My Indie Business Story

I'm really excited to announce that I am going to be a guest teacher for Indie Business 3.0 this year!!!  I took this course last year, along with my friend Kyla Roma, and now she and I are both teaching sessions in the Indie Business Course!  We have both come a long way in our businesses in the past year.  And it was such an honor to be asked by Leigh Ann and Jill, the founders and head teachers of Indie Business, to teach a session for the course since just one year ago, I was a student!

Here is a little history of my business and a little story on how taking the Indie Business course last year was the best investment I could have ever made!

In the early spring of 2009, I was dating a boy who did wood working and during that time, I became interested in trying out Etsy just for fun.  We were both in college still so we weren't too serious about starting a business, but having a little project like an Etsy jewelry shop sounded like a fun thing to have going on the side.  We decided to collaborate, me designing the pieces, him carving the wooden pendants, and me putting all the pieces together.  Here are some examples of the pieces we collaborated on together:

As you can see, the pieces themselves were very pretty, but I had a lot of trouble trying to figure out how to photograph them well.  We didn't make much of a profit because we spent so much time on each piece and felt guilty pricing them high.  Our production line was inefficient.  There was just a lot that I didn't understand yet as a business owner and a jewelry maker.  And we barely made any sales over a few months time.
The college that my ex-boyfriend went to ended up featuring our business, named S.E.A.L. at the time, in one of their campus magazines.  That was pretty cool but it didn't really get us any promotion, sadly.

We ended up breaking up after a few short months of dating and thought about trying to keep the business going together as friends.  But that was too hard.  So I decided to shut down the shop for awhile... until I came up with idea of making wooden book necklaces in the winter of 2009.  One of my roommates during that time was a guitar builder and could do a lot of wood working.  So I paid him to create the 2 pieces of wood needed for each miniature book and then I pieced it all together, sewing, cutting the paper, and assembling the metal pieces.  It was a lot of fun finally feeling like I had a creative idea of my own that I could create multiples of but still each one would be unique.  I was finally catching on to some basics of business.  But my photography still wasn't so great:

In January of 2010, I still wasn't sure whether I wanted to really invest in my Etsy shop as a business or as a hobby.  And I didn't know what direction to take my shop in.  Should I include illustrations since I did just get my degree in Illustration?  I tested out selling Valentines Day cards that I illustrated and donated the profits to a charity.  But I priced the cards so low that I didn't even cover my costs and ended up losing a lot of my own money, not just the profit that I sent to charity.

The cards were cute but they weren't exactly cohesive with the style of jewelry that I was making.  And looking at my shop, I didn't really see anything connecting with each other.  I just saw a mess of things that didn't relate to each other.  I didn't understanding the importance of "branding" or "creating a business identity."  I didn't quite understand how to build a cohesive set of items.  And it left my shop looking purposeless.
I felt a little lost in what I was doing.  I knew I had a creative mind that just needed to be directed the right way in business, but I had no idea what sort of things I needed to learn and I didn't know who I could go to for advice.  I knew that I had the potential to create something unique, but I didn't understand how to do something unique AND sustain myself at the same time.  It felt confusing.  I needed some advice.

...and then I noticed my friend Kyla has posted about how she was going to take the Indie Business 2.0 class from Leigh Ann, Jill and Elsie.  I checked out the information site about the class and I realized, holy crap, there is so much I obviously need to learn and these ladies look like they really know the ins and outs of running your own little business!  They are all big names in the blogging/small business world and I admired them a lot from just reading a little bit about them on their blogs.  So I thought, well, I might as well try out this class and see if it helps me at all in understanding what to do with my Etsy shop.  And oh man, it helped me SO MUCH.

I eventually learned some wood working skills of my own so I could be the sole creator of everything in my shop, sourcing trinkets and supplies where need be.  Not having to employ any friends to do some of the work gave me a lot of freedom knowing I could make exactly what I wanted, when I wanted to.  No waiting for my friends to work wood working for me into their schedule.  And once i was able to create everything on my own, AND I had all the business skills I learned from Indie Biz, I felt so much more assured in my business.  Here is a video I posted quite a few months back of when I first started doing all the wood working for my miniature books myself:

Go to the Indie Business 3.0 site to read about this years course outline and everything you will be taught to help you re-envision your business! Last year was awesome, and I am so excited to participate and teach this year too :)

Here is what I learned in Indie Biz:

  • How to figure out "What is my Style?"
  • How to create a cohesive body of work
  • How to build a portfolio
  •  How to create an inspiration board, an organized binder to keep track of everything, a business calendar, and other useful tactile tools for inspiration and managing my business.
  • How to asses my skills and weakness and how to work with my weaknesses to benefit my biz
New Books for the Etsy Shop.
  • How to streamline my production methods so I can produce more efficiently
  • How to find my ideal marketplace (online, or offline)
  • How to price my products
no. 75
  • How to style the presentation of my work and how to photograph it well
  • All the ins and outs of Etsy and running a shop outside of Etsy
  • Finding local and online resources
Packaging for my Jewelry Line
  • Product packaging
  • Blogging effectively, and some basic html for your blog (this launched me into blog designing!)
  • Networking on the web and locally
  • Deciding if I wanted this to be a hobby or a business, part time or full time
  • How to balance life, family, friends, and running your own business
  • plus so much more!
    I found that having a community of people (the students and teachers in the class) to talk to for a few weeks as we all learn the same things and discover new ideas, really helped me feel like I had a community that supported me and inspired me.  I have kept a lot of the friends that I met in Indie Biz one year ago and it has been awesome to see their businesses grow as mine did as well!  We were able to support each other an promote each other as each of our businesses started to pick up.  Having that support is SO helpful in making your business grow!
    This is the time to find your business community, invest in it, and find friends who are just as excited about creating something new, or enlivening their current business, as you are!  It doesn't matter if your business has been around for awhile or you are just thinking about starting a shop, this course benefits people on all levels.

    Over the past year, I've changed a bit, grew up, and found my voice in what I make.  My personal style has grown out of the 50s retro cute style to a more mature 70s chic vibe mixed with modern minimalist elements.  In figuring out how to build a cohesive business identity, I also figured out how my business identity needs to reflect my own identity.  Because of that, it has caused me to really want to solidify how I view myself, and who I am, and has made me happy to call my business a part of the person that I am.  I am proud of my business, and I am proud of myself for all that I have accomplished in the past year.  I've been featured on numerous websites, I've gained trust in my own voice and design perspective, I'm selling my jewelry in stores around the world including Gary Pepper Vintage, Lune Vintage, and Red Velvet.  And my Etsy shop is thriving.  I've been featured on the front page of Etsy 5 TIMES in the last month!  I couldn't have done any of this if it wasn't for taking Indie Business and I mean that sincerely!  It is so worth your time and I highly recommend it.  Let me know if you have signed up!  I am so excited to encourage you and help you in your business journey through Indie Business :)


    kaelah beauregarde said...

    love love loveeee this post. it's great to see designers and business owners really transform and grow. brilliant!

    Vanessa said...

    This sounds like a great idea! I'm definitely floundering in what direction I want to go...maybe this is what I need??

    Cole said...

    I've kind of been playing around with the idea of taking it but have been a bit nervous about taking the first step. But reading this post really encouraged me about it. Thanks so much!


    beka*b said...

    Your indie biz story is so inspiring to read! Thank you for sharing your journey so far.

    I still have all my notes from last year - it's probably a good time to revisit them and continue the good work already begun... I ditto your sentiments about the positives that the Indie Biz e-course has to offer people at all levels - a wise investment indeed :)

    Anonymous said...

    Wow this is so great! This is exactly what I need.
    I'm am so signing up!!

    Thank you!

    Mattie Babb said...


    I can't thank you enough for this post! SO. FRICKIN. INSPIRING!
    I was on the fence about taking this class, and now I can't wait to request it as a gift for my birthday in March. I'm pumped! I own a (very) small online Etsy shop selling vintage jewelry. I can't wait to see more of this course and what it's about. I'm also about to get a blog makeover from the Freckled Nest Design team!! Haven't decided which designer yet but I'm so excited! Thanks again for always being so transparent. Love your work and your voice.

    Your newest reader and fan,
    Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

    kelly ann said...

    ok, i loved that video. watching people create pretty things is just SO so so fascinating.

    proud of you, lady, and all you're doing. seriously, thank you for always inspiring me. <3

    Tish said...

    I've signed up and I'm so excited! I think it'll be exactly what I need to teach me the nitty gritty details of running a business that otherwise would take me a long time of trial-and-error to find out on my own and it will be a huge inspiration for me to get off my butt and get serious about this!

    Thanks for sharing your story, it's very inspiring. :)

    Lesley Myrick said...

    Moorea, thanks so much for this insight into your biz and into the Indie Business course. I've been toying with whether or not to sign up for it, and I think I'm gonna go for it. Can't wait to read your contributions to the course! :)

    Bonita Rose said...

    Moorea... hello!
    Thank you for sharing your story!
    I am so signing up... I need this, really need this!
    I recently just found the freckled nest and LA and all of you.. and sadly, hv already paid another web designer for my blog and website design.. sighs.. they don't offer refunds, I asked. :( I so wanted LA and the team there to work on it now that I discovered you but w/o getting my funds back.. pretty hard to do.. taking this class for me is the next best thing...
    U are so inspiring.. and I m honored to read about your business and your life.. I can't wait to get to know you! and the rest of the FN team! and btw, I am orig fr Winnipeg! My daughters still live there, so does my mom and her hubby.. small small world! hugs xo bonnierose

    San said...

    What a great, inspiring story, Moorea!
    I signed up for the class and I am very intimidated at this point.... but we'll see where it takes me, right?!

    Zoe said...

    I can't WAIT for Indie Business! My mind is working overtime with little projects and I need some guidance from you super ladies :)
    Love your video- so cool to see your process! You're a real hardworking girl and the time, effort and love just shines through in your beautiful pieces xo

    Lucy Kitsch said...

    I signed up last night because it's always been a dream of mine to own a small business of my own. I am absolutely THRILLED to begin the class and see where it takes me!


    Anonymous said...

    Moorea - it was so great to read your story about Indie Biz!! I was in class with you and completely agree that it was life-changing and came at the right time!! It was motivating more than anything and the networking was probably one of the most amazing parts of the class!! Thanks for sharing your story!!! xoxoxoxxxoox meg

    Ashley Crenshaw said...

    I'm so glad you posted your story! I signed up for Indie the day it went live, and I'm just so thrilled to get started! Love it!

    sarah bear said...

    Thanks so much for sharing your story! I just recently opened my own Etsy shop but can see I need guidance - sounds like Indie Biz is a worthwhile investment!

    Erika said...

    i am signed up for the class & am so excited to hear about your sucess. i also feel like my creative ideas stretch in a lot of different directions so i'm ready for some input!!

    Sarah said...


    Thank you so much for sharing your story! It's so inspirational. I can't wait to have more time to devote to my own indie business. I'll definitely be watching for the 2012 version of this class. :) Good luck with all of your creative endeavours! Love your work!

    Reuben said...

    Your wooden book necklaces are absolutely beautiful!! Such a neat and creative concept.

    Michelle Clement said...

    This is so lovely, Moorea! :) Congrats on all the growth in the past year! Exciting!!

    Ashley said...

    Love this post! Makes me so glad I'm taking the course. :]

    Anonymous said...

    I'm signed up and now I'm even more stoked after reading your story. Thanks for sharing it! :)

    Dondrea said...

    Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. It is so encouraging! Love your work, and can't wait to order my next piece from you. :)

    ik studio said...

    I signed up into the indie bussiness 3.0 I was waiting for that since last year and now I´m so excited to read the teachers´stories. Reading your blogs and all things that you share make me learn so much about indie world and I appreciate very much to let me know about your feelings and personal vision of life. Women like you really inspires me.

    Je suis une monstre said...

    ahhhhh, thanks so much for writing this - I really relate to how you felt at the beginning of your story! Going to check out the Indie Biz site right now, cos although I am celebrating my first mini successes on etsy and in my blog - I have got a lot to learn, and could do with a helping hand, and this sounds like JUST the thing I'm looking for! Keep up the great work! xxx

    Colleen / Inspired to Share said...

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. It's so inspiring and motivating! I missed the last Indie Business but hope to catch the next one! xo

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    jessie said...

    oh that post is great! i really love the story because i am starting a indiebusiness right know .. but just have to plan everything. so it is nice to see all the things i still have to do ...