Welcome to 2021 with Goddess Directory! After a short holiday break, we're back, ready to tackle the new year, and more invigorated to share new small shops + connect with the creators behind them than ever. If there's anything you're looking to see, feel free to send over your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or let us know on Instagram at @goddessdirectory.
Today's interview is possibly the longest in the making and a personal favorite of mine. I've been fortunate enough to not only own a ton of pieces from Femme De Bloom, but also get to know the person behind the brand, Melanie, both online and in person. Melanie was one of the first people I thought of when I started interviewing people for Goddess Directory. Over a year later, I'm excited to share that she's finally being featured. As you'll learn, Melanie is just a *little* busy.
Started while she was in school earning her doctorate - that's Dr. Melanie to you - and still running full speed while she now works full-time, Femme De Bloom is full of Disney magic, a variety of aesthetics, and all-around adorable earrings, brooches, and other accessories. She just launched her Sweetheart and Rock the Dots collections, so it's the perfect time to get to know her and her brand. Enjoy!
My pick: it changes daily, but the felt hearts are too cute!
Q: Let’s start from the beginning. Can you tell me a little bit about the process of starting your business? What made you want to do this and how did you turn your idea into a reality?
A: I actually got the idea to start an Etsy shop in 2014, when I was in the 1st year of my doctorate program for Clinical Psychology. Since I had to quit my job for the full-time program, I had a lot saved but was thinking of flexible ways to generate some income. Creativity has been a huge part of my life since childhood and I always made Christmas gifts for friends and family. After making some personalized ornaments the year before, my friends had encouraged me to try selling them so I made a couple samples, took some photos and started an Etsy shop just to see if anyone would be interested! I really had no idea what I was doing! I did know, though, that I really loved making the ornaments and that they made my friends so happy when they opened them, so I hoped to share that with others.
Q: What was your first product to take off or find enough success that you were encouraged to do more?
A: The ornaments I mentioned in the first question were a HIT! I ended up selling out several times and had to go on the hunt for more supplies because I kept running out! I honestly couldn’t believe it. I had an absolute blast making the ornaments, connecting with customers, and packaging orders. I didn’t want it to end! So before the holiday season was even over, I was thinking of other things I could start making beyond just the ornaments, which is when I started making jewelry and other accessories. If you told me then I would still be doing the shop long after I graduated and became a Psychologist, I don’t know if I would have believed you but honestly, I can’t imagine not having it in my life!
Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions to you starting a business? Were you nervous to share it?
A: My friends who I made the ornaments for were super encouraging! They were the ones who really planted the idea in my head in the first place. Overall, I feel like I had a lot of support with the ornaments! I was pretty nervous to share about the jewelry though because I had these ideas in my head that were hard to verbalize. My husband (who was my boyfriend then) and I joke about a time on the phone where I was explaining some of my ideas to him for expanding the shop and he was like, “hmmm, okay….I don’t know it’s just hard for me to see it. Just don’t spend too much time and money on it because you’re in school.” As I look back, he was just trying to protect me and be cautious since I already had a huge commitment of being in a 4 year program but at the time I was so mad and I yelled at him and cried, haha! Now, Mr. FemmeDeBloom, as we call him, regrets saying it and says that he’s glad I didn’t listen to him. I will say though, that in a way his doubt actually fueled my motivation to prove him (and perhaps my own self-doubt) wrong. Owning a business, creating, and putting those creations and ideas out into the world is one of the most vulnerable things a person can do and I am so thankful for how this process has shaped me.
Q: How challenging has it been to balance a full-time job (and for a long time, school!) with running a business?
A: QUITE CHALLENGING. When asked a question like this, the first thing that pops into my head is that balance is aspirational, but rarely achievable. The more I remind myself of this, the kinder I am to myself as I realize something always ends up suffering no matter what. When I was super busy with school, I was not able to do as much as I wanted in the shop. Once I was able to do more for the shop, I found myself neglecting my social life. I just try to be mindful of when I feel very consumed by one area of my life so that I can try to balance it out with rest, self-care, or having fun. I’m a bit obsessive though so I have to reign myself in when I go overboard with ideas or plans for a new collection, which is so hard! I’m lucky to have my husband’s support and a couple people who help out when needed.
Q: Obviously, we’re in strange times right now so I have to ask everyone I talk to - how has COVID-19 affected your business and what are you doing to keep everything going during this time? What can people do to support you and others during all of this?
A: Strange times indeed! As far as how it has affected FemmeDeBloom, there have been both positives and negatives. First, I am so thankful for the continued support the shop has had, which has allowed me to donate to those in need during this time. That has been absolutely amazing! I honestly think my shop has helped me survive quarantine in many ways. Knowing people look forward to new collections gives me a reason to keep pushing forward. Also, crafting and creating are stress-relieving for me. I can sit in my office for 10-12 hours at a time making things while listening to audiobooks or podcasts and I just don’t want to leave my bubble, haha, don’t know how healthy that is but it’s a nice escape! As for negatives, it’s been super disappointing to not be able to vend at the Dapper Day Expo and other shows I do during the year. I don’t often get to meet customers face to face so events like these are usually highlights of my year! Another super frustrating impact has been the delays with USPS, which was a nightmare during the holiday season when everyone was waiting for their packages. It was quite overwhelming for me and for customers!
As for supporting small businesses during this time, there are so many ways to do this! Shopping small businesses is of course, a great way to go but I know not everyone is able to during this challenging time. Thanks to social media, you can also support small businesses by sharing or saving their posts, interacting with small business on social media and sharing products with friends.
Q: What have been some of the pros and cons of selling on Etsy vs. your own site?
A: I am so thankful to have started on Etsy because it is an amazing platform with a huge audience. When you are first starting out, I think Etsy is excellent because it’s essentially adding your goods to a huge marketplace where customers can find your shop organically. Etsy also has additional marketing opportunities to boost sales, which is great! The benefit for me in breaking away from Etsy was being able to have more flexibility in designing the website, as well as lower fees. Since I have a mailing list and a bigger following than when I first started, it was something I was able to do and I don’t regret the decision!
Q: Any time I’ve seen you in person, I’ve been so impressed with how you remember so many customers. What advice do you have for other shop owners looking to connect with their customers?
A: Awwww, well thank ya!!! To be honest, this is something that I wonder about myself haha! As I reflect on this, I think it is because connecting with others is one of my core values as a human being, business owner, and therapist. Years back, I remember worrying about whether or not I would remember all my therapy client’s names and what they shared in sessions and a former supervisor told me to “Just be present and connect with their story.” It was some of the best advice I’ve ever received. I find that when I pay attention, am present and find ways to connect with others through shared experiences, interests or even emotions I am able to remember them, even if it’s by their IG name instead of their name in real life. I guess my advice is to be present as much as possible and try not hyper-focus on worries about messing up or someone judging you - because honestly that’s guaranteed. I’ve been judged, cyber-bullied, misunderstood, accused of things I didn’t mean to do, and I’ve made tons of mistakes. When this happens, I take the time to take responsibility, protect myself, feel the feelings and then move forward.
Q: Favorite item in your shop currently?
A: Oh gosh, this is too hard!!! I’m really loving pom poms right now and making shapes out of felted-wool so I would say anything in that category! So much fun!
Q: What goals do you have for your business going forward?
A: To just keep making things that make people happy. I honestly have no other goal except for things to be as wonderful as they are now! Maybe the only hope is for all of the COVID stuff to end so I can go to Disneyland again and see everyone in real life!
Q: Lastly, let’s spread the love. What are a few of your favorite small shops owned by women that you personally shop from?
A: Ah yes!!! This is my favorite question! I’ll share IG handles of women-owned shops I love!
Unicorn Crafts - For all the pastel gorgeousnesses! Faheema is a wonderful human!
Critterosity - For the cutest art ever!
Backstitch Bruja - For all the spooky accessories and bags!
Le Petit Mouse - Make the cutest resin and clay jewelry
Hello Tallulah - Super cute vintage boutique
I know there are so many more but I can’t think of them off the top of my head!
Follow along with Melanie:
Shop Femme de Bloom
Follow Femme de Bloom on Instagram