I have written this post in my head more times than I can remember. Now that it is time, I sit here, feeling at a loss for words.
Let me start by saying….I did it. Here’s my story.
For the past 6 years, I have had a great career in pharmaceutical sales. I loved my job and I felt I was good at it. When my little peanut was born in 2010, I knew I wanted to eventually work from home- I couldn’t stand to be away from him. Lovely as it sounded, it felt like an impossible dream. The future of my pharma career felt uncertain (layoffs have become the unfortunate norm in the industry) and I figured I could give my entrepreneurial dream a try if I lost my pharma job.
I had been blogging on Charming Little Nest for a while and was having so much fun doing it. Charming Little Nest became my sweet place where I could go and write about all of the things that I enjoyed. I felt a pull…something I cannot explain. I knew there was something more that I wanted. I wanted to grow that sector of my life.
I decided to create Southern Nest, a home décor brand based around the Southern lifestyle. I knew I wanted to create a product that I felt passionate about. A product that really defined the brand I envisioned. I saw an adorable cutout monogram and fell in love. The simple notion of cutting letters triggered my creative/entrepreneurial side. I began to envision a full line of numerous products and marketing concepts-I got so excited and knew this was the route to go.
I took a leap and emailed the person who had the cutout monogram. I proposed a business collaboration and instantly got shot down. I remember thinking, “That’s it?! My first step and I’m already shot down?” I felt rejected. After licking my wounds, I realized…I had to believe in myself. If I didn’t believe in myself, no one would.
I knew there had to be a way to create the type of product I wanted to offer. I spent months researching different manufacturing processes and different types of materials. Once I decided how I wanted to manufacture my product, it was time to set logistics in place. I needed to make the financial investment necessary to create a website, purchase materials, samples, etc. So I did one of my favorite things to do. I did a “flea market flip”…I found a $5.00 old window at a thrift store and created an antiqued mirror. I sold it and invested all of the profit into Southern Nest. I purchased the wood and had samples made. I had everything live by Thanksgiving of 2011. I couldn’t have imagined what would have happened next. I got so bombarded with orders that I literally had to stop taking them until after Christmas. I was blown away.
The following January, I continued to receive orders and was able to smoothly ship them out on the side. I worked full time as a pharmaceutical sales rep during the day, spent time with my son and my husband after work, and then would ship monograms after everyone had gone to bed. I was having so much fun doing it.
In March, what I consider to be the ultimate step toward the growth of Southern Nest happened…The Nester. Yup. If you are under a rock and have not heard of The Nester, she is a blogger with an amazing sense of style and writes about interior decorating in a witty way. You feel like you are right there, on the couch, having coffee with her. She discovered my monogram on Etsy and blogged about it. I smile as I remember that day her post went live. I was home with a sick toddler and I could hear the “Etsy Sale” alert go off on my iPhone. One after another, ding, ding, ding…I remember thinking, what the heck is going on?
That month, my sales tripled. From there they continued to climb. I was still working full time and running the same type of charade. I woke daily at 5:45, got the little guy ready for daycare, worked all day, played mommy and wife until bedtime, then shipped and painted monograms. The increased volume had me awake until 1:00 or 2:00 AM most nights. I remember once being so tired, I actually fell asleep for a second while sitting on my garage floor tagging monograms. I was always covered in paint. Monograms took over my home. I was having shipping material delivered in huge quantities to my over-packed garage. Everything felt so unorganized and I had no time to organize it.
It became physically and mentally exhausting. I remember feeling weak, shaky, having email upon email pile up and feeling like I was drowning. At one point, I thought, what am I doing? Is this even going to work? What if I spent the entire year working like a dog and making myself exhausted only to have it fail? Trust me, a million obstacles kept getting thrown at me. (I even had a loopy “friend” that watched me go through all of this and then went and tried to copy every single bit of my business. Luckily, there are just some things you can’t copy.) But, something kept me going. I kept picturing my son’s sweet little cheeks and thinking, “one day, I will not have to leave him if this works.”
By August, I knew the time had come for me to make a decision. At that point, it was impossible for me to run Southern Nest and work full time in pharmaceutical sales; I knew I was going to have to make a decision and I felt too scared to leave a job that guaranteed my income.
Then good old fate stepped in again. Only this time it wasn’t so peachy. You can read about that here. I don’t even want to write about the whole incident again-I have moved on. It left me very sick. I am so thankful for my family and friends-they got me (and Southern Nest) through this time. My mother and sisters dedicated entire days to help me package monograms. My in-laws came to town numerous times to help me with getting monograms out. My husband did so much running around for me. My friends sat on the floor with me, wrapping monogram after monogram. When I was very sick, one of my best friends even came over and painted monograms for me in the cold weather…we still laugh about that night.
It took a lot of doctors and a long time for them to discover how to “fix” me. I really didn’t feel like “Courtney” again until March of this year. But the entire thing gave me a new outlook and appreciation for life. It changed me, for the better, and taught me that I couldn’t do everything. I just couldn’t. I restructured Southern Nest to function even when I fell, which made my business even healthier.
My doctors had taken me out of work through March and when it was time to return to my pharmaceutical job, I just couldn’t. And, because of Southern Nest and a husband that believed in me, I didn’t need to. I knew what I needed to do. I gave my notice to my manager and I remember sitting there, stunned, for about 10 minutes. I moved around in a daze all day, still in shock, and a few hours later…it hit me. I did it. I DID IT!!! That was when I finally let myself feel excited about it.
It was the best decision I ever made, professionally and personally. I can finally give Southern Nest the attention it needs to prosper. I outsourced painting to amazing professionals and I am in the process of moving shipping to a shipping warehouse (hallelujah!) And my tiny co-worker and I are loving every second of being together all day.
I am happy…so very happy. It all started with a dream, a bit of faith in myself, and of course, that $5.00 window.