My friend Megan graciously agreed to be my first person featured on Women Who Rock. And believe me, she does!
When you were little, what did you want to be?
I remember going through the usual little girl dream sequences. I would be a princess, or a dancer, or some kind of singer when I grew up. But then I started reading more. I read the chronicles of Narnia, Watership Down, and books by Avi. I decided that I needed more adventure than most princesses experienced. So, at the ripe age of 11, I decided to be a farmer. I declared it to my 4th grade teacher in front of my whole class. She literally laughed out loud at me, bless her heart. She didn’t stop there, and went on to joke about me driving a tractor. I believe that it was at that moment when I knew it really didn’t matter what I wanted to be when I grew up. I just wanted to be different, and I vowed to be a free spirit for life.
What was your first job?
My Dad was the manager of the East Greenville Blommer Chocolate Factory. Each of my siblings had already taken a shift working at “Dad’s plant”. It was my turn when I was 15. I wasn’t allowed in the actual factory. I helped package cocoa samples and prepared them for shipping. I also had my first experience with a spreadsheet there. My direct boss was a feisty, farmer lady that introduced me to Peter Paul and Mary.
Did you go to college? What was your major?
I come from a college family. It was never a question of going to college or not, it was simply a question of where. “What for ?” didn’t even seem to matter much to my parents. I was blessed that my Dad had been saving for us kids for decades. But I had been a challenging kid to raise at times, the whole free-spirit thing and all. So, I opted for an inexpensive school, close to home to make it easier on Dad. I ended up at Kutztown University.
I did things a bit backwards and got married before going to college. Adam and I lived in a tiny apartment in Allentown. I commuted to KU and he went to St. Luke’s Hospital School of nursing. We both went to school full-time, and worked part-time to pay our bills. At the time life seemed stressful and busy. But those remain some of our favorite years of marriage and seem relatively simple compared to our lives now.
I graduated Magna Cum Laude with my Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology, minor in Psychology. Not that it matters at all how well I did, or what I majored in anymore. College is, in my opinion one of the best, most expensive ways to become a more well-rounded thinker. But it seems more often than not, it has nothing to do with your professional life thereafter.
What is your career now?
Ha ha. Well, I moved to Bucks County to pursue my farm-girl dreams. I intended to raise my family surrounded by nature, goats, ducks and gardens. We’ve lived here for 2.5 years, and we did all that (minus the goats) for the first year. We have three young kiddos, ages 3, 5 and 7. Caring for them and our 140 year old farmhouse is a full-time job. Plus, we’re a homeschooling family. But I was still feeling relatively unfulfilled in my daily life. I have a powerful, creative streak and I love to work with my hands. My brain was also not feeling challenged enough to keep me sane. I like to have a full plate at all times.
One day I was chatting with my dear friend Tassia, owner of Birds of a Feather Photography, about my desire to have a business that I could run from home. She took a look around at my house, glancing at my collection of vintage and antique furnishings and said…..”oooh!!!….well….maybe I shouldn’t even suggest this because it’s a very big idea….but there used to be a vintage rental company near our area that would provide specialty furniture for weddings and events. They got so busy they had to move closer to Philly and now there is a giant hole in the industry here”. She had planted a whopper of a seed in my head and heart, and I knew almost immediately that it was the right move for me.
I started taking steps towards starting a vintage rental company. I had a name, an EIN and a list of furniture I could rent out. But I was praying for a partner. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I approached one friend about joining me, but she wisely declined. Her life was already overfull. One Sunday morning at church, a different woman that I have known for years approached me out of the blue and said “we really should have dinner together sometime”. We were close friends with all the same people and our families had a long history together, but she and I had never connected. “Sure, ” I said. “But picking a date will be hard because I’m trying to start a new vintage rental company and it’s requiring a lot from me right now. Actually….you love vintage stuff, what do you think about that idea. Is it a smart business move?” And boom…the wheels began turning in her head.
To say that Abby loves vintage is an understatement. She’s one of those crazy awesome women that wears dresses from the 60’s and rocks the look. I had stopped trying to succeed at vintage fashion in college, though my home decor reflects my true love. When I mentioned my plans to start the business, Abby instantly knew that she would be great at such a business and regretted not thinking of it first. She mustered the courage to write up her resume and pitch herself to me as my business partner. The following Sunday, she handed me her resume at church. It was literally an answer to prayer and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this woman who I didn’t even know personally, would be the perfect business partner for me.
So, together, Abby and I built Fox and Finch Vintage Rentals. She has been a more perfect business partner then I could have imagined. We balance each other out. We are equally hard working, but we both have kids. Sometimes we need to take turns working or caring for our families. Because we’re in the same boat, we give each other grace to prioritize as we deem necessary.
What do you like about it?
My career found me and I couldn’t be happier with it. Fox and Finch has a collection of vintage furniture and accessories for rent. We house our wares in a turn of the century factory building in Bethlehem, PA. The showroom also functions as a photography studio, as it is blessed with killer, natural light.
I love that owning my own business allows me to work flexible hours. For the most part, I can work it around my family’s life. I do the majority of the computer work at home. And even bring some of the furniture home to refinish. The rest of the work is done at the showroom. I am so blessed to have both the work at home, and the work away from home. The showroom provides a complete escape from the diapers and whiny voices that my children sometimes employ. I don’t know how mothers who work from home 100% of the time survive.
I think the two biggest things I love about my job are: working with Abby, and the vast array of tasks that we have. I am NEVER bored with work. One minute I am sewing, sanding, staining, or painting a piece, the next I am writing, photographing, corresponding and scheduling. I have even grown to love all the furniture moving we do. I am so much stronger physically than I ever have been. I also love the field I am in. The wedding industry is full of fun, creative and incredibly hard-working folks. I love networking with these amazing vendors. It is also truly an honor to help a bride and groom develop and fulfill their dream vision for their wedding day. I love providing the special touches that bring it all together.
Did you have a role model or a mentor?
Abby and I often call other wedding vendors for advice. Tassia from Birds of a Feather, Sarah from Allium Design and Alison Conklin from Alison Conklin Photography are the top three ladies we seek out for advice.
What would you do if you didn’t need money?
If I didn’t need money….I’d probably be a farmer! …And it comes full circle. I actually would go back to some of those farming dreams. But, I honestly would still do Fox and Finch Vintage Rentals. I really do love my job.
What advice do you have for young women starting out in a career?
Hmmm. Can I re-word the question a bit to women starting their own business? I would say that the most important thing in this internet savy world is to invest in the best branding you can. Our logo, our website and our social media presence was fantastic from the start. It made us look like a more polished, established business from the start. People took us seriously and were instantly in touch with the aesthetic we offer based upon our internet presence. So, my advice would be to invest in site development, a logo, photos and all the social media sites you can.
Also, networking is key. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others in your industry. They all started somewhere too. Don’t get discouraged by how big they are and how small you are. Everyone has to make themselves look bigger than they are to appear competent. Also, don’t expect to pay yourself for at least the first two years. Invest in your business and build a strong foundation. Find ways to treat yourself along the way so it doesn’t seem like a chore to “go to work”. But, don’t expect financial pay-offs for some time. Enjoy the journey!