Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Taylor Carroll, Owner of Daisy & Emma's Stray Shop, located in Christiansburg, VA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Daisy and Emma's Stray Shop is a cat-themed stationery shop that gives back to local animals in need. Up to 10% of the profits made are donated to various organizations within my local community, as well as special products created to donate to national organizations. All of the work is created and sold by me online and at pop-up markets. Our customers are fun-loving cat people who like to know their money is going towards growing a small business and supporting a good cause.

Tell us about yourself

I graduated with my Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2019 from Virginia Tech. From there, I went on to do graphic design work for a local company before deciding to pursue art full-time in 2020. When I left my full-time job in 2020, I went to work as a freelance animator and illustrator. While doing that, I also created classes on Skillshare about animation and YouTube videos on my life as an artist. After doing freelance for a year, I decided to switch my focus to products. I kept on teaching but stopped taking clients on. Since then, I've grown the Stray Shop to what it is today. We have sold hundreds of stickers to customers all over the US and donated food, money, and supplies every month to various shelters in the New River Valley.

I have been creating small businesses from my passions for as long as I can remember. In about 4th grade, I would create stuffed animals from drawing my friends made with my aunt that I would sell. I had an Etsy in college where I would sell clay jewelry and hand-sewn items. It's always been a thing for me to have at least one business in the works. It helps that my mother has always been very supportive and would let me take over a portion of the living room whenever I had a new business endeavor I was excited about. Being able to follow my intuition every day by making my own decisions on what is next for me has been such a huge motivator. I'm not someone who can do the same thing day in and day out. I'm just always so grateful I have the support of my family, friends, and customers. They are what keep me going every day.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I launched the Stray Shop just last year in February 2022. I had a very small goal of $3K in revenue since I was unsure how people would respond. We ended up doing over $14K in revenue for 2022. It's been the biggest success I've had thus far as a creative. To have so many people connect with my work has been mind-blowing. I'm very excited to be able to continue growing my shop! I have so many plans and dreams for it, so last year really gave me the validation I needed to keep pushing.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

For me, it's deciding what's right for my business and committing to my decisions while knowing they could fail. Everything can go so many ways, and there is so much information out there that I often get overwhelmed. Also, what is right for someone else's business, may not work out for mine.

I've failed numerous times when launching specific products that I thought would do well. I've made decisions about renting space that didn't end up being helpful at all. It's all about making the best choice I can with the information I have at that time. I have to remind myself often and keep going when things don't work out the way I planned. I've had more wins than I could count, so I just try to keep that in mind when things seem rough.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Make sure you know what your potential customers want before creating products. It's great if you're excited about them, but you need to research what people really want from you. This is a trial and error process; however, taking the time to look deeper into your niche and other businesses can help you decide what you can do to create something that makes people excited and helps you stand out. A lot of people thought I was a little nuts for committing to creating an almost exclusively cat-based brand. I did my research, though. Not only am I obsessed with cats, but I know it's an unserved market. Dogs are the primary focus of most things. I get so many customers who are just excited to buy things that are catered to cats for once.
  2. When it comes to running your business, make sure you are thinking about how you want your life to look in the long run. We all get caught up in start-up mode and run ourselves into the ground. If you want to and can do that for the rest of your life, then more power to you. I personally like to get to work late in the morning, do yoga in the middle of the day, and paint all afternoon. I can't do that every day, but I know it's what I'm striving for. I've been actively putting systems into place that can help me run my business more efficiently so that I can have more downtime to relax and create.
  3. Don't expect your friends and family to buy from you. I've been seeing this pop up on Tiktok a lot lately, but it's so true. I love the support I get from them, but I never expect them to buy things from my shop. While some of them do, it's just not a good model for growing your business. You want to attract fans who turn into long-term customers. My first market went SO well because my family came out and bought things. It was fun, and I loved it, but it was not reality. The next few pop-up markets were slow. It gave me a reality check. Now that I'm focused on talking to my customers, I've created a wonderful little community of regular shoppers who I know by name and who see me at markets. All to say, you can share your stuff on your personal accounts, but don't make that your focus!

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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