By Sonia Fluke
My home business has been in the planning for a long time, but wasn't put into practice until I became a stay at home mum. I had dreamed of doing something I love and earning money at the same time, but didn't really think it was possible. My husband and I had decided way before my eldest daughter was born that I would stay home to raise her, and we modified our lifestyle to suit this decision. When she was around a year old, I started to dabble in painting again. I had painted for many years previously, but never seemed to get the chance once I became a mother! After a few months, I was back to painting every day, but I was running out of things to paint on! Since darting up to the nearest craft supply shop was not as easy as it once was, I started scouting around our home for some ideas. My husband is a builder, and often has scrap wood on the back of his truck or in the shed, so after finding a few little bits, I came up with a few ideas. When he came home that night, I asked him to do some cutting, and suddenly I had lots of painting pieces once again.
I used these mainly for gifts, and to put around my home, until someone asked if they could buy one. Then a friend of mine suggested that I start selling them, and it triggered my memory of wanting to work from home. So I started designing a few more items and working with what I had, I made, painted and decorated them. Friends and their friends were my main customers for quite some time. I was by now pregnant with my second child, and just getting ready to get my business off the ground. I decided to do a market stall first, choosing an expensive market, but it promised only quality craft was sold there, so I thought that was where I belonged. It was an absolute flop! I didn't sell a thing - but I wasn't the only one. The market had been badly promoted, and hardly anyone turned up. I went home very disappointed, but promised myself I wouldn't give up. A little while later, my husband was building an extension, and got talking to the lady that lived there. He must have mentioned the things I made, and she asked to see some of my work. The next day he took out some photos I had taken and came back with a $70 order - I was so excited! With the money from that order, I went to a joinery auction and bought a heap of timber to make more creations. From there, it seemed to just grow. This lady brought a friend of hers over to my house, and they both went away with bags of my creations. The friend came back with her friend and so on...Whimsical Wares was on its way.
My youngest daughter is now 9 months old and I am still juggling motherhood with trying to get into the painting room now and again! I mainly sell from home now, and my range currently includes Birdhouses, clocks, bookends, memo boards, signs and pictures, all timber and all hand painted. A new experiment I am trying, is sending invitations to my customers when I have some new things made. This has been very well received, and everyone has asked for updates. I still do market stalls, which are much more successful these days, even though I use them mostly for promotion. I give my card to as many people as possible, and I find it a good way to let people know you are out there. I am about to start supplying a small shop as well, but with a different range to what I already have. Later this year, I will also be doing home parties, as this is something my customers are interested in. It is sometimes hard to get anything done when you are looking after small children, but I find if I remember that I am a mother first, it all balances out. If the kids are happy and feel they are getting their attention, they will amuse themselves as much as possible - it's just when they feel ignored that they demand more attention - at least this is what I have found. I try to paint when the girls have their afternoon nap, and later at night when they are in bed. My eldest is now three, and she will sit next to me in the painting room if I give her something to paint also. That way if the baby is asleep, we still get some work done!
I don't think there could be a better way for mums to make a bit of extra money than a home business. Everyone is good at something, and it's just a matter of finding what your "thing" is. I'm not making buckets of money, but I am bringing in a little and that makes me feel proud, as well as the fact that I am doing what I love, without compromising my family - that is the ultimate! The great thing is, as the girls get older, I am hoping they will want to be more involved in my business, and learn some skills of their own, perhaps teach me some too, and I think it's a great example to set. I love to talk to other mothers who run business' from home, and to advise those who would like to; in this day and age it may be financially required for the family to have two incomes, but that doesn't always mean that Mum has to leave the kids - you can have both!
Sonia's Whimsical Wares
New South Wales, Australia
Ph: 02 4943 2511