We had the good fortune of connecting with Kirsten Beal and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kirsten, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
The funny thing is, and this is the story of other small business owners…I never planned on starting a business! In the summer of 2020, I was looking at a ton of videos for DIY home decor. Sometime during that time, I landed on a blog that explained how to DIY your own wood sign. I wanted to try it out and see if I could sell some. At the time, my husband was in graduate school and I stayed home with our two little kids, so we didn’t have much money. To be able to make these signs I would have to buy a few basic supplies, so I had to talk to my husband before I did. I still remember having that conversation with him in the car. He said yes, of course! From there, as they say, it’s history.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My story…it’s been 2 years now that I’ve been making my wood signs. As I mentioned it all begin with DIY videos and the “go ahead” from my husband to begin; but of course I had lots of learning and tweaking to do as I continued on. In the beginning, my products were definitely lacking in professionalism: the designs were lacking as well as the product itself. Not only that, but the process of getting the design onto the wood was definitely a project in and of itself. I first created the design, printed it out, cut and taped the pieces together, colored the back with a pencil, placed it on the wood, and then outlined the design, which would then leave a graphite residue on the wood, which I would then paint by hand. Making these pieces took time and had a pretty steady hand, but they weren’t perfect. Despite all that, I was able to sell many pieces through Facebook marketplace in my town.
One might ask, and my brother-in-law did ask, “why not use a Cricut get your design on the wood?” At the time, I wanted to paint the design on myself. I enjoyed doing it, as I would occasionally listen to something as a worked and I loved the idea that I was painted the piece myself.
Another aspect of my story, which I love because it shows how much making signs meant to me, was my work station…or should I say, lack of work station. In the beginning phase of my sign business, We lived in a couple different apartments. In these apartments, there was no garage to store my tools or wood. So where did I store my supplies and my wood? Our bedroom and closets. The second apartment we were in during that time frame, I would drag my table saw and chop saw out onto the concrete area outside our front door and work away. When I was finished, I had to bring all the tools back in. It was difficult, but I enjoyed making my signs and earning a little extra money! Turns out this time period where I did this, was so important for my growth, since the next phase of my sign making looked a little different.
Almost a year into making signs, I finally bought a Cricut machine. My life changed! This little machine helped me create beautiful, perfect pieces that had flawless lines. Right after I got my machine, my husband graduated from graduate school and got his first job. We would be moving to a new, small little town in a new state (about 32,000 people). I was excited about the move and about making more signs with my machine. I had contacted the local Farmers Market, in my soon to be home town, and found out I could join in. Once we moved I created tons of signs for the first day of the Farmers Market season, which would occur just a few short weeks after we moved. The day finally came. My whole family, my husband and two kids, came with me. My husband and I set up the canopy and tables and placed my signs all over. As the 2 hours of the farmers market passed, we got a total of…zero buyers. We were quite bummed. We actually went home and tried to sell in our driveway. I continued to try selling on Facebook marketplace and had some success in the beginning, but as time went on a struggled and struggled to sell anything. It was exceedingly frustrating. My husband was kind and listened to my frustrations often. I eventually applied to another Farmers Market, which was a larger town, but was an hour away. I became very hopeful again and again made a ton of new signs. Early on a Saturday morning, we got our 3 kids in the car and made the 1 hour drive. We were optimistic in our hopes of success. The result was better than my first attempt, but still not what we hoped (the kids were troopers, by the way!).
After continued frustration, I eventually turned to Etsy. We had thought of using it in the past, but didn’t like the idea for various reasons; but I had reached a point where I was willing to give it a try. Turns out, it was a great choice for me and my little business! I’m so glad that I am able to continue creating new pieces as Etsy allows me to reach people all over the US.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
We live right by Cloudcroft in New Mexico. It’s gorgeous up there. The mountains and greenery are such a stark contrast to down in the town where most homes are located. Going on hikes, up in Cloudcroft, is an often occurring activity for my family. A family favorite hike is the Osha Trail. Earlier this summer the hikes were all closed down due to fire risk in the forest. During that time, instead of going on a hike, we walked through the local shops. We enjoyed looking through the various shops!
Another favorite stop, at least for my kiddos, is Alamo Jump, or as my little ones call it “the bouncy house.” it’s a great place to get out all those little one’s energy in a fun way!
Along the same shopping street as Alamo Jump, are lots of other small shops: a thrift store, bakery, etc. One of those shops is a local vendors shop, The Local Bodega. It’s owned by my friend, Taylor, and her husband. I met Taylor at the Farmer’s Market here in town. She contacted me as well as many other local artists. Within her shop we are all able to sell what we love making! Taylor is amazing. She’s happy and works so hard. She and her husband encourage local artisans so much.
My little town also has a zoo. There most recent addition was a camel! That was fun. My kids enjoy playing at the park within the zoo. Or feeding the birds with the bird feed that is all along the bird areas. .
The Library!! WE have an amazing librarian! She’s just exceptional! Ms. Ami really tries to making library time so fun for the little ones. She does a STEAM activity day once a month, which is filled with lots of fun interactive activities for the kids to play around with however they choose. Ms. Ami’s philosophy is to let kids make a mess at the library with her so that we don’t have to at home! Ha! On regular library days she reads several books and then lets them do a craft. Not only does she do regular library times, but she goes the extra mile and does fun Saturday activities as well. For example, she’s putting on a mud day soon where their will be mud (obviously!), water, and a slip n’ slide. She’s the best Librarian we’ve ever had!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My husband! He let me buy supplies in the first place to start this hobby/business of mine! He let me store a TON of wood in the bedroom of our 2 bedroom apartment (it was nice to finally move into a house last year! We had a garage for all my wood and tools!). He sometimes will help watch our kids for me when I’m buying supplies or during the day as I’m working on signs. He gives ideas and let’s me talk over and over about my signs to him!
Another person, actually many people, that deserve a shoutout, are all those who have purchased signs from me! It’s because of all of you that I got to continue with my passion! So thank you!