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Looking back at 10 years of running a business

Looking back at 10 years of running a business

Ten years ago I was in a very different place in my life.

That was before kids. Before I went back to school. I was stuck. I was working in a very unfulfilling job that yielded me zero opportunities to be creative. On a whim, I decided to start a business. I loved to sew and I had a sewing machine and a small (but growing) stack of fabric on hand.

So I registered my business name, created a shop on Etsy, and started making a few baby dresses, embroidered onesies, pincushions, and hair clips.

 

Handmade sewn children's clothing by Sweetpea and Co

Some early designs and my first try at a logo and branding. 

 

Shortly after I did my first craft show. I was asked to join last minute so my friend, Kelly, and I whipped up a quick set-up. Looking back now it was pretty basic, but it was a start. This was my side-hustle, before side-hustle was a thing. 

Then I had what I now fondly call a "quarter life crisis" in my early 20's. I hated my job, I had this degree I wasn't using, and I felt stuck. My parents gave me a pep talk and I decided to go back to school for graphic design. Shortly after I started classes, I quit that crappy job. Yay!

As I developed my design skills, I made my first attempt at branding my business. The color was orange - gender-neutral and happy - and icons of sewing were everywhere. I still made clothing, but started appliquéing onesies and creating designs I could repeat. The sad thing is that I undercharged for EVERYTHING. This was before I thought of my business as very legit, and I didn't take into account the time it took me to make these things.

 

Branding Sweetpea and Co.

When the branding got a little more flushed out. Sort of.

By the time I graduated from school, I did my last and current re-branding. I wanted a feel that was more sweet, playful, but a bit more grown-up. I was still sewing, but because I was introducing other products, I didn't want it to represent my business exactly so the icons were replaced by my sweet elephant.

Sweetpea and Co. Current BrandingThe current branding and packaging.

I got my first "grown-up" job after graduating and still worked on my business, though it was still my side-hustle. I became pregnant with my first child, excited to finally have a baby after being surround for so long by cute baby things that I created.

Then I was laid off.

17 weeks pregnant and no job. I looked and looked for work and with a stomach that was growing even larger, I couldn't find any. It was the darkest and lowest point in my life. My business took a back seat as I tried to figure out what I was going to do to support this child that was soon coming.

And then she came. She was perfect.

 

Sweetpea and Co Daughter

 

The summer after she was born, something stirred in me. I was still struggling to find work, but I had this side hustle. It was my business. I could maybe someday support myself with it. So, I hustled harder.

I came up with some illustrations and through an acquaintance found a screen printer (who I now consider a good friend) and came up with my first four designs. They were a hit.

 

The coolest thing about this photoshoot was that this little guy walked for the first time, and it was captured on film.

 

I also partnered up with my mother, an AMAZING sewer, and we started to produce a series of dresses, skirts, bibs, and bib and burp cloth sets.  

I hired an amazing photographer to photograph our products and started reaching out to stores to see if they were interested in selling our goods. I still have amazing relationships with some of those first stores that took a chance on me.

 

Digs, Minneapolis. The first store to ever carry my goods.

Still, I had to find work. This was still a side-hustle, though a serious one. A part time job eventually turned into a full-time job. I created more designs, added art prints, t-shirts, bags, and a few other products. Some were a hit, some weren't. 

Now I was pregnant with my second child. The sewing was taking up so much time with very little profit. My mother was over-worked. I was over-worked. So, I pulled all the sewn items from my wholesale catalog and eventually phased them out from my shop. By now I had my own website up and running. 

And then he came. He was perfect.

 

Sweetpea and Co Son

 

Still, the business was a side-hustle. Though I loved my job, the commute was brutal. I missed my family and my spare time was spent working my "second job". Something had to change. 

After weighing it over, talking to my husband, my parents, my friends, my husband some more, I decided to leave my day job. That was in November of 2017. My side hustle was no more. This was it. Now I really had to get to work.

So ten years later, what have I learned? Well, nothing happens overnight. Sometimes you will make the wrong decision, but if you don't show up and make some sort of decision, you will be stuck. Sometimes you have to do what is best for you and your family, and maybe that is saying no.

The biggest thing that has propelled me forward is drive. Without that desire to be better, do better, and make an impact, I falter. It's that drive that has moved me and this venture forward. It's what will move me to accomplish more in the next ten years. 

So no matter what kind of day I'm having, because they aren't all perfect, I say to myself "ten years later, I'm still here. What should I do with the next ten?"

Stick around for the ride and you will see.

 

Sweetpea and Co Family Photo