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Enjoying the creative side and the flexibility
February 1, 2011 @ 11:05am | Rodika Tollefson
Garden designer and coach Sue Goetz has discovered something that many entrepreneurs do once they’re bit by the bug: After they get a taste for having their own business, it gets into their blood. Goetz, who is also a garden writer and consultant through her Gig Harbor business, Creative Gardener (www.thecreativegardener.com), had owned a garden store in Idaho for five years and while working for other companies after her move to Washington, she missed the independence.
“When you’re self-employed, there’s moments when you wish someone else paid the taxes and did payroll, but then you miss (having a business),” she says.
Goetz coaches both beginning gardeners who need help getting started and experienced ones who are looking for new ideas for their spaces. “What I like the best is watching people get excited about their gardens. When I work with them, people get excited and they blossom in their gardens,” she says.
She also designs gardens, offers lectures and writes gardening articles, which is another way of sharing her passion. She says being excited about the work is important for a business owner. “If you’re going to be self-employed, it’s valuable to choose a passion and figure out how that passion will make money,” she says. “If you can figure out how your passion turns around into a business, that’s when it clicks,” she says.
For Silverdale artist Lisa Stirrett, things clicked when she discovered a technique called gyotaku. A former annuities account manager, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom after her first child was born, but she needed “something to do.” When she discovered gyotaku, an old Japanese art form used to record maritime species, she was on to something.
“I thought, that’s it, that’s what I’m going to do,” she says. “…It was baby steps along the way. Everything just grew.” She still uses the gyotaku technique and has been commissioned by Costco to do the art for its salmon boxes, creating a new design every year.
Since becoming a full-time artist more than two decades ago, Stirrett has created numerous commissioned and commercial pieces. One of her first publicly funded commissions was a steel and glass piece (installed at the Kitsap Transit ferry terminal transfer station) and under the tutelage of a glass artist and a caster, she learned how to work with those mediums. That opened the door for other work, and she has since been working in glass as well.
Stirrett opened up her Silverdale studio to the public about two years ago. Visitors can come in and see a working studio with various projects in progress. Although her work has been primarily commission-based, she is now also making smaller pieces and selling them at her Lisa Stirrett Glass Art Studio (www.lisastirrett.com).
Having a business focused on art is challenging, Stirrett says, especially due to the economy, but she is learning new ways of marketing the business and attracting retail customers to the gallery.
“I love being able to have the freedom to create and see the joy of someone connecting with the art,” she says.
Tami Selby also likes the creative freedom of her job. A nationally certified professional building designer, she uses her extensive background and creative thinking to turn her customers’ dreams into blueprints for their future homes. The owner of Selby Design LTD for more than two decades, Selby recently moved her office from Grapeview to downtown Belfair for more exposure (www.selbydesignltd.com) and has expanded her services during the economic downturn to offer consulting and help homeowners through the permitting phase.
Selby was fascinated by architecture since she was a little girl and decided she would work in construction. She got her first job right after graduating from college. A few years later, as a newlywed, she found herself laid off when the building company where she worked closed doors. Selby saw that as an opportunity to venture out on her own, entering a field where women were not common.
She says having her own business has provided her flexibility when she became a mother but also has given her many opportunities. “I love it on so many levels. You can set your own schedule, and you can work really hard and be a go-getter,” she says. “It gives me pride too because it’s something I started on my own and made successful.”
The key to making it through the downturn has been in diversifying her business as well as the reputation she had built. “I can’t imagine not designing things,” she says. “I get to help people with their dreams, and it makes my day.”
For Cia Mooney, it was the fusion of art with formal construction concepts that has created a winning combination for self-expression. Mooney is the vice president of product development at Watson Furniture Group in Poulsbo (www.watsonfurniture.com), overseeing a team that creates new products, and is also in charge of marketing. The product development team works on several new products at a time, from doing market research and engaging with customers to developing prototypes and launching new lines.
Mooney’s background includes industrial design. A 30-year industry veteran, she has worked on projects ranging from Corning dishware, Boeing and Fiat interior concepts and museum exhibition designs, to Black & Decker drills and Motorola wireless technology installations. She says the profession of industrial design is broad-reaching and gives a person a taste of many things.
“They all involve a level of conveying an idea… It’s the intellectual side of design,” she says. Mooney has been focusing on product development for the past 10 years and says the two jobs are similar but industrial design is less hands-on, more conceptual and usually not integrated into the manufacturing flow.
“The nature of invention in general, I find appealing,” she says. “It’s the man-made object environment that I think is very interesting.”
At Watson, she says there’s an added dimension to her work because of the company’s emphasis on sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. “We’re pretty careful to put out product that’s environmentally responsible,” she says.
Cynthia Jeffries-Cyr’s interest in sustainability takes a different route. The owner, with her husband, of CJ’s Evergreen General Store and Catering in Bremerton (http://cjgeneralstore.weebly.com), she strongly believes in supporting local farmers. Not only does she buy as much locally produced food as possible for her store and her catering business, she also supports the efforts to create a cooperative store in Kitsap.
The couple took a leap nearly four years ago when they decided to open CJ’s. The business began as a general store and after two years expanded to include catering.
Jeffries-Cyr has eight employees and does a little bit of everything including bookkeeping (which she found the most challenging aspect of running a business). She likes the flexibility the business gives her with the schedule, but also knows the tradeoff means working late and long hours.
The couple have two children, ages 12 and 14, who help out in the store as needed. A big part of the business has been supporting community organizations, including those focused on youth, from the Girl Scouts to Peninsula Services. “There’s a lot of kids out there who don’t have food and are hungry,” she says. “We try to do as much outreach as we can.”
CJ’s participates in various events including concerts, farmers markets and fundraisers, which helps bring in new customers to the store. “Every event we go to, people learn we’re here and are really excited to know the quality of our food,” she says. “We get a lot of repeat business.”
Repeat business, for Jody Buckley, means continuously finding ways to bring current customers back while also attracting new people. Buckley is the manager of Springhouse Dolls & Gifts and the Victorian Tea Room in Port Orchard (www.springhousegifts.com) that is owned by her mother, bestselling author Debbie Macomber. Buckley says trying to anticipate what customers will want to buy is always a challenge — especially since product is ordered months in advance for the next season. But she loves the customer service side of the job the most.
“I enjoy coming to work and talking to people. I’ve met some fantastic people,” she says.
Buckley went out on a limb seven years ago when her mother asked her to manage the business that Macomber purchased from a previous owner. “She had to talk me into it. As the idea grew, I was getting more excited,” she says.
With no sales background and a shy personality, Buckley had a huge learning curve. Fortunately for her, the previous owner stayed on for a month to train her, and most of the employees remained with the business. “The staff have taught me a lot. I’ve been blessed with great staff,” she says.
Working in the family business has given her the ability to balance the responsibilities of being a single mother while also having her own mother as a mentor.
“Being a family business is the best thing about it,” she says. “It’s more personal.”
Beth Bacon also found the flexibility to be a mom and a professional by operating her own agency. The owner of a marketing company since the 1990s, she made the children a priority when they were younger. Bacon owns Zoyo Branding on Bainbridge Island (www.zoyobranding.com).
“What I love about it is never being bored because there’s always change,” she says. “New and interesting stuff keeps the energy going.”
She is currently working as a consultant for the island-based Emerald BioStructures, a biotech focused on protein structures that does work for pharmaceutical companies and other clients. She was brought on board last spring to help develop a branding and marketing strategy for Emerald, which also has a sister company that develops and sells new technology for the industry.
Bacon worked for an advertising agency in New York and later did consulting for companies like Apple and Microsoft. Having worked with both small and large companies, she believes every business needs to create a brand, a nutshell idea of what the company is about.
“It takes a lot of work to figure out that essence but it’s important before doing any messaging,” she says. “They have to figure out they’re the best ones who do ‘X’ and it’s important to know what that essence is, no matter how small.”
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