In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Susan Rodriguez, founder of Windflower Market. Windflower Market sells home decor, is based in Saint Johns, Florida, and has been in business for seven years.
Robin: Why did you decide to start Windflower Market?
Susan: I was looking for fun yet stylish wall decor for my 6-year-old son. I wanted something that he would love, but reflected my overall decorating style, and my ‘Flush’ hang tag sign was born!
R: How long have you been building furniture and working with wood?
S: I started woodworking about nine years ago because we couldn’t find a dresser we liked. We had been looking for two years and joked that our son would grow up thinking that dresser shopping was one of our hobbies. I decided I would learn to make a dresser not knowing that it wasn’t exactly a beginner project.
R: Do you have a background in design and arts & crafts?
S: My background is actually in tech on the back office/operations side.
R: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
S: Through a lot of trial and error! For the ‘Flush’ hang tag sign, I played a lot with sizes and angles to get the perfect shape. I tested several different materials over a year and a half. Just this year on the ‘hang tag’ product, there were a couple of improvements. I think buyers would be surprised to see how much “R&D” makers do to get their products just perfect.
R: How do you make your products? What’s your process like?
S: I design and make all of my products with the help of my husband and son. This year we are starting to outsource smaller production processes like rabbeting the wood for the frames. As we have grown, it has been very helpful to have some days dedicated to cutting signs and frames and others for design or bookkeeping.
R: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
S: The beginning of the day is always early in the morning with coffee to check orders, emails, vendor orders, etc. My favorite part is talking with customers with working with the wood for my signs as a close second. There is a quiet focus I get whenever I am cutting or sanding, and I love that. My least favorite part is anything to do with accounting!
R: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
S: I already had most of the equipment needed because of my love of building furniture, so the initial investment for wood and supplies was less than $1,000.
R: Where was the first place you started selling your product? Where do you sell now?
S: Etsy was my first selling platform. It was especially helpful because of the community of experienced sellers who were willing to provide valuable advice and knowledge to those of us who were new to online selling. Today we’re still on Etsy as well as our own website.
R: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
S: I love great little shops that you could spend forever looking at the different treasures they’ve found, and would be so happy to see my items alongside them.
R: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of Windflower Market? If so, how?
S: Social media is becoming a very big part of my business. Pinterest is fun because I can see what pinners are putting together with my items, so it not only drives buyers to my site, but it also helps me get to know my customers’ likes and interests. Instagram is a big focus this year, and the real time interaction is great.
R: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with Windflower Market?
S: One challenge for me as an introvert was to get on social media at all as a business! It was stressful, but it has also been rewarding to find out how much fun it is. Another challenge is that makers have increasingly found their items copied by large manufacturers or retail chains, and it was heartbreaking to have a customer send me pictures of my designs being sold in a Midwest retail chain.
I was able to contact them through social media, and within a week, they had removed every copy. The chain had purchased from a supplier, and they even had the supplier stop production. The people at the chain could not have been nicer or more responsive about this – I am now a huge fan of theirs!
R: What’s your social media strategy? Are there certain techniques you’ve found work for your business?
S: To be honest, I am really just now focusing on social media. In the past, I have hired it out but it wasn’t very successful as a strategy. I have taken it back this year.
R: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with Windflower Market?
S: One big win was realizing that a repeat customer is a designer for a large national home builder and has been using my work in model homes across the country. My friends and I love to tour model homes and see all of the great design and accessories, so it is fun to imagine someone touring a home that features one of my signs.
The most gratifying thing though has to be a message or review from a customer saying that they love their sign or that it was perfect for what they had in mind. Knowing that my work does a little to help make a customer’s home special is always a thrill.
R: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
S: If you are a maker who wants to sell your work, my advice is to stick to your passion and be authentic. Second, you are going to make a lot of mistakes, so don’t dwell on them but learn from them. Last, listen to your customers, as some of the best ideas I’ve had have been in response to a customer inquiry or need.
R: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
S: It isn’t a famous quote, but it has been important to me. My mother is an accomplished painter, and she told me about a man who came in to the gallery where she displayed her work.
He was looking at one painting that was several hundred dollars, and asked skeptically how long it took her to paint it. Mom replied, “3 hours and 32 years.” It was such a great answer, and it really drives home how artists and makers need to value the experience, knowledge, and skill we’ve worked so hard to achieve.
R: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
S: My favorite thing about being a business owner is that my job is about making what I love and being continually challenged creatively.