I just want to start of saying that the ultimate goal for this blog post is to share my story. It has been a couple years since I started my paper flower business, and I want to share how it was, how I started and grew, and how did I respond to disappointment and failures. I also want to share about what to look forward to when it comes to having a business at home. Now, just to throw that out there, I do not have a degree or certificate in business. I am speaking through experience and lessons. You are more than welcome to disagree with anything or everything I say. You may have a different story or you are still building up your story. I believe it’s a great thing to learn and relate to others. I want my personal story, my experiences, my failures, to become your success!
During my pregnancy with my first born, I was attending my last year at Sacramento State University as a Sociology Major. One day, after class, I stopped by Macy's and I was blown away by these paper flowers. This was in 2014.
I was amazed! I remember thinking, how in the world did they make this huge flowers? Gasp! It's paper! What, how, where am I? I was literally shocked about this "paper flowers". It was... it was ART. Later, I began browsing around Pinterest just saving and screen-shooting photos of beautiful backdrops. I was hungry to see more and learn more. About 2 months later, I made my first set of paper flowers.
Although, I am little embarrassed of how the flowers looked a bit off now, back then I was extremely happy. I was amazed of what my hands could create out of paper, glue and scissors. It was so exciting that I made a mini photoshoot backdrop for my daughter!
Oh, if you're wondering (maybe you are not) on how I had time with my last year college, paper flowers and my first baby? My daughter would wake up every 2 hours for weeks and weeks. I would fall asleep in my classes. But i had strength, desire and motivation to pursue something completely different. Pursued with joy and energy. Looking back, all that on my shoulders, only way that happen is because of God. Glory goes to God. I have no other explanation.
I found a few photos of paper flowers on Pinterest and tried my best to replicate them. The more paper flowers I made, the more I craved and desired to make them. I would have design and color scheme ideas. Before bed, I would think about what I can make after class. I remember sitting on my dining table, looking down at my paper flowers on the floor and just being filled with joy. I was so happy! What a sight to see!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE college and being a stay at home mother. As mothers, we get so busy in our daily routines that we want something for ourselves. Very Commonly, we go for hobbies. It makes us happy. And, that is what I did. Sorry for jumping around.
As I was sitting in our dining room, I couldn’t help but think… “What if I can make these for others? What if I can share my passion and joy with other people?” I quickly ran to my husband and told him all this craziness jumbling in my head. The only thing he said was ”You should start a Instagram page for paper flowers”. Hmph. Men, right? We pour our hearts out, and in exchange we get one sentence.
Surprisingly, that response was the first step to my business. It was a CHOICE to take that first step. For many, it’s the hardest choice. We get filled with even more questions like… “What will my business name be? What is my goal? How can I get people to like my work? How will I get orders? What if I fail? What if this doesn’t work out?” These questions and fears are normal to have.
Fear establishes the limits of your life. If you are afraid of failure, you’ll never try anything. Bible says to “fear not” 365 times, one for everyday of the year!
Here is a photo of my daughter on July 16, 2015, with one of my first paper backdrop I had ever made.
“Those days led to these days” -Christy Wright
When I started my Instagram Business page, my husband threw out a name, which was Ann Neville Design. My daughter’s name is Aneville, so we decided to somewhat steal her name, which gave the business something personal. It was special to us. I started taking photos of my paper flowers that I made. Obviously, I went all out with the photos; adjusting the blinds, and moving my stool all over the place just to get the perfect shot. I, even purchased a professional camera to make the photos pop. A little later, I begin making paper flowers for friends and family to advertise my work. I did all for free, hoping I would have my first client from Instagram.
Guess what? I got nothing. Then I began to drown in doubts and negative thoughts. “Why doesn’t anyone ask about what I do? Is my work not good enough? Why do I not have any orders?” I felt like failure and told myself that I was stupid for even trying this out. All the hard work I did and all the love I poured out unto my paper flowers and they received no recognition!
I remember crying and praying while feeling so defeated and discouraged. After a little while, I got my first order and I posted my backdrop on my Instagram page. More orders came in. Posted more photos and more orders! It was amazing! The joy and motivation I once had was regained!
I was getting loaded with orders along with school, baby and wife duties but I LOVED IT. Just the feeling of doing so many things at once gave me much satisfaction. I felt the strength. I felt empowered. I felt like a hashtag boss babe. It was doing so good. However, it was too good to be true. After a summer of orders, winter hit and I got no new messages or emails. At all, Orders simply went into hibernation. Another breakdown. My confidence was completely destroyed. Again, I began to doubt all my efforts. “What did I do wrong? How do I get back on track? Is winter the season for no flowers?” I was so confused and lost. I couldn’t help but lose hope. Who wouldn’t?
Not giving up, I created a Etsy page, sold pre made paper flowers. I sold paper flowers on craigslist and offer up. Just anywhere where people can see my work. I worked so hard trying to grow myself. What else can I do?
There on Etsy, I had my first angry-client experience. That can be a harsh experience and almost a quitting point. No one likes an angry client…
On top of that, I had my own set of critics. The, “why is she doing arts and crafts?”, “you really think you can make good money off of this?”, “Don’t get your hopes up!”, etc.
This season was just getting heavier and heavier.
Aside from the business, I had a baby at home and a ton of college homework. It was overwhelming at times. Juggling all of these tasks and responsibilities always made me feel like I was hanging on a thin thread and like I was walking on a tight-rope, constantly having the treat of losing my balance and falling off. I shed tears once in a while because I couldn’t juggle all these roles. I didn’t know how to organize my time or how to deal with stress. It was a struggle.
I didn’t give up. I kept going anyway.
You have to keep going even though it hurts, even though your scared and you have lost faith in yourself. Keep going anyway. I love what Christy Wright said during her conference, Business boutique, “Fear is normal, failure is good, fear is a choice. You cannot succeed if you never failed.”
Later on, I got inspired to learn how to make a rose. I saw a paper flower with a rose center from a Instagram post (You can read about that in my upcoming blog, “My inspiration board”). After learning on youtube, it was so difficult for me to make a rose. So, I decided to make a rose my own way and create my own Ann Neville Design template. An easier way to make paper roses. With months of practice, I finally got it down, and I shared it with the world. That’s when my social media business account grew rapidly. I made something I loved and helped others love it too. It was such a joy to do something you enjoy and others enjoy as well. Hold up… It’s not about me, it’s God. This is God’s work. He gave me the courage. He gave me hope and patience. He wiped away my fears and gave me strength. I wouldn’t be able to take on all these responsibilities in my work life and personal life. God is GOOD!
Here are some pointers I learned in these last couple years:
- You need to start somewhere.
- Fear is normal.
- Prayer is powerful.
- Don’t let failure crush you completely.
- Don’t give up.
- Being busy is a great thing.
- Follow your passion.
That’s my story. This is what led to my business today. There are easy days, and there are hard days. Managing a business at home is not easy but it's enjoyable because we have freedom. We are own boss. We love our jobs aka paper flower making. If you are a mom, you can be with your children! But, it is not easy because we have failures and disappointments along the way. Whether it's an angry client, overload in work, personal and family hardships, a struggle learning something new, new challenges and trials arise etc. But, you know what? It’s okay.
Take a deep breath.
I love how Dave Ramsey says, “Success isn’t a gleaming, shiny mountain. It’s a pile of mistakes that you’re standing on instead of under.”
As I mentioned earlier, maybe you have a different story or you are still building on it. Our stories are what shape us.
What’s your story?
In comments below, you are welcome to share your partial story or what you learned about having a business. There may be other women who can relate to you. Let us be there for each other and hold one another up!
**UPDATE** It has been 7 years and I am still making flowers and roses! To be completely honest, it has been very challenging; with covid, with the change in the instagram algorithm (reels are taking over) etc. Don't get me started on keeping up with trends and creating consistent content. It has been discouraging and fears arise. On the other hand, I fell in love with being home with 3 kids and put business to the side for a while. Though, I am still making flowers and roses, here and there for clients, family, friends and a couple wall rentals! Which is perfect for me because I can still spend sweet moments with my family and not be overwhelmed. Oh, and I got into making earrings. Did not see that coming. I am my own boss and my shop now has earrings and templates. They don't really connect but who cares. I love them both!
I had the privilege of reading this wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your experience. I really like how you referenced “Fear not” from the Bible. I was going through a lil challenging time when I came across this post (who am I kidding, I choose to read your post after looking at your work on Instagram) I must say, I’m really impressed. All the best for all your future endeavors, may God bless you more and more!