Originally Published April 30, 2018. Updated September 5, 2018.
My business is opening to the public in a few days and I am a whirlwind of emotions.
I started Functional Rustic about six months ago. I began the business intending to repurpose salvaged wood into furniture and décor and sell it at craft shows. However, winter is a horrible time of year to try to find local craft shows in Michigan.
Realizing the difficulties in selling crafts without a craft show; I started the Functional Rustic website. I took pictures of everything I built and uploaded them to the site. I even set up an online store through Facebook and Etsy.
No one was coming to the website, Facebook page or Etsy store. I felt like such a failure during those early days. (It may be only six months ago but it feels like a lifetime.) I researched everything I could find about building an online business.
The basic principle behind promoting a website is to give visitors a reason to come. I chose to start a blog as a way of increasing interest and awareness for Functional Rustic.
The blog idea came at an ideal time for me. First, it was winter in Michigan so it was quite cold outside. Below freezing temperatures are not ideal for wood working and painting. Second, I hurt my elbow and was unable to build anything anyway.
A little background on me: my youth was spent playing travel ice hockey. For that reason, my instinct when I am hurt or injured is to push through and suck it up. I’m not trying to be tough – I’m trying to stay in the game. For instance, I tore my ACL (a ligament in the knee) during a pre-season skate. It was excruciating. Doctors said I would need surgery to repair it. This was my junior year of high school so I was reaching the point where college scouts could talk to me about playing hockey for them. It was the worst possible time for a high school athlete to have an injury. As I said earlier, the doctors said I needed surgery. However, they also said that because the ligament was torn I could not injure the ACL any more than I already had. I interpreted that as meaning that I could still play hockey if I was able to cope with the pain. Long story short – not only did I continue to play that season but we had over 80 games that year, won the State Championship AND the National Championship. I had surgery on my knee the day after we won nationals. That experience though, changed me. It reinforced a very bad habit of not taking care of myself. It also taught me that I can push through a great deal of pain to achieve a goal. The thing is, just because I can do something does not mean I should.
I mention the high pain tolerance because when I hurt my elbow I did not see my doctor. I figured if I simply rested it would get better. Of course I didn’t actually rest it so, a few months later I officially injured the elbow (Medial epicondylitis & right lateral epicondylitis – aka golfers elbow and tennis elbow.)
Now it was time to see a doctor. I couldn’t even move the arm, much less hold anything in my hand. If I’m willing to see a doctor though, then something is very wrong. How did I allow the pain to get so bad?
I cried a lot in the week between scheduling my appointment with the doctor and actually seeing him. I wasn’t crying because I was hurt (ok, maybe a few of the tears were from physical pain); I was crying because my dream of starting my own business by creating décor may now not be possible. My stubbornness in seeing a doctor was sabotaging my goals.
I finally saw the doctor and sat sheepishly as he explained all the reasons that waiting to see him could seriously have jeopardized my recovery. He prescribed a couple of anti-inflammatory pain killers and some physical therapy and I was all set. I may have been feeling physically better after following the doctor’s orders but, the impact on my self confidence and hope for Functional Rustic being successful were greatly impacted.
Adding to the fears of running my own business, I have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder). For me IBS/GERD means chronic fatigue, pain and nausea. It also means that there are days when I physically cannot do anything. I have been lucky since I moved to the country that I haven’t had any major episodes, but at anytime I could be out of commission for several days. As the only employee of Functional Rustic, I cant afford to not do anything for my business for a week simply because I feel sick. I need an approach that promotes both physical wellness and business success.
Not one to give up; I changed the focus of Functional Rustic from just an online store to a DIY resource and source for coping with anxiety and depressive symptoms. As much as it was a business strategy, mostly it was a coping mechanism for dealing with my stressors. I posted things on the website that made me happy and made me feel like I am contributing positively to society. I will lead by example.
It was when I started focusing on taking care of me and helping to inspire others with my experiences that Functional Rustic started to take off. When the focus was making money I was miserable and no one came to the website. As soon as I stopped focusing on earning that dollar and instead focused on just sharing positivity and my life lessons, my website went from 100 visitors a month to over 7,000 a month.
So, for the past four months I have been building my online presence and increasing awareness for Functional Rustic. I have not thought much about increasing my inventory due to the weather and my injury. However, it is starting to warm outside and my elbow is healed. The time has come to start building again.
I am thrilled to be able to start creating and repurposing again – but I’m also scared. I’m having doubts about my ability to do all of this by myself. Promoting the website, writing blogs and managing social media already take much of my day. That was fine when I was injured and it was snowing, but now I need those hours to build actual products.
Where am I going to find the time to complete everything I need to do? As my success increases so do my responsibilities. I actually wrote a blog about this exact fear here.
That brings us to today. I have been invited to participate in a multi-family garage sale this weekend. I couldn’t be happier about the venue as a location for introducing Functional Rustic to the public.
However, my current inventory is sparse. Everything on the website is everything I have. One of each. Since I have no idea what the public will like and want to buy, I did not build duplicates. I was really hoping that people would be shopping in the online store and I could get an idea of what the public liked. Since I have made no sales in the online store – I have no idea what, if anything, people want.
After I write this post I plan to go to the barn and start building. (hmmm….I wonder if this post is longer than I intended because I am avoiding starting my next task?) I still have no idea what I’m going to build though, and it is definitely stressing me out. I did great when I was focused on sharing and teaching – but building the products is about making money.
I may have a graduate level education – but both of my degrees are in Social Work not business. Social Work is about people – not money. In fact, a social worker’s life is devoted to achieving great things with little-to-no resources or money. Those skills are helpful for starting a business – but less helpful when trying to sell actual items.
Eureka! I figured it out. After writing that last paragraph I read through what I have written so far in this post and found the solution to my problem. (Imagine that, the solution was in front of me all along.)
Right now I am letting fear dictate my actions. Instead of focusing on things I know will make me feel good I am directing my attention to the uncomfortable feelings and negative thoughts I have. What I need to do is change my focus.
www.FunctionalRustic.com is more successful than I ever could have imagined at this stage of the game. I accomplished this success by staying true to my original goal of building the life I want. I want to feel at peace. I want to be healthy. I want to inspire others.
The signs and shelves I create make me happy. I feel proud of myself each time I complete a project. My designs are intentionally simple because the point of them is to inspire others that they too can build something like this for themselves. I want people to see what I build and say, “I could build that.”.
I am confident that if I stay true to the vision of inspiring others with what I create then the money part will work itself out.
Through sharing my story I intend to demonstrate to others that success can still be achieved even if you are feeling overwhelmed. It is inspiring to see someone struggle yet still achieve greatness. As I work through my doubts I find comfort in knowing that the people I look up to also struggled when they were at this stage.
Functional Rustic is about sharing my story in an effort to inspire others to realize what they want their story to say. Today when I head out to the barn to start building I am going to focus on creating things that make me smile instead of things that will earn me money.
This new mindset is not going to give me more hours in the day to accomplish what I want to do but, it does get me excited to get something done. More importantly, it properly prepares me to accomplish my goals.
I would love to wrap this post up with an eloquent summary and sage advice but, honestly, I really want to get out in the barn now and start playing with my power tools and pallets.
I may still be experiencing a whirlwind of emotions regarding my introduction to the public but, those emotions are now of determination rather than doubt.
Written by Sarah Palmer – Owner, Functional Rustic
Did you know Functional Rustic provides more than just a blog? Find out what others already know by shopping in the Functional Rustic Store.
Below are just a few of the handcrafted items available.
“Baby It’s Hot/Cold Outside” 2 sided Wooden Ornament
“Baby It’s Hot/Cold Outside” 2 sided Wooden Ornament by Functional Rustic is handcrafted from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint. Twine is used to hang the ornament. Free Shipping.
3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder – Black
3 Tier Wooden Tea Light Holder from Functional Rustic adds a rustic elegance to any space. The 3 Tier Tea Light Candle Holder is made from repurposed pallet wood and hand painted. Free Shipping.
Mini Chalk Board – Green by Functional Rustic
The Mini Chalk Board by Functional Rustic is the fun and quirky handmade conversation piece you never knew you needed. The mini chalk board is made form repurposed pallet wood and hand painted with oil paint/chalkboard paint. Measurements: 19 in x 3.5 in x 5/8 in.