If you told 2013-Brittany that she’d be sitting in her dreamy home office typing away a blog post on starting a business, she’d look at you like you were nuts. Like most kids, I changed career paths like I changed my favorite food. From marine biologist (I loved dolphins) and lawyer (I loved Legally Blonde), to forensic scientist (I loved the OG CSI shows) and anthropologist (no idea where this one came from but it got me into a college I later loved) to finally English teacher, I was never short on passions.
While I briefly ran my own business on the side of the gym stage in 4th grade (you can read about it in this post), running my own business was never on my radar. My rebellious streak came out in a trip to the Dominican Republic where I taught English for a year, but otherwise the classic college + full time job path seemed like the obvious way to go.
I’ve talked before about how I ended up running this crazy biz of mine, but I’ve never really shared how my business has actually evolved from sharpie mugs in my bedroom to the Glitter & Bold you see today.
So, pour another cup of coffee and dive on into the crazy world of Glitter & Bold.
I started my business on a whim, so to say that I had no real idea how to run a business is a massive understatement. I wanted an Etsy shop, not a Business, so that’s about as far as I got my first few months. I picked a name (which I dish all about here), made up a logo (using an app on my phone, #fancy), and put up my listings on Etsy. I took some semi-decent photos (in retrospect they make me cringe!) and eyed the “competition” to see what worked and what didn’t in my titles, tags, and descriptions.
I even made my own business cards with fonts I found who the hell knows where.
The free fonts! The glitter paper background! The heavily applied Instagram filter!
I had no idea what I really wanted to sell other than the mugs I’d been toying around with, so I basically started painting All The Things. My designs and sayings were all over the place, my shop had no real consistency, and I didn’t even know what branding was.
In short, I threw a lot of spaghetti at the wall just to see what sticks.
I honestly never thought it would actually work, but work it did, and that first holiday season (only two months since I opened my shop) I sold over 80 mugs.
Much to my family's dismay, I outgrew the desk in my bedroom pretty quickly that first year and moved my new biz down to the dining room table...
At the time I was still working as a substitute teacher and G&B was only a hobby, so those 80 mugs nearly killed me. For the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my days looked a lot like this:
6:00 am- Wake up, shower, run out the door
7:00 am - Starbucks #1
7:30 am - Arrive at work and head to my classroom for the day
2:30 pm - Leave work for Starbucks #2
3:00 pm - Get home and frantically pack boxes, write out shipping labels, and run to the Post Office
5:00 pm - Paint newest batch of orders
1:00 am - Finally go to sleep, usually still covered in paint and glitter
Somehow I did it, and somehow I actually loved it.
And then I moved out of the country to pursue my “actual career” - teaching.
When I came back a year later, I was desperately missing my creative outlet and dove right back in. I moved my office into it’s own room in the basement, worked on narrowing down what I was actually selling (although I use the word “narrowing” very loosely - by my current business savvy standards I still sold the biggest hodge podge of things), and dove right back into the Etsy shop/holiday insanity.
By November 2014 I was confident enough to start signing up for craft fairs and markets, and went to 5 or 6 that holiday season.
The catch - making enough products to bring to shows.
Do you ever get that feeling when you’re paying in cash and you’re suddenly terrified you’ll get to the register and not have enough? That’s never actually happened to me, but growing up I’d also get a ball of dread in the pit of my stomach when my mom handed me money and sent me up to the register.
Getting ready for a craft fair felt a lot like that.
On top of my busy holiday orders, I also painted about 50 extra mugs, 20 pillows, and a plethora of ornaments, signs, and other odds and ends.
By the end of those few weeks I was left with a very sore hand and what would quickly become my best selling mug.
I made the “You’re My Person” mug because it was a quick and easy design that I could crank out much faster than my more elaborate quotes. Within a few days of listing this design on Etsy it soared right past the “Together Forever” mug in popularity and became my go-to for painting in bulk.
From there, things snowballed pretty quickly. My products expanded, opportunities grew, and I continued to research and educate myself to figure all of the insanity out.
At the same time, I still continued to pursue teaching. I loved teaching, and by all accounts was pretty good at it. I even applied and interviewed for a job at the school where I substituted in the middle of the holiday season craziness.
I not only didn’t get the job, but didn’t get the job in a pretty craptacular way (yes - craptacular). The school I’d grown to love didn’t just let me down, it ran me over. I’d come home crying every day, dust myself off, and build myself a website. By the beginning of January I’d taken one too many blows from my “real job” and walked in and quit on the spot.
I told myself that Glitter & Bold would just help tide me over until I went to grad school in the fall and put all of my effort into pursuing a career in teaching, but after a month of running my business full time the idea of teaching started to fade from my mind.
As time went by, the idea of paying even more for an education I didn’t really want or need seemed less and less appealing.
I met more and more women who ran their own businesses full time, and suddenly the idea of actually painting mugs and lettering for a living seemed like a possibility (yes, it took 2 years of running my own business to actually think I could make a living off of running said business).
By April I had applied for my LLC and launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to help fund new inventory and supplies. (Fact: Nothing makes you feel more boss than a shipping label printer).
(I'm 99% sure I paid someone to Photoshop this screen grab for me over this stock photo...#TheGoodOleDays)
With the money from Kickstarter I was able to start really investing in my business, and I starting teaching myself All The Business Things.
At the same time, I started teaching myself hand lettering and calligraphy and grew more and more confident in my designs.
Fun fact: The hand lettered prints from the Kickstarter campaign are the first prints I actually hand lettered with pen + paper (everything else was just me playing around on mugs!).
(I clearly had little to no photo-editing skills at the time. Thank god for Iphone apps!)
As my own lettering and calligraphy confidence grew, so did my love of teaching others how to do it too. I started combining my love of teaching and love of lettering in workshops around Connecticut.
Cut to the winter of 2016, when I made another major shift - switching from hand painted to printed mugs.
This one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my business, but one I’m so, so happy with. Keeping up with the demand of painting the same phrases over and over again grew to be way too much as the responsibilities of all the other aspects of my business evolved, so I picked 5 of my favorite designs and drew + digitized them to send off to a printer.
I still kept the painted custom mugs as a lifeline (and really just because I love seeing what people come up with), but all other products were bought in bulk and simply packed and shipped by me.
Around this time I also worked on actually branding my business. It took awhile for this part to evolve, but today I can say I’m 110% happy and confident with my brand and the values behind it.
So what’s next for Glitter and Bold?
Lettering on lettering on lettering.
Around the time I switched to printed mugs I came to the realization that I want to be a hand letterer who also sells mugs, not a mug seller who also hand letters.
That idea got thrown off track as some personal stuff overshadowed much of 2016, but this year I’m diving back into my hand lettering love with a few new paths.
One - you.
My main goal for 2017 is to build trust and provide crazy amounts of value. I started my business, and ran my business, focused on products and selling said products because that’s all I knew at the time. What I really want to do, though, is help kickass women express themselves through lettering. The products are a just a fun way to do that, not the pillar of my business.
Second - teaching.
I love teaching workshops, but felt that I wasn’t reaching as many people as I could just driving around Connecticut. So the goal of this year has been to develop teaching resources - whether free ones like the Letter Love Library or blog posts, or the paid course that it’s the works for August (more on that later!).
Third - lettering.
I love me some mugs, but lettering is really my one true love. With things like the 100 Days of GAB and more commercial projects (like this fun logo for The 203), I’m working on slowly but surely expanding my portfolio to concentrate more on larger commercial projects.
While I never thought this was the path my life would take, I’m so grateful that I was able to turn my hobby into a passion and my passion into a career. Seeing my business grow and evolve is so incredibly rewarding, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next!