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Interview with Kari, Creator behind Lotus and Clift

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Tell us about yourself and your business.

 Wisconsin born and raised and the oldest of four, I moved to Florida in my early 20’s and shortly after I met my husband (married in 2007) and we started this thing called life. In 2012, I quit my full time job as an HR Manager to stay home with our first born and finish my bachelor degree. I planned to go back into the corporate world after graduation, but shortly after I quit my job, my creative juices were flowing and I needed to create. I thought what’s the harm in opening an Etsy shop? I opened my shop in 2012, and made yoga mat bags at first. I took a break after a while to focus on kids and school. In 2016, I decided to change directions and work with wood. I then graduated with my Bachelors in Business (and a minor in Sustainability and Green Management), and I knew I needed to continue with Etsy and my shop. I was loving it. We also had a toddler in the mix as well as a six year old, so I knew I could make this work. I loved being home with the boys and being my own boss! ! In March of 2018, we all migrated BACK to my home state of Wisconsin (after being in Florida for 15 years), and we’re loving it – even my native Floridian husband. Now, at Lotus & Lilies, we make; classic, rustic, and contemporary wood signs. They’re perfect for any place in your home. They are funny and sweet just like my personality

 

What is your background? Education, Work Experience?

I worked in the corporate world my whole life. Out of high school I worked in reception and would gradually work up to manager. My last “corporate job” was as an HR Manager in an Entrepreneur company ran by two incredibly driven women (who are now good friends). I learned so much from them. Stay driven, focused, and never give up were the major takeaways. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Management and Organizational Leadership with a minor in Sustainability and Green Management, from St. Petersburg College in Florida.

 

How long have you been in business?

Officially Lotus & Lilies has been in business since 2012, so six years! In 2016 I focused on woodworking and that’s where I’m sticking. Although I’m a person with many passions.

 

How did you get started in this business?

 As I mentioned above, I love being creative. It runs in my blood. My Aunt and Grandmother were always creating. They loved all things like me, but mostly stained glass, beading, and sewing. I have many pieces of stained glass from both of them. I also have my grandmother’s sewing machine. She made all of our costumes for Halloween. I dabbled in jewelry making and when Lotus & Lilies made the yoga mat bags, I used my sewing experience from my Grandmother to make those. Side note, my business name; Lotus & Lilies was inspired by my grandmother. We share the same birthday in May and the Lily of the Valley is May’s flower. I have also loved Lotus flowers. They bloom in the murkiest of water. So no matter what life throws at me or whatever stress is there, I will always come through.

 

How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?

 I am mostly self-taught with inspiration from my Grandmother and Aunt. I watch countless YouTube videos on wood working and framing. It’s mostly trial and error. When something doesn’t work, I can aways figure out why and fix it for the next project.

How do you market your business? How are people aware of your business? 

Etsy is pretty incredible on the tools they give you. I use a lot of their promoted listing features and tips for searches. I do more than half of business from Etsy alone. I was also sharing on my personal and business Facebook, but since Instagram, that was a game changer. You can reach so many other people and I love the creativeness of the app.

 

Where do you see your business in the next year? In the next five years?

I see Lotus & Lilies moving more into the Wholesale market. I plan on starting on the local end here in the Northwest Wisconsin area. More vendor shows as well in this coming summer, 2019. I would also like to start making more larger end furniture for home and garden. Another big piece on my to-do is refurbishing furniture. Taking those dreary pieces and giving them new life. 

 

The next ten years?

 For now, I’m focusing on the five year, but probably custom furniture!

 

How has technology, such as computers and the Internet, impacted on how you conduct business?

Word of mouth is huge, very huge. I’m sure I could be successful just from being present in my community. However, being able to use Instagram, Etsy, and Facebook to target customers all over the country and the world, is incredible. 

 

Whom do you seek advice from for your business? 

I listen to Podcasts most of the time. I’m not sure if I’m able to name drop, but Cara Alwill Leyba – Style Your Mind, she’s my #1 I listen too. Also, the Etsy Success Podcast and The Merriweather Council with Danielle Spurge. Those are my top three!

 

What advice do you have to new business owners? 

My advice isn’t one clean statement. I have many things that I’ve learned from inspiring people and personal experience. Here are some: Don’t give up when you feel the heat. Persevere and push through. You’re going to be tired. There are times you’re going to be burnt out (hello Holiday season!), just keep going – BUT – take a day to recharge and refocus (I do this often). Self-care is huge. Toss the ideas that haven’t worked or aren’t working and find inspiration for new ones. I’m not some top level interior designer, either. I love creating, DIY, and sharing my vibe. Your first pieces aren’t going to be perfect, just keep evolving. Don’t worry about waiting to start until you have everything in perfect place. Don’t be afraid to jump and start sharing with the world. We have one shot at this thing called life, so live it with zero regrets. That sounds super cliché, but it’s so true. I never wanted to look back and think; “man, I should’ve started that business”. That would be gut wrenching. Be customer service driven. My Grandfather always said, “people buy from people they like”. Be authentically you. Stay in your own lane. Don’t stress about the others who youthink, are more experienced, has more followers, or you think are doing more, or in your mind, better. Focus on you and your success. Lift each other up and surround yourself with positive and inspirational people. 

 

Social Media Pages:

Website/Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LotusandLilies
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lotusandlilieskariclift
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/lotusandlilies/