Name: Sarah Alexander Business: East Pine Milestone: One Year Location: Los Angeles, CA Launched: 2017
Sarah Alexander is celebrating one full year as the owner of her handcrafted planter business, East Pine. While still holding down her day job as a product manager for a social media collaboration platform, she sells her made-with-love products on Etsy. Impressively, Sarah’s venture has grown from making gifts for friends into running a full-blown business that is now taking over her Los Angeles home. Sarah’s passion is fueled by her happy customers, and she’s looking ahead to further expansion so she can bring even more of her modern wood creations into the world.
QuickBooks celebrates Sarah! In honor of Small Business Week, QuickBooks created a “shoppable carousel” for Sarah’s growing Instagram account. This beautiful, engaging, interactive showcase of Sarah’s planters will help boost the visibility of her products – and highlight the love she puts into every piece.
East Pine is a featured vendor at Intuit’s Small Business Week Celebration this week in Mountain View, CA, April 30 to May 4.
Sarah, how did you get started in this work?
I created my first planter as a Christmas gift for my best friend who’d just moved into a new home. So many people asked her where it was from that she suggested I try selling them online. At first I was hesitant about selling the planters because this had always been a passion project, and I didn’t want to lose any love for it. But I decided to give it a go and see how it felt.
I began to sell the planters online. From reading the reviews, I knew my products were positively impacting people’s happiness in their home. A few months into launching, I received a message from a woman who had just gone through the Ojai Thomas fires in Southern California. She wrote to say how excited she was to receive my planter and how it represented a new start for her. Her message affirmed that these handmade planters were, indeed, making a difference. I put a lot of love into the production of each one, and knowing the person receiving it feels that love brings me so much joy!
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned from working for yourself?
That time management is essential. Without it you will fall behind and not put all the care and love into your product that your customers deserve.
How did you come up with your business name?
“East Pine” came to be because I knew I wanted a type of wood to be in the name since woodworking is the basis of the brand. “East” comes from living on the Eastside of Los Angeles. It’s an area known for its artists, and it’s the place I've called home since I've lived in LA.
What does a work day at East Pine look like for you?
I always start my day with coffee first! Then I check the day’s orders, print all the packing slips and organize the materials to ship that day. I pack up the boxes and drop them off by 3:30 p.m. for shipping. After a break for lunch, I get down to the creative part of making the planters: pre-staining and prepping the wood, sanding and staining. It’s all part of the process for making the next round of orders.
What do you love about this work?
I find life exciting when I’m able to work with my hands. My love of design and building has let me create many gifts for friends and family over the years. My woodworking has always come from an expression of love -- for the craft itself and for the people I make things for.
What is difficult about this work?
The hardest part of this job is staying ahead of the work. I have to give myself enough time to make sure each planter meets the expectations for excellence and quality. East Pine is a passion project turned into a passionate business, so it is very important to me to keep that original passion in the creation of each planter.
How does it feel to be celebrating one year in business?
I believe my success so far has been driven by receiving messages like one from the woman impacted by the Ojai fires. Messages like those fuel my desire for expansion, and they fuel my drive to create and to build a business that holds my values at its core.
What’s next for you and East Pine?
My expansion plan includes adding another employee in addition to the person I currently have on staff. This will allow more time for customer interaction. I would love to be more proactive in my outreach after a customer has received a planter. It would be great to see photos of the planters in their new home.
Another part of the expansion plan is to use marketing to grow beyond Etsy and reach new potential customers.
Lastly, I would like to take my business out of my backyard, garage, spare room and living room -- it’s taking over my house! I’d love to move it into a small brick-and-mortar location. The front would be for selling planters, along with a curated selection of plants and succulents, and I’d use the back for production and design.
What do you hope to gain at Intuit Small Business Week?
I’m excited to celebrate my first anniversary with other small business owners who have been in business for much longer. I have so much to learn and this experience is the perfect opportunity for me to do that. I’m also very excited to expand my audience and bring my newly expanded product line to a new audience.
Now it's your turn!
QB Community members, which small businesses will you be supporting during Small Business Week?
I've worked in print, broadcast and digital media for 20 years and managed to start a couple small businesses along the way. I love collaborating with and supporting creative folks who have great ideas. As Content Creator for the QB Community team, I’m excited to help other small-business owners be the best they can be!