Tell us your name and a little introduction about The Cottonwood House in a nutshell.
Hi there, I’m Jenny! I am the creative owner of The Cottonwood House, a small family owned business. We are here to help others celebrate the beauty of their unique homes and families. We want to help our readers create a simple handmade home by offering handmade wooden signs, home décor accents and sharing inspiration and encouragement through our blog posts. We currently offer our items on our website and on Etsy.The main product you sell currently is wooden signs and home décor accents. Tell us about your process from start to finish in creating them?
We currently focus on creating handmade wooden sign and small home décor accents, such as our farmhouse inspired wood bead garland.
When creating our wooden signs, we search for high quality wood with character that will become our signs and their frames. My husband works in the shop to cut all of our signs by hand and prepares the frames.
All of our signs are designed and hand-painted by myself. My designs are typically based on the season or whatever inspires me at that time. My Signature Collection featured 10 signs that expressed special meaning to me, my family and my business.
We assemble each sign and package them with care for our customers who have allowed us to create something special to add to their home’s story.How would you describe your style?
My current style is simple modern farmhouse. We are slowly updating our house to include the neutral colors I love and adding a more relaxed atmosphere. I am also attracted to aspects of Bohemian and Scandinavian styles.Thus far in your business, what you have been most proud of accomplishing?
I have been most proud of getting myself out of my comfort zone. This might seem minor to others, but for me, it’s huge. I am an introvert, so putting myself out there is scary. I was too worried about what others would think of my work or even worst, what they would think about me!
I opened my Etsy shop first because that was the “safest” thing for me to try first. I was behind an online shop and didn’t have to put myself all out there. Then, I started participating in small vendor markets. That’s where I started really connecting with my customers. I started to gain confidence as I saw, in person, that people actually liked what I had created, the furniture I painted or liked the vintage pieces I had curated for the market.
Then, I was given the opportunity to rent booth space at a local vintage shop in Benson, NC. This was scary, but the most fun and rewarding aspect of my business. I started refinishing more furniture pieces and hunting for more unique vintage smalls. I expanded my booth space in the shop and even branched out to another handmade shop in Wake Forest, NC.
Even though I have simplified my business model over the past year and I am not in stores anymore, I value all that I learned from that experience.
Tell us the biggest tip you could offer another small business owner.
I know it sounds so simple, but it’s so hard at the same time. In today’s world, we are overloaded with what we are supposed to look/dress like, how we are supposed to act to be accepted, what our business is supposed to look like to be considered successful. We end up looking to others for validation and what we should do to achieve our goals.
Throughout the past year, I have started letting go of what I thought I was supposed to do in my business. I am not comparing myself to other people in my field and trying to “catch up” to their businesses anymore.
I have simplified my business to what I want to do and what brings me joy. I look at what works for my family in the season of life we are currently in and what I have the capacity to do and create. The constant internal struggle is gone and I am growing this business the way I want and in my own time.
Currently, what project are you working on and what do you have lined up for the 2019 year?
I am currently updating my website to be more in line with my current style and offerings. I have made some changes over the past month to simplify the look and navigation of my site. I am really focusing on what my readers and customers are needing, sharing more home décor projects and adding new sign designs to our online shop!
I am currently designing our Spring collection! I am creating 10 new signs that will feature my favorite neutral colors, but also have some fun Spring colors as well. This collection is scheduled to be released in April!
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three THINGS (not people) would you have and why?
I would definitely need coffee, comfy clothes and chapstick.
I cannot start my day without coffee! It’s the few minutes each morning I get to sit and enjoy the rare quietness of my home.
Seriously, I would live in comfy clothes if I could! Right now, I’m wearing a t-shirt and jogger sweatpants. This was my favorite thing when I worked from home.
I am addicted to chapstick. I have to know where a tube is at all times. I have them strategically placed throughout my house, in my purse and in my desk at work.What's the toughest decision you ever made?
The toughest decision I had to make was leaving my career about 3 years ago. I was a Social Worker at a family safety and empowerment agency. This is what I had gone to school for and worked there for almost 10 years. I was burnt out and I finally realized the impact it had on my family and my own mental health.
I made the tough decision to leave social work and start a new, less emotionally stressful job. I began working and, at the same time, I really started focusing on my small business. I wanted to express my creativity and I found that it was really therapeutic for me!
There are times I miss social work, but I would never give up what I learned about myself through owning a small business.What's the best sound in the world?
The best sound in the world is a baby’s uncontrollable laughter! It instantly makes me laugh and puts me in a good mood! My babies are older now (8 and 4), but I enjoy looking at old videos of them laughing uncontrollably when I need a pick me up!I saw you were on Etsy previously, what do you love about Etsy and why did you choose to leave it?
I currently sell on Etsy and my own online store.
I find it beneficial for me to keep our Etsy shop open for those customers that might not find us otherwise. It’s a great traffic source for our growing business.
I choose to sell on our own website as well, because we get to offer a greater variety of items to our customers. At times, we offer special found items that may not fit nicely in the vintage category and we cannot offer on Etsy. I like the freedom of owning our own website and feeling like we have our own little piece of online real estate!