The Boss Series
Name: Audriana Jane
Sector: Party Printables
Founded: June 2014
Location: Kansas City, MO (Etsy Shop)
Audriana! I have a few of your prints, and I adore them; but YOU! You have been able to generate over 17,000 sales in a few years on etsy. I mean, the math is simple. You’re averaging several orders a day, and that’s assuming your growth has been linear (surely you started slower than where you are now)! You’ve got nearly 3000 reviews and a 5-star review. We have lots to chat about, but first, let’s learn more about you!
Q: I know you’re a military wife and mother of three; we’ll certainly get to that. But first, tell me about yourself! Where did you grow up? Take me through your very first job and where you went to school.
A: I spent the first half of my childhood growing up in Honolulu, HI. My parents divorced when I was 10, and we moved across the ocean to my mother’s hometown in South Dakota. Going from beach to farmland may seem unfortunate to some, but my husband and I met shortly after we arrived in South Dakota, when I was 11, at our small school in SD.
My (future) husband and I were separated by three grades and didn’t date during our school years. After high school, I attended Creighton University in Omaha, NE, where I pursued a Finance degree. Math was always my strength, and I pictured myself working in a business office. This makes me smile now considering where life has taken me!
It wasn’t love at first sight back in our small South Dakota town, but it was definitely love at second sight. We “re-met” at a wedding of mutual friends in 2006. We were married in May 2008, three weeks after my college graduation. A month later, I was pregnant, and I’ve been a stay at home mom (SAHM) ever since. Mommying was my first job 🙂
Q: When was the idea of INVITEDbyAudriana first born?
A: Digital design had been on my mind since my first web design class in college, but I was too deep in a Finance degree to officially switch my major. After graduation and over the course of a few years (six to be exact), I taught myself how to digitally transform my visions via YouTube videos, blogs, and truthfully, a lot of trial and error.
Q: What were you doing right before you started INVITEDbyAudriana?
A: SAHM. Military life can be challenging. Actually, who am I kidding, it’s always a challenge. There are many days, weeks, and months at a time that I’ve been a solo parent. With the instability of my husband’s presence, it just made sense for me to be a SAHM. Also with frequent relocations, it can be hard for military spouses to have smooth careers. All three of our children were born in different states. Our son lived in three different states by the time he was three. We made the decision together that I would stay at home with our children until they started school.
Q: You’ve got a pretty diverse printing portfolio. From invitations, to games, to wall art. Walk me through what you started with, and how fast you started adding additional groups of items.
A: My first design was a birthday invitation for my daughter’s 3rd birthday. I only had basic photoshop skills under my belt, and it wasn’t anything too fancy, but she was delighted. I then created a matching thank you card and a welcome sign for her party. My process is pretty simple: I create an invitation and list it on Etsy. If there is a strong reception, I create coordinating items such as thank you cards, games and décor
Q: Have you always used Etsy?
Q: Tell me about your very first sale. I’ll take every detail you remember because I know what an important moment it is for a small business owner 🙂
A: I opened INVITEDbyAudriana while my husband was deployed. Our youngest was two months old when he left. Looking back, I was clearly sleep deprived and drunk on newborn love to think I could manage an online business while also being a solo parent through his deployment. I had my hands full all day with three children, but after they were asleep I was determined to develop my invitation portfolio. One night I finally mustered up enough confidence to put a few designs out into the real world, no idea what to expect, and I went live with my Etsy shop. My first order came the very next day, and I almost missed the notification because I had no idea it would happen so soon. Orders started to slowly trickle in, and after six months, it became a steady flow. It was exciting to know people were choosing my product, but also terrifying trying to balance an unpredictable workload with being a full-time SAHM.
Q: Do you wholesale any prints?
A: No. However, I have recently teamed up with a printer in California and offer printed wall art through a second Etsy shop, JollyMoosePrints, run by my husband.
Q: Tell me about your vision for INVITEDbyAudriana five years from now.
Five years from now, let’s see, that leaves me with a seven year old, a 10 year old, and a 12 year old. Wow. I’m guessing I’ll have more time throughout the week to devote to my shop. I envision operating through a stand-alone website.
On Running the Business:
Q: Where are you physically working and what does your office look like?
A: Three mornings a week all three children are at school and I work from my kitchen counter, the library, or depending on what I’m hungry for, a local coffee shop or café. Sometimes, I work on my bed. This is the best gig.
Q: What sort of toolkit (skill-wise) did you have going into the business?
A: My business degree has definitely come in handy, but not necessary to start your own business. With that being said, I would recommend familiarizing yourself with basic business skills- bookkeeping, marketing, customer service etiquette, etc…
Q: Tell me about the design aspect of INVITEDbyAudriana. Is that exclusively you? Where are you getting your ideas?
A: I’m in that stage of life where we go to birthday parties and baby showers on the reg. Many of my ideas are inspired by requests from friends and of course what my children are into at the moment.
Q: Quick turnaround and impeccable customer service are obviously imperative drivers of your growth. How do you manage this with three kids?!
A: It hasn’t been easy. I wish I had a better answer. I wake up early, I stay up late, I work weekends. I answer emails in the school pickup line. I work during naptime. However, when the kids are home, I try my very best to keep work off my mind and focus on being present until they are in bed.
Q: Seriously, over 17,000 sales. Is your primary source of advertising word-of- mouth?
A: Social media campaigns and collaborating with other small businesses has been my main sources of advertising.
Q: Does INVITEDbyAudriana look different today than how you envisioned it?
A: Truthfully, when I started I had no idea what to expect. I think my confidence was low since I didn’t have any formal training and thought I couldn’t compete in the seemingly saturated market. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be where I am now.
Q: What comes the most natural to you in running the business?
A: Creating new designs is my favorite part. Especially when it is at the request of my children.
Q: What’s the most difficult for you, and how do you address it?
A: I am a one-woman shop. Designer, marketer, order fulfiller and customer service. On a normal day, I answer over 75 emails. Every once in a while, I get a customer who forgets it’s an actual human on the other side of the computer screen. (Be kind, people.)
Q: Etsy had an IPO in 2015 and raised almost $250MM in proceeds. Out of curiosity, have you seen any changes to the platform since this time?
A: I did not see any significant changes.
Q: Give me an idea (percentage-wise) of how your time is allocated towards the business.
A: The best part about my job is the flexibility it allows me. I have the best of both worlds: days with my babies and work that is fulfilling. Some days, my work hours don’t begin until 9 pm, but it’s a small price to pay to stay at home with my children and still run my business. On average, I devote about six disjointed hours a day to running my business.
Side note- I love your term “disjointed hours”, haha! Oh how I can so relate 😉
On Balancing Family:
Q: Brag to me about those beautiful children of yours 🙂
A: You know that feeling when they’ve exhausted you until your bones ache, tested every ounce of your patience, and you have happy thoughts about bedtime? Then you read them bedtime stories (plus extras because begging for more books is irresistible), sing them every song you know, give ten “just one more hug” hugs, and they’re finally asleep; yet all you want to do is stand there and stare at their beautiful sleeping faces and you fight every urge you have to not wake them because you miss their voices? That’s me every night. They’re my world.
Side note: Right?! As my son sits here on my lap pecking at the keyboard while I try to publish this, I know as soon as he’s in bed I’ll miss his little diaper butt on my lap 🙂 Motherhood is definitely that annoyed/fulfilled combo on repeat 😉
Q: Let’s not forget your husband!
A: He is, wow, how do I even put it words? He truly gets me, even if that means not quite understanding me, but accepting me for me.
Q: Do your children get involved in the business in any capacity?
A: I like to keep a safe distance between my children and my MacBook 🙂
Q: What, if anything, do you want to show your children about entrepreneurship?
A: Find what you love, then figure out a way to do it.
Q: It takes a village, right? Who are your biggest supporters?
A: There are many ups and downs to military life. I could list pages of the hardships that come with the lifestyle, but one of the things that eases the burden is the tight-knit spouses community. These women have been so supportive of my business.
Q: What does a successful day look like for you between being a business owner, wife, and mother? How often does it happen?
A: A successful day is when I can get into bed at night at watch Netflix with my husband WITHOUT a MacBook in my lap. About once a week, I have this luxury, but it requires doing a little extra the day before. It’s a trade off.
Q: You’re a wife. You’re a mother of three. You run a business and a home. Tell me about how you unwind with everything you have going on.
A: Physical activity is key to keeping my stress under balance. If it’s important, you’ll make time for it. Some days, I have to get creative and working out is a 30 minute dance party with my two year old.
On advice for the creative dreamers:
Q: Your one piece of advice to someone just starting out?
A: Go for it, and go for it hard. You’ll never know if you don’t try.
Raise your hand if you’ve found a new place to print invitations for your kids for the next 50 years. Over here!!
Audriana, first and foremost, thank you. Thank you to you, and to every member of your family for their service to our country; for their loyalty, sacrifices, and commitment. My warmest hugs to the support group you have there, and to their families.
Beyond that, THANK YOU, immensely, for sharing your story with me and for being a part of this series 🙂
All my very best to your beautiful family,