We're back with a new small business interview! This time I had the pleasure of hearing from Grace Sarris, owner of Fernweh Home. She sells gorgeous, hand-made home goods that she makes from reclaimed wood. I am so impressed by her work! I think you'll like it too. Read on to learn more about her experience as a small business owner.
How did you get started in your field?
My journey to starting Fernweh Home was somewhat convoluted, but I think that's often the story when it comes to discovering your true passion! My entire life I have loved styling and creating spaces. I was that kid who would spend hours making houses and decorating rooms for Barbie Dolls and my beloved American Girl Dolls. When I was in middle school I received my first Pottery Barn Teen catalogue in the mail and it was seriously a life changing event. I became obsessed with decorating my room. I was constantly moving things around, it drove my parents nuts! In high school I became very into photography.
It's funny because looking back I always had those creative tendencies, but I think often when we're naturally good at things we have a hard time acknowledging it could be a real skill or even our purpose. I had the mindset that if something was that enjoyable it couldn't possibly be my career.
In college I majored in Graphic Design which felt like a good fit at the time, but after graduation I felt totally lost. I loved the creative aspect of my degree but couldn't figure out where I'd fit in a corporate work environment. For about 6 months I did odd jobs and began applying to some of the same places I'd worked in high school! I had literally $3 in my bank account and no direction.
Sitting at my kitchen table one night I decided to take a chance and resurrect a long time dream of opening a little shop (online for now of course). Thanks to the support of my amazing family I was able to launch a simple website selling 15 different Falsa Blankets (which I was currently obsessed with)...and a little over a year later here we are!
5 years ago this is never where I'd have guessed I would be, yet at the same time it makes so much sense. By combining my natural gifts into a tangible business "work" doesn't even feel like work. There's definitely tough times but I'm so thankful!!
Where do you find inspiration?
I LOVE things like Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration. Just browsing so many beautiful images and ideas can really get my creative juices flowing. But also, stepping back from my business and just fully engaging with life!
Never underestimate what a road trip, a coffee date or even turning off your phone for a while can do for your mental sanity and creativity. I get some of my best ideas while walking my dogs or going on bike rides with my mom.
What do you wish you had known when you were just starting your business?
Wow, so much! If I could go back, I would probably just be more myself from the very beginning. I know thats the corniest, but it's true! Often when you're first starting out and maybe not the most confident it's easy to loose the "you" in your business.
People connect with things that are different and unique and seem authentic. I guarantee you will not be successful if you're just trying to copy what someone else is doing or posting or saying. In the beginning I sort of hid myself behind the face of my business and my products.
The reality is customers love connecting with a real person, that's the true beauty of a small business!
So don't be afraid to share bits of yourself and your story. You'll never be able to please or connect with everyone, but more often than not I think you'll attract the right people that really fall in love with you as a person and your business by extension.
What has been the most effective strategy for getting new customers and selling more products?
I love styling and taking photos so Instagram has been an amazing, free to way to market my business and connect with new clients!
Also just being confident and not afraid to network with as many people as possible. If you have items that would translate well to a craft show or market atmosphere I would highly recommend that! It can take some experimenting to find the right ones for your target market, etc. but it can give you the opportunity to connect with literally hundreds or even thousands of new clients in a short time.
Give your business card to everyone! In this digital age I think people are really beginning to appreciate that personal touch and actually meeting and getting to know who they are purchasing from. Just by striking up a conversation I've gained many wonderful customers who keep coming back over and over.
What has been the best part of running your own business?
Running a business is definitely a journey. The triumphs...and yes even the failures have been the best part because I have learned SO much about myself. Also the confidence. Not in a cocky way, just thinking about where I started and being so lost and unsure, I think this experience let me see that I'm a lot more capable than I thought.
What has been the most difficult part of running your own business?
Wearing so many hats! As a mostly one woman show it can get really draining to have to make so many decisions about every aspect of your business. It's a lot of pressure! Over the past year I've learned a lot about the importance of being patient with myself, asking for help and taking guilt free breaks.
What goals do you have for your business in the next 5 years?
My main tangible goal is to have an actual storefront/workshop! In addition to making and selling home goods, Fernweh is beginning to expand into interior decorating and styling so I'm also very excited to see where that direction leads!
Anything else you would like readers to know about you, your business, or being a small business owner in general?
I hope that by reading my story people are encouraged to take a chance on themselves and their dreams! As you can see above my journey was not clear cut, I'm not this extraordinary business person. I'm a normal gal from small town Indiana. I talk to so many people who have something they've always wanted to do but feel too scared or inadequate. If you're willing to be brave and work hard you've already got exactly what it takes!
Every time I do an interview I have to make myself not overthink it or I'd literally sit here for hours and ramble. So if there's anything specific you'd like to know please don't hesitate to reach out! I know being a small business owner can feel lonely at times so please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or just to chat!