Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in handcrafts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Michele Tibbs, Co-Owner and Founder of Grainwell, located in Covington, KY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Grainwell is a manufacturing and design company that has established two boutique stores in the Greater Cincinnati region. Our area of expertise lies in designing and crafting corporate signage, awards, gifts, distinctive city, and state-themed decor, as well as personalized and event-specific large-scale signage. Essentially, we are a comprehensive solution for individuals and businesses seeking exclusive signage and gifts. Our customers range from 30-50-year-old females in the middle class for the retail aspect of our business. And small to large businesses for the corporate side of our business.
Tell us about yourself
In 2014, my two sisters and I founded Grainwell, a venture born out of a wooden sign we had made for our parents the year before that brought them to tears. Despite coming from diverse backgrounds - I was pursuing a Master's degree in science, while my sisters had experience in architecture and graphic design and were employed full-time in their respective fields - we enjoyed collaborating to create beautiful pieces for friends and family. Starting in our parents' garage, we grew to our own wood shop and boutique within a year. In 2017, we divided our boutique from our wood shop to simplify production and free up more office and production space.
In 2021, we expanded with the opening of our second retail store in Cincinnati's Hyde Park neighborhood. Our motivation comes from the satisfaction our gifts bring to customers and their loved ones as we turn cherished memories into tangible products. Our focus is on sophisticated decor and gifts that are both elegant and unique rather than generic or trite. Collaborating with other businesses to enhance their workplace aesthetics is a passion of ours. We aim to elevate the decor beyond mere functional elements such as printed or vinyl materials, and our designs and installations accomplish this goal.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My most significant achievement to date is expanding our Grainwell team to include several full-time employees and establishing our Grainwell boutique in two different locations.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
As a business owner, we face the significant challenge of being heavily involved in the production and mundane tasks aspects of our business, which leaves little time to focus on sales and growth. Due to cash flow and the seasonality of our business, we have not been able to hire a full-time production manager. However, we understand the importance of delegating day-to-day tasks to our current team members so that we can focus on growing our company. While we have experienced steady growth in the past few years, we now recognize the need to strategize and concentrate on our company's growth and development rather than relying solely on organic growth, as we have done for the past nine years.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Build a strong team when the time comes - It's better to invest time in finding the right people rather than settling for mediocre employees. A single toxic employee can damage the morale and productivity of an entire team, which can hinder growth and cause unnecessary stress.
- Focus on a few key products or services - Instead of spreading your resources too thin across multiple offerings, concentrate on a few products or services and excel at them.
- Set goals and write them down - You can't achieve your goals if you don't have a clear plan for both the short and long term. Take the time to strategize and write down your objectives. Try to focus on one or a few products/services etc., and run with it - instead of multiple.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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