Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Amber Zrust, Owner of RockerByeDestash, located in Ladd, IL, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Hi! Welcome to the wild world of RockerBye. These days I have a few businesses sort of rolled into one storefront. Rewind to 2016; in an attempt to create a more unique style for our baby brand (RockerByeBaby), I started designing fabric. That part of the business took off and became the primary focus. As that evolved, I also started designing and selling digital sewing patterns. With time we added more fun things like vinyl stickers, water bottles, tumblers, and more with our designs on them. Could we stop there? Of course not. An opportunity came about to open a storefront, and we jumped on it, but because it's a small rural town, we wanted it to be more than just fabric. If you stop in (or check out our online retail store), you will find everything from fabric, thread, and sewing notions to candy, gifts, soaps, baby items, and so much more. We focus on unique, handmade items and hope to continue growing our amazing collection! So with that said, our customer is anyone that likes to sew, craft, create, and shop handmade gift items.
Tell us about yourself
It's kind of a long story; I'll try to make it shorter! I was a young mom of 19 looking for a way to work without putting my kids in daycare as my husband worked long hours. Childcare was so expensive for two kids so close in age that it wasn't realistic for us. I started sewing right as Etsy was gaining popularity and jumped in as one of the original shops. I learned quickly and perfected my craft, and the business took off. Over the years, we started designing our own exclusive fabric to be able to stand out from other shops. That unique design was drawing the attention of other sewists, and they wanted just to buy the fabric and not the finished item. I saw the demand and started offering it for sale. It became so busy we had to make sewing the backseat part of business and focus on fabric exclusively. Last year I started designing digital sewing patterns to go along with the fabric, and it's been great. Opening the storefront has been a learning curve for sure, as 15 years of online sales is not the same as local! I'm loving it, though, and enjoying the challenge to think outside the box. When we took over this building, we also opened up our second AirBnB in the back. As for motivation, ask me now or 15 years ago, and the answer is still my kids. They motivate me to keep pushing every day to be the best mom, wife, and business owner I can be.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
I think my biggest accomplishment, aside from being able to provide for my family is the community we've created. Through the years, so many customers have turned into great friends. We all cheer each other on, learn from one another, support, love, and encourage. We've created a safe space in our Facebook group where people can always come to talk and share their projects. We've raised so much money to foundations for specific fabric rounds and patterns, helped individuals get back on their feet, and spread so much love and positivity. I am so grateful for all of the support in the group and thankful every day that I get to be a part of this little world of ours.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest thing has to be the hours I put in. I think people underestimate the hustle that comes with being self-employed. With the exception of some occasional help, if I'm not working, no one is working. If I get sick, I work sick or push pause, but if I push pause, a ball gets dropped. The hardest part is knowing when to stop and say it can wait... or knowing when it's time to hire help. Then, of course, the hardest part becomes letting go. I'm not great at turning it all off at the end of the day, but I hope to continue to get better at relinquishing some of that control.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify your marketing and social media. Things change quickly, and it's best to already have a leg up on whichever one it takes off at the time.
- Just try it. I don't think you have to have all your ducks in a row. Have an idea? Give it a shot. Be ready to learn and grow and change with what keeps you inspired.
- No credit cards. My biggest rule for myself has always been to never take debt unless I can be 100% sure Im paying it off within that same month. I started selling with one yard of fabric and a borrowed sewing machine. I sold a blanket, bought two yards of fabric, and so on. As I grew, I saved and got a new sewing machine, tools, etc. The fastest way to sink a business is by drowning them in debt and payments. PayPal loans seem great until they're taking 20% off your totals and eating into your profits. Take your time and make smart, safe decisions in your growth.
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.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.