Bree Johnson is a mom of three who owns her own event company, Mod Events and Co, and creates handmade accessories for her etsy shop, CocoRoseCouture. I am constantly inspired when reading her blog, The Polka Dot House, to see furniture she has re-purposed, and to see that she is still extremely involved with her family every step of the way.
Why did you start your companies and when?
I always knew that I wanted to do something with my life. I see so many mothers who forget to find out who they are, as well as taking care of their own family. I feel like a happy mom makes a happy family. I started my event company when I moved to Canada from Rexburg, Idaho.. I wasn’t allowed to work, so having my own business seemed like a good idea. I’ve always been a girlie girl– loved parties, was one of those 5 year olds that threw balls for all her dolls– that, and I’m an extremely organized person.
So, I went to event planning courses and floral design courses while I was waiting to become a landed immigrant in Canada (they call it a permanent resident). They wouldn’t let me finish my Bachelor’s Degree in Canada at any university (until I had status here). I took continuing ed classes, and after those classes, I decided I didn’t want to work for anyone. I wanted to carry out my own ideas, not someone else’s. So in essence, I planned weddings and decorated for Christmas parties for a couple years.
Starting a business takes money and I needed more capital, so I decided to open an etsy shop to raise money for the event company. Little did I know it would take off in a big way.. and now my etsy shop, CocoRoseCouture, is my soul source of income and turned out to be my main business. I do events on the side and private functions for people, and it’s still my passion.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family. How does your background relate to your businesses?
I’m married, 25 years old, have twin 3 year old boys and an 18 month old daughter– they are the true joy in my life. I grew up in a very creative family. Every Wednesday during the summer when I was little, my mom turned the TV off, and would have us work on scrapbooks or pick something new we wanted to learn to do. She made us set goals. I learned lots of technical things through scrapbooking and other crafts during all my summers growing up.
My grandma was also very inspiring. Every meal had a centerpiece. We used fancy china, etc. and I just remember lots of great memories coming from setting tables. She inspired my creativity.
I also think I’ve had some hard knocks in life. I had 2 sisters pass away when I was a teenager, along with other things.. but my motto my whole life has been that I have a choice, and I choose optimism. I think my work always exudes optimism. I love color, I love bright patterns, and I love things that remind me of happy memories. Life is worth celebrating.
You are a mom of two twin boys and one little girl. How do you find time to work?
I work at night. My kids go to bed at 7:00, so from then until midnight every night I work on shop listings and making pieces. My husband sits with me and he’ll watch Modern Family with me while I sew. We go out every Friday. If theres ever anything at night where I need a break, I will take it and just hang out with my husband. I think it’s important to find the balance that works for you and your family. During nap time and while my boys are at preschool in the mornings, I do marketing, answer emails, get ready for photo shoots, and photograph product. I think it’s all about scheduling and using every part of your day.
What has been your greatest success with your company/companies?
I planned a couple weddings. Seeing the whole setup before the bride got there is always the best part. Then watching their reaction.. totally stellar. I think being noticed by boutiques that want to carry my product makes me excited. Knowing my pieces are all over the world is kind’ve a cool feeling. I also get excited when my work gets featured in magazines and editorial shoots. It’s fun to see my ideas where I created the feel for the shoots, and having them be captivating to others. I also love when I get small emails of people saying they love this, or thank you for doing the special order. Dealing with fun customers and special orders are always exciting, I never get bored.
What has been your biggest source of inspiration? What keeps you going?
Like I said before, I draw form happy memories in my life– carousels, dresses, china plates, old photos, etc. What keeps me going is an innate sense to create. I think we as human beings have that built into us.
What is the most rewarding thing about being your own boss?
Deciding when I want to work, how I want to work, and being able to do whatever creative thing pops in my head next, without having to ask permission.
How have you managed to juggle the roles of mom and business owner? What gets pushed aside? (cooking, cleaning, etc.)?
You do not want to see the upstairs of my house, my bathrooms, or any of my drawers. I also don’t have an office, so half of my bonus room is always covered in silk and vintage buttons. I do a lot of crock pot meals.
What advice would you offer to other moms creating their own products and ideas?
Find something you love to make. If you wouldn’t wear it or put it in your home, it’s not going to sell. Your product is a reflection of you. Try and make something that is your own design, something unique that screams to people: I need this! Keep working hard.. it takes time to build a business (and a learning curve). Get good photos of your product. Network and meet people– I found my photographers through etsy, we work together to do amazing editorial shots. That, for me, is such a fun part of my job (secret inner stylist coming out). Make your shop or business feel cohesive, from your logo down to your packaging, make sure it feels the same. The basis for my shop was like a cupcake shop for accessories.
What is the biggest obstacle you had to overcome as a mom business owner?
I think knowing that I’m the one who has to deal with feedback. Some days it’s wonderful, but other times packages dont get there and people are mad about wait times, etc. Knowing not to take it personally when someone isn’t happy took awhile for me to learn. I had to learn to think of it as a business.. not me.
What is the best advice you can give a mom who wants to start a business, or a mom who already has one, and needs to hear from mom’s like you?
Don’t give up. Find your niche market and cater towards that. Don’t compare– other people are at different stages in life and some have been running business for a lot of years. It takes time for it to get to the point where it will be successful. Talk to other creative people, especially if you sell on etsy. Join the teams they do. Do critiques (which I did with my shop a lot in the beginning). You can learn so much through others. Don’t worry about being the most amazing shop on etsy, because people will love your product for you.. and heaven knows that didn’t happen overnight. Did I mention get to know creative people? Almost all my big breaks have come through networking on my blog, twitter, through fashion shows, fairs etc. Love your product make it you. Talk to everyone you meet.
Bree is such an inspiring mom, and reminds us all that it CAN be done– she has found what works for her and her businesses. What steps can you take to insure your work and family balance? Congratulations, Bree, on inspiring us all!