Mandy Jean is a born business owner, finding her entrepreneurial spirit at an extremely young age. She brings that spirit and passion to The Leather Quill Shoppe. This incredible woman is an expert when it comes to utilizing social media, pushing through barriers and embracing her natural drive. Her knowledge and advice is priceless and she has taken the time to share with us!
Tell us about yourself.
I started my first business at six, creating hand drawn place mats for customers at my Grandparents small town cafe on Main Street. I think I was making $2 per week and the bulk of my profit I reinvested into art supplies. Fast forward 15 years, I was packing everything I owned into the trunk of a Ford Mustang and moving from Michigan to New Mexico. We spent 12 years in New Mexico before purchasing our dream historic property in Michigan. 12 years after packing my belongs in the trunk of a Mustang, we packed a moving pod, Jeep Cherokee and for nostalgia purposes I packed my personal belongs in the trunk of my Dodge Challenger. I suppose I only move across the country in sports cars.
My husband and I live in Vernon, Michigan. Our shop and living space are all in one. Our space was built in 1891 and Henry (I name everything!) is still standing strong. We are living the dream on Main Street, again. My current passion is helping to revitalize Main Streets.
How did you get into your business?
While in New Mexico I started a lifestyle blog for other first time home buyers who were decorating on a budget. This blog, while a complete accident, started my current business. My husband is very creative and always made different items of out leather. One day I went to him and asked if he could make me a notebook cover because at the time there wasn’t anything I liked on the market. The Leather Quill Shoppe was born.
Later that week I made a YouTube video about how I organize my blog, channel and life. I was flooded with emails asking how to purchase one of our covers. Our business has allowed my husband and I to leave our high stress and high pay jobs to live our dream.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Time management and delegating. I would run my business 24 hours a day if sleep were optional. Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way my body does not feel the same. Running a retail store, having wholesale accounts, an online store, Etsy, Amazon and finding time to relax has been my biggest challenge.
After 3 years we hired our first employee when we were in New Mexico and that was such a help. I did have to learn how to delegate and to create business hours for myself. I want to get everything done and checked off my list. After 5 years of owning our business I’ve learned that there is always something to do and some tasks can be handled the next day. Pushing something to another day or a better time does not make you a bad business owner. Your physical and mental health is just as important as the health of your business.
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
I have been very strategic with our business when it comes to growth and expanding. If I could do one piece of it over again I would have started our wholesale side far earlier. Wholesale doesn’t work for every business but for ours, it could have been a huge part if I had started it a bit earlier. I also would tell myself to enjoy the start up phase more and to document the big wins. Some days owning a business is mentally draining and you need that gentle reminder of how far you have come.
If you could narrow your success down to one thing, what would it be?
Facebook really catapulted our business from a few orders a day to extending our turn around times. Social media is a powerhouse for business and once you find your tribe it is a constant connection with your customers. My Facebook group has created their own community and named themselves, Quillies.
Aside from social media every single business should have a email list. If we are selling at a local market, I send a email and invite local customers to stop by. Our retail shop is having a event, I send a email. I also use my email list for education too and not just sales. You need to have a balance of education and sales with your list.
Where do you see yourself in a year?
My goal for January 2020 is to have our manufacturing space purchased and renovations started. This year we are focusing on wholesale accounts and expanding our manufacturing. Once that space is moved out of my retail shop, we will be opening the whole space as a retail store!
Personally, my goal is to live everyday and be thankful. Thankful I am living my dream, thankful for blessings, thankful for my husband… just thankful. I also was to be more active in our local small business community. I want to help fellow business owners renovate historic main street storefronts and get folks back downtown!
What are your top 3 tips for women starting a business?
- It’s ok to say “No, not at this time”
- Spend time on photography. Photos are so important and video is becoming just as important!
- Think bigger. Always keep a vision board, goals and your favorite playlist handy. Some days I just need to listen to Guns N’ Roses or Queen and rock my business. Other days I need to spend time reminding myself why I am working so hard. Balance is important.
- Bonus Tip! Bad days are ok! It doesn’t mean you failed or your business is horrible. It means you had a bad day. Repeat tip #3 and make the next day amazing.
What is a typical day like for you?
8am- Up and personal time. I read my bible every morning, snuggle with my Shiba inu and set my intentions for the day.
9am- Taking care of the dogs, picking up the retail shop and printing overnight orders.
10am-Noon- Pack overnight orders, respond to email and scroll social media.
Noon-3pm- Product photos, retail space maintenance, website updates, social media posting, pick ups and deliveries of supplies.
3pm-7pm- Pack orders for the day, help with manufacturing, Facebook or IG lives, email and write my to do list for the next day.
7pm-8pm- If I am in a good spot I head upstairs for the night, if I still have work to do that is my power hour. My husband usually heads upstairs around 7 and I have one hour to myself.
8pm-11pm- Family time, dinner, creative time
What is your business motto or quote you live by?
The question, “why not” always makes me think about the outcome of something. It normally tricks my brain into thinking about the good and the bad so I can make a decision. It also helps to calm my fears.
Should I open a retail store? “Why Not?!”
Should I use this totally different leather and see what my community thinks? “Why Not?!”
If you were starting your business over again, what would you do differently.
Looking back I would have invested more profit into a custom built website, logos and spent less of my time trying to figure out things I was not any good at. I also wish I would have hired a CPA from the day I opened.