Hey there! My name is Karen and it is such an honor to share a little about me and my family with you today on Confetti and Crumbs. My husband and I are parents to a sweet and very busy 18-month old little girl. I have an elementary education degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and was a 5th-grade teacher and mortgage loan assistant before becoming a stay-at-home mama with a growing Etsy business (more on that later!). We live in Durham, NC and absolutely love all the food, sports, music, history, and beautiful places in our community to enjoy as a family.
Baby giggles, date nights, fresh flowers, Home Goods shopping trips, fall, girls’ weekend, and kittens are some of my favorite things. During my spare time, you may find me cozied up with a good book and some coffee on our back porch – or possibly rearranging all the pillows in the house for the 1000th time. I love to decorate and make our home comfortable and kid-friendly, but also stylish and beautiful.
Confetti + Crumbs: What do you enjoy most about motherhood?
Karen: 1. I love watching our daughter take joy in little moments. Something as simple as an airplane flying over our house, the cat walking into the room, or hearing her favorite song (the ABCs) can send her into peals of laughter accompanied by some super-awesome toddler dance moves. 2.I also enjoy listening to our daughter talk. Her little language is the cutest and she is so earnest and expressive, even when it doesn’t make sense to anyone but her. She likes to repeat her favorite words, especially “doggy,” “Minnie,” and “baby.” It seems like every day she is picking up a new word. My heart is so full every time I hear her cute little voice say “Mama!”
Confetti + Crumbs: Favorite fall activities you like to do with your little one?
Karen: When it finally starts to cool down, we like to spend lots of time outside! North Carolina summers are brutal and I look forward sunny and brisk afternoons in the fall. We are fortunate to live in a community that has amazing outdoor spaces for kids, such as the Museum of Life and Science. I love the walking trails and my daughter is a big fan of the animals and play areas. We also spend a lot of time in the yard with books and toys, playing in the grass or on her swing set. Even last year when she was still very little, I tried to get us outside to play each day. It’s definitely simple, but one of our favorite things to do every day in the fall!
Confetti +Crumbs: What’s your #1 tip for keeping a clean house?
Karen: When my husband and I both worked outside the home, our house stayed relatively clean. Now that my daughter and I are home during the day, it can easily go from spotless to disaster with one well-placed fling of a yogurt pouch or dump of goldfish out of a supposedly toddler-proof snack cup. My biggest tip is to use baskets/bins/toy boxes to keep organized and to pick up whenever you can. For example, when my daughter goes down for her nap, I usually take a few minutes to put her toys back into the storage baskets and tuck them away besides the couch or in our guest room until she wakes up. It instantly makes my house feel so much cleaner and organized, even before I have a chance to vacuum up the cracker crumbs in the rug. We are also starting to teach her to help clean up and plan to give her some chores when she gets a little older. Finally, I try to rotate her toys and books so she has something “new” to play with and I don’t have an overwhelming amount of clutter or baskets lurking around the house. I have some things put up in her closet and I will periodically bring out different toys and stash away the ones she has been playing with for a bit.
Confetti + Crumbs: You know you’re a mother when ____.
Karen: 1. You can juggle a hungry baby, an overstuffed diaper bag, and a high chair through Chik-fil-a during lunch time without injuring someone else. 2. Everything that you eat or drink is cold.
Confetti + Crumbs: Favorite date night spot?
Karen: That is a hard choice because we have so many amazing places to pick from in Durham! My ideal date night with my husband would start at Gonza Tacos and Tequila with some yummy steak tacos and one of their specialty margaritas, all while sitting out on the patio under the lights. After dinner, I love to go to either Alley Twenty Six or the rooftop bar at the Durham Hotel for some drinks. And last but certainly not least, we always try to get some ice cream at the Parlour if we are downtown. My husband is crazy about their Vietnamese coffee ice cream and I love the salted butter caramel or ginger flavors.
Show + tell time
As I mentioned earlier, I have a growing design business on Etsy. When we decided that it would be best for our family that I stay home, it was the first time since I was a young teenager that I found myself without some kind of official employment. Even when I was teaching, I spent a good bit of time during the summer preparing for the upcoming school year. Don’t get me wrong – being a mom is the absolute best job in the world. It is my full-time job, priority, and most important thing that I do. However, I felt that I needed some kind of creative outlet.
After several months of thinking about it, I started KL Design Company in December 2016 and officially opened shop in January 2017. I am so excited to say that I have far surpassed any goals or expectations that I had for my first year of business. My shop has already evolved from mostly doing hand-lettered signs to an array of colorful and fun personalized notecards and gift tags, apparel, coffee mugs, decor, and custom orders such as baby shower invitations and business cards. I love working on my ideas and expressing my creativity through the items that I create.
I feel like I talk to so many mothers who, once they find out that I have a business, say to me: “I have always loved to do (blank) and dream of starting my own business but I am just not sure where to start.” By no means am I an expert at starting or running your own business but I would like to share with you a few tips and tricks that I have learned along the way :
- Just do it: It’s hard to take that leap of faith to start a business. It took a little while for me to work up the courage to put myself out there with my ideas. It seemed very daunting to be the primary daytime caregiver to my baby and to also somehow manage the demands of a handmade business. This is not to mention dealing with the possible disappointment if it was a total flop. But once I got started, I found that I could make it all work and it was something that I really enjoyed doing each day.
- Have your “elevator speech” ready to go: When I mention that I have an Etsy shop, the response is usually something along the lines of: “That is amazing! What do you do?” For a long time, that was a deer in the headlights moment for me. I fumbled, bumbled, and generally struggled to concisely put into words what I create and am able to do with my business. One day, I decided that I needed an “elevator speech” aka a way to clearly describe and promote my business during the time it would take to ride in an elevator (about 30 seconds). I wrote out several keywords that I could use to describe my craft. Then I practiced a few sentences that included those words to answer the once anxiety-producing question.
- Clear and timely communication is key: As a consumer, I am always more likely to buy from somewhere that I know that I can get great customer service along with an excellent product or service. This definitely involves being able to talk to a real person relatively quickly when I have a question. I am not suggesting that you stay glued to your phone or computer to answer emails as soon as they are received. However, I try to respond within a few hours to messages, texts, or calls received during normal business days/hours, even if I just need to tell them that I will research their question and get back to them later. Additionally, I always strive to be upfront and clear with my customers about product specifications, variations, pricing, production times, delivery, etc. so that we both understand how our transaction will take place.
- Remember what Mama taught you: Be genuinely thankful and appreciative to people who help you grow your business, whether it is a customer, production partner, a friend who referred someone to you, or someone who is expressing interest in your products or services. This will help you build business relationships and referral partners; plus, it’s great modeling for your little ones and the right thing to do! I handwrite little thank you cards with each package and am always sure to tell my customers to thank you for their business. Which leads me to my next point…
- Presentation is the icing on the cake: You are your own “brand,” whether you are offering products or a service. It takes a lot of hard work to develop that brand and the look that you want to project. You can look professional through your business cards, website, photography, marketing materials, “elevator speech” (see #2), Facebook, Instagram, etc. If you are selling physical items, I would encourage you to nicely (and securely!) wrap and package your products. This includes things that you ship. A little ribbon and tissue paper go a long way toward making a plain box or envelope look sophisticated and memorable to your customers.
- Use social media to get the word out: Social media is a wonderful way to promote your business. I try to take time each day to do something, whether it be to post a picture of a product, comment/like other people’s posts, or share something that I find interesting or fun without overwhelming people with too much content. Set goals for yourself on how many times per week that you would like to post and try to stick to a schedule. I also learned over time that different social media platforms have different rules for running contests/giveaways so be sure to read their policies to make sure your content adheres to their guidelines if you decide to do anything like that.
- Mistakes happen and that’s ok: We are all humans and we will make mistakes at some point. This is a hard one for me because I have some strong Type-A tendencies and I am passionate about my business. If you make a mistake, resist the urge to panic. Be sure to address it with your customers and do everything in your power to make things correct, but don’t beat yourself up about it.
- Know the rules: Licensing and intellectual property can be really murky areas, especially for those of us who are not lawyers. If you are using any graphics, logos, fonts, names, saying, etc. for a commercial purpose, you must make sure that you are legally entitled to use them. Even some words for products are trademarked and cannot be used by anyone other than the trademark holder. One example is using the word “onesie” to refer to the adorable and convenient little baby bodysuits. Gerber holds the trademark for that word and has very strict guidelines under which sellers may use it to advertise those items. Also, be sure to research sales and use tax, federal and state income tax, etc. (I am not a lawyer or accountant and this is not legal/tax advice – just my two cents!)
- Stay organized: Mamas- we are a busy bunch! It can be hard to juggle all the demands of our lives but I found that if I take a few minutes each day to get organized, that things tend to run a little bit more smoothly both personally and professionally. I am very dependent upon my running to-do list and review it daily to make sure I am on track. Folder systems have always worked well for me too; I like to organize my orders by their current status. Paperwork and accounting of expenses/sales are not my forte, but are things that I force myself to keep up with so that I will be ready for tax season!
- Have fun!: Congratulations! You are doing something that you love and that is amazing!
If you are local you can meet this sweet momma at our Cozy & Bright Christmas Market hosted by The Gray Cottage and Confetti + Crumbs. More details to come.
Tune in next Monday for another round of Naptime with Confetti + Crumbs.