An Interview with Melissa

Melissa Steedsman

Provide us with a little background about yourself.

I'm Melissa, owner + maker of all things 521handmade. I'm a 30 year old wife, nanny, & crafty entrepreneur living in Fargo, North Dakota. We are expecting our first baby in August 2018, so exciting things are happening around here! I started 521handmade in 2014 on an impulsive thought that I could make this crafty dream happen. 

I’m a retail girl at heart. I had a career in retail store management for seven years & had dreams of opening up my own women’s + home boutique. I loved so much about it, but I needed a change. (retail schedules are super hard!) I left my job to become a nanny full-time. And a lot of people judged me and thought I was making a HUGE mistake (because being a nanny isn’t a ‘real’ job right?) But honestly, I’ve never thought it was a mistake, not even for a second.

I taught myself how to sew and embarrassingly enough, I was too afraid to take a sewing class in college, even though I have a Bachelor's Degree in Apparel & Textiles. I remember contemplating if I should take one, and then being too intimidated because I had never touched a sewing machine in my life or even watched anyone sew.

Once I figured out how to sew a straight line & invested a lot of time into watching videos online, reading tutorials, and asking friends silly beginner questions; I started this business. I’m a HUGE believer in creating your own opportunities & taking steps towards building a life you love. 

Tell us about what it is you make or the services you offer.

I create modern throw pillows + sparkly accessories in Fargo, ND.  My favorite item to create is our “Last Name Pillow.” It is a great gift for so many occasions! I love helping you make your house feel like home. I also love making druzy earrings because they are so versatile & can be worn casual or dressy. 

At what point did you decide to take your entrepreneurial leap of faith? 

When I first started my business, I was making ‘last name pillows’ for friends & family that requested them.  Once strangers started contacting me on Facebook asking for custom pillows, I decided to just go for it.  And literally that was it. I didn’t think about all the pros and cons; I just felt that I wanted to pursue this.

I chose 521handmade for the name because my birthday is May 21 and I wanted something personal to me that would never change.  

Where do you gather your inspiration?

I gather inspiration from many places! I love to spend time on Pinterest, Instagram, and Etsy. I think just shaking up your routine is a good way to feel inspired.  When I have a long to-do list, I spend some time wandering the aisles at Home Goods, antique stores, and fabric stores to get my creativity back! Lately, I’ve been looking into creative conferences & adding it to my bucket list to be able to attend one! :) 

What has been a highlight since beginning your business?

I feel like there have been so many! After building my business for about a year, I decided to dive into wholesale & now sell to 41 stores across the US. I find it thrilling that stores think my products are good enough to sell on their shelves! A highlight this year was receiving a large wholesale request from Herbergers. (124 pillows to be exact) I went to sleep that night mentally preparing how I would work full-time (nannying) and get all of those pillows done in a reasonable amount of time. 

I woke up at 6am to go to work, checked my messages, and had another wholesale order for 34 pillows, plus 10 retail orders that I had been planning on getting done on my day off.  Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was also really exciting & fun!

Tell us about a challenge you faced and how you went about overcoming it.

Honestly, I think challenges happen every single day as an owner of a company. Somedays I find myself repeating in my head, “the pressure is good for you.”  I am generally an overly positive person & it really takes a lot to make me feel stressed out. There are small challenges, like lost packages with custom items, messing up the last pillow you were going to make that night by spilling paint all over it, and overall just finding time to get it all done when you have a lot of orders! 

 I think it is a good practice to go into your day with a mindset of “everything is figure-out-able” Google is my best friend most days and I also believe that it’s okay to not know how to do everything. I hired an accountant & a photographer as soon as I had enough cash flow to afford it. Hiring those two people allowed me to spend less time stressing about things that I didn’t want to devote my time into learning how to do. 

 What do you see in the future for your business? 

We are growing pretty rapidly and I’m so excited for the future of 521handmade. I would love to be able to work on 521handmade full time someday; but the thing about being a nanny is that you end up loving those kids like they are your own, so I will be continuing this crazy busy lifestyle. We are also having our first baby in August 2018, so life is going to get even more exciting this year!

Every day that I wake up, I am reminding that hardwork + hustle always pays off.  Owning this business is the single most thrilling thing that I have done so far and it’s safe to say that I’m obsessed with every little part of it. 

What advice do you have to share with someone thinking about the entrepreneurial route? 

I think you should just go for it! If you have a product or an idea that you are excited about, why not share it with the world?

I also think it is important to realize that you most likely won’t be an overnight success. (but congrats if you are!) I see so many people get discouraged when the sales aren’t coming in right away, but you need to be patient & set realistic expectations for yourself & your business.   

Where can people find you online to follow your creative journey?

I love Instagram!! You can follow along at @521handmade  I also love to share home inspiration ideas & easy DIYs over on our Pinterest boards! 

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