If I Can...So Can You
Starting over with a new website has its disadvantages. Or maybe it's a blessing? Whatever the case, I have to start over with my blog. To be honest, I'm okay with that. I didn't do well with my last one. So this gives me a chance to start fresh, like a New Year's Resolution. "I will do better...I will write more often...I will plan my writing out better..." Hm. Who am I kidding? I'm not making any promises, except that I will do my best. That is something you can be sure of if you know me at all. I'm an Enneagram Type 1. That's the "perfectionist" if you didn't know. It's the dedicated and reliable one. I say that with a smirk because it's the thing that drives me to get "all the things" done and do them well. It is that voice in my head that pushes me so HARD and I'm sure my actions have made my family want to run far from me so they can get some rest. (that is one thing I don't do well!). Okay, rewind, this post is not about my Enneagram number or starting this blog over. It's about my story. About how I got started on this crazy and wonderful journey. So let's chat about that. Find a cozy spot, kick off your shoes & grab a cup of coffee so we can talk about real stuff. Like friends do when they sit face to face over coffee. Maybe throw in some chocolate. Because friends do that. They indulge in a little treat together because it makes the time all the sweeter. Right?
Summing up my life would go something like this. I am a 'creative'. I always have been. From the time I was little I'm sure I drove my mom nuts. I collected a lot of strange items and kept things around to project and craft. As a kid, I loved to rearrange my room, make up new outfits from what I had, and set up a store in my room with things all over my walls to purchase. I'm sure my mom loved being pulled into my room to purchase things from me at my little cash register.
That creativity carried on into my married life too. I always wanted to use my creativity in some way. At twenty, I worked hard to make our first place, a single wide mobile home, not feel like a drafty, paneled brown trailer. I painted and papered and filled it with crafted items all in country blue and mauve. Remember now, this was 1988. That's what was in style. I had cows in my kitchen, dried flowers & gave crafted projects as gifts, both because it was fun to do and we were on a tight budget. Later, my creativity and drive to jump into things I had no knowledge of, but was sure I could do, brought me to lead more than 120 kids over 4 years in 3 weeks of outreach each summer. My husband and I planned 8 days of boot camp, followed by an outreach jammed packed with dances & testimonies to 3 states and eventually leading us into Canada. Mind you, I had no experience. I was in my young twenties, I was not a parent, had no dance expertise at all, had never led any group and yet these parents trusted us both to take care of their children.
I am literally putting my hand on my forehead in disbelief as I write this. I don't know how that all worked out like it did. But, I'm telling you it was four marvelous years. Somehow, we were equipped. And somehow, in God's perfect provision, we had some beautiful people surround us and fill in all the gaps that were needed to take care of that many children. And though when I look back now and see how many things I would do differently, I know we did the best we could as 21 year olds. We were hardly older than the kids. But, it worked. And that is how my life has been. Somehow, in my weakness, God has made me strong. In all of my ignorance, somehow things have worked. I'm not kidding. It's been a lot of luck you guys. But, if I told you there hasn't been sacrifice and a lot of hard work, I would be a liar. If you want something, you have to work. I think there is a myth out there right now that says you can have it all. And, that you can have it come easy, so you can be free to do all the things you really love to do. That's a lie. We only have 24 hours a day guys. And we have to sleep, go to work, take care of our family, pay bills, fix food, and do laundry. You know, all the things that need to be done when adulting. But, if you have a dream, if you want something bad enough, you will find out what you can release, at least for a season, so that you can work on that dream. So, let's get back to my story, and see how I got into making State Shaped Pillows.
When my kids were at home, I was pretty much a stay at home mom. I had some 'gigs' on the side to bring in some money, but, it was always something I could do with my kids around. And, it changed from season to season. In 2013, my sons were both in college and living on their own. My daughter was just starting high school and I was in a state of transition. For 21 years, I had dedicated my life to loving and caring for my kids. In 4 years, my daughter would be moving out. What would I do? How would I make it through that? My closest friends either had careers of their own or had younger children. And then there was me. I needed purpose. For all those years, my creativity went into my kids and their activities. What would I do now?
So, this is where my story pivots. This is the 'luck' part. In the summer of 2013, I had someone call me to see if I wanted to be a vendor at a local produce farm for an early Fall event they were having. I was shocked. And I said yes. As I hung up the phone, I thought, who am I to say yes? I don't even have a business. She thought I did. And I said yes. So you might be thinking the logical question we were all thinking. What made her think I had one? Well, we had a mutual friend who told her I would be a perfect vendor. This friend of mine had worked with me the previous year on multiple fundraisers where I set up curated vignettes from my own decor at home. Apparently, she thought I was pulling all these items from my 'store'. So, as in previous "Lori fashion", I faked that I knew what I was doing, because I was sure I could figure it out and I started my business, Little Country Niche.
My first two years, my best friend was my partner and we chalk painted everything we could find and 'garaged-saled' throughout the area to have some cute little things to display on our furniture. Then, she went on to focus on her dreams and LCN took a big pivot. My business changed a bit. I did more small vintage items and went to numerous estate sales. I expanded into different vintage markets up and down the valley here in Oregon. I took risks and really tried to find my niche. And then...my business took another pivot.
In early 2016, my sons were both overseas. One was in YWAM, going to both Australia and India. He was pretty sure he was going to stay in missions for a while. My other son was in Cambodia teaching English. He was preparing me for the life he was going to make abroad. Now, I'm not going to tell you this was easy to hear nor that I was being spiritual and saying how wonderful it was my kids were overseas serving God. I'm going to be real, because this is our one-on-one friend time. It sucked. It was rough. I cried a lot. And I was grieving because I wanted to be the mom who had my kids living close by. I lived next door to my grandmother growing up. That is what I pictured for my life. And now.....I'm losing every plan I had. All my dreams of being a mother and grandmother. And, the real kick in the pants was my daughter was telling me how she wanted to go overseas as well. Let's just say this together, "Poor Mr. Niche....". That's right. He had to live with me. There was not enough attention span in the entire universe for him to listen to all my thoughts swirling in my head and heart at that moment. Poor guy!
So...one day I was in a fabric store. I just happened to see this cute little map fabric on display. I went about my business, and yet my thoughts kept returning to that fabric. And then, on a whim, I decided to get a few yards of it. If you've ever purchased fabric, you know that the typical question as the store employee unrolls the bolt and cuts your piece is, "What are you going to make with this?" Hm....I thought. That's a good question. Why am I buying this? So, I told her, "This fabric was just speaking to me today. My boys are both overseas. It just makes me feel good to buy this."
This fabric was sitting on my craft table a few months until one day an idea came to me, and my first Oregon TAG Pillow was born. I made a few more in other fabrics and planned on having them at an upcoming show. You can see them in the background of this picture. That is me in August of 2016, wondering if anyone will like these pillows. And if they didn't, what would I do with all of them? You might guess, the next pivot was happening.
To my surprise, people did like them. So much so, that two months later, I was asked to consign them in a new shop coming to the area. That was more luck folks. I didn't ask anyone. They asked me. And, that is where the story really unfolds. I guess I should tell you, by the time I had this show, my kids were all back in Oregon. The pillow project helped me over the hump and gave me continuous focus. And it's a good thing too. In 2017, my daughter graduated leaving a big empty spot in my heart. I'm glad I could use my creativity to grow this business. I'm sure I would be driving everyone around me crazy without having this outlet. My kid's bedrooms are all different now. One room houses my sewing machine and all my projects. Another room has racks of pillows adorning one whole wall, besides having a guest bed. The last room has a guest bed, but becomes a staging room when I run out of space before shows.
So, I'm going to tell you some key things I did right. If you are a creative like me, and have thought about starting your own business, listen up. I will save you some trouble. The first thing is, keep good records. Know what you paid for things. Know how much time it takes you to make your product. And, really put some thought into what you will price it at. Subtract your show fees too from what you consider your profit to be. Know how much you are making when it's all said and done. And remember, you will pay taxes on it. Is it worth it? Don't sell yourself short. Don't try to compete with imported goods. I know I just said about a thousand things here. But, this all relates to keeping good records. If you want to be a business, and not a hobby, you need to make money. That's all. And I'm just going to say, I have seen a LOT, and I mean a LOT of creatives and vintage booths selling themselves short. It just grieves me because I know it's because they have no idea. They don't keep good records. Hey, if you're going to practically give things away, give them to people you want to. Okay, I'm done now. Let's move on before I beat that one to death!
Next, invest all your money back into your business. Yep, I said ALL. So, if you need to make money to use on a monthly basis, keep a day job and do your creative business on the side. Trust me, you will thank me later. And, as you grow, trust your gut as to when to splurge. Like, when to do more expensive shows. When to buy business cards, nicer things for your booth, etc. Grow slowly at a rate you can manage.
And last, at least for today, work hard. You will get exactly what you put into it. If you don't put much time into it, it will look like it. If you use inferior products, it will show. If you don't spend time planning and strategizing, guess what, that's exactly what will show to potential customers.
I will be honest, I don't have it all together. I have failed at ALL of these at one time or another. I don't have it all figured out. But I am trying. I am leaving room to grow and know that whether it is State TAG Pillows or something else I'm doing, I will always lead a creative life. Guys, I have winged it so many times. I have delved into territory I know nothing about. Over and over again. For those of you who have known me the last several years, I had never run a show before "Farm Fresh Vintage Market". We just worked hard. And you know what, it worked out pretty well. Things always work out in the end. That's what I tell my kids. And, that's what I want you to know dear friend. If you took the time to read all of this, catch hold of this ONE thing. I know, if I can do it, ME....the person who had no business in 2013 and just created one out of thin air, so I could be a vendor at that produce stand. IF I CAN DO THIS, SO CAN YOU.