There are so many components that go into being a successful entrepreneur. Being consistent, persistent, passionate, creative, determined and resourceful are just a few of them. When you are lucky enough to come across a woman who encompasses all those things and more, you jump at the chance to get her business insights.
Terri Steele started Blue House Joys when she was pregnant with her first child. She went from breaking a sewing machine trying to make her first blanket to creating some the highest quality products available. That persistence has paid off in her business and at every opportunity she continues to push farther and take her business to the next level.
Her journey will inspire you to keep pushing and not let setbacks keep you from building your dream. You will definitely want to follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and check out her website.
Tell us about yourself.
Hi! I’m Terri the owner, designer, “wearer of all the hats” over at Blue House Joys. My husband and I have four adorable kiddos that are what inspire me creatively as well as what make it hard to get any of those creative ideas completed.
How did you get into your business?
I got into my business when I was pregnant with our first child. I really wanted to sew a baby blanket for him, but managed to break my grandmothers sewing machine in the process. I was determined to finish the blanket and asked for a new machine for Christmas. All I can say is the rest was history. I fell in love with sewing and have been developing my skills project by project for the last 10 years. I realized very early on that what brings me the most joy is creating items that spark creative play and imagination in children.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Wow, so many challenges along the way! It’s more like, what has been your biggest challenge this week. If I had to pick a biggest challenge I would say my bookshelf brackets. This is a product I needed and could not find an option out there that I loved. I had to develop one on my own. It’s gone through many phases, my dad making small batches for me, partnering with a company in Haiti that manufactured them for me until a tragedy occurred and their factory burned down (thank God no one was injured) but then needing to go back to the drawing board and look for a manufacturing partner again! For now we have a local manufacturer that is helping keep us stocked which has been really great. It has been a difficult challenge for sure, but I have learned in valuable lessons along the way.
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
Oh dear, so many things, I kind of cringe at the first few products I sold. Honestly though, I am really thankful for starting without knowing everything. I am the type that figures I will learn and improve as I go and I feel like that has gone really well for me. For someone that thinks they have to know everything before they take that first step I would say that that step may never happen. Just go for it and learn as you grow.
If you could narrow your success down to one thing, what would it be?
Just not quitting! Every time an obstacle comes up whether big or small a little part of me wants to just throw in the towel. It may be figuring out the accounting side of running a retail business, dealing with an unhappy customer, or trying to develop a new product and all of the hurdles that go along with that. Each time that I choose to keep moving forward and face those obstacles (often imperfectly) I call it a win. All of those little decisions really add up and at the end of each year I’m amazed at all we have gotten through!
Where do you see yourself in a year?
A small goal is to not personally being in charge of packaging and shipping each order. It’s crazy to think about, but in one year I will have all four of our kiddos in school! When I think about that I truly feel like the sky is the limit and I can’t wait to see where things will be.
What are your top three tips for women starting a business?
Combine a skill and a passion. When you find something you are good at and can connect that to something you are passionate about you will go so far! Having the skill makes the work not feel as daunting and the passion keeps you going when you don’t feel like it.
Be ready for obstacles. It would be naive to think that everything is going to run perfectly smoothly all the time. When you are prepared for the bumps along the road it makes a huge difference in how quickly you can get over them.
Find a community. Running your own business, particularly as a woman, can feel very isolating at times. Build a support network of others that you can bounce ideas off of, troubleshoot problems, and just go to when you need encouragement. It’s so much more wonderful when you have other people cheering you on when you succeed and helping you up when you fall down.
Photo by Fidelis Creative Agency[/caption]
What is a typical day for you like?
I’m going to pretend we didn’t just come off of our summer break and go with a typical work day during the kids school year. I wake up eat breakfast with the family as we pack up lunches, find lost shoes and yesterdays homework and get everyone out the door in time for school. Three days a week I take our youngest to day care and use those precious hours to work on returning emails, sewing up orders, packaging items, printing off shipping labels, photographing products, posting on social media etc etc. I try my hardest to get work done while the kids are away so that I’m not working when they get home from school. Sometimes that works out and some days I have to squeeze a little more work in after we eat a snack and they tell me about their day.
We try to eat dinner as a family so the evening is usually a combination of me or my husband and at least one or two of the kids that wants to help that night with making dinner. For a few years I worked in the evenings after the kids went to bed, but I quickly learned that the evenings are just not when I am the most productive. Now I focus on completing everything during the day if at all possible so me and my hubby can hang out after the kids go to bed. When things are really busy I have some ladies that help out with sewing, and when things are slower I can usually manage it on my own.
I have to be honest, It’s definitely hard for me to shut business off and relax. I really love what I do, and there is always more to get done, but my husband is really good at carving out intentional time for us a family in the evenings and on weekends. I really try to honor that example he gives and not work too much during those times.
What’s your business motto or quote you live by?
Growing up my mom had a wall hanging that she cross stitched. It read, “A cheerful disposition is one that allows a tea kettle to sing while up to its neck in hot water” I always loved that quote even as a young child when I didn’t fully understand it. Now that I have my own family and business I know what it means to feel “up to your neck in hot water”. I am often reminded that joy is something I must choose daily, it cannot merely be dependent on my circumstances.
If you were starting your business over again, what would you do differently?
Over the past few years I have busier and slower seasons. Each time things have gotten really busy I start to freak out and sabotage my growth by pulling back on the things that I know would bring in more business. Then I would catch my breath and gear things back up. I definitely do not recommend that business model. Embrace the crazy and find people you trust to help you. That growth is what will push you to the place of being able to move beyond doing everything yourself. So even though it may be crazy for a little bit, there really is some relief on the other side of it if you keep moving forward.