Shelley Swanson, co-founder and head of marketing and online operations at BirchBarn Designs, recently sat down with Joe Moser, VP of business banking at Rockland Trust, on our Facebook page to chat through all aspects of turning your passion into a small business.
Julie Beckham, financial education officer at Rockland Trust, facilitated their conversation on Facebook Live. In case you missed it, here are five valuable takeaways for how to turn your passion(s) into a viable business.
The story of BirchBarn Designs
It all started when Shelley’s husband, Matt, who dabbled in carpentry, wanted to make a hand-crafted cutting board for their wedding in 2007. He presented her a beautiful board, now dubbed “The Original,” with a pattern of alternating wood tones. Shelley loved the piece and so did many of their family members.
Realizing he was on to something, Matt ramped up his creative woodworking and began to dole out cutting board gifts to his circle of friends, family and clients. Eventually, he was encouraged to sell the boards at local farmers’ markets, where he was surprised at the outpouring of support. Wanting to be more than “the cutting board guy,” Matt followed his vision, expanded his product base, and started BirchBarn Designs in 2013, which now sells artisanal products that allow customers to chop, serve, drink and live in style.
Fears around starting a new business
Shelley previously worked in legal marketing, but is passionate about the BirchBarn’s custom handmade products and business. She realized they needed both of their unique skill sets to maintain and grow their company. But Shelley was careful to make sure that the business plan was viable before taking the leap to one stream of income.
Their choice to believe in their business pays off every holiday season when the community shows up to purchase holiday gifts. “Buying from small businesses is more than just a movement. It’s a way of life for a lot of people,” she says.
After Shelley and Matt fully committed, they invested money back into the business and leaned on their existing connections for support. They also knew they needed to make new relationships to widen their reach. Shelley and Matt started show-casing their products at local Rockland Trust branches and farmers markets, the branch experts at Rockland Trust, matched the couple to Business Banking Officer Joe Moser.
Joe was right in step with the couple from the beginning and helped them identify the next steps to grow their business. By getting to know the owners and their passion for BirchBarn Designs, Joe helped them build relationships, attend events, and promote their products. He says it is all about relationship banking and viewing your banking partner as a trusted advisor and consultant.
Shelley agrees. “We are just blown away by all the steps the Rockland team has taken and all the contacts we have at Rockland Trust. Each of those team members looks out for our business. Joe continually touches base or swings by to say hello.”
How do you know your passion has small business potential?
Whether your skill results in a service or a product, the most important thing is that entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do and excited to pursue opportunities. Local businesses run on relationships with people and their communities, so it’s also crucial that others are excited and optimistic about your service or product. Lastly, to succeed, you need to put in the time and research to create a business plan and learn how to best market and position yourself within your industry. Joe encourages business owners to “research exactly what it’s going to take to be open on day one.”
Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Shelley’s top advice is to meet with other local business owners in the early stages of business. Why? Meeting with other entrepreneurs can help you better understand where you’re going and what you’re aiming for. Constructive advice prevents you from getting locked into processes or technical systems (e.g., e-commerce platforms or payroll) before you’ve checked out all of your options.
Tune in to the recording of the Facebook Live below:
Get the latest financial tips and advice by signing up to receive our emails.
Rockland Trust Online Banking gives you a variety of services that help you use and manage your accounts, whenever and wherever you want.
* indicates a required field.
Rockland Trust makes it easy to manage all of your accounts with our simple online portals.
Rockland Trust gives you a variety of services that help you use and manage your accounts, whenever and wherever you want.
* indicates a required field.