One of the biggest reasons I love this month is because for the last several years on the blog I've featured hard working mom-preneurs who create fantastic items they make themselves in an effort to help support their families. I find this a win-win for all: encouraging other moms to purchase these items from these hard working creative mommas for holiday gift giving. It's a great thing and I am very proud of these features every year and of the great moms who participate!
Our first mom I'm featuring is local Maine mama Jessica Winters, who creates amazing announcements and invitation cards. Such great designs, and shopping local for them is even better! LoveTheWinters is an Etsy shop you MUST peruse!
Thank you, Jessica, for your contribution to this blog series.
MOMS: scroll down for a discount through the end of the year!
Images shared from Jessica Winters
1. How did you start your business? Why did you want your own business? When did you start your business?
I've always been a creative/crafty person. When I was young I did a career report on becoming a graphic designer but that isn't the degree I wound up pursuing. I have my undergrad in Communication Disorders but after battling cancer while in college (almost 11 years in remission now!) I realized that I wanted to live life outside of a classroom (I needed a doctorate to pursue a career in Audiology). I worked as a cake decorator for a few years after college (pursing a childhood dream) and once my oldest son was born I began life as a stay-at-home mom. I nannied for a while but that became harder as my kids got older (shuffling between schools and activities).
I started LoveTheWinters because I had been designing party invitations and holiday cards for myself and the more I did, the more people loved them! I love creating fun theme parties and a great theme always begins with a great invitation!
I finally took the leap and opened my Etsy shop in April 2015. The longer I've done it, the more I have learned and the better my designs have become!
While my shop doesn't support my family by any stretch, I love being able to make money to help contribute while I stay at home with my young kids. I am able to work when time allows while still being available for my kids and my family. Plus it allows me a great creative outlet!
3. What does your business specialize in? What's your favorite product? How'd you come up with the name?
My Etsy shop, LoveTheWinters, specializes in custom invitations and announcements. I seem to have new favorites all the time... but my personal favorites generally come from invites that I have created specifically for one of my kids or for a friend. I have a beautiful beach themed birthday invite that I designed for my best friend's son's first birthday that I adore. I love the drive-in movie birthday invite that I just designed for my son's first "friend party". I have a black & gold "Class of" graduation announcement and a pink and silver sparkle bachelorette invite that are my two most favorited items in my shop. The name LoveTheWinters actually started when I was planning to do a shop selling quilts. I liked the idea that the tags I had made would work both for shop items and gift items - "I bought it from LoveTheWinters!" or "What a great gift, with love, The Winters'" Haha.
4. What do you love best about working for yourself?
I love that I am in charge of what designs I make and list. And also, that I am in charge of the hours that I work so I can spend time with my family exploring our new home in Maine!
5. When working, When do you work in the day/evening? What's your process for working? Things you do daily, a routine?
I work mostly when my younger son naps, but also sometimes after school hours when my kids play together - sometimes they are so wrapped up in games or coloring that I can sneak off and work on designs. A new design often starts as a sketch... I picture a design in my head and want to jot down the idea before it is gone. Then I get to work on my computer (I use Photoshop Elements currently). I get the general layout created and then start tinkering with things. Sometimes it comes together easily and sometimes I monkey with it for a few days/weeks until I am seeing on my screen what I saw in my head.
6. Take me step by step through working with customers. Do you do anything special or unique, wrapping, specials, etc.?
Being an Etsy shop, there is varying degrees of customer interaction. Sometimes things start when I receive a message with questions about my products, or requests for custom work. Sometimes I receive an order, fill it, and don't hear anything back. I love it when I get feedback from my clients. If something isn't 100% the way they envisioned I like that I can take the time to fix it and make sure it matches their vision. Because I sell digital files I don't do any packaging, but I do run sales in the shop... Anniversary Sales in April, graduation season sales, Columbus Day/Holiday Preview sales... Just Because Sales! Haha. One day it would be nice to offer print services for clients, but I don't currently have the ability to do high-quality prints that meet my standards, so I sell digital files - this way clients can print at home, through online services, or at local print shops depending on their budget and preference.
7. What is your success rate? What do you think customers would say about your work, shop?
Of the reviews I have received via Etsy and through email interactions with clients, people are always very happy with their product and experience! Which makes me happy because I am doing my job well. There are always clients I don't hear feedback from - but I hope that means they were happy with their invite and were busy working to pull together a great party with a great theme.
8. Why do you think people should shop in your store, and why should they support moms who work for themselves?
I think in the age of Etsy, online marketplaces, and Pinterest, people like that they can have custom work done that they can't/aren't able to do themselves. People like having something with a personal touch. They like being able to plan a theme party based on their kid's likes and not just based on what is available at the party store.
My favorite part about shopping on Etsy is that it is a great way to shop local - even if you aren't local!
Before my family moved to Maine this year I purchased a beautiful handmade purse on Etsy. This was before I opened my own shop. I remember getting a note from the shop owner that thanked me for shopping local and that really struck a cord. I was able to support a small business based in Norway, ME (Rough & Tumble, they started in Norway and recently opened a shop in the Old Port - I can't wait to pop in now that I am geographically local!) by "shopping local" from my (then) home in the Chicago suburbs. This is a store I could have never "happened upon" in my daily life, but here I was supporting a local business, and I love that.
I love supporting moms, dads, whoever, do what they love by supporting their businesses. I love when people ask where to print their invitations that they purchase in my shop because I *always* encourage people to find a print shop near them and support local!
ButtonMan Printing in St. Charles, IL has been my go-to for years, they do great work, and they ship for me! Now that we are finally coming out from under all of the moving boxes I look forward to finding a local print shop in my new home town to support.
9. What are your items to sell?
I sell custom digital files (.jpeg or .pdf) of invitations, announcements, and holiday greeting cards. Anything from birthday invitations (kids and adults) to bridal showers, baby showers, birth announcements, graduation announcements, etc.
10. How does your business allow you to be a great mother?
Working for myself allows me to spend time with my kids pretty much any time. Part of that is the business being small, but part of that is making my own hours and deciding when to work. At busier times of year (graduation, for example) I can work on filling orders after the kids are in bed or before they wake up.
We made a purposeful decision for me to stay home with our kids while they were little, being able to run this shop allows me to feel fulfilled in a more professional way and in a creative way. I like that my boys see me doing something that I enjoy and that challenges me.
11. What do you think would surprise readers to know about you?
The one fact that seems to surprise about everyone I meet these days is that after about 13 years of visiting Maine sporadically and talking about how great it would be to live here, my husband and I decided last summer - why not?! Let's just go! Let's live life and follow our dreams. We wanted to live here, raise our kids here, build a life here - and so we did the scary thing and just jumped in! We listed our house and my husband started the job search. It took almost a year from the time we decided to do it to the time the moving truck was packed... but here we are! Raising our babies on the salty sea air and loving every second of it.
12. What is the coolest thing you've ever experienced as part of working with this business?
I just really love working with people from all over the country and helping them design things that mark huge life events! In a very small way I have been a part of so many graduations, birthdays, holidays, etc. I love that! I always thank my clients for allowing LoveTheWinters to be a part of their special occasion. I love that.
13. What is one of your favorite gifts to give someone for the holidays?
My sister and I have a tradition where we purchase each other's kids ornaments each year for Christmas. All of our kids have their own tree set up in their bedrooms that is full of ornaments that are just theirs. I always have so much fun each year trying to think of what to get them - something that matches their personality at that moment, something that is just too cute to pass up, something that marks a special occasion from the previous year. I love that tradition at the holidays. I love that each kid is growing up with a growing collection of ornaments that mark their personalities over the years.
14. How many kids do you have? Give us one word to describe them.
I have two boys, Silas was 7 on Halloween and Emmett is 3 1/2. Picking a single word is so hard... I would say a *single* word to describe Silas is "thoughtful" because he has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and is also always thinking of everyone else. A *single* word to describe Emmett would be "joyful" because, man, that kids sees the joy in absolutely everything.
MOMMYSTORIES20 and is good for 20% off everything in the store through the end of the year 2016!