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Overcoming Doubts Before Opening to the Public – A Functional Rustic Approach

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.

Overcoming Doubts Before Opening to the Public Title.png
Overcoming Doubts Before Opening to the Public – A Functional Rustic Approach.

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.

Welcome Sign.jpg
“Welcome” Wooden Sign by Functional Rustic.

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?

You were unsure which pain was worse
You were unsure which pain is worse – the shock of what happened or the ache of what never will.

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.

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I don’t want my pain and struggle to make me a victim. I want my battle to make me someone else’s hero.

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.

M15 Garage Sale
M-15 Garage Sale. 60 miles of garage, yard and barn sales.

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.)

Sometimes life is about risking everything
Sometimes life is about risking everything for a dream no one can see but you.

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. 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.

Functional Rustic Product Collage
Whether I am repurposing a pop can into a plant marker, bending a fork into a business card holder or salvaging discarded pallet wood and creating rustic home décor – there is no shortage of possibilities for the Functional Rustic inventory.

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.

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Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

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.


21 thoughts on “Overcoming Doubts Before Opening to the Public – A Functional Rustic Approach

  1. Thanks for your insight into you, your mindset, your background and your business Sarah. You were one tough cookie all along, especially with the athletic injuries – wow!

  2. Congratulations on your successes Sarah!!! Your background in life has prepared you well. I’m so PROUD to watch you! You are a true inspiration.

  3. Thank you Jenifer! I’m not often told that others are proud of me….means the world that you shared that. I’m trying to recall my sales strategy as a girl scout to see if it can be applied to Functional Rustic. So far all I came up with is everyone likes girl scout cookies. Ha.

  4. I’m reminded of a quote I read recently to the effect of, “A coachable child is an employable adult” or something like that. My team player attitude was great in the workplace. I’m still learning how to get things done without a ‘team’ now. Not until I started to reply to your comment did it click that many of my frustrations come from not having teammates to work with. Thank you Linda for planting that seed…..I’ve got some new strategies to pursue!

  5. Someone recently told me I WAS WORTH IT and I am not sure anyone has ever said that to me. Felt nice!!!

    You are a hard worker Sarah! I think the trials and tribulations of your youth has taught you well!! Keep on 🚗 keeping on SARAH!!!

  6. We often remind children of the importance of being nice and supporting each other – as adults we fail to do this ourselves. I’ve brought many a co-worker to tears by simply reminding them they make a difference and their hard work is recognized. I thought it was just a social worker thing but I’m realizing it is an adult thing.

    I think of you and your daughter often. You both are going through major emotional growth spurts that are uncomfortable and confusing. You both are laying a solid foundation for your future and it is inspiring. Beautiful Disaster is such a perfect description for you two. There really is beauty in complete and utter chaos. 🙂

  7. You are welcome Sarah and I am sure it is difficult after all these years to get used to the mindset that you are there and you do it all and you have indeed taken on a big challenge. You are lucky that we are approaching a season where you are wont to hunker down in the house more – it will be easier to churn out more wares and as people see what you have to offer, and the holidays approach, I think you will have a lot more action in your marketplace just from the items you have been featuring. Then you will need to increase the “team” … you just watch!

  8. Sarah – I have an idea. You could post your blogs about your marketplace (your handmade gifts, etc.) on I have just looked at to see if they had a Patch for Dryden and they did not. You could pick a city close to Dryden and when you do blog posts … and they could include the quotations or the ones that are strictly tailored to your items you sell, you can post on Patch. ( It is a hyperlocal news source. I have been posting at the Wyandotte Patch for five years now. I don’t live in Wyandotte, but it is the closest city to where I live. I post my blog, but it is not the same format as here on WordPress. I also don’t use the same blog name – not because I wanted to keep it “secret” but because the format is different. So, for example, if you search for “The Wyandotte Patch” you will get:

    If you scroll down a little bit, you’ll see my blog post I did earlier today (my frustration over the weather). If you post multiple pictures you see it is different than WordPress. But it is a good outlet to exhibit your blog. In retrospect, I could have used the same title I guess, but I do use a tagline at the bottom referring people to my own blog … you could get exposure for “Functional Rustic” and what you sell that way. But, include all the blog posts so it does not appear you are looking for free advertising. Here is a link to how my blog looks there on “The Wyandotte Patch” …

    Why not give it a try – hopefully that link came out, it was awfully long!

  9. Thank You for your insightful words!! You called them GROWTH SPURTS—I never thought of it that way.
    And the reminder that there is BEAUTY in CHAOS. I often feel scared for my beautiful girl — can we handle step 2 (release from Menninger) without a major relapse?, can she be more patient as I learn to apply DBT?, can I?, can we? , how?, then what?

    Your words are comforting to me!!! Thank You for that feeling tonight!!!’💐

  10. I believe in you and I believe in your daughter. Relapses in some form are guaranteed but, that’s ok. You are preparing – she is preparing, when that relapse arrives it will provide such a great opportunity to put into action all of the skills you two have been working on.

    Coping with mental illness is like playing a sport. Therapy, understanding the illness and learning the copings skills is like the practice and the relapse is actual game time.

    I for one, look forward to the first relapse after treatment. Not because I want it to happen, but because I believe all of the ‘practice’ will actually pay off and the relapse will be short lived. Furthermore, if she feels more supported this time than in previously episodes she will gain confidence that she can get through tough situations.

  11. I am very much looking forward to the cooler weather. This heat and humidity makes it hard to exist lately, much less create. And when winter hits we will start heating the house with the wood stove. I LOVE sitting next to the fire all day. I’m already better prepared this year to build during the winter months. Preparation is key!

  12. THANK YOU LINDA! Information like that is exactly why I wanted a comment section for the blog. Ha. I will definitely be checking it out. So very considerate of you to share the information. It means a lot that you took the time to realize how Patch could help me achieve my goals. Thank you!!!

  13. You’re welcome Sarah – I looked to see if there was a specific Dryden location and it doesn’t matter as you can just pick a nearby location. Every time you post, just go there – not as easy as you have to load each picture separately and the pictures don’t always look as nice as WordPress. Sometimes it cuts off some of the picture, even if you make the picture smaller … vertical sometimes looks funny, but that is only about 5 to 10% of the time. Back when Patch was owned by AOL, we had a whole group of bloggers all across the U.S. and we would share blogs with our Community Editor in a closed forum on Patch. Then AOL sold to a different company and instead of having local editors, they got rid of them and only a handful of editors across the U.S. … the Patch group on Facebook still exists, but none of the original members post there anymore unfortunately.

  14. Usually every Friday, the Community Engagement Editor (Rick Uldricks) sends an e-mail to all Patch posters … these people could be bloggers or people who post info about their town. Sometimes he’ll tell you tidbits about posting on Patch. If he sends one, I can forward it to you … here is the portion of Patch where you can create an account (or where you go once you’ve created the account when you post on a regular basis):

  15. The wood stove does sound very nice – if I didn’t mind driving in ice and snow, which I try to avoid like the Plague, I would not mind Winter. I cannot stand this heat and humidity – we can deal with it a small amount of time in August, but this has been nonstop since Memorial Day … enough already! And the rain as well. Once again, the weekend will be gray tomorrow, rain late in the day and a rainy day Sunday into Monday. If I don’t meet my goal I have decided not to beat myself up over it – it was out of my hands.

  16. That’s right Linda! It is a very freeing thought to accept that some things are completely out of your hands and there is no point in getting upset over it.

    This weather these past few days has been divine though. We had our first bonfire at the new house last night and the temperature was perfect. Cool and calm!! And humidity below 70% – perfection.

  17. Patch sounds like a great resource for what I’m doing. Thanks again for the referral.

  18. Ha…one of the first lessons I learned when I started posting my pictures online was how every website displayed the pictures differently. I will just add Patch to the list. Providing quality photos across many platforms really is a lot of work. Good thing I like doing that kind of stuff.

  19. Yes, the loss of humidity was just perfection. Unbelievably, I would have dressed a little warmer for my walk at Hines Park. It was not just windy but blustery as well, plus a little chilly with no sun. I felt a malcontent wishing it was just a wee bit warmer. Then I said “what are you thinking Linda?”

  20. Yes, try it out Sarah – no e-mail from Rick Uldricks yesterday. He used to do one every Friday and sometimes it had tips, or usually his “round-up” of various posts of interest from all the states where people post. Hope it can work out for you.

  21. Yes, I’ve been frustrated with Patch sometimes. I’ll use the size they want and it will cut off part of the picture. That is why I include the link to my blog because I hate that I’ll refer to a picture and know it looks chopped up. Other than that, it is good and you can schedule ahead and do drafts if you want. I do my posts in Word and just cut-and-paste them over for both Patch and WordPress.

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