Brittany Kollmer enjoys living life with the personal touch of DIY crafting. She creates customized hand-stamped jewelry and keepsakes that she sells in her online store B.Stamped, which she founded in 2014 as a way to stay at home and care for her son. Her business has since grown rapidly, and Brittany continues to keep it personal and true to her values.
How did you get started with your business?
Before B.Stamped I worked as a registered nurse, which I loved. But after giving birth to my son I wanted to find a way to stay at home. I’ve always had a creative outlet; I learned to crochet in high school and DIY-crafted most of the decorations at my wedding. I started noticing hand-stamped jewelry at craft shows and was intrigued by it; I decided to go and buy some supplies to try it out. My original goal was to create personalized items for friends and family, but it quickly grew into a full-time business in a matter of months.
I started selling on Etsy after researching how to run a successful online store and honing my eye for designs that would appeal to a broader audience. B.Stamped officially opened on March 1, 2014. That was the right time to start selling my products, because people were buying gifts for school teachers, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. The shop grew so quickly that I didn’t have time to focus on strategically expanding. But I was fortunate enough to have the help of my family when I was overwhelmed with orders.
How did you fund your business in the beginning? Have you taken on any additional funding since?
I funded B.Stamped with my own savings. This was a risky move that paid off — I’ve continued to run a debt-free business since. I’m able to keep a low overhead by only selling online and working out of my home. As the demand grows, expansion seems necessary, but I haven’t yet assessed it from an operational standpoint.
Running the Business
How did you learn to run your business?
My in-laws own a small business, and my husband has been running a masonry business for several years. I’m able to see first-hand how money management, tax preparation, and tracking sales are done on that scale. My husband’s business is completely different from mine, so there’s still a learning curve for me. I’d say one of the bigger challenges with B.Stamped is how fast it grew in its first year — I was not prepared for that. I had to learn about trademarks, email marketing campaigns, and website design, just to name a few.
Who was your first customer?
My first customers were from local craft shows. I no longer do craft shows; B.Stamped is now only online and I’m currently in the process of launching a new site via Shopify. I’m surprised at the diversity of my customers — we ship to 28 different countries. Many of my customers are social-savvy moms and wives, but I’ve also had a lot of business from men, grandparents and millennials. I primarily use social media marketing and try to be as personal as possible with customers. I’m not a business selling products — I’m a mother and a wife trying to balance a growing family and career.
What was the biggest mistake you made in your first year?
I did not have a business plan. Even when I started selling on Etsy, it wasn’t until months later that I realized it was no longer a hobby and I needed to think strategically about the shop. I wish I had done that beforehand.
What’s the smartest thing you did in the first year?
I always put customer service first. All items in my shop are personal and customized. I want customers to have a great journey throughout the purchasing process so that they know we understand the importance of this keepsake in their life.
What’s the most difficult/challenging thing about running your own business?
It’s difficult to balance motherhood and being a business owner. I don’t know if there is a way to "balance" them. Maybe a better word is to juggle them both!
What’s the most surprising thing about running your own business?
It surprises me how much I care about the work I do. It isn’t just a job or a career; it’s become a passion. There’s not really a defined professional life and personal life for me anymore.
What’s the most rewarding thing about running your own business?
I love being my own boss and being able to grow my business my own way. I’ve worked with many causes that are important to me, and I feel B.Stamped is a real reflection of my values and what’s important in my life. The flexibility has let me focus on being a mother while doing what I love.
Things I’ve Learned
What do you wish you had known before starting your business?
I wish I had taken the time to work on my branding before officially opening on Etsy. I’m embarrassed to admit that my first business cards were homemade regular printer paper cards. If I had taken the time and invested the money upfront on proper branding, it would have saved me a lot of trouble once things really took off.
What business owner or entrepreneur do you admire most? Who is your role model?
I admire any mom who is taking on the challenge of running her own business. I follow a number of small business owners with business models like mine, and they all inspire and encourage me to try my best to be successful.
What advice do you have for others starting their own business?
It’s crucial to the success of your business to find a balance between creativity and operations. Do something everyday to develop your business, whether it’s researching SEO, updating product photos, or working on cross-promotion with other handmade shops.
About the Author — Sarah Tang is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley where she learned to love the diverse personalities of mom-and-pop stores. She likes intriguing storefronts, creative specialty stores, and well-designed business websites.
This article was originally written on May 29, 2015 and updated on July 15, 2016.