I'm so excited with our Do What You Love interview today! It's with a lady that I've been admiring for a few years now who I've featured on Modish many times in the past. The maker of the bags we all know and love, some of the most simply stylish and durable handmade bags on the market. It's Wendy Downs of Moop! Wendy just recently added her hubby Jeremy onto the Moop team full time, and now they're working together, around their daughters schedule, moving to a new city and trying to renovate a new home at the same time, to make Moop better than ever. Read on!
What do you do for a living?We design and manufacture bags for men, women and children.
How long have you been self-employed? What made you decide to take the leap?
I started Moop about 2 1/2 years ago. For the first 6 months I worked my regular job as well to build things and reach a point that I could work on Moop full time. I was really unhappy at my job so it was easy to make the decision to leave it, but it was also a big risk. Moop was not making enough money to support us yet, but I was confident we would get there.
For two years, we worked tirelessly building the business (we still do this.) My husband is a university professor. One of our goals for this year was to have Moop in a place where Jeremy could join me full time... and we've just decided to make this leap.
In June we moved from Massachusetts to Pittsburgh to be closer to his family and to live in a city that we would be proud to have our business located in. We have BIG plans for the future and feel so fortunate to have such prospects ahead of us. Just as it was a risk for me to leave my job to work on Moop, the same is true for us now (i.e. a tenure track university position certainly offers a more comfortable security), but we are excited about the challenges and opportunities looking forward.
Do you work from home or have a studio/office elsewhere?
Moop started in our loft space in a converted mill building in Western Massachusetts. It was the perfect incubator for our business. There was open floor space, which gave room to grow (such as transitioning from a consumer to multiple industrial machines). Once we reached the point of moving the living room into the bedroom so there could be enough room for Moop, we realized it was time to think about moving into a separate studio space (and, at this point, the value of having some separation between living and working became apparent.) In February we moved the business into another warehouse space in the same building we lived in. This gave us the opportunity to develop and improve our systems of production and to work on becoming more efficient.
Our relocation to Pittsburgh has brought us to a whole new chapter of making. Our studio is now housed in a storefront space and we plan to take advantage of this opportunity to open our studio and make our process accessible to our local customers. We feel the process in which our bags are made (from design all the way through to completion) is one of the most important aspects of Moop and we are excited about the opportunity to foreground this aspect of our business. Both Jeremy and I have backgrounds in art and enjoy process based ideas...which is what Moop is. A process of building a small business, armed with the tools of making and a bit of gusto.
Do you have a partner or assistant, or are you going it solo?
How do you organize your days? At what part of the day are you most productive?
With our new location we are still trying to figure this out. We have an 11 year old daughter who spends a lot of time in the studio while also having a booked summer camp schedule. I begin my computer work around 7:30 or 8 everyday with my morning cup of coffee. Jeremy leaves the house and heads to the studio around 7am and starts sewing. I get Parker off to swim team practice and arrive around 9:30. I am most productive between 9 and 3. This has a lot to do with school schedules. It is usually my only chunk of uninterrupted time.
The rest of the day is a balance between Parker, the studio, the admin work, settling into a new location, etc. We are trying to make a tighter schedule during the days so we can have some more time in the evenings for everything else we do...we just bought a house that we are renovating and that is going to require a good amount of time! For the last two years we have worked 7 days a week and are looking forward to making a schedule that allows for more flexibility in our time. We love Pittsburgh and want the opportunity to explore the city!
How do you keep procrastination and distraction in check, and stay motivated to get things done?That is certainly a challenge of working for yourself. It doesn't help that there are so many business tools such as Twitter, Blogger, Flickr, RSS readers, etc... that can very easily become procrastination tools... But, we are motivated and want to be successful - that's usually enough to avoid procrastination. Also, the most effective tool to avoid procrastination might simply be that the volume of what we need to accomplish on a daily basis usually doesn't leave time to even find ways to procrastinate!
How many hours do you put in per day? Do you work on the weekends?A lot. Yes.
How do you handle a non-steady income?Of course, it can be stressful, especially now that we have made the move to rely entirely on our business. But, that is just one aspect of running the business and, like procrastination, we are usually just too busy to find time to worry about it. We are working on budgeting (both personal and business) expenses and to build buffers to help make the non-steady income more regular. Taking risk is part of our nature and, though there is stress involved, the reward of independence in running our own business far outweighs the negative.
What do you think is the most difficult part about being your own boss?It probably goes back to your previous question. The most difficult part is relying on yourself to make it all happen and continue to work. We need to get sales and keep them regular. If sales are lower one day or one week or one month, I stress out about that. Being aware of every single facet of the business is super important to me, but its also difficult - it certainly stretches you in lots of directions. I often laugh when I get correspondence directed to the advertising department or the sales department or the customer service department, because they are all one in the same!
And the best part?In addition to the independence of running our own business, it would be our customers and supporters! We have received the most generous emails from people all over the world letting us know how much they love their Moop bags and expressing their support for what we are doing and how we are doing it. With our most recent relocation I have received daily emails from people who have followed our business over the past couple of years showing so much support and encouragement. That means so much! I love to get those emails!
How do you reward yourself for a job well done and keep yourself from getting too burnt out?Making and achieving goals, both large and small. I really wanted my husband to be able to work with me in Moop studios and accomplishing that has been very satisfying. My smaller daily goals are really important, too - such as the list of bags that I'll be sewing and shipping out today, ahead of my the delivery schedule that I promised my customers! These help to keep things in check - the large goals keep me excited about where we are going, and the smaller goals keep me grounded in the day to day, which is equally important. Our reward is that we get to lead a life that is centered around things that, though they are a lot of work, we do love doing.
Would you say you're making a living doing what you love?Yes. We've worked hard to do it but we've let everything evolve so organically that we feel really good about our future. We're not looking to flip a business. We're working on building a business that has longevity for us. Something that will continue to grow and expand, but will always be a way for us to define ourselves.
What is one nugget of wisdom you can pass on to someone who is desperately seeking to get out of the 9-5 grind and follow in your footsteps?Just start it. Nothing happens on its own...you have to work to make great things happen. Keep in mind, running your own business means leaving a 9-5 grind to join a 24 hour grind..but it's yours!
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