Stacy Verdick Case is owner of Peony Lane Designs where she sells vintage home decor online and also in a brick and mortar shop. She also takes viewers vintage hunting with her on her YouTube channel.
Tools / Books / Resources mentioned:
Tools: Mailchimp, WordPress, CanvaBooks: Why We Buy by Paco Underhill; From Poop to Gold by Chris Jones; She Means Business by Carrie Green
2:05 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Build a business based on your interests and passion
Stacy explains about vintage home décor business and how she got started with the business which essentially grew from her personal interest in vintage furniture and her errands to thrift stores etc.
5:58 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Be realistic about transition from salaried job to a business owner especially during the first year
Stacy talks about her transition from an accountant to a business owner and how she has been learning from her husband’s own business as well as reading books, listening to podcasts etc. She also talks about her difficult first year in business and how she was the most stressed and also most happy at the same time.
9:53 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Know where your customers buy and emphasize those channels
Stacy talks about how she got her paying customers on Etsy and using social media platforms like Pinterest, twitter, and Facebook. She also talks about how these platforms complemented her personality as she is a shy person and wasn’t comfortable being in front of customers.
12:07 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Identify your ideal customer base and keep learning more about their buying habits
Stacy explains her ideal customers of millennials and also women between 35 and 45 years. She also talks about how she blends her own interests of colorful furniture in a vintage décor and how her clients have accepted her style.
15:33 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Outsource where you can and keep the rest for better time management
Stacy gives us more details about her first year where cash flow was a much bigger issue than time management. She also talks about how she involved her family in the business, so it didn’t affect work-life issues as much. She also was able to outsource areas where she was not good at but kept areas like web design that she is interested in.
18:42 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Identify some key ways to validate your business: peer or customer validation
Stacy brings up peer validation as an important motivator in addition to customer validation. She talks about the importance of peer validation in her business much more than market or customer validation to keep her going.
22:48 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Key tools will improve your productivity
Stacy talks about the key tools she uses in her business which are mailchimp for email marketing, Canva for design, and WordPress for CMS.
23:27 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Keep up with your reading to keep going.
Stacy tells us few of the books she likes in her business. They are: ‘Why We Buy’, ‘Poop to Gold’, ‘She means Business’.
25:41 minute mark:
Agile entrepreneur takeaway: Key tools will improve your productivity
Stacy gives advice based on her experience. (1) Don’t overthink it (2) Find a support system especially during the first year. Lastly, many people quit when the success is just around the corner. Her advice is don’t quit.
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone welcome to the agile entrepreneur podcast. This is your host Ramesh Dontha. This podcast is about starting on building your own business with purpose, passion, perseverance and possibilities. I am very glad to introduce our guest Stacy Verdick Case. Stacy is the owner of Peony Lane designs, where she sells vintage home decor online and in a brick-and-mortar shop as well. She also takes the viewers vintage hunting with her on her YouTube channel. Hi Stacy welcome.
Stacy: Thank you Ramesh, I'm glad I'm here. I'm going to be a new fan of your show for sure. I'll be listening to all the other entrepreneurs. This is very exciting for me.
Ramesh: Definitely I'm going to have really some great people coming and you know doing this podcast. I'm very excited about this podcast series.
Stacy: You should be, this is wonderful. It's going to be a wonderful opportunity for people to learn from each other. So, I'm glad I'm here.
Ramesh: So, Stacy my first question what is vintage home decor? I'm really not up to speed on that one.
Stacy: Yeah well anything that is sort of 40 years old or older is what we consider a vintage home decor item. So, from the late 70s back. But there's a huge trend and I don't know if this is everywhere, but at least here where I am a lot of the younger sort of hipsters like the 1950s, 1960s home decor items and they're getting harder and harder to find. So, what I do is I go out hunting for them and then you know it's sort of a curated experience when they come to my shop, they can find what they're looking for in a short amount of time. Where I spend hours hunting for a different vintage item.
Ramesh: Interesting, so how did you start this business?
Stacy: You know I’ve always loved just doing thrift stores and garage sales and yard sales and shopping that way. I was a vintage junky way before it was cool. I mean my house is very vintage. It's mixed with a lot of modern design elements and so I’ve always liked having that unique look in my home and then I started doing a lot of DIY and upcycling of items and then it got out of control and that's how the business really started was I had way too much stuff, but it was all this wonderful incredible stuff that I couldn't just let to go to a landfill or you know a dump or a tip, it depends on where you're from, however you want to say it. But you know my husband said to me one day, "what are you going to do with all this stuff? And I said, "I'm going to sell it" and that was really the beginning of this idea of I'm going to do this, and I had gone on a hundred-mile garage sale with my sister and I met another person who was doing this. By accident she had her logo on the side of her van and I said hey can I ask you some questions and she really gave me some great advice and I'm hoping that's what I’ll be able to do for anybody else who's looking to you know pay it forward and if anybody else wants to do what I'm doing, I'd love to give them advice.
Ramesh: Fantastic that is very nice of you. So how long have you been in the business?
Stacy: Full-time for the last three years, prior to that I was sort of dabbling in it, getting my feet wet in the store and I had started a booth at a store called picket fence gals in Lindstrom here in Minnesota and that was, I'm still there. But I started there, and it was so overwhelming. I was not prepared for what was involved and then I quit for about a year and then came back to it when I felt like I was ready to, I knew what it was about, and I knew the effort it was going to take. So, you know it was really a hard learning experience when I had to say I can't do this anymore, because I really wasn't prepared, and I don't think people realize and I certainly didn't the amount of effort that goes into to run a store.
Ramesh: So, you accidently stumbled into a business or you always thought about having your own business for a sometime.
Stacy: I had always liked the idea of being my own boss, my husband is self-employed. I liked the idea of being creative. I also write books. So, it was something that I was thinking I'm going to do eventually. I mean I didn't know what it was going to be, but I kind of knew eventually I wanted to do something that was entrepreneurial.
Ramesh: Okay so the name, Peony Lane Designs. What is it and how did you come up with it?
Stacy: Well Peonies are my favorite flower and half the country says peony and I say it the way my Norwegian grandmother always said it, which was peony. So that's how I’ve always said it and I’ve been corrected a million times, but it's my business and I'm calling it peony. So, they're my favorite flowers I have them everywhere around my house. My mother has them around her house. So, its like a peony Lane over here and that's what, it just went, hey that's the name of my business "peony Lane designs."
Ramesh: So, I mean you didn't have much of a business background and you're accidentally stumbled into the business. So how was it like? I mean can you describe the what your first month of being in a business full-time?
Stacy: Well I had had a business background it is working for other people. I mean I was an accountant for 20 years. So, I knew about making sure my finances were in shape and making sure that you know cash flow was right and you know there's all these little things that accounting speak I could throw at you right now, but nobody, that's really boring. But you know as far as knowing how to start a business, it was really watching my husband start his and watching him make mistakes that I learned from him and then I became like an entrepreneurial junkie. I listen to podcasts like yours, I read books, and this is another year of growth for me. So, I'm actually doing the same thing were in binging a lot of books that are higher on the scale than I was before. So, a lot of the stuff that I originally learned were beginner things and now I'm sort of where do I go next, how do I level up.
Ramesh: So how long did it take for you to really get your feet in the ground?
Stacy: Well that first year was brutal. I got to tell you there were days that I cried, and I was like what was I thinking? I think every entrepreneur goes through that. Yeah you just have that impostor syndrome and you're thinking it would have been so much easier just to work for someone and make a salary and not have to worry about money and you know but at the same time you're enjoying it so much, that it's like doesn't matter how painful it is, you still want to do it and I tried to explain it to a friend of mine and I said, I’ve never been so stressed out and so happy in my whole life. So that kept me going, it was that joy.
Ramesh: I honestly, I mean that actually comes through each one of my, I interviewed the first year, the brutal first year. But at the same time the liberating experience of being on your own.
Stacy: Yeah exactly and everybody is going to tell you that they've had impostor syndrome and I'm no different. I think we all go through that, why do I think I know anything?
Ramesh: So, what kept you going? I mean so you could have quit. So, did somebody motivate you? Support you or you found that a drive within yourself?
Stacy: I have a lot of Drive within myself. I'm kind of stubborn. But at the same time my family is a wonderful support system for me. My father has been like my biggest fan, my biggest cheerleader through all of this. I think if he hadn't been, you got this, you know what you're doing. He taught me all the DIY things that I know. So, for him to say of course you know what you're doing and if you have a question you can always call me was like thank you, it was that little support that one voice and I think everyone has that person in their life, if you don't you would never jump in to starting a business. But we all have that one person who's like rah rah you can do this, you can do this, and you know if you don't have it in yourself, of course you will quit, and I have it. You know I have that determination and that drive. But without that extra voice of saying you do know this, I certainly probably would have given up.
Ramesh: Yeah that's great Stacy. I mean you're talking about that one person finding that one person is very very important for you to keep going. That is very nice, thank you. So, you have an accounting background. So, you know about the numbers and all that good stuff. But how about getting the customers. You know how did you find your first set of customers and how did you fill the gaps in marketing and sales and promotion aspects of your business?
Stacy: Yeah that's been the hardest part for me. Because I'm inherently shy which is really strange. There's a lot of entrepreneurs that I’ve run into who we're all shy and it's been really hard to say especially creative entrepreneurs to go out and tell people what you do and that's again another thing that I'm working on, it was part of my goals for this year is telling people what I do. Part of the reason I'm on your show right now, because ordinarily I wouldn't be brave enough to do this. you know it's like talking about my business was always very uncomfortable. So that's the part that I’ve had to get over and I kind of started secretly like I had the shop that I was in and I would I would put business cards out. Because I felt like that was my way of saying, "hey Here I am," without me being in people's face. So, they could take a card or not.
Ramesh: But how did you get your first customer, paying customers.
Stacy: Yeah, my first paying customer and if you're talking about vintage items, my first paying customer was Etsy. So, going out there and then I promoted it through like Pinterest and Twitter and Facebook and I really liked those platforms, because it allowed me to be anonymous and get my feet wet and get that confidence built. Now I'm more, I will go to vintage sales like pop up sales locally and I will talk to people and promote myself that way. But Etsy for somebody who's interested in selling a product that you're making or a product that you're a vintage product is a great way to make that sale and build your confidence with or eBay or whatever online platform. Because online allows you to still remain anonymous. So, if you have any doubts or confidence issues, you can still do it but remain behind the curtain so to speak.
Ramesh: So, who are your target customers. What's the sweet spot of demographics wise or location wise however you want to go through that?
Stacy: I primarily target Millennials for the vintage items. Because they're more interested in having that sort of funky bohemian look in their home. But for my DIY channel, I'm looking at women who are between 35 and say 40,45. So that age, those are the women that are taking more chances. They have a house that's established, and they may have a perfect item in their home. But it's getting worn or the joints are loose, and they want to learn to repair it and make it pretty again and those are the women that I target for that. So primarily women, millennials for the vintage items and then older middle-aged women for the DIY.
Ramesh: So how do you differentiate your business or yourself?
Stacy: From other people that do what I do?
Ramesh: Exactly similar businesses, yeah.
Stacy: Yeah and I think everyone has their own style. I'm very much a colorful mid-century person where if you look at other DIY errs there's a lot of the farmhouse chic, a lot of white, a lot of you know it's like I can't, if you painted my house white I would be so twitchy, I wouldn't be able to survive. I mean I love color. So, a lot of the projects that you'll see me do involve color and you know bright colors and things like that. So that's, everyone can do their own thing that way. But for my vintage items, I primarily source things that are of high quality and a lot of times you'll go on to vintage sellers on Etsy and its sort of like a garage sale. So, they want, you know they'll sell things that are broken and damaged and I want my customers to know that what you're getting from me is going to be pristine. If there is any damage I'm usually not interested. So, it's I want high quality.
Ramesh: So, I mean when you're buying these items are you buying with you in mind, like buying for yourself and then selling them or when you actually think of your customers, okay this is what they would like and then buying for them? How do you go through the process?
Stacy: Both, because ultimately when I buy something it's mine I own it and I'm stuck with it. If it doesn't sell, I have to like it. But I do have clients that I shop for now. After the first year I got a client that was like, "hey I know you're out shopping a lot, this is what I'm looking for, I collect this. Can you know find this for me." and I have five clients now that I will source for when I'm out. So, I have lists of what they like, what they're looking for and then I shop with them in mind. But as far as like my shop itself on Etsy or my vintage shop, the brick-and-mortar store, I buy what I like. Because I figure you there there's somebody out there like me who's going to like it as well and if not, I got to take it home and live with it.
Ramesh: So now I'm switching back into the business you said the first year was brutal. So, I want to have some specifics like is it the cash flow or is it the time management? Too many things to do or is it the work-life balance or can you get into some of the specific challenges you faced.
Stacy: Yeah, I think for everyone that first year money-wise that is the primary cause of strain. You know what I mean it's like you don't have a steady income anymore and your income is sporadic and that was really hard for me to get a grasp on. The time management not so much. I've incorporated my family into what I do. So, I was able to, like my daughter goes with me. She appears in videos and people love her. She's kind of part of that now and yeah, it's been like, that's what I wanted. I wanted to have something where I could manage my time and include my family in what I do. But the stress of you are everything when you start a business. You have to learn web design, you have to learn marketing, you have to learn sales, you have to learn you know transportation. It was just like everything is on your shoulders and that's so overwhelming and I don't think you think about it when you jump in and I highly recommend people don't overthink it. Because if you do you will never start. But you do have to at some point go, is this something I can afford to have done by somebody else, because I don't have this skill set. Like I enjoy web design. So, it was something I didn't mind learning to do, but there were things like graphic design that is not my forte and I am creative for furniture and things like that. But like designing a logo I couldn't do that. You know I outsource that, I outsource a lot of my ads and you know things like that that, that's not me, I'm not that person. So, you have to know where your pain point is like what is more important to spend money on and what is less important and what can you learn to do. So, it is, there's a lot of learning involved, you are it, you are everything. That's overwhelming.
Ramesh: I could see. So now you have gone through the challenges and you were going through these challenges and at some point, you found the confidence that hey it's working out. So, what was that? Was it that some really good customer and what gave you the confidence that you can do it?
Stacy: Well when my peers started to appreciate what I was doing, that was really great. So, I have a lot of women that I corresponds with and when somebody reached out to me and said I love that dresser that you did, and I was like, "wow I follow you religiously on social media and I love what you do." so to get that feedback and have somebody who you admire tell you that they admire what you're doing was huge for me. That was a great tipping point for me.
Ramesh: That’s actually true. It's basically it's not the customer validation but your peer validation is what really gave you the confidence in this case.
Stacy: It was, and you know the customers are awesome and I have wonderful customers like I said that I source for and I love them, I adore them. Because they're fun and what they're looking for is not something that I would typically be interested in and I’ve learned so much from them. But that pure validation and I don't want to say that you should require validation from outside. Because you know if you don't have that fire within you, you’re going to you're going to be depressed a lot. So, I mean there were days that it was like you're by yourself in a room and you're doing everything yourself, you don't have that interaction with employees or other people at your company, that's hard. So, if you can't tolerate that, any kind of external validation isn't going to help. But for me that moment of, hey I’ve been watching you and I like what you do from somebody who I felt was higher up than me in this process was amazing.
Ramesh: That’s very nice. Actually, you should listen to Gale Carson's podcast that they're in the website. I mean she's eighty-year-old lady, that's exactly what she said. She said she never gets depressed. I mean she's gone through multiple cancer related issues and loss of loved ones and all the stuff, but she keeps coaching you know women especially 50-plus. But the peer validation, market validation is a couple of important things that she talked about, that’s great.
Stacy: Yeah, I would love to, I will.
Ramesh: Please do and then so again continuing with the business aspect of it, so you said you have learned a lot of things, the Web Design and all the stuff. Can you tell our listeners what are the key tools that you use that you cannot live without?
Stacy: WordPress I couldn't live without. I think that's one of the best web design platforms that I’ve seen, and I have done Joomla, I’ve done HTML. I learned HTML back in the day when it was the only way to go. But I think WordPress is brilliant with all the plugins and it allows you to incorporate your social media and your you know they are your brand building tools like that. So, I mean it's wonderful and it lets me incorporate my store and all this great stuff. It's just wonderful. There's so many developers for WordPress that are doing things that are free, that as an entrepreneur when you're starting out you couldn't come up with a better platform.
Ramesh: That’s is one main thing. How about email marketing?
Stacy: Oh yeah you got a build that email list and I was really behind the eight ball on that one, I did not start my email list right away. Which was stupid, and you know you hear about things like Instagram was down for a day and Facebook was down for a day and now that I have my email list built up, I don't worry about that anymore. They don't own my customers. You know it's like I have my own list of my own customers. I'm not really great at email marketing. Ironically that's something I'm reading a book on as we speak is what content do I add to my email marketing to make it more valuable for the person reading it. I don't want to just sell to people that are on my list, I'd like to give them something. You know it's, I don't know if you guys listen to and I don't remember who said it. I know Sonny Leonard says it all the time on her podcast, it's that jab jab right hook kind of mentality. Yeah so you give give and then you ask. You know you don't want to just, yeah, the lead magnet thing. It's like if you just go to my store, go to my store, go to my store you're going to lose people real fast. So that's been hard.
Ramesh: So, WordPress, email marketing and so some of the any other tools that come to your mind?
Stacy: Well there are a lot of tools that I use. But they're not really okay sales tools that you know I have, there is graphic design tools there's something called, I can tell you because it's right in front of me. Word swag that I use to generate pretty content for Instagram. You know I'm not like I said not good at that pretty designs.
Ramesh: How about Canva as well.
Stacy: Oh, I love Canva.
Ramesh: Yeah so that's good. So, you talked about a book that you're reading. So, what are your favorite books, books that really helped you?
Stacy: Hang on, I can tell you exactly because I'm sitting in my office right now and I can look around. So, I had, if you're going to sell something the number one book that I recommend for people is called why we buy and it's a perennial classic. I think it came out in the late 80s, early 90s but they've revised and updated it and it literally talks about why people buy, what makes things more appealing, how you can improve stores, shops, online stores to make things more appealing to people to buy. So, if you're going to be selling a product of physical tangible product and that is just brilliant and then I like, and this is, don't laugh, the book is called from poop to gold. It's by the marketing guys that did the chat book commercials, which I found hilariously funny. Yeah and they talked about mark with humor and I love that. So that was one of my favorites and then, she means business is a new favorite of mine by Kerry Greene. That one I found tremendously helpful and I think for women. Because it addresses a lot of the issues that we have as far as confidence and knowing our value and our Worth and a lot of women will not ever ask for what they're worth and that translates into when I'm selling a product and I'm like, should I be the cheapest and I think, well no I don't want to be known as the cheapest you know. I want to be known for quality. So, I'm not going to then undervalue that quality. So, it was very important for me to read that book. So, it was one of my new favorites.
Ramesh: So, Stacy as we come towards you know the last few pieces of the podcast here, so I just want to focus on what can you tell other people sitting in their homes or me wanting to start a business. So, what are the things that you think I should really focus on?
Stacy: First, my number one tip for people is to not overthink it, because you will talk yourself out of it mmm and if it's something that you are driven to do, and you've been dreaming of doing for a very long time, now is the time. Because right now there's never been more, a better time, more opportunities for people to teach online, to sell online, to you know market any type of business to a global audience than right now and I mean I think it's just the wild wild west of entrepreneurial spirit right now and I love it. I absolutely love being alive right now. Because I love seeing all these women and men who are like you know what this sitting in a cube doesn't work for me. So, if you're at all inclined and you have an idea, you need to start working on getting it off the ground right now. The other thing I would say is that first year, find your support system, know who that person is going to be and tap them. Make sure that they know you're untapped to be my cheerleader and the day that I say, I can't do this I want to quit, they need to be there to slap you upside the head and say no you're not, you're going to push through this. Because that first year is when most people quit. Because it's so hard. So, if you're in that first year, make sure you know who that person is, and you tell them, you slap me if I want to quit. Cause I will guarantee there'll be a moment where you're like just after that time that you thought I can't do this anymore, there's something great is going to happen for you. So, don't quit.
Ramesh: Excellent. Success is just around the corner, and [27:34 inaudible].
Stacy: Yes, it's exactly true. Most people literally quit on the verge of success, because it seems to me like that's when it gets the hardest and I don't know if that's like God or the universe or however you want to say it going are you really ready for this?
Ramesh: Right, actually I can't recollect the book, but there's a book just about that aspect of it actually. People just quit.
Stacy: I would love to read it, if you could remember what it is, please email me.
Ramesh: I will let you know. It's like many people and they've done the research and just quit, just when they're about to you know really you know crush it.
Stacy: I felt that. I would love to read a book like that Ramesh.
Ramesh: I will find it and I will let you know. So, the last question, now what are the things that you wish you could have done, I mean I know we can't go back and do it. But things that we can help others, things that you could have done better or earlier or whatever?
Stacy: I wish I would have started selling online sooner. That has been a wonderful source of income for me. I didn't even think about it. It was like I wanted to have a store and I'm going to sell it locally and you know you're limiting yourself so much if you're selling a product by doing that. So, if you're creative and you're crafty or you're selling a product, you have to sell it online. I can't tell people enough. I've waited a year. The first year that I quit the shop and then went back, I had not sold online that entire time and I think if I had started selling online, I might not have quit.
Ramesh: And the reason you did not sell online was because of the shipping and other logistical issues?
Stacy: Yeah really literally that's exactly what it was. I was so afraid of like what? It's going to get broken and somebody's going to give me a bad review and here's the ironic part about that Ramesh, before I was an accountant I was an exporter for 10 years. So, I shipped some of the most delicate semiconductors in the world across the ocean and I never broke one and I thought you know how to pack things, what are thinking? And now when I look back I think every job I ever had even through high school prepared me to be an entrepreneur. It's amazing the things that I know that I went, I didn't realize you need to really take stock of what you know. You know more than you think you do.
Ramesh: That is very very true honestly. We underestimate ourselves.
Stacy: Yes, we do.
Ramesh: So, Stacy any last-minute thoughts, so far, it's been just excellent advice that you have been giving?
Stacy: Don't be afraid to ask for help. I was notorious, I got to do it myself, I got to do it myself. People want to help you. Your friends, your family, even clients when you say I don't know how to do this can someone help me and the first time I reached out I was so embarrassed that I had to ask for help. Because I thought I was failing by doing that. Don't feel that way. People want, you to succeed and they want to help you.
Ramesh: That's been true in my case and I think many, I think many people's cases it is true. But somehow that hesitation is there in most of us. And Stacy so fantastic and good luck with Peony Lane designs, the third year is a breakthrough for most of the entrepreneurs that I talk to and it looks like that is the case with you as well. So good luck.
Stacy: Oh wonderful, thank you so much Ramesh and thank you for your podcast. I will be listening like I said I think this is a great opportunity for people to learn. So, this is wonderful, I'm glad you're doing it.
Ramesh: Thank you, thank you very much.