Please welcome Becky Fowler of Harriet's Haven on Etsy. Her delightful designs make ordinary items special. I hope you enjoy her interview.
How has owning and running a business changed you? Is your life better? Worse? More stressful?
Owning my own business has been wonderful in the sense that I get to keep my own schedule and balance the daily activities according to my family's needs - not someone else's. I find that I am free to make my own decisions and am more relaxed and easy-going. My husband and children benefit from that because I am there when they need me, and I am better able to make sure their needs are met. I love that my job is creative and the success of it relies on the time I put into it. The only complaint I have is that there never seem to be enough hours in the day to work on all of the ideas in my head.
I've always had a creative side. I can remember as early as elementary school and making papier-maché birds and watercolor paintings. During the summer months, I created wizard hats, wands, capes and other things out of construction paper, glue and glitter. They were quite impressive! When friends came over, we rode our bikes around the block while wearing my creations. I braided bracelets out of embroidery thread and set up a stand near the road and went door-to-door in hopes of making a sale. I tried to convince my friends that it would be more fun to draw fashion designs instead of playing outside. I loved all of this.
Later on, I continued art classes in high school and took a couple of photography courses in college. It was evident that a creative lifestyle was my calling, but it wasn't until 2008 when a friend told me about Etsy that I realised there was a global marketplace for people like me. By that time, I was ready to leave my bank teller position, so I began working on product development almost right away.
What is your niche? What sets you apart? Why did you choose that niche?
My products have fallen into an eco-friendly type of category and are perfect for people concerned about our environment. Even though all of my products are made from new material, they are made from natural cotton and burlap. They serve the purpose of replacing costly and wasteful products such as plastic sandwich bags and brown paper lunch bags. My draft dodgers serve the purpose of cutting energy costs and blocking drafts caused by poor insulation. My new line of clothes pin bags reinforce the importance of saving energy and line-drying clothing when possible. There are items similar to mine on the market, but my products are unique in that they are all meticulously stenciled with one of my original designs. The designs are either nature-inspired or kid-friendly and appeal to many tastes. As I have gotten older I have become more aware and concerned about environmental issues, so I feel it is important to incorporate eco-friendly items into our everyday lives. Since I enjoy making the products, it has been a pleasure to offer them to others.
What inspires you creatively? Do you think you will go off on a tangent and change things, or do you prefer to keep things the same?
Many things inspire me, but if i had to choose 3 things, I would say my children, nature and travel. I am constantly amazed at what my kids accomplish and I especially enjoy seeing what my oldest (age 5) creates. When she finishes a piece of art work, I can visualize how she interprets an idea. Both of my children seem to have a bit of musical talent which they get from their dad, so I can't wait to see how that develops through the years. Many ideas come from nature and things seen while traveling, especially color, shape and formation of objects.
I love what I do, so I will continue on this path, but I plan to offer more choices in design and product. I'm still working on adding all of my clothespin bags to my shop, and I plan on adding another line (to be announced) before the end of the year. Because I love photography, I have prints available in another shop: legendsphotography.etsy.com. And to round everything out, I love searching for vintage items, so I have began offering them for sale in this shop: nobodysdarlings.etsy.com. In this shop, there will soon be handmade products made from vintage fabrics and other repurposed objects to fill my need to create with other media.
What piece of advice do you wish you had, when starting your business?
I guess the biggest piece of advice I wish I had would be about the financial part of running a business. It's easy to keep records of purchases and sales, and I do have a little background in accounting, but I still find tax time to be stressful. Other than that, I wish I would have paid attention to those who told me to keep at it. I wasted too many years at various jobs that I was unhappy with. My mom would often tell me to keep creating, crafting, and photographing. A few years after high school graduation, I was approached by my art teacher and she was disappointed that I hadn't followed the creative path at that time. But because this has finally happened, I am truly grateful for the support of my husband and family and friends and all of my wonderful customers.
I am Amy Kalinchuk: a craft writer, author and publisher in Denver, Colorado. I help crafters to become better at their business through consultation, writing, website critique and editing, and marketing. If you are interested in taking your craft business to the next level of awesome, email me: amy at crafte-revolution.com