Monday, July 28, 2014

Moms on Mondays - Lauren from Feather and Filly

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This week I am featuring Lauren from Feather and Filly.  I met Lauren a year ago, when I started stalking her mocc page, and finally connected with her last fall.  I did 3 mocc reviews, featuring almost 20 different pairs, and Lauren's are by far one of our favorites (and if you ask my husband, they are the only ones I'm allowed to buy from now on!).  She has great prices, awesome customer service and when you buy a pair of her moccs you know that it definitely helps her family.  She is amazing and I don't know how she finds the time to do all that she does, and raise the two cutest kiddos on the planet, but she does and her moccs are awesome.  I have found a friend in Lauren, through Instagram, and you can tell that she has met and connected with many mamas on there, building a network of support, collaboration and positivity - I just love this girl.  You must try to snag a pair of her moccs, it will be well worth it I promise!!  Lemon in some of her moccs:

What is the name of your shop and how can we find you?
My shop is Feather and Filly and I'm also on Instagram and Facebook.

Tell us about what you make/sell in your shop. 
Currently, I mostly make genuine, leather moccasins and ballet flats. I opened, originally, as a full fledged children's clothing boutique, but the moccasins were my best seller so I focused on them and that is when the business grew! But, I am longing to work with beautiful fabrics again, so I hope to have a few of my own boutique pieces available again some day. [Oh my gosh, if this girl makes clothes, I'm buying them!] 

How/why did you start making these products and open this shop? How long have you been in business?

I started out in 2009 making children's clothing and backpacks out of their parent's uniforms. My husband was deployed, I had a newborn, and a lot of time on my hands while waiting for those 12 months to be over! The very first item I made was a little pink Army ACU dress for another unit wife who was due with a little girl. Then I made backpacks and diaper bags for some other wives, out of their parents' or spouse's uniforms! 

In 2011, I was pregnant with our second child, and was SICK OF CAMO! So, I finished up my pending orders, took a break to focus on preparing for a new baby, and started rebranding. In late 2012 I officially  launched Feather and Filly - with the plan to continue making a variety of children's boutique, handmade clothing and soft, huggable, Native American inspired dolls (the boy dolls being named Little Feather, and the girl dolls being named Little Filly!).

I started making a lot of moccasins when my new baby, a girl, Logan Elizabeth, was 8 months old and walking. NO SHOES FIT HER FEET! She has not only fat feet, but her great grandmother's very high insteps. The moccasins got a lot of attention and I couldn't keep up with orders! So, I slowed down on the other boutique items and started popping out moccasins. That's when my business really took off, I had found my niche! 

What is your background (college/career/etc.)?

I have an Associates Degree in business management, and had started one in the medical field.

Tell us a little bit about your family. How does this company help your family?  Or you?

I married the love of my life in August 2007. Our first child, Maksym, was born December 2008 at Fort Lewis in WA state. When Maks was 6 months old, my husband, Micheal, deployed to Afghanistan with the US Army Infantry for a 12 month deployment. He returned to us in one physical piece, but he now suffers from neurological deterioration that, they can only assume, was from some sort of brain injury and exposure to toxins. 

They have spent the last 4 years doing extensive testing and evaluations trying to determine the cause of his neurological disorders, and have come to no conclusions. His symptoms mimic, almost exactly, those of Huntington's disease (do a quick YouTube search of someone with Huntington's, and you will see we what we have been learning to deal with)!
Our second child was not planned, and honestly I was terrified of the idea of caring for my now 3 year old, my disabled husband, and a newborn!! But, Logan was the best thing that happened to us that year and she continues to be a blessing to our family. 

This company has helped us in so many ways. The two major impacts has been on my sanity and in our wallet. Sewing is my escape, I feel at peace and I am happy when I sew. My husband could be in the ICU again and my kids finally fell asleep at 1am and I am exhausted, but all I want to do is sew. And I do, and feel sane again! And, of course, the income has been a huge help! My husband is considered 80% disabled - meaning he is only able to perform a work level of 20% the normal man his age. So the military "compensates" by paying to us 80% of that possible income. However, 80% is only about $1700 a month for us which is not at all enough to live on, and right now he really cannot work another job yet. I could go back to work full time, but then would need to pay for child care and sometimes for someone to help him at home! So, my working would just barely cover the cost of their care, it isn't worth the little bit of money that would be left over! Being able to work from home is what has kept my family on its feet.

Did you ever think you'd be doing this?  What did you think you'd be doing instead?

While I am amazed at how far I have come with this business, I couldn't see myself doing anything else!

Does anyone help you with your shop?

I am a one woman show! I occasionally do hire a friend, or my sister, to do some tracing and cutting, but I do all the sewing, designing, packaging and shipping, email and IG interaction. But, my sister and a good friend run my Facebook page for me - since I don't use Facebook myself!

How do you find time to run your shop and create products?

Nap time and bedtime. Just don't look in my closet at the growing pile of laundry or ask what/when I ate last!! While little hands pulling a me annoy me at first . . . them asking me to play reminds me that I work for them, not for anyone else. So everyone else and their orders can wait!

What do you love about this businesses?

I love sharing a final product with everyone! Being able to hold a finished product in my hand and post a photo. It makes me feel so accomplished!

What is the most challenging part of this business?

Customer service is tough! It is very hard trying to tend to all emails and social media, and still live my life. I want my children to know my face, not the back of my phone.

Where do you see your shop in the future?

I would like to be able to increase inventory so more is available! I am so blessed to always be sold out - but I don't want some customers to miss out! It's hard keeping up with demand, as one person doing it all. So, I would have to expand and hire. First, will be to hire my husband when he is able to help me but I' not sure yet what he will be able to do, but giving me back massages while I sew is a good start!

Tell us your favorite product or your most favorite thing you've created?

My children. Duh! But they aren't for sale. Sorry! :)  I love everything I make, if I don't love the product - I don't even offer it! It's my name on the item so I am picky about what I make and sell.

Do you have any advice for future mom-entrepreneurs?

Set your priorities first - you will go further when you remain true to yourself and your family!
Find your niche - when you do, that's when your business will take off! You can't push a sale on something that isn't right for you, be true to yourself as your product. 

Don't spend the money you made before the item is in the customer's hands. Do not rely on preorders or customer's money to start your business - you need to save up your own money for the starting costs. Relying on customer's money as your start up money is dangerous. You will then need to take on more orders to afford to complete previous orders. You will struggle to stay on top and may never be able to pull ahead. I have watched so many small business go belly up, and then disappear, because of this mistake, and they left behind a trail of customers without product because they ran out of money to produce that product. 

You may not see any income for a good full year. You will be "in the red." You have to spend money before you can make money. I highly suggest a account to track your income and spending. It will show you your monthly income and expenses, and lets you watch yourself pull out of the "red zone" and into the black! Also, it will show you if you are going to owe any taxes for that quarter or year. But, I cannot stress enough, do not spend the customer,s money until the customer has their purchased item!

What are some of YOUR favorite shops/products, besides your own?
I love buying handmade and always post my daughter in handmade goodies from other mom-run shops, these are some of my favorites:  Nooks Design, Swanky Jems, Lucky Sage Shop, Wise Birds Co, A Bow for Teagan, Little Big Fabric, Grace on Tuesdays and Spirit Bee Woodworks [awww!].
 Thanks Lauren, glad to have you here, we wish you TONS of success!!

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