MANDY KELLOGG RYE // WAITING ON MARTHA
Was there a moment in your life when the light bulb went off and you just knew what you wanted to do?
I always knew that I wanted to own a shop. If you would have asked me five or even 10 years ago, I would have said I wanted a fashion boutique. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my true love lies in interior decor. Interior decor and throwing a great party. That being said, a move to Atlanta in 2012 was when everything really began to take shape. I don’t know if it was the rush and excitement of starting anew or what, but I threw caution to the wind and decided I was going to open a shop. In May I told my husband and by July the shop was up and running. I’m kind of a leap-without-looking person, which for the most part is a good thing (or at least it has been so far)!
Once you knew you wanted to have your own shop, what steps did you take to make that a reality?
Because the blog came first, we luckily had already legally incorporated Waiting On Martha months before the idea of opening a shop ever popped into my head. This was one less (big) step I needed to worry about. I immediately contacted a web developer to get an e-commerce site created that looked similar to the blog. I put absolutely no thought into logo or design which was a big mistake as I paid him to develop and launch a site. Less than two months later I realized we need to change everything. I worked with a new designer to create a logo that matched my vision and together we created a new identity for the shop and blog. Lastly, and probably the most important step, was buying for the shop. I was already very familiar with markets and shows as I have friends in the business, and thankfully Atlanta has some of the best markets throughout the year at America’s Mart. Along with purchasing during the different markets I always try to source from local artisans either by word of mouth, from Etsy, or items I see on other bloggers sites. I’m always on the lookout for anything I think my customers will love!
What lessons have you learned along the way?
Where to start? Everyday I learning something new about myself, this business and the people in it. But I’d have to say there’s two lessons that stand out the most.
One, surround yourself with the right people. In this industry you get the opportunity of getting to know so many different individuals, but unfortunately not all of those individuals should be in your life. Whether that be because they’re negative, toxic, mean girls/guys, or whatever the reason I’ve learned (and am still learning) to be very selective with who I associate myself with. I really believe that as a person, as a business owner everything you do and everyone you choose to let into your circle represents you, and more importantly your image. So mom you were right, you are who you hang out with.
Second, stay true to yourself. In the beginning I was a little deterred and insecure because I felt like I was late to the party. Late to the party in the sense that I haven’t been blogging very long and coupled with the fact that I’m older than a lot of entrepreneurs out there. At times it made me feel like an outsider looking in, that maybe I got in the game too late. But then I had what Oprah calls an “ah-ha moment.” Had I started Waiting On Martha in my early 20’s it would have been a complete failure. No questions asked, there’s no way it would have succeeded. I didn’t know who the heck I was in my 20s. My priorities were definitely not my career until my late late 20s. And I would have been able to be swayed way too easily. And people will try to sway you. They’ll question your vision, your ideas, your values, they’ll question it all. Thankfully now being older (and somewhat wiser) I know exactly who I am and what I want my business, and my life to be about.
What has surprised you about owning your own business?
What’s surprised me the most is that people are so insanely competitive. I’ve always been of the mindset that there’s enough business out there for everyone and let’s support each other as entrepreneurs. Do I have some stories!
What hardships have you had along the way?
In the very beginning I bought for the shop like I buy for myself. “Oh this is pretty,” “I like that,” “who cares if it weighs 20 pounds and won’t fit in a box let’s get it!” It was bad. The first few months open, the shop had no cohesion. It was really just a hot mess. Now that I understand the business and my customer better. I have a much clearer vision when I go to market. Every season I have done my research and I have a few different themes, color palettes, and categories I try to stick with. Each season I want Waiting On Martha to tell a story. And I’d be lying if I said the financial aspect hasn’t been tough. We’ve funded WOM 100% on our own, no loans, no help, just me and the Mr. And neither of us have done anything like this before so it’s been an interesting ride that’s for sure.
What do you wish you would have known going into this?
That it was going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never worked so hard or lost so much sleep as I have this last year. That being said, it’s also the most rewarding.
What have you found works for you as far as organizing your business and time?
This is such a tough question, and honestly it’s one I struggle with everyday. My job changes so much it’s hard to get into a true routine. Things pop up at a moments notice, a magazine needs an image, a customer has a question, USPS loses a package, or a magazine wants me to pull off a holiday entertaining shoot in two weeks. Literally every day is so different! However, the few things I try to always do is simply focus on the task at hand. When working on something I try to limit my distractions by not having email open and social media alerts beeping at me. Also I’ve made certain days, like Mondays for example, a NO day. I won’t schedule a lunch, a meeting, a shoot, or anything along those lines. Mondays are meant to be in my office working and preparing for the week. And lastly I’m learning to delegate. This was, and still is, the hardest thing for me as I’m a type A control freak, but I just can’t do it all. And I’m lucky that even though we’re small I’ve got a pretty amazing team of people who work with me; Allyson my publicist, Anthony my husband handles all shipping for the time being, Clare my Director of Customer Experience, who manages the 100s of customer questions and issues we get on a daily basis, Kat, who runs my social media, and Rustic White, who brings my vision to life with their photography. I’m still very, very involved in all of those areas but it helps to have someone you trust manning that ship.
Highlight of your career so far?
This is going to sound so cheese, but this entire year has been a highlight. What we’ve done in a year, and how we’ve grown, has been beyond my wildest expectations. And every day I can’t believe that I’m a business owner, and a successful one at that! That’s truly all the highlight I need. Though I’m not going to lie seeing yourself in magazines and on blogs such as this one is pretty great too.
Best advice you’ve been given?
Comparison is the thief of all joy. There is no bigger truth than that. This is my journey and my path to forge. So everyday, I just keep my head down, work hard, and know that it will happen.
Photos by Rustic White Photography
Behind the Biz takes a deep dive behind the scenes with business owners and entrepreneurs. Don’t miss my other Behind the Biz features with Lee Kleinhelter of Pieces, Emily of Elva Fields, Rochelle of The Shirt and handbag designer Blair of Blair Ritchey. Tweet along with me at #behindthebiz and @megbiram.