Shannon and Brian Barker Custom-Designed Their Daughter's Wedding. Now It's a Full-Time Biz.
After Brian and Shannon Barker created beautiful custom décor for their daughter’s outdoor wedding, their guests were so impressed that they persuaded the couple to sell some of the items on Etsy.
Then, after Brian’s 12-hour work days became too much at his full-time job, they decided to turn that hobby into a business. We chatted with both Brian and Shannon recently to learn how they price their popular items — and what they *most* want to learn from you.
Brian:It all started when our oldest daughter got married in 2013. She wanted an outdoor, country-themed wedding. Since I’m a carpenter by trade, I made most of the décor myself — including the dance floor, centerpieces and cake stand. Later on, when the economy slumped, I got HVAC-certified (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). My new job meant commuting an hour each way on top of a 10-hour workday. It got to be too much, and we decided that we wanted to start our own small business instead.
Shannon:So many people said we should sell the things we’d made for the wedding online, so I started an Etsy shop. But we both had our full-time jobs too, so we put the shop on hold for a couple of years. When Brian’s job wasn't fulfilling anymore, we started exploring new ideas for starting a business. We found a plumbing parts catalog and that's where we came up with the idea for creating metal and wood home décor. We started buying wood and Brian bought the metal parts at wholesale cost through his HVAC job. I relaunched our shop, and we went at it full force this past October.
When did you know your business was going to work?
Brian:When I could no longer keep up part-time and orders kept doubling! After just two weeks, we matched my full-time salary. After 4 weeks, we surpassed that. Then, after 8 weeks, we were earning well beyond what we had been. We had to make a decision or struggle with customer satisfaction and product quality.
Shannon:Brian couldn’t work all the hours he was at his full-time job and still fulfill orders. We thought we were going to lose our business with Etsy, Amazon Handmade and eBay through terrible reviews. So, at the last second, he quit his job. But to meet the demand with Country Corner Goodshe still works seven days a week.
How do you price your products?
Brian:We aim for about 40% gross profit margin (GPM) because that keeps us in the black. Our best-selling item is a wooden ladder shelf that costs $48 to produce. I use a multiplier of .60 and that will give us the dollar amount at 40% margin. Then, we’ll go online and compare that with our closest competitor to gauge our prices.
Shannon: The biggest pricinglesson we learned is that despite our equation, we still have to price products according to what a customer is willing to pay. We were getting so many orders for the $125 ladder shelf that Brian almost couldn’t keep up, so I raised the price to $140 and sales almost completely dropped off across all three sites. A couple weeks later, I put the price back to $125 again and sales increased.
What is your most effective means of getting new customers?
Brian:I think it’s our product quality. In our reviews, people always tell us how happy they are with our quality.
Shannon:Even though our products are amazing because Brian does such an awesome job, we are nothing if our shopsaren’t seen. I taught myself SEO (search engine optimization) and so far I've learned that the most effective tricks are to have good keywords and good tags on your site. I also schedule sales and auto-renew Etsy ads throughEtsyOnSale.comevery two days for 30 days. I recently cut our daily advertising budget from $4 to $2 to test it out.
If you could go back in time, what’s the one thing you would do differently when starting your business?
Shannon:I wish we’d planned the shop better and gotten things more organized from the beginning. We should have made areas for painting, sanding and assembling. We only recently built a ginormous workbench for the shop, and Brian built a custom jig to help nail the ladder shelf together quickly.
Brian:At first we weren't sure how it was going to go, so we were just trying everything out. But then it took off like a jet plane and now we’re having to catch up!
How do you juggle other responsibilities and interests outside of your business?
Brian:I set priorities. We have 8 children, 5 of whom we adopted, and one is married. We get the kids involved, even down to the little ones. They like to do little tasks around the shop and it makes them feel connected. You need self-discipline to call it a day. It’s tough sometimes when the orders are piling up, but it works out in the end.
Shannon:Yet still have a long ways to go! Brian is still working seven days a week to keep up with orders, so I know we can do better with organizing our priorities and setting boundaries.
What would you both like to learn today from a network of other small business owners and self-employed professionals?
Brian:How have other small business owners here handled rapid growth? How did you go from a small company, like ours, to something bigger?
Shannon:We’re having major growing pains right now. Our garage is too small and Brian can barely handle the workload. How do we take the next step and hire employees and find a bigger workspace? Help!
Can *you* help Brian and Shannon tackle the growing pains in their small business?
If you, like Brian and Shannon, are familiar with the trials and tribulations that come with a rapidly growing business, we'd love to hear your story.