Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Thatch & Thistle Supply Co.

Okay, so this post is admittedly a bit late but I am finally getting around to posting about my opening a brand new shop on Etsy – Thatch & Thistle Supply Co. While I adore my handmade shop where I sell needle felted animals and decor, I felt like I needed another outlet. I've always been crazy about packaging and gift wrapping supplies things that make parties, weddings, gift wrapping and decorating more fun so it was a natural process to build on an idea that would soon become a small business centered on just that - supplies for celebrating, gift giving and embellishing your projects. 

Dan and I spent a lot of time talking it over, the cost of investing in supplies to sell, the cost of essentials such as business cards, packaging materials and how/if I should be advertising. There are a lot of small businesses out there that sell supplies similar to what I do and have been around much longer but we were confident that my passion for what I would be doing and selling would bring in buyers and the quality in products and customer service would bring them back. It was decided. I was in business!

My next decision was what to sell. Not as easy as you might think. I'm already really particular about everything so I figured this would be an evolving process. I knew twine was first on my list. I will NEVER have enough twine. Never. I wanted all different colors. Baker's twine, thick cotton twine, frilly and fun twine, sparkly tinsel twine, ALL OF IT. Of course, "all of it" will take a very long time, but we're getting there. I also knew I wanted to include my mini wooden clothespins, carnival tickets, paper straws, vintage inspired library cards, pom pom garland, tags, stickers and many other things I haven't thought of yet! It's all so exciting. These are all things I've loved my whole life are now my job and I get to share them with all of you. All the while staying home, baking for Dan and loving time with our pugs. Those three are my world.

My shop has been open for exactly two months now and so far I can say I'm more than pleased with how everything is going. Some sellers can wait a full two months before ever making a sale and I'm already up to 67+ sales at the time of this post. I'm incredibly thankful for the successes I have had in my small business/working from home ventures. Mostly because husband dearest encourages me to find successes in all things. Shipment of paper straws arrives uncrunched? Hubby cheers hooray!

I've discovered many things in my years of running shops on Etsy. Here are a few tips if you are looking to make your shop better:

1. Sell What You Love – If you love what you sell then you are way more likely to photograph it, describe it and talk it up in a way that will make someone else love it. It's human nature. And marketing. And sibling rivalry. We like what other people like.

2. Take Great Photos – It seems obvious but it's a big deal. When selling online, photos are everything. Buyers can't touch, feel or see the items in person so they have to rely solely on photos. Pictures should be clear, crisp and taken in natural light without flash. Stay away from distracting props and make sure the products are color contrasted well with the background.

3. Customer Service – While passion for your products and great images will get you sales, what keeps buyers coming back is communication, feeling appreciated and good business practices. Always ship on time and inform about delays as soon as possible, describe items accurately so they know exactly what to expect and handle postal losses and conflict resolutions with care. As a buyer myself, I remember and return to shops where I have the most confidence that I will be taken care of if something goes wrong.

I have many hopes and dreams in the future for my new shop. :) Next on my list is ordering a custom stamp, adding new paper favor bags to the shop and rededicating myself to blogging. I'll be having a special ad sale soon so keep posted.

As of right now, all of my shops run through my handmade shop name in my social media accounts. Find me here:


Hope to see you at my new shop! I love you all.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

5 Things

I've been seeing a few '5 Things' posts floating around so I've decided to do my own. I've been in the mood to write but haven't photographed my newest creations so I wanted to take a moment to share five things about myself.

1. I am an extravagantly particular person. So much so that my mom pesters me constantly about my quirks and, in her words, "obsessive tendencies." I find that I am much more productive and all around a happier person when things are in order. When my space is organized, clean and when my surroundings look nice, I feel better. When Dan and I first got married he went through fridge training, meaning all items inside the fridge must be facing forward. It makes perfect sense to me. Who would want the orange juice facing backwards in the fridge? I will also move around things on tables, counters and desks so that they look tidy and even go as far as to erase what I'm writing if I don't like my handwriting.

2. I don't eat vegetables. The exceptions are potatoes, carrots and corn. And the only way I'll eat carrots is in a stew. I just don't like veggies. And I'm totally not biased. There are many fruits I dislike as well. I was the five year old who ate everything on my plate except for the broccoli. When my Mom told me I couldn't leave the table until I ate it, as a five year old, I believed her so I ate the broccoli. Only once I started gagging and in fear of me losing my whole dinner, did my Mom tell me to spit it out. Nothing has really changed since then. I don't hate salad, but I'm not going to order one either. And for the most part, I'm a pretty open-minded eater. If it isn't something that used to swish around in ocean water, I'll try it. I just more often than not, don't like it. I feel no shame for having a limited palette. I simply don't eat what doesn't taste good. I eat what I love and I love what I eat.

3. I have a sensory disorder called synaesthesia. It is defined as "a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway." Basically for me, numbers, letters, words, shapes and other things have distinct and very specific colors in my mind. When I think of the number 2, I see a medium shade of blue. The letter C is yellow, the number 8 is green, and so on. It never changes, these colors are permanent. Words have their own shapes and their colors are usually a combination of the vowels in the words. Sometimes, a particular letter or number can have a 'feeling.' For example, I see the number 5 as bold, red and threatening. I don't like the number five at all! Music is a different experience. I can see clear pictures and scenes while listening to songs or sounds. Mostly with instrumental music. Lyrics tend to cloud visuals. For some people who have synaesthesia, they experience tasting colors and can even smell sounds. I find it all fascinating and love to explain my experiences with people who have never heard of it before.

4. Years ago when photography was my full-time job, I did a lot of urban exploration. For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to decaying, forgotten, abandoned places. I find these lost buildings and homes to be beautiful and I loved photographing how nature was changing them as years passed. I traveled across Texas and Louisiana and was fortunate enough to see some of the most amazing locations that still exist today. The sites I saw include: The Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, Six Flags - New Orleans, a chemical plant, an incinerator, an orphanage, several power plants, an army hospital, a prison in the middle of a forest, a brewery, an elementary school and many old houses along the way. You can see some of my urban exploration photography here.

5. I like to think of myself as a genuinely kind individual. I care deeply for people and value kindness toward others higher than almost anything else in this life. It makes your heart happy to do for others and to feel like you are making a difference. It's the one thing Dan and I are constantly talking about what we would like to most instill in our future children. And a fact I have learned is that everyone is in need of kindness. We can always use a positive outlook on life and a friendly face at times. I believe in tolerance and accepting people for who they are. If we enjoy our own freedoms, others should have that same right. So I do my very best to treat every person with kindness, respect and without needing appreciation or returned courtesy.

BONUS: I cuddle, kiss, squeeze and love on my two pugs all day long every day. They are my children. I love them endlessly and truly adore every moment with them. Their silly quirks and rambunctious nature keeps us young and wildly entertained at all times. Lucy and Pippa, I love you.

I would love to read your 5 Things post so add the link in a comment below and I'll read it. :)

Happy weekend, everyone.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Five Handmade Shops I Love

Everyone that knows me, knows I'm a big supporter of buying handmade and buying from small businesses. I work hard to make the handmade business I have successful so I know there are many others out there trying to do the same. I love how when you meet someone who makes handmade things and sells them just like you do, there's a connection there. Like an instant feeling of community between all the handmakers in the world. At least that's the way it is for me.

During my travels (meaning, online shop browsing on my sofa), I come to find many beautiful, unique shops with lovely people behind the name. So today I'm sharing five handmade shops that I love.

1. Back Bay Pottery –  I absolutely love this shop. Not only do I love absolutely everything that she makes, I love the bright, refreshing photos of all of her products. Christine sells handmade ceramic pieces that serve endless purposes. All of her beautiful creations have texture, a style for any decor and are truly unique.

2. Whichgoose – For the bride who loves nature! Emily makes simply gorgeous hair crowns and wedding accessories for your most memorable day. Her product photography makes everything look so serene and beautiful. Buyers have the choice of staying simple with modest crowns or wearing exquisite floral creations that would make any groom blush.

3. RiverLuna – Marisa is so gifted. You can feel the attention and care that went into each one of her paintings. These stunning watercolor prints of feathers, animals and nature have a rustic, folk-art feel to me and I can imagine them all over my walls! I had a really hard time choosing just one photo of hers for this post.

4. LuLu Bug Jewelry – While Sue has many types of jewelry pieces in her shop, my favorites are the ones made with tinted concrete. How amazing! Concrete in jewelry! Her pieces are made with reclaimed silver and are inspired by animals and inspirational quotes. This little avocado necklace is my most favorite piece she has made.

5. Eight Seasons – This shop is amazing and every single bag, case or clutch has such a unique and inviting style. I love things that make a statement and conversation starters and Katrin makes exactly those things. Her pieces are made from Italian leather and ship from Estonia, Europe. Love it. :)

If you have a handmade shop and would like to advertise on my blog, click here. Interested in a banner swap? So am I! Get in touch with me here. Feel free to comment and tell me about your favorite shops! I'm always excited to find new goodies.

Receive 10% off any purchase in my shop by using the coupon code HANDMADE at checkout. Thanks for reading and supporting small businesses and handmade products!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Journey to a Handmade Business

My first job ever was working for Gamestop. I was sixteen years old, terrified, shy and my boss was a large and very-in-charge red-headed woman who could have frightened a grown man. I grew up playing video games, mostly Zelda, or watching my Dad play them while my Mom navigated with the strategy guide, so the job was overall a great fit. Looking back, the experience was priceless. I learned so much just in those few months I had that job. It was my first ever interaction with customers in a professional setting. While I have always had organizational skills and a friendly disposition, the challenge I faced was having to submit to such strict rules and policies. While I have never been a true rebel or refuted authority, it never sat well with me having to do exactly to the letter what someone else told me to do. 

I'm independent, individualistic, creative and a forward-thinker. I felt like I couldn't express myself working in retail. There were uniforms, phone answering jingles and sales goals, scratch that, sales requirements or you were given what to me felt like a good scolding. I understand a business is a business and we were there to sell. I simply didn't feel like having to reach a number was motivation to sell gaming magazine subscriptions. I enjoy things when I'm given the freedom to want them to be better, not when it's mandatory.

After leaving Gamestop, I decided to take a different path in the job hunt. I knew I loved children and the family setting, I wanted to be able to wear jeans and a t-shirt if I felt like it and wanted more of a 'relationship' with my employer. Shortly after, I had ads up everywhere looking for a position as a nanny. I worked for several families over the next few years until I found the one that really fit. I finally met the three boys I'd fall in love with and a job I will forever treasure in my memories. 

I worked for this beautiful family for years. My job was mostly helping Lori with whatever she needed. I did the kid's laundry, tidied the house, ran errands, shopped for groceries and occasionally picked them up from school or activities and made their meals. It was amazing. I guess for some people, that really does sound like work. It was a dream for me. The boys were smart and funny and so easy to love. They were 4, 5 and 7 when I first started working for them, the perfect ages in my opinion. And best of all, I felt like part of their family. Not the helper, not just the nanny, but family. And while I had a genuine respect for the fact that Lori was my boss, we were friends. We talked about our lives and interests all the time. 

During my employment as a nanny, I got really interested in photography. It eventually sparked into a pretty successful small business and I assembled a lovely portfolio. I really loved doing photoshoots and focused mainly on creative portraiture and urban exploration. The urban aspect took me to incredible abandoned places across the Texas-Louisiana area. Until then, I had never been able to truly express my creativity. It was a very enlightening experience and my first real attempt at 'working for myself.' It inspired me to put my whole heart and mind into my own business and the entrepreneurial seed was planted.

Years of doing photography taught me two things: I have a passion for it but not as a business. I knew if I pursued it as a career, I would eventually lose focus and what I dearly loved doing so much would become a chore. Naturally, that wasn't what I wanted so I stopped doing photography professionally and it became a simple creative outlet and remains that way today. I knew eventually I would find something that I loved in the way I needed to and turn it into a small business run from home. I trusted that. I believed in that.

For the next few years I worked at Starbucks Coffee, which is where I met my now husband and best friend, Dan. I can't speak highly enough about my time working for Starbucks. I met amazing people, made wonderful friends and gained invaluable knowledge about customer service, product quality and standards and the importance of loving what you do. I think everyone should learn how to push through tough days, manage customer complaints and learn to work with people you disagree with. It creates a well rounded work ethic and a powerful ability to adapt to your environment. These are respectable tools you need in order to run a business for yourself because you only have you to fall back on. There's no one else to clean up your spills. No manager to smooth over mistakes or issues. And there are no pay raises or promotions because you've reached the six month, year or two year mark. You reap what you sow and the more you put into your business, the more you'll get out of it. Equally, if neglected or customer concerns are ignored, the business will inherently deteriorate. (This is strictly speaking of a one-person business like mine.)

Shortly after Dan and I got married (yay!), I discovered needle felting. WOW, I can make things with wool and a needle? Amazing! Wait, I could totally sell these. Would they sell? I'll need a lot more wool. And a place to sell them. I naturally leaned towards Etsy and slowly Handmade By Brynne was created. It's been almost two years since I opened my shop and a whole year of that was still spent working out of the home. I was extremely fortunate to be able to start working from home full time just a year after I started needle felting. Dan and I had a long conversation that day about me leaving the job I had at that time. We discussed how if my business was going to grow, what I needed most was time. I had the skills, the desire and the resources to make it happen, I just needed the time. It was a risk. A big risk and an enormous amount of trust from him is what really made it possible.  

I am so thankful every single day to be able to do what I truly love, the way I want to do it. I am thankful for Dan's job, our home and that life has allowed me a chance to choose my path to success. I try to remember that it can all be taken away and to stay humble when I start to take it all for granted.

Running a small business from home is not for everyone. I think the bigger picture here is finding happiness in everything you do. There is joy and adversity in every aspect of life, especially at work. It takes a strong and courageous person to focus on the beauty in life and to really learn from mistakes and to heal from misfortunes. It can also be a challenge to go from meeting hundreds of people daily to spending your world online. I'm still trying to find a balance, manage my schedule and to build consistency.

Since I started my little online shop selling needle felted animals, nature inspired things and now felting kits, I have learned so much. Staying motivated is top of the list right beside buyer happiness. There are still things I haven't figured out and there will always be room for improvement and growth. Overall, my experiences up until now have given me a valued understanding of what it means to be in business for yourself. 

Do you have a handmade business? I would love to hear about your experiences, too. We are all reaching for the same goal here so a support system is essential. I'd love to hear about how you manage your blog/shop and what you've learned as a small business owner.

Thanks for reading! Hope you have a great weekend. :)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Needle Felting Kits: Make a Felted Pumpkin or Set of Acorns

Needle felting kits are here! Looking for a fun activity that you've never tried? Or maybe you've needle felted before but are looking to get more practice? Perhaps you just adore pumpkins or felted acorns and can't help yourself. ;) These kits make great gifts for all ages, don't require days of your time and come with a link to a detailed online photo tutorial right here on my blog.

Felting kits come with everything you need to needle felt your lovely felted creations. You'll receive a foam pad, two felting needles and more than enough wool to make whichever items you purchased a kit for. (+Acorn caps for the Acorns kit.)

Currently, I have two kits available: Felted Pumpkin & Felted Acorns. Look for more in the future!

As of right now, I only have certain colors listed for these kits. However, almost any color is available any time. Want to make a blue pumpkin? No problem. Just write me on Etsy and let me know what you would like and I'll get it set up for you. The same goes for acorns. If you would like acorns in something other than forest green or would like as many as three different colors, simply let me know.

You can also purchase listings for extra wool to make additional pumpkins that do not come with the foam pad or felting needles in my shop section here.

I've been really excited to launch these kits for a long time now. It feels great to finally have them made, photographed and the tutorials in the works. I hope you'll try one and enjoy needle felting as much as I do. :)

Feel free to comment with any questions or thoughts. I'd love to hear from you!