My guest this week on Productivity Profile is Kathy Bocchino – owner of Knottingwood and the artist behind the lovely image that is featured on the Paula Berman Organizing home page.
Paula: What prompted you to make the change from the world of finance to starting your own creative endeavor?
Kathy: I was never happy in an office setting. I was always scouring Etsy’s “Quit Your Day Job” interviews for advice and inspiration and would daydream about working for myself.
Paula: Do you have a background in the creative arts?
Kathy: Not at all. I’m a self-taught artist. As a child I was always content coloring or drawing.
Paula: How did you make the transition from being an employee to being a business owner?
Kathy: I kept my day job and started selling hand-painted T-shirts on eBay. Then a good friend told me about Etsy and I made the switch.
Paula: Is Knottingwood your first Etsy shop?
Kathy: No, my first Etsy shop was bedknobsandbroomsticks… and it failed. So I went back to selling T-shirts on eBay while keeping my 9-5 job. But I still wanted to work for myself and after increased eBay fees and slower sales, I finally opened Knottingwood.
Paula: What did you start off selling?
Kathy: I started with little peg doll pendants. One day I got a request from a lovely customer asking if I ever made larger-scale items of brides and grooms. I hadn’t yet made larger items, but I was happy to create some for her. Business just took off from there.
Paula: What was your work schedule like when you opened Knottingwood?
Kathy: For the first two years of painting little peg people, I worked late into the night when I got home from work and on weekends. I’m surprised my husband didn’t divorce me. All my free time went to painting orders. Finally, at the beginning of 2011, my husband and I decided I should make the transition and paint fulltime as I was making almost the equivalent of my day job salary.
Paula: How did you go about setting up your business?
Kathy: I’m someone who does first and thinks later. And so I jumped in with two feet – not a business plan I recommend! I’m learning as I go especially when it comes to tax time.
Paula: What top 5 tips do you have for anyone who is thinking about venturing on their own?
Kathy: My 5 top tips:
- Do a lot of research.
- Make sure you can cover your medical insurance. Interviews with small business owners don’t often address medical insurance. Private insurance can be expensive if you don’t have a spouse to cover you medically.
- Make sure you don’t have unnecessary debt. You will have slow months and you don’t want to be worrying about covering household bills and business expenses.
- Put aside money for taxes all year long to pay the IRS and your state if you have state income taxes. There are a lot of resources on the Internet such as http://www.sba.gov.
- Having a wonderful supportive spouse/partner is also a huge bonus!
Paula: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being self-employed?
Kathy: The biggest advantage is having the freedom to paint when I want to. Some days I don’t paint at all. I had a baby in 2012 so I get to spend my days watching her grow. I paint when she naps and occasionally in the evening if I have a deadline.
The disadvantage is I’m always thinking about painting. Sometimes it’s hard to close my office door and forget about orders. I’ve had to make a conscious decision to take weekends off and enjoy family time.
Paula: Your delightful customized cake toppers are popular with brides and bridegrooms. How does working with tight deadlines, and I’m assuming stressed-out brides, impact your work?
Kathy: Brides can get very stressed, which I completely understand. I make a point of letting them know that this part of their wedding is in good hands. I work closely with them to create the perfect little couple. I give them an expected date of completion and email the pictures prior to shipping them out. I think that open communication eases their minds.
Paula: Have you made any mistakes along the way? What did you learn from these mistakes?
Kathy: Every day is a learning experience. I used to process orders by wedding date. This stressed me as well as the brides out! With my new improved plan of action, I now give an expected date of completion for each order.
Paula: What are your strategies for responding to neutral and negative feedback on Etsy?
Kathy: The few negative feedbacks I have received used to bother me. I wish those customers had given me a chance to correct any problem they had. Sometimes even if you bend over backwards you can’t stop negative feedback. You just have to have confidence in yourself and focus on all the other lovely clients who give you rave reviews.
Paula: Do you outsource any parts of your business or do you do everything yourself?
Kathy: I hand paint each doll all by myself one by one.
Paula: When is your most productive work time?
Kathy: Before my baby was born, I would paint 6-8 hours a day. Now I work around her schedule and paint during naptime and in the evening.
Paula: What would you say is your biggest organizational or time-management struggle?
Kathy: Following through with an idea for a new doll or product. My mind is going 24/7 thinking of new ideas or projects. My husband laughs at me saying I never give my mind a rest. I recently made myself a little deadline list on my blog http://www.knottingwood.blogspot.com. I’m hoping this deadline list keeps me motivated. So far so good, but wedding season is creeping up so I can see it getting pushed back.
Paula: What is your definition of success?
Kathy: Being able to do what I love.
Paula: It must be extremely satisfying knowing that you have built a business based on your creativity. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Kathy: I’m amazed each day that people love these little dolls. I’m truly blessed. Thank you for letting me share my experience. I hope it will inspire anyone who is currently sitting in their cubicle dreaming of a better way of life.
Photo credit: © Kathy Bocchino