were you doing when you decided to create your own
I was a professional salesperson -- selling everything including copiers, food, and makeup. In October, I was laid off, along with 24 of my coworkers. It was a surprise. However, to me, this was just the break I was looking for. My new motto is, "Sometimes you need a little shove to do what you love."
When did you start your business?
InkSpot Workshop officially opened in April 2008.
When did you know that you could really make a go of this?
Almost immediately! The orders started coming in like crazy and before I knew it, I was a full-production workshop.
How did you turn your idea/dream into a business plan?
Although I am very analytical, coming from an extensive corporate sales background, I have never made an official business plan for InkSpot Workshop. I have goals and direction for my company, but so far everything has happened organically -- it seems to be working for me.
What inspired you to do this?
I've always had the "itch" to create my very own business; I just wasn't sure what I was actually going to do because I have so many interests. I toyed with the idea of owning my own restaurant for decades -- I even have a Culinary degree. InkSpot was intended to be the name of my future restaurant (I wrote a blog post about it; check it out here.)
The only thing I was sure of was that I wanted to sell something I made. Food was the first thing that came to mind, and I found myself more interested in what the logo, graphics, and packaging would look like than the actual food product.
I got married in 2004, and had a destination wedding on the island of St. John. Back then, I couldn't find the look and feel for paper products I wanted for my wedding, so I designed and made everything -- even the menus. A year later my son was born, and I was having so much fun making his announcement and thank-you notes that I started to think of stationery as a side business.
Then a friend of mine introduced me to Etsy.com. The minute I logged onto the site, my life forever changed. I was intrigued instantly with all of these handmade shops and how easy it was to have your own online marketplace. Within hours InkSpot Workshop was born, and the rest is history.
What was your start-up cost? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
My start-up cost was literally just a laptop computer, paper, and some packaging supplies. Can you believe I started my business on my work laptop? Within a few weeks, I realized InkSpot Workshop was going to be more than a hobby -- if I wanted to keep my day job, I should probably should invest in a separate computer.
Did your friends and family support your dream?
Absolutely! My mother is still my biggest fan! And my husband has been known to line an envelope or two.
How long did it take you to get everything off the ground?
Just a few weeks. The first year was so successful I decided to open up a second shop called Fire Hydrant Press [http://www.firehydrantpress.etsy.com], a line of paper goods featuring personalized stationery and other items using dog breed silhouettes. The line is sold exclusively on Etsy and a portion of all sales are donated to Last Chance For Animals.
What's the most fun part of what you do?
Coming up with an idea, designing it, then printing and seeing my vision materialize for the first time. I also love custom design work and helping people turn their ideas into tangible products. When your imagination runs loose, you feel like a kid again. I also really love helping other women and "mom-preneurs" get inspired to start their own businesses.
Where do you work from?
We turned a spare bedroom on the main level of our house into my
workshop. Take a peek at my setup! I dream of building a
little mini house in my backyard, where I can escape from puppies
Do you have employees?
Next year, Carrie Davis of C. Davis Photography will be helping me with InkSpot Workshop. We will be setting up an InkSpot Workshop Jr. at Carrie's house where she will take care of printing, cutting, packaging, and shipping a percentage of orders. This will free up my time to create new designs and work on new projects. I can't wait!
How have you been using social media to grow your business?
If you have an online business, or any business for that matter, and you are not utilizing social media, you're completely missing the boat. Not only is it a way to connect with your customers and potential customers, it's a tremendous resource for creating relationships with other people in your same field, where you can share ideas and get inspiration. In fact, it's due to a Twitter relationship with Holly Becker of the Blog Decor8 that InkSpot Workshop got a great break and was introduced to her hundreds of thousands of daily readers.
Do you have entrepreneurial role models? What’s so inspiring about them?
Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart are the two women I would most love to have dinner with, in order to pick their brains. Plus, I think our senses of humor would mesh harmoniously! Oprah changed the face of talk shows and brought topics to the radar that nobody else was tackling, and she did it in a respectful way. Just look at the "O" brand today! Her business savvy is head and shoulders above that of most men in business today.
Martha Stewart is the woman who made crafts, cooking, entertaining, and all things domestic "cool" again. I mean, I never knew how to fold a fitted sheet until she taught me. Who doesn't remember getting their first issue of the magazine and being awestruck? Most crafty publications and articles (back then) were more "country"-inspired, but Martha brought in a new element of style, elegance, and ease with her publications and shows. All her recipes and projects showed you a way to really do it yourself and helped inspire you to express and celebrate your creative self.
How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?
The funny thing is I am not a trained graphic designer. In fact, I know more about how to prevent a catheter-related bloodstream infection than how to use Adobe Illustrator. As a salesperson for some not-so-glamorous medical products (scalpels, needles, IV catheters), I had to figure out a way to motivate the distributors who sold my products along with my competitor's products. This meant coming up with my own promotions, and that meant creating motivating flyers -- since we all know medical marketing people are not creative, I had to do it myself. Loaded onto every professional salesperson's computer is Microsoft Office, and that includes Publisher. I discovered this program, and before I knew it I was cranking out some of the most creative flyers for boring medical products you ever saw! This certainly helped not only position my products versus my competitors, but it taught me the basics of graphic design.
What's the best piece of business advice you ever received?
BE ORIGINAL! Do not fall into the trap of having a "me too" product or design. It's okay to be inspired by other people's products and designs, but use it as a way to jump-start your own take on it.
If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
I would have set a firm date to quit my day job, instead of my day job quitting me first. I kept fooling myself into thinking I could do both.
What is your favorite service that you offer?
Custom design work!
What is your best-selling item?
Kids' personalized stationery
What advice would you give to Dreamers who haven’t become Doers yet?
I must quote Nike here: Just do it!
Keep Up with Stacy, InkSpot Workshop and Fire Hydrant Press