Shannon is a writer, designer and adventure seeker based out of the beautiful PNW. She’s a proud fisherman’s wife, and spends much of her downtime curled up with a book and a London Fog in hand. On her working days, you can usually find her working in her studio over at AllyBeth Design Co – where she designs and creates quality stained wooden decor for the modern home.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
Owning a creative company has been something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. While other kids in middle school were joining clubs and hanging with friends, I was taking craft classes at the local community centre and scrapbooking classes at the paper supply store. While I’d previously owned my own bookkeeping and VA company, I knew I found my calling when I began making much of the decor for our 2013 wedding. Not only was there a huge gap in what I was looking for versus what was available to me (hence why I make most of the decor myself), I was also able to sell it all in record time after our wedding was over. I had a particular style that I was consistently drawn towards, and it was apparent that it resonated with others as well! Of course, we’ve changed our style quite a bit since then, but idea has always remained the same – to create quality home decor that stands the test of time, is modern without being too (short term) trendy, and is able to be used both as event decor and home decor.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I work on my business 3-4 days a week, and try to take weekends off to spend with my husband whenever possible (however this changes drastically during the busy holiday and wedding seasons!). It’s important to me to block out actual days to complete my work, as opposed to an hour here or an hour there. I find if I work whenever it is convenient, my personal life suffers and I end up working almost all of the time. It’s important to protect your personal and family life, especially when you work from home! As I manage, design and create all of my products, I block out the mornings for emails, correspondence, organize my outstanding orders and complete various shop management. I try to start my day by 9:00am and break for lunch around 12:00pm. After lunch, I head to the workshop to complete any sanding, staining and painting that is required in order to complete and ship out any outstanding orders. If I have extra time in the evening, I will package up the orders for shipment, otherwise I will do it during my office admin time on the following day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Bringing ideas to life is currently a challenge for me, primarily due to time constraints. I am currently in a place where I need to hire an assistant, however we will be moving to a different town at the end of the year, and I have been hesitant to go through the hiring process only to repeat it again when we move. For the time being, I have been collecting all of my product development ideas in a sketchbook, anxiously awaiting to bring them to life once time allows. For others who are struggling with this, what has worked for me in the past is focusing on one or two new ideas at a time, or if you are absolutely intent on releasing a collection, keep it small (4-5 pieces) to start. It can get incredibly overwhelming very fast, so breaking everything down into small chunks is the best solution. Once you have a few completed ideas, then arrange for a photoshoot, etc, so you collection or new ideas have a cohesive look. I find this really helps to pull the visualization together for online presence.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Accessible interior design + home decor trends. This may not be a trend per se, but I absolutely love that with the insurgence of small design businesses, online shopping, Etsy, etc, regular people now have the ability to purchase items that used to only be available to those with a budget for high-end designs and furnishings. There are more on-trend options available at a fraction of the cost, making it easier for people like myself to recreate looks found in design magazines, but also for me as a seller to get my modern-trend-inspired pieces to others.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’ve removed all emails from my phone – and it was the best decision I ever made. I struggle with being a little too addicted to my phone, which is really difficult when you are trying to run a small business because you have a reason to justify being on your phone all of the time! The problem was, I was checking my emails but I would never be in a position to process or deal with any emails that I was reading. I would always mean to come back to them later, but life would happen and I would forget and pretty soon my emails were getting out of hand. I removed my email apps, and then implemented my morning admin time to tackle any incoming messages regularly, which allowed me to manage my customer service much, much better.
What advice would you give your younger self?
This one is an easy one for me, because I feel like it was a big lesson to learn! Don’t get overwhelmed with grand ideas of what your business should be or look like. While it is a good thing to work towards, you absolutely do not have to be the very best in order to be successful. I used to struggle with feelings of not being good enough to own a home decor business, because I was nowhere near as skilled as the businesses I looked up to. It turns out, you do not have to be. In fact, some of the items I’ve created over the years were huge disappointments to me, but actually sold out of much faster than anticipated. People run businesses at all stages of skill levels, and providing that your marketing and pricing are right, there are going to be customers that are looking to buy at all stages as well. Who knew! So my advice would be, get started. Even if you think it’s not good enough, get started and put it out there. You will probably be surprised at what the response might be.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Instagram is overrated. There I said it – cue the boos! I have been running a small business since Facebook was the place to be. I’ve ridden out the change it made for me when Facebook’s algorithm changed, affecting my business dramatically along with many other businesses I know. I’ve seen first hand the affects of when we put an incredible amount of money and value into something that we actually do not own (or control). I had no choice to adapt, and while Instagram was a part of my initial plan, I have re-evalutated it in recent years once I started playing close attention to where my revenue was coming from. As even the Instagram boss Jenna Kutcher says, popular doesn’t pay the bills, and while my Instagram following was growing, it was getting me zero sales. So I stopped obsessing over my feed, and reinvested my efforts into areas that I know will benefit my bottom line. Instead, I focus on my blog and my Pinterest account, and it has worked wonders for me – but every time I tell people I no longer care (or worry) about expanding my reach on Instagram, they fall back and gasp. It’s an unpopular opinion, but it’s what works for me and I truly believe it would work for many other makers and product business owners out there too!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Practice gratitude! I constantly invest in my business, but the best investment I make every year is the Your Best Year planner by Lisa Jacobs. Every month, there is a section where you record the revenue you earned for each day. It may seem silly (especially because I have an accounting program that tracks all of my revenue), it’s more about gratitude for the money coming in than it is for tracking income. It forces me every day to look at the orders and the people that have chosen to spend their money in my shop, and spend some time being grateful. I’ve consistently noticed that the universe gives me more of what I focus on my energy on, and this is just another way of focusing my energy in the right place.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I am consistently looking at my company from the perspective of my customers and ideal target audience. Whether I’m designing a collection, putting together my pop-up shop display or designing an add, I want to make sure the way my brand comes across is well suited to their taste and their lifestyle. I know what catches my eye when I’m browsing online, and it is usually because I feel that the company marketing to me, really gets me. I feel like their people, so of course I would want to purchase what they’re selling. I always try to recreate that feeling for my customers, because it feels good. In fact, I’ve had people come into my booth and exclaim, I love it all, I so belong in this booth, can I just move in. It’s honestly the best compliment I could receive.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I wasted a lot of time and money trying to break into the retail market through consignment agreements (instead of wholesale agreements). I accepted any shop that would carry our products, and as a result lost money and product due to poor shop records. I now thoroughly research new retail locations, and accept wholesale-only contracts with full payment within 15 days of delivery.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Digital mockups or a digital mockup creation service! As a product business owner, I design a ton of different products, but I do not have the time to photography them all in the exact style that I want. While there are a ton of beautiful mockups for mugs and t-shirts, many other in-demand products do not have as much of a variety of good quality styled photos (i.e. tote bags, makeup bags, coasters, etc). Another issue that I run into is that my wooden signs are unique, so I’m not going to find any mockups for those available to me. What I would love is a company that has a beautiful aesthetic, to offer a service where I can mail them different sizes of my blank products, and they create a number of mockups for me. I know there are so many other product businesses out there that would absolutely use a service like this.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently purchased shelving units for my office to store my inventory in a more organized manner. I can now make 5x as much product ahead of time to have ready to ship when orders are placed. This is a game changer for me!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I use lots of different software programs and web services that have changed how I run my business, but my favourite by far is Canva. When it comes to creating Pinterest graphics, I often feel graphically challenged. I can design beautiful designs for my own signs, but ask me to make a social media graphic from scratch and it takes me literally days. I subscribe to the Canva Professional program, and use it regularly to create eye catching Pinterest designs, Facebook ads, and even Etsy shop headers. Their templates are sleek, easily editable and the whole program is a dream to use – especially for those who do not use Photoshop or Illustrator regularly.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. It’s quiet a few years old now, but it entirely changed my outlook on the plans I originally had for my future, and shifting the way we view security, following our dreams and making things happen. He also has a number of other books such as The $100 Startup that I also highly recommend. His philosophy is fascinating and very geared towards self employment and small businesses.
What is your favorite quote?
Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do. Rumi – It can be easy as a small business owner to get wrapped up in the numbers, but as a creative business owner, my business is dependant on my inspiration. This quote hangs in my office and reminds me that I am creating and bringing beautiful things to life for others to gift and enjoy. If I’m to creating inspiring pieces, I must also be inspired and lead by things that I love.
- Identify your trouble areas and set a routine to help you manage them, like removing emails from your phone and designating time to tackle them during admin hours.
- Believe in yourself and put yourself out there before you’re ready. There are customers out there ready to buy from you, regardless of the stage you are currently at.
- Use a program like Canva to create professional, eye-catching graphics if you struggle with creating them on your own
- Take time to analyze where you are spending your time online versus where your revenue is coming from. Focus your energy where it makes the most difference to your bottom line.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.