Before starting Small Coffee, I spent a working as the Marketing Manager for the most adorable upholstery shop you’ll ever know, Spruce. At the time I started, the shop’s owner Amanda Brown was just about to go on book tour and she was expecting her first child. Needless to say, I was thrown in the the fire but I learned a ton about Austin’s design community, upholstery and being an entrepreneur. Amanda encouraged me to help other business owners, like herself, with their marketing and business strategies. I caught up with Amanda--who moved the business from North Lamar to South Lamar and is about to have her third child any day now--about her business and what it takes to be a successful creative.
What does a typical day look like for you?
These days, I split my time between home and Spruce, so depending on the day, I'm either shuttling kids to and from school, shopping for groceries and cleaning the house or meeting with design clients, shopping for light fixtures and plumbing hardware and completing a variety of administrative tasks for the shop.
When I worked with you, you always seemed to take on projects with ease. I don't ever remember you losing your temper over anything and if you were ever stressed, you rarely showed it. Where does that come from?
Wow, thanks! I'm so glad it appeared that way. My mom always tells me I seem cool and collected, but I often have a lot of emotions going on internally. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, so I try to remember that when I'm in the throes of chaos or a difficult situation. And experience has definitely numbed my reaction to stressful situations. I tell myself, "In a year, you won't even remember this."
One of the many things I learned from working with you is to put on your blinders, do your own thing, and dive into projects head first. What else would you attribute to Spruce's success that you could share with other entrepreneurs?
Be adaptable. I've had to change the direction of the business many times to keep it afloat. I originally wanted a retail store but found it wasn't viable financially for me. Instead, I became an upholstery shop, then a DIY resource, and now we do a lot of commercial installations and design consultations. Eventually, you may have to deviate from the dreamy version of what you imagine for yourself and business and do what works better.
You wrote this beautiful book (Spruce: A Step-By-Step Guide to Upholstery and Design) in under a year that ended up being a best-seller, and I was fortunate to witness all of the doors that it opened for you. How did you get to that point where you could write a book that people wanted, and what tips do you have for other people who want to write DIY books?
Leading up to the book, I had several years of experience training employees, teaching classes and writing tutorials for Design*Sponge and other websites and magazines. It helped me finesse the way I phrased and organized my thoughts so upholstery would make sense to people who were learning it for the first time. It also hadn't been that long since I was learning myself, so the struggles I had with certain aspects of the trade were fresh on my mind.
I was approached by my publisher (Storey) a year before I pursued the book, but I wasn't in a place to take a back seat in the day-to-day operations of Spruce. A year later, with a solid staff in place, a book agent called the shop and Storey followed up with me the same month. It seemed to be the perfect combination of events to indicate it was the right time to take on this massive project.
The Spruce book is a project that is very special to me but also pushed me to my limits. It required an incredible amount of time. I was isolated for months on end during the writing process and had to dig deep to stay motivated and meet deadlines. In hindsight, choosing the right book agent and publisher and having a supportive staff in place made all the difference.
What have been some of your favorite projects to work on recently?
One of the things I don't get to do much these days is host dinner parties and get togethers, but I absolutely love meal preparation, flowers and tablescaping. A client tasked me with putting together her casual breakfast and lunchware, casual dinnerware, and Christmas table setup at the end of last year. And she loves pattern and color, so I was a kid in a candy store!
What are you most looking forward to, in life and in business, for the next year?
I have a baby due any day, so I'm currently waiting with baited breath to see what we'll get, boy or girl! We also just bought an old house on two acres we're renovating. It's quite an undertaking, and we'll be moving in a few weeks after the baby is born (perfect timing, ha!). I'll be elbow-deep in special details for the new house, a new baby and the holidays!
What do most people not know about Spruce?
We do full home design and love managing the tiniest special details for our design clients and their homes.