One of the things that has kept Lauren and I go through the book dreaming/writing/promotion process is the amazing, smart and savvy business gals we get to meet and learn about. It was, after all, the seemingly endless world wicked smart business women who inspired us to
first write The Boss of You.
I’ve always wanted to use this space to profile and feature women owned businesses — it was so hard for us to narrow down our choices for women to include in the book — but a lack of time has frankly always stood in my way, until a few weeks ago when I came across this post “We Are Small” at Moop’s blog. Reading it, I had one of those magic sitting in front of your computer alone feeling like you’re connecting with your kin moments and decided it was time to make the time to start profiling other women owned small businesses again. Before I jump into a little Q&A with Wendy from Moop a brief snippet from Wendy’s We Are Small post, so you can see just exactly what I mean when I say this is a company that doesn’t just get, but lovingly embraces the small, sustainable business model.
Many of you have been willing to invest in us. You have bought our bags, written about our business, mentioned us to your friends, featured us in your mags and blogs – and we think that is awesome. Your support has made it possible for our business to expand in ways that provide work for a few other people. We all work hard. We like what we do and we do it well. Everyday, I make lunch for the people that work with me. We cook a pot of rice, chop up a vegetable, toss it with some Braggs and recharge for a half hour in the middle of the day. It is the part of the day we all look forward to. Not just because of the nourishment, but because it is a fulfilling part of the day. Because we are small, we can do things like this. I hope we can always do things like this.
Ok, now on to the Q&A with Moop Bag’s Wendy Downs, and you can look forward to more profiles to come soon.
If you don’t know Wendy and Moop bags, then prepare to fall in love with gorgeous lines, quality fabrics and design that embodies practical simplicity. Wendy started making Moop bags just over two years ago as a kind of a personal experiment, not sure where it would take her and soon found herself quiting her day job, eventually hiring staff and slowly but surely expanding and growing her business. All of Moop’s bags are handmade to order and like Wendy’s approach to business are focused on the craft, quality and attention to the details that matter. I’ve personally had my eye on an organic midnight blue Market Bag for a while now as it looks like it may just be the perfect, do everything, carry it all bag to fit into my world.
Q: Wendy, your story, from what I’ve observed from afar, has been a pretty successful one. You’ve grown your business fairly quickly and seem (at least from the outside) to be doing really well. How do you define success as the owner/creative spirit behind Moop? Is it about growth? Is it about increasing your earnings (a worthwhile measure of success). Or, does success look like something else to you?
A: First, thanks! We have been working so hard, it is nice to hear when that does not go unnoticed. Defining success…for us, it is a healthy combination of all of those things. We want to grow our business so it can continue to sustain us as well as a close knit group of employees. We think providing jobs is a huge part of sustainability. This has been a continuing influence on how we grow. And, yes, of course we want to make a living for ourselves while doing so….that is half the reason you go into business for yourself.
Q: What do you most enjoy about running your own business?
A: Everyday brings a new approach to what you do. We are still young (just 2 years old) so there is a lot of growth and learning yet to happen. Whether it is sourcing new materials, testing out new equipment, training a new employee, designing a new bag, photographing products, editing the website, answering emails, balancing the books, modeling, sewing, ironing, paperclipping, stapling, etc….it all has to be done and I have to make the decisions on how and when it gets done (though, I am becoming better at delegating rather than micro-managing..an important skill I have learned).
I’ve worked many jobs, working for other people and never realized until I happened upon my own business how satisfying it would be to make something of your own rather than making someone else’s “something”. It might also be guided by a drive to do things I am interested in. I was a single parent for 6 years…this resulted in a lot of “creative” jobs…not in the sense of making things..more in the sense of working a few hours a week at several different jobs, some of which were done in non-traditional ways, some were done from home, many were done on evenings and weekends while balancing full time school and family schedules. Unknowingly and in hindsight, I see how all of this helped shape my entrepreneurial drive.
Q: I love the fact that you’re really honest and open about the business through your blog — speaking honestly about business like in your “Small is the New Big” post, sharing some frustration and showing photos of your studio. Did you make a conscious decision to put yourself out there and not hide behind your brand? Or did things just evolve that way?
A: I started a blog a few months after I started Moop (and before I knew exactly what Moop was going to be). But, I didn’t really know what to say on the blog! It seemed only natural that it would become a chronicle of our evolution as a business and a studio. I started Moop right out of grad school, so my working methods were coming from a studio culture and lots of open converstaion. This is an important part of how we do things. We make everything in the studio…it is as much a part of each bag as the materials and labor involved in producing each bag. The studio, while ever changing, will always be an important element in Moop and I’ve found the blog to be a great place to talk about all of that process…
Q: What is one (or are some) of the more challenging aspects of self-employment for you?
A: Taxes. I learned a lot of expensive mistakes this year. If you’re going into business for yourself, consult an accountant and set your business up properly from the beginning. It will make all the difference in the world.
Q: What inspires you to keep going as an entrepreneur?
A: Starting a business is a learning process – every day presents a new challenge. I really didn’t know anything about running a business before beginning Moop. Not knowing another way, I’ve allowed things to evolve organically and responsively, like I would anything else. Realizing a creative model can be effective might be what I love most. I think this also helps me to be a better entrepreneur.
Q: What support networks do you turn to as an entrepreneur?
A: My husband is a huge support. Every moment we have outside of the studio he endures me talking about the business…he is great and I am lucky. I also have a valuable network of fellow entrepreneurs, thinkers, talkers and makers who I turn to when I have questions. The owner of that place, the founder of this thing, the projects of these people... There is a lot of support in finding and working with like-minded people…
Q: Is there any exciting news or are there new things happening at Moop you’d like people to know about?
A: We are relocating to Pittsburgh and we couldn’t be happier!
Note: Since I did this Q&A with Wendy she recently posted another super on-point post at the Moop blog about sales and the price of handmade goods. It’s well worth a read. Thanks again Wendy!