Here we go! How My First Small Business Began!

After about a year of thinking, and hoping, and a little bit of sewing (when I had time, for the people I love) I am finally really trying to make this work.  I am not going back to teaching next year.  Teaching which has been my job, my passion, my love for the past 6 years, plus grad school, plus undergrad.  So it is scary.  And different.  And very exciting.

     Everyone in my life has been asking me, "So, what are you going to do next year?"  This blog is going to be my attempt to answer that, and to share my adventures as I learn along the way.  To be short, sweet and organized about it, I am going to...

  • Work really hard to get Etsy to work for me.  I have been selling my hand sewn and hand embroidered items for over a year, with a grand total of 5 sales.  I am now learning and working on etsy ads, SEO, using Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook to social network for my shop,
  • Sew every day! And embroider most of them!
  • Learn about how to run a business, as small as it may be.  This to me, is the absolute scariest part of the whole adventure.  I was a sociology major, I have a masters in teaching and was a public school teacher.  Business is not something I know about!
  • Go to yoga
  • Walk Lacey and miss Buddy 
  • Garden
  • Watch my three chickens
  • Cook and eat! Yum!
  • Clean (a little)
  • Laugh
  • And right now, try my hardest to get into local farmer's markets to sell my items and meet so many new customers.
     This last one is where the waiting, waiting, waiting comes in.  I spent the first few weeks after school ended sewing and embroidering to try to build up my inventory a bit.  I also forced myself to spend time everyday learning "business stuff."  It went like this: I get my notebook, my favorite pen and my laptop and sit in the window seat with Lacey.

     Smiling, excited, optimistic.  I start reading online business forums through and Etsy seller's handbook.  I excitedly start taking notes on all of the helpful and exciting things I am learning.  About half an hour in I start to get confused.  About an hour and a half in, I start to write things like "ahhhhhh," "I don't get it" and ":(" in my notebook.

     At this point I stop and have a snack, determined to learn some more tomorrow.   I am at a point where I actually feel pretty good about what I have learned, and I know that I will keep learning more every day, probably for a long time through this process, but where I really have to get started on something and can't just sit in the window taking notes for much longer.

    So I started visiting farmer's markets.  Now, here's the thing.  I live in San Diego.  We have a never ending growing season and people really like to be outside.  These two facts add up to about 5 farmer's markets a day!  So there were a few lovely weeks there where for "business research time" every day instead of sitting on my computer taking notes, I got to drive around from market to market, buying delicious produce, tasting samples, meetings friendly people and oh yeah, spending hours trying to find parking spots and get home in rush hour traffic.

   I assessed which markets had a crowd with enough of my target customers (strollers were definitely a good sign), which were in parts of town I wanted to spend time in every week, which did or did not allow artisans and craft vendors, and very importantly, which ones I thought might let me in.  After all this research, I narrowed it down to three markets to contact first.

   Coronado - Beautiful setting, lots of tourists who might want to bring presents back to loved ones,   and some available spaces around the parking lot.  Oh yeah, and did I mention beautiful setting?  So I found the email contact info for the market manager and sent my pitch.  Email returned, address invalid. :(
Alright, lets leave that one on the back burner for a bit.

   North Park - Close to my house, my favorite market to go to as a shopper, lots of young families in the neighborhood, and a community that values hand-made, local, unique.  I sent my pitch at 6:30 on a Monday morning ( I was a little excited, okay?) and got a response only an hour later! The market manager thought my items were adorable and they have an open spot in my category!!!!!

Amazing!! Things are happening!! So excited! This life plan is going to work!

All I had to do was fill out an application and be sure to include my seller's permit and business liability insurance information...


I don't have these things.

So two days of frantic work, lots of internet researching, emails, phone calls and a few Facebook shout outs for help, and I had them both! I did the application, sent it in and... you guessed it. Waited...  It has been 5 days, no word back.  Obviously, I check my email every 7 1/2 minutes.

So on to the 3rd possibility.

     Solana Beach - Farther from home, beautiful setting, lots of tourists ready to spend some money, on a street with multiple wine tasting rooms, cafes and art galleries.  Perfect for an afternoon of a little strolling and buying after some wine tasting.  My kind of customers!  This also happens to be the market where my friend Jennifer (of the super amazing sells vintage napkins and refinished vintage furniture.  The market came highly recommended and I would get to see my friend!  I sent my pitch on Wednesday.  Thursday came the email - we don't have a regular spot available right now, but I might have a fill-in spot available this Sunday, are you interested?

Uh, duh, I mean, yes of course, sounds wonderful, thank you so much! Amazing! Things are happening! So excited! Oh my god, this weekend?

It's normal to have folding tables covered
in fabric scraps and power tools in your
 living room, right? 
So I buy tables, and tablecloths, I make 20 bibs, I am determined to embroider at least 10 onesies, I design 4 new embroidering images for the onesies.  I draw plans for an awesome rack to hold the onesies on the table and convince my husband to "help me" build it.  I decide to embroider "Fun Little Things" on the table cloth.  I change my mind and decide to cut the letters out of fabric and sew them on instead.  I try to buy a cash box, and fail.  I decide to make an awesome cash apron with pockets for different denominations.  I buy rick rack to decorate this awesome apron (because obviously it needs rick rack).  I buy a snap applicator on Amazon (because I really do not want to apply 25 snaps by hand in one day, that whole hammer/ spool of thread thing is just really beyond my talents).  It comes.  It is enormous! I get mad and drive to Joann's to buy the one I really want.

Best invention in history!

All the while checking my email 27 thousand times an hour to hear the official confirmation that she has a fill in spot available.

As I am sitting down to make one more swaddling blanket before picking my husband up from work and forcing him into servitude to the common good of Fun Little Things success, I finally email her. She responds.

No spot this weekend.

So I am sad.  I am mad.  And I know, I know, in the words of my mom, my husband and my best friend - now I am just that much more ready for when some other market does work out.

But here I sit now, waiting and waiting and waiting.  Still checking my email every 7 1/2 minutes hoping to hear from North Park.  Checking my Etsy shop stats (in case you missed it above -  And hoping for things to work out.

A more finished picture coming soon!
In the meantime we did actually build that amazing rack to hold the onesies.

I finished a whole lot of bibs- snaps, tags and everything! I almost finished a beautiful baby blanket (ran out of thread half way through! Argh!) I have embroidered 7 onesies and put patterns on 5 more.  I finally had time to sit down and write my very first blog post.

And yes, yes, I am actually that much more ready for when one of these markets really does work out.

Leave a comment