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}
AH!
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 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

year 4


 
 
Ok my friends, I am going to sort of wing this post. I don't really have an outline of what I want to talk about but I can share with you how much my year changed me and what I look forward to next year.
 
I am going into year 4 retail. Let me tell you that I think I know everything and nothing about retail by now.
 
If you would have told me last year at this time I would own my own store again, I would have thought you were crazy.
 
I started off on my own three years ago, then shared a store as a co-op space with other businesses and now back to my own store. While sharing a space I learned how to manage time, basic business day to day stuff, and handling customers. In retail you get all sorts. I have learned to have a thick skin and that it is ok to stand up for myself, how I run the store and not feel bad about it.
 
 I would say that having my own store is way-way different than sharing a space.
 
And different it a good way. I now able to bring in a ton of product lines. This store has 1000 times {well that might be an exaggeration} more home d├ęcor items than the old space. I have the freedom to merchandise the whole store, which I love even more than painting.
 
I think I learned to relax and go with the flow a bit. Things will always get done because I am a doer.
 But I don't have to get things done right this second.
 
I love surrounding myself with really successful and talented people. I think by doing so I only make myself a better painter. We can stretch and grow together. I love that.
 
Someone asked me yesterday how I got here and I told her. I paint almost everyday, buy almost everyday, say no almost everyday, say yes almost everyday,  plan almost every day, pray almost everyday, and dream almost everyday. I work really hard at it and I know my limitations.
 
I have a five year plan to own a second store called Modern Cottage Kids. I think I can do it.
 
I can't wait to write next years YEAR 5!  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

c o m m e r c i a l

My husband did a commercial for the store for me! Isn't that sweet! He is such a pro.
I wanted to link it to the blog for you!


I know my last post was about really what is the Modern Cottage Company.
Since I was going to post the commercial, I figured I would go a little more into detail about the store and how I got here.

I should first of say I never intended to have a store. I was a blogger and painter. People started to notice my work and I started to get custom requests. This really grew my business. I had cash from custom jobs that I put right into merchandise for my flea market type shows and I sold right out of my home studio. I would sell at the shows and buy even more merchandise to sell at home. Three years later it is pretty much still how I operate. I have very little debt in my business. In fact, the banker that is working with me on a new point of sale system for the store, was shocked when I told him how little debt I have in it. I make money I plug it right back into the store. And sometimes take some home. After all I work 60 hours a week I should get a little something. 

I am a bit of a firecracker. I work really hard and almost every day of the week.  And I have done so for four years.  I don't remember a week in the last four years that I haven't painted something or ten things.  But I love it.

I was offered a storefront several years ago for six months from a program SpaceWorks Tacoma.  I had applied over a year before that and I had forgotten about it. I was so surprised and I said YES! And then I spent two months finding and painting for this little storefront. I decided to call my first store The Modern Cottage Vintage Market and I had at least six others with me. After the six months were up, I was digging the retail thing and a few of us decided to open a cooperative store called Poppy and Company. Poppy for the happy colors of our furnishings and Company because it was a store with more than one business or brand running it. I always felt Poppy was the house that MCC lived in. After all, Poppy was a shell that the cooperative owners had their businesses. We kept our brands and finances each totally separate under this house. I kept building my business over the years. MCC was always mine.
That being said, I didn't really entertain the idea of owning a store called the Modern Cottage Company again. Until this particular storefront became available. And I just knew it was right for my family. Saint and my kids were the number one reason I decided to take the new store and run it all by myself. It was also the right time I think for me. I had a few years under my belt, a really great group of consigners that were with MCC at Poppy. I was still growing. It was time for me to do it on my own. I didn't realize it until I had my own store that it was a bit of a relief to concentrate totally on MCC instead of constantly promoting both Poppy and MCC at the same time. But if we are really looking at it in terms of a job- Poppy was a cooperative, a name on a storefront. No one actually owned it.  MCC was me. I named it, no one gave it to me, I built it, I didn't buy, I grew it, I didn't inherit it. And if I am being totally honest, I am really proud of myself and MCC. Anyway, I get the question a lot of what MCC is and what Poppy is so I figured I would answer it here!

This new store was a delightful surprise built on 4 years of hard work.  An even bigger surprise is how much I am enjoying this phase. As a merchandiser, designer and painter to have total control of a space is just a dream. And the team with me here feels a bit serendipitous as well. It's a happy crew in a happy store. I literally feel like I won the lottery. Even with an enormous amount of responsibility and pressure that I have with this store, it doesn't feel like work. 

So I am hoping this happy phase stays around for a while, I am really enjoying it.