Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The White Berry Story

I would say that the number one email topic I am asked about is how I started White Berry Reinvented, and how to start your own business. Even though I cannot respond to many of the emails, this one always gets me thinking. Wouldn't it be easy if there was an equation for success, specifically at doing what you love? Wow, life would sure be much easier. But the risks, the chances, and the learning are what really make up success. Here is my little story and how I have found success (aka happiness!) doing what I love.



As a wee-little one I was (and still am) surrounded by people who were all happily self-employed. Both sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and most importantly my Mom and Dad were all happily free to set their own hours and schedules. For my Dad this usually meant 6-7 day work weeks, 12+ hours a day plus commuting as he owned and operated numerous businesses from a lumber plant to his continually growing restaurant business to dollar stores... all at the same time. As his business grew across the country and we got older he was away a little more so I knew from a young age that while it is very free-ing to be self employed it also requires dedication and sacrifice.



My Mom was always around, and never held a job out of the home so that we could have home cooked meals, someone to walk home with instead of taking the bus and to take us to the park. It was great! But in order to make that happen while my Dad was so hard at work she ran a home based cake business. Our garage was transformed into an industrial kitchen and she often worked late at night and on weekends to keep up with her booming business. Between the two of them I really saw how wonderful, yet tough it could be (particularly with a baby!) to make it on your own.



All through childhood I had a fascination with archtecture and design. If we went to the book store for an afternoon I was always flipping through home plans, most afternoons I was drawing up my own plans. And I always enjoyed transforming...



But it wasn't until college when I finally had a little room to play and make things. I hit flea markets and estate sales regularly just to window shop... unless the prices was right (aka under $30) and I could fit it into my student budget.

Here is a snap shot of my college bedroom, complete with painted antique french nightstand I scooped up for $25, antique lamps (I still have and LOVE!) and lamp shades I made for pennies.



I was itching to do more!



Fast forward 4 years and 2 degrees later I was in my final semester and Sean and I turned our thoughts to home-ownership. It just so happened to be in the midst of a big real-estate frenzy and houses were lasting only hours on the market. My mom found this house for sale by owner in the classifieds of a newspaper called the owner, looked at it the next morning and ok'd it for us ( in a totally different country at the time) and voila we were the new owners of a third of a million dollar mortgage without even walking through the house!



Obviously with a mortgage like that and being recent grads we didn't have any money for actually furnishing a house! So we lived in a fairly bare-bones house for months and months as we slowly make it a home.


One of my first additions was this roughed up buffet I scored for $75 at an antique store that was closing, strangely enough it was in The Bay and they accepted HBC gift cards which we had a ton of from our wedding so I guess it was really a wedding gift~



I hand painted it up, and placed it under a mirror we scored in the as-is section of Ikea we painted black.



I think this was when the seedlings of White Berry began to sprout.





Not long after I started transforming everything, from the pine kitchen (new backsplash-not shown, paint, molding and range hood). to the bedrooms. And of course everything went white!



After only 2 years we felt we had done all we could to the house and once we discovered Wren was on her way we decided it was now or never to up-size. We looked at tons of houses, old and new and after walking away from our last house with a fairly substantial return on our investment we took the plunge with our latest love:

Right away the transformations began to the house, but soon after completing a couple rooms we discovered yet again we were under furnished!! With the reno budget eatting up all decorating funds I had no problem getting creative again to bring it to life. Not long after, Wren was born and that is when WhiteBerry was born as well.

Most people have babies and find themselves struggling to keep up (totally normal from what I hear and very understandable), whereas I was struggling to find things to do and finish. We were renovating a bathroom the day Wren turned 1 month old... and sooner or later we started to run low on renovating funds, being on maternity leave and all.

I decided to set aside a couple hundred dollars over the course of a month in the Spring, anticipating garage sale season and my first opportunity to really start hunting. I can still remember the first morning Sean and I hit the sales bright and early, arriving home by 11 am with a truck full of great finds that I fully intended to transform and beautify. Thanks to plenty of experience with tools over the course of our renos I felt fairly confident in myself. After a couple were completed I posted them up on my blog, not mentioning that they were my first business ventures. Within minutes you had completely thrilled me with your comments, within hours you had shared them all over the web and within days I had emails asking about them and how I did them. So I took the jump to sell them! I nervously anticipated people critiquing the color, the finish, the hardware, the price, letting my mind doubt for just a moment. But it was all needless because the first email I received was from the lovely Rebecca who wanted one ASAP. After Rebecca's initial email I immediately launched my website that had been underway since my first decision to set aside the funds. Within 1 week of my website I had 43 requests for the dresser purchased by Rebecca and I knew I was on to something! Fairly quickly word of mouth travelled locally and I had interior designers recommending me to clients and custom client projects within the first 3 weeks... and the rest is history!

I know that is a LOOOOONG read so thanks for sticking with me~ I guess the point of that total history lesson is that it has nothing to do with painting furniture. There are thousands of furniture painters (maybe more!) out there! I am not the first, nor will I be the last, and I most definitely am not even close to the best. But the truth is that anyone can paint. It does not take any special skill! But running and managing a business is a little more tricky.

What I have the time to share here on the my blog is just the tip of the ice-berg. While it all looks and sounds perfectly dreamy, there is also a lot of hard work, late nights (everynight!) and early mornings. Thanks to Sean also being self employed we have a very unique schedule, but all in all I would estimate that I spend well over 8-10 hours per day fielding email quotes, shipping requests, organizing pick ups/deliveries, updating the website etc. and maybe 1 or 2 hours painting. The business side takes a lot more dedication than playing with paint and cool furniture!!!

Another thing I have learned is that you are only as happy as your clients! Very little of my local business is generated through the internet or my website. It is all word of mouth. That is soooo important to my success, and while it is nice to have a fancy website that looks really fabulous it really wouldn't help me in the least of my clients weren't happy and telling their friends and family about me.

I think the point of all of this mumbo-jumbo is that I only wish it were so easy to summarize up for everyone into a pretty little check-list "to start your own business". But like all good things in life, it isn't easy. But it is definitely worth while, worth the risk (even if you fail because you learned something!) and worth waking up every morning to the best alarm clock: Wren singing in her crib~

34 comments:

Miss Obara said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I've always painted furniture too (mostly for me and some family) but was always scared of 'selling' it for fear that someone would want 'perfection'. I thought about it more and more lately, because my kids are getting bigger/older (11 and 13) and they need me now more than ever, not to mention my daughters love of skating is not cheap. So, maybe I will put 'my stuff' up for sale and see what happens, people loved it before, but will they love it enough to pay for it?! let's hope!
Thanks for inspiring!

Jen Madigan Photography said...

Your story is so inspiring, and how great that you get to spend your days (even if they're long ones) doing something you love to do!! I'm so happy to hear your business venture has been successful thus far, and I hope it continues in the future!

brenda said...

Love love love your story thank you so much for sharing. You are such an inpiration.

Amber said...

I have known you for several years now and it has been amazing seeing the business you ave built. It was fun to read the background and learn more and remember tings like your kitchen cabinets that we all ohhed and ahhed over. It is So fun to see you SO sucessful! Keep up the good work and keep on inspiring others xoxox

Angie said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm in the beginning stages of my own business with furniture revamping ;)

Magic Brush said...

My husband and I are both self employed (me as a faux finisher employing 3 full time painters)..... people have no idea how much time it takes and how many plates you have to spin to make it all happen! And I have 3 kids on top of it.....

I have so much respect for other self employed mommas like myself trying to run a business and a home and raise your kiddos and keep sane! We are never really "off". The work is never really "done".

You go girl!

Ms.Cupcake (aka Becky) said...

Holly, you are amazing. So inspiring and I totally identify with you. Thanks for all your thoughtful posts and sharing your talents. Fellow Canadian talent :D Please check out my blog when you have a few moments (ha!)as I am always sprucing up my 'new' first home. www(dot)cupcakesandrubyslippers(dot)blogspot(dot)com
I have borrowed many ideas from you. Thanks for the inspiration. P.S. Kick Rebecca in the butt to update her blog! She isn't listening to me! :P
xo
Becky in BC

wanita said...

that was a fun, interesting read! thanks for sharing =)

Jo said...

this was awesome...just what i needed to read. i am totally inspired now. thank you!!!!

California Wife said...

Thanks so much for your story, it's really inspiring! I would love to have a crafty job that allows me to stay at home once we have kids, and your story helped me realize that I can really make it work someday.

Michelle (Three Men and a Lady) said...

Love your story! Thanks for sharing. Next up on your blog list of "to-do's"...love to know what a typical day looks like for you, start to finish. Until then, happy painting, or rather, business managing.

Shaunna said...

Holly, thanks so much for sharing. I just recently started my own restoration business and my days seemed to already be filling up with business, painting, and of course, the babies! I adore your work and love the inspiration your blog brings. I think if we lived a few hundred miles closer we might enjoy a little treasure hunting. :) Have a great night! -shaunna

mimosaandmocha said...

Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. I discovered your blog a few months ago and I had assumed you've been running White Berry for years. For so long I've been dreaming of be able to leave the corporate world and have my own business, more opportunities to express my creative side and spend more time with my son. I love hearing your story...it gives me hope.

Kristine at The Painted Hive said...

Thanks for that post. I have a similar (kinda) story. When I moved into my first home I started sourcing and refinishing pieces to furnish it and found I loved the creative side so much that I didn't want to stop! I started selling on eBay as ‘Lemonbutter’ Furnishings and Interiors around three years ago and have since built-up a strong following and exclusive client-direct base. Like you, word of mouth has really helped me and I have constant requests now. I only just started my blog three weeks ago. I still have a full time job which makes it difficult to commit all the time I'd like to Lemonbutter though I plan on using it to supplement our income when we start a family.
Kristine
xxx

Razmataz said...

I really enjoyed that. I also am self employed and know the long hours that go into the management, shipping and packaging, supplies, accounting etc. so I not suprised that you have late nights and spend a lot less time than one might imagine painting furniture.

But not only do you seem to work hard, you obviously have a skilled eye and great style. I enjoy seeing all of your pieces.

Chania

chelsea said...

wow, I needed to read this! very inspiring :)

Beth said...

Thanks so much for this blog entry.

You have been such an amazing inspiration for me and my family since I found your blog. Every holiday and children's party we have hosted has had your influence.

Keep up the good work.

Beth
refashionrecyclereuse.blogspot.com

dutchbritishlove said...

Holly, thanks for taking the time to post this. I have a lot of respect for people like you who are charting their own path. And you do it with so much style! Thanks for giving us a little in-depth peek into your world.

michelle b @ every little thing said...

great post...
true that there is great sacrifice in it...
i love knowing your story.
xoxo

Kacey said...

Thanks for the ongoing inspiration. You make it seem attainable!

Kacey

Sarah said...

thanks for sharing your story, it is an inspiration. your home is beautiful as are the spaces you create.

sharon said...

This is a very generous and inspiring post. So many of us bloggers dream of having our business, your words are a real eye-opener.
Thanks for being so frank, but no it doesn't put me off!
Sharon

Laureen said...

What an inspiration!! Your work is beautiful, thanks for sharing. This was a wonderful post to start my day with. :)

blog said...

Ah, I love hearing stories from other entrepreneurs, but a story so similar to mine and Canadian too- fabulous! Seriously, our stories are very similar, though we started our business when our little guy was a whole 3 months old :), I'm a brunette, and we are in BC!

Congrats on all your wonderful success Holly. You are inspiring and an example of what hardwork and passion can result in :)

Karla
blog.kerrisdaledesign.com

bagfashionista said...

i remember that first cabinet, when you first finished it! You've come an amazing way from there. Congrats again, and best of luck for all your future endeavors!

from one ex-js member & RP fan to another.

Rachel @ La Bella Bungalow said...

Thank you Holly for pouring your heart and soul into this post, and into your blog, for that matter. I'm on a quest to get my business up-and-running and your words really mean a lot to me. I truly admire what you've done and how well you seem to balance things.

Thanks again!
~Rachel~

Danica said...

Holly, your story is amazing. I love looking at the pictures of all your projects. I was happy to discover you were in Edmonton(I live about an hour out of town), it's nice to see someone local doing so well!

Southern Country Cottage said...

This is my first time popping in to say hello..I visit here often though! :) Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your posts and seeing all your projects. This one was so great! You are an inspiration and no doubt are on the right path. Keep up the good work!

Caitlin said...

Thank you so much for posting about this! As a college student I started my blog as a way for friends and family to see what is going on within our home without having to pester everyone. However, now it seems more and more people are interested in what I am up to and thoughts of opening a website have started to stir... however, with two self-employed parents as well, I know owning your own business means you can choose your own hours each day---but you choose only between which twelve... haha. I'm happy to see how fortunate you have been and I want you to know that success is earned and you have proven yourself and that is the key to your success! Congrats!

Thanks again,
Caitlin @ That House on the Corner

Linda said...

I have been reading your blog for months now - actually im a bit addicted i think. I am lucky to also live in Edmonton (maybe not at this momment since it has decided to snow) - i know a ton of your readers are probably really jealous and would love to live in the same city as you. I have also been blessed to purchase your lovely built ins and i just love them by the way - it was so cool how that happened lol I am in the beginning stages of my own furniture business and reading your posts (especially this one) helped me to keep going - its hard but i think will be worth it.

Thanks for keeping me inspired! And looking forward to having many White Berry items in my home.

Linda @ Painted Whyte

Tamstyles said...

great story

Charlotte: One Project at a Time said...

THank you so so so much for sharing your story... I think people just see the good and happy moments and not the hard times and how much time you put into your work. You are such an inspiration. I love reading your blog and hope to one day be able to learn a few of your techniques.

Hope WhiteBerry continues do do amazing!

Jennifer said...

this is very inspirational, thank you for sharing. I've been wanting to start something (anything! haha) outside my corporate job to let out some creative juices. I would have never thought you spent that much time on the business side -- good to know. again, thanks for sharing your heart!

Kerri said...

What a sweetheart you are for sharing your story! I love to hear success stories and although a lot of hard work goes into your own business, it's so worth it. I also think your generosity and warm personality has a lot to do with your success. Thanks for the inspiration! xx

 
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