“When you buy from a small business,
an actual person does a little happy dance.”
When my first Etsy sale sent me gleefully dancing through my house, I knew I’d found it! A business that I could grow and be happy doing what I love. Helping others celebrate their babies and celebrate life! All while fulfilling my heart’s desire to be home with my little two girls as much as possible. It is a wonderful feeling!
Audrey & Bear began on the desire to celebrate the life of Annabelle, my youngest, and provide her a welcome as special and unique as she is. You can read a bit more about that here.
The journey since that time to now has been nothing short of a whirlwind, and I am still in awe of where we’ve made it to today.
My husband, Active Duty US Army, was stationed in Alaska back then. We’d made a home for our family in Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage is an incredible, beautiful place that will always have a special place in my heart. It is where Annabelle was born and it is where my Audrey & Bear adventure began.
I had been selling my swaddle blankets on Etsy for a few months and my small craft-room business was growing. Orders were coming in and customers were leaving wonderful reviews. All was going well.
But then, after selling my first, second, and several to follow swaddle blankets, the vendor that was printing our designs ran out of fabric.
Like, completely out.
And ZERO estimation on when they were expected to get the fabric back in.
Orders began piling up
I had already been running on little sleep and add to this, this little MASSIVE hiccup, and I was a frantic mess.
BRANCHING OUT ON OUR OWN
After many (MANY) prayers Daniel and I decided to branch out on our own and purchase a printer and fabric. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can just Google. There isn’t really a blueprint out there on how to begin a business like this. There isn’t a how-to guide. And because the concept for printing on jersey knit for the purpose of making swaddle blankets was uncharted waters, identifying what equipment we needed was ridiculously difficult.
But thankfully Daniel is incredibly resourceful and a short while later, and a few big, fat loans later, and we had a printer on order. The plan was to put the printer in the garage of our home and move my craft-room business there.
I’ll never forget when the delivery man called to tell us our printer had (FINALLY) arrived and to arrange delivery. He asked where we’d be setting it up. I gave him our address and told him it would go into our garage.
He laughed. He actually laughed.
Why, OH WHY weren’t the dimensions they told us correct when we purchased this beast?!?
These printers huge. The size of a large Suburban, HUGE.
Delivery location? Well, I guess can check our garage off the list.
So next up on our to-do list –find a commercial studio space that I could actually fit it into. And then contract the loads of electrical work that needed to be done to meet the needs of our new beast.
Starting a new business… well, there is a STEEP learning curve. Those massive loans, along with additional expenses we incurred getting it all going, meant we had to make loads of sacrifices to make my dream come true. We sold our brand-new dream Jeep and went down to driving one (crappy) car. Daniel began riding his bike to and from work - 7 miles in each direction. And we moved from that duplex to an (even crappier) apartment.
Thankfully after a few months, we got our feet back underneath us, and we were heading in a good direction filling orders again.
I had been working nights every evening after my husband returned home from work. I was a one-woman, Dr. Pepper charged, machine (with an incredible husband who fully supported my antics). But just as I was outgrowing that small studio, Daniel received a scholarship to get his Master’s in Business Administration as well as a Law degree (the man LOVES school) giving us the opportunity to move back to Utah. So, sad to say goodbye to Alaska, we packed up our girls, our worldly possessions, and massive printer, and we headed south to Utah.
UTAH OR BUST
The move has been incredible for our family and our company. Being back close to family, our girls are getting to know their grandparents and cousins in a way that was never possible with short visits. The support our family and friends has shown us has been incredible and immeasurably encouraging. And we rediscovered our love for Utah and its magnificent beauty (seriously, if you’ve never been to Utah, add it to your bucket list!).
And as for Audrey & Bear, we found a beautiful studio space in Orem and I got right back to work fulfilling orders. We found a fabric manufacturer right here in the US to produce our fabric for us. Because it is manufactured exclusively for us, it is an incredible softness and stretch that is unique to our company alone.
About 24 months have passed since we moved back to Utah, and it has been unbelievable. Thanks to YOU for loving and supporting our mission, we’ve grown from just one or two orders a day to many more. Our team has grown from me and my Dr. Pepper to a team of 18 incredible, talented, and skilled moms. And I am still blessed with that incredible feeling of getting to do what I love. Celebrate life!
I encourage you to comment below. Think freely, but speak respectfully. I look forward to joining you in a conversation.
"Lila" Photo Credit: Alaska Photography & Design