Wednesday, November 25, 2015

t h a n k f u l

I have taken the last week to relax. It was a forced relaxing because of a back injury due to over working myself. It was my idea to have the studio event two days before a major house renovation but it knocked me on my back.

So I have been slowly putting my house back together, getting some things done at home that have been much over due. 

And I turned 40. Which doesn't really freak me out. I am looking it as a new start. I have been on such a fast ride with the new shop this last year that I have really put myself on the back burner. I understand that with the new shop, it is like starting over even after years in the business. But it has tested me on what I can handle. I haven't figured out the balance yet. It took the toll on me physically and mentally. And not because the shop isn't doing well, it has succeeded my expectations by 100 percent. I tried not working at the shop but only doing the behind the scenes stuff which I think is when my energy changed and my stress doubled.  Which was kind of the opposite of what I wanted. It is probably because I am home all the time. And my house wasn't organized the way I wanted or even clean, because I was focused on MCC during the day and my family at night. And like every season a parent has, this has been by far the most challenging year with my family. The Summer was really hard. I have to remember that the biggest reason I have the shop is to work but be available for my kids. I haven't figured out the balance yet. 

I had a ton of sleepless nights last month. I saw how successful the shop was, yet I wasn't writing myself checks {how is that for honesty, and I have been doing this for 5 years}. How could this be?And I was working 7 days a week. I was feeling wonderful about my work but not great about myself. My family needs me to make money so I need to figure it out, and I am.

So I am looking at 40 with a grateful heart. I have a plan of action to take back momentum so I can sustain the store for years to come. I am going to be there a lot more. Which I love. Retail for my personality can be hard. Especially when I am in charge of producing the pieces for the shop and all the buying. It is not always easy for me to hear the fairly constant criticism about my hours or pricing or when someone is having a bad day and takes it out on the person behind the counter. But I have also missed the feedback from the people who love the shop, which is the majority. I am not there so I don't hear it. I think it would help me to hear it.

Last Saturday the girls at the shop threw me a surprise 40th with the help of my husband. I don't know if they know how much that meant to me. I haven't had a party or celebration for my birthday since I was 13. On the drive home I was telling my husband how much it means to me to have this group of friends. There is no posturing, or wondering what someone thinks of you, or what they want from you. We all are 100 percent ourselves around each other and support each other's dreams unconditionally. It is amazing. I am so thankful for it.

And I am thankful for this year's challenges. It means I can take opportunity to learn from the challenges. It means I will be working even harder. You will be seeing me a lot more running the shop. And I have another huge endeavor almost signed off on that I am so giddy about. Just wait, it is going to be good. I want to tell you about it~ but I can't just yet!

 I hope to get a little of my happy back. I hope to write myself some checks. I hope to live in less chaos and more joyfulness. But it is really up to me. And that is a challenge I can take.

Thank you to you who have followed me on this ride! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

m y   s t o r e   a t e   m y    b l o g
For some reason lately I have had to give the rundown of how I got to where I am.
And I always say it started with the blog.
Which it did.
And then the blog kind of died for me.
I remember 4 years ago being worried I didn't post on my blog every week. Now I post every three months or so.
It isn't that I don't want to. It is that I am pulled in so many directions that the blog gets put on the back burner.
And Instagram took over both my Facebook and blog. And who knows what will take it over next.
But the blog taught me a ton. I know that everyone only looks at the pictures {hence Instagram taking over}. I would get comments at the end of posts and I knew no one was actually reading my posts.
Or the blog turns into teaching everyone else what took me years of trial and error to figure out. And something in me clicked that I don't really want to do tutorials. Really good work happens when others figure it out for themselves. And the fun happens when you figure it out yourself instead of "googling" it. And the longevity of an artist happens when they do it on their own.
Social media is hard balance for a small business. It is a necessary thing to build your brand, network. And it is usually free! It just takes time and figuring out what your brand is. And it is FUN.
But it has it's downfalls.
 I can work 10 hours on a piece. I am so proud of it. I found it, rebuilt it, painted it, staged it, marketed it, then hauled it by myself to the shop. Then I remerch the entire shop to make the new piece work in the store. I work 12 hours total on it and I will probably not make any money on it after all my expenses. So I will have to paint 15 of those pieces a month to make a profit.
I have learned to have a thick skin. I can post it for sale and I can get a mean comment about it.
I get it, it isn't their cup of tea. Every person has different taste.
And everyone might not like me. And that is ok. And to be honest. I am not really the person I put out on social media. I have a somewhat messy house, I always have a bun in my hair, paint on my clothes and car full of furniture junk and mess.

I think I am funnier in "real life" and goofier, and I fret about dumb stuff. Then I forget about it.
But all my painter friends live this way.
I would never post on someone else's wall something rude about their post. It always baffles me that people do this. Why follow a store if you don't like their taste? But it doesn't bug me anymore.
The internet makes people entitled to think they can get a hold of me 24 hours a day. I kind of fight this a bit. If someone posts a comment on a picture at 9pm but I don't respond until the next day, I don't think that warrants 5 emails asking why I hadn't responded back to a comment. I was asleep.
And I have had to get over people who copy. I try not to even think about it. Truth is, if someone has to copy, then they will have trouble when the business changes. And it will. Probably next week.
I have learned to build all kinds of structure around me. I have my hours at the shop that work for my family. This is what I get complaints about the most. I have to say that I can't work at the store more myself. I am knee deep in paint and dust everyday. This is what keeps the store open. This is how I make my money. And I can't afford to add more staff to be open for the sake of being open. The truth is when I went from being open six days a week to four my sales tripled and stayed that way.  But it is the first thing someone says to me when they come to the store. I tried to visit but you weren't open. I just smile. The second thing they ask right after that is if I paint the pieces in the store myself. Yes, why I am only open 4 days a week.
After going on 4 years of painting and selling, I have it down a bit, but it is a hustle of a job. Not for the meek.
I am a completely different business person than I was even a year ago.
I have a team at the store that understand working together makes everything work.
And hard work.
If you want to do this line of work- work REALLY hard seriously. Be careful who you work with. Always evolve. Try things yourself. Make mistakes. Understand that not everyone is going to like you. Understand you can't please every customer. You will have months you blow it out of the water and months you are treading water.
It is hard work.
But it is amazing.
And I love you guys, and I wouldn't be here without your. Seriously!!!!
And darn I should really blog more........

Friday, May 8, 2015

m y    w e e k 

I thought I might try this. My week in this business and a little of home life documented. 

It is a FUN, crazy business, sometimes dirty-messy-dusty. I log a ton of hours in my car every week. I think that might be surprising to people. I probably spend 2-3 hours everyday in my car. I have built up a really fun network of places I visit to pick up pieces, I consider them friends. I go to the hardware store, craft stores, recycling center, my pillow supplier, visiting my friends shops and of course my shop. 

I wrote in my last post how I was going to be working less shifts at the shop. The reason is I want to be out in the field way more. Creating and finding amazing pieces for the store. 

I am there everyday no matter what though. I bring in new pieces almost everyday the store is open. I am super hands on with knowing what sold and to whom. I LOVE merchandising and making sure it looks fresh. 
I like to sit and chat with whoever is working. I love having a super tight team. I have no idea what they think of me, lol! They probably think I am super goofy. Who knows, I try to keep things professional but what I really want is for everyone to feel appreciated. I also want everyone to know how we should appreciate how lucky we are to do what we do. Super big life lessons I have learned this year. I am going to be 40 in November, I guess this is the time to recognize! 

So this week I had some amazing pieces already in my studio ready for me to work on. Normally I don't have a ton of backstock. I buy it, I paint it {hence why I am in the car picking everyday}. I think it is wasted money sitting in my studio waiting for paint. I buy a piece and immediately plan a design for it in my head and start on it immediately. 

This week I knew I wanted to do some colors I hadn't done in a while. 

This petite armoire is so flipping cute I wish I had a place for it. It will be such an amazing statement piece for someone. 

I painted it in Grassy Fields by Benjamin Moore. It is a color I have used a lot. 
{picture in my house, front entry}

My absolute go to paints are General Finishes and Benjamin Moore. If you want a clean look, minimal or no distressing, both paints are amazing.  

I got this paint mixed in an eggshell finish in the Aura {primer already in paint} formula. 
It took three coats and I did minimal distressing with a sanding block. 

I didn't wax or put a top coat on the piece. 

I looked at it and figured it looked lovely in eggshell and if I waxed and buffed it, it would be too shiny with the green.

I also painted a petite buffet in General Finishes Lamp Black, distressed, added Java Gel Stain with a rag and wiped it way back. It just made the black a bit richer with more dimension. I then sealed with General Finishes Liquid Wax. One of the best products I have ever ever ever used. It is like magic.
{picture in my paint studio}

I also painted a sweet empire with mirror.

I then had a blast the next day styling it with Karla in the shop. I can't tell you how much it means to me to leave the shop in Karla's hands when I am not there. She is a rock star. Plus we keep in touch all day long through phone calls and texts. I always know what is going on at the shop.

 Molly and I are the same way on Sundays {Molly works now on Sundays}. Molly is my dear friend and when we are good, we walk several times a week in our neighborhood. I try not to talk too much shop with her, because we are friends for years but it does creep in. I appreciate her so much. 

I spent yesterday evening with my dear friend Amanda of Ferpie and Fray as she dropped off this gorgeous piece.
{seen below}

I swear when I tell Saint {my dear husband} that I am meeting Amanda, he knows not to expect me home for a few. We sit and talk about everything. I adore her. We are totally in sync with how we feel about the business and how we do business. Plus we are just crazy and funny together. We even have funny painter names for each other Rita and Maxine.

Friday I brought in more furniture, went over the new barcode system that Karla and I are working on,  merched in a ton more pillows, redid the front of the store, and then I headed out to go junking with Michelle of Blue Roof Cabin. 

She brought in this gorg headboard!

I was on the hunt for cool carriage doors for the front entry. We struck out, but had a really fun lunch together. I am mad about hanging with Michelle of Blue Roof Cabin. She has a really great sense of humor and a way about her that makes you feel like you can just be yourself. I feel lucky to have her as a friend.

I am now home getting ready to make 200 paper flowers for the shop after I make dinner for my family. 
Tomorrow I work, and in the evening we will hold our first paint class. Amanda is running the show and I am there to help. It will be a 12 hour day.

Sunday I deliver a buffet 30 miles away, then hop on a ferry to my parents for Mother's Day with my family.

I think this will be a fun thing to do every Friday, I might just do it again next week! 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

t i m i n g

I spent the last 3 1/2 years working the front house of a shop and the back house. The first two and a half were the warm up to this year. 

Last year at this time, I would have never thought I would be here. 
I wasn't sure of my place in this business and I seriously considered leaving it. I hadn't found my place in it yet. I had spent the 8 months prior to this new shop, praying about what to do. Seriously, praying about it, everyday. I have a degree, I have professional experience. I would have been ok leaving this job. I would have missed painting furniture, but I could do it for myself- like I have been doing since I was 13.
It wasn't until the day I saw the current shop. I called Saint and then my mom, then my friend Kathy within minutes of leaving. I knew I needed to take the leap. The people that knew me the best, knew that I wasn't happy and hadn't been for a long time. They knew the in's and out's of my situation. Last year at this time, I didn't like myself that much. But in retrospect- thinking about it, it was more situational than anything. I can say that now, a year out- because I think that now more than ever, I am happy. I am much more myself, than I have ever been maybe in my whole life.
Not to say that this leap wasn't super duper, duper scary!
I can safely say that the last two years I have learned so much about myself. Before this year, who I didn't want to be. And this year, a total clean slate.
Every single day I get an email, I am not kidding -It always goes something like this-
 "I love the group you have at your shop, I follow all of you, I love that you all seem so happy! How do you do this?"

I never really know how to answer this question but in my head I have thought about it a lot.

It came to me just about a month ago, why this group works so well. 
We don't really need each other. 

How do I explain this...everyone is strong on their own. We don't need each other. We are all ok on our own but we like working together.
People there is so much freedom in this! As artists, standing next to each other, appreciating one another but not depending on one another! 

 I love the group at the store. I am thoughtful about it.
This brings me to "timing".
This isn't a typical shop. We don't don't order everything. 80% of what is in the store is found and recreated by artists. And because the store is The Modern Cottage Company, most of it needs to be done by me. 
But, I can't be at the store-find-buy supplies-pick up-fix-paint-market-merchandise this scale of a shop. It is not possible. Especially how busy it has been. Like blow my mind busy.
So I am stepping back a bit and taking another leap. 
I won't really work at the shop anymore.
{at least I am going to try this approach for a while}
Well, I am there several hours everyday anyway.  I will still be in charge of buying, merchandising, marketing and the overall look of the store. But there is no way I can work the "front of the house, and the back of the house" anymore. At least in busy season.
Did I ever mention I have two young kids? 
Enough said.

So I am going to focus way more on buying trips, the website, my blog, painting, the windows of the shop, maybe doing some staging, and classes with Amanda. This is more than a full time job in itself.

The timing is right. 
I could not ask for a better group at this shop. I am so thankful that we all get to do what we love and have fun doing it.

{photo source whitelightsandlatenights via Pinterest}

Thursday, March 26, 2015

 in the middle

First off, sorry I haven't posted in a few months. I am in the middle of something- actually I am in the middle of everything, and it is good. 

For those of you who have asked about the home reno we are doing, we are still in the middle of getting bids on various projects. Bids take longer than I thought. Spring is here though and we hope to get my house painted and fence fixed soon! Then I can focus more on the inside. I am "in the middle" of a million projects in my own home - that don't ever get done. I am the dingy that thought it would be fun 7 years ago to live in a 100 year old house, and it takes time to get things the way I want them {and budget and time constraints don't help}.

I am in the middle with my kids. I know that sounds weird. I will have them forever - but they are 10 and 12 and in less then 8 years they will be out of the house {or not :)}. It was something we considered when we refinanced this year. Camden will go to college in six years, ah! How could we be empty nesters that soon?! Day to day, juggling running a store- there are times I miss the simplicity when my kids were really little and home with me. My memory might be foggy but I think my house was much more organized and cute when I had only them to focus on. This last few years has thrown me a bit. I have learned a lot, a lot of lessons to share with my kids. I need to spend time in the middle with them. They are the most important thing to me right now.

I am also in the middle of my business. I have been doing it long enough to have a good idea of my brand, how to paint, buy, merchandise, and how to do the not so fun things like pay taxes. But I am still "in the middle" of figuring out how I even got here. I honestly think about that everyday. I have regrets, things I wish didn't happen or were different. Maybe different paths I took, or not. I don't know. I do know that I have always worked very hard. I don't take anything for granted. And being in the middle means I have figured out who I work well with. There is a calm and lightness about this MCC store. There is respect and inspiration happening within the walls of the store. To me that means so much, and I know for certain the the next half of my business will be run this way.

I am in the middle of my life. I still feel 20 but I am 39. I am still the same goofy person, I have built up some walls, I still take chances and let the walls down, I still handle things all wrong, I still cry, I still laugh, I still learn, and I still thrive.

Maybe being in the middle is were the good stuff happens. Maybe being in the middle is where we relax into ourselves. All I know is I am in it and I am finding myself. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

my house mondays
Ok I know it isn't Monday but I wanted to share something with you I am going to attempt to do in 2015. I want to do Monday blog posts on what I am doing in my own house. It will not only give me content to share with you but keep me motivated to keep up with house projects. I have been so focused on the store that I have let a ton of projects go around my own house and I need a shove to get them done.
We just closed on a home refinance this morning and I am SO excited to get some much needed work done on my 1910 Victorian Farmhouse.
{my house}
We have lived there for 7 years. We rented the first two, then purchased it 5 years ago. We initially only had enough money to redo the kitchen. We also purchased all new appliances for the house and carpeted the upstairs. The carpet was a big mistake. For the amount of money we spent on carpet, we could have done hardwoods. The carpet is now stained, torn up by my cat, and doing that ripple thing that is horrible. We are going to get hardwoods upstairs that match what was originally there and get area rugs to muffle the sound and soften the spaces. I can always replace the rugs if they start looking bad.
We are also going to paint the exterior. My two choices were all white or a deep charcoal with white trim. Saint vetoed the white so charcoal it will be.

{all pictures taken from my Pinterest page}
We also really need a new fence. It is going to fall down any day and we had it painted white but the guy walked off the job day three so it has been halfway done for what seems like forever. It drives me crazy! I paint furniture for a living but painting a fence does not sound like fun to me plus I do not have the time.
{photo taken from my Pinterest page}
The bathroom will also get some new paint and tile. I want to go back to what would have originally been there.

{Photos taken from my Pinterest page}
I also want to go room by room and swap out furniture. Sometimes my house gets the store rejects and sometimes it gets the really amazing pieces that I find and never bring to the store. I would love to only have amazing pieces.
My house needs a lot of work and I am SO excited to really bring it back to what it should be.
And I think I will share with you each project. Yay!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

fuse blown
Today we have very romantic lighting in the store because of a blown fuse that sparked and it scared the dickens out of me {yes I said dickens, my grandma Shaffer would be proud}.  What a weird morning! I got the kids off to school, loaded up the car with a dresser that I was bringing in. I got it here, my husband was here to watch the store for me so I could go pick up some furniture pieces I bought. As I turned on the lights, sparks flew! Thank goodness we were both standing right under it so I could run in back and switch it off, very scary. There are many times that I come in early, turn on lights then run out for coffee. I am so glad someone was looking out for this shop today and nothing bad happened. Anyway, the lamp light goes well with the holiday music and the rain outside my window.
It is kind of how my whole week has been going. I kind of blew a fuse of my own. I think the holidays might do that too. Everyone is so busy and we all get a bit frazzled now and then this time of year. I encountered some unkindness towards me this week and it really got me down. Does that happen to you? It kept sticking in my head and put a sadness in my heart. As I was laying next to my son one night trying to get him to fall asleep, I was playing on my phone to keep me from falling asleep and this popped up.
It is a quote I shared on my MCC Facebook in July and someone had just shared it, so it notified me.
It was the perfect timing for me to see it. Isn't that weird when that happens?
Anyway, I am hoping I have no more blown fuses this week! Especially tomorrow. All the shop painters will be here for a gift exchange and I miss them. It isn't often that we are all together and there is a sort of magic when we are all here together. Lots of laughter and lots of good energy. And you can't blow a fuse with laughter.
XOXO -Alison