How I Started A $10K/Month Business Helping Entrepreneurs
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi y’all, I’m Stacey Haynes, founder of Thrivette, a community of people where we “Make Things Happen.” Our company offers consulting, as well as free resources in our Thrivette Lab, to help businesses grow. I have over 15 years of experience in the customer service/call center industry. My husband, Jason, is an architect turned web designer. We have had countless side hustles over the years to help fund our bigger dreams...real estate. People continued to ask us how we did it, so we started Thrivette as a way to compile information for people to reference anything from getting started with crowdfunding, to selling on large e-commerce platforms (Like Amazon, Etsy, and Shopify), to dealing with customers in real life as a landlord.
Our highest paying clients, are Fortune 100 companies that range from retail, candy, dog food, and insurance. However, we are passionately transitioning into serving those ready for the start-up hustle! We have a large growing market of customers who want to start that side hustle or make enough profits to quit their 9-5. So teachers, stay-at-home parents, recent grads, are all a huge part of what we do.
We love encouraging these people to get to the next level and will give as many free resources and advice as we can. Jason and I believe in giving away all our “secrets” because as entrepreneurs we know there are struggles lots of hoops to jump through, just to get something simple started. People can get overwhelmed, but we love jumping in and helping them find their way. Our goal is to help people get going, accomplishing small wins, and ultimately finding success.
While we focus on consulting, we continue to grow the different facets of our company through merchandise we make to sell on sites like Etsy, Shopify, and Amazon. Most people say, concentrate on one thing and be an expert in it. We have a different philosophy. We believe that having multiple streams of income in a variety of areas is what’s right for us, and show people that as long as you are taking action and stopping when it no longer becomes profitable, that you can do what is right for you. We make about $10,000 per month for consulting and online merchandise combined.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
So many people complain about Mondays, and count down the days until the weekend. They live in big houses and buy fancy things to impress people they don’t even care about. They get caught up in their Monday-Friday work week and just settle, and before they know it, it’s time to retire and they still keep putting off the dream they had to change the world. Thrivette is here to tap into people, so they can start to uncover how to make their dream a reality. I believe that every person has a dream in their heart to do something more, but there are two excuses for why people settle and don’t take action: 1. Motivation and 2. Money.
Let’s take motivation, for instance. People start to make excuses like they are too young/too old, too big/too small, don’t have the degree, etc. Well, when I was ten I woke up and half my face was paralyzed with a disability called Bell’s Palsy. Typically in most people, it goes away in 2 weeks, but I have had it now for 23 years. For over a decade in school, I used to think this was going to hold me back and I couldn’t achieve certain goals because of what was wrong with me. Well, it took about another decade, but my mindset is changed and I am here, to show people that you can do anything you put your mind to, despite your past and your current circumstances, you just need to believe in yourself. I now do motivational speaking engagements. Audiences ranging from elementary schools through universities, showing the next generation that they are capable of changing the world and are meant for something big!
What many people see as their quirk, or something odd about themselves, is the exact thing that will resonate with people when you put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to be authentic.
Money and the lack of resources, is obviously a hurdle for any business, especially when you want to start something big like real estate, a restaurant, even just getting equipment to build merchandise for an Etsy shop can seem like a far stretch for some. Jason and I have funded all of our real estate ventures, by starting small businesses with the resources we obtained through Etsy, Amazon, Shopify sites, and crowdfunding campaigns, like Kickstarter. We teach people how to start small with what they do have to gain financial momentum for their bigger dream. So while we work with top Fortune 100 companies, we also have a unique passion for showing anyone with a goal, to take what they have around them to help take their dream to the next level. Take for instance one of our clients, Stefanie, a recent college grad whose dream was to own a donut food truck but she didn’t have all the cash it took and didn’t want to take out a loan. We showed her what printing equipment to get so that she could start making things on Etsy to help fund her bigger dream.
Jason and I have been married for 10 years now, and since the beginning of us dating, we wanted to find a way to compile our skills, so that we could work together and quit our corporate jobs and have the freedom to build our schedule and live anywhere we wanted. With Jason’s design and technical expertise to create logos, build branding, code websites and apps, paired with my customer experience knowledge, we make the perfect team walk companies through the full customer experience cycle.
When we started the side hustle gig back in 2012, most of our profits came from graphic design posters. When we got married, we were $88,000 in debt from student loans and didn’t know what steps to take to get out of debt and save up money for a house. We got our biggest help with funding our dreams through Kickstarter! While we have had some fails, we have made over $165,000 through Kickstarter alone! We wrote about it in this blog post.
In our largest grossing project, we made over $36,000 in 30 days. Being on the spaghetti noodle and cheap wine diet back then, we felt like we won the lottery and continued to build art on graphic posters, and continued to sell them on Etsy, Amazon, and our Shopify sites to continue to make profits.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The tip we learned back then, that we still use today is to look at what items are trending as Best Sellers on whatever platform you want to be in and find a way to make it your own. In 2012, we saw a project that was featuring foods from different cities, so we thought doing attractions from cities would be cool...and boy was it! The next month after the City Prints launch, we noticed beer was trending. We researched beer to create a flowchart that dissected the different bodies of beer, and it raised over $15,000 on Kickstarter. It was the start of our Diagram Collection, now featuring Beer, Whiskey, Wine, Coffee, Tea, Gin, and Vodka.) The Beer Diagram is our most popular selling item to date, and we sell all of our collection on Amazon, CrateStyle.com, Etsy, and flash sales on Touch of Modern. We have also had the privilege of doing art shows at breweries around Dallas and West Elm.
We keep everything in house but have jumped through a lot of growing pains throughout the years that helped us change our process so we could scale. We used to take everything to the post office, and when our City Prints skyrocketed, we would stand in line for hours at USPS, and their workers would get super upset even if we scheduled a time to go, and we would run up a tab for thousands of dollars each time. We started to use Endicia to weigh and print labels and home and most recently started to use Shipping Easy. We started to use Printful.com to print our designs on other merchandise, as well as our 24x36” prints. We have used a variety of printers, but Canon is our current favorite and we use a continuous ink system. We have ordered ink in gallons and siphon it into the printer so that we can get the best cost margin, with the highest quality of the giclee printing process.
Another lesson when talking about being persistent is to recognize when something is becoming a bottleneck so that you can re-examine and hopefully further streamline your process.
The biggest challenge of taking things outside of Jason and I manufacturing it was making a deck of cards. We created Noble Deck, through Bicycle Cards. At first, we decided to use an unknown manufacturer and the backlash of the “cardist” community was something we didn’t even know would tidal wave our efforts. We pulled the project and had to reinvent it using Bicycle. It was $1000 for one sample deck, that didn’t even have the gold foil that we were going to use in the final run! We ended up making a little over $10,000 on Kickstarter, but with the cost of the cards, we ended up breaking even.
One cool fact though, I am the Queen of Hearts. “SSS” is running horizontally on my dress and it is the initials of my sisters and I. “09” is down the front of my dress, which is the year we got married. The face of Duchess, our little chihuahua is on the sleeves, but you have to look closely because they look like flowers.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Thrivette is continuing to gain traction and luckily, our connections with our corporate jobs have landed us opportunities to work with a variety of different clients. We want to continue to grow our YouTube presence and eventually a podcast that walks people through how to start up their businesses. We are trying to teach ourselves video editing and YouTube is the best teacher for the unknown! Here’s our launch video:
Creating the initial website was done through WordPress and luckily for me, Jason brought it together for launch! Our side hustle website Cratestyle.com, and Etsy stores (Crate Style, Siloes Custom Gifts, and Overwrote) have just taken time to get up the listings, but well worth it. While we do use credit cards to purchase materials with points, we put all the money we make back into our business. A print that we sell between $25-$45 costs about $5 to print, put in a Uline tube, and ship.
With the help of crowdfunding through Kickstarter, we have been able to buy around 30 printers over the years. Most recently, we purchased a laser engraving machine and teach ourselves how we can engrave wood, leather, and acrylic. We are so excited about what’s to come into our new ventures. We have also learned that custom designs are what people want!
From Cyber Monday weekend through the end of 2019, we made over $20,000 through our Etsy shops making custom dog prints in a soldier outfit and custom watercolor dog prints. The biggest thing we learned is that we had to put action behind our ideas and be okay with failure. Our customers, or “fans” as we call them, are at the heart of what we do. If they want something, we do what we can do make sure we give them a great experience. I look at our designs as curating memories for people to cherish forever. Being a mom to three fur babies, I totally understand how fun receiving one of these gifts would be!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The biggest thing we learned is the importance of creating content, every day. This is free, it just takes time. Since posting daily can be a lot of work, we have one day a week where we do all of our post scheduling through Later, for the week.
For our merchandise, paying for ads on Etsy is key. If a platform offers advertising as part of its built-in feature set, we’ll use it. When properly optimized we see a return on up to 10X what we’re spending on ads. We are continuing to learn through YouTube and masterclasses on how to tailor ads and continue to scale, but they make a HUGE difference. We are working on learning more about social media ads, and believe it or not, we get our largest customer drive through Pinterest!
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Our side hustles are profitable, and everything we bring in we put into real estate because that is our ultimate goal. We still print and ship a majority of our merchandise out of our garage, with the exception of a few items from Printful.com. A print costs about $0.60 to produce and we sell between $25-$45. When we have art shows at places like West Elm, we sell them framed between $50-$75. Thrivette has just under 1000 followers, and we are working on continuous content to help build growth. We are always interested in coming to speak to groups of students and are currently doing that for free to help us grow our community.
At home, we still have our 9-5, but then our 5-midnight (or later) do complete art and fulfill orders. We continue to test different markets and find that animals have a huge opportunity to tap into. We see what is selling in the market, and see how we can authentically make it our own. We love playing games with the family, so we are tackling how we can create a board game, and make game pieces from our laser cutter.
Thrivette, which is the vessel that we share it all through, is still continuing to grow both through the motivational side, as well as starting/growing a business. My hopes for 2020 is continuing to speak to different groups about believing in themselves and teaching them to put action behind their dreams. We provide a “Guide To Thrive” as a free resource for signing up for our email list, and short-term I would like to continue to build out interactive content. The world needs your story, and I want to make sure that people can unpack how to’s on where, to begin with building their dream.
Longterm, I see Thrivette profits lead to purchasing a wine bar maker space, which we have been working with the city on. We love wine and creating projects and wanted them to make the perfect pair! We would have printers, engravers, laser cutters and let customers use them to create merchandise, while they had some cabernet. We would teach people how to build logos, their Etsy shop, etc, and feel this would be a unique opportunity to help people in our city take their dreams to the next level.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The biggest and most important lesson has been to be persistent. I’m always looking for ways to tap into and serve different markets. Sometimes it’s about experimenting with a new platform, or launching a new product, or trying a new ad strategy. You never know where your next big win is going to come from, but it’s up to you to keep pushing and showing up everywhere you can.
Another lesson when talking about being persistent is to recognize when something is becoming a bottleneck so that you can re-examine and hopefully further streamline your process. When we first started doing Kickstarter projects we were fulfilling hundreds of orders. We would spend hours at the post office, carting around boxes full of packages, hand-writing customs forms, manually weighing each package - it was terrible. It wasn’t until we had one of our largest projects that required us to fulfill over 1000 orders that we were forced to examine our process and make the necessary adjustments.
After some Googling, we discovered that you could actually do all this in the comfort of your own home. All of the forms were automatically created, labels were easily printed, and all we needed to do was drop them at the post office. No more lines or unhappy people to deal with. The craziest part; it’s actually cheaper to do from home! Now every time we see that some part of our process that is slowing us down, we know there might be an opportunity to adjust what we’re doing to help us keep growing.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Endicia and Shipping Easy have been a game-changer for us. We currently use Shipping Easy because it can print out an invoice along with the label, which has been key to our success as we have scaled.
Later has been a favorite of ours to schedule content. Many social media schedulers don’t link to Pinterest or they limit the number of accounts. We run Thrivette, Crate Style, Siloes Custom Gifts, and Overwrote all through Later for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. They market themselves as the “#1 Marketing Platform for Instagram.”
Canva, a free app, has been amazing to help create social media posts/stories, logos, email blasts, presentations, business cards, blog graphics, thumbnails, etc. While some templates you pay for, many of them are free. They have a variety of fonts and I like to just use a solid background with a fun font to post!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Books have always been a big part of helping me to learn and grow. But for the past few years, I have been devouring podcasts and audiobooks, filling my commutes and downtime with inspiration. Some of my go-to podcasts include How I Built This, Rise and Rise Together (basically anything Rachel Hollis), The Ed Mylett Show and of course Gary Vee.
When I’m not listening to podcasts I’m usually streaming an audiobook on Audible. Some of the best ones I’ve listened to this past year include Expert Secrets, The Thank You Economy, Sell It Like Serhant, Zero to One, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, The One Thing, The Compound Effect, and again Rachel’s Hollis’s Girl, Stop Apologizing.
I believe it’s crucial to always feed your mind to keep momentum. These assets have been my guiding light as I continue my journey. And, I am confident that one day very soon, I will be creating these same types of programs to teach others all that I’ve discovered along the way.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Start now! Start before your ready! Use what you have, you have what you need! I always wanted to curate the perfect business plan before we took action. Over the years I learned that you will always find a reason not to start, but if it cost under $1,000 to start the initial run of product/services just go for it and learn along the way.
What many people see as their quirk, or something odd about themselves, is the exact thing that will resonate with people when you put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to be authentic. There will be haters, but other people’s opinions are none of your business so don’t hang onto what they think.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
If you live in the Dallas area and are a videographer, drop me a message! We need help building content for YouTube videos. Paid/Part-Time/Nights and Weekends.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Graphic Prints
- Etsy Shops: SiloesCustomGifts and overwrote
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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