Meet Rena of Rustic Horseshoe
Tell us a Little about yourself, your family and your business.
I'm located in central Arizona in a rural town called Cornville. I was born and raised in Northern Arizona and was blessed to spend hours upon end outdoors exploring, playing and being among horses and other animals were my norm. I met my husband in 2001 while he was stationed in the Arizona in the Marine Corps. We married in 2003 and in 2008 our first child graced us with her presence followed by her brother in 2011. I am a self-taught designer and sewist. I design plush stick animals and plushies. I offer these designs in sewing patterns & tutorials, DIY kits and fully completed. I also offer a few other odds and ends of a western and equestrian nature.
What did you do before starting Rustic Horseshoe?
Prior to starting my own business, I was a law enforcement officer with every intention of continuing on that career path after becoming a mama.
How did you come up with your company name and why?
Night shifts in law enforcement can be pretty exciting at times or very boring at times when the night can feel like it drags on. During those quiet times, I would patrol the streets and think about a lot of things while looking for suspicious activity or someone in need of help. One of those things I would ponder was how I was going to spend more time with my little girl by working from home. I love rustic décor, horses and the western lifestyle and knew my business would certainly involve those aspects. Horseshoes are a symbol of good luck and horses so I came up with Rustic Horseshoe.
What inspired you to start your own business and how did you start it?
My world and heart changed when my little girl entered it and I began searching for a way to work from home. I had always been creative and loved to draw. When my daughter was 7 months old I began dabbling with my business and launched my store on Etsy with my sister-in-law. This business would eventually be my ticket to working from home two years later. I started it with the intention of selling products I could manage to create and sell while working full time and having an infant at home. I started with my first stick horse design, my Classic Collection Stick Horse, to sell in a sewing pattern & tutorial to try to fit the niche I was working to create for myself.
Is there a specific tool you use that makes managing a business easier?
I'm pretty old school when it comes to this. I created a calendar template specific to my business and fill in the slots as I get orders so I can accurately schedule the time to create them and manage what is scheduled to ship and when. I revise my schedule as often as needed. My mom is my saving grace and manages my books for me and I have an accountant handle all the tax related aspects.
What Were some of the learning curves of just starting out? *
There are a lot of learning curves. There are so many things I have learned over time by reading the experiences of others, advice, articles and just the learning curves of the experience I gained by just simply running my business and working out kinks as I go, tweaking things as needed and overhauling things as needed. One of my most challenging learning curves was simply learning how to properly price my items fairly for not only the customer but for myself as well and not undermining the handmade market. I spent a lot of time working for what worked out to be about $3.00 an hour after all the overhead, materials, fees, etc were figured in. I'm beyond those days now and have learned how to fairly price my items for success. My items have also dramatically improved in look and quality with the experience I've gained over the years. I've accepted that there are simply some items not worth my time to make because I will never get a fair working wage making it and my time is valuable.
What's it like being a business owner and mom, how do you schedule both? *
My son started kindergarten this year so both of my kids are in school now and that has helped but there are still challenges of course. When people asked how I did it when both my kids were under 5 years old...I simply don't know...I just made it work and I know I was exhausted a lot! Now that they are in school, I do my best to get my work done during school hours. This doesn't always happen depending on order volume and other demands...but it's ideally what I strive for. My kids will often come into my studio and do crafts while I work if I still have work to do when they are home. Times like now I do get overwhelmed and often feel like I'm not succeeding as a mom or as a business owner as I try to juggle everything. My assistant recently moved just as my busy season was gearing up. I just buckle down and do the best I can making sure I take time out for those little moments such as spending 15 minutes coloring with my daughter or playing legos with my boy. I have an amazing husband who pitches right in when he gets home from work to do whatever needs to be handled between getting dinner ready, feeding horses or getting some housework done. I also have amazing friends who offer to take the kids for a play date, bring dinner or even come do my dishes. My mom doesn't live very nearby, but once in awhile when I'm getting quite overwhelmed she will come stay for a few days to help out. I couldn't do this by myself, that's for sure! I'm most certainly blessed!
What has been your greatest lesson in business and motherhood? *
Regardless of how busy I am with orders or other business demands, my main purpose remains...I left my career for my children. During my working hours, if they are home, I must take the time to pause and listen to them when they want to talk, look at what they are trying to show me, color with them and play with them even when I'm in my work zone trying my hardest to complete tasks and orders. I'm doing this for them and I have to make sure that I never lose sight of that and always put them first. As Charles W. Chestnutt said, "We sometimes underestimate the influence of little things". ...I try to embrace the little moments...that is my greatest lesson in balancing business and motherhood. Don't let your business consume you as you try to build and run it...I'm a mother first and foremost.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurial mothers?
Balance, balance, balance...and it wouldn't hurt to learn to juggle.
What does a “normal” day in your home look like?
Up and at 'em early to get chores done and children ready for the day. I may get in thirty minutes of responding to messages or packaging orders after the kids are ready for school and waiting for the time to leave. I drop them off at school and either take a short walk with my dog and a good friend or volunteer at the school for an hour or so (this is one of those balance things...I have to take a little time for myself which for me includes helping others). Then to my home studio. Throughout the day I work on a variety of things depending on what I have scheduled to accomplish that day. The things I work on regularly are creating items to fill orders, updating my shop listings, taking and processing product photos, writing tutorials, designing new items, answering messages from customers, confirming and scheduling orders, ordering supplies, packing and shipping orders, social media posts, reading a business related article, etc. When it is time to pick up the kids, I pause it all, pick them up, take them to any extracurricular activities they may be involved in that day, run packages to the post office then back home. Ideally by this time my work would be done for the day and I'd clean up my studio...but this time of year that simply doesn't happen. So, I get chores done and juggle between work, kids and household demands for the rest of the day. After spending many nights staying up much later than I should over the years to get things done after the kids are in bed I have made a relatively recent rule for myself that I stick to for the most part. When it's time to get the kids settled into bed, my work day is done. After they're in bed it is time for me to spend a little time with my husband visiting or watching a show...it is my time to decompress and then get much needed sleep so I can do it all again tomorrow.
Besides business and your family, do you have any hobbies you love to enjoy (when you have the time)? *
I love horseback riding, hiking, cooking & baking, range time, being outdoors, and dabbling with new crafts.
I can't start my day without coffee. What's that one thing you need everyday to kickstart yourself? *
I've always been a morning person, yikes!...I know. Instead of what I need to kickstart myself...I'll tell you what I need to decompress after a full day. I enjoy a cup of tea and scrolling though pinterest.
Who has been your greatest inspiration to you in your life and why?
My children, they have opened my heart and mind to so many things. I always strive to do better for them. This is their childhood, their beginning, and I want to make it the best I can for them.
If you could travel anywhere or do anything in the world what would that be? *
Well, riding a horse on the beach is top on my bucket list because I'm not jumping out of a plane again. I ventured to Australia when I was 16 on a summer exchange program...it was the one place I always wanted to go! However, there are so many places I'd like to travel and things I'd like to do, but I truly am blissfully happy with the seemingly simple blessings in my life. I seize opportunities as they come and make the most of them.
If your children learn one thing from you what would you wish that to be?
Oooh, that's a hard one, so many things I want to teach them. Above all, the one thing I wish them to learn from me is how to be compassionate to others and confident...ok, I couldn't leave it at one, sorry.
Any other comments or advice you would like to share?
Follow your heart and make it work.