Etcetera: All the ins and outs and in betweens

This is going to be a long one…..probably the longest post ever written on this blog, but I hope to share my life and heart completely. This is no small task, and will take many words…….but I hope it will speak to each and every one who takes the time to read it. This is my story.

I don’t have the “traditional story” that {it seems like} lots of other artists and creatives have. You know, the one where they say they were raised by hippie free spirits, ran around barefoot in the woods collecting foliage and mushrooms and creating artistic masterpieces from birth? Hah! I am totally being facetious! But you know what I mean…….and I say that to solidify the fact that I did not realize my passion for color and design until later in life. As a youngin’ I did not spend hours re-arranging my bedroom, designing furniture, or creating with my hands….although, I did use a paperclip to carve a flower in my mom’s beautiful oak telephone table once {sorry mom!}. ugh. I would have killed me…..but my mom obviously let me live. My daddy is a preacher, so I grew up being taught the value of hard work, pinching pennies, Saturdays full of garage sales, making do with what you have,  and a love of travel. My dad planned the best cross country trips where we saw everything from free range buffalo, to Mt Rushmore and beyond.

Fast forward several years {ahem!} and I find myself married to the best guy in the universe and  a young mama to two toddlers ages 2 and 4. I was a stay at home mom, and we had just moved into a new home. The house is fantastic, but it was built in the 70’s and needs some cosmetic updating. I have painted plenty of walls and trim at this point, but I have never tackled anything close to cabinets or furniture. The kitchen cabinets needed updating …badly, and we could not afford to tear everything out and start new. So, I looked at my husband and said “I’ll paint them!”….and paint them I did! I bought a few gallons of cream paint, a dark glaze, a plethora of paint brushes and got to work. This was in 2001/2002…..and mind you, there were no such things as design blogs, or tutorials…. so I literally read the Ralph Lauren pamphlet that came with the glaze and dove in. The rest is history. This project was a catalyst in my life, and opened up a whole new world for me. I was hooked…..completely, and could not keep my hands out of paint from this moment on. It took me a lot of experimenting, trial, and error to perfect my finishes, but all of it was such a new and exciting challenge…. I just immersed myself and enjoyed every minute .

I don’t remember how much time passed….it may have been one year or maybe it was two..{I can’t remember now!}…but during this time I perfected my painting skills by painting pieces that I picked up off the side of the road, pieces in my home, and pieces purchased at thrift stores. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to try my hand at selling some of my pieces and  I got the idea to do a home show. I invited a couple of my friends to do it with me. We spent a couple months creating product: furniture, jewelry, and floral arrangements, and then we cleared out the front two rooms of my house and set it up like a shop. We invited anyone and everyone we knew to invite, and the first show was a smashing success. This is when my ideas for a business were born.

I have always had a sincere desire to keep life balanced and to keep my family first, so with that thought in mind I determined from the beginning to grow slowly, organically, and to remain a debt free business so as not to cause financial strain on my family. I have been very intentional about the way that I have grown my business, and it may not be for everyone…..but it has worked for me and for my family.

I continued the home shows for a couple of years, doing one in the Spring and one in the Fall. There was always a great turn out, but eventually I saw the need to reach out beyond friends and friends of friends in order to expand the network of people that were seeing my work. Each show took place in my home and it was getting harder and harder to rearrange my entire house for each event! I knew that in order to grow I had to be willing to step up to the next level and so I started looking into renting an antique booth. This is where I instinctively knew that location and consumer traffic would be essential. We have all been in those antique malls and consignment stores that are filled to the brim with everything but customers……and that is not where I wanted to be. I researched antique booths in my area and came up with the name of a store that had been in business for 25 years, was right off a major highway, and was well known for its sales and traffic. There was a waiting list to get in {good sign!} and I put myself on that waiting list. I was not really getting anywhere with the waiting list, but I found out that I had a friend with a booth there, selling rugs, and he offered to let me put a couple pieces in his booth. I put “a couple” pieces in, and my foot was in the door! I soon had a booth of my own and almost completely sold out the first weekend! It was really exciting for me to be reaching a whole new market of people and I was on my way!

This is where the rubber started to meet the road. I had to start keeping track of purchases and sales, learn how to display my product, apply for business licenses, and learn the ropes of resale! This was a huge undertaking for me since I did not study business or marketing at all and just had to read a lot and  learn as I went. Thankfully, I am a pretty organized person so keeping track of everything was not a huge issue for me but figuring out the legal/business side of everything was really hard. I am thankful for the many people who helped me a long the way and for good books! Any time you have to deal with the government both on a federal and local level it is confusing and full of frustration but alas….it is a necessary evil. If I can stress one thing, it would be to make sure that you are properly licensed and staying on top of all of that! Better to be safe than sorry…..and you will be able to sleep much better at night when things are done right.

I went from one antique booth to two over the next couple of  years and gradually became more and more confident with displaying and merchandising my furniture pieces. I was now making enough money to purchase more and more product and since  I was painting out of my garage… became really full of furniture! We could no longer park cars in the two car garage due to the fact that it was my workshop! I loved being able to paint around the family schedule though and logged many hours in that garage!

In 2007 I was approached about a possible studio location. This was about a year after I opened my second antique booth, and even though I was super excited about the possibility of having a studio, I was not sure about running two booths and a studio. I had never had to pay rent before at either of the antique booths due to great sales, so the possibility of rent, utilities, etc. had me a little nervous. I looked at the first studio space with one of my friends who had participated in the home shows with me and I knew the second I walked into the space that it was meant for me, but it was not so clear for my friend. I knew that I could not do the studio space alone and so I thought it was a dead end for me. I told the building owner that it was not the right timing and walked away with a lump in my throat.

Fast forward three weeks and my husband and I were visiting family in New York. We were staying in East Village, and I had never been to East Village before. I set out to explore, and absolutely fell in love with the village. The sweet shops tucked here and there…..the grit…..the grime….the graffiti…all of it. I drank it in. I met a shop owner there named Grace Kang….she owns Pink Olive which is a little shop on 9th st… and the day I walked into her shop my creative life  path changed and I am forever grateful. Because of the conversation that we had, the excitement that I saw in her eyes as she had just opened her shop, and the way that she encouraged me to follow my dream I came back from this trip with a whole new excitement and resolve! I called the building owner of the studio that I had looked at just a few weeks earlier and told her that I could not rent the space alone….. but really wanted to rent the space… she suggested that I look for another artist who would be willing to split the space with me. This is when Lily Pottery entered the picture. Lily had been looking for studio space as well, and also wanted to split with someone….{how convenient!}…. so when I approached her about it, she was all in with both feet. This beginning, 5 years ago, is what we are celebrating tonight! I can’t believe it has been 5 years already….and the things that have happened in those five years could fill a couple of books! I remember those first days and weeks in the studio. I remember the excitement as we talked about the “what ifs” and the “Wouldn’t it be cools”…..and to see our thoughts and dreams exceeded above anything we could have hoped for or asked for is simply overwhelming!

As you all know, I am now on my third studio, have pieces in homes all across the country {and world}, have magazine features, blog contributions, and will very soon be a published author! I have a hard time putting into words the blessing and gratitude that I feel to all of those who have crossed my path, taken me under their wing, taught me, challenged me, protected me, and ultimately helped me get to where I am today. I could not have done what I have done without my amazing husband, family, and friends. I am excited about what the future holds for Knack and am absolutely loving my new location at 11 Lois Ave. Tonight is going to be so special as we celebrate the journey that has taken place over the last 5 years. So special.

So if I had to sum up my best advice, it would be this:

> Read! There are so many amazing sites on the internet that lay out specific plans and guidelines for opening your own business! Man, I wish these had been around way back when {wink!} Seriously though, I visited my local state government sites about small business requirements and I read lots of books. My favorite books are shown in the picture above. I highly recommend them all…..but the very first ones that I read were Marketing for Dummies {no lie}, The Girls Guide to Starting Your Own Business, Craft Inc, and Tribes. I just recently read The E Myth Revisited, and it is an amazing book about why small businesses fail and how to steer clear of that!

> Know your point of difference

> Know your target market

> Know what the market in your area will bear

> Be original! I can’t stress this enough. In order to stand out, you simply cannot knock off someone else! You have to be  a leader in your industry…always out in front. Seek to be different and don’t let other peoples work “inspire” you to just create identical work. Put your own artistic vision into everything you do.

> Be willing to take risks.

> Don’t encumber yourself with big loans from the bank. Build your business with cash and stay debt free! There is so much freedom this way! You may grow more slowly doing it this way but I stand behind it!

> Build your tribe. These are your people……you know, the ones that are with you through thick and thin…..your biggest supporters…..positive influences…..truth talkers……movers and shakers!

> Keep family first

> Only do what brings you joy. The rest is just not worth it.

> Be passionate about what you do

> Work hard. Play hard.

> Be ready to work harder than you have worked in your entire life

> Hire a book keeper if numbers aren’t your thing. This movement frees your mind and allows you to do the things you love and make money at :}

> Invest in your brand! Hire or trade out with a graphic designer and nail down a logo,  get a website. Get printed materials like business cards and brochures! This is so important!

> Start a blog

> Self promote your work by submitting it to sights that you would love to see your work featured on, and whose platform is larger than your own.

> Don’t give up when you are told “No”. Regroup and try again.

> Use social media! Create a Facebook page for your business, tweet, tumblr, instagram, blog, flickr…….whatever it may be…’s all FREE….and hugely successful in getting your name and work out to the masses. It takes time, but it is well worth the time.

> Be honest

> Be kind

> Practice good ethics

> Never let other people’s ideas make you feel inferior or like you are not doing something right. Business looks different for each person, so trust your gut, get advice from people that you trust and respect….and let everything else roll off.

> Be generous. Give to others….it will always come back.

> Remember, the customer is always right. Most of the time…….hah!

> Pay your taxes :}

> Collaborate with others. Don’t be afraid to reach out!

I can’t even tell you how hard it is to try to sum up my business story in a blog post…..and I know there are things that I have left out….but I think most of it is here…..and if you have any specific questions, I would be more than happy to answer them!

Have a great weekend! I will have party pictures for you on Monday, and a new furniture piece! Yippee!!



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44 thoughts on “Etcetera: All the ins and outs and in betweens

  1. Dearest Barb,
    you have no idea how much you have influenced my life from the other side of the world. In mid 2008 I was bedridden and wheelchair bound following a major car accident in which I was critically injured. Following 2 months of hospital and rehab, I found myself bored, isolated, frustrated and unable to get around without assistance. The insurance company bought me a laptop to help me keep in touch with the outside world and it was during this time that I discovered your website and gorgeous furniture.
    I had painted a few pieces of furniture over the years, but seeing your amazing, colorful pieces inspired me to step it up a notch – it has taken me 4 1/2 long hard years of recovery paired with HUGE personal ups and downs, but I always held my dream close and moved slowly towards achieving it one. small. step. at. a. time.
    My next goal is to pair my business with a blog, but I took my first BIG step last week by launching my Facebook Page. I feel like my progress has been slow, but every step has been deliberate – learning, reading, listening, asking and absorbing advice and information like a sponge. I am excited for my future plans and goals – my dream is achievable and I thank you for your part in that.
    I wish you abundant blessings as you move forwards into this next exciting phase for Knack – I am so glad I have been able to follow your journey for so long.
    Tracey x

    • Tracey, You are such an inspiration to me! I have enjoyed our emails back and forth and am so inspired by your courage, strength and determination! You triumphed over some really extremely difficult trials and have come through them stronger and with a story to tell. I so admire that.
      I am so proud of you for launching your facebook page!! Congrats! This is a great step and I am excited to see what the future holds for you! Thank you for your encouragement and support, and for taking time to read my blog and leave such sweet words for me. I appreciate it so much!
      I hope that you continue to heal and grow stronger and stronger every day……I wish you all the best as you move forward!

  2. Well said! A wonderful ‘recap’ and great advice! I’m thrilled to know you (heehee). I’ll be with you in spirit as you celebrate your 5th!! You’ve come a looooong way, baby! Can’t wait for the follow-up pics! Hugs!

    • Jenny, thank you so much my friend! I’m thrilled to know you! I wish I could visit you at the farm….wouldn’t that be fun?! I will feel your spirit……and thank you so much for the constant sunshine that you are! hugs right back at ya! xo

  3. Wow. I sit here with my granola cereal as I ready your story and marvel at what God has done in these short years since you painted your kitchen cabinets. He brought you to this place and has opened the flood gates for your to flourish in His amazing gifts. Lovely. Lovely.

    The advice you give to stand out and not duplicate what we see others doing is absolutely critical. I keep an idea book and when ideas come, I pull the car over (if driving) and sketch. That’s the most delightful part of the process for me.

    I could go on but will end it here. Congrats Barb. I’m so excited for you!

    • Martha…Thank you so much!….and yes….God is in it all, and has brought me to and through so many things. It has all been a great experience as I walk through this journey with Him….I have not always been the trusting, loving, and full of faith, but I am so thankful for His love and presence in my life.

      I am totally with you on the sketching process…..that is one of my favorite parts too….drawing out designs…..planning… is just so relaxing and inspiring!

      All the best to you!

  4. Wow! Awesome story and so glad we are friends who have been on this journey with you! The pieces that sit in my home are a reflection of your journey and will be passed down for generations. You are blessed and it makes my heart happy to see you be successful when you had to make hard choices. You are and encouragement and inspiration to all who know you! Looking forward to hugging your neck tonight and celebrating with you! Love you girl and enjoy this special day to the fullest! Party on!! :)

    • Michele, You have been on this journey with me haven’t you?! I appreciate you all so much…{especially Geoff’s patience with my taxes! hah!}…and am so thankful for your friendship and support! It means so much to have friends that truly support what you do and are with you every step of the way! I look forward to hugging your neck tonight as well!

      I am so glad that you love your pieces…..I still remember clearing out my dining room and painting that black and red buffet because it was so cold in the garage :} Good memories for sure….and I love those pieces! xo

      See you tonight!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing Barb!!! Great story and a huge slice of inspiration for me….and many others! I truly believe anything can be accomplished when you have the support of your family and friends. You are really gifted and deserve all the success in the world. Keep on sharing please!! :) Have a great weekend and look forward to your finished piece and pics for monday.

    • Kelly, you are so welcome! I am glad that you enjoyed it and found it inspiring! Family and friends are what make life beautiful, so keep them close and love them like crazy!

      Thank you so much for the sweet words….I appreciate you so much!

      Have a great weekend!


  6. This is so inspiring….I teared up a little. I am getting married in two weeks. My fiance and I both feel a “call” to start a business on our own. We have worked together for five years and love it. But we both wanna be out from under a corporation. We don’t know how, when, where, or what but we are both searching. Thanks for this! I am headed to Amazon to order these books now.

    • Rene, Awww! Congrats on your upcoming wedding! How exciting! I am so glad you enjoyed my story and wish you all the best as you two move forward towards the future!

  7. Hi Barb! So delighted to read your blog this morning. I can’t wait to see you and Lily tonight. So proud to know both of you. You both have done so well and such giving artists. WOW I loved your blog post. I can’t imagine being able to produce that many words vocally or manually! Ha!
    See you tonight xo

    • Laura, Thank you so much! I know it was a lot of words…and producing them was a challenge since I am not a super great writer…..but even with all of the words…I could have written so much more!! How in the world do you fit five years into one post??!!!…..I think I need to write another book :} {wink!}

  8. Happy 5th anniversary girl!! You know I’m loving these “from the soul” posts, they are awesome for anyone who wants to start a business. Have an awesome weekend and can’t wait to see the new piece!

    • Susan, Thanks so much! I am glad you are enjoying my stories! :} I hope you have a great weekend too! xo

  9. Barb,
    It is wonderful of you to be so open to sharing what you know and encouraging those of us just starting out. I appreciate your help so much. You are one of my biggest inspirations when I think about what I one day want my business to be. Thank you :)

    • Krystin,
      So glad you enjoyed my story! I appreciate your sweet words so much! Thank you!……and all the best as you move towards your goal!

  10. Wow – what a great story! This was so inspiring Barb, you have no idea. Amazingly perfect timing (for me at least!) just when I needed a little boost to keep going. I’m in similar shoes, trying to start up with no debt, I couldn’t agree more on that! Success so far is slow, but steady, and reading this gives me a lot of motivation to keep going. I first became a fan of yours from your wonderful Design*Sponge series, Before & After Basics, which I adored! I learned so much. Your home show idea is fantastic, I’ve been dealing with the same issue, putting furniture into a shop with low traffic. Thank you again, so much, and congratulations on all your well deserved success!

    • Jesse, Thank you so much! I am so glad it was helpful for you….and I encourage you not to give up….keep at it! Keep inspired, change things up, and challenge your creative ideas daily……I’m excited for you!

  11. PASSION!!!

    Barbie –
    I could not be more proud. Your show tonight was amazing…wish I could have stayed longer. Your mixture of textures and perfectly profiled designs is lavish and current. My how staying passionate and inspired can carve out so much success. I am so glad I read your blog tonight – thanks! I just wish I would have sold more rugs.


    • Mr JS, Thank you so much , man! It was so great to see you guys….I wish we could have chatted longer…..

      Thank you for being one of my catalysts, thank you so much for your super kind words about my shop and passion….oh my… sweet!……and the rug comment made me laugh my booty off! {Thanks for that too!}

  12. i love your story and everything Knack stands for. beyond happy for you and hope tonight was a smashing success!

    • KC, Thank you so much…..the opening was wonderful! I was overwhelmed with the amount of people that came out, and the love and support that I felt was so special! xo

  13. Fantastic post Barb!! I loved every word of it. I too am wanting to find that family/work balance, and am determined to pour only my own equity into the business. No burden of loans for me thanks! Only 9 days left of my 9-5 now, then I can do furniture refinishing full time!! I am beyond excited :) Thank you for all your advice and inspiration to help me get to this point . I hope you had a great party!!!! xxx

    • Ollie,
      Yay! So glad you enjoyed my story, friend! Congrats on the 9 day countdown! Woo hoo!!! I am so excited and proud of you!

      The party was wonderful….overwhelmingly so…..I am just so thankful! xo

  14. Thank you so much for sharing! So much great advice and it’s coming to me at just the right time.

  15. Barb! Incredible post and so touching. I first remember meeting you back when your kids were little and from a mutual friend. I actually lived a few doors down from you and tried to convince my little sister to buy your house :) Your philosophy for life and business is so inspiring and real! Thank you for your courage in forging the path!!

    • Jennie,
      Thank you! I appreciate your kind words so much! That mommy/ work balance can be so hard at times and I know you know what I am talking about! Continue to keep those babies first and you will never regret it! You are doing a great job!
      I believe Ruthie was our mutual friend right?! It is so crazy that we used to live in the same neighborhood! I forgot about that little tidbit! That neighborhood was so fun…and we had so many friends that lived in there…..seems like a lifetime ago now! wow….time flies.

  16. congratulations! i do hope that your party was a perfect and affirming celebration of all the goodness that is knack! this post, and your entire journey, is so inspiring and i join the many people ahead of me who have thanked you for sharing. maybe you aren’t even aware of how much you are paying forward right now, how many of us are on some stage of our own creative and entrepreneurial paths and just took the words that you wrote as pure motivation to keep working hard and moving forward. thank you from the bottom of my heart. all best wishes!

    • Kristen, Thank you! The party was absolutely special and wonderful….I was overwhelmed.

      I am so touched by your words….and want to encourage you, and wish you all the best in the creative journey that you are on. You can do this! There will be days that are really hard….but there will be more good days than bad……remember, it is all about the averages :}

      Good luck on your journey…..I am behind you 100 percent!

  17. Barb, thanks for sharing your wisdom and experience! Your work and success thus far speaks volumes of the road you took to get there. Your story is like a beacon of hope to me :)

    • Angie, You are so welcome! Thank YOU for reading….and for leaving me some love! :} All the best to you!

  18. Glad I found your blog through Miss Mustard Seed. I loved this very inspirational post on business. Just picked up Marketing for Dummies and appreciate the suggestion of the other books. I’m a follower!

    • Sandi, Hey there! So glad to have you! I am so glad you enjoyed the post, and I hope you enjoy the books! Happy reading!

  19. Such great, great advice. I’m at the beginning stages. Went into the wrong antique mall and lost money for 6 months. Have been doing open studio from my own home and am wondering what the next step is. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and tips with us! x

    • Danielle, so excited for you as you begin a new direction! You go! Make it happen!