Scaling a Wood Sign Business – feat. Kaylie of Mulberry Market Designs

May 25, 2021

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We’re bringing in Kaylie of Mulberry Market Designs to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how she scaled her wood sign business. She’s sharing her best tips for staying organized when running custom orders through Etsy. And yep, we ask her some tough questions about mistakes she has made and learning lessons she gained along the way. Listen in as she opens up about how she handled a tricky shipping situation. Plus, catch the lessons she’s learned about managing burnout! 

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When did you first fall in love with signage? Were you always creative?

Kaylie 4:51

Yeah, it’s crazy. Because when I was in school, I was definitely more into charcoal and portraiture and line work and, um, things that are very different from what I do now, even watercolor. And that was just something that I guess I was worried that if I made it into a business, I would be burnt out or not enjoy it.

So I wanted to do something separate from what I enjoyed in my personal life. But it also really just kind of fell in my lap. Whenever we got married in June, we wanted to kind of DIY and make all of our own little things. And that was, that was a big part of, it was making some signs for our wedding. We just found some scrap wood and scrounged up some paint that we had and made our own signs.

And it just kind of took off from there. I was looking for a creative outlet and listed some stuff on Etsy. I kept reading a little bit about that series that they were publishing. It was very big during that time because Etsy was still kind of new. Pinterest was still kind of new, doing any sort of handmade business was very new at that time and very different.

And I’ve all, I’m all about the difference. So I started reading this series and, um, I was just so inspired by all of these artists all over the world that were choosing to create a business out of it and doing it successfully. And I just knew that that was something I wanted to pursue, whatever it took, I wanted to do it.

So that was just that inspiration and it just sparked something. That’s amazing. I love that so much. And it’s so funny because so many of our audience and people we’ve had on the show, their businesses started from like their own weddings. Everyone’s like, wow, I made this for my wedding and it just kinda took off from there.

Do you consider yourself an artist or entrepreneur?

Kaylie 7:02

I have always considered myself an artist. I’m definitely just a creative thinker.

I’m not an analytical thinker. My brain only tends to lean to that side. My husband is the entrepreneur, but I will say in the past few years, I’ve definitely treaded more into the entrepreneur spirit only because it’s just something that’s required. When you start a business, you have to start thinking that way at some aspect or level.

But I definitely Teeter between the two, some days. I’m like, I don’t want to think, I don’t want to make decisions. I just want to create, I want to be inspired. And then other days I’m like, oh man, if I could do this and I could sell this and I could make people happy and all these things. So I definitely Teeter between the two.

So I like to say that I would probably be both, but I still definitely am more of just the creative spirit. And my husband makes up for the lack of entrepreneur that I might not, I might be afraid of sometimes. 

Tell us how your husband (Josh) ended up working with you?

Cami 9:22

So your husband, Josh started working with you after you guys made signs for your wedding. Was that just like, Hey, let’s do this business together or did you kind of start doing it and then you were like, babe, I need some help?

Kaylie 9:30

Definitely more the latter. My husband worked a corporate job. Well, he worked for Publix. My husband actually worked there for seven years.

Like literally from high school on, he was going to make a career out of it. He was very, very, um, excited to just be a part of that company. And we wanted him to stay there, but our business was kind of suffering only being me. So it was like, we kind of just had to make a decision that I think was hard for him, but he’s so, so glad that he did, because it definitely squashed his entrepreneurial spirit because he had to be under a boss and under rules and under what that business required.

Whereas now he can be his own creative self and make his own decisions and pursue other things. So it’s been a really good move.

A lot of creatives feel burnout in their business. Have you experienced this? Can you give us an example and tell us how you recovered from burnout?

Kaylie 15:41

Yeah. Burnout is part of it. If you are going into a business, regardless of what kind of business you want to run, don’t expect it to be all rainbows and sunshine all the time. Sometimes you do just hit those burnout phases that you have to just, you have to get yourself out of, but sometimes it’s okay to allow it.

So I just, I think that when you’re juggling so many things, especially for me as a mom and all of the other things that I want to give my 100% to. The moments that I’ve hit my burnouts, I just needed to experience it and then move on. And, um, definitely COVID, that was one of my major burnout moments, but there have been times where I’ve hit burnouts.

And I can tell you the main reason is because of just saying yes to too much saying no, not enough. And you know, doing all the, trying to do all the things, it can make you burn out because you’re just go, go, go, go, go. And then you just you’re burnout and you need to crash. But yeah, like I think it’s just one of those real moments that you have to accept.

And when it comes, just let it pass. Don’t give up, don’t take it as a moment of giving up. Cause that’s a really, really easy feeling to feel as soon as you’re burning out, you’re like, I need to give up. And that’s usually the moment that something great is about to happen or you’re going to be inspired by something.

Kaylie 18:51

I want to say that it’s so easy when you own your own business to never turn it off.

And that really leads to burnout. I was really bad about that for a long time. I would say literally up until a few months ago, I would never turn my emails off. Never. I would let the notifications come in at all hours of the day and almost night I would answer things. I would look at things. I would look at stats.

I mean, it was just never ending. I was always just obsessed with it and that’s great to be, um, super involved in your business and passionate about it. But I think just not being able to turn it off at any point in the day is just not good. Like you, you need a break. So, yeah, just at some point in the day, turn it off, like go see your friends, go talk to your kids, like, turn it off and let your mind rest so you can be refreshed for the next day.

What kind of systems do you have in place to keep yourself organized with orders?

Kaylie 19:50

I’m definitely involved in many things. I’ve started doing Shopify, Etsy and Amazon. So they all have their own little order management systems. One thing I will definitely say that has really helped me this past year.

And I haven’t talked a lot about this to other people, but it’s really important. I think it’s really cool. Um, it’s ShipStation and some people may have heard of it. Yeah. We love ShipStation. So I had, I had discovered them a couple of years ago, and I didn’t like their system the way that it was set up. So I ended up not going with them.

And so whenever I thought about what I needed for a multi order management place and have everything in one place, I explored that again this year. And they had all the things like checked all the boxes, all the things that I needed. So that is a really good program to use if you’re in any of the e-commerce stores, um, because it puts everything in one place, you can manage your orders, you can do a little bit of everything there.

So that was one way of me getting a whole lot more organized this year. And then communication, I think is important too. Obviously that can be a little tricky on Etsy because they want you to stay in their messaging system, which is good. It’s good to have that. Um, Uh, reference to look back and all of your communication between your customers, but I like to have everything in one place too.

So if it’s outside of Etsy, I like to have my own email and my own chat systems. I try to just make it as easy as possible for my customers to not only get ahold of me, but if they can’t get ahold of me, they should be able to find what they’re looking for anyways. So that’s really important too, because we can all be really, really busy.

What are some of the biggest mistakes or experiences you’ve learned from in your business?

Kaylie 33:01

So whenever I make a mistake, it’s like, how, how did this happen? But it happens, you’re human, you’re tired sometimes or whatever. Um, you just weren’t having your best days. So I did have an experience that happened last year,  with a wedding and it always ends up being. Like a situation that you just, you could not imagine happening, but I had it an unimportant order.

It was a huge, huge, huge wedding. We were already on a really big time crunch. So I was aware of it from the beginning, but we made sure to get the order, um, out as quickly as possible. So we got the order out. It was this massive, biggest sign I’ve ever, ever painted. You’ve probably seen me post them on Instagram last year, but we shipped this massive order in one big shipment. Thankfully, we were able to get everything in one box, cause I really wanted to make sure that it all got there in one place. So we made this big order. We shipped it,  plenty of time. I think we had close to two weeks before the wedding was taking place.

So there was two weeks of wiggle room to make sure everything got there. If anything was arriving damaged, we could replace it, whatever.  We just always want to provide a cushion. So the customer reached out to me, I think it was like two or three days before the wedding. And she was like, Hey, my signs are still not here.

And I was like, what? It’s been almost two weeks. How is that even possible? Especially because we had sent it, , like a faster shipping method, but as everyone knows, like ups or the post office or FedEx, they’re not a hundred percent reliable. There’s circumstances that they have to deal with, whether it’s a truck breaking down or whatever.

So yeah, she reached out to me and because of the custom nature of the order, I could not replace everything. I didn’t have all of the material at that size and added that color just on hand. It was something that was made for her order. So I literally. I stayed up till two or three o’clock in the morning redoing her entire order with two days before the wedding.

Um, the only ones we couldn’t do are obviously those custom pieces that I talked about, but for the most part, 80% of the order, I remade, I overnighted, I covered the cost, everything because I was just like, this can’t happen. I cannot leave her with an entire wedding of nothing to display.  And that was just, that was a very big, um, those pieces were so special to her.

So yeah, so we got them there. They were overnighted. They made it in time. It was kind of like one of those save the day moments, but it was, it was awful to experience that because I just felt helpless. And I was like, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to help you, but I just knew that I had to at least do something, whether it was.

I don’t know. I just, I just knew I had to remake her order no matter what it took to get it to her. And she was so thankful, she sent me beautiful pictures. She was like, you know, you just went above and beyond. And, you know, unfortunately, that was not one of those mistakes that I made. I certainly have made mistakes on my own, but when you’re dealing with a situation where someone else made a mistake and you have to make up for it’s, it’s almost harder because you’re just apologizing for that situation.

So I think just going above and beyond whenever you can, and then sometimes just sometimes when you can’t do anything, just sincerely apologizing and letting them know and being honest. 

And I think the lessons that I’ve learned are sometimes when a situation goes awry.I’m scared to communicate because I’m scared to let them down. Like, I’m so scared to reach out and be like, this is what’s going on, or this is wrong or whatever. It’s best to just. Do it own up to it or whatever the situation, the communication goes such a long way, because that’s going to just make them feel better.

It’s going to keep them informed. It’s going to calm their nerves, whatever it may be. So. Regardless of, if you make a mistake or if someone else makes a mistake, that communication, and just knowing that you care goes such a long way. That’s what I’ve learned over the many years. 

Do you have any advice for someone who is running custom orders through an Etsy shop?

Kaylie 39:43

Yes. So Etsy does have a new feature that they added. I think it was either last year, the year before, where you can create a custom listing directly from the conversation panel that you’re working in. So that made it a little bit easier to where you can now just go ahead and start the order.

  So I really liked that feature.    The other thing that I like to do. Apart from Etsy, which you can certainly do on Etsy is I have a little questionnaire. So whether you copy and paste it into the messages or you even send them a link to it that’s perfectly fine.  I think it’s really great because sometimes your customer will come to you with a very vague idea of what they want.

Like, Hey, I want to sign. Oh, okay, great. Well kind of signed, you know, many different materials and colors. So you want to kind of get the answers answered quickly because the longer that you take conversing with them, I feel like you kind of lose their interest or they get impatient, or they might start looking for someone else that might already have what they need on hand.

So it’s really important to like, get that invoice sent and get them excited about their order and make sure that you’ve kind of answered all of those questions and given them. The accurate pricing. So I think having a questionnaire for you, regardless of what platform you’re on, that’s just gonna allow you to ask all your questions in one place and get all your answers in one place.

And then you’re able to just move forward with that custom order and get it and get it in. So I think that’s important. And then just knowing that. You know, you’re there to communicate with them. They love that personal experience. 

Tell us about your Sign Making Course coming out in August! What will you be teaching?

Kaylie 52:03

This has been one of those things that I have always wanted to do. I decided that I needed to pursue something new and different and help others because I’ve already gone through so many struggles in so many things that I had to learn the hard way.

Why not pave that path just a little bit for other creatives.  So yeah, the course goes live in August. Um, we have our early enrollment taking place this month, which I’m really nervous about because that’s kind of determining the success of the course. It’s happening literally this week. Like the week that this episode is airing.

So, the course is just all about just teaching and learning all the things that I’ve learned these past nine years. So, if you’re starting something like this or already have started, hopefully some of those things can help you be that much more successful. My hope is that the course will help people gain success more quickly because sometimes like learning things the hard way, It can sometimes crush you or it can sometimes make you take a step back when really you just, you gotta learn, you gotta keep pursuing. And, I think that this course will help people

Elisabeth 53:29

Yeah. I know it definitely will be. The heart and soul that you have put into the resource that I personally know that you have put into it is going to be so good.

The amount of content that you’re covering for like the price you’re charging is also amazing. So it’s Mulberry market You guys, for those of you who are listening and you want to check out early enrollment for the course, early enrollment is $347, which is $150 off the full price of four 97.

So if you’re listening to this week and you either have wanted to get into signage, or you have a sign-making business already, and you want to make that more efficient and better, like I guarantee this course will have something for you. Yeah, regardless of the stage, right? Definitely. I love that. All the classes, they do go hand in the hand, but at the same time, if you’re like, well, I’m not making science, but I’m making this and it involves lettering and involves shipping.

Okay. Well, there’s going to be so much information talking about just those areas that you don’t want to miss, because yeah, you may have your own way of doing things, but it is so important to see how other people do things, because they may have found a trick or two here and there that can make your life so much easier.

Last question: what’s one of your big goals for 2021 that you hope to accomplish?

Kaylie 56:54

So,  I probably have two goals in mind. First, I would love to dabble a little bit in the world of wholesale.

And this more pertains to like the home line that I’ve created this year.  , I would love to just. Hopefully, I can get some of my pieces in stores. I just feel like that would be so cool. So fun. And I think it would be a little bit more affordable in nature for people who may not be in the online world, but stumble upon something in a store that they love.

I think that would be really neat. So we’re kind of looking into, um, a little bit of that, but I feel very clueless in that area. I’ve never pursued that. So that’s one goal. 

And then another goal that I’m wanting to do this year is to host some local classes.  My course has gotten me really inspired with teaching so I’m hoping maybe at the end of the year or at the beginning of 2022, that I’ll be able to do some more local things.

Elisabeth 58:06

Perfect. Yeah. I love that. And I mean, Cami has a ton of experience with wholesale, so you can always follow up with her because I feel like if you took, like, let’s say a dozen of the sign designs that you have, that, you know, you can print and manufacture really well.

Like maybe they’re not huge. Right. So they’re a little more easy to ship. And you’re kind of like build yourself a catalog and start mailing that to people who you think are a great fit for you. Like, I can already think of stores off the top of my head. I’m like, oh, she would be great in this boutique or that boutique or whatever.

And like, and start that way just with like start with like 12 and then like go from there. Right. If people start buying those and they’re interested in those and obviously to make sure like your margins. Margins are playing out and all that good stuff to our machine. That’s why that door has been opened up for us because I couldn’t imagine hand painting.

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