Meet the Maker – Luke and Abby Hatteberg of Wayfaren

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Luke and Abby Hatteberg of the beautiful up-and-coming brand Wayfaren. We had the pleasure of meeting this husband and wife team via their membership in our Wholesale Matchmaker program, and have completely fallen in love with the beautiful aesthetics of their product line. We’re thrilled to go behind-the-scenes with them today to learn a bit more about how they tick. Welcome, Luke and Abby!

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as entrepreneurs?

Luke + Abby: We feel pretty lucky, because it seems that entrepreneurship found us. Wayfaren started as a creative outlet spurred on by our love for travel. Slowly over the next four years, the business kept growing and expanding more than we had ever anticipated. So thankfully the “leap” wasn’t too scary, each move seemed like the next practical step in our journey. The dream of what Wayfaren could become compelled us to eventually take the dive into self-employment. Also, knowing we would have the opportunity to hopefully raise a family around the creativity, strength, and independence of the entrepreneur world was very appealing.

 

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

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

Luke + Abby: A niche business specializing in high quality, travel-inspired goods, meant to inspire a life of adventure.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Luke + Abby: Currently on our website www.wayfaren.com, as well as Etsy. We are excited to recently be entering into the world of wholesale! So hopefully, you will find our products in retailers across the world soon!

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Luke + Abby: Our products are handcrafted and travel-inspired. Our collections are thoughtfully designed and carefully crafted for the modern traveler, for reminiscing on your greatest adventures and dreaming up new ones everyday.

 

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Luke + Abby: Most days are a wild mess of crafting products and order fulfillment, meetings, new project development, and taking care of our customers. Add a heaping dose of coffee and our baby girl spreading a bit of joyful chaos into all aspects of the business, and that sums up a good amount of our typical work days.

 

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

Luke + Abby: Do you see purpose in your pursuit? Do you have the commitment to see the business through in moments you will want to quit? Are you ok with flying by the seat of your pants…usually on a daily basis?

 

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

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

Luke + Abby: Gratitude. When the overwhelm comes – and it does come in strong waves often when you run your own business – we try our best to get perspective. We take a step back and look at how unbelievably rare this gift is- to have built a successful business in four years, be able to support our family with that business, have the opportunity to provide for a few employees, make our own schedule, be our own boss, help inspire people to invest in the experiences that matter…only by grace, gratitude changes everything.

 

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

Luke + Abby: 1. For us, choosing to make conservative, debt-free investments has brought a lot of freedom and confidence. Although we know it won’t always be the case, only making investments we have the cash for has been a game changer for the financial stability of our business. Although it meant we probably grew more slowly than maybe we “should” have, we have no regrets.

2. Rebranding about 2 years into our journey was invaluable. We changed our name, logo, refined our aesthetic, and made the business much more viable long term.

3.Not giving up even in the most heart-wrenching, exhausting, “I can’t do this anymore” moments.

 

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

Abby: I think our biggest obstacle was thinking that we had to do everything ourselves, in combination with thoroughly underestimating the power and joy of strategically collaborating with other artists. In the beginning we tried to DIY everything, which was both isolating, extremely cumbersome, and pretty discouraging at times. Once we began to let go of having to do everything ourselves and began allowing in other brilliant and beautiful creatives who were truly gifted at different aspects of business (i.e., graphic design, brand development, etc.) we were able to focus on the things that we truly loved doing and the things only we could do.

 

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

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

Luke + Abby: There is! We feel very passionately about the fact that only by grace have we been gifted this business, so in grace we MUST give back to others. In 2015, we began partnering with The Her Initiative, an organization bringing clean water and health & hygiene curriculum to communities in need around the world. We have decided to give 10% of our net revenue to The Her Initiative and we are grateful to partner with such a life-saving, life-impacting mission.

 

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

Luke + Abby: Can we say “our team” three times? Really though, our team is the lifeblood of our operation, the resource we truly cannot do without. Although it’s meant that we make less money, we have always erred on the side of not hesitating to bring others into this team. They’ve brought different perspectives and talent, much needed support, and most of all, fun!

 

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

Luke + Abby: In a few years we hope to be known as the source for high quality, travel-inspired goods. We hope to have significantly developed our travel journal and prints lines through our wholesale program, launch a collection of culturally influenced housewares and furniture, and grown our partnership with The Her Initiative. Dreaming big, we’d love to have a brick and mortar storefront to sell our products and support other small businesses, and even host some local woodworking courses.

 

LBC: Which Lucky Break products products or services have you found most helpful?

Luke + Abby: We first discovered Lucky Break Consulting through Periscope and have forever been changed! Lela’s wisdom and business insight from the scopes alone have been invaluable…pure gold. As soon as she introduced Wholesale Matchmaker, I knew it was exactly what we needed. Having very little knowledge and experience with wholesale, this program was the perfect solution to help us bridge this beginning stage. So much stress and anxiety has been relieved with this program!

 

Luke and Abby Hatteberg - Wayfaren

 

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

Abby: He says sushi, I say coffee.

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Luke + Abby: Currently, Seryn. If you don’t know them, you should.

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Luke + Abby: Playing hooky with our baby girl on spontaneous coffee dates and picnics.

 

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

Luke + Abby: P A C K A G I N G

 

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

Luke + Abby: Our business mantra- “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Mary Ritter Beard

 

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?

Luke + Abby: Anonymously gift it to local families in need- nothing better than secret giving!

 

Thank you, Luke and Abby, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Wayfaren, 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 – Annika Benitz Chaloff of Married & Bright

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re going behind the scenes with the lovely Annika Benitz Chaloff of handcrafted lingerie brand Married & Bright. Annika, whom I had the distinct pleasure of getting to know in person at the Craftcation conference this past April, is a honey of a woman – and I’m tickled pink to introduce her to you as well. Welcome, Annika!

 

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

Annika: About five years ago, I decided to start my own business because I couldn’t find a career path that I was happy with. Rather than endlessly pursue jobs that dead-ended or made me feel trapped, I started a line of children’s and maternity clothing called Expect. That ill-fated business closed at the end of 2014. I was so heartbroken by what I perceived as a failure, I vowed never to go into business again.

In early 2015, I fell into being a handmade business owner when I made a bralette for myself out of leftover materials from Expect. That bra went “viral” on Instagram. I got so many requests for duplicates that I had to open an Etsy shop to process the orders. Suddenly, I was in business again, and invigorated with fresh passion.

As the success of my new business, Married & Bright, increases, I realize more and more that there is no other career I’d rather have. I am, simply put, unemployable. I really enjoy setting my own hours, being free to travel, and creating my own lifestyle. I’m hoping to become a mother in the next few years and I really like the freedom that entrepreneurship affords me when it comes to time spent working and time spent with family.

 

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

Annika: I wanted to create unique lingerie that is designed by women, for women. I wanted to design and market non-intimidating undies for everyday ladies. From day one, it has been my goal to make women feel more beautiful, confident, and positive about their bodies through what they put on it. I believe that the way you look on the outside has the power to influence how you feel on the inside… and truly lovely, fun lingerie makes every woman feel just a little more pretty.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Annika: I make quirky yet delicately handcrafted lingerie that is designed to make the wearer feel wonderful.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Annika: On my website, marriedandbright.com, and on Etsy at marriedandbright.etsy.com.

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Annika: Every day seems to be different and I’m often flying by the seat of my pants, but usually I split my day into three sections: filling orders, marketing, and product development. I strive to get my orders out within 48 hours of receiving them, and since every bralette and pair of undies is made-to-order, I spend a lot of time at my machine.

I enjoy working late into the evenings, and as a result, I wake up late — around 10am. Usually the first thing in my work day is sewing and packing orders to get them to the post office before it closes at five in the afternoon. Most days I’m at the post office at noon, and I swing by Starbucks on my way back home.

Then I dive into marketing efforts, whether that is developing my Pinterest and Instagram platforms, or working with a blogger on an upcoming feature. It’s hard for me to keep from adding new products to my line because I’m always finding new materials I want to work with, so a few times a month, I sew, photograph, and create new listings.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

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

Annika: 1. Think through why you are going into business. If you are doing it just for fun, then it’s not a business. Sometimes, business isn’t fun, but it can be very rewarding even when the money isn’t flowing. I went into business to be in control of my work schedule, income, and lifestyle.

2. Think strongly about the viability of your product. Do a little research about what kinds of products people want to buy, and see if you can supply that. I think a lot of handmade business owners go into business to try to sell something that they enjoy making without considering if people actually want to purchase and own it. This was the downfall of my pervious business; I was making products I enjoyed sewing, but ones that no one really needed or wanted.

3. Consider how much money you want to put into your business and make a plan. It’s easy to get excited about starting a business, but much harder to be harshly honest with yourself when it’s not going well. It’s important to think of it as a business and not take it personally when it’s not going well. I’m not saying to throw in the towel during a slow season, but to just be careful about sinking a lot of money into something without a plan.

 

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

Annika: When I used to get overwhelmed as a kid, my mom used to say, “Just do it bird by bird.” I return to that phrase often when I’m feeling like there are just too many tasks in front of me. I make a list and I break the steps down to super small actions. I think of what needs to be done today and what I can leave for tomorrow. Sometimes it’s as simple as cleaning up my studio so that I have room to cut long reams of fabric, and then laying the fabric out to get cut. Bird by bird.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

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

Annika: Education. Period. When I was running Expect, I refused to spend money on anything besides materials. I’d say that’s the number one reason that business failed. I had no idea what I was doing. When I fell back into business, I decided to educate myself as much as possible about anything related to my field. That included brushing up on sewing skills, and taking online classes about marketing, finance, social media, and graphic design. Paying other people to share their genius with me has been worth it tenfold because of the heartache and frustration it has saved me.

 

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

Annika: Something hard I face almost every day is people writing to me complaining that they don’t think the products I make are for them. It can be really hard knowing that there is an underserved community that I could be selling to, and feeling like I can’t help them. Specifically, women with larger chests feel disappointed that my bralettes aren’t made to support them. I had to realize that, first of all, I can’t serve everyone. No business can. I had to be okay — at least for the time being — with turning away potential customers because my designs aren’t meant for them. Secondly, I had to strongly consider if I wanted to onboard these potential buyers and how I would do it. Since making underwire bra is a complicated, math-heavy (and I’m good at math!) project, I’ve decided to make a long term plan to literally support these women… just not today.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

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

Annika: I’m not sure if there is even a word for this cause, but my current passion is making women feel good about themselves no matter what men think about them. My best friend, Jessica, founded I Dress for Me, which is a movement that sums up my feelings about fashion. Wear what you wanna wear and don’t worry about what your husband, boyfriend, or strangers on the street think about you. Wear a wild outfit, or a short skirt, and forget about what others think. Your sartorial choices are not an invite for judgement, conversation, harassment, or assault. You can check out the movement on Instagram at @idressforme.

 

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

Annika: 1. It might be harsh to call this a tool, but my “biz besties” are a great resource and enormous comfort to me. Having a group of fellow small business owners to bounce ideas off of, or just whine to, has been wonderfully helpful.

2. This may be surprising, but Etsy has been an amazing tool for growing my business, and I don’t plan on doing away with it! Etsy is like one of my employees. She brings in traffic, advertises for me, and streamlines my customer onboarding process. I can’t fire someone who only takes a 3.5% commission!

3. Since I run my business out of my home, having a whole room designated just to Married & Bright has been a really lovely luxury that I hope I never have to do without. Being able to lock the door and get work done without interruption allows me to be as productive as a work-from-homer could possibly be. And being able to shut myself out of the room when the day is done lets me dedicate valuable time to my husband and dog at the end of the day.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

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

Annika: Designing and making my own products is something I hope to never have to stop doing, so as I grow my business, I’m hoping to outsource tasks like marketing, finance, social media, packing and shipping, and sourcing materials. I’d love to have a small team. My loftier, more long-term goal is to one day open a brick and mortar boutique where I can interact with my team and customers daily.

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Annika: 90s pop and musicals. I can’t get enough of those five-part boy band harmonies, and those get-out-of-your-seat-and-do-a-solo kick line tunes!

 

LBC: Share one of your guiltiest pleasures.

Annika: Snarfing down Trader Joe’s Belgium Chocolate pudding straight out of the container while standing in front of the open fridge. If there is another way to eat that stuff, I haven’t discovered it yet.

 

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

Annika: I would seriously love to get someone to do my bookkeeping. I’m decent at math, but something about looking at money numbers makes me queasy, even on a good month! To not have to crunch those numbers once a month would be so so dreamy.

 

Annika Bentiz Chaloff of Married & Bright

 

Thank you, Annika, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Married & Bright, 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 – Josef and Grace of Blue&Grae

Meet the Maker – Blue&Grae

Meet the Maker – Blue&Grae

 

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Josef and Grace, the craftsmen behind boutique brand Blue&GraeJosef and Grace live and work together in the suburb of Teneriffe in Brisbane Australia, and are in the midst of transitioning from working at their day jobs to full time artisans. We’re excited to share their story with you!

 

Meet the Maker – Blue&Grae

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as entrepreneurs?

Josef and Grace: Several years ago Grae dared me to make a camp-sit – a little leather and hardwood camping stool – so I did, and immediately saw the potential in what I had just done. The business was born soon thereafter and we are now in our third year part time. The real leap is happening right now as we strategize our leap from our day jobs to full time artisans. Its a very exciting time for Blue&Grae.

 

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

Josef and Grace: We have always wanted our business to be defined by the quality and robustness of our craftsmanship. It’s never been about being rich; for us, it’s about fulfilling our need to create and staying true to the essence of the materials that we use.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Josef and Grace: We hand-craft a variety of leather, canvas, and denim goods. Every piece is designed and made by us in our Brisbane studio/workshop using age old techniques and time-honoured sewing machines. We use only full grain Australian leather from Australian animals – it’s amazing stuff.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Josef and Grace: In our Etsy shop.

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Josef and Grace: Whilst we are planning and saving for our transition to full time artisans, we both still work full time, so that takes care of our 9-5. The real work starts in the evenings; we are both hardcore night owls, so that suits us. Our golden time for creativity and productivity is 8 ’till midnight. During those hours, you will find us at the sewing machines, cutting materials, updating our Etsy shop, or working on new products. The weekends are reserved for photography, machine maintenance, coffee, and toast.

 

Meet the Maker – Blue&Grae

 

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

Josef and Grace: 1) Try to identify what your strengths really are, and think about how you will deal with your shortcomings.

2) Think about your business’s core values, and then think about how you can achieve these, realistically and ethically.

3) Think about the integrity of your materials and processes. Where possible, we think makers should source their materials in such a way as to protect craft industries and local businesses.

 

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

Josef and Grace: The smell of wood smoke. A long hot bath. A bike ride along the Brisbane river.

 

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

Josef and Grace: I think our best decisions have been around the materials we use. For example, dealing directly with the two Australian tanneries that we use has enabled us to learn so much about their process’s issues and roadblocks. Often we can work together to prevent these in the first instance, and arrive at a better product and a better deal financially for both parties.

Investing in the best quality machines that you can afford is also really important. For us, that has meant buying older machines and restoring them to their former glory. It really is true in this instance: They don’t make them like they used to.

 

Meet the Maker – Blue&Grae

 

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

Josef and Grace: We still dread bad reviews as anyone would, but the more we talk honestly to people about our products, the more confidence we get that we are staying true to our values. You can’t please everyone with your products, and the sooner that is really understood, the better.

 

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

Josef and Grace: We have recently started collaborating with several education centres/craft organisations to share our knowledge of leathercraft to likeminded creative types. Its an enjoyable thing for us to be able to see other people enjoy the making and crating process and hopefully to spark their inner artisan.

 

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

Josef and Grace: Google Drive – Enables us to store our documents in a central location and access them anywhere.

Our chalk board – We put all of our current orders and jobs on a chalk board in the workshop. It helps us to stay focused and prioritize our work (and its cool place to doodle).

Good old notepad and pen – Doodles become ideas, problems are solved, lists are written.

 

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

Josef and Grace: All things being well in a few years, we should both be working full time at Blue&Grae. Our product line will have expanded, and hopefully the relationships we have built with our suppliers and our clients will still be going strong.

 

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

Grace (Grae): Toast. Just Toast.

Josef (Blue): Roasted vegetable lasagne.

 

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

Josef and Grace: “Look for the bare necessities / The simple bare necessities / Forget about your worries and your strife / I mean the bare necessities / That’s why a bear can rest at ease / With just the bare necessities of life.”  -Baloo the Bear

 

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?

Josef and Grace: We would love to create a craft co-operative for the underprivileged, perhaps giving homeless people or those less fortunate than us the opportunities to learn a craft, and produce something that they can then sell to work their way out of their predicaments. Not everyone wants direct charity; just the opportunity to earn their keep.

 

Meet the Maker – Blue&Grae

 

Thank you, Josef and Grace, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for Blue&Grae. 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 – Leela Hoehn Robinson of Native Bear

Meet the Maker - Leela Hoehn Robinson of Native Bear

This week in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Atlanta-based maker Leela Hoehn Robinson, who produces a line of paper goods, home decor, and seasonal accessories called Native Bear. Welcome, Leela!

 

Meet the Maker - Leela Hoehn Robinson of Native Bear

Photo by Tara Ashton

 

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

Leela: In 2011 I was very inspired by the growing maker movement that was happening everywhere. Reading stories about how people were able to quit their day jobs after starting their online craft business was a huge motivator for me. I couldn’t think of anything more fulfilling than designing for myself and generating income through my own brand in the comfort of my own home. At that time I felt the ultimate moment of “success” was going to be when I could work in my pajamas and create my own schedule.

 

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

Leela: Honestly, in the beginning I didn’t really have too much of a vision or plan for how I wanted to define my brand. I was just trying to get the designs on paper and to muster the courage to put them out into the world. A lot of the beginning days of my brand were very much about my own personal development and figuring out what the Native Bear ‘look’ was. I always knew I wanted to keep a very natural aesthetic throughout all of my designs.

 

Meet the Maker - Leela Hoehn Robinson of Native Bear

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Leela: I design paper and home goods that feature my original illustrations and block print designs. I also make custom hand carved wedding invitation stamps for brides to hand print their own invitations. In the beginning I focused mostly on custom stamp making and block printing all of my stationery and textiles, which has gave Native Bear its rougher, more natural aesthetic .

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Leela: You can find Native Bear wares online at native-bear.com, Etsy, or at various shops and boutiques across the country. This season we have started to focus more on wholesale outreach, so I’m happy to say that we are growing our stockist list every week.

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Leela: With one eye open, I wake up around 7:30 and check my email on my phone (a terrible, terrible habit that I intend on breaking soon…) The night before, I will try and make a list of most pertinent tasks for morning so that I don’t let things slip through the cracks. I’m not too rigid when it comes to scheduling my time, but usually I will spend the morning answering emails, creating social media content, and assessing my order load. After some lunch I’ll often have my husband come into the studio to help me with packaging product and getting it ready to send out to stores. If I’m lucky, I’ll have some time during the work day to sketch or tinker with a new illustration, but I usually design at night when I’m able to relax, not distracted by the everyday operations.

 

Meet the Maker - Leela Hoehn Robinson of Native Bear

Photo by Tara Ashton

 

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

Leela: 1. What makes your product stand out? Make sure that you are creating something that sets you a part from the rest, and try to keep your eyes focused on yourself. It’s good to be aware and ahead of trends, but don’t get too caught up in comparing your brand to others.

2. Be ready to work long hours and sacrifice some of that extra social time. It’s worth it! It’s OK to work hard when it comes to growing your dream business, and in the beginning that means staying in when your friends are all heckling you to go out. If they’re good friends, then they’ll understand.

3. Know when it’s time to NOT do all the work yourself. This is something I wish I had understood when I first got started. You should build as much as you can on your own, but as soon as you can start enlisting a little help to make and execute your product, then do it. It will help your business grow if you can free yourself up to work on the more important things like marketing, designing, or improving your product.

 

Meet the Maker - Leela Hoehn Robinson of Native Bear

 

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

Leela: Making a list is always a quick way to find a little zen and get the tasks out of your mind. I also like to leave the studio and take a walk with my dogs or run an errand that has nothing to do with work.

I think it’s always important to remind yourself of what’s most important. While, of course, I want to run a successful business, I try not to get too caught up in the obsession with being busy. Taking time away from the business and enjoying a day of doing nothing is just as important as making checks of the list.

 

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

Leela: A very recent change in the business has been outsourcing with local vendors to print my stationery and tea towel designs. After hand-printing all of my items for the last 3 years, I recognized that this was not a sustainable method of production for growth. My husband has also recently taken on more involvement in the business and helps with packaging and order fulfillment, which has been amazing. Now, I am able to put most of my focus back on designing, and I can create faster turn-around times and even lower prices on certain items for my customers.

 

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

Leela: The biggest obstacle for my business has been the lack of startup funds. Besides the help of a very small crowdfunding campaign a few years ago, I have essentially built everything up gradually on my own. This was one of the reasons that I started to learn how to carve stamps and block print my stationery cards, rather than maybe screen printing. The supplies were affordable and I didn’t need a large studio space to do the printing. The simplified nature of block printing limited my options, but I feel that it ultimately made me a more thoughtful designer.

 

Meet the Maker - Leela Hoehn Robinson of Native Bear

 

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

Leela: My online bookkeeping software, Instagram, and the book titled The E Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. A fellow maker and entrepreneur recommended this book to me and it has completely changed the way I think of my business for the better.

 

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

Leela: I see Native Bear being stocked by international distributors all over the world and throughout the US. Within a few years, I hope to have some full-time employees that can help take on the production and logistical side of the business, and hopefully someone who could assist me with marketing, promotion, planning… a dream!

 

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

Leela: Cookies. Any cookie.

 

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

Leela: Packaging and shipping. I could probably do without that task…

 

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?

Leela: I would love to start a program for young aspiring female – or female-identifying – entrepreneurs to help recognize and develop their vision. I would like to see a program that promoted women supporting women, and that would take in girls who may be financially underprivileged. Through the program, they could have a chance to earn guidance and some startup funds to put their ideas into motion.

 

Meet the Maker - Leela Hoehn Robinson of Native Bear

 

Thank you, Leela, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for Native Bear. 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 – Kacie Fleming of Katya Valera and KV Wishbox

katya valera

katya valera

 

Today in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re getting to know Kacie Fleming of Youngsville, NC, who is the one-woman-show behind boutique jewelry brand Katya Valera. Kacie also runs a crazy-smart subscription jewelry box program called KV Wishbox. Welcome, Kacie – we’re thrilled to have you!

 

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

In 2011, I was browsing Etsy in search of jewelry for my bridesmaids, and I fell in love with all of these clay rose pieces I kept seeing. A few YouTube videos later, I decided I could totally make some myself, and within two weeks I’d ordered supplies, gotten to work, and had ten pieces up for sale in my brand new Etsy shop.

It was all done on such a whim, and I had no idea what I was getting into, or how much I would love something I’d never thought of doing before. But I really am glad I just went with it, because overthinking may have held me back for who knows how long.

My jewelry has become an invaluable outlet for me, as chronic illness keeps me from being able to work outside the home. I started my shop not too long after I became sick but before I’d fully realized the day-to-day repercussions of chronic illness, and my shop has been a lifesaver in many ways.

 

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

Since it started as such a whim, I don’t think I envisioned a whole lot initially. I think I was envisioning elegant yet very affordable jewelry largely composed of those tantalizing clay rose pieces. My jewelry vision has definitely changed a bit since then.

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

At Katya Valera (pronounced KAH-tyuh Vuh-LAIR-uh) you’ll find jewelry with an elegant, vintage-bohemian quality in a wide range of styles. I also offer gift sets of original poetry prints with matching sterling silver necklaces in my 3D Eloquence Collection. As of this year, I’ll also be releasing themed seasonal collections, which adds a new creative element to my work that I absolutely love. But what I’m most excited about is the launch of KV Wishbox, my seasonal jewelry box that lets you get in on the upcoming collection weeks before it’s released!

 

katya valera

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

You can browse my newest and most popular pieces at KatyaValera.com, and all of my jewelry is for sale in my Etsy shop. KV Wishbox is available at KVWishbox.com and in my Etsy shop. The Spring Wishbox will be available until February 12, and the Summer KV Wishbox will be out in May.

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

For several reasons, my work day is definitely not the norm, and it varies based on which design phase I am in. For example, I just completed months of rather franticly-paced work gearing up for my first KV Wishbox and the Spring 2016 Collection. That phase included daily hours of planning and designing, to making the pieces and photographing them (dependent on the sun’s fickleness, for the latter), to wrangling with code to complete the KV Wishbox website. It was definitely my most intensive work period yet.

Now that the Wishbox is released and the Spring Collection is ready for its March 1 debut, my work days are a bit calmer, as I have a couple weeks’ break before it’s time to do it all over again for the Summer Collection.

In addition to all of that, my work “days” tend to take place at far different hours than most, as chronic health problems currently leave me with odd sleeping hours. My work times are often dictated by the whims of my body’s abilities each day/night, so most of my work is accomplished in the evening and night. The flexibility of being in charge of my own business is perfect for my health needs and varying symptoms.

 

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

1) If you can afford it. Of course every business undertaking involves some risk, but really think through how much each piece will cost you, how much you’ll have to charge for it, and if you’ll have the finances to keep it all going.

2) Your business name. As I mentioned, my shop began as a whim, so I started with a name that I had only thought about for a few days. A few months down the road, I realized that it needed to be changed, and I had to go through the trouble of rebranding, redesigning my shop, and getting new business cards, etc. The process was worth it, but it probably could have been avoided.

3) The legal side—licenses and taxes. This type of information oddly seems to be a secret in the world of small business, but it’s important. Find out if your state requires a business license (probably) and if you need to be collecting sales tax and paying that, along with regular income tax (also likely). Your state might have a small business association you can consult.

Tackling this confusing world is the price we have to pay for getting to be small business owners, and you have to do a lot of digging to get answers. But keep calling and asking questions until you know everything that’s required of you—the squeaky wheel really gets the grease.

 

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

Probably my husband. I tell him my problems, and just doing that helps. But I also bring myself back to focus by just doing my best, and then taking a break for a bit. I am glued to my computer probably 80% of the time, and am also a perfectionist with crazy-high standards for everything I do. So when I’m overwhelmed by tasks I need to accomplish, for example, I push through the ones that are most pressing, and then give myself a chance to relax. Then I can come back to my job with a clearer, calmer mind.

 

katya valera

 

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

One would be changing my business name and branding. I know Katya Valera is a bit of a risk in the realm of pronunciation, but I find it’s worth it because it is unique and has so much more meaning than my original name did.

Another has been deciding to offer remakes of my pieces. In the past I’ve made lots of one-of-a-kind pieces, which is fine now and then, but I would run into the issue of multiple people wanting remakes – and it’s harder to build momentum when only one of each design is available. So designing pieces in collections with multiples available has been a great decision.

And I can’t say just yet if it’s been the best decision, but I know it’s definitely been the most exciting and fulfilling creatively: Planning and releasing my themed seasonal collections, and the KV Wishboxes that precede them.

 

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

I made a mistake from the very start that seems like such a no-brainer now, yet is so common starting out: not taking my photos in natural light. Photos are possibly the most important aspect of selling online, and I can’t believe I thought taking them in my bedroom at night would work, but you live and learn. You simply can’t beat natural light.

Browsing other pictures on Etsy and reading online about how to improve my photography really helped, but my biggest improvement has just come from trial and error. I’ve taken thousands of pictures, dozens and dozens of each piece, just to ensure I get five awesome ones. My photographs are night and day compared to what they once were…literally.

 

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

I am definitely passionate about chronic illness awareness, for obvious reasons, and spreading the hope of alternative treatment. Life with chronic illness is very isolating and lonely, because chronic illness – especially at a young age – is not the norm. People also simply cannot understand what they haven’t experienced.

I am just one voice, but I do what I can to share insights into life with chronic illness on my blog in hopes that others will gain a better understanding of the struggles that we deal with, and what they can do to help. I also share what I have learned about the world of alternative treatments and holistic healing, in hopes that those who are suffering will also find the hope that I have found in options I once didn’t even know existed.

 

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

1) My camera, of course, since it’s how I showcase my pieces for the world to see.

2) PicMonkey. I guess I could make it without it, but life would be a whole lot harder!

3) Google. There are few problems or questions I haven’t been able to resolve with a couple of quick searches.

 

katya valera

 

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

I would hope that my seasonal collections and KV Wishbox are in full swing, and I would probably have my jewelry for sale in additional online outlets. I would also love to be having customer-hosted jewelry parties several times a year, as I have done in the past.

 

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

My first reaction is to go with plantains—plantain fried in olive oil and pink salt are out of this world. But the smarter option would probably be chicken, as it offers more variety. Plus, I’m all about meat. Will you smuggle me in some fries now and then?

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Music is one of the few things that I love as much as jewelry, so I constantly have it going while I work. I definitely go in phases of the same artists for weeks at a time, and lately I’ve been addicted to The Civil Wars. I discovered them after the duo had already parted ways, but I continue to be no less heartbroken over it. They powered me through the past few months of gearing up for the Spring Collection and KV Wishbox, along with Joy Williams’s own music. In my book, she and The Civil Wars are not only the perfect background for a happy workplace but also inspire me in my own music. I also absolutely adore Emily West—it’s about time to be stuck on her music again for a few weeks.

 

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

It’s so hard to pick a favorite, but one of mine is Psalm 107:14-16: “He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.”

These verses really blew me away a couple of years ago, for both their powerful imagery and their even more so powerful meaning—I continue to deal with many obstacles, particularly with my health, that are overwhelming and upsetting. But these verses can apply to much more than that, and knowing that God can conquer anything, no matter how huge, is so comforting.

 

Thank you, Kacie, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for Katya Valera and KV Wishbox. 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!