Creative Business- Under the Willow

I had the pleasure of interviewing two of the most beautiful people that I know who own a creative business called Under the Willow.  This husband and wife duo make the most beautiful handcrafted signs that have fun and inspirational quotes.

 Check out what Jon and Heather Hill had to say about their creative business.

Q:  What made you begin creating signs?

A:  I actually started over twelve years ago and sold them in a little shop… I think because I saw some and thought “hey I could do that” I only made them for a couple years and then recently before the birth of my second child I saw one I loved on Fixer Upper. I wanted it for his nursery but could not afford it, so I made one. So then it began! Again! –Heather-

I started making signs after Heather asked me to help her make a couple signs for our little guy’s nursery about two years ago. It has evolved into a small business. -Jon-

 

Q:  Where did the name “Under the Willow” come from?

A:  Jon and I were actually married Under a Willow Tree at Edgewater Park in Cleveland Ohio… That is where our adventure began –Heather-

 

Q:  What is your favorite part about your creative business?

A:  Working with Heather to create unique signs and the smiles on our customers faces when they see the final product. -Jon-

 

Q:  Do you enjoy working with your spouse?

A: Yes. Although fulfilling orders can be stressful and demanding in our schedule, it amazes me what we can do as a team. I am blessed. -Jon-

 

Q:  Do the two of you have assigned tasks that you do to complete a sign?

A:  Yes, Jon constructs everything. He is amazing and detailed. Always has all of the measurements and knows exactly what sign is what & who it belongs to.  I usually design them and paint.  Jon also does all of the base color on the signs and stains the frames.  If it wasn’t for him I would be supplying customers with a puddle of paint. -Heather-

I handle the woodworking portion of the sign, which includes roughing in the base and finishing with the trim. Heather is the artistic genius in our business. She has vision and turns a pile of wood into a work of art. -Jon-

 

Q:  How do you promote your creative business?

A:  At first it was word of mouth only and that kept us pretty busy. People kept asking about a website so we decided to start a facebook and instagram page. We have some homemade business cards and tags. -Heather-

 

 

Q:  How long have you been creating signs and when did you decide to make it a business?

A: About two years and my wife asked me to help her with a project for our baby’s nursery. -Jon-

 

Q:  What is the most rewarding part of your creative business?

A:  Working with Heather to create some cool stuff and seeing the joy our signs bring to our customers. -Jon-

Definitely seeing customers smile. -Heather-

 

Q:  Where can people purchase your pieces?

A: Right now the only shop that has them in stock is The Urban Nest in Beaufort, South Carolina, but we sell them on our facebook page. – Heather-

 

Q:  Where can people follow you on social media and get in contact with you?

A: Instagram:  @under.the.willow_

Facebook:   Under The Willow

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1350061661694724/

Creative Business: be still CREATIVE

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the most creative photographers that I have ever met.  She took a big leap and quit her day job to follow her dream to have her own photography business called

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Check out the interview below to find out what inspired her to start her creative business, advise to others who wish to start a creative business and other interesting tidbits.

LBS: How did you get into photography?

BSC: I have always liked taking pictures. I bought my first dslr camera about 5 years ago. The rest is history!

LBS: What is your favorite part about your job?

BSC: Capturing memories that will last lifetimes is a truly amazing feeling! I love that part!

LBS: Do you prefer certain photo sessions over others such as wedding, senior pictures, boudoir, etc?

BSC: Boudoir sessions are my favorite with couples / wedding in close second. Photographing people in love and empowering women to feel sexy and love themselves are my passions!

LBS: If you could give any advice to someone wanting to start a creative business, what would it be?

BSC: Creative businesses have to come from the soul.. The day I realized this I jumped in full force. You get out what you put in!

LBS: What inspired you to start your own creative business?

BSC: Freedom.. I had so much creativity and drive bottled up. I was miserable working at the bank.

LBS: Did you find any surprises in transitioning from working for someone else to having your own business?

BSC: Yes.. It was hard! Time management and getting used to scattered pay checks was really tough at first.

LBS: Now looking back on it, is there anything that you would do differently when creating your business?

BSC: The only thing I think I would change is doing it sooner! I was so scared so I didnt take the jump until I was unbearably miserable! That was not cool lol

LBS: How did you transition from working a normal 9-to-5 with someone else to having your own business and working for yourself full-time?

BSC: SLOW! It took me over 3 years to make the jump.. I went from full time to part time to finally quitting the bank!

LBS: What has surprised you about running your own business?

BSC: The fact that taking pictures is only about 25% of my job! 75% of running a business is back end work like editing, marketing, advertising, accounting, etc… BORING STUFF!!!!

LBS: Now that you do photography as your business, do you still enjoy it as much as when it was your hobby?

BSC: Yes.. because like I said in the last question its really only a small part of my business… When I am behind my lens that is my time! That is my zone!

LBS: How do you stay inspired?

BSC: I try to set up sessions for myself! If I am feeling blahhh about my work I will create a vision and find models and shoot it. I call them passion projects! I also will get lost in social media and the internet for inspiration. I follow a few photographers that I admire and go to for inspiration when needed!

LBS: What are some of the negatives to having your own business?

BSC: Its doesnt shut down. a 9-5 job ends at 5. My cell phone is with me 100% and I get emails and messages at all different times and days. I am my business so it is always there with me . Which is sometimes a curse!

I hope you enjoyed the interview with Jessica Clutter of be still CREATIVE.  If you wish to get in contact with Jessica, you can find her at bestillcreative.com

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Thanks for stopping by the blog!

Creative Business: Buckeyes and Bluegrass

So I’m starting a new series on the blog based on creative businesses.  I will interview owners of creative businesses and you will see how they began their creative business, what makes their business a creative one, what they like and dislike about their business, as well as many other interesting facts.

To kick off this new series, I’m featuring a creative business by the name of Buckeyes and Bluegrass, which is owned by two wonderfully creative women, Laura Weir and Lori Riedel, who are known for “doing new things with old stuff.”

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They are based out of Virginia and Ohio.  Check out what they had to say about their creative business in the Q&A below:

LBS:  How did you come up with the name of your business?

Laura:   We were on a road trip (one of our first treks on the World’s Longest Yard Sale) with my mom and several of her retired librarian friends. We had signed a contract with our first antique mall, and needed a business name to register with the county and get a license. There were all sorts of crazy names being tossed around, and I remember someone saying “Bedpans and Broomsticks,” and that morphed into Buckeyes and Bluegrass, which seemed fitting, since Lori is from Ohio and I’m from Kentucky.

LBS:  How did you get interested in your craft?

Laura:   My mother was a great collector and auction/thrift shopper, but I don’t think I fully appreciated that until I started decorating my own homes. I found I had a real dislike for furniture and home décor that was newly manufactured but made to look old. I really like to be surrounded with items that have a history, and that spark memories. I was also finding that I was pretty handy, loved power tools, and liked trying to figure out how to take something old apart and put it back together or refinish it in a new way.

Lori     Laura & I met at the bus stop in our Virginia neighborhood when our second born children were in kindergarten.  We started attending a weekly auction together just for a fun night out.  I had not been a collector up to that point, but I did have some family pieces of furniture that I treasured & used.  I’d always enjoyed decorating, but had to do it on a tight budget because we were a military family.  Buying at the auction allowed me to get things I loved at a reasonable price & I could add to what I had at home to achieve the look I wanted.  Upcycling and repurposing items was becoming popular & we loved taking something old & turning it into something new, different,  & usable.  I had been a scrapbooker & played around with other crafts like stamping & making Christmas decorations, but that was about the extent of it.

LBS:  What made you decide to start a business?

Lori     Laura & I found out quickly that we had very similar tastes – primitive, rustic, well-worn & well loved items,  Soon our homes were filled, then our garages, then storage spaces…. so we had this crazy idea that maybe we could sell some of our stuff.  I checked out a local antiques mall & grabbed an application and with no real knowledge of how to run a business we started B & B Antiques.

LBS:  What is it like having a business partner?

Laura:    Working with Lori has been great for me – I require a lot of positive reinforcement and encouragement to get inspired, and having her to bounce ideas off of and to make plans with is a great motivator.  We are very alike in most ways, with regards to style and eye and pieces that we are attracted to, but there are some subtle differences in what we like and in how we collect and curate and create that I think broaden our appeal and help us reach a larger audience than either of us could individually.

Auctions are always more fun with Lori; we have different buying styles that balance each other out – if one of us is being overly cautious, the other is taking some risks, and vice versa.

The toughest part of working in tandem with someone on a venture that’s as close to the heart as our business is making allowances and compromises for differences of opinion and style, and accepting each other’s weaknesses.  There’s definitely a need for a little decompression time after a long “picking” road trip together, or after a week of late nights together getting the shop ready for a weekend show.

We’ve each had to put moratoriums on certain items (I’m currently not allowed to buy any more religious ephemera or art – Lori was finding it vaguely creepy). We try not to talk politics, and I’ve had to sign a document swearing that I will never sing along with the radio. Lori has to do the majority of the in person sales interactions, because I’m not great with people; and I do the online sales listings and website updates, because Lori doesn’t like having to write item descriptions.

I can’t imagine anyone else putting up with me for all these years, and I feel like we are both lucky to have found the other; kindred spirits with the combined skills to build our business and keep it growing.

Lori:       Working with a partner has been great for me because we both bring different talents to the table.  Laura is great with all things computer related, the website, Etsy, social media,etc.  I’m the organizer, the tax preparer, & the one who deals with people more.  We both are creative & have a good eye for decorating, but sometimes it takes both of us to get the job done.  Of course it’s never perfect.  We are 2 different people with different personalities and ideas so we don’t always agree, but we’ve learned to compromise & we work well together and I’m glad we’ve remained best friends for more than 14 years!

LBS:  What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about starting a creative business?

Laura:   First, I think you have to have a real passion for what it is you want to do. I hear people say sometimes, “I want to sell something at craft shows. What should I make?” Or “I want to rent a space at an antique mall. What’s a good seller?” I don’t think that would work for us. Really, our business grew out of the fun and satisfaction we were getting from what we were already doing; being fairly successful and making money at it has been a bonus. That said, I also agree with Lori. You have to just do it. If it hadn’t been for her, actually researching antique malls and bringing over the contract for me to sign, I’d probably still just be talking about doing it sometime. Also, if you really are serious about making the transition from hobby to business, you have to do your homework about what is required, and take things like taxes, licensing, copyrights, etc. seriously.

Lori:        My advice to someone who is thinking about starting a creative business is JUST DO IT!  If it’s something you really love to do don’t get bogged down with the details.  Just begin & then work out the details. Surround yourself with people who have done something similar and ask for advice & guidance.

LBS:  What is your favorite thing about your creative business and your least favorite thing about your creative business?

Laura:   Favorite thing hands down is a day-long farm auction on a spring day, with homemade pie in a food stand run by church ladies! Discovering treasures in the bottom of dusty box lots, or buying wooden crates full of old hardware from a wagon, or digging through an old chicken coop to get to the rusty roll of wire.

Least favorite thing is the bookwork. I seem to have a mental block about saving receipts and logging new inventory, and compiling year end data for the taxes. It gets done, but not without a lot of nagging and all-nighters and some occasional tears.

Lori:      My least favorite thing about our business is the paperwork & bookkeeping.  Unfortunately, it must be done so we do it, but not without a lot of complaining!

My favorite thing is the hunt for those unusual pieces.  I love looking at an item and in my minds eye seeing it used in a completely different way.  It gets the creative juices flowing!  It also makes me feel good to salvage an unused and unloved item and turn it into something that will go into a new home & be loved.

LBS:  Where can people find you and your merchandise?

Laura:   Our shop in New Washington is open the second full weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) of each month, from 10 am to 6 pm.

We are Dealer #25 at Iron Horse Antiques in Manassas, Virginia, and we are regular vendors at the DC Big Flea, a large antique show and sale in Chantilly, Virginia, as well as at other antique and craft shows.

We sell on Etsy at buckeyesandbluegrass.etsy.com, and we also sell on our own website, buckeyesandbluegrass.com.

Lori:      We have a unique circumstance right now where I  live in Virginia (for a few more years!) and Laura lives in Ohio.  We have a shop in Ohio that is open the second weekend of every month (Fri, Sat, Sun).  We also have space in Iron Horse Antiques in VA and we do shows like the DC Big Flea which is a big antiques show in Chantilly, VA.  We also have an online Etsy shop as well as a website where items can be purchased.

LBS:  When is your shop open and where is it located?

Laura:  Our shop will be open next on November 13, 14, & 15 from 10 am to 6 pm. It’s at 5964 Swabb Road in New Washington, Ohio.

Be sure to check out their website or etsy shop and if you are in the Crawford County, Ohio area, you should definitely make a trip to their shop this weekend.  You will not be disappointed!

I hope you enjoyed the first of many blog posts in the Creative Business series and I’ll see you guys next week.  Thanks for stopping by.