in the studio, I sing along while I work.

 

Megan Eckman of Studio MME

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Megan: On Sundays, I lie in bed for two hours and just do crossword puzzles.

 

LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?

Megan: Pack my kits. I’m looking at hiring seasonal help this year because packing kits from sun up till sun down for two months straight is no way to enjoy the holiday season.

 

LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

Megan: “Nothing is impossible, just highly improbable.” ~ Douglas Adams

 

LBC: If you were given a million dollars, but were not allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, friends or family, how would you spend it or give it away?

Megan: I feel like I’m channeling Bob Barker now, but I would give the money to the Humane Society so that it could pay to trap and spay/neuter as many stray animals as it could. It breaks my heart knowing so many have to rough it outside without a lap to sleep/drool in.

 

Thank you, Megan, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Studio MME, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Meet the Maker – Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

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Today in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know the lovely Amanda Wright, who runs her perfectly witty-pretty stationery company Wit & Whistle from home in Cary, North Carolina.  Welcome, Amanda!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

Amanda: I started Wit & Whistle because I needed a creative outlet. I was working as a graphic designer at a design firm, but my work wasn’t giving me the freedom I craved. Logos, annual reports, websites, and stubborn clients were holding me back. I felt like I needed a big change, so I made one!

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Amanda: I didn’t have a vision when I started my business, which probably isn’t a great way to start out. I only knew that I wanted working to be fun. I took it a day at a time without a big plan—tweaking and slowly growing my business as I went.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Amanda: I create witty and whistle-worthy greeting cards and paper products. My work is pretty with a touch of unexpected crassness.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Amanda: You can find my products online at witandwhistle.com and at a bunch of brick and mortar shops around the country.

 

Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Amanda: I recently had my first baby, so my typical work day routine has been thrown out the window. These days I frantically try to cram a full day of work into nap time and the few hours I have after the baby goes to bed. I’m not getting much done, but my shop is open, and I’m keeping up with orders. So I’m content with that for now!

BEFORE parenthood, my typical workday was dreamy! After breakfast, I made a cup of tea and headed to my basement studio. In the morning I shipped orders, replied to emails, sent invoices, and reordered supplies. I reserved my afternoons and evenings for fun creative things like working on new designs, taking photos, brainstorming, and writing blog posts. Those were the days!

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Amanda: Remembering that I’m the boss! I chose to do this, and I can make Wit & Whistle into whatever I want it to be. If I’m not happy with the way things are going, I can change them.

I also remind myself that my business has peaks and valleys. If I’m overwhelmed with work, I just need to power through until I hit a slow period. Ahhh, sweet summertime… when they are no card-giving holidays!

Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Amanda: Starting out selling on Etsy was a great decision for my business. Many potential customers (both retail and wholesale) constantly search Etsy. It was much easier to be found and gain recognition there than it would have been starting out with only my stand-alone website from the beginning.

Building a relationship with a trusted local print shop so I could outsource my printing was also a great decision. For the first few years in business I printed all my cards myself, but it got to be too much for me to handle. I was always printing, cutting, and folding when I really wanted to be designing. Picking up boxes of freshly printed and folded cards from my printer is the best feeling! It frees me up to do more of what I love.

 

LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?

Amanda: I’ve grown my business so incredibly slowly that I haven’t made any massive mistakes (thank goodness). Several years ago I decided to expand my line and introduce a collection of home goods. I spent a good chunk of money screen printing large quantities of tea towels and printing custom fabrics for pillow covers. My pillows and tea towels weren’t total failures, but they definitely didn’t become customer favorites. Since then I’ve been slowly selling out of my home goods. I’ve realized that my customers love Wit & Whistle for the witty paper goods, so why reinvent the wheel?!

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Amanda: I support Water for Good (they drill and maintain wells in the Central African Republic) and the local North Carolina food bank. There’s nothing like helping others in need get the basics—food and water!

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Amanda: My sketchbook, Adobe Illustrator, and Wave Accounting.

 

LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Amanda: I honestly have no idea! I’m going with my “take it a day at a time” plan for now. There may be more babies in my future, in which case Wit & Whistle will be coasting for the next few years while I savor this phase of life. Maintaining the business has helped me stay sane and feel like myself as I adjust to motherhood, so keeping the shop doors open one way or another is important to me.

 

Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

 

LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

Amanda: Warm-from-the-oven, gooey-in-the-middle chocolate chip cookies. With milk. (I’m a total chocolate chip cookie snob.)

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Amanda: Regina Spektor. Pretty sure I have all her albums. I also love Rubble Bucket. Oh, and Parov Stelar.

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Amanda: I can’t control my self around desserts. If I make a pan of brownies or a batch of cookies, it will be gone within 24 hours. I’m a monster! I have to limit myself to making those single-serving mug brownies.

 

Amanda Wright of Wit & Whistle

 

LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?

Amanda: Cleaning the grout in my bathrooms. Grout is the worst.

 

LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

Amanda: Today my favorite quote is: “Don’t panic, and it’s amazing what you can do in a day!” —Rhea Thierstein

 

Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Wit & Whistle, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Meet the Maker – Paul Ocepek of Modern Moose

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

 

Today in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know the amazing Paul Ocepek, who runs his handmade business Modern Moose from a bustling workshop in Wrentham, Massachusetts. Welcome, Paul!

 

LB: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

Paul: Probably age. It may sound like an overly simplistic answer, but we all reach a certain point in our lives where we need to decide to fish or cut bait. I was self-employed for about 12 years running a home-based product design consultancy and began growing bored creatively. I have always had side projects or ideas that I would work on in my off-hours. I finally just reached a point where I felt I needed to pick one of my side projects and make it my main focus.

At the time I was really interested in laser cutting and had done quite a bit of research into what types of products I could possibly create using this technology. I was also exploring flatbed inkjet printing on to wood substrates. Between these two technologies I knew that I would be able to create a unique, scalable, and nimble production process to make my creations. Sooooo, I bought a commercial printer and a laser and set them up in my basement. As I like to say – most guys buy boats or motorcycles during their mid-life crisis – I bought industrial equipment.

After about a solid year of product development and refining the production process I felt ready to introduce my creations to the world and sent in a very large check for a booth at the NY Now Gift Show. This was back in 2011 and every day has been an adventure since.

 

LB: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Paul: Honestly, I don’t think I spent too much time thinking about this. I guess I was hoping to be defined by my ability to create original, well-made products and deliver them on time to retail. I was certain that the whole process would be evolutionary and eventually I’d find my sweet spot. I knew that I was looking for customers who would appreciate modern, fresh and affordable decor products that were made in the USA.

 

LB: How would you describe what you create?

Paul: Modern Moose is about fun, well designed and affordable home decor products that are locally manufactured in the USA. “Produced in Mass Not Mass Produced” is our motto.

 

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

 

LB: Where can we find your products?

Paul: Modern Moose products are available online and through various brick and mortar retailers. The majority of our business is wholesale – we sell to quite a wide variety of shops, including: book stores, toy stores, gift boutiques, hospital gift shops, museum gift shops, furniture stores, and even a few ice cream shops! We also have numerous international accounts and a distributor in Canada.

 

LB: Walk us through your typical work day.

Paul: I get into the office around 7:00am, before other employees arrive, and try to spend the first hour of the day doodling in my sketch book and doing some design-thinking. I really enjoy this quiet time and usually feel most creative earlier in the day.

Following my quiet hour, I start answering email, downloading web orders, and generally planning on what has to go out the door that particular day. When my team arrives, I am able to step back a bit from the production side of things and concentrate more on the tedious but critical tasks of bookkeeping, supply ordering, customer relations, etc. This takes up most of my morning.

After lunch, I try and concentrate on business development, exploring new design ideas, and social media.

Then there are days where I don’t do any of the above, and spend my time trying to fix a broken compressor, troubleshoot a printer that’s not working properly, or drive around trying to find vacuum filter bags for a sander. Life in a production facility is rarely dull and there are times when I feel like I’m waiting around for the next thing to break. Luckily, we have very reliable equipment, and the nightmares are few and far between. (I’m sure I just jinxed myself by typing that last line.)

At the end of the day, I usually check up on all of our equipment and make sure that we’ll be ready for the next day’s activity. I also review what has been shipped and go over our sales numbers. If time allows, I will squeeze in some reading or maybe a podcast on small business, e-commerce, or entrepreneurship.

 

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

 

LB: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Paul: 1. Do you have a product that people want to buy? Can you change it if they don’t? Sounds simple enough, but the market – and retail especially – is a fickle beast. This I have learned firsthand.

2. Can you sell your product at a fair price and make enough profit to sustain your business? I mean real profit. Enough profit to cover employees, equipment, insurance, taxes, leases, trade shows, advertising, sales commissions, etc. To this day, I’m still a little shocked at how fast money seems to fly out the door.

3. Are you willing to sacrifice to make it happen? You will need more time, more money, more patience, and more resolve than you ever thought possible. It will also be the most rewarding and fulfilling thing you’ve ever done.

 

LB: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Paul: Fresh air and fishing, and a cold beer never hurts.

 

LB: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Paul: Buying my first couple pieces of equipment back when I still had my consulting business. The extra revenue stream at the time really helped to absorb some of the costs of a start-up manufacturing business.

Switching materials after 2 years of production. My first products were built like tanks; the wood I was using was too thick and cut very slowly. Therefore, throughput was slow and product costs were too high. I switched to a thinner, more appropriate material, and increased output by 4X. Obviously, this reduced our wholesale price and we were able to hit a much more desirable price point.

Making good hires – a good employee is worth their weight in gold. I have a few early hires that are still with the company, and we would not be where we are today without them.

Hiring good sales people – we use 2 fantastic rep groups that have been essential to our growth.

 

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

 

LB: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?

Paul: Due to fairly rapid growth and the expenses that come with it, we found ourselves in a bit of a cash flow pinch about a year ago. Fortunately I was able to acquire a line of credit from a local small-business-friendly bank. I’m constantly reminded of a quote from Albert Boateng: “An idea begins the journey of an entrepreneur, but cash flow ensures it continues.”

 

LB: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Paul: We love dogs and are huge supporters of pet adoption and our local animal shelter.

 

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

 

LB: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Paul: 1. Shopify – can’t recommend this e-commerce platform enough.

2. Stitch (stitchlabs.com) – this is our online order management software. It’s simple, nice UI and integrates seamlessly with Xero – our accounting/billing software.

3. Xero – see above.

 

LB: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Paul: Hopefully you’ll see managed growth. A few new product lines, a lot more designs and more retail customers. We’d also like to continue to increase our presence on the web. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

 

LB: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

Paul: Buffalo wings and extra blue cheese.

 

Paul Ocopek of Modern Moose

 

LB: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Paul: Sneaking a few minutes here or there and doodling in my sketchbook… except when driving. 😉

 

LB: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

Paul: “A year from now you will wish you had started today.”  – Karen Lamb

 

LB: If you were given a million dollars, but were not allowed to keep a single penny for yourself, friends or family, how would you spend it or give it away?

Paul: I would start a creative project to get kids more involved in doing things with their hands. School shop classes have all but been eliminated, and we’re losing our ability to build things, use tools, and work with different materials. Our skilled workforce is rapidly declining in this country and I think it’s a big problem – especially if we expect to bring back manufacturing jobs from overseas.

 

Thank you, Paul, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Modern Moose, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Meet the Maker – Wynne McCormick of Crowns for the People

Meet the Maker - Wynne of Crowns for the People

Meet the Maker - Wynne of Crowns for the People

 

Today in our Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know the lovely Wynne McCormick, who runs Crowns for the People from her studio apartment in Brooklyn, New York. Welcome, Wynne!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

Wynne: Turning 40, feeling physical pain going to my corporate job, and receiving some surprise money (yes, that happened) all in the same year. I had been hand-making crowns for girlfriends, turning 40 around that time, and was simply ready to start a grand new experiment.

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Wynne: I originally wanted to make crowns that I myself would want to be given. I love textiles, tailoring, and embroidery, and I thought that I could project different ideas onto a single form – that is, the crown. I thought a business that sold nothing but crowns was a very whimsical and unique idea, albeit niche. Another twist was that the crowns are geared towards adults, acting as a temporary reprieve from adult seriousness and real life.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Wynne: I create beautifully tactile, emotionally intelligent, and boldly thoughtful, tailored crowns for people who seek meaning, connectedness and fun through their gift-giving. My crowns help make visible all of the moments in life, small and big, that deserve notice and celebration.

 

Meet the Maker - Wynne of Crowns for the People

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Wynne: At my site www.crownsforthepeople.com (all of the crowns ordered directly from my site arrive in a beautiful red shiny box tied with a bow!) Some of my collections can be found at Amazon as well as several retail locations in the U.S. and internationally (I can say that now that I’m selling in England and Mexico as of July 2016!)

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Wynne: I am up by 6am most days. I reserve my mornings for my labrador, Drummer. We are out the door by 6:45am and off to the park. And then, the rest of the day is totally dependent on what is pending i.e., a trade show coming up, bills to pay, etc. I try to do most administrative tasks (which are endless) in the morning. Anything creative is done later in the day.

 

LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Wynne: 1 – Take “the good opinion of others” in stride. Everyone thinks that they know. Everyone. The “shoulds” that will come at you will be breathtaking. For me, this endless exercise of filtering advice, absorbing some and discarding some, strengthened my ability to stay centered in what I was doing. It’s important to be tested and this will test you.

2 – Pay attention to those in the “arena.” These are the folks to watch and learn from. They understand how much work is required and they understand the holy act of putting yourself out there. Those who are not in the arena, don’t have the same understanding and wisdom.

3 – You need some cash. It costs money to make stuff, but it also costs money to sell stuff. It’s good to have some cash flow at the ready because there will be plenty of unexpected costs. You don’t want to have to compromise too much and you don’t want to have to stop too early in your journey due to lack of money.

 

Meet the Maker - Wynne of Crowns for the People

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Wynne: Lists and a schedule. I am a planner. I call it my choreography. Just staring at a schedule will make me feel more in control. I schedule deadlines, but I also schedule tasks leading up to the deadlines (very important). It’s as though I need to have my left brain take over, because it tends to be my right brain that gets overwhelmed. Once I have a new version of the latest list and schedule, I can choose to tackle the endless small tasks or I can go deep into a project without fear that I’m taking my eye off the ball.

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Wynne: 1 – To keep going. It’s been a perilous journey in some ways and I always leave the option of quitting (shame-free!) on the table but the act of persistence and the gifts that show up as a result has been my greatest teacher.

2 – To not rent a studio (yet). Low overhead is everything. I live in a studio apartment with a labrador, and it currently doubles as my office/studio. It has required me to make some compromises – i.e., any extra space is utilized for fabric, inventory, and all other supplies -but it has allowed me to avoid very real rental costs.

 

LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?

Wynne: When i first started doing trade shows, my crowns were over-priced for the wholesale market, and yet I did it anyway. I did it anyway because I had hope that there might be some buyers, and that I might get some sense of the market by putting myself out there. Buyers showed me a lot of appreciation, but not a lot of sales. As a newcomer, it was really demoralizing, and I did not expect the shock and horror of buyer sticker shock as they walked by my booth.

By the end of the first day of the second show, I decided to have a new objective for the remaining four days of the show. Instead of sales, my goal would be to educate myself in manufacturing overseas in order to solve my price point issue. I had tons of conversations with fellow sellers (and some buyers) who were well-versed in producing product abroad. By the end of the show, I had a new manufacturer and a new price point.

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Wynne: Evernote – I do everything in Evernote. Everything.

Left brain desk/Right brain desk – I got this idea from Austin Kleon (author of “Steal like an Artist”), I found myself driven to insanity when I had to clear off my work table every time I had accounting and other administrative tasks and needed table space. I finally bought a real desk from West Elm where all business is done, and my work table is now dedicated to design and making. Relief!

A Singer presser – This was a discovery I made while browsing Amazon. I was in desperate need of finding a solution to applying adequate heat to the fusible that I used to line my crowns. An iron simply did not do an adequate job when it came to doing bulk work. The presser was a life changer. Now that I manufacture most of my crowns, I use it to press the crowns before they are sent out via orders.

 

Meet the Maker - Wynne of Crowns for the People

 

LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Wynne: Crowns for the People would be one of the first destinations for people to go to when they are planning to celebrate someone.

 

LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

Wynne: Quinoa with sautéed kale and sweet potato, topped with a fried egg.

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Wynne: Jazz.

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Wynne: Podcasts. I’m a podcast maniac.

 

LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

Wynne: “Kindness is my religion.” – Dalai Lama

 

 

Thank you, Wynne, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Crowns for the People, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

Meet the Maker – Melissa Camilleri of Compliment

Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know the lovely Melissa Camilleri of Compliment. In addition to being an amazing maker, Melissa knows her stuff when it comes to Instagram, and I had the honor of hosting her in an Expert Interview for my Brick House Branding Course. Welcome, Melissa!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

Melissa: It was kind of a perfect storm.  I had launched my business while I was still teaching high school full-time.  I thought it would be a good fundraiser for student scholarships, but I didn’t really have a gigantic desire to be an entrepreneur.  I thought I’d teach forever.

But between May and November of 2012, my personal life was really rocked.  I got divorced, moved schools, moved homes, and then three people in my family passed away unexpectedly.  I was dealing with so much grief and change in such a short amount of time, I took a leave of absence from the classroom to re-establish a new life.  During that time, I immersed myself into my business, learning all I could about e-commerce and trying to make Compliment grow.

Within about 5 months, I was forced to decide whether or not I’d return to the classroom, and I just didn’t feel ready.  I didn’t have a great plan.  I didn’t have a year’s worth of savings to back me up.  It probably wasn’t the most responsible choice I’ve ever made, but it was necessary and really strengthened my faith and my persistence.  The fear of NOT following this new dream was greater than the fear of failing.  So I just leapt and trusted that I’d figure it out on the way down.  That was three years ago and I’ve been hustling to make it all work ever since.

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Melissa: I envisioned Compliment to be defined as a jewelry brand that was about so much more than the jewelry.  When I first started, I didn’t know any other jewelry brands that were including compliments or mantras or words of any kind along with their jewelry. I was writing notes to my students who had purchased the first batches of the jewelry I was making, letting them know how proud of them I was.  I’m a natural encourager, and this brand was just an extension of me.  It was intuitive, but not yet intentional.

So in the beginning I thought Compliment would be defined as jewelry with meaning.  I think it continues to fit that definition, but now that space is crowded and I’ve gotten a little more specific with my branding as Compliment has evolved to include other gifts beside just jewelry.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Melissa: I create “gifts to uplift.”

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Melissa: At www.shopcompliment.com and in independent retailers throughout North America.

 

Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Melissa: I wake up around 6:30 and often while still in bed, I’ll quickly scroll through my emails and social medias to see if there are any pressing issues I need to give my attention to.  I get to my studio/office around 8-8:30 am, make myself a cup of tea, and sit at my computer and begin answering emails.

When my team arrives at 9, we will usually have a quick meeting about what’s happening or on the horizon, and then they go into the production room to make and ship any orders that need fulfillment.  I head back to the computer and work on business development.  Depending on the week, it might be writing newsletters, designing new products, online meetings with clients or contractors or collaborators, or emailing.  I feel like so much of my day is spent emailing now.

Some days we all eat at the office and take a little lunch break together.  Other days, I take my team out to lunch.  I employ high school and college students + college grads who were former students whenever possible and company culture is very important to me, so taking a break and eating together is one way I can foster a tight-knit team.  This together time is sacred to me.

After lunch, we get back to our work stations and finish up projects.  I check up on social medias, get updates on how shipping is going, and help trouble shoot any end of the day tasks, which often falls under inventory issues.  We are still working out a better system for restocking materials!

 

LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Melissa: 1. Do you love what you’re doing so much that you are willing to stick with it – not just when the orders are rolling in, but when they slow down too?

2. How do you view failure? Do you avoid it at all costs? Do you even believe it exists? Are you afraid of it? What is your risk-tolerance?

3. Honestly assessing yourself, do you have a growth or fixed mindset? If you’re someone who is always learning and implementing, vulnerable enough to ask for help when you need it, and confident enough to not attach your self worth to how well your business is doing at any given second, then you’ve probably got what it takes. Starting a business is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a ton of courage to create and stick with it.

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Melissa: Meditation.  Always.  Then, talking things out with my husband.  I’m very lucky.  He’s my #1 supporter, and I’m so blessed to be able to bounce ideas off him.

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Melissa: 1. Listening to my gut since the beginning. I have a very strong intuition and have let that guide me, even when it may have seemed to an outsider that I was doing things in a way that isn’t status quo. I’m proud of my navigation skills into the unknown.

2. Choosing to host my site on Shopify early on. I was an early adopter in December of 2012. I compared a bunch of e-commerce platforms and just happened to like Shopify the best. Now, 4 years later, they have built a much more robust interface with so many more apps to help customize a store. I’m a huge fan.

I’m also a huge fan of my shipping program– Shipping Easy. I can’t say enough about their customer service. For 2 years, I was typing out each address on Avery labels, trekking to the post office each day, and mailing each package individually from the kiosk! Talk about time and money waster! Shipping Easy, paired with Shopify literally transformed SO MUCH for our internal systems.

3. Not following the crowd. I don’t follow a bunch of gurus or care to watch how other gift businesses are doing things, not because I don’t think I can learn from them, but because I know if I spend my time looking at others, rather than forging my own path, I’ll get caught in comparisonitis-mode which halts every creative urge I have. So I made an intentional decision 3 years ago to put on my blinders, and just keep doing what feels good in my own business.

4. Diversifying and bringing more “me” into the Compliment brand. I started off as a teacher but for the first 2 years of my business, I rarely talked about it. I realized that I was leading two separate lives – one as an entrepreneur and one as an educator at heart. In 2015, I had a spark of inspiration and decided to write a short e-course on building an engaged community on Instagram. I was able to now be a teacher in the business world– something that comes really naturally to me. By adding an informational product to my shop, I welcomed a whole new audience to my work, and quadrupled my income in a year. It taught me a lot about how I can combine my own special set of gifts and talents and be fully an educator and fully an entrepreneur at the same time.

 

LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?

Melissa: I don’t really believe in mistakes – just learning experiences.  But one obstacle I’ve faced recently was choosing to do something “for exposure” rather than for the compensation I deserved.  I put my trust in someone who didn’t earn it and I went against what I suspected to be true about this individual.

This experience taught me exactly how I DON’T want to be in my business.  It showed me that business with integrity is everything and that if I’m not aligned in my purpose, and something feels forced, it’s not for me.  This is a value I’ve always had.  But this experience made me really get clear on who I will and will not work with.  It’s ok to say no and the fear of missing out should not ever be a reason to do something.  I’m ok with slow and steady growth if it means that my actions are always aligned with my values.

 

Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Melissa: YES!  The Compliment Scholarship Program!  It’s the heartbeat of Compliment and the reason why we even exist.  We set aside 5% of our proceeds every single day to support educational equity for first generation college students. The opportunity gap in the United States is real and it’s not just about race, but about the haves and the have nots.  My mission is to close that gap, first in  my own community, and then nationally.  My entire career has been devoted to this cause, as I myself am a first generation college grad.  I firmly believe that education changes people– and helps them break free from the circumstances they’re born into.

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Melissa: 1. Gusto for payroll. It’s so easy to use and way less expensive than traditional payroll systems.

2. Shipping Easy (see above!)

3. The workbook I wrote called “In Her Head.” It’s a 30-page workbook I developed based on the exercised my team and I do together before launching any new product, to really figure out who we are selling to.

 

LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Melissa: In a few years, Compliment, Inc. will be a full fledged lifestyle company with two arms – products at www.shopcompliment.com, and education at melissacamilleri.com (which is currently in development).  Our products will be found more and more frequently on the pages of national publications.  Our educational curriculum will be implemented globally and serve hundreds of thousands of learners.

Our scholarship program will be an official non-profit foundation and have multiple companies donating to educational causes nationally.  Our scholarship will be renewable for 4 years and cover the full tuition for at least 10 students.  We will have a mentorship program established to guide these students with resources and community to support them through their undergrad careers.

 

Melissa Camilleri - Meet the Maker - Compliment

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Melissa: Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Janet Jackson, Prince, and Justin Timberlake.

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Melissa: Naps. Long ones.  If I could, I would nap every afternoon for a solid 2-3 hours.

 

LBC: If you could hire someone to do just one thing that you sort of loath doing, what would it be?

Melissa: To follow behind me in the morning and re-hang up all the clothes I pull out of the closet when trying to find something cute to wear.

 

 

Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Shop Compliment, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your company. We’re cheering you on!

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!