The first time I met Sarah was in the year 2000 when we both started at the same retail job on the same day. We soon became friends and enjoyed hiking and other outdoor activities together. I'll never forget the first (and only) time she took me trail biking and I fell going uphill (who does that?). I've always admired her free spirit and hippie-esque aura. As someone who can be fairly rigid and serious, she's the one person I'd want to rub off on me, to pass on the go-with-the-flow gypsy vibes.
So, when Sarah announced she was launching Suspend.It with stones I thought to myself "Of course you are!" It was the obvious natural progression for her to explore the world of rocks and completely master wall art. It's been so much fun seeing her business grow and I truly can't wait to see what her future holds.
Tell me a little about yourself and how you got started with Suspend.It.
I am a married mom of 2 boys (1.5yrs and 4.5yrs) and work f/t as a consultant for a non-profit from my home-office. Admittedly, I am rarely out of pajamas before 4pm. I really should care more, but I'd rather jam out my work day and get it done than spend time primping and dressing only to impress myself. I don't have video feed on my conference calls after all :) When I do get dressed, I'm frequently seen wearing oversized flannels, jeans and chucks complete with my "mom bun". As I write this, I'm starting to think that being surrounded by boys is wearing off on me. But, I'm also just basic. I'd rather spend my time and energy on other things. However, there are a few things I won't compromise on: having my own bathroom, a daily steamy shower and a freshly ground French press of coffee at the start of every morning.
I am both a complete rule follower and gypsy soul with a wild heart. I am inspired by fonts, fabrics, textures and anything outdoors! I love traveling, exploring and trying new food. I could easily be a vegetarian, but could never be vegan for the sole reason that I could never give up cheese and dairy (even tho I have a milk allergy). I love kombucha and a hoppy IPA. I would rather have a handful of quality products instead of a closet full of clothes. I prefer to live simply and could easily get rid of half the items in our house. I believe this is thanks to my two summers living on wood cot in the open air, while I was a white-water river rafting guide at 17 years old. This does not mean my house is clean. In fact, it's a rare occurrence to have the entire house altogether clean and I am learning to be resolved to this fact.
In 2015 my family's life changed dramatically! My husband was struggling with health issues along with being 'stuck' in a soul-sucking job . We had a toddler and were extremely sleep deprived and in the thick of being first-time parents and our marriage was suffering as a result. We saw a marriage therapist for months that year and then two amazing things happened!
1. My husband was let go from his soul-sucking job which allowed him to think though a new career path during his unemployment and spend some precious time with our family (his previous job did not allow for much of this)
2. Our marriage therapist encouraged us to dream a bit and take risks.
Thus, with my husband's unemployment, I was able to allow myself to be creative again.
When did you first begin and when did you notice your business really starting to take off?
The first year was exhausting! Until now, nothing like a screw cover existed, so I really had to pound pavement to try and get the word out about the need for screw covers. Organic growth is a slow process, but so, so good! My customers truly love my product and my reach has only been expanded by their word of mouth, rather than advertising dollars. I take great pride in that.
In 2016, I participated in numerous shows and opened my Etsy shop, but at year end I was at a break-even and I was so frustrated. I had spent so many late nights and weekends (on top of my f/t job) trying to spread the word about screw covers and spent so much hard-earned money buying rocks from Brazil! There were many times I doubted myself and wanted to give up, and questioned why I chose rocks of all things to sell as I schlepped boxes full or rocks to and from markets (while majorly pregnant with our 2nd baby). But no risk, no reward, right? I felt so passionate about this product. So the first year I may not have made much money, but valuable lessons were learned that year as a an entrepreneur. Lessons about work/family balance. Lessons on organization and social media and the importance of good photography.
2016 ended with me joining a wonderful engagement group on Instagram, some giveaways I was lucky enough to be part of, and some really incredible makers who kindly posted about my product and boosted my social media following. I started to really feel the energy once I hit about 500 followers and had a few repeat Etsy customers.
So 2016 was a learning year and 2017 has been an incredible year of growth!
How did you come up with the screw cover idea?
Around the time my husband was unemployed, my sister gifted me some family photos printed on wood slices by Photobarn. I loved the rustic look of the wood picture suspended by twine over a screw, but I could not get over the exposed screw head next to my beautiful art!
Which is how this idea of an embellished screw head cover came about. suspend.it was born!
I believe that good ideas are often birthed out of necessity. So, I decided to embellish interchangeable screw-head covers with some of my favorite things. I've always had a fascination with geodes, so that's what I started with, but I now use all sorts of natural elements to attach. Suspending/tethering art also allows for a larger margin of error, which is great because I am not a measure twice cut once kind of girl...I usually just wing it when decorating. So, win-win!
Now I can switch out the screw head cover in a snap whenever I want to change things up and my art is elevated by the suspend.it!
Doesn't get much easier.
Screw. Snap. Suspend.
Is there anything you would have done differently business/product-wise, knowing what you know now?
I would have done more research on social media prior to launching my Instagram and opening my Etsy shop. I would have liked to do a big splash of a launch instead of (very obviously) figuring things out as time went on.
What has been your favorite moment?
One of my favorite moments is when an anonymous Etsy customer posted on Instagram about my product...finally I could put a name and face to the anonymous order. That customer is now seriously dating my brother. Nothing short of a divine intervention! If nothing else comes of suspend.it beyond helping my brother to meet his future wife, I call it a success.
Your favorite product you’ve created?
My original suspend.it screw cover will always hold a special place in my heart. I love the agates, but I also love my raw turquoise suspend.it!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I am often awoken (for the final time) at about 6:15am by my toddler head butting me, open-mouthed kissing me or poking at my teeth. If I'm lucky, we get to sneak out and go for a quick coffee walk down by the beach before the big boys are up and I have to start work for my bread and butter job. I usually work my f/t job from my home office from 7:30am-4pm and then immediately, without transition, flow right into mom-mode. The day resumes with some snuggles and wrestling matches and then grocery shopping, yardwork or an afternoon walk if I didn't get to squeeze one in the morning. Then dinner, bath and boys are down by 6:45pm (because it's winter and gets dark early and neither of them know how to tell time yet). In the evening is when I catch up on my shows while fulfilling suspend.it orders and making new product. In bed by 9:30pm.
Anything coming up you can share with us? New products/events/ideas?
Oooh I am so excited by some new cross cuts of stalactite I am getting in shortly to make into suspend.it screw covers. I also will be part of a few amazing giveaways this month and will hopefully be published in a popular home décor magazine within the next month! Eek! Follow my IG to be in the know!
Advice for anyone starting out with their own business?
Try to get as debt-free as you can. Being debt-free give you more freedom to take risks. Connect with other makers/entrepreneurs. Get their advice and learn from and encourage each other. Have someone design your logo if you're not graphically inclined. Once I decided what to call my business, and developed a logo, I was able to visualize what I wanted for my little business and how I wanted people to perceive it.
Where can we find you?
Update: Sarah’s reference to a popular home publishing her product has come to fruition! Here’s her feature in the Jan/Feb 2018 issue of HGTV magazine (bottom right)!
Thank you so much Sarah, for your wonderful chat and cheers to a prosperous 2018!
All photos taken by me. Minus the hgtv mag photo. :)