The Rebels Feature | Pamela - The Wood Garage
Introducing Pamela - owner of The Wood Garage
Connect with The Wood Garage
"It was crazy because we had no shipping material, no idea HOW to ship, no plans for actually how to do it. We just JUMPED in and learned as we went."
- How did the idea for your business come about? In 2015 my middle brother lost his job and was in need of income. We threw some things on Etsy with NO plan and ran with it! The pics were cell phone shots, some sideways and we had just 3 items. A bird feeder, a shelf and shoe rack. After 2 weeks of having the items up, we actually got orders! It was crazy because we had no shipping material, no idea HOW to ship, no plans for actually how to do it. We just JUMPED in and learned as we went. As time went by we shifted from just furniture online to home decor and now just signs and local orders for furniture. We've shipped tables all the way to Europe and the Yukon territories in Canada. We were gutsy and just figured it out! At first it was myself and middle brother and after 2 months in, we added our eldest brother Jason. We all have unique talents that add to the mix. We were using Etsy exclusively for years before I dove into IG this year to build our social media. Currently our Etsy shop is open, but we aren't utilizing it as I am trying to shift traffic to our website. Last year we were even contacted by a scout working for Property Brothers (HGTV) who were looking for unique sibling run businesses for a reality TV show. We didn't make the cut- but I still dream about it!
- What was your key driving force to become an entrepreneur? Truly, it's just who I am. I have always wanted to run my own gig. Growing up I was the neighborhood babysitter. The President of our 'babysitters club', officer positions for student council...I am the youngest of 4 kids and I think I have felt I always needed to prove myself- to show I can do it. I am extremely driven and disciplined (well, in some things! ) and creating something I can be proud of is really important to me. My first entrepreneur experience was a fitness biz called Pulse Fitness. I started it right after college utilizing my degree from the University of Michigan in Ex. Physiology. It got my feet wet and I learned a lot about putting myself out there.
- How did you come up with the name for your company? The Wood Garage is actually a name my brother in law came up with! A group text was sent out to my family and he tossed out the name 'wood garage' in the spirit of the work being done quite literally in my home garage.
- How did you raise funding for your venture? If you did Not a dime has ever been raised! We started with bare bones. Scrap wood in our gagage, old pallets, barnwood- that's how we were able to do it! Unbelievable what can be done with imagination and hard work. We stripped down old wood to make furniture, used all the profit to pour back in and very, very slowly started to get better equipment. My 2 brothers build the furniture and both have well equiped shops at this point. I've got enough to make my sign products which I do all from scratch:)
"The energy of orders keeps the system running tight. When things slow down I take time to create new pieces or will sway from the schedule. There is always so much to do! Marketing BY FAR takes the most time for me."
- If you didn’t raise funding how have you been able to build your business without it Hard, hard work. I'll be honest. We (I rather) wasn't always good at understanding the numbers and planning. It took years for me to get organized enough to understand how much we really needed in order to make it work. We lost money, we struggled, we had slow years, we pivoted, we learned and here we are now. It has been a journey but when you LOVE something, you live it. You breathe it. It's all you want to do and you just make it work. At first we didn't pay ourselves and over time we learned how to charge properly for our time and materials. It's not an easy formula and I'm always working on 'the systems' to make sure the signs I have and the cost/etc makes sense to create. Handmade is HARD!
- How did you, or are you currently building a customer base? In our first years Etsy provided our customer. We've always had facebooks and IG, but didn't really utilize in a way that promoted growth. I posted frequently but didn't have a plan. Orders were coming in so consistently through Etsy that a marketing plan never was put into place. This year, it's all about growth. Lots of podcasts, videos, training and watching and learning from others on how to build. My focus this year is IG specifically. I am utilizing coaches specifically for online shops and being very thoughtful in planning and reaching my customer.
- How do you market your business, and which tactics have been most successful? Currently I am using social media platforms, including Pinterest. We have clients that come to us from referrals and google searches, some who see us via collaborations and posts on social and then I utilize my email marketing to reach past customers from Etsy. It's really a combo of all those things that keep the shop running. At this moment, collaborations on IG seems to get us the most exposure!
"I am always seeking balance and its just plain old hard when you are a passionate entrepreneur. I will say though that this year is the most balanced I've been. "
- How many hours a day do you work on average? Oh gosh, can I just say 24/7. Truly. When you run a biz it is on your mind 24/7. There are days when I am physically building, shipping, creating, marketing..doing all the things and an easy 10 hrs can be filled. This is full time work squeezed into a part time schedule if you know what I mean. I also a stay at home mom! I'm handling the entire household and kids plus business. I literally and staining and then running in to check kids/make a snack/ stain another piece of wood.... it's constant hustle.
- Can you describe/outline your typical day? I get started before the family is awake. It's my coffee and computer, to set up social media posts, emails, work on proofs. I then try to set aside time/days that are wood frame prep, printing, painting, framing, shipping. When orders come in batches it's easier to keep this flow going. The energy of orders keeps the system running tight. When things slow down I take time to create new pieces or will sway from the schedule. There is always so much to do! Marketing BY FAR takes the most time for me.
- How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life? This is a big one. It's been hard. At first it was a massive adjustment to the family as I was so engrossed it was hard to pull me away- well, it still is! I get hyperfocused and in a zone! There is a lot of mom guilt. My first job is a stay at home mom. This business came about when my youngest was 1 year old. She is now 6. She has only ever known me a sign making biz mom. My boys, they got alllll of me without having to share. Its tough on everyone and certainly my husband as well. I am always seeking balance and its just plain old hard when you are a passionate entrepreneur. I will say though that this year is the most balanced I've been. My health took a hit a year ago and forced me to reevaluate my priorities and time.
- How do you find work life balance? Give us any tips you have I am not a good one to answer this! LOL. Make a schedule, Stick to it. Easier said than done! Creating boundaries is hard. Best tip- turn off ALL notifications on your phone. You don't need them and the constant beeps are too distracting.
- What are the things you hold most important when you have free time? Are there non negotiable things you do for yourself to ensure you stay balanced? Absolutely. I am a marathoner and coach. Running is what I do and I am a better version of ME when I'm taking the time to stay fit. Fitting in my runs and eating healthy are non negotiable!
- What is your greatest fear, and how do you manage fear? Dying while my kids are young. I have a fear of cancer. October 2018 I had a breast mass removed. For 2 months I cried, I worried, I had panic attacks and I prayed. My doctor told me that on a scale of 1-5, 5 being highest risk, I was at a 4. It was 2 months of hell as they don't just jump in and treat you. You have biopsies, a surgery, etc... its a process. My mass ended up NOT being cancer after it was removed and tested but that experience shook me to my core in a way that changed me forever. I've been on a journey since then to heal my body. I don't think I manage fear. I just jump in and do shit. I guess I handle fear by doing my part- things I can control.
- What are your short term and long term goals? Short term goals for the next few monts are to really connect with other business owners, locals and customers. I need eyeballs on the shop and to build my ideal buyer. Long term goal? I'd LOVE to have a store front with a shop in the back. Keep shipping online but have a cutesy botique where people can come in, grab a free coffee, chit chat...think old school shop where people linger on the porch and talk about there days. The regulars come in to tell you about their families and you grow a community. I know, I'm living in a hallmark movie right? It gets better! I'd love to employ other moms, especially military families. I have a thing for the military as my dad is a vet.
- How do you define success? I am still working on this one. I have a hard time because my family would say I am extremely successful with what I have now. It's small, yes...but it's something! SOmething that was built from the ground up. All true. I always seem to want more though. Never satisfied can sometimes bite me in the butt! I don't think it'll be a certain number of followers, a certain amount of sales....I think I'll know it when I feel it. I've gotta feel sucessful and satisfied and I'm not there yet.
- Do you believe there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur? Sometimes. There is always that lucky guy who just happened upon an idea and the stars aligned...but for most of us its just plain ol' hard work. Putting time in and having a plan. I think a team around you is essential. There are many ways to skin the cat and I think you've gotta narrow down YOUR vision and goal before success happens.
- What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur? The endless opportunities! You get get to play at so many different things. You get to be marketer, creator, crafter, shipper, buyer, photographer, blogger, artist, a manager of your time...amongst to much more. I love the skills learned from each of these things!
- What has been your most satisfying moment in business? Wow...this is tough. I can't say this example is a particular moment....but it touches my heart everytime I get a text from my brother cheering me on and telling me how proud he is of me for forging ahead in this business. He really encourages and supports the crazy ideas and things I want to try and that means a lot. I've always looked up to my brothers and when one of them reaches out, I know i've done well. I'm running the ship and any positive feedback from those I love and trust means a lot.
- What are your favorite phone apps , computer software , websites that you love to use the most for your business. I love Tailwind for social media planning. Canva is my lifesaver for creating pretty content and Quickbooks is my go to for keeping my books straight. I don't utilize much else!
- What piece of advice would you give to those who want to become entrepreneurs or those that specifically want to do something similar to what you are doing? Just start. Stop whining. Stop overanalyzing and making things perfect. Just DO IT! Make mistakes, learn and get better. We evolve as we go and that's OK! Most of us aren't in a position to perfectly curate a brand before putting it out there. If you don't just start you may never do it.
- If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently? Well I'd never change being a stay at home mom. Even though I struggle with balance and mom guilt it is my calling! What may have worked well for me though is if I would have pursued an MBA. I don't know if that'd make me any more business savvy with today's crazy social media marketing- but I just love talking business. It fascinates me how businesses operate and make the wheels turn.
- What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Skills can be learned. I am going to say character traits here. You need to be saavy, driven and disciplined.
- What entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule? I have a notebook with separators for things like "sign ideas/designs", "fonts/graphics" "marketing" "social media tips" "daily schedule" ...anytime I come across a printable for marketing tips I print it and add it to my folder. If i download a cool graphic or font i gets printed and into the book. Its helpful for me to flip through this and gather ideas. The computer is great, but I also like and need to learn the old school way as well- which means flipping through binders/highlighting/creating design boards
- What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in? Learn how to take good photos from day one. Graphics matter! Also invest a lot of time in learning how to navigate social media/marketing. Lastly- time managment. Read books, invest in coaching if needed. Your time will be squeezed!