As Suetables celebrates its 10th birthday, I am reflecting on where we have come and the “why” in all of this. It’s pretty personal and I have a secret to share.
My business was born in 2005 out of pure desperation for something creative and meaningful. It came from a need for something to call my own.
I had a burning desire to create something beautiful that was not made with lego or that would wilt or leave a stain on the sofa.
My goal was to pay for one family vacation - something we could not justify at the time with young children, a dog and a new home. Some moms turn to mommy/baby groups, strength training, pilates, casserole or card clubs, mom groups or antidepressants, wine or all of the above.
I immersed myself in creativity and the old art of hand stamping after I tucked my boys in bed. I stamped names on vintage baby spoons as gifts and letters and monograms on flat beads. It was my way of not losing, what “Chill Mama Chill” blogger calls, ‘my personhood.’
I wore my first creation, a “love letter” necklace, to my children’s school yard. I hand stamped a T and C on two pea-sized disks - for Thomas and Charlie - to keep my boys close to my heart when they went off to school, with bright blue back packs that were larger then their entire bodies.
I was the only person hand stamping and offering customization in 2005. All the moms wanted one. I hosted a trunk show featuring a few flat pendants I could hand stamp on the spot. Over 100 women showed up in my kitchen that day.
Sometimes the answer in life is right in front of you. It took Moore Park's schoolyard moms to show me.
Four years into my booming little hobby and many air miles under my belt sourcing manufacturers for my original designs, my life changed drastically.
I got divorced.
I needed a full-time income, not just a hobby business. Reeling with loss, disappointment, sadness for the loss of our nuclear family, fear for my unknown future coupled with determination to re-build my life and support my boys financially, I banked on the fact that there were other women out there craving what I so badly needed - something to call their own, a creative outlet that connected them to other people and extra money in their pockets.
Devastated from a broken marriage, I wanted to build something beautiful, positive, happy and empowering. Something meaningful.
I launched a rep model to multiply and build upon my own personal success. I just needed to find passionate women like me.
How hard could that be?
I had spent years and hundreds and thousands of hours and travel miles uncovering just how to create my own business, find fabulous lucrative trunk shows and original moulds. I could sell this ready-made mini business model to other woman and support their journey. And I had already done all the work and research. I lay awake at night (often getting up at 3 am to write down ideas), my mind visualizing the possibilities and a burning desire to make it all happen. I was all at once terrified and excited.
I created “business in a box”.
My beginnings were simple with one rep; a deal I struck with an old friend from Montreal (where I grew up) while our kids were making sand castles on the beach in Maine.
After hearing about my plight and goals over lunch, my old boss and mentor from my TV days found me free office space in downtown Toronto, in a funky part of the city. I hired someone to build an e-commerce web site for Suetables to encourage more sales and showcase the line. I spent money on beautiful photography. I trained myself with an online design program. I subscribed to web magazines. I armed myself with knowledge of social media marketing. The only cost to this marketing was time and I immersed myself when the kids were at school or with their dad and, at night, when my boys were in bed.
To attract new reps, we offered them unprecedented 50% margins. I am proud to say that we did not resort to multi-level pyramid marketing. We did not turn to a machine for engraving. We provided reps with access to the most effective letter pressing stamps and artists tools. We taught reps to hand stamp. We did not create a mass produced product. We did not oversaturate markets.
Although we are not a large company - in fact there are only three of us in the Toronto home studio daily and one manager running the US business in North Carolina - we have built a team of strong, creative go-getter reps who buy jewelry and artists tools from us, market it to friends (often through social media) and sell it at trunk shows, gift shows, local markets, from their "kitchen/home studio" and, as of last year, online to friends across Canada and now in the US, on a personalized web site with their photo and their own story.
There are almost 40 of us now.
Some of us do this for a living. Some of us have full-time or part-time day jobs. We are moms, cake makers, nurses, dental hygienists, spa owners, marketers, designers and recently a university student. We are all brought together by a desire to create something beautiful and meaningful. We all love to accessorize and make people happy with a fiercely personal product that celebrates loved ones and soul goals.
I believe each and every one of us are here for a reason. And for those of us who are building a business, our business is part of how we uncover and fulfill our purpose. This is my ‘why’ - this is why I keep working on building Suetables, and why I want to help others build theirs - because it is in building our biz that we find meaning in our lives.
I’ve realized that it’s the journey that will matter the most at the end.
I feel so blessed that my hobby turned into a business. I feel blessed that I can surround myself with positive people whom I adore working with, selling a quality and meaningful product from my home studio. I am grateful that travel is again part of our lives.
As a friend recently told me, it is the toughest of climbs that result in the best views.
There is a reason I decided to go out and start a business, to take this unpredictable, hard and unknown path of building a business. It is my passion for creativity, self sufficiency, making people feel good, hearing their beautiful and sometime painful stories, and building a model that gives other women that outlet.
I am proud to say that Suetables has now paid not for just one vacation a year - my original goal - but trips to many parts of the world - for both business and pleasure, including Mexico, Thailand, Czech Republic, Europe, Whistler and more.
The necklace I created to keep my boys close launched a business that now supports them.
To shop now click here in Canada: www.suetables.com