“The Unexpected Business Woman”… or “How to Build a Business by Accident”


Shari Fuller, Owner,
Thimbles and Acorns

Thimbles and Acorns didn’t start with the idea that it would turn into a successful business… in fact, its success is still in the making.  From my perspective, we are just starting to head in the right direction and I am muddling through as best I can.  Suffice it to say, I have no business experience, other than a brief stint working as an office manager, and I am entering this venture with little or no idea on how to run a business outside of plain common sense… and I am not even sure how much of that I have in the mix.  Still, I am thoroughly enjoying the whole process as it unfolds, and I thought it would be fun to share what I am learning along the way.

Three years ago, with all my children finally heading off to school each day, I decided it might be a good idea for me to head back to work.  The boys were fast becoming voracious eaters and all too soon, drivers licenses and college would be upon us.  The idea sounded good, in theory, but the fact of the matter was, we had come to appreciate my flexible schedule at home more than the extra money,  So, my days back in the work-a-day world came to an end after only six months.  I still wanted to work, but I needed something that was much more flexible.  The idea of a home based business sounded good, and I began to read a few books on the subject,.  My only problems were, I didn’t have any bright idea to market and the only real talent I had was being a wife and a mother… and I was only willing to do that for my own family.  I did enjoy sewing doll clothes though, so I decided that was as good a place to start as any.

My first obstacle was overcoming self-doubt.  Right away, I became frustrated with my venture because the idea of creating an inventory of doll clothes large enough to sell at a craft fair seemed impossible.  I am anything but a fast seamstress because I have a tendency to get absorbed in working out details… something I would later find worked to my advantage.  Thankfully, I found a solution at Etsy.  There, I could begin my business with an inventory as small as one item… and even better, I could do it from home! Still, it was three months from the time I signed up until I had the nerve to list my first item.  This became one of the first of many important lessons I needed to learn about starting a business.  Find something you enjoy doing and be willing to put yourself out there.

My business began slowly because I was new to the market and didn’t know what people were looking for.  Here is where common sense kicked in… ask.  I began to strike up conversations with other people selling on Etsy, and I found a friendly group of people that loved to talk shop.  I learned a great deal, made some new friends, and according to the business books, it seems I developed a network.  This became part of the next important lesson I learned.  As you do your thing, be willing to adapt to the market and perfect what you do.  Go above and beyond expectations, even though it may mean your return isn’t as much as you think it ought to be.  Return is measured by more than the bottom line, and the value of a good reputation can’t even begin to be calculated because its payback can go on indefinitely.  I began my home business as a glorified hobby and a temporary solution on my career path, but because I was doing what I enjoyed, it put me in a position to see what kind of opportunities there were in my area of interest.  As I gained insight, I began to hone my existing skills and to work at developing new ones.

My career path is still evolving, and I suspect that it should continue to evolve if I don’t want it to grow stagnant.  Most books I have read on business have you begin by writing out a business plan and a mission statement.  I kind of broke the rules here, not because I think I know better, but because I simply didn’t know what I wanted my business be.  A good business plan is a must have early on, but don’t be afraid to test the waters a bit to get an idea of what direction you want to go first.  That being said, don’t put it off for very long or you will find yourself pulled in too many directions which can completely unravel all your hard work.  Once you start to get an idea of the direction you want your business to go, determine what it is you want to do as well as what you don’t want to do and then write it out.  However, remember this plan is supposed to give you direction, not inhibit your growth, so you should always feel free to rewrite it if your business begins to show growth and potential in another direction.  Once you have a clear business plan in place, it will give you the motivation and momentum to move forward.