One thing I’ve learned in life, especially in business, is this: if you choose not to stretch yourself outside your comfort zone, there will be no growth. The times in my life when I have stepped outside of my protected box have been the times when I’ve experienced the most growth.
I knew I would be stretching my faith when I first got the idea to start Farmhouse Frocks. I knew I would be stretching even further when we made the transition from my in-house studio in a 15x12 room in the basement of my home to a 1200 square-foot studio in Holmes County’s beautiful historic downtown Millersburg district. And I knew when my youngest daughter Sydni began her own line of Baby Frocks that it was time to stretch even more.
It has been a little over a year since we opened the first Farmhouse Frocks studio in the front showroom of 65 West Jackson Street. The building used to be a very successful and beloved meeting place, Norman’s Bakery. Local folks remember visiting there as children while their parents or grandparents talked to Big Joe, sitting at the counter and enjoying delicious treats on a Saturday morning.
I knew it was the right space for Farmhouse Frocks the very minute I saw it with its open floor plan and beautiful, high tin ceilings. It was the only storefront we looked at, and I instantly fell in love with the space and imagined how I could make it my very own. Everything fell into place to make it happen, and, 28 gallons of white paint later, we opened—just one month after gaining access to the space. As we worked, the dream of Farmhouse Frocks continued developing as I worked out of more faith than fear. God provided many signs, both spiritual and tactile, as we completed the renovation. I would found physical signs—something I collect—in the bottom of a drawer. It was one of those times when I based every step on the Lord’s direction and God’s provision because we didn’t want to rely on loans.
Now, a little more than a year later, I find myself stretching again. The big adjustment came when Sydni decided to create her own line of Baby Frocks. Syd has always dreamt of having her very own line, and the Baby Frocks were a natural extension of her love for baby items. She started with just one frock, the Katie Dress, a ruffled, baby-doll style piece that can be worn as both a tunic and a dress. Before long, Sydni had designed more than a dozen baby frocks, all sewn my our Amish seamstresses, several of which match our adult-sized frocks to create a mommy-and-me or grandma-and-me ensemble. This new line meant expanding again—both my faith and our space!
I also realized that I needed my own office space so I could be on-site more. I also needed to expand in order to store fabrics and patterns, to do product photography, to plan meetings, to increase shipping space, and to mentor. While the need for more room was becoming increasingly necessary, it was also scary to think about expanding.
But just like I know that it’s a gamble to create a new frock design, or to hire a new person for my team, or to venture into a new show, I also know I can’t grow if I don’t take that chance. The back room of our retail space had been occupied by our dear friend Alyssa and her amazing photography studio, Lyssa Ann Portraits. When we decided to expand, Alyssa was able to transition to her cottage studio in the country. It was a little frightening, but I knew that if I just took the leap, the orders would come. In order to reach the goals I have set for my business’s future, I need to walk through a process to get there. Expanding our studio space is part of that process.
In designing the back room, I knew I wanted an all-white, industrial/farmhouse-style appearance, and I wanted a generous area for the shipping table and online inventory. Because we ship orders every day, having that space was necessary. Each order is handled with such care, from the hand-written note we include with every order, to the way we wrap each piece in a dress pattern wrapped up with a bow and hand-delivered to the post office which is literally in our back yard.
Plus, we have now been able to extend our showroom to include our new line of linens and our expanded selection of Baby Frocks.
And my office space? It’s just what I dreamed it would be. My husband created a custom-made desk just for me out of old wooden planks from an old farmhouse. We shiplapped the walls and left a generous area of exposed brick. And, of course, my office would not be complete without a sign, so I found the perfect one for me on Etsy which reads “Dreams don’t work unless you do.” The space is like a sanctuary where I’m able to create, pray, meet with people, mentor, and update our website on a weekly basis.
My vision for the back studio space continues to grow. Once we reach our next daily shipping milestone, for example, we will keep an extra stock of inventory for shipping that will not be taken into the front studio for orders as we grow. I also want the option of storing more fabrics and patterns, creating a full-time, in-house photography studio for capturing our products, and, eventually, teach sessions on social media and mentoring/coaching as time provides. We’re even looking forward to hosting our seamstresses for a Christmas party in the studio next month.
I’m learning more each day about myself and my business. From my experiences, I can offer this piece of advice: make your decisions based on faith, not fear. If you plan to fail, you’ll fail every time. But if you plan to succeed, you’ll succeed. I know I plan to succeed! I believe you can, too.