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I’m So Much More Than Just ‘mommy’

September 26, 2013

I first met Frenchie in my Etsy small business team. Since then, we have become great friends even traveling miles to spend time and go to a concert together. In fact, Frenchie is often one of the Midwest Crochet models as well. She is one of those people who I am honored to call friend. She inspires me all the time.

When she was starting her candle business Friendly Fire Candles. She got a lot of flack for the name, though I thought it was witty and fabulous. She handled those detractors like a pro and let it all roll off her back. Eye on the prize. I thought her story might inspire you the way it inspires me so I asked her to write a guest post.

By the way – in my house, we LOVE Friendly Fire Candles and often give them as gifts. Not just because I am supporting another independent business woman but because they are some damn good candles!

Without further ado and hubbub …. here is my friend Frenchie:

Hello everyone out there in Life by Michele land!

Adam & Frenchie Mr. & Mrs. Friendly Fire Candles

Adam & Frenchie
Mr. & Mrs. Friendly Fire Candles

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Frenchie Leigh and I’ll be your guest blogger for the day! I can most be found over at my own blog, Frenchie Finds where I showcase awesome things that I see on Etsy and secretly and not-so-secretly absolutely want and must have.

I’m honored to be here today and very excited to share with you a little bit of how I fare as an independent business owner.

I’ve always been an independent person. When I want something, I will fight and claw my way to get there. I’m not afraid to ask for help, but I’m not about to be under someone else’s authority either. This attitude, naturally did (read: does) not quite mesh well with the general working world.

I remember being nineteen years old and working at a dry cleaner’s. One day one of our regular customers came in and when I waited on her, she sighed and asked, “What are you doing here?”

It was a question that genuinely confused me. I was in college. I was working. I didn’t think there was anything unusual about that. Before I could question her, she looked me dead in the eye, pointed her finger at me and said, “You’re bigger than this.”

It might seem like a strange thing to say to a counter girl you see once a week, but it really stuck with me. So I got up and left, making my mark next in high end retail.  It was awful.

Luckily, I got pregnant relatively quickly into it so I suffered that for less than a year. I was on maternity leave when I announced to my husband (then fiancee) that I was “done working for the man.”

I realized then that it was an incredibly audacious statement for a twenty year old to be making, but I went into that retail store and told them I would not be returning to work.

I love being a parent. I truly do, but I’m not the “mommy” type and when Nikolai was born, I refused to sink into the stereotype of stay at home mom with cute little hobbies. The whole idea makes me nauseous. I could not adopt sweatpants and ponytails, let my expensive makeup collection fall by the wayside, or suddenly decide that a minivan is my dream car. I just couldn’t.

I went through a stint where I designed shoes using my short education in sculpture but realized it was a world I wasn’t cut out for. In October of 2012, I discovered candle making thanks to an empty bank account, the upcoming holiday season (with a huge family to gift for!), and an incredibly great Etsy friend.

It was something Mr. Frenchie and I dove into together. He works something stupid like 80 hour weeks so the quality time we have together is pretty much zero. Being able to make gifts for people together (even in the wee hours of the morn!) was great fun, and we’ve made up many horrible dances to perfectly good songs in the process.   Alright, so it’s me that’s the bad dancer. I’ll admit it.

Demand for our product spread like wildfire and by December I found myself at a table selling my wares in the basement of my parents’ church at their holiday bazaar.

In January we opened up on Etsy. I had been here learning the ropes for two years with the shoes, so even though generally opening up shop is a trying process, for us, it was a breeze. Within hours, my community swooped in to kickstart my business and support my new endeavor. I’ll never forget that.

As great a selling platform as Etsy is, however, the most important thing I learned about being in business is that’s what it is, a business. It’s not just a cute little hobby. My “shop” is nothing more than a front. My business is all encompassing.

Friendly Fire Candles Wedding Favors

Friendly Fire Candles Wedding Favors

We started doing home parties. We never intend to be a company that makes its money off of referrals and consultants. Never. But we had the opportunity to get our product, something we made at 2am on a frigid March night, into the hands of new people. We gave others the opportunity to meet the people behind it all.

I couldn’t believe how many people were surprised that they were handmade. Some of them had truly attended the party expecting consultants who would talk their ear off into becoming a salesperson themselves. Instead, they met a woman who speaks so animatedly about  fragrance it’s intimidating, and her husband who uses words so big we aren’t certain Mr. Webster can even spell them.

Yeah, we’re definitely not perfect salespeople.

We took another risk, another challenge, and started to offer wedding favors. Where was our business when we were planning our wedding? Soon our little favors with the bows I spent hours tying were off to Canada! London! Somewhere I’ll never know because the client picked them up in the US than brought them through customs!

Next we’re in the Best of for the custom invites and favors category, then we secured a wholesale order and I’m sitting here thinking, “wait. How did I do this?”

I’m not saying it was easy or I’m super amazing because it’s neither of these things. I just can’t believe that those nights of fighting with my printer over labels or staring ahead at the TV with my eyes glossed over because I have to tie hundreds of bows for this party tomorrow are actually paying off. I went from being the mom with “too much time on her hands” (as told by the less driven folk) to a respected entrepreneur.

I used to poke into the cleaner’s occasionally to say hello to the folks there, and now  I’m a regular client, dropping off my husband’s suits in full makeup and getting a hand out to my car with the things I’ve picked up.

This is the beginning. This is where I take Mr.’s hand and say, “we won’t be looking back.” I know what I want and there won’t be any stopping me.

From → Guest Posts

  1. So happy for you, Frenchie and Mr. Frenchie! You deserve every bit of your success, and you look great while doing it. Congrats.

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